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Title: Famous Privateersmen and Adventurers of the Sea
       Their rovings, cruises, escapades, and fierce battling
              upon the ocean for patriotism and for treasure

Author: Charles H. L. Johnston

Release Date: October 19, 2008 [EBook #26960]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by K Nordquist, Sam W. and the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from images generously made available by The
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Famous Privateersmen


Their rovings, cruises, escapades, and
fierce battling upon the ocean
for patriotism and for



Author of “Famous Cavalry Leaders,” “Famous
Indian Chiefs,” “Famous Scouts,” etc.


Decorative crest

BOSTON  Decoration   THE PAGE




Each one volume, large 12mo, illustrated,



53 Beacon Street, Boston, Mass.

From “The Army and Navy of the United States.”

(See page 273.)

Copyright, 1911,
By L. C. Page & Company

All rights reserved

First Impression, November, 1911
Second Impression, November, 1914



George Alfred Henty


Thanks are due the Librarian of Congress, and particularly to Mr. Roberts of the Department of Prints, for numerous courtesies extended to the author during the compilation of this volume.

[Pg vii]


My dear Boys:—The sea stretches away from the land,—a vast sheet of unknown possibilities. Now gray, now blue, now slate colored, whipped into a thousand windrows by the storm, churned into a seething mass of frothing spume and careening bubbles, it pleases, lulls, then terrorizes and dismays. Perpetually intervening as a barrier between peoples and their countries, the wild, sobbing ocean rises, falls and roars in agony. It is a stoppage to progress and contact between races of men and warring nations.

In the breasts of all souls slumbers the fire of adventure. To penetrate the unknown, to there find excitement, battle, treasure, so that one’s future life can be one of ease and indolence—for this men have sacrificed the more stable occupations on land in order to push recklessly across the death-dealing billows. They have battled with the elements; they have suffered dread diseases; they have been tormented with thirst; with a torrid sun and with strange weather; they have sorrowed and they have sinned in order to gain fame, fortune, and renown. On the wide sweep of the ocean, even as on the rolling plateau of the once uninhabited prairie, many a harrowing tragedy has been enacted. These dramas have often had no chronicler,—the battle was fought out in the silence of the [Pg viii] watery waste, and there has been no tongue to tell of the solitary conflict and the unseen strife.

Of sea fighters there have been many: the pirate, the fillibusterer, the man-of-warsman, and the privateer. The first was primarily a ruffian and, secondarily, a brute, although now and again there were pirates who shone by contrast only. The fillibusterer was also engaged in lawless fighting on the sea and to this service were attracted the more daring and adventurous souls who swarmed about the shipping ports in search of employment and pelf. The man-of-warsman was the legitimate defender of his country’s interests and fought in the open, without fear of death or imprisonment from his own people. The privateersman—a combination of all three—was the harpy of the rolling ocean, a vulture preying upon the merchant marine of the enemy to his country, attacking only those weaker than himself, scudding off at the advent of men-of-warsmen, and hovering where the guileless merchantman passed by. The privateersman was a gentleman adventurer, a protected pirate, a social highwayman of the waters. He throve, grew lusty, and prospered,—a robber legitimized by the laws of his own people.

So these hardy men went out upon the water, sailed forth beneath the white spread of new-made canvas, and, midst the creaking of spars, the slapping of ropes, the scream of the hawser, the groan of the windlass, and the ruck and roar of wave-beaten wood, carved out their destinies. They fought. They bled. They conquered and were defeated. In the hot struggle and the desperate attack they played their parts even as the old [Pg ix] Vikings of Norway and the sea rovers of the Mediterranean.

Hark to the stories of those wild sea robbers! Listen to the tales of the adventurous pillagers of the rolling ocean! And—as your blood is red and you, yourself, are fond of adventure—ponder upon these histories with satisfaction, for these stalwart seamen

“Fought and sailed and took a prize
Even as it was their right,
Drank a glass and kissed a maid
Between the volleys of a fight.
Don’t begrudge their lives of danger,
You are better off by far,
But, if war again comes,—stranger,
Hitch your wagon to their star.”

Charles H. L. Johnston.

The bugle calls to quarters,
The roar of guns is clear,
Now—ram your charges home, Lads!
And cheer, Boys! Cheer!

[Pg xi]


Preface vii
Carlo Zeno: Hero of the Venetian Republic 1
Sir Francis Drake: Rover and Sea Ranger 23
Sir Walter Raleigh: Persecutor of the Spaniards 53
Jean Bart: The Scourge of the Dutch 83
Du Guay-Trouin: The Great French “Blue” 113
Edward England: Terror of the South Seas 137
Woodes Rogers: The Bristol Mariner 153
Fortunatus Wright: The Most Hated Privateersman of the Mediterranean Sea 173
George Walker: Winner of the Gamest Sea Fight of the English Channel 199
John Paul Jones: The Founder of the American Navy 239
Captain Silas Talbot: Staunch Privateersman of New England 283
Captain “Josh” Barney: The Irrepressible Yankee 299
Robert Surcouf: The “Sea Hound” from St. Malo 319
Lafitte: Privateer, Pirate, and Terror of the Gulf of Mexico 341
Raphael Semmes: Despoiler of American Commerce 373
El Capitan 393
Retrospect 397

[Pg xiii]


“Again the cannon made the splinters fly” (See page 273) Frontispiece
Zeno’s Fleet 18
Sir Francis Drake 28
Drake’s Greatest Victory on the Spanish Main 44
Young Raleigh and a companion listening to tales of the Spanish Main 55
Sir Walter Raleigh 60
Jean Bart 86
“Jean Bart led his boarders over the side of the Dutch vessel” 108
Combat between Du Guay-Trouin and Van Wassenaer 135
“‘Left us engaged with barbarous and inhuman enemies’” 146
“The boarders were repulsed with great slaughter” 193
Action between the “Glorioso” and the “King George” and “Prince Frederick” under George Walker 231
American Privateer taking possession of a Prize 239
“Began to hull the ‘Drake’ below the water-line” 261
“They swarmed into the forecastle amidst fierce cheers” 277
“Talbot, himself, at the head of his entire crew, came leaping across the side” 289
American Privateer capturing two English Ships 298
“Surcouf scanned her carefully through his glass” 336
Raphael Semmes 376
“The men were shouting wildly, as each projectile took effect” 386




[Pg 2]

“Paradise is under the shadow of swords.”—Mahomet.

[Pg 3]


Zeno, noble Zeno, with your curious canine name,
You shall never lack for plaudits in the golden hall of fame,
For you fought as well with galleys as you did with burly men,
And your deeds of daring seamanship are writ by many a pen.
From sodden, gray Chioggia the singing Gondoliers,
Repeat in silvery cadence the story of your years,
The valor of your comrades and the courage of your foe,
When Venice strove with Genoa, full many a year ago.

THE torches fluttered from the walls of a burial vault in ancient Venice. Two shrouded figures leaned over the body of a dead warrior, and, as they gazed upon the wax-like features, their eyes were filled with tears.

“See,” said the taller fellow. “He has indeed led the stalwart life. Here are five and thirty wounds upon the body of our most renowned compatriot. He was a true hero.”

“You speak correctly, O Knight,” answered the other. “Carlo Zeno was the real warrior without fear [Pg 4] and without reproach. He has fared badly at the hands of the Republic. But then,—is this not life? Those most worthy seem never to receive their just compensation during their living hours. It is only when they are dead that a tardy public gives them some recognition of the great deeds which they have done, the battles which they have fought, and the honor which they have brought to their native land. Alas! poor Zeno! He—the true patriot—has had but scant and petty praise.”

So saying the two noble Venetians covered the prostrate form of the dead warrior—for they had lifted the brown robe which enshrouded him—and, with slow faltering steps, they left the gloomy chamber of death.

Who was this Venetian soldier, who, covered with the marks of battle, lay in his last sleep? Who—this hero of war’s alarms? This patriotic leader of the rough-and-ready rovers of the sea?

It was Carlo Zeno,—a man of the best blood of Venice,—who, commanding fighting men and fighting ships, had battled strenuously and well for his native country.

The son of Pietro Zeno and Agnese Dandolo, this famous Venetian had been well bred to the shock of battle, for his father was for some time Governor of Padua, and had won a great struggle against the Turks, when the careening galleys of the Venetian Squadron grappled blindly with the aggressive men of the Ottoman Empire. There were ten children in the family and little Carlo was named after the Emperor [Pg 5] Charles IV, who sent a retainer to the baptism of the future seaman, saying, “I wish the child well. He has a brave and noble father and I trust that his future will be auspicious.”

Little Carlo was destined for the Church, and, with a Latin eulogium in his pocket (which his Venetian school-master had written out for him) was sent to the court of the Pope at Avignon. The sweet-faced boy was but seven years of age. He knelt before the prelate and his retainers, reciting the piece of prose with such precision, grace, and charm, that all were moved by his beauty, his memory, his spirit, and his liveliness of person.

“You are indeed a noble youth,” cried the Pope. “You shall come into my household. There you shall receive an education and shall be a canon of the cathedral of Patras, with a rich benefice.”

But little Carlo did not remain. Although dressed like a mimic priest and taught with great care, the hot blood of youth welled in his veins and made him long for a life more active and more dangerous. So he looked about for adventure so thoroughly that he was soon able to have his first narrow escape, and a part in one of those many brawls which were to come to him during his career of war and adventure.

Sent by his relations to the University of Padua, he was returning to Venice from the country, one day, when a man leaped upon him as he walked down a narrow road.

“Who are you?” cried Carlo fearfully.

But the fellow did not answer. Instead,—he [Pg 6] struck him suddenly with a stout cudgel—knocked him senseless on the turf, took all the valuables which he had, and ran silently away into the gloom.

Little Carlo came to his senses after many hours, and, staggering forward with weakened steps, reached Mestre, where kind friends dressed his wounds.

“I shall catch this assailant,” cried he, when he had revived. “He shall rue the day that he ever touched the person of Carlo Zeno.” And forthwith he secured a number of bloodhounds with which to track the cowardly ruffian of the highway.

Luck was with the future commander of the galleons and fighting men. He ran the scurvy assailant to earth, like a fox. He captured him, bound him and handed him over to the justice of Padua,—where—for the heinousness of the offense—the man was executed. So ended the first conflict in which the renowned Carlo Zeno was engaged,—successfully—as did most of his later battles.

Not long afterwards young Zeno returned to his studies at the University, but here—as a lover of excitement—he fell into bad company. Alas! he took to gambling, and frittered away all of his ready money, so that he had to sell his books in order to play. The profit from these was soon gone. He was bankrupt at the early age of seventeen.

Ashamed to go home, the future sea rover disappeared from Padua and joined a fighting band of mercenaries (paid soldiers) who were in the employ of a wealthy Italian Prince. He was not heard of for full five years. Thus, his relatives gave him up for [Pg 7] dead, and, when—one day—he suddenly stalked into the house of his parents, his brothers and sisters set up a great shout of wonder and amazement. “Hurrah!” cried they, “the dead has returned to his own. This is no ghost, for he speaks our own native tongue. Carlo Zeno, you shall be given the best that we have, for we believed that you had gone to another world.”

Pleased and overwhelmed with affection, young Carlo stayed for a time with his family, and then—thinking that, as he had been trained for the priesthood, he had best take charge of his canonry of Patras—he went to Greece.

“Hah! my fine fellow,” said the Governor, when he first saw him, “I hear that you are fond of fighting. It is well. The Turks are very troublesome, just now, and they need some stout Venetian blood to hold them in check. You must assist us.”

“I’ll do my best,” cried Zeno with spirit, and, he had not been there a week before the Ottomans swooped down upon the city, bent upon its demolition. The young Venetian sallied forth—with numerous fighting men—to meet them, and, in the first clash of arms, received such a gaping wound that he was given up for dead. In fact, when carried to the city, he was considered to be without life, was stretched upon a long settee, was clothed in a white sheet, and prepared for interment. But in the early morning he suddenly opened his eyes, gazed wonderingly at the white shroud which covered him, and cried, with no ill humor,

“Not yet, my friends. Carlo Zeno will disappoint [Pg 8] all your fondest hopes. Once more I am of the world.”

And, so saying, he scrambled to his feet, much to the dismay of the sorrowing Venetians, who had been carefully spreading a number of flowers upon the prostrate form of the supposedly dead warrior.

But so weak was the youthful hero that he had to be taken to Venice in order to recover. When strong again he resumed his studies for the ministry and was sent to Patras, a city that was soon threatened by an army of twelve thousand Cypriotes and Frenchmen.

“Here, Zeno,” cried the Bishop of Patras to the virile young stripling. “We have seven hundred riders in our city. With this mere handful, you must defend us against our enemies. The odds are fifteen to one against you. But you must struggle valiantly to save our beautiful capital.”

“Aye! Sire!” cried the youthful student of church history. “I shall do my best to free your capital from these invaders. May the God of Hosts be with us! My men salute you.”

So saying the valiant youth led his small and ill drilled company against the besiegers, and, so greatly did he harass his adversaries, that they abandoned the enterprise, at the end of six months; made peace; and retired.

“Hail to Zeno!” cried many of the soldiers. “He is a leader well worth our respect. Without him the great city would have surely fallen. Yea! Hail to young Zeno.”

[Pg 9] These words of praise reached the ears of a certain Greek Knight named Simon, and so roused his envy, that he audaciously accused Carlo of treachery, which was soon told to the hot-headed young warrior. He acted as one would well expect of him.

“I challenge you to single combat,” cried he. “The duel shall be fought in Naples under the eye of Queen Johanna.”

In vain Carlo’s friends besought him to forgive the loose-tongued Simon—his patron, the Bishop, exhausted his eloquence in the endeavor to reconcile the two. The hot blood of youth would out. It was fight and no compromise. But before the trial, the bold and unyielding soldier threw up his position with the Church and married a rich and noble lady of Clarenta, whose fortune well supplanted the large income which he had forfeited by his resignation.

Now honor called for deeds. Almost immediately he was obliged to leave for Naples in order to meet the detractor of his valor, and, to his surprise, the Queen spoke lightly of the quarrel. “It is a question of law,” said she. “An inquiry shall be had. There must be no bloodshed.”

An inquiry was therefore in order, and it was a thorough one. “Simon is in the wrong,” said the fellow acting as clerk for those sitting upon the case. “He must pay all the expenses to which Zeno has been put, and there shall be no duel.”

“My honor has been cleared,” cried Zeno. “I must return to Greece.” There—strange as it might seem—he was at once named Governor of a province, [Pg 10] though not yet twenty-three. Events were going well with him. But his wife died, he was cheated of his dowry by her relations, and so he turned once more to Venice,—saddened, older and nearly penniless. The wheel of fortune had turned badly for this leader of fighting men and future general of white-winged galleons of the sea.

But now there was a really good fight—such a fight as all true sailors love—a fight which tested the grit and courage of Zeno to the full. It was the first of those heroic deeds of arms which shed undying lustre on his name, and marked him as a seaman of the first rank,—a captain of true courage, resources and ambition.

The Genoese (or inhabitants of Genoa) and the Venetians, were continually at war in these days, and when—in patriotic zeal—Carlo Zeno seized the island of Tenedos, the Venetian Senate, fearing lest the Genoese would seek to recover the lost possession, sent a fleet of fifteen ships to guard it, under one Pietro Mocenigo. There were also two other vessels, one commanded by Carlo Zeno himself. The mass of galleys floated on to Constantinople, for the Greeks had allied themselves with the Genoese, had seized a Venetian man-of-war, which had been captured, and had then retired. Three lumbering hulks were left to protect the fair isle of Tenedos,—under Zeno, the war-like Venetian.

“Aha,” said a Genoese seaman. “There are but three galleys left to save our isle of Tenedos. We shall soon take it with our superior force. Forward, [Pg 11] O sailors! We’ll have revenge for the attack of the wild men from Venice.”

“On! on!” cried the Genoese seamen, and without further ado, twenty-two galleys careened forward, their white sails bellying in the wind, their hawsers groaning, spars creaking, and sailors chattering like magpies on a May morning.

Carlo Zeno had only three hundred regular soldiers and a few archers, but he occupied the suburbs of the town and waited for the attackers to land. This they did in goodly numbers, for the sea was calm and motionless, although it was the month of November.

“Men!” cried the intrepid Zeno, “you are few. The enemy are as numerous as blades of grass. Do your duty! Fight like Trojans, and, if you win, your grateful countrymen will treat you as heroes should be respected. Never say die, and let every arrow find an opening in the armor of the enemy.”

The Genoese came on with shouts of expectancy, but they were met with a far warmer reception than they had anticipated. The air was filled with flying arrows, as, crouching low behind quickly constructed redoubts, the followers of the stout-souled Zeno busily stretched their bowstrings, and shot their feathered barbs into the mass of crowding seamen. Savage shouts and hoarse cries of anguish, rose from both attackers and attacked, while the voice of Zeno, shrilled high above the battle’s din, crying: “Shoot carefully, my men, do not let them defeat us, for the eyes of Venice are upon you.” So they struggled and bled, until the shadows began to fall, when—realizing that [Pg 12] they were unable to take the courageous Venetians—the Genoese withdrew to their ships.

There was laughter and song around the camp fires of Zeno’s little band, that night, but their leader spoke critically of the morrow.

“Sleep well, my men,” said he, “for I know that our foes are well angered at the beating we have given them. Next morn we shall again be at war. Let us keep our courage and have as a battle cry, ‘Venice! No retreat and no quarter!’”

When morning dawned the Genoese were seen to land engines of war, with the apparent intention of laying siege to the town. Their preparations showed that they meant to attack upon the side farthest from the castle, so Carlo Zeno—the quick-witted—placed a number of his men in ambush, among a collection of half-ruined and empty houses which stood in that quarter. “Stay here, my men,” said he, “and when the enemy has advanced, charge them with fury. We must win to-day, or we will be disgraced.”

Meanwhile the rest of the Venetians had retreated inland, and, crouching low behind a screen of brush, waited patiently for the Genoese to come up. “Be cautious,” cried Zeno, “and when the enemy is within striking distance, charge with all the fury which you possess.”

“Aye! Aye! Good master,” cried the stubborn soldiers. “We mark well what you tell us.”

Not long afterwards the attacking party came in view, and, without suspecting what lay in front, advanced with quick gait towards the supposedly [Pg 13] defenseless town. But suddenly, with a wild yell, the followers of Zeno leaped from behind the screening bushes, and dashed towards them. At the same instant, the soldiers who had been placed in hiding, attacked suddenly from the rear. Arrows poured into the ranks of the Genoese, and they fell like wheat before the scythe of the reaper. Hoarse shouts, groans, and cries of victory and death, welled above the battle’s din.

In the midst of this affair Carlo Zeno gave a cry of pain. An arrow (poisoned ’tis said) had entered his leg and struck him to the ground. But, nothing daunted, he rose to cry shrilly to his men, “On! On! Drive them to the ocean.” And, so well did his soldiers follow these commands, that the Genoese fled in confusion and disorder to their ships. The day was won.

As was natural, Zeno paid no attention to his wound, and, when the enemy hurried to shore the next day for another attack, they were greeted with such a terrific discharge of artillery that they gave up their idea of capturing the island and sailed away amidst cries of derision from the delighted Venetians.

“Hurrah!” cried they. “Hurrah for Zeno!” But so exhausted was the intrepid leader by reason of his wound that he fell into a spasm as if about to die. His iron constitution pulled him through, however, and soon he and the faithful band returned to Venice, covered with glory, and full satisfied with their hard won victory.

The daring Zeno was well deserving of praise, for [Pg 14] he had beaten a fleet and an army by sheer genius, with three ships and a handful of men. To Venice had been preserved the valuable island which guards the entrance to the Dardanelles, and to her it was to remain for years, although the Genoese tried many times and oft to wrest it from her grasp.

Now came another struggle—the war of Chioggia—a struggle in which Carlo Zeno played a great and noble part,—a part, in fact, that has made his name a byword among the grateful Venetians: a part in which he displayed a leadership quite equal to that of a Drake, or a Hawkins, and led his fighting galleons with all the courage of a lion. Hark, then, to the story of this unfortunate affair! Hark! and let your sympathy be stirred for Carlo Zeno, the indefatigable navigator of the clumsy shipping of the Italian peninsula!

For years the Republics of Genoa and Venice remained at peace, but, for years the merchants of the two countries had endeavored to outwit each other in trade; and, thus, when the Genoese seized several Venetian ships with rich cargoes, in 1350, and refused to give them up, war broke out between the rival Republics. In two engagements at sea, the Venetians were defeated; but in a third they were victorious, and forever sullied the banner of St. Mark, which flew from their Admiral’s mast-head, by causing nearly five thousand prisoners of war to be drowned. Fired by a desire for immediate revenge upon their foe, the Genoese hurried a mighty fleet to sea, and ravaged the Italian coast up to the very doors of Venice itself. [Pg 15] Several other engagements followed, in most of which the Venetians were defeated; and then there were twenty years of peace before another conflict.

Finally war broke out afresh. Angry and vindictive, the Genoese bore down upon the Venetian coast in numerous lumbering galleys, determined—this time—to reach Venice itself, and to sack this rich and populous city. With little difficulty they captured Chioggia, a seaport, a populous city and the key to the lagoons which led to the heart of the capital. They advanced to the very outskirts of Venice, and their cries of joyous vindictiveness sounded strangely near to the now terrified inhabitants, who, rallying around their old generals and city fathers, were determined to fight to the last ditch.

As winter came, the victoriously aggressive Genoese retreated to Chioggia, withdrawing their fleet into the safe harbor to await the spring; leaving only two or three galleys to cruise before the entrance, in case the now angered Venetians should attack. But they were to be rudely awakened from their fancied seclusion.

“Lead us on, O Pisani,” the Venetians had cried in the broad market space of their beloved city. “We must and will drive these invaders into their own country. Never have we received before such insults. On! On! to Chioggia.”

So, silent and vengeful, the Venetian fleet stole out to sea on the evening of December twenty-first. There were thirty-four galleys, sixty smaller armed vessels, and hundreds of flat-bottomed boats. Pisani was in the rear, towing two heavy, old hulks, laden with [Pg 16] stones, to sink in the entrance of the harbor and bottle up the fleet, even as the Americans were to sink the Merrimac in the Harbor of Santiago, many years afterwards.

The Genoese were unready. The cruisers, on duty as sentinels, were not where they should have been, and so the gallant Pisani scuttled the hulks across the harbor entrance and caught the bold marauders like rats in a trap. The fleet of the enemy was paralyzed, particularly as another river’s mouth, some two miles southward, was also blockaded. Smiles of satisfaction shone upon the faces of the outraged Venetians.

Carlo Zeno was hurrying up with a strong fleet manned by veteran seamen, but the now victorious followers of Pisani wished to return to Venice.

“It is the Christmas season,” cried many. “We have fought like lions. We have shut up our enemy. We have averted the extreme danger. Let us return to our wives and our children!”

“You cannot go,” said Pisani, sternly. “You are the entire male population of Venice. Without you the great expedition will come to naught, and all of our toil will have been thrown away. Only be calm. Carlo Zeno will soon be here, and we can then take Chioggia!”

Alas! Like Columbus, he saw himself upon the verge of losing the result of all his labor for lack of confidence in him upon the part of his men. He could not keep them by force, so wearily and anxiously he scanned the horizon for signs of an approaching sail.

The days went slowly by for the lion-hearted Pisani. [Pg 17] Carlo Zeno did not come. Day after day the valiant leader fearfully looked for the white-winged canvas of a Venetian galleon, but none came to view. On the thirtieth day of December his men were very mutinous.

“We will seize the ships and return to-morrow to Venice,” cried several. “We have had enough of war. Our wives and daughters cry to us to return.”

Pisani was desperate.

“If Carlo Zeno does not come in forty-eight hours, the fleet may return to Lido,” said he. “Meanwhile, keep your guns shooting at the enemy. We must make these Genoese feel that we shall soon attack in force.”

But Pisani’s heart was leaden. Where, yes, where was Zeno? New Year’s Day came, and, by his promise, he must let the Venetians go. What did this mean for him? It meant the fall of Venice, the end of the Republic, the destruction of the population with all that they possessed. He—their idol, their leader for ten days—could no longer lead, for the Venetians could not bear a little cold and hardship for his sake. Sad—yes, sad, indeed—was the face of the stout seaman as he gave one last despairing glance at the horizon.

Ha! What was that? A thin, white mark against the distant blue! It grew larger and clearer. It was the sail of a galley. Another, and another, and another hove in sight,—eighteen in all, and driving along swiftly before a heavy wind. But, were they hostile, or friendly? That was the question. Was [Pg 18] it Zeno, or were these more galleons of the Genoese? Then, joy shone in the keen eyes of Pisani, for the banner of St. Mark fluttered from the peak of the foremost ship, and floated fair upon the morning breeze. Hurrah! It was Carlo Zeno, the lion-hearted.

God speed brave Zeno! He had been twice wounded in fights along the coast, en route, but nothing could diminish his energy, or dampen his ardor. He had laid waste the Genoese coast; he had intercepted convoys of grain; he had harassed the enemy’s commerce in the East, and he had captured a huge vessel of theirs with five hundred thousand pieces of gold. Marvellous Zeno! Brave, courageous Venetian sea-dog, you are just in the nick of time!

“Thanks be to Heaven that you have come,” cried Pisani, tears welling to his eyes. “Now we will go in and take Chioggia. It means the end of the war for us. Again, I say, thanks be to Heaven.”

With renewed hope and confidence the Venetians now pushed the siege. Seeing that their fleet could never escape, the Genoese started to dig a canal to the open sea, by which the boats could be brought off during the night. The work was begun, but Carlo Zeno discovered it in time. Volunteers were called for, a force was soon landed, and, under the leadership of Zeno, marched to intercept the diggers of this, the only means of escape.

“The Venetians are going towards ‘Little Chioggia,’” cried many of the Genoese. “We must hasten there to stop them.”

From an old print.


[Pg 19] But Zeno had only made a feint in this direction. Throwing his main force in the rear of the Genoese, he soon began to cut them up badly. They were seized with a panic. They fled towards the bridge of Chioggia, trampling upon each other as they ran, pursued and slashed to ribbons by Zeno’s men. The bridge broke beneath the weight of the fugitives and hundreds were drowned in the canal, while thousands perished near the head of this fateful causeway. It was a great and signal victory for Zeno; the intrepid sea-dog and campaigner on land.

This was a death blow. That night some of the garrison hastened to desert, and, as the siege progressed, the drinking water began to fail, the food gave out, and starvation stared the holders of Chioggia in the face. On the twenty-fourth of June the city surrendered; and four thousand one hundred and seventy Genoese, with two hundred Paduans—ghastly and emaciated—more like moving corpses than living beings—marched out to lay down their arms. Seventeen galleys, also, were handed over to the Venetians: the war-worn relics of the once powerful fleet which had menaced Venice itself.

As a feat of generalship, Pisani’s blockade of the Genoese fleet is rivalled by Sampson’s blockade of Cervera’s squadron at Santiago in 1898, and the military operation by which Carlo Zeno tempted the garrison of Brondolo into the trap which he had set for them, and drove them, like a flock of sheep into Chioggia, by sunset, is surely a splendid feat of arms. All honor to this intrepid sea-dog of old Venice!

[Pg 20] How fickle is Dame Fortune! Jealous of the reputation of this noble Venetian, the patricians, whose advice, during the war, he had consistently declined to follow; refused to make him a Doge of the City. It was thought that the election of the bravest captain of the day might be dangerous to the Republic. Instead of doing him honor, they imprisoned him; and was he not the noblest patriot of them all?

When over seventy years of age,—the greatest and truest Venetian—loaned a small sum of money to the Prince Carrara, once a power in Venetian politics. He had saved his country from destruction. He had served her with the most perfect integrity. Yet, he reaped the reward which fell to the share of nearly every distinguished Venetian; he was feared by the government; hated by the nobles whom he had out-stripped in honor, and was condemned to prison by men who were not worthy to loose the latchet of his shoes. Although he had often paid the mercenary soldiers to fight for Venice, in the War of Chioggia, from his own pocket, he was sent to jail for loaning money to an unfortunate political refugee.

When called before the Council of Ten on the night of the twentieth of January, 1406, the warrant for his examination authorized the use of torture. But even the Ten hesitated at this.

“He is a brave man,” said one. “Pray allow him to go untouched.”

The prisoner admitted that he had loaned the money. His explanation was both honorable and clear. But the Ten were obdurate that night.

[Pg 21] “He shall go to the Pozzi prison for a year,” said they. “Besides this, he shall suffer the perpetual loss of all offices which he has held.”

Like a brave man, Carlo Zeno accepted the sentence without a murmur, and his sturdy frame did not suffer from the confinement. For twelve years longer he lived in perfect health; made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem; commanded the troops of the Republic once again; defeated the Cypriotes, and died peacefully,—a warrior with a name of undiminished lustre, most foully tarnished by his own compatriots. His is a reputation of undying glory, that of his judges is that of eternal shame. All honor to Carlo Zeno, the valorous Venetian, who could fight a ship as well as a squadron of foot soldiers on land! Salve, Venetia!

“Dip the banner of St. Mark,
Dip—and let the lions roar.
Zeno’s soul has gone above,
Bow—a warrior’s life is o’er.”

[Pg 22]


Harkee, Boys! I’ll tell you of the torrid, Spanish Main,
Where the tarpons leap and tumble in the silvery ocean plain,
Where the wheeling condors circle; where the long-nosed ant-bears sniff
At the food the Jackie “caches” in the Aztec warrior’s cliff.
Oh! Hurray for the deck of a galleon stout,
Hurray for the life on the sea,
Hurray! for the cutlass; the dirk; an’ th’ pike;
Wild rovers we will be.
Harkee, Boys! I’ll tell you of the men of Morgan’s band,
Of Drake and England—rascals—in the palm-tree, tropic land.
I’ll tell you of bold Hawkins, how he sailed around the Horn.
And the Manatees went chuck! chuck! chuck! in the sun-baked, lazy morn.
Oh! Hurray for the deck of a galleon stout,
Hurray for the life on the sea,
Hurray! for the cutlass; the dirk; an’ th’ pike;
Wild rovers we will be.
Harkee, Boys! You’re English, and you come of roving blood,
Now, when you’re three years older, you must don a sea-man’s hood,
You must turn your good ship westward,—you must plough towards the land
Where the mule-train bells go tink! tink! tink! and the bending cocoas stand.
Oh! You will be off on a galleon stout,
Oh! You will be men of the sea,
Hurray! for the cutlass; the dirk; an’ th’ pike;
Wild rovers you will be.




[Pg 24]

“The man who frets at worldly strife
Grows sallow, sour, and thin;
Give us the lad whose happy life
Is one perpetual grin:
He, Midas-like, turns all to gold,—
He smiles, when others sigh,
Enjoys alike the hot and cold,
And laughs through wet and dry.”


[Pg 25]


Sing a song of stout dubloons,
Of gold and jingling brass,
A song of Spanish galleons,
Foul-bottomed as they pass.
Of roaring blades and stumbling mules,
Of casks of malmsey wine,
Of red, rip-roaring ruffians,
In a thin, meandering line.
They’re with Drake, Drake, Drake,
He can make the sword hilt’s shake,
He’s a rattling, battling Captain of the Main.
You can see the Spaniards shiver,
As he nears their shelt’ring river,
While his eyelids never quiver
At the slain.
Here’s to Drake, Drake, Drake,
Come—make the welkin shake,
And raise your frothing glasses up on high.
If you love a man and devil,
Who can treat you on the level,
Then, clink your goblet’s bevel,
To Captain Drake.

TAKE care, boy, you will fall overboard. Take care and do not play with your brother near the edge of our good ship, for the water here is deep, and I know that you can swim but ill.”

[Pg 26] The man who spoke was a rough, grizzled sea-dog, clad in an old jersey and tarpaulins. He stood upon the deck of an aged, dismantled warship, which—anchored in the shallow water near Chatham, England,—swung to and fro in the eddying currents. Around him, upon the unwashed deck, scampered a swarm of little children, twelve in all, and all of them his own.

“Very good, Father,” spoke the curly-haired youngster. “I’ll mind what you tell me. You’re wrong, though, when you say that I cannot swim, for I can, even to yonder shore. Do you want to see me do it?”

“Nay, nay,” chuckled the stout seaman. “You’re a boy of courage, Francis. That I can well see. But do not try the water. It is cold and you will have a cramp and go under. Stick to the quarter-deck.” And laughing softly to himself, he went below, where a strong smell of cooking showed that there was something upon the galley stove to feed his hungry crew of youthful Englishmen.

It was surely a strange house to bring up a troop of merry children in. The sound of wind and waves was familiar to them at night and they grew to be strong and fearless. But is not this the proper way to rear a sea-dog?

These little ducklings, descended from a Drake, must have early set their hearts upon adventure and a seafaring life. In fact, one of them, young Francis, was to be one of the best known seamen of the centuries and knighted for his services to the Crown. [Pg 27] Reared in a ship, he, by nature, loved the sea as only a child of the ocean could have done. The brine ran in his blood.

Being the son of a poor man, he was apprenticed to a master of a small vessel which used to coast along the shore and carry merchandise to France and the Netherlands. He learned his business well. So well, indeed, that at the death of the master of the vessel it was bequeathed “to Francis Drake, because he was diligent and painstaking and pleased the old man, his master, by his industry.” But the gallant, young sea-dog grew weary of the tiny barque.

“It only creeps along the shore,” he said. “I want to get out upon the ocean and see the world. I will therefore enlist with my stout kinsmen, the Hawkins brothers, rich merchants both, who build and sail their own ships.”

This he did, and thus began the roving life of Francis Drake: dare-devil and scourge of the West Indian waters.

About fifty years before this lusty mariner had been born, America was discovered by Christopher Columbus—an Italian sailor in the service of Spain—and this powerful country had seized a great part of the new found land. There was no love lost between the Spaniards and the men from the cold, northern British Isles and thus Francis Drake spent his entire career battling with the black-haired, rapacious, and avaricious adventurers who flew the banner of King Philip of Arragon. Sometimes he was defeated, more often [Pg 28] he was successful. Hark, then, to the tale of his many desperate encounters upon the wide waters of the surging Atlantic.

Drake had said, “I’m going to sea with the Hawkins and view the world,” and, as John Hawkins was just about to sail for the West Indies in six ships, the youthful and eager mariner was given an opportunity to command a vessel called the Judith. The fleet at first had good success. Slaves were captured upon the African coast and were sold in the West Indies, though with difficulty, because the Spaniards had been forbidden by their king to trade with the English. Laden with treasure and spices, the ships were about to start for home, when fearful storms beset them. Their beams were badly shattered.

“We must seek a haven,” cried Hawkins. “Ready about and steer for Vera Cruz, the port of the City of Mexico! There we can buy food and repair our fleet!”

“’Tis well,” cried his men, and, aiming for the sheltering harbor, they soon ploughed into the smooth water of the bay. But there was consternation among the Spaniards of the town.

“We have treasure here,” they whispered to each other. “See, those English dogs have come to rob us! We must fight, brothers, and fight hard to keep the cruel Islanders away.” And they oiled their pistols and sharpened their cutlasses upon their grindstones.


But luck was with the inhabitants of Vera Cruz. Next morning thirteen careening galleys swept into [Pg 29] the quiet waters of the bay and joy shone in the black eyes of the Spaniards.

“It is a Mexican fleet,” cried they. “It returns with a new Viceroy or Governor, from good King Philip of Spain.” And they laughed derisively.

But in the breasts of Drake and Hawkins there was doubt and suspicion.

“They are sure to attack us,” said Hawkins, moving among his men. “Let every fellow be upon his guard.”

The Spanish were full of bowings and scrapings. They protested their deep friendship for the English and wished to be moored alongside.

“We are very glad to see you, English brothers,” said one. “We welcome you to the traffic and trade of the far East.” So they peacefully dropped anchor near the suspicious men of England, still smiling, singing, and cheerfully waving a welcome to the none-too-happy sailors.

“Avast,” cried Francis Drake, “and sleep on your arms, my Hearties, for to-morrow there’ll be trouble, or else my blood’s not British.” He was but a young man, yet he had guessed correctly.

As the first glimmer of day shone in the dim horizon, a shot awoke the stillness of the morn. Another and another followed in rapid succession. Then boom! a cannon roared, and a great iron ball buried itself in the decking of the Jesus; the flagship of gallant Hawkins.

“We’re attacked,” cried Drake. “Man the decks! Up sails and steer to sea! Fight as you never fought [Pg 30] before! Strike and strike hard for dear old England!”

But his warning almost came too late, for two Spanish galleons ranged alongside and swung grappling irons into his rigging in order to close with the moving vessel. The Englishmen struck at them with oars and hand-spikes, knocking the tentacles of the on-coming octopus aside, and, with sails flying and shots rattling, the Judith bore towards the open sea.

The fight was now furious. Two of the English ships were sunk and the Jesus, Hawkins’ own boat, was so badly damaged that she lay apparently helpless in the trough of the surging ocean.

“Back, my Hearties,” cried Drake, “and we’ll see what we can do to save our gallant captain.”

So back they sailed, and, firing their little cannon with rapidity, soon held off the Spanish ship which threatened Hawkins himself with capture. Some of the English sailors jumped into their boats and rowed away, some gave in to the Spaniards, and some fought relentlessly. Thus raged the battle until the evening.

As night fell, Drake ordered the Judith to put to sea, Hawkins followed, and wandering about in these unknown parts, with little water and a scarcity of food, hunger forced the weary sailors to eat hides, cats, dogs, mice, rats, parrots and monkeys.

“It was the troublesome voyage,” wrote Hawkins, and such, indeed, it had proved to be. Some of the sailors asked to be placed on land rather than risk shipwreck and starvation in the overcrowded boat. Some of them reached England after years of [Pg 31] suffering and weary journeying to and fro. Some were captured by the Spaniards and were put to death as heretics. A few were sent to the galleys as slaves. Others, more fortunate, were rowed ashore to serve in monasteries, where the monks made kind and gentle masters.

And what of the youthful and danger-loving Drake? Five days before the wind-swept Jesus struggled into Plymouth harbor with Hawkins and a famine-driven crew, Drake and his own adventurous Englishmen steered the little Judith to the rocky headland which hides this sheltering refuge from the fury of the sea.

“I am indeed right glad to reach Merrie England again,” said he, “for we have had a rough and dangerous voyage. The Spaniards are treacherous dogs. They betrayed us, and henceforth I, for one, shall show them no quarter.”

So saying he journeyed to London to see the good Queen Elizabeth.

“It is impossible for me to wage war upon Philip of Spain,” said the valiant Mistress of England’s destinies, when she heard his story of loss of kinsmen, friends and goods of great value. “I have a poor country. The navy of my fathers has been ruined. I have no proper army with which to avenge the treachery of Spain, and I have trouble with both France and Scotland. If you would have revenge, take matters into your own hands.”

“Philip is the mightiest monarch in the world to-day,” answered the well-bronzed mariner, bowing low. [Pg 32] “I am only a humble seafarer without either ships or money, but, most gracious Majesty, I am going to help myself in my quarrel with the King of Spain. From henceforth there will be war to the death between myself and the men of the south.”

The good Queen smiled, for she truly loved a valiant man.

“May God be with you,” said she.

It was not long before the danger-loving mariner was again headed for the West Indies and the Spanish Main, with a crew of seventy-three men and boys.

“We believe in our leader,” said one. “He will take us on to fortune and to fame.” And this was the sentiment of all, for who does not love a voyage after gold and treasure?

Ploughing relentlessly across the deep, the two ships which carried these roving blades, reached the palm-clad West Indies in twenty-five days. All were cheerful and gay, for before them was danger, excitement, battle, and Spanish gold. “Lead on, Captain Drake,” cried one of the men. “We wish to land at Plymouth with our pockets stuffed with Spanish dubloons.”

“I’ll take you to the seaport of Nombre de Dios,” said the bluff sea ranger. “There is gold and silver in this spot, and by the hogshead. Furthermore,” he added chuckling, “most of it will be in the hold of our stout ships, the Pascha and the Swan, before another moon.”

So the sailors were drilled in attack and sword play, while arms were distributed, which, up to now, had been kept “very fair and safe in good casks.” All [Pg 33] were in a cheerful mood, for the excitement of battle had begun to stir the hot blood in their veins.

Late in the afternoon, the pinnaces (which had been carried on deck) were launched, and climbing aboard, the men of Merrie England set sail for the Spanish town. They lay under the shore, out of sight, until dark. Then they rowed with muffled oars to the shadows of the precipitous cliffs which here jutted into the rolling ocean, and quietly awaited the dawn.

At three in the morning, while the silvery light of a half moon was just reddened with the first flush of dawn, the eager buccaneers landed upon the sandy beach. “Hark!” cried a youth, “We are already discovered.”

As he spoke, the noise of bells, drums, and shouting, came to the startled ears of the invaders.

“Twelve men will remain behind to guard the pinnaces,” cried Drake. “The rest must follow me and fight even to the last ditch. Forward!”

Splitting into two bands, the Englishmen rushed through the narrow streets with a wild cheer ringing in the silent air. Drake’s brother—with a certain John Oxenham and sixteen others—hurried around behind the King’s treasure-house, and entered the eastern side of the market-place; while Drake, himself, marched up the main street with bugles blowing, drums rolling, and balls of lighted tow blazing from the end of long pikes carried by his stout retainers. The townsfolk were terrified with the din and blaze of fire. “An army is upon us,” cried many. “We must flee for our lives.”

[Pg 34] In spite of this, a goodly number rallied at the market-place, where there was a sharp fight. But nothing could withstand the onset of the men from the fog-swept island, and soon the Spaniards fled, leaving two behind who had been captured and held.

“You must show us the Governor’s house,” cried Drake. “All the treasure is there.”

The two captives obeyed unwillingly, and great was the disappointment of the English when they found only bars of silver in the spacious mansion.

“On! To the King’s treasure-house!” again shouted the bold mariner. “There, at least, must be gold and jewels.”

In fact the English were furious with disappointment, for, as they reached the Governor’s mansion (strongly built of lime and stone for the safe keeping of treasure) the eager pillagers rushed through the wide-open doorway. A candle stood lighted upon the top of the stairs. Before the threshold a horse stood champing his bit, as if recently saddled for the Governor, himself, while, by the flickering gleam of the taper, a huge glittering mass of silver bars was seen piled from floor to ceiling. That was all,—no caskets of gold or precious stones were to be seen.

“Stand to your weapons, men!” cried Drake. “The town is full of people. Move carefully to the King’s treasure-house which is near the waterside. There are more gold and jewels in that spot than all our pinnaces can carry.”

As the soldiers hurried where he led, a negro called Diego, rushed panting from the direction of the shore.

[Pg 35] “Marse Drake! Marse Drake!” he wailed. “De boats am surrounded by de Spanish. Dey will sholy be captured if you do not hurry back. Fo’ de Lohd’s sake, Massa, come down to de sho’.”

“My brother and John Oxenham will hasten to the shore,” cried Drake. “Meanwhile, my Hearties, come batter down the doorway to this noble mansion. You are at the mouth of the greatest treasure-chest in the world.”

As the valiant captain spoke these words, he stepped forward to deal a blow, himself, at the stout door which shut him from the glittering riches. But suddenly he reeled and almost fell. Blood flowed in great quantities upon the sand, from a wound in his leg which he had received in the furious struggle within the market-place.

“Come, Captain,” cried one of his retainers, seizing him in his arms. “You must hasten to our pinnaces. What brooks this treasure to us when we lose you, for, if you live we can secure gold and silver enough at any time, but if you die we can find no more.”

“I fear me that I am grievously hurt,” sadly spake the Captain. “Give me but a drink and then I think that I can reach our boats.”

A soldier stooped and bound his scarf about the wounded leg of the now weakened leader, and, bearing him aloft, the little band of adventurers turned toward the ocean side. They soon embarked, with many wounded besides the Captain, though none were slain save one trumpeter.

Although the surgeons were kept busy in providing [Pg 36] remedies and salves for the hurts of the soldiers, their main care was for the bold Francis Drake,—leader of this desperate expedition in quest of treasure.

“If we lose you,” cried a sailor, “we can scarce get home again. But while we enjoy your presence and have you in command of us, we can recover enough of wealth.”

“Before we left the harbor we took, with little trouble, a ship of wine for the greater comfort of our company,” writes one of the stout soldiers in this brave affair. “And though they shot at us from the town we carried our prize to the Isle of Victuals. Here we cured our wounded men and refreshed ourselves in the goodly gardens which we found there abounding with great store of dainty roots and fruit. There were also great plenty of poultry and other fowls, no less strange and delicate.”

Although unsuccessful—as you see—the brave mariners were not daunted, and, after the wounded had recovered, a new expedition was determined upon, with the purpose of capturing one of the trains of mules which carried gold from Vera Cruz to Panama. Drake had been joined by numerous Maroons—negroes who had escaped from the Spaniards and had turned bandits—and these were quite willing and ready to aid him in the pursuit of treasure. But before the English marauders moved towards the interior, they attempted to attack Cartagena, the capital of the Spanish Main.

Sailing into the harbor in front of this prosperous town, one evening, they found that the townsfolk had [Pg 37] been well warned of their coming; they rang their bells and fired their cannon, while all of the soldiers ranged themselves before the ramparts.

“Egad,” cried Drake, with strange cheerfulness, in spite of his disappointment. “They’re far too ready to receive us. We’ve got to withdraw.”

So they prowled around the mouth of the harbor, captured two ships, outward bound, and roared with laughter as they read a letter, written to warn all nearby citizens of “that terrible marauder, pirate, and butcher, Captain Drake.”

“The Spaniards carry no treasure by land during the rainy months,” said one of the natives. “You must wait for five full moons, if you wish to catch a mule train.”

“All right,” said Captain Drake. “We’ll fortify a place of refuge—explore—and await the propitious moment when we can hope for success.”

Thus they tarried patiently until they heard from the Maroons (who ranged the country up and down) that a large fleet had arrived from Spain at Nombre de Dios. This was glad news. Drake smiled as he heard it, and prepared immediately to make a land journey to Panama with forty-eight followers, carrying provisions, arms, and many pairs of shoes, because they were to cross several rivers of stone and gravel.

The way lay between great palm trees and through cool and pleasant woods where the sturdy Englishmen were much encouraged when they heard that there stood a great tree, not far from where they were, [Pg 38] from which one could see both the North Sea (Atlantic) from which they were journeying, and the South Sea (Pacific) towards which they were going. Finally—upon the fourth day—they came to a very steep hill, lying east and west like a ridge, and, at this point, Pedro—chief of the Maroons—took Drake by the hand, saying,

“Follow me, O Captain, and I will show you two seas at once, for you are in the very centre of this country. Behold you stand in the heart of this fertile land.”

Looking before him, the lion-hearted adventurer saw a high tree in which had been cut many steps, so that one could climb to the top. Here was a convenient bower large enough for ten or twelve men to seat themselves. Then—without further ado—he and the chief Maroon clambered into the spreading branches and gazed across the nodding palm tops into the dim distance. It was a fair day, and, as the Maroons had felled certain trees so that the prospect might be more clear, upon the delighted vision of the Englishman burst the vista of the blue Atlantic and shimmering Pacific.

“I pray Almighty God in all his goodness,” cried out the adventurous Drake in loud tones of appreciation, “that I may have life and leave to sail but once an English ship in this mighty ocean of the West!”

Then he called up the rest of the voyagers, and told them of his prayer and purpose.

“I will follow you by God’s grace!” cried John Oxenham, “unless you do not wish my company.”

[Pg 39] Drake smiled good-humoredly, and, with a wave of his arm in the direction of the glistening waters, descended to the ground.

“On, my hearties!” cried he, “and we’ll soon bag a mule train with its panniers filled with gold.”

The men started forward, singing an old English ballad. As they walked through the high pampas grass, they began to get glimpses of Panama and the low-lying ships in the harbor. They kept silence and at length hid themselves in a grove near the high road from Panama to Nombre de Dios, while a negro was sent into the city as a spy.

In the afternoon the faithful henchman returned.

“A certain great man intends to go to Spain by the first ship,” he said. “He is travelling towards Nombre de Dios this very night with his daughter and his family. He has fourteen mules, eight of which are laden with gold and one with jewelry. Two other trains of fifty mules each—burdened with food and little silver—will also come up this night.”

The English smiled, and, without more ado, marched to within two miles of Vera Cruz, where half of them lay down upon one side of the road, and half upon the other. They were screened by the tall grass; so well, indeed, that no eye could see them, and in an hour’s time, to their eager ears came the sound of mule trains passing to and fro near Vera Cruz, where trade was lively because of the presence of the Spanish fleet. All was propitious for a successful attack.

But misfortune seemed always to follow the bold [Pg 40] and adventurous Drake. As mischance would have it, one of his men called Robert Pike, who had “drunk too much brandy without water,” was lying close to the roadway by the side of a grinning Maroon, and, when a well-mounted cavalier from Vera Cruz rode by—with his page running at his stirrup—he rose up to peer at him, even though his companion pulled him down in the endeavor to hide his burly form.

“Sacre Nom de Dieu,” cried the traveller. “It is a white man! An Englishman!” and, putting spurs to his horse, he rode away at a furious gallop in order to warn others of the highwayman’s position.

The ground was hard and the night was still. As Captain Drake heard the gentleman’s trot change into a gallop, he uttered a round British oath.

“Discovered,” he muttered, “but by whose fault I know not. We’ll await the other trains and mayhap we’ll have some booty yet.”

The gentleman, in fact, warned the Treasurer, who, fearing that Captain Drake had wandered to this hidden thicket, turned his train of mules aside and let the others—who were behind him—pass on. Thus, by recklessness of one of the company, a rich booty was lost, but—as an Englishman has well said, “We thought that God would not let it be taken, for likely it was well gotten by that Treasurer.”

There was no use repining, for soon a tinkling of bells and tread of hoofs came to the eager ears of the adventurers, and, through the long pampas grass ambled the other two mule trains—their drivers snapping the whips with little thought of the lurking [Pg 41] danger. In a moment they were between the English and hidden Maroons, who—with a wild cheer—dashed upon them, surrounded them, and easily held them in their power. Two horse loads of silver was the prize for all this trouble and hard travel.

“I never grieve over things past,” cried Drake. “We must now march home by the shortest route. It is certainly provoking that we lost the mule train of gold, particularly as we were betrayed by one of our own men. Come, soldiers, turn about and retreat to our good ships.”

Half satisfied but cheerful, the soldiers and Maroons turned towards the coast, and, as they neared Vera Cruz, the infantrymen of the town swarmed outside to attack the hated men of Merrie England, with cries of, “Surrender! Surrender!”

Drake looked at them scornfully, replying,

“An Englishman never surrenders!”

At this a volley rang out and one of the intrepid adventurers was “so powdered with hail-shot that he could not recover his life, although he continued all that day with Drake’s men.” But stout Francis blew his whistle—the signal for attack—and, with a wild cry, the Maroons and English rushed for the black-haired and sallow-skinned defenders of the town. “Yo Peho! Yo Peho!” wailed the half-crazed natives as they leaped high in the air, and encouraged by the presence of the English, they broke through the thickets at the town’s end and forced the enemy to fly, while the now terrified Spanish scurried pell mell down the coast. Several of Drake’s followers [Pg 42] were wounded, and one Maroon was run through with a pike, but his courage was so great that he revenged his own death ere he died, by slaying a Spaniard who opposed him.

At sunrise the land pirates continued their journey, carrying some plunder from Vera Cruz. Some of the men fainted with weakness, but two Maroons would carry them along until they could again walk, and thus—struggling, cursing and singing—the party of weary and disappointed marauders neared the place where they had left their ship. A messenger was sent forward with a golden toothpick to those left behind upon the vessel and a request that the ship be brought into the narrow channel of a certain river. It was done, and when at last the weary plunderers reached the shore, they gave a mighty cheer as they saw the white, bellying sails of their staunch, English vessel. Their journey for pelf and jewels had been a failure.

This did not discourage the lion-hearted Drake, who declared, with a smile, “We’ll yet catch a mule train, boys, and one in which the panniers are filled with sufficient gold to sink our good ship. Keep your hearts bright and I’ll gain you enough of treasure to house you in peace and comfort in your old age. Remember—‘Fortune favors the brave!’” He had spoken with truth.

Not long afterwards a French captain appeared, whose men were only too eager for a little journey ashore after golden mule trains and battle. So a party was made up of twenty Frenchmen, fifteen [Pg 43] Englishmen, and some Maroons, who sailed with a frigate and two pinnaces, towards a river called Rio Francisco—to the west of Nombre de Dios. They landed, struck inland, and were soon near the high road from Panama to Nombre de Dios, where mule trains passed daily—some with food and merchandise—a few with golden ingots and bars of silver.

In silence they marched along and spent the night about a mile from the road, where they could plainly hear the carpenters working on their ships—which they did at night because of the fierce, torrid sun during the day. Next morning—the first of April, but not an April Fool’s day by any means—they heard such a number of bells that the Maroons began to chuckle and say, “You will have much gold. Yo Peho! Yo Peho! This time we will all be rich!”

Suddenly three mule trains came to view, one of fifty long-eared beasts of burden; two of seventy each, with every animal carrying three hundred pounds weight of silver, amounting to nearly thirty tons. The sight seemed almost too good to be true. With a wild shout the ambuscaders leaped from their hiding places to rush frantically upon the startled drivers. In a few moments the train was in possession of Drake and his French and half-negro associates, who chuckled and grunted like peccaries.

The leading mules were taken by the heads and all the rest lay down, as they always do when stopped. The fifteen soldiers who guarded each train were routed, but not before they had wounded the French [Pg 44] captain most severely and had slain one of the Maroons. Silver bars and gold ingots were there aplenty. They were seized and carried off, while, what was not transported, was buried in the earthen burrows made by the great land crabs under fallen trees, and in the sand and gravel of a shallow river.

“And now for home,” cried a valorous sea farer, after a party had returned with a portion of the buried treasure, which was divided equally between the French and the English. Much of that left in the sand crab holes had been discovered by the Spaniards—but not all. Thirteen bars of silver and a few quoits of gold had rewarded the search of the expectant voyageurs.

“Yes,” cried all. “Sails aloft for Merrie England!” So, spreading canvas, the bold adventurers were soon headed for the foggy and misty isle from which they had come. On Sunday, August ninth, 1573—just about sermon time—they dropped anchor in the peaceful harbor of Plymouth.

“And the news of the Captain’s return brought unto his people, did so speedily pass over all the church, and fill the minds of the congregation with delight and desire to see him, that very few, or none, remained with the preacher. All hastened to see the evidence of God’s love and blessing towards the gracious Queen and country, by the fruit of the gallant mariner’s labor and success.”

“To God alone,” spake an humble citizen of Plymouth, “be the Glory.”

(The surrender of Don Anton to Sir Francis Drake, March 1, 1579.)

And all echoed these pious sentiments, in spite of [Pg 45] the fact that Drake was a robber, a pirate, and a buccaneer. But was he not their own countryman?

The scene now changes. It is a gray day at Plymouth and anxious faces peer into the street from the windows of the low, tiled houses. A crowd has collected upon the jutting cliffs and all gaze with eager eyes towards the ocean. Men speak in hushed and subdued voices, for there is trouble in the air.

Among the knots of keen-eyed English there is one small party which seems to be as joyous as a lot of school-boys. Five men are playing at bowls, and one of them is stout, and well knit, and swarthy visaged with long exposure to the elements. He is laughing uproariously, when a lean fellow comes running from the very edge of those beetling cliffs which jut far out into the gray, green Atlantic.

“Hark’ee, Captain Drake!” he cries. “Ships are in the offing, and many of them too! It must be the fleet of Philip of Spain come to ravage our beauteous country!”

“Ah, indeed,” answers the staunch-figured captain, without looking up. “Then let me have one last shot, I pray thee, before I go to meet them.”

And so saying, he calmly tosses another ball upon the greensward, knocks aside the wooden pins, then smiling, turns and strides towards the waterside.

Thus Drake—the lion-hearted—goes out to battle with the great Armada of Philip of Spain, with a smile upon his lips, and full confidence in his ability [Pg 46] to defeat the Spaniards at home as well as on the Spanish Main. Let us see how he fared?

Smarting with keen anger at Drake and his successful attacks upon his western possessions, Philip—the powerful monarch of Spain—determined to gather a great fleet together and to invade England with a mighty army.

“That rascally pirate has beaten me at Cadiz, at Cartagena, and at Lisbon,” the irate king had roared, with no show of composure. “Now I will sail against him and crush this buccaneer, so that he and his kind can never rise again.”

A mighty fleet of heavy ships—the Armada—was not ready to sail until July, 1588, and the months before this had been well spent by the English in preparation for defense, for they knew of the full intention of their southern enemy. Shipwrights worked day and night. The clamoring dockyards hummed with excitement, while Good Queen Bess and her Ministers of State wrote defiant letters to the missives from the Spanish crown. The cold blood of the English—always quite lukewarm in their misty, moisty isle—had begun to boil with vigor. The Britons would fight valiantly.

As the lumbering galleons neared the English coast, a heavy mist which hid them, blew away, and the men of England saw the glimmering water fairly black with the wooden vultures of old Spain. The Spaniards had come ready to fight in the way in which they had won many a brilliant victory; with a horde of towering hulks, of double-deckers and store-ships [Pg 47] manned by slaves and yellow-skinned retainers, who despised big guns and loved a close encounter with hand thrusts and push of pike. Like a huge, wooden octopus this arrogant fleet of Arragon moved its tentacles around the saucy, new-made pinnaces of the tight little isle.

“The boats of the English were very nimble and of good steerage,” writes a Spaniard, “so that the English did with them as they desired. And our ships being very heavy compared with the lightness of those of the enemy, it was impossible to come to hand-stroke with them.”

This tells the whole story. With a light wind astern—the war ships of the English bore down easily upon the heavy-bottomed Spanish galleons and fired their guns at the hulls of the enemy.

“Don’t waste your balls upon the rigging,” cried Drake through a trumpet. “Sight low and sink ’em if you can. But keep away from the grappling hooks so’s not to let ’em get hold of you. If they once do—you’re lost!”

Now was the sound of splitting of boards, as the solid shot pumped great holes in the sides of the high rocking galleons. Dense clouds of vapor hung over the struggling combatants—partly from a sea fog which the July sun had not thoroughly burned away, and partly from the spitting mouths of the cannon. Fire burst from the decks, the roar of the guns was intermingled with the shrill wails of the slaves, the guttural cries of the seamen, the screams of the wounded and the derisive howls of those maddened [Pg 48] by battle. The decks were crimson with blood; sails split and tore as the chain-shot hummed through the rigging, and the sharp twang of the arquebusques was mingled with the crash of long-barrelled muskets.

No men can fight like those who are defending their own homes. At Gettysburg, the Army of the Potomac—twice beaten in an attack upon the South in the enemy’s country—struggled as it had never done before,—and won. It had nowhere battled as when the foe was pushing it back upon its own soil and cities.

So here—no fighters ever bled as did the English when the greedy hands of Spain were clutching at their shores. The light ships hung near the Spaniards at a distance and did not board until spars were down and the great rakish hulls were part helpless. Then—with a wild cheer—the little galleons—often two at a time—would grapple with the enemy and board—cutlasses swinging, pistols spitting, and hand-spikes hewing a way through the struggling, yellow-faced ruffians of Philip of Arragon.

While the awful battle raged, fire ships were prepared on shore and sent down upon the Spanish fleet, burning fiercely and painting the skyline with red. Some of the large vessels had anchored, and, as these terrors approached, they slipped their cables in order to escape. Confusion beset the ranks of the boastful foe and cheered on the British bull-dogs to renewed exertions.

At six in the evening a mighty cry welled from the [Pg 49] British boats. “They fly! They fly!” sounded above the ruck and roar of battle.

Yes—it was the truth. Beaten and dismayed, the Spanish fleet bore away to the North, while the English—in spite of the fact that their powder was wet, and nearly all spent—“gave them chase as if they lacked nothing, until they had cleared their own coast and some part of Scotland of them.” The Armada—split, part helpless—drifted away from Plymouth, and wild cheers of joy came from the deck of the vessel which carried bold Sir Francis Drake. The great battle had been won.

So crippled were many of the Spanish hulks that they were wrecked in stormy weather, off the coast of Scotland and Ireland. Not half of those who put to sea ever reached Spain again. Many sailors were drowned, or perished miserably by the hands of the natives of the coast, and some who escaped were put to death by the Queen’s orders. Fever and sickness broke out in the English ships and the followers of bold Drake died by hundreds, “sickening one day and perishing the next.”

The English vessels, themselves, were in a bad way—they had to be disinfected and the men put ashore—where the report of the many wrecks and the massacre of Spanish soldiers, eased the anxiety of the once terrified inhabitants of the tight little isle, and made it certain that the Armada would never return. Drake and his bold seamen had saved the people of Merrie England. Again hats off to this pirate of the Spanish Main!

[Pg 50] Safely settled in Buckland Abbey, knighted, honored, respected—the hero of the defense of England—one would think that Drake would have remained peacefully at home to die “with his boots on.” But not so. The spirit of adventure called to him with irresistible force, and again he set out for the Spanish Main. He had sailed around the world before his grapple with the Armada; he had harassed the Spaniard in an expedition to Lisbon; he was the idol of the English. He had done enough—you say. Yes, he had done enough—but—like all men who love the game of life he wished to have just one more expedition in search of gold and adventure, for—by nature he was a gambler, and he was throwing the dice with Fate.

So a goodly crew sailed with him again, hoping for another raid upon mule trains and cities of treasure. But alas! There was to be a different story from the others. All the towns and hamlets of the Spanish Main had been warned to “be careful and look well to themselves, for that Drake and Hawkins were making ready in England to come upon them.” And when the English arrived they found stout defense and valiant men, nor was a sail seen “worth giving chase unto.” Hawkins died, many grew ill of fever, and finally Drake, himself, succumbed to the malarial atmosphere of Panama. He was to remain where gold and adventure had first lured him.

On January the twenty-eighth, 1596, the great captain yielded up his spirit “like a Christian, quietly in his cabin.” And a league from the shore of Porto [Pg 51] Rico, the mighty rover of the seas was placed in a weighted hammock and tossed into the sobbing ocean. The spume frothed above the eddying current, sucked downward by the emaciated form of the famous mariner, and a solitary gull shrieked cruelly above the bubbles, below which—upon beads of coral and clean sand—rested the body of Sir Francis Drake, rover, rogue, and rattling sea ranger. It was his last journey.

“Weep for this soul, who, in fathoms of azure,
Lies where the wild tarpon breaks through the foam,
Where the sea otter mews to its brood in the ripples,
As the pelican wings near the palm-forest gloom.
Ghosts of the buccaneers flit through the branches,
Dusky and dim in the shadows of eve,
While shrill screams the parrot,—the lord of Potanches,
‘Drake, Captain Drake, you’ve had your last leave.’”

[Pg 52]


One day I saw a ship upon the sands
Careened upon beam ends, her tilted deck
Swept clear of rubbish of her long-past wreck;
Her colors struck, but not by human hands;
Her masts the driftwood of what distant strands!
Her frowning ports, where, at the Admiral’s beck,
Grim-visaged cannon held the foe in check,
Gaped for the frolic of the minnow bands.
The seaweed banners in her fo’ks’le waved,
A turtle basked upon her capstan head;
Her cabin’s pomp the clownish sculpin braved,
And, on her prow, where the lost figure-head
Once turned the brine, a name forgot was graved,
It was “The Irresistible” I read.





[Pg 54]

“All great men have lived by hope.”—James Freeman Clarke.


[Pg 55]


“When the sobbing sea is squally,
Then,—look out for Walter Raleigh!
He’s the fellow whom Queen Bess is said to love.
He’s a reckless, handsome sailor,
With a ‘Vandyke’ like a tailor,
He can coo fond words of loving like a dove.
Faith! I like this gallant rover,
Who has ploughed the wild seas over,
Who has passed the grim and wild equator’s ring.
And I cheer, whene’er I view him,
For—my Boy—off Spain I knew him
When he trimmed the Spanish cruisers, like a King.”

Chant of the Plymouth Dock-Hand.

BOYS! You have all heard about the Square Deal. Well—Here is the story of a man who didn’t get one.

Walter Raleigh was a brave man; he was an able seafarer; his younger manhood was spent in the midst of the most brilliant Royal Court which England has known. He proved his courage and military prowess in more than one bitterly contested battle-field and naval conflict. His love of his own land and his hatred of his enemies was ardent.

He was also a fellow of wit, and, as an author, took rank with the great literary lights of the Elizabethan [Pg 56] Age. He was an adventurer, and, in middle life, as well as in old age, braved the great deep and perils of savage lands in the magnificent attempt to make discoveries and to settle English colonies in the New World. Chivalrous in actions and feeling; of handsome person; graceful manners and courtly address; it is no wonder that he had a host of enemies: those fellows who couldn’t do anything worth while themselves, and wanted to “pull the other fellow down.” There are plenty of them around, to-day, doing the same thing in the same, old way.

As an Englishman he loved England to such an extent, that—upon the return from one of his numerous voyages—he dropped upon one knee and kissed the sand.

“My men,” said he to his followers, “I love this land as nothing else on earth!”

The hostility of his rivals subjected him to harsh ill treatment. It did not dampen his love for England.

The silly caprices of Queen Elizabeth, who—like most women—was swayed, not by her reason, but by her sentiments, made him suffer imprisonment. Yet, it did not dampen his love for England.

The terrible and bitter dislike of King James—who succeeded the Virgin Queen—finally led to his trial for treason; his execution; and his death.

Yet, it did not dampen his love for England.

If England can produce men of such a mold, nowadays, she will continue to be a mighty world power.

Do you think that you could be as patriotic as Sir [Pg 57] Walter Raleigh? Particularly if you were treated as he was treated? Think it over!

One day, the ancient palace of Greenwich, which stood on the banks of the Thames—a few miles below London—presented a lively and brilliant scene. Courtiers, arrayed in gorgeous colors and glittering ornaments, walked about, chattering gaily,—like a flock of sparrows. Fine, young cavaliers were there, attired in rich velvets, sparkling with gems, armed with gold-hilted swords. Grave statesmen wandered around,—with beards as white as their ruffles. Stately dames, with heavy and gaily trimmed trains, peered at the beautiful belles, and said:

“My, isn’t she a fright!” or

“Goodness, what dreadful manners the Duchess so-and-so has!”

Just as they do to-day. Times do not change.

Trumpets blared a fan-fa-rade and lines of soldiers gave forth inspiriting sounds, with many musical instruments. There was a stir and flutter in the crowd; and some one called out:

“She’s coming! Hats off to the Queen!”

So all the men took off their hats,—for they were courtiers, and it was their business to do so, whenever Her Royal Highness came around. Many of them didn’t like to do it but if they hadn’t done so, some spy would have cried out “Treason!” And they would have been hustled off to the Tower. You just bet they took off their hats!

Descending the broad flight of steps, with proud [Pg 58] and majestic mien, the tall and slender figure of Elizabeth—the maiden Queen of England—was seen approaching.

She was then in the mature ripeness of middle age, but she still preserved not a few remnants of the beauty of her youth. Her form was straight and well proportioned. Her large, blue eyes were yet bright and expressive; her complexion was still wonderfully fair and smooth. Her well arranged hair was luxuriant and was of a light red. A large, fan-like collar of richest lace rose from her slender neck, above her head behind; and her tresses were combed high from her forehead. Jewels blazed from her dress. Her attire was far more splendid than that of any of the ladies of her court.

As it happened, a heavy shower had just passed over, and little puddles of water stood all around upon the gravelled paths. Bursting through the fast-vanishing clouds, the sun cast its rays upon the trees still dripping with glittering drops; and upon the smiling Queen, who—surrounded by a gay group of courtiers—set forth upon a promenade through the park. She chatted affably with all. They tried to make themselves as agreeable as possible, for he who was most agreeable received the best plums from the Royal Tree. Politics haven’t changed any since that day.

The Queen walked on, playing with a beautiful, white greyhound, and, pretty soon she came to a muddy spot in the path.

“Zounds!” said she (or it may have been something stronger, for historians say that she could “swear [Pg 59] valiantly”). “Zounds! Now I will spoil my pretty shoes!”

“And also your pretty feet,” interjected a courtier. He received a smile for this compliment and the Queen mentally made a note of it,—for future use in the distribution of Court Favors.

She hesitated, looked around aimlessly, and stood still.

At this instant a young noble—six feet tall and elegantly attired—stepped forward; and, throwing aside his richly embroidered cloak, spread it over the muddy pool.

“Prithee, pass onward!” said he, bowing low.

Elizabeth was delighted.

“Good Walter Raleigh,” said she, smiling. “You are truly a gallant knight!” And she tripped gaily across the embroidered mantlet. “I will reward you right well for this!”

But the courtiers, the Ladies, and the Statesmen glanced with undisguised envy at the young gallant who had so readily pleased their Mistress; and they scowled at him as Elizabeth kept him at her side during the rest of her promenade. “The Beggar’s outdone us all!” said one. “Down with him!”

But they could not down Sir Walter just then. After awhile they had “their innings.”

Rough, vain, whimsical Queen Bess was fond of handsome, and especially of witty and eloquent young men. She grew more attached to Sir Walter Raleigh every day. He rapidly rose in power and influence, and, as a poet, became well known. His verses were [Pg 60] read in the luxurious halls of the palace with exclamations of delight, while the tales of his military exploits were eagerly repeated from mouth to mouth; for Raleigh had fought valiantly in France and had helped to suppress an insurrection in Ireland.

And still the jealous courtiers murmured among themselves.

Raleigh was appointed “Warden of the Stanneries,” or mines, in Cornwall and Devonshire, from which he derived, each year, a large income. He was made Captain of the Queen’s Guard. He was created Lord Lieutenant of Cornwall and Vice-Admiral of Devon. He received vast estates in Ireland and many privileges and licenses, so that he was fast becoming a rich man. He was splendid and extravagant in his dress. He grew arrogant. He had, in fact, “too much Ego in his Cosmos.”

So, the jealous courtiers continued to murmur among themselves.

Elizabeth was fickle as well as sentimental. Her fancy passed lightly from one gallant to another. For some time Leicester (who had once been her sole favorite, and who desired to regain his position) had been growing jealous of Raleigh’s ascendency; and he had been delighted to see that Queen Bess had taken a violent fancy to the impetuous Earl of Essex. A quarrel took place between Raleigh and the Ruler of England. He was affronted before the whole court and retired to his chambers, overwhelmed with grief.


And all the jealous courtiers punched each other [Pg 61] beneath the ribs, and laughed “Ha! Ha! Ha! What did we tell you?”

It took the “Ego” out of Raleigh’s “Cosmos.”

But the gallant courtier had a half-brother—Sir Humphrey Gilbert—who had just returned from a voyage around the world in the good ship Golden Hind.

“Let’s fit out a small fleet,” said he to Raleigh, “and establish an English colony in Newfoundland.”

“I’m with you,” cried Sir Walter. “We’ll found another England in far distant America! On with it!”

Thus, an expedition of five ships sailed from Plymouth, in the early summer of 1583. Sir Humphrey boarded the Squirrel, and bade his kinsman an affectionate adieu.

“You must remain behind,” said he, “and regain our position at court!”

“That I will endeavor to do,” answered Raleigh. “Good luck and God speed.”

The expedition was a failure from the start. Scarcely had the shallops gone to sea, than one of them—the Raleigh—deserted its companions and put back. The rest reached Newfoundland, but the men were lawless and insubordinate.

“This is the Deuce of a cold place for a colony,” they said. “Home to Merrie England!”

Gilbert was forced to yield to their angry demands, and re-embarked.

“Don’t sail in that rattle-trap of a Squirrel,” said his officers to him. “She’ll founder!”

[Pg 62] But Sir Humphrey had that obstinacy which characterized General Braddock.

“No: I will not forsake the little company, going homeward,” said he. “I’ll stick to my ship.”

He stuck—and—when they hailed him one stormy night, he said:

“Be of good cheer, my friends: we are as near to Heaven by sea as by land!”

That night the Squirrel was sailing a little in advance of the other ships, and, as those on board the Golden Hind watched the frail barque, they saw her lurch, heave, and then sink from view. Thus the soul of brave Raleigh’s kinsman found a watery grave. He had paid for his obstinacy with his life.

Raleigh was overwhelmed with grief when he learned of the death of his heroic half-brother.

“I’ll yet found my Colony,” said he. “And I’ll go myself.”

This pleased the jealous courtiers more than ever, for they would now have him out of the way for all time.

With his ample wealth, the indefatigable adventurer found no difficulty in fitting out an expedition, and, in the year after the death of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, he sent forth two vessels to explore the coast of the Carolinas.

“I’m going to stay at home and face my enemies!” said the gay blade. “Again good luck and God Speed!”

They had a fortunate voyage, and, when they returned, the Captains told of the beautiful harbors, fine rivers, magnificent forests and abundance of game. [Pg 63] The Queen was delighted, and at once named the fair country for herself, with characteristic egotism. That men might know that this fruitful land was explored in the time of the Virgin Queen, it was called “Virginia.” Raleigh was wild with delight.

And the jealous courtiers looked dejected and sad.

A fleet of seven vessels—with one hundred colonists—was now sent to Virginia, under the command of one Grenville, who was eager to become suddenly rich: a disease as common now as in those venturous days. No sooner had the people landed, than they began to treat the savages with such harshness and rapacity—that they had to gain their own food, as the natives would have nothing to do with them. Dissensions tore the little community into shreds. So they were only too glad to return with the gallant old sea-dog, Sir Francis Drake, when he happened that way, with a large amount of booty which he had just taken from the Spaniards in the southern seas.

Another expedition was sent over by Raleigh; and yet another. They were failures. But there was one, single thing which was not a failure. This was the discovery of a herb called “Yppowoc,” or tobacco, the leaves of which—when dried—were smoked by the natives in long pipes.

Curious Sir Walter had a jeweller in London make him a silver pipe, after the fashion of those used by the native Virginians. In this he began to smoke the tobacco, and soon grew to like it very much; so much, indeed, that he was scarcely ever without this comforter, when enjoying the quiet of his home.

[Pg 64] One day he was sitting cosily by his fire with his Long Nine in his mouth, and the smoke was curling gracefully over his head. Just as he was puffing out a particularly thick cloud, one of his servants happened to enter the room with a tankard of ale, for the luncheon table.

“Ye Gods!” cried he. “My Master’s on fire!”


Over Sir Walter’s head went the ale, and the frightened lackey dashed down the steps.

“H-e-l-p! H-e-l-p!” cried he. “My Master is burning up! H-e-l-p!”

But Sir Walter did not burn up this time. Instead he near split his gallant sides with laughing.

Now, Boys, don’t smile! ’Tis said that good old Queen Bess tried, herself, to smoke a Long Nine. But—hush—“she became so dizzy and ill from the effects that she never ventured upon the experiment again!” (Keep this quiet! Very quiet! Will you!)

On one occasion she was watching Sir Walter blowing circles of smoke over his head, and said to him—

“Zounds! (or something stronger) Sir Walter! You are a witty man; but I will wager that you cannot tell me the weight of the smoke which comes from your pipe!”

“I can, indeed,” was the confident reply of the gallant courtier. “Watch me closely!”

At once he took as much tobacco as would fill his pipe and exactly weighed it. Having then smoked it up, he—in like manner—weighed the ashes.

[Pg 65] “Now, Your Majesty,” said he, smiling. “The difference between these two weights is the weight of the smoke.”

And again Queen Bess remarked “Zounds!” (or Eftsoons!). At any rate, she paid the wager, for—with all her frailties—she was a Good Loser.

Raleigh, in fact, shortly became reinstated in Royal favor, and, when he aided Drake and Hawkins—soon afterwards—in dispersing the Invincible Armada, he was again in the good graces of his sovereign.

There was, however, a pretty, young Maid-of-Honor at court, called Elizabeth Throgmorton, and no sooner had the bright eyes of Sir Walter fallen upon her, than he fell in love. In paying court to this amiable lady he was compelled to use great caution and secrecy, for jealous Queen Bess watched him narrowly, and with suspicion. In spite of her preference for Essex, Elizabeth was quite unwilling that Raleigh—her less favored lover—should transfer his affections to another. So, in making love to Elizabeth Throgmorton, the gay courtier was compelled to use the utmost care.

But Murder (or Love) will out!

It chanced one day, that the Queen discovered what was going on between her Maid-of-Honor and the cavalier. Her rage knew no bounds. She berated Raleigh before her ladies, and forbade him to come to court. She fiercely commanded the Maid-of-Honor to remain a prisoner in her room, and, on no account to see Raleigh again. So the venturous Knight turned his attention once more to wild roving upon the sea.

[Pg 66] Now the jealous courtiers fairly chuckled with glee. “Ha! Ha! Ha!” laughed they. “Ho! Ho! Ho! He! He! He!”

But Sir Walter engaged very actively in fitting out some squadrons to attack the Spanish ships.

“Egad! I hate a Spaniard!” he said. “They are my country’s special enemies and I intend to do them all the harm that I can!”

The Queen was glad enough to separate him from his lady love and not only consented to his project, but promised to aid him in it. Ere long fifteen vessels were anchored in the Thames—all ready to sail—but, before he set out, the gallant commander made up his mind that he would marry his beloved Maid-of-Honor. It was not difficult to find a clergyman who would splice him tighter than he ever spliced a rope aboard ship. The deed was done. He set sail. All was going propitiously.

“I’ll attack the Spanish ships in the harbor of Seville,” said Raleigh. “Then—off to the Spanish Main and sack the town of Panama.” He laughed,—but what was that?

Rapidly approaching from the coast of England came a swift pinnace. It gained upon the squadron in spite of the fact that all sail was hoisted, and, at last came near enough to give Raleigh a signal to “Heave to.” In a few moments her commander climbed aboard.

“The Queen has changed her mind about your expedition,” said he. “She has sent me—Sir Martin Frobisher—to tell you to come home.”

[Pg 67] Raleigh said things which made the air as blue as the sea, but he put back—for he could not disobey the Royal command. He was soon at court.

The Queen was furious with anger.

“You have disobeyed my commands,” said she. “I find you have secretly married my Maid-of-Honor. To the Tower with you! To the dungeons of the Tower!”

And all the jealous courtiers were so happy that they danced a can-can in the ante chamber.

What do you think of this? Thrown into prison because he loved a Maid and married her! Nowadays “all the World loves a Lover.” In those times all the world might have “loved a Lover” except Queen Bess,—and a number of courtiers hanging around within easy call: They kicked a Lover. And then they all got together and said:

“Fine! Fine! Now we’ve got him where he ought to be. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ho! Ho! Ho!”

But women relent; that is one of their chief characteristics. Queen Bess softened, grew lukewarm, finally became molten.

“Sir Walter Raleigh can go free,” said she.

The gallant courtier returned to his country estate, where—with his wife and children he enjoyed the luxuries and comforts of country life. And the jealous courtiers began to look strangely sober.

Still the sea called. The sea sang its old song, and, fired with the spirit of adventure, Sir Walter decided upon another expedition: this time to the coast of Guiana, in South America, where, it was said, “billets [Pg 68] of gold lay about in heaps, as if they were logs of wood marked out to burn.” With a large fleet at his command he soon started upon this expedition for plunder and for fame. This time no Sir Martin Frobisher sailed after him to bring him back to a dungeon in the Tower and he was able to reach his destination.

The expedition was a howling success. Whenever and wherever Sir Walter could inflict injury on the Spaniards, whom he so bitterly detested, he did so with eagerness. A Spanish ship was soon seen, chased, and—after a brief, hot fight—surrendered and was boarded.

“Egad!” cried Raleigh. “Here’s luck, for the cargo’s of fire arms. I’ll stow them away in my own vessel and let the captive go!”

Proceeding on his voyage, he not long afterwards encountered and captured another prize; a Flemish ship sailing homeward with a cargo of fine wine. Twenty hogsheads were transferred to the hold of Raleigh’s ship and the captured craft was allowed to sail on,—empty.

Things continued to go well. The Island of Trinidad (off Venezuela) was reached at last. The natives were friendly and told of vast deposits of gold far up the river Orinoco. “But would Raleigh not please besiege the Spanish town of St. Joseph?” said they, “and rescue some of their chiefs whom the Spaniards held prisoners—in chains.”

“I always strike a Spaniard when I can,” said Raleigh. “On, men, we’ll sack this proud city!”

St. Joseph speedily fell into his hands. The chiefs [Pg 69] were released. They were so gratified, that they paddled him far up the river, where they found glittering gold, which they tore out of rocks with their daggers. The Englishmen were delighted, and, collecting a mass of nuggets to show to those at home, they put back to the ships, set sail, and were soon in England again.

The people were astonished at this exploit, but the jealous courtiers did all they could to deprive Raleigh of the renown which was justly his due.

“What this fellow has told is a lie,” whispered they into the ears of good Queen Bess. “There is no such place as Guiana. Raleigh has been down upon the coast of Spain and hidden himself. He has not crossed the Atlantic at all.”

Which proves that no one can ever do anything adventurous without stirring up the hammers of the Envious: the Little Men. Is it not so to-day? Look around! You can hear the carping critic at any time that you may wish! Do something big, sometime. Then put your ear to the ground and listen!

But the sea called for the fifth time. A vast English fleet was hurled against the Spanish at Cadiz,—a great English fleet, accompanied by an army. England was bound to get even with the Spaniards for daring to launch the supposedly invincible Armada against them—and Sir Walter eagerly sailed for the coast of Spain.

The harbor of Cadiz was seen to be fairly jammed full of stately galleons and men-of-war. Arranged in compact rows, close to shore, just below the towering [Pg 70] and frowning castle of Cadiz; they were protected, on either side, by fortresses, whence heavy guns peeped forth to defend them. There were nearly sixty large vessels in all, four of which were galleons, and twenty of which were galleys: well-manned and well-armed with small cannon. There were many more ships than in the attacking fleet.

It was the evening of June the 20th, 1596. The British vessels rapidly sailed into the harbor, Raleigh leading, in the flagship, the Water Sprite; behind him the Mary Rose, commanded by his cousin, Sir George Carew; and the Rainbow under Sir Francis Vere. All were eager for the fray, and it was not long before their approach was observed by the Spanish fleet. Instantly a huge galleon, the Saint Philip—the largest in the Spanish Navy—swung out of her position, followed by the Saint Andrew, second only to her in size.

“They’re coming to meet me!” cried Raleigh—joyously.

Instead of that, the galleons sailed for a narrow strait in the harbor—followed by the rest of the Spanish fleet—and cast anchor just under the stout fortress of Puntal. They arranged themselves in close array and awaited the attack of the English.

The English fleet anchored, but at daybreak, the impetuous Raleigh bore down upon the formidable mass of hulking galleons. The sun rays streamed over the old, Spanish town, gilding the pinnaces and spires of the churches, shining brightly upon the flapping pennons of Britisher and Don. The white sails flapped, spars creaked and groaned, the sailors cheered, [Pg 71] and—in a moment—the cannon began to bark, like wolf hounds. The fight had begun.

Raleigh was the incarnation of battle. Passing rapidly from point to point upon the deck of his vessel, he encouraged and urged on his men, exposed himself as freely as the rest; and whenever a man faltered, there he appeared to urge the faint heart on with words of inspiration and hope.

Roar! Roar! Roar! Zoom! Zoom! Crash!

The arquebusses spittled and spat; cannon growled; and iron crashed into solid oak planking.

The orders were not to board until the fly-boats (long, flat-bottomed vessels with high sterns) came up, which were manned by Dutch allies. For three hours the battle raged, but the fly-boats did not arrive. The Earl of Essex—the commander of this expedition—now ordered his flagship to pass through the advance line of vessels, and make the way to the front. Raleigh was chafing with rage because the fly-boats did not come, yet, in spite of the danger of being shot, he jumped into a light skiff, and was rowed over to the galleon of Essex.

“I’ll board the Saint Philip,” cried he, “if the fly-boats do not soon arrive. Even though it be against the orders of the Admiral. For it is the same loss to burn, or to sink, and I must soon endure one or the other.”

“Go ahead!” yelled Essex, over the bow. “I’ll second you, upon my honor!”

Raleigh hastened with all speed to the deck of the Water Sprite, where his men were pounding away at [Pg 72] the Spanish galleons with all their might and main. No sooner had he mounted the poop, than he saw, with anger, that two vessels of his own squadron had forced themselves into a position in front of his own; for their commanders wanted to win first honors in this battle at sea.

Raleigh, himself, wished to have the honor, just like other sea captains in later battles. But,—that’s another story.

So, the gallant seaman ran the Water Sprite between the two other ships and took up his position as leader. Sir Francis Vere of the Rainbow was resolved to keep in front as well as Raleigh.

As the Water Sprite passed him he slyly cast a rope to a sailor, who tied it to her stern, and his own vessel thus kept abreast of the lumbering galley of his chief. “But,” writes Sir Walter, “some of my company advising me thereof, I caused the rope to be cast off, and so Vere fell back in his place, where I guarded him—all but his very prow—from the sight of the enemy. I was very sure that none would outstart me again for that day.”

The guns of the fort appeared to be silent and the big galleons lay apparently helpless in the face of the valiant enemy. Raleigh moved on, but, as he was about to clutch his splendid prize, it escaped him, for the Spaniards—finding that they would be captured—made haste to run the Saint Philip, and several of her sister ships, aground on the sand.

“Blow them up!” came the order.

The Spanish sailors and soldiers came tumbling out [Pg 73] of the ships into the sea in heaps—“as thick as if coals had been poured out of a sack into many pots at once.” Then a terrific roar boomed forth. The air was filled with flying splinters, canvas, iron, and lead. The portions of the galleons were now floating upon the waves and the water was alive with the struggling bodies of the Spaniards as they desperately endeavored to save themselves.

The spectacle was lamentable. Many drowned themselves. Many, half burned, leaped into the water; while others hung by the ropes’ ends; by the ships’ sides; under the sea, even to their lips. “If any man had a desire to see Hell, itself,” wrote Sir Walter, “it was there most lively figured!”

Hurrah! Hurrah! Hurrah!

The English sailors were cheering, for victory was theirs, and of all the gallant warriors of that day, Raleigh had been the most persistently daring and heroic.

“The Saint Andrew’s still afloat, good Sire!” cried one of his sailors at this moment.

“Then we’ll take her!” cried Raleigh.

She was boarded and captured with little difficulty, while yet another galleon—the Saint Matthew—fell into his hands. These were the only vessels of all that proud Spanish fleet which had escaped the flames.

Raleigh, himself, had been severely wounded in the leg, but he refused to release the command of his ship. He gave orders that all lives should be spared, and although these mandates were rigidly obeyed by the English soldiers, the Dutch cruelly slaughtered many [Pg 74] of their hapless prisoners, for their hatred of the Spaniards was bitter and savage.

Cadiz had not yet fallen and Raleigh was determined to go on shore with the troops and witness the taking of the town, in spite of his wound. A litter was prepared for him—he was lowered into one of the boats—rowed ashore, carried upon the shoulders of some of his faithful soldiers, and witnessed the furious struggle which now ensued. Cadiz fell. Although the lives of the people were spared; the castle, fortifications and the greater part of the town itself, were burned and demolished. If you go there, to-day, you will still find the marks of this great and stirring strife.

There was nothing left but to put the Spanish prisoners aboard the galleons, collect the plunder, and set sail for England. When the fleet again swung into the little harbor of Plymouth it was received by the people with wildest enthusiasm and delight. All England rang with the praise of the valor and courage of her heroes, for Spain had been stripped of her ability to injure her English rival and England’s power was supreme upon the sea. Raleigh and his comrades had done this,—and the descendants of Raleigh and his comrades have continued to uphold the supremacy. Hurrah for Raleigh!

But how about those jealous courtiers? They were still around—Oh, yes!—And Raleigh was greeted at court as coldly as when he had departed with the fleet. He had been deprived of his office of Captain of the Queen’s Guard, and even his bravery at Cadiz did not win this back for him. Nor did he receive any [Pg 75] of the spoil which had been won by himself and his comrades. Even Queen Bess was angry because her share of the booty taken from Cadiz was not as great as she had hoped for.

“What the Generals have got,” wrote Sir Walter, “I know least. For my own part, I have got a game leg, and am deformed. I have received many good words and exceedingly kind and regardful usage; but I have possession of naught but poverty and pain.”

Not long afterwards the old Queen was persuaded to write Sir Walter to come to court, and thus he and his wife, whom Elizabeth had also forgiven, appeared daily in the brilliant throng which clustered in the halls and corridors of the Royal Palace. He was restored to his old office of Captain of the Queen’s Guard and rode forth again in all the splendor of his uniform, at the side of the sovereign.

The rest of Sir Walter’s life can be briefly narrated. With Essex he took part in a successful expedition to the Azores, where they captured many ships, and with him divided much booty and fame. But Essex became too ambitious and started a conspiracy to place himself upon the throne of England. It was a failure. He was captured by the Queen’s soldiers—a part under Sir Walter himself—was tried, and executed for High Treason.

Queen Bess soon died and was succeeded by a man who disliked Sir Walter from the start. This was James the First of Scotland—a “dour” fellow—who charged the valorous knight with treason, for it was alleged that he had conspired, with Lord Cobham, [Pg 76] to place the youthful Arabella Stuart upon the throne. He was tried, convicted, and thrown into the Tower, where he lived for twelve long, tedious years. Think of it! A fellow of his venturesome and restless spirit forced to remain in a dungeon-keep for such a time! Weep for brave Sir Walter! This was fine treatment for a patriot!

But the jealous courtiers did not weep. Oh no! They laughed.

When gallant Sir Walter was thrown into the Tower (for he had not plotted against the King) he was a hale and stalwart cavalier of fifty-two. He was released—after twelve years—when his hair and beard were grizzled, his face worn and wrinkled, his body somewhat bent, and his features grave and sorrowful. With what tearful joy he clasped to his breast his ever faithful wife and his two sons! At sixty-four his brave spirit was still unshaken; his ardent and restless ambition was as keen as ever.

He went forth with the sentence of death still hanging over his head; for King James, although giving a grudging consent to his release, had refused to pardon him. And he went forth with the understanding that he should lead an expedition to the coast of Guiana in South America; there to attack the Spaniards and gain plunder, gold, and jewels. If successful he was to go free. If non-successful, he was to suffer punishment—perhaps death!

The expedition was a failure. The Spaniards and natives were well aware of his coming, for ’tis said that King James, himself, sent them news of the expedition.

[Pg 77] “If I go home it’s off with my head,” said Sir Walter. “But I’ll risk it.”

Don’t you think if you had been Sir Walter, instead of sailing to England where you knew that a headsman’s axe awaited you, you would have coasted by the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and dropped off quietly where is the home of the canvas-back and the terrapin! Just stepped into one of the jolly-boats and peacefully drifted ashore on a dark night?

I think that you would have been strongly inclined to do so,—but you are not Sir Walter Raleigh. He was a lion-hearted adventurer.

Opportunity after opportunity came to him to escape to the shores of France. He let them go by, but, when he found that his enemies demanded his trial for treason, he thought it high time to get away. He learned that a French envoy had arranged to get him to France and had a barque for this purpose. A certain Captain King had found a small boat commanded by one of Sir Walter’s old boatmen, which lay at Tilbury awaiting his orders. It was arranged by Raleigh’s guard—one Stukeley—that he should be rowed to the little lugger on the evening of Sunday, August the 9th, 1618. The latter was sent up the Thames river to Gravesend.

At the hour designated, Raleigh, Captain King, Stukeley and his son Hart, with a page, jumped into two small wherries in order to row to the lugger. They had just shoved off, when keen Sir Walter saw another boat push out from the bank and follow them.

“How’s this?” said he to Stukeley.

[Pg 78] But silent Stukeley did not answer.

The boat rowed fast, but the pursuing craft moved with equal speed. The tide was singing and gurgling in a mad flow, and it became doubtful whether the wherries could reach Gravesend under the protection of darkness, for day was breaking, and the whirling water made progress very slow.

At last—seeing that they could not get away—the shallops were forced to turn about and retrace their passage. The pursuing boat swung, also—like a shadow of the first. Sir Walter’s heart beat tumultuously.

When the fugitives reached Greenwich—Stukeley stood up and appeared in his true colors. Laying a hand upon the shoulder of faithful Captain King, he cried—

“I arrest you in the name of our Monarch, James First!”

Raleigh looked around in anger and dismay.

“Stukeley,” he said with heat, “you are a trait’rous cur. These actions will not turn out to your credit!”

But the knave laughed derisively,—so derisively that the common people dubbed him “Sir Judas Stukeley.” And it well suited him. Didn’t it?

The boatmen rowed directly to the Tower and the boat which had pursued the wherries—which contained a courtier named Herbert (to whom Stukeley had betrayed the projected escape)—followed them close. The soldiers in her (for they had been well hidden) escorted the dejected Sir Walter to the grim walls of the dungeon.

[Pg 79] There was now no hope for that gallant adventurer: the man had brought honor and renown to England. He was tried for Treason: condemned: executed.

As he stood waiting for the axe to fall, he said:

“I have many sins for which to beseech God’s pardon. For a long time my course was a course of vanity. I have been a seafaring man, a soldier, and a courtier; and, in the temptations of the least of these there is enough to overthrow a good mind and a good man. I die in the faith professed by the Church of England. I hope to be saved, and to have my sins washed away by the precious blood and merits of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.”

A quick shudder ran through the multitude when Sir Walter had ceased to live, and many groaned aloud at the horrible sight. One stout yeoman cried out angrily, “We have not had such another head to be cut off.”

The crowd separated slowly, muttering and crying out against the enemies of the valiant man; while his friends, who were present, parted with tears coursing down their cheeks.

And the jealous courtiers said: “Magnificent!” It was now their turn to shout. And they did it, too.

So, you see, Sir Walter Raleigh’s patriotism was paid for by death. The trouble with him was, he was too much of a man.

Nowadays—when a soldier or sailor does something for England—they give him a Hip! Hip! Hurray!

[Pg 80] He is appreciated. He is presented with titles, honors, and a warm reception.

Then, when a man did something for England, those in power gave him the cold shoulder; the icy stare.

That’s the reason why England’s sons will do something for her now. If she had kept treating them as she did Sir Walter Raleigh she wouldn’t have many of them around when it came to a fight. And, some day, she’ll need them all!

So when a fellow does something really great, don’t greet him with frozen silence. Cheer! He needs it! Besides,—it won’t hurt you!

Give a tiger and three times three!


Say, sailors, what’s happened to young Bill Jones?
Jones of Yarmouth; the bright-cheeked boy?
Jones who could handle a boat like a man,
Jones, who would grapple a smack like a toy?
Fell o’er the sea-end with Raleigh. Ahoy!
Well, sea-dogs, where’s Thompson of Yarmouthport dock?
The chap who could outwit old Hawkins, they say,
The man with th’ knowledge of charts and of reefs,
There wasn’t his equal from Prawle to Torquay.
Fell o’er the sea-end with Raleigh, to-day!
Where’s Rixey of Hampton; Smith of Rexhill?
Who’d coasted and traded from London to Ryde,
Huggins and Muggins, all seamen of worth,
Who could jibe and could sail, sir, when combers were wide?
Fell o’er the sea-end with Raleigh. Last tide!
[Pg 81] Well, seamen, when that day shall come near,
When the salt sea is moved from its bed,
Some will there be, who can give us the news,
Of all that brave band, whom Adventure has led
Fall o’er the sea-end with Raleigh, ’tis said!

[Pg 82]

“Such is the man,
Whom neither shape nor danger can dismay,
Nor thought of tender happiness betray;
Who, not content that worth stands fast,
Looks forward, persevering to the last,
From good to better, daily self-surpassed.”

Ballads of the Day.




[Pg 84]

As long as selfishness remains a Human Passion,—Warfare will continue.

[Pg 85]


“‘What means that canvas, Skipper? It’s bearing down to port,
And it drives a blackish barquentine, with every topsail taut,
There’re guns upon her poop deck. There’re cannon near her bow,
And the bugler’s bloomin’ clarion, it shrills a how-de-row?’
The skipper took a peep at her, his face turned ashen pale,
His jaw began to tremble, and his knees began to fail,
As the flag of France swung to the breeze and fluttered without check,
‘Jean Bart!’ he gurgled weakly, and fainted on the deck.”

Rhymes of The Dutch Channel Fleet.—1676.

THE good ship Cochon Gras boiled along off the coast of Normandy under a full spread of canvas, for the breeze was light, and was from the southward. A boy of sixteen stood at the helm. He was well bronzed by exposure to the elements; was sturdy and strong. His dark hair waved luxuriantly about a face in which keenness and shrewdness were easily to be seen. His name was Jean Bart and he had been born at Dunkirk in France.

The Captain of the Cochon Gras strode about upon the deck below. He was in an evil mood and his voice showed his ill feeling.

“Put the helm over!” he shouted to the steersman. [Pg 86] “Don’t you see that your sails aren’t half full! Boy, will you never learn!”

Jean Bart obeyed.

“Very good, my Captain!” said he. “Very good, my Monsieur Valbué.”

And, at this, the captain scowled, for he was in a beastly temper.

“I am glad that you act quickly,” said he. “You know nothing. By acting quickly you will learn a thing or two. Tiens! Be speedy! Be very quick! Be like the Bishop of Oléron!”

He smiled and lurched against the rail.

“Ah, this good prelate was a true seaman,” said he. “He knew the tides like a mackerel. He knew as much as I do, myself, and that is saying a good deal.”

Jean Bart chuckled at the vanity of Monsieur Valbué.

“The good Bishop was standing on the rocks upon a stormy evening,” continued the captain, “when he saw some fisher boats making for the harbor. One of them was bearing too close to the shore. One of them was going to go upon the rocks. One of them was steered by a poor fellow who knew neither the reefs nor the shoals. ‘Voilà!’ cried the good bishop. ‘Voilà! I will save this dull-witted sailor.’ And, forthwith, what do you think that he did,—?”

A small knot of seamen had, by this time, collected around the talkative captain. They all shook their heads.


“Fools,” cried Captain Valbué. “Fools! Why, he strode into the sea, of course. Being a pure man [Pg 87] of God and a member of the true church, he walked upon the surface of the water. The boat coming in was manned by Huguenots, by unbelievers, mark you! By fellows who had neither the sense nor the grace to be members of the true church. They could not walk upon the water. Oh! No! But the good Bishop he walked as easily as a stormy petrel, for he was a man of God. And, as he reached the boat he made the sign of the cross, saying, ‘Beware of the rocks which you sail down upon! Bear off to the left! When you see the red buoy, bear to the right, and then come home by keeping your bow pointed for the spire of the big church!’ And they did so. They were saved by the good Bishop, whom I know well. As for me. I would have let the foolish Huguenots get their just deserts. It would have been one heretic less and good riddance.”

At this one of the seamen was plainly angered.

“Piff!” said he. “Piff!” That was all. But Monsieur Valbué had noticed it and Monsieur Valbué grew angry in a moment. Seizing a half-empty cider mug, from which he had been drinking, he hurled it at the head of the fellow who had made the remark.

“You dog of a Huguenot!” he roared.

The seaman dodged, and the cider mug spun into the planks of a jolly boat. Then he stepped forward and said,

“Captain Valbué, the Laws of Oléron, under which we sail, say that you cannot and must not strike a seaman with any missile. I, Lanoix, will strike back if you hit me.”

[Pg 88] But Monsieur Valbué was like a bubbling tea-pot. Seizing a hand-spike, he shot it out at the man who knew the law.

“The Laws of Oléron allow me just one blow,” blubbered Captain Valbué. “Just as the laws of England allow each dog one bite.”

As luck would have it, he missed his shot.

Lanoix leaped over the iron rail which separated the forecastle from the after part of the vessel. Then he turned around.

“Follow me here, you coward!” he shouted to the captain, “and I will have the right to crack you through the middle. Consult the Laws of Oléron under which we sail and see if they do not back me up!”

“The laws be blowed!” yelled Monsieur Valbué, now beside himself with rage. And, leaping across the rail he struck the Huguenot two sturdy blows in the face.

Jean Bart, meanwhile, steered the ship: looked on; and said nothing.

R-i-i-p! There was a flash, a blow, and a cry of pain. A large, keen knife was clenched in the strong right hand of Lanoix, and the captain was running red, with a deep gash in his shoulder.

“Down with the Mutineer! Down with the dog!” came from the throats of the members of the crew who had clustered about the two enraged men, smiling at the little affair.

With a rush they were upon the Huguenot; had forced him to the deck; and wrested the knife from his hand. But, before it was wrenched from his fist, [Pg 89] the blade had pierced the body of a seaman and had felled him to the boarding.

“Bring up the Laws of Oléron,” cried Captain Valbué, when the Huguenot had been secured. “Bring up the Laws of Oléron from my cabin, and let us see whether or no I was right, when I struck this prating Lanoix!”

The cabin-boy dove below and was soon again upon the deck.

“The law shall be read,” cried the captain. “Out with it!”

Now, aboard the vessel was one Antoine Sauret—a good, old boatswain—a friend of the father of Jean Bart, and a courageous man.

“The law shows you to be in the wrong,” said he.

“Yes,” cried Jean Bart from the wheel, which he had not left. “You were, and are, in the wrong.” Monsieur Valbué glowered at them.

“I am the law,” said he. “Is this not my vessel?”

“But the right is on his side,” interrupted the good Antoine Sauret.

“You wait and see what I do to this cur of a Huguenot,” snarled Captain Valbué. “And no more talk from either you or Jean Bart. Hear! Six out of eight of the crew agree that this Lanoix has wounded me and has slain one of his ship-mates—without proper provocation—I will now fix him.”

And this he did in the most approved manner.

Lashing his victim’s arm to a sharp sword tied to the windlass, he knocked the unfortunate Lanoix upon the deck with a hand-spike. Then, tying him—still [Pg 90] alive—to the dead sailor whom the Huguenot had killed when the crew rushed upon him,—he cried out:

“Throw ’em both to the fishes!”

They were seized.

“One! Two! Three! Heave Away!” sounded from the throats of the Frenchmen.

Lanoix and the dead sailor spun out above the blue water. A splash. A gurgle of white foam, and the Atlantic closed above them.

Seamen—you witness—were brutes, in these merry days of privateering. But hear the sequel of the gruesome story!

Jean Bart and the good boatswain Sauret had, from that moment, no high opinion of the Laws of Oléron. So, when the vessel touched at Calais, upon the coast of France, they walked up to the captain, saying:

“Sir. We wish to leave you! We cannot sail any longer beneath your orders.”

The brutal Valbué scowled.

“Go!” said he. “And good riddance.”

But when the circumstances of the death of the two men were reported to the authorities, the captain was tried.

“The Law of Oléron,” said the Judge to him, “acquits you, for the Huguenot sailor was in the wrong to draw his knife, when you struck him only with your fists. But it is a bad law and must be changed.”

Here he turned to young Jean Bart and the good Sauret.

[Pg 91] “As for you two,” said he, “I most highly commend you for protesting against the brutality of this captain. Would that all the sailors of France were as good as both of you. If they were, there would be less trouble aboard ship. Again I commend you!”

So—feeling very happy, indeed—young Jean Bart went out into the street. Though only sixteen he had been right in his attempt to save the life of poor Lanoix. Good for young Bart! Hats off to the sailor lad of sixteen who was more merciful than the cruel Law of Oléron! And this brutal set of rules was soon changed to the Maritime Code of France, which gave seamen some right to defend themselves against the attacks of rough and overbearing captains. Thus Jean Bart had started the ball rolling in the right direction. Again hats off to the doughty, young Frenchman!

Not long after this event the Dutch fell out with the English and began a smart little war. Jean Bart hastened to the scene of action, enrolled in the Dutch cause, and fought with them for five full years. Then the Dutch began to make war upon the French (in 1672), but this was too much for the patriotic sentiments of the youthful volunteer.

“Ah!” said he. “When my own people are attacked, I must hasten to their assistance. The Dutch have paid me well ’tis true, but now I scorn their gold. Vive la France!”

So saying, he returned to Dunkirk, speedily found employment, and went to sea again—not in a man-of-war, but in a privateer. He was now four-and-twenty; [Pg 92] was wiry, tough, and well used to battling both with men and with the elements. The boat he sailed in mounted only two guns and had a crew of thirty-six. She was named after a famous personage of Biblical history: King David, and she conducted herself as skilfully as did that ancient monarch, for was not Jean Bart at the helm?

Cruising out upon the treacherous waters of the North Sea, it was not long before a vessel was sighted that was of such small tonnage that Bart was not afraid to give chase. He slapped on all canvas, put his helm hard over, and steered for the dancing bit of canvas. The King David was a swift sailer, and soon the bow-gun spoke from the deck of the French privateer, sending a challenging shot whistling close to the stern of the stranger, who flew the flag of the States General (the Dutch Republic) with which the French were now at war.

The stranger did not relish the challenge, and came to in a hurry, while her flag fluttered weakly to the deck.

“She’s ours!” cried Jean Bart, gleefully. “And without a fight. Hurray for the life of a privateer!”

Quickly ranging alongside, the stranger was seen to be a valuable prize, laden with tea, spices, and cotton. She was manned by a small crew and sent to port.

“Now off for other luck!” cried Jean Bart.

Luck was with him, too. In four months cruising in the English Channel, near the Belgian coast, he captured six prizes; all without any fighting. The Dutch [Pg 93] trading vessels of those days must have been without guns and poorly manned, for it should have been easy to stand off a crew of but thirty-six, with only two cannon aboard. Jean Bart—you may be sure—was well satisfied. He was now rich, quite famous, and keen for further adventure.

So well did the owners of the privateer King David think of him, that they now put him in charge of a larger vessel named La Royale, carrying about eighty men and ten guns.

“Go out and win!” cried the chief owner of this privateer. “Jean Bart, you are followed by the best blood of France. Your men are all from Dunkirk!”

And Jean Bart smiled.

“Watch me!” said he.

Cruising near the coast of Holland in company with a small French gun-boat, he fell in with a man-of-war—the Esperance—carrying twelve guns and about one hundred and twenty men.

“Now we’ll have a real fight!” cried the youthful French commander as he cleared decks for action. “Men, see to it that your swords are sharpened for there may be some boarding!”

Then he signalled to the little French gun-boat to follow him and give battle. This ally carried about a hundred men and six cannon.

“Poof! Poof!”

The heavy guns of the Dutchman were the first to speak and they barked away like fat Newfoundland watch-dogs.

“Poof! Poof! B-o-o-m!”

[Pg 94] Jean Bart reserved his fire until within about seventy-five yards and then he gave the command,

“Fire away! Aim low! And try to hull her!”

A sheet of flame sprang from the ten guns of La Royale and a splitting of boards and crackling of splinters showed that the iron missiles had punctured the stout sides of the Esperance.

“Pop! Pop! Crash!”

The other French vessel now threw her lead into the stern of the defender of the flag of the States General and her mizzen-mast was seen to rock like an unfastened May pole.


The Esperance was not slow in answering back and her twelve guns spat like leopards in the brush. She filled away and bore towards the land, but the French gun-boat saw this move and checkmated it.

Sailing across her bow, the Frenchman raked her fore and aft, while the rub-a-dub-dub of Jean Bart’s guns went drumming against her starboard side. Crash! Crash! Crash! Her boards were split, her mizzen-mast was swaying, and her rigging was near cut in two. Men were falling fast and two of her guns had blown up and were rendered useless.

“Surrender!” came a sharp hail from the lusty throat of Jean Bart, and, as he spoke, a perfect hail of grape came from his French ally, now creeping up to port for a chance to grapple and board.

“What can I do?” sighed the stout, Dutch commander, turning to one of his lieutenants. “Boy, haul down our flag!”

[Pg 95] So down came the emblem of the States General amidst ringing cheers from the throats of the followers of Jean Bart. They had won a notable victory.

When the Esperance was towed and half-sailed into Dunkirk harbor, old Antoine Sauret was there.

“Ah, my friends,” said he, “I always told you that my boy, Jean Bart, would make a great name for himself. Three times three for the great privateer of Dunkirk!”

And all the bystanders joined in right willingly.

Not long after this event, our hero’s ship was lying in the harbor of Bergen in Sweden. The captain of an English vessel met him on shore, and, after having a chat with him, remarked:

“I hear that you have quite a reputation for fighting your ship. I, too, am a sea warrior and would like to have a little affair with you. My own vessel is of about the same tonnage as yours, so that we could meet upon even terms. Will you join me?”

“I would be delighted,” answered the war-like Jean Bart. “If you wait two days I will be ready for you and will fight you three miles off the coast. Meanwhile I must lie here and take on some stores which are much needed by both men and guns.”

The Englishman smiled.

“You are a man after my own heart,” said he. “Good-by until we meet in battle.”

Three days after this, Jean Bart sent a boy to the English vessel with a note for the captain. It ran:

[Pg 96]

“I am ready to fight you to-morrow. Meet me three miles beyond the breakwater and may the best man win. Until then—good luck.

“Yours for battle,
Jean Bart.”

The boy came back bearing a return missive from the Englishman, who wrote:

Monsieur Bart: I am delighted to learn that you want to fight me, and will do so. You are indeed a brave man. But—before we go for each other’s throats—pray let us breakfast together. Will you therefore take your morning meal with me, to-morrow, in my own cabin, aboard my ship? I shall expect you.

“Yours to count on,

“I do not want to accept, but I will,” mused Captain Bart. “These English fellows are far too polite.”

So, next morning, he was rowed to the British vessel and was soon breakfasting with his red-faced opponent.

After the meal the Frenchman lighted his pipe, took a few puffs, and said:

“Monsieur, I have greatly enjoyed this peaceful repast. But it is now time for me to go and sharpen my boarding-pike. I must bid you adieu.”

The Englishman smiled.

[Pg 97] “No,” said he. “You cannot go. You are my prisoner!”

Jean Bart still smoked.

“You are too quick!” he answered, slowly. “There you are wrong. I am not your prisoner, for I see a barrel of gunpowder on the deck, and, if you do not release me immediately, I will blow up your ship!”

The Englishman turned pale.

“Watch me!” cried Jean Bart.

Leaping from his seat, he rushed to the deck, lighted a match from his pipe, and held it directly over the mouth of a barrel of gunpowder, from which someone had pried the head.

“Lay on! You cowards!” he yelled. “Lay on, and we’ll all go to the Land of the Hereafter together.”

His cry was heard upon his own vessel, which—with sails up—lay waiting for him.

In a moment her bow was turned towards the British ship which was still at anchor, with sails unhoisted. In a moment she dropped down alongside—and—in less time than it takes to tell—the Frenchmen had brought her upon the port quarter, and were swarming across the deck to rescue their bold captain.

Taken by surprise, the English put up a plucky fight, but they were no match for the infuriated men of Dunkirk. They were soon overpowered. The captain was taken prisoner, and the vessel was considered a legitimate prize of war, because of the trick which Middleton had attempted to play upon Jean Bart. [Pg 98] When—in a few days—the prize was sailed into Dunkirk harbor—the Englishman well wished that he had not attempted to capture the most able privateersman of all France.

The fame of this exploit spread over the land, and gave rise to a ditty, which ran:

“If you want to catch Jean Bart, sir,
A slippery, slimy chap,
Don’t bait him with gunpowder,
For he’s sure to miss the trap.
You must splice him down with chains, sir;
You must nail him to the deck.
Put a belt around his middle,
And a collar ’round his neck.
Even then you cannot hold him,
For he’s certain to get through,
While his sailors sing a song, sir,
With a

In July, 1675, Jean Bart was married, but he did not remain long on shore. Three weeks after this auspicious event he once more put to sea and captured a number of Dutch fishing boats, which he allowed the captains to ransom for large sums of money.

This was a very convenient arrangement, for it saved him the trouble of putting part of his own crew on board and sending the boats to port. But the owners of La Royale, upon which he sailed, did not care for his methods of procedure.

“You cannot do this in future!” said they. “And you must forfeit half of what you took to us!”

[Pg 99] Jean Bart obeyed, but he was very angry. It is even said that he uttered “a round seaman’s oath.”

So successful was he, in fact, that he was given a much larger vessel in 1676. This was a frigate—the Palme—with twenty-four guns and a crew of one hundred and fifty men. Sailing into the North Sea with two small French gun-boats, he soon fell in with three Dutch privateers and eight armed whaling vessels. He attacked, and the battle raged for three long, bloody hours.

When the smoke and the fumes of sulphur burned away, Bart had boarded the largest privateer, while his two consorts had taken the eight whalers. The other Dutch privateers found it too hot for their liking and scudded for the coast, firing their stern-guns derisively as they disappeared. It was a great victory, and again the French coast rung with salvos for Jean Bart, while the old sea-dogs shrugged their shoulders, saying:

“Ah! Ha! Did we not tell you that Dunkirk bred men of bone and marrow. Ah! Ha!”

But Jean Bart was not happy.

“Would that I could meet a foe of my own force,” he used to say. “Either a man-of-war or a privateer, I don’t care which. I want to try it on with one of my own size and strength.”

His wish was soon to be gratified.

On September 7th, 1676, he was pointing the Palme towards the Belgian coast-line, when he sighted a number of sail on the starboard quarter. He headed for them; scanned the white dots through a glass, and [Pg 100] saw that this was a fishing fleet of small, unarmed luggers. But a big, hulking Dutch frigate hovered in their rear, and thirty-two guns pointed their brown muzzles menacingly from her open port-holes. She was the Neptune and she lazed along like a huge whale: omnipotent and self-satisfied.

“Ah ha!” cried the delighted Jean Bart. “Now I have met an enemy that is worthy of my steel. Up with the flag and sail into yonder Dutchman. We have but twenty-four guns to her thirty-two, but are we to be awed by this show of force? Be ready, my boys, to have the stiffest fight in your careers!”

The Dutchman was equally well pleased when he saw who was coming for him.

“Here is Jean Bart, the pirate and privateer,” he cried. “For three years I’ve been hoping to have a fight with him and now my chance has come at last. I am fortunate, for I can pay him back for all the damage that he has done to Dutch commerce. Shoot low, my hearties, and do not fail to hull our enemy. Let your war-cry be: ‘Down with Jean Bart and his pirate crew!’”

“Hurrah!” shouted his men.

And an answering

“Hurray!” came from the Palme. These opponents were as eager to get at each other as two prize-fighters of modern days.

Crash! roared a broadside from the Dutch frigate as her flag went aloft, and splash, splash, splash, went her shells around the sides of the privateer.

“Sail in close!” yelled Jean Bart. “Hug her to [Pg 101] leeward for awhile, then cross her bows, rake her, get her wind, and board.”

“Hurray!” shouted the men of Dunkirk, and a rattle, rattle, roar came from the port guns of the Palme.

Around and around swung the sea gladiators and the little fishing boats luffed and tittered on the waves like inquisitive sparrows.

“Bart cannot win!” said several of their skippers. “For he’s outweighted and outnumbered!”

But Bart was fighting like John Paul Jones.

Around and around went the two opponents, guns growling, men cheering, sails slapping and ripping with the chain and solid shot. Again and again Jean Bart endeavored to get a favorable position for boarding and again and again he was forced to tack away by the quick manœuvres of the Dutchman.

“Fire into her rigging!” he now thundered. “Cripple those topsails and I can bring my boat alongside.”

Crash! Crash! Crash!

Volley after volley puffed from the side of the rolling Palme. Volley after volley poured its lead and iron into the swaying rigging of the Dutchman, and, with a great roaring, ripping, and smashing, the mizzen topmast came toppling over the lee rail.

A lusty cheer sounded from the deck of the Palme.

“She’s ours!” cried Jean Bart, smiling.

Instantly he spun over the wheel, luffed, and brought his boat upon the starboard quarter of the Dutchman, who was now part helpless. It took but [Pg 102] a moment to run alongside, and, in a moment more, the Palme was lashed to the Neptune in a deadly embrace. Smoke rolled from the sides of both contestants and the roar of the guns drowned the shrill cries of the wounded. The Dutchmen were now desperate and their guns were spitting fire in rapid, successive volleys; but many of them were silenced, as the great, brown side of the Palme rubbed its planking against the splintered railing of the shattered Neptune.

As the vessels were securely bound together, Jean Bart seized a boarding-pike, a brace of pistols, and, giving the helm to a sailor, leaped into the waist of his ship.

“Board! Board!” he shouted.

A wild yelp greeted these welcome sounds. As he vaulted over the rail of his own ship to the deck of the stranger, a motley crew of half-wild sea-savages swarmed behind him. They had cutlasses and boarding-pikes, and their faces were blackened with powder. Their eyes were reddened with sulphurous fumes and their clothes torn with splintered planking. They rolled over the gunwales like a huge wave of irresistible fire: pistols spitting, pikes gleaming, cutlasses glistening in the rays of the sun.

The captain of the Neptune lay near his own wheel, grievously wounded.

“Lay on, men!” he shouted. “Don’t let this French privateer beat us. We will be disgraced.”

But his sailors were no match for the onrush of these fiends from Dunkirk. They fell back like foam before a sea squall.

[Pg 103] “Then down with our flag,” cried the captain of the Dutchman. “But, ye gods, how it hurts me to give the order.”

A sailor seized the halyards and pulled the ensign to the deck, and, as it fell upon the reddened planking, a wild, frenzied cheer came from the French privateers.

“Jean Bart, forever! France forever! Jean Bart forever!” they cried.

“Up with the French flag!” yelled Jean Bart, laughing like a boy. “Up with the white lilies of France.”

And, as a spare ensign ran aloft, the little fishing luggers scudded for the shore.

“After them, men!” cried Captain Bart. “Our work is not yet over. We must have the lambs as well as the old wolf.”

So, sail was soon clapped on the Palme, she headed for the fleeing boats, and, with a few well directed shots, hove them to. Then they were told to follow behind and head for France, which they did—but, oh! how it did hurt!

It was a proud moment for Jean Bart, and his eyes danced with pleasure when he sailed into Dunkirk with the captured Neptune and the fleet of fishing boats.

“Voilà!” cried the townspeople. “Jean Bart is a true hero. Voilà! He shall have the freedom of the city. Voilà!”

The fame of this gallant exploit soon spread abroad and the king showed some desire to see this courageous privateersman.

[Pg 104] “I would have him at court,” said he to his minister Colbert. “For I would reward him.”

When news of this was brought to the privateersman he was naturally delighted, and, travelling to Versailles, was ushered into the presence of his Majesty.

“Here is a gold chain for you,” said the king. “I trust that you will keep it in recognition of my appreciation of your gallant conduct. I would be glad, indeed, to have you in the Royal Service. Would you not take a commission?”

“You overwhelm me,” answered the valiant sea-fighter, blushing. “I—I—I—am quite disconcerted. But—if it would please your Majesty, I believe that I would prefer to remain a simple privateer. It is a free life and it suits my roving nature.”

The king chuckled.

“So be it,” said he. “But my good sir, keep yourself in readiness for a commission. I may need you in the Royal Marine!”

“Very good, Sire!” said Jean Bart, and, bowing low, he withdrew.

But he did not get away without an adventure,—quite as exciting as any he had had aboard the rocking decks of one of his privateer ships.

The fame of Jean Bart had stirred up a number of enemies, for, when a man is successful in life, are there not always a hundred unsuccessful fellows who stand about and scoff?

Among these were a few followers of the sea who [Pg 105] had determined to make way with this too fortunate privateer. One—Jules Blanc by name—even decided upon murder, if Jean Bart would not agree to leave the privateering business to himself and his companions.

As the sailor from Dunkirk left the presence of the king he was accosted by one of his old acquaintances.

“Ha, Jean Bart,” said he. “Come with me to the Inn. Have a glass with me, my boy, for I see that the king has richly rewarded you. You deserve it, for you have done well, and you must be tired from your journey. Come, let us dine together?”

Suspecting nothing, the gallant privateer followed his companion quite willingly, and, when he arrived at the Inn, was not surprised to find several other seamen from Dunkirk and the neighboring seaports of France. They greeted him warmly.

“To your health!” cried they, raising their glasses of wine. “To the health of the bravest privateer in all of France.”

Jean Bart was delighted. He smiled like a child, seated himself at their table, and began to drink with these jovial men of the sea.

As he sat there, suddenly a paper was mysteriously shoved into his hand. He did not see from whence it came, and, as he scanned its contents, his face grew strangely pale.

“Beware of these fellows,” he read. “They mean to kill you if you do not do what they wish. Beware!”

[Pg 106] Jean Bart soon regained his composure.

“Come! Let us go to the dining-room up-stairs,” said the friend who had first accosted him. “Come, my boys! We will there have far more quiet!”

All moved for the door.

Jean Bart moved, also, but before he went up-stairs, he loosened his sword-belt and cocked two pistols which he carried at his waist. He was not surprised when he saw them lock the stout door as they entered the room upon the second floor.

When they were all seated Jules Blanc arose. His face well exhibited his dislike for the successful privateersman, Jean Bart.

“Now, my friend,” said he, facing the man from Dunkirk, “we have you here with a purpose. We wish you to know that we are determined that you shall no longer go to sea and spoil our own business for us. You have had enough success. We want you to withdraw and give some one else a chance.”

Jean Bart smiled.

“We think that you should retire for we want some pickings for ourselves.”

“And if I refuse?” queried Jean Bart.

Jules Blanc placed his hand instantly upon his sword-hilt.

“Then—there will be trouble!”

“Poof!” said Jean Bart.

As he spoke, all drew their rapiers.

“Again Poof!” said Jean Bart.

As he spoke, a thrust came from his right. He [Pg 107] parried it, leaped upon a chair, and stood there smiling.

Crack! There was the sound of a pistol and a bullet whizzed by his ear.

Then there was a sudden and awful Crash! The room was filled with dust.

When the startled sea-dogs looked about them Jean Bart no longer stood upon the table. He had disappeared through the window. And broken glass with splintered fastenings was all that remained of the once perfect glazing.

“He has gone,” said Jules Blanc. “Fellow seamen, we are outdone.”

But Jean Bart was a quarter of a mile away, laughing softly to himself, as he sped along the highway which led to quiet Dunkirk.

Things went well with him, also, for his employers—appreciating his past services—now gave him command of a larger ship than the Palme: the Dauphin, with thirty guns and two hundred eager and adventurous sailors from the northern coast of France.

Sailing forth from Dunkirk harbor, on June 18th, 1678, Jean Bart eagerly scanned the horizon with his glass. With him were two smaller privateers, so that he felt well able to cope with any adversary from Holland. His keen glance was soon to be rewarded, for when but two days from port he spied a sail upon the starboard bow. It was a Dutch frigate—the Sherdam—of forty guns and manned by many stout dogs of the sea. Her captain—André Ranc—was a keen fighter and a man of well-tried courage.

[Pg 108] “Bear off to leeward!” signalled Jean Bart to his privateer companion. “Then we will get the stranger between us, fasten to her, and board her from either side.”

The flag of the French privateer dipped back an answering, “All right!” and, as she was nearest to the Dutchman, she attacked at once.

Poom! Poom!” went the Dutch cannon, like the beating of a churn in that land of canals and cheese-making. And piff! piff! answered the little howitzers of the privateer.

But Jean Bart meant to have a quick fight, so he bore down to starboard, wore ship, and ran so close to the enemy, that his grappling irons soon held her fast. In a moment more his own vessel was hauled alongside.

Meanwhile the smaller French privateer had spanked over to larboard; had run up upon the opposite side of the lumbering Dutchman; and had also gripped her. A wild, nerve-wracking cheer went up, as—sword in hand—Jean Bart led his boarders over the side of the Dutch vessel.

Ranc was badly wounded but he led his men to a counter assault with courage born of desperation. Cutlasses crashed together, boarding-pikes smashed and hacked, and pistols growled and spattered in one discordant roar. Back went the Dutch sailors fighting savagely and bluntly with all the stubbornness of their natures, then back they pushed the followers of Jean Bart, while Ranc called to them:

[Pg 109] “Drive these French curs into the sea!”


But now the other privateer had made fast, and her men came clambering over the rail, with cutlass, dirk, and pistols.

“We’re outnumbered,” Ranc shouted, his face showing extreme suffering. “Haul down the flag! Had Jean Bart been here alone I could have trounced him well.”

Thus reluctantly and sadly the flag of the Sherdam came down. But the French had paid well for their victory.

Jean Bart was badly wounded in the leg; his face was burned by the discharge of a gun, which went off—almost in his eyes—just as he leaped on board the Sherdam. Six of his men were killed and thirty-one were wounded, while the little privateer that had fastened to the other flank of the huge Sherdam, was a total wreck. So well, indeed, had the Dutch fighters plied their cannon as she approached, that she was shattered almost beyond repair. With great difficulty she was finally towed to shore.

Of course all France again rang with the fame of Jean Bart, while the crafty sea-dogs who had endeavored to capture the slippery privateersman were furious with envious rage. But Jean Bart hummed a little tune to himself, which ran,

“You’ll have to get up early if you want to catch Jean Bart,
You’ll have to get up early, and have a goodly start,
For the early bird can catch the worm, if the worm is fast asleep,
But not if it’s a privateer, who can through a window leap.”

[Pg 110] This invincible corsair was also not idle, for in two weeks’ time he was again at sea in the Mars of thirty-two guns, and a fast sailer. Eagerly looking for prizes, he cruised far up the coast of Holland and was keenly hunting for either merchantman or frigate, when a small vessel neared him, upon which was flying a white flag.

“A truce!” cried Jean Bart. “The war must be over.”

When the little boat drew nearer, a fat Dutchman called out something which sounded like, “Amsterdam yam Goslam!” which meant, “Peace has been declared,” in Dutch.

So Jean Bart sailed back into the sheltering harbor of Dunkirk with tears of sorrow in his eyes, for he loved his exciting life.

“Helas!” said he. “It is all over!”

Thus, indeed, ended the career of Jean Bart as a privateer captain. In January, 1679, he was given the commission of lieutenant in the French navy, but, although he accepted, he was never happy in this service. From captain to lieutenant was a decided come down, and besides this, the aristocratic officers of the Crown made life very unpleasant for one who had entered their ranks from privateering.

“Bah!” said they. “He is only a commoner!” And they would turn up their titled noses.

But—mark you this!

Several hundred years have passed since those days, and Jean Bart’s name is still remembered. Who remembers the names of any of these titled nobles who [Pg 111] held commissions from his Majesty, the King of France?

I do not think that any of you do. Certainly I do not.

Therefore, there is a little lesson to be learned, and it is this:

Never sneer at the fellow who accomplishes things, if he be of humble birth. His name may go down to history. Yours probably will not.

So, the next time that you are tempted to do this, think it over. If you do, you will not say, “Pish,—the Commoner!” But you will say,

“Well done! The Hero!”

So, good-by, Jean Bart, and may France produce your like again, if she can!

[Pg 112]

“Keep these legends, gray with age,
Saved from the crumbling wrecks of yore,
When cheerful conquerors moored their barques
Along the Saxon shore.”





[Pg 114]

“Self trust is the essence of Heroism.”—Plutarch.

[Pg 115]


“He’s only a scurvy Democrat, his blood is hardly blue,
Oh, Sacre Nom de Dieu! Sapristi! Eet is true!
Yet, he fights like the Maid of Orleans, with dirk and halberd, too,
Oh, Sacre Nom de Dieu! Sapristi! Eet is true!
Then—what’ll you think, good gentlemen, you men of the kingly pack,
Ye sons of Armand the Terrible, ye whelps of Catouriac,
Shall he gain the royal purple? Shall he sit in the ranks with us?
Shall he quaff of our golden vintage, shall he ride in the royal bus?
Nay! Nay! For that would be te-r-r-ible! Nay! Nay! That ill-born cuss?
Par donc! but that is unbearable! ’Twould result in a shameful fuss!
Pray, let him remain a Democrat—The cream of the fleet for us.”

Song of the French Royal Marine.—1695.

YOU must be a churchman, Rénee,” said the good Luc Trouin, turning to his little son. “I have always had a great ambition to have a child of mine in the church, and I feel that you are in every way qualified for the position of a prelate.”

But little Rénee hung his head.

“Look up, boy,” continued the amiable Frenchman. “I know that you are not now pleased with the idea, but—later on—after you have had more experience, [Pg 116] I feel sure that you can thank Heaven that your good father started you in the right and proper direction.”

Still, little Rénee hung his head.

“Tut! Tut!” continued the old man. “You will leave, to-morrow, for the college at Rheims, and, after you have been there but a short time, I feel sure that you will like it. Tut! Tut!”

But still little Rénee hung his head.

Again came the amiable “Tut! Tut!” and the chuckling Luc Trouin wandered off into the garden to see how well the potatoes were growing.

But little Rénee still hung his head.

And—in spite of the fact that little Rénee went to the Divinity school at Rheims, he continued to hang his head. He hung his head for three years. Then, news was brought to him, one day, that the good Luc Trouin was dead, and, instead of holding his handkerchief to his eyes to wipe away the tears, as one would expect of him, little Rénee burst into loud laughter.

“At last,” cried he, “I can get away from the church and go to sea. At last my freedom has come!”

And it was not many hours before little Rénee was scudding away from the school of Divinity, like a clipper-ship under a full spread of canvas, before a rousing sou’west breeze.

For at least two hundred years before the birth of bad, little Rénee, the Trouin family had been well known and prosperous in the Breton seaport of St. Malo. For many years a Trouin had been consul at Malaga, Spain; and other members of the house had [Pg 117] held excellent positions with the King, so little Rénee had no reason to be ashamed of his forebears, in spite of the fact that his people were of the “bourgeoisie:” ship-owners, traders, smugglers, privateers, and merchants. And, as they were of the “bourgeoisie,” they were somewhat looked down upon by the proud and haughty aristocrats who fawned about the weak and dissipated King.

Little Rénee was the son of Luc Trouin and Marguerite Boscher but he was called Du Guay-Trouin, in later years, and the reason for this is plain. For—in accordance with the custom of the time—he was sent to be nursed by a foster mother who resided in the little village of Le Gué. So he was called Trouin du Gué; which shortly became Du Guay-Trouin.

“I’ve come home, mother,” shouted little Rénee, when he had plodded his weary way which lay between his temporary prison and the house of his parents. “I’ve come home, mother, and I’m going to sea!”

But his mother did not take any too kindly to this bold and valiant idea.

“You must study law,” said she, with great firmness. And—in spite of the fact that little Rénee begged and pleaded—he was forced to give up his idea of seafaring life for the dry drudgery and routine of a clerk at law. He was now about sixteen years of age.

“The law is dry and my spirits are high,” youthful Rénee is said to have carolled as he spent his first few hours at a lecture, “and whatever may be I’m going to sea.”

[Pg 118] At any rate, he soon got into trouble and engaged in three duels in his sixteenth year, in one of which his assailant gave him a serious wound. This was too much for even his stern mother to bear, so, summoning a family council, she gave forth the following opinion:

“Rénee has failed as a student of Divinity. Rénee has failed as a student of law. Rénee has entirely too high spirits. Rénee shall, therefore, be placed in one of the family ships and sent to sea.”

And to this decree Rénee is said to have cried: “At last! Hurray!” for he longed for action.

In a very short time little Rénee had a taste of that war and adventure which he craved, for a historian writes that:

“During the first three months of this cruise his courage was tried by a violent tempest, an imminent shipwreck, the boarding of an English ship, and the threatened destruction of his own vessel by fire. The following year, still as a volunteer, he displayed the greatest personal courage and won much fame in an engagement which his ship had with five merchant vessels.”

“Ah ha,” said little Rénee, “this is indeed life. I am having a good time.”

So well did those higher in command feel towards the youthful sailor, that, at the age of eighteen, he was actually put in charge of the ship Danycan of fourteen guns,—for France was at war with England, Holland, and Spain, and to him who could strike a quick and well-aimed blow there were “nice pickings” to [Pg 119] be had. And the reckless young sea-dog found some “nice pickings” in Ireland, for, he landed an armed party upon the coast of County Clare, where he pillaged a village, burned two ships at anchor, and escaped to his own vessel with considerable booty and family heirlooms of the peasants, who said, “Och, Begorra! We’ll be afther that wild bhoy before many suns, and spank him for his unseemly whork.”

But the French cried “Voilà! Here, indeed, is a brave young Bourgeois,” and promptly raised him to the command of the Coetquen of eighteen guns, in which he soon went cruising, accompanied by a sister-ship, the St. Aaron.

Prowling around the English channel, the skulking sea-hounds soon came across two small English men-of-war with five valuable merchantmen under their sheltering wings.

“All ready for the attack!” shouted Du Guay-Trouin. “We’ll make mince-meat of those foreign hulks, in spite of the fact that they are protected by two men-of-war.”

And, crowding on all sail, his own vessel and the St. Aaron quickly bore down upon the Englishmen, who, seeing them approach, hove-to for action.

The engagement was short. After a few broadsides had been delivered, the English struck, the prizes were taken over, and all started for the coast of France. But suddenly a cry went up,

“Sail ho! Sail ho! off the starboard bow!”

“Ta Donc,” cried the surprised Du Guay-Trouin. [Pg 120] “It is a big man-of-warsman and a Britisher too. We must give up our prizes, I fear. Clap on all canvas and we’ll hie us to shore.”

So all sail was hoisted, and, steering for the shoals and rocks off Lundy Island—where he knew that the heavy Englishman could not follow—Du Guay-Trouin soon outdistanced and outwitted the Centurion: a line-of-battle ship and a formidable opponent. The rich prizes had to be left behind.

Honorable appointments crowded upon the daring, young sea-dog, after this affair, and we find him successively in command of the Profond, of thirty-two guns; the Hercule, of twenty-eight guns, and the Diligente of thirty-six guns and two hundred and fifty sailors, which was a King’s ship borrowed for privateering and run on shares,—the monarch to have a certain part of the winnings.

Like partners in business the Diligente and Hercule now went cruising, and it was not long before the two harpies swooped down upon their prey in the shape of two Dutch East Indiamen, armed with twenty-five guns each, and manned by rotund-bodied Dutchmen. There was rich treasure aboard, and, with eagerness and zeal, the Frenchmen slapped on all canvas in pursuit.

Now was a hot chase. Mile after mile was passed, and slowly but surely the Frenchmen gained upon the lumbering foe. Then suddenly,—


A ball screamed above the head of Du Guay-Trouin, and a Dutchman hove-to for battle.

[Pg 121] “Crawl in close,” cried the valiant Frenchman, “and don’t let go a broadside until you can hit ’em below the water line. Try to scuttle the Dutch lumber merchant!”

His men obeyed him willingly and soon there was a muffled roar as the first broadside spoke in the still air. Another and another followed, and the Dutchman trembled like an aspen leaf.

“Hah,” shouted the enthusiastic Rénee, “up goes the white flag!”

Sure enough, the vessel struck, and aboard of her was the Dutch commodore. But the Hercule was beaten off by the second Dutchman, and, as the privateers boarded the captured vessel, the East Indiaman showed a clean pair of heels, under a cloud of bellying canvas.

Du Guay-Trouin was delighted. “On we go, Boys,” he cried, “for we’ll sail these waters until we strike another prize.” And this is what soon happened.

On May the 12th, the Diligente was cruising alone, when, suddenly six white dots appeared upon the horizon, and six British ships-of-the-line were soon closing in upon the venturous French navigator and his crew.

“Ye Gods,” cried the doughty Frenchman, “we’re in for it now, but we will give them a lively bout even though we’ll get the worst of it.”

And here is how he has described the battle:

“One of the English ships named Adventure first overtook me, and we maintained a running fight for [Pg 122] nearly four hours, before any other of their ships could come up....

“At length my two topmasts were shot away; on which the Adventure ranged up alongside me, a short pistol-shot off, and hauled up her courses. Seeing her so near, it occurred to me to run foul of her and board her with my whole crew. Forthwith I ordered such of the officers as were near to send the people on deck, got ready the grapnels, and put the helm over.

“We were just on the point of hooking on to her, when unfortunately, one of my Lieutenants, looking out through a port and seeing the two ships so close together, took it into his head that there was some mistake, as he could not think that—under the circumstances—I had any intention of boarding; and so, of himself, ordered the helm to be reversed.

“I had no idea of what had been done, and was impatiently waiting for the two ships to clash together, ready to throw myself on board the enemy; but seeing that my ship did not obey her helm, I ran to the wheel, and found it had been changed without my order.

“I had it again jammed hard on; but perceived, with the keenest vexation, that the captain of the Adventure, having guessed by the expression of my face what I had meant to do, had let fall his courses, and was sheering off. We had been so near that my bowsprit had broken his taffrail; but the mistake of my Lieutenant made me lose the opportunity of one of the most surprising adventures ever heard tell of.

“In the determination I was in to perish or to [Pg 123] capture this ship, which was much the fastest sailor of the squadron, it was more than probable that I should have succeeded, and should thus have taken back to France a much stronger ship than that which I abandoned. And, not to speak of the credit which would have attached to the execution of such a plan, it is quite certain that—being dismasted—there was absolutely no other way for me to escape from forces so superior.”

But closer—always closer—crowded the British war-dogs, and the valorous French seamen became panic stricken. “We are outnumbered and outfought,” cried many, and, deserting their guns, they fled below to the holds, in spite of the vigorous protests of Du Guay-Trouin.

“I was busy trying to put a stop to the panic,” says he. “I had cut down one and pistolled another, when, to crown my misfortune, fire broke out in the gun-room. The fear of being blown up made it necessary for me to go below; but, having got the fire put out, I had a tub full of grenades brought me, and began throwing them down into the hold.

“By this means I compelled the deserters to come up and to man some of the lower deck guns; but, when I went up on the poop, I found, to my astonishment and vexation, that some cowardly rascal had taken advantage of my absence to haul down the colors.

“I ordered them to be hoisted again; but my officers represented that to do so would be simply giving up the remnant of my ship’s company to be [Pg 124] butchered by the English, who would give no quarter if the flag were hoisted again, after being struck for so long, and that further resistance was hopeless as the ship was dismasted.”

“Never give in, for”—cried Du Guay-Trouin, whose democratic blood was now up, but he did not finish the sentence as a spent shot then knocked him senseless. And—as he fell—the white flag went aloft, for his officers had not his fighting spirit.

“Ah ha,” laughed the English jack-tars. “We’ve got the French rascal at last, and we’ll hold him too.”

So little Rénee was imprisoned in a nice, dark dungeon,—the kind which the English used to put their poor debtors in. But—like a true man of courage—little Rénee escaped, took to a smuggler’s skiff, and made off to the coast of France, where he arrived on the 18th of June, 1694, and was received right boisterously by the Trouin family.

“My son,” spoke his aged mother, “you were indeed not intended for the law, for lawlessness seems to be your particular fancy.”

So the delighted Trouins put him in charge of a splendid privateersman mounting forty-eight guns, sailing under the simple name of Francois, and, as she forged valiantly into the English channel, her skipper chanted an old French song, which ran,—

“Sons of St. Malo, hark to my lay,
With a Heave! Ho! Blow the man down.
For we’ll capture a lugger ere close of the day,
With a Heave! Ho! Blow the man down.
[Pg 125] “She’s filled with gold nuggets, her crew is asleep,
Then board her, and take her, for dead men are cheap,
We’ll spike them and pike them, like so many sheep.
With a Heave! Ho! Blow the man down.”

It was not long before a sail was sighted, and, on the 12th day of January, 1695, the stout, little Francois overhauled a solitary timber ship, loaded with huge trees, bound to England from the good town of Boston in New England. She was an easy capture, and, Du Guay-Trouin smiled with joy when her skipper said:

“Three other lumber ships are in the offing. But they are under convoy of the frigate Nonsuch with forty-eight guns, and the Falcon with thirty-eight cannon. Look out my bold sea-dog, there’ll be trouble.”

But the French mariner laughed.

“It’s just what I’m searching for,” said he, and forthwith he swung the stout Francois in wide circles, with look-outs at every mast-head.

“Sail ho!” shouted the watch, next morn, and there, off the port bow, were the three merchantmen strung out in a line, with the two protecting gun-boats to windward.

Like a greyhound the Francois swept down upon them, and with the audacity of despair, the privateersman of St. Malo ranged alongside of the Falcon and opened fire. The engagement was short. In an hour’s time the guns of the Englishman were silent and a white pennon fluttered from the mizzen-mast.

The Nonsuch, meanwhile, had been ranging to [Pg 126] windward in a vain endeavor to bring her guns to bear upon the Frenchman without crippling her own mate, and—as the Francois drifted away from the lurching Falcon—she bore down to within twenty yards, luffed, and spanked a rakish broadside into the privateer.

“Board her!” shouted Du Guay-Trouin. “Board her!” and, bringing the wheel close around, he swung the bow of the Francois into the side of the Englishman. But, as the sailors scampered to the bulwarks with cutlass and with dirk, a sheet of flame burst from the port-holes of the drifting Nonsuch. She was afire.

“Luff! Luff!” cried the keen-eyed French mariner, and the Francois drew away as the red flames curled upward with a cruel hiss.

With a swift turn the helm again spun over, under the quick hand of Du Guay-Trouin, and the Francois was jibed about in order to run under the port bow of the Englishman.

“Hold, Captain!” cried a French Lieutenant. “We, ourselves, are afire!”

As he spoke—a direful cloud of vapor rolled from the starboard quarter.

“Alack!” answered the now furious Rénee. “This puts an end to the fighting of this day, and we’d soon have had the second Britisher. All hands below and bucket out this fire!”

So, as night fell upon the rolling ocean, the Falcon lay drifting helplessly, while the Nonsuch and the Francois were burning like two beacons upon a jutting headland.

[Pg 127] As day broke, the Francois filled away (for the fire had been extinguished after an hour’s toil) and ranged within striking distance of the Nonsuch. A broadside belched from her starboard guns and an answering roar came back from the cannon of the Englishman. The fore and main masts of the Nonsuch trembled for a moment—then tottered and fell—while the gallant Captain, struck in the chest by a flying piece of shell, fell dying upon the deck. Du Guay-Trouin again attempted to board, at this moment, but the third mast was shaking and he was forced to sheer off lest the tangle of yards and rigging should fall and crush his vessel. He hung within hailing distance of the crippled sea-warrior, and, seeing that his antagonist was now helpless, cried out through his trumpet:

“Run up the white flag, or I’ll give you a broadside that will sink you.”

No answering hail came from the deck of the battered Nonsuch, but the piece of a torn, white shirt was soon fluttering from the tangled rigging of the foremast. Thus the gallant Rénee had defeated two warships of equal strength, and had captured vessels with a rich and valuable cargo. Now, don’t you think that this fellow was a doughty sea rover? And, although the English made many excuses, the fact still remains that a single privateer had conquered double her own force in a fair and open fight upon the high seas.

The sturdy Francois could just barely drift into St. Malo—so badly crippled was she—but the rest came [Pg 128] safely to port, in spite of a hard gale which blew down the masts of two of the lumber boats. And doughty Rénee refitted the Nonsuch, transferred his flag to her, called her the Sans-Pareil, and flung his flag defiantly from her mast-head in spite of the fact that she was “made in England.” All France was agog over his exploit.

Now, know you, that doughty Rénee was a “Blue;” a “Blue” being a man of the people (the bourgeoisie) who were not of aristocratic birth. And, as the French Royal Marine was the most exclusive body of officers in the world, birth and station being necessary for admittance therein, the titled office-holders threw up their hands when Du Guay-Trouin’s name was mentioned for a place of command, saying,—

“Why, he’s only a beastly Democrat. Pooh! Bah! We do not care to have such a fellow among us.” And they shrugged their shoulders.

The officers of the French Royal Marine wore red breeches, and, if by chance a democrat were given a commission, he had to appear in blue small-clothes throughout his entire career. Very few of the “Blues” ever came to be an Admiral, for the odds were too great against them.

But Rénee had done so bravely and well that a sword was sent him by the King, who wrote,—

“Should you wish a commission in the Royal Navy, good sir, it shall be yours.”

And to this, Du Guay-Trouin replied,—

“I feel that I can do better where I am, Most [Pg 129] Gracious Majesty. I will remain a Privateer.” For Du Guay-Trouin wished to accumulate riches, as his forebears had done.

So, cruising down the coast of Ireland, he fell in with three East Indiamen, whom he captured with ease, and, piloting them to St. Malo, declared a dividend of two thousand pounds ($10,000) a share, to the stockholders in his staunch vessel. And the value of the shares was but one hundred pounds ($500) each. Would not the men of Wall Street love such a fellow in these piping times of peace?

A month later we find him cruising in the Bay of Biscay, where—in the dead of night—he ran into a great English fleet, roving about for just such vessels as the Sans-Pareil and eager for a broadside at the French privateer. But young Rénee—for he was now twenty-three—had not lost his nerve. “There was no time,” he wrote, “for hesitation. I had two valuable prizes with me and ordered them to hoist Dutch colors and to run away to leeward, saluting me with seven guns each as they went.

“Trusting to the goodness and soundness of the Sans-Pareil I stood towards the fleet, as boldly and as peaceably as if I had really been one of their number, rejoining them after having spoken the Dutchmen. Two capital ships and a thirty-six gun frigate had at first left the fleet to overhaul me; but, on seeing what I was doing, the ships returned to their stations; the frigate—impelled by her unlucky fate—persisted in endeavoring to speak the two prizes, and I saw that she was rapidly coming up with them.

[Pg 130] “I had by this time joined the fleet, tranquil enough in appearance, though inwardly I was fuming at the prospect of my two prizes being taken by the frigate; and, as I perceived that my ship sailed much better than those of the enemy who were near me, I kept away little by little, at the same time forereaching on them. Suddenly, bearing up, I ran down to place myself between the prizes and the frigate.

“I should have liked to lay aboard of her and carry her in sight of the whole fleet; but her captain, being suspicious, would not let me get within musket-shot of him, and sent his boat to help me. But, when the boat was half way, her people made out that we were French, and turned to go back; on which, seeing that we were discovered, I hoisted my white flag and poured my broadside into the frigate.

“She answered with hers; but, not being able to sustain my fire, she hauled her wind, and with a signal of distress flying, stood to meet the captain’s ship, which hastily ran down towards us. As they stopped to render her assistance, and to pick up her boat, I was able to rejoin my prizes, and, without misadventure, to take them to Port Louis.”

Again France rang with acclaim for the hero of this bold exploit, and again the King offered a commission to the gallant sea-dog. But Du Guay-Trouin shook his head.

“Perhaps I will become an officer in the Royal Marine later on,” said he. “But not now. I am too happy and successful as a Privateer.”

[Pg 131] He was quite right, for in March, 1697, was his greatest exploit.

While busily scanning the horizon for sail in the St. Jacques des Victoires, upon the thirteenth day of that auspicious month, he saw upon the horizon, a cluster of vessels. They drew near and proved to be the Dutch East India fleet convoyed by two fifty-gun ships and a thirty-gun sloop-of-war. With him was the Sans-Pareil of forty-eight guns, and the little sloop-of-war Lenore, mounting fourteen. The hostile squadron was formidable, and Du Guay-Trouin hesitated to attack.

In command of the Dutch vessels was Baron van Wassenaer, one of a family of famous sea-fighters from Holland, and he manœuvred his ships with consummate skill; always interposing his own vessel between the French privateer and his fleet of merchantmen.

“Ah-ha,” cried gallant Rénee, at this moment. “Here come some of my own boys.”

And—sure enough—from the direction of France, and boiling along under full canvas, rolled two privateersmen of St. Malo. Cheer after cheer went up from the deck of the St. Jacques des Victoires, as they pounded through the spray, for this made the contending parties about equal, although the Dutch boats were larger, heavier, and they had more guns aboard.

The Dutchmen now formed in line. In front was the flagship—the Delft—with her fifty guns glowering ominously from the port-holes; second was the thirty-gun frigate; and third, the other war-hound [Pg 132] of fifty guns: the Hondslaardjiik. Through a trumpet Du Guay-Trouin shrilled his orders.

“The Sans-Pareil will attack the Hondslaardjiik,” cried he. “The two privateers will hammer the frigate, while I and the St. Jacques des Victoires will attend to the Delft. The Lenore will sail in among the convoy. Fight, and fight to win!”

A fine breeze rippled the waves. The two squadrons were soon at each others’ throats, and there upon the sobbing ocean a sea-fight took place which was one of the most stubborn of the ages.

As the Frenchmen closed in upon the Dutch, the Hondslaardjiik suddenly left the line and crashed a broadside into the St. Jacques des Victoires. It staggered her, but she kept on, and—heading straight for her lumbering antagonist—ran her down. A splitting of timber, a crunch of boards, a growl of musketry, and, with a wild cheer, the Frenchmen leaped upon the deck of the Dutch warship; Du Guay-Trouin in the lead, a cutlass in his right hand, a spitting pistol in the left.

Crash! Crackle! Crash! An irregular fire of muskets and pistols sputtered at the on-coming boarders. But they were not to be stopped. With fierce, vindictive cheers the privateers of St. Malo hewed a passage of blood across the decking, driving the Dutchmen below, felling them upon the deck in windrows, and seizing the commander himself by the coat collar, after his cutlass had been knocked from his stalwart hand. The Dutchman was soon a prize, and her proud ensign came fluttering to the decking.

[Pg 133] But things were not going so well in other quarters. Disaster had attended the dash of the Sans-Pareil upon the Delft. An exploding shell had set her afire and she lay derelict with a cloud of drifting smoke above, when suddenly, Crash!

A terrible explosion shook the staunch, little vessel, her sides belched outward, and a number of sailors came shooting through the air, for a dozen loose cartridge boxes had been caught by the roaring flames. Helplessly she lolled in the sweep of the gray, lurching billows.

“Hah!” shouted Van Wassenaer, as he saw his work. “Now for the saucy Du Guay-Trouin,” and, twisting the helm of the Sans-Pareil, he soon neared the St. Jacques des Victoires, which was hanging to the Delft like a leech, firing broadside after broadside with clock-like precision, her sea-dogs cheering as the spars crackled, the rigging tore; and splinters ricochetted from her sides.

“Ready about!” cried Rénee, wiping the sweat from his brow, “and board the Hondslaardjiik. Now for Van Wassenaer and let us show the Dutchman how a privateer from St. Malo can battle.”

So, luffing around in the steady breeze, the privateersman rolled ominously towards the lolling Delft. A crash, a sputter of pistols, a crushing of timber, and grappling hooks had pinioned the two war-dogs in a sinister embrace. And—with a wild yell—the Frenchmen plunged upon the reddened decking of the flagship of the courageous Van Wassenaer, who cried, [Pg 134] “Never give in, Lads! What will they think of this in Holland!”

There was a different reception than when the privateers rushed the Hondslaardjiik. The Dutch fought like wildcats. Three times the cheering, bleeding Frenchmen stormed the planking, and three times they were hurled back upon the slippery deck of their own ship; maddened, cursing, furious at their inability to take the foreigner. “The conflict was very bloody both by the very heavy fire on both sides, of guns, muskets, and grenades,” says Du Guay-Trouin, “and by the splendid courage of the Baron Van Wassenaer, who received me with astonishing boldness.”

“Bear away,” ordered the courageous Dutchman, at this juncture. “We must have time to recover and refit our ship.”

And—suiting the action to his words—the badly battered Delft filled, and crept well to leeward.

Meanwhile the two privateers of St. Malo had captured the frigate as she lay helpless; a white flag beckoning for a prize crew.

“The Faluere will attack the Delft,” shouted Du Guay-Trouin, running near the largest of these; a ship of thirty-eight guns. “I must have time to breathe and to refit.”

But stubborn Van Wassenaer was ready for his new antagonist. He received the privateer with such a furious fire that she turned tail and fled to leeward; her captain bleeding upon the poop, her crew cursing [Pg 135] the blood which ran in the veins of the valorous Hollander.


Du Guay-Trouin had now recovered his breath. Again the bellying canvas of the St. Jacques des Victoires bore her down upon the Delft, and again the two war-dogs wrapped in deadly embrace. Hear the invincible Frenchman’s own account of the final assault:

“With head down,” he writes, “I rushed against the redoubtable Baron, resolved to conquer or to perish. The last action was so sharp and so bloody that every one of the Dutch officers was killed or wounded. Wassenaer, himself, received four dangerous wounds and fell on his quarterdeck, where he was seized by my own brave fellows, his sword still in his hand.

“The Faluere had her share in the engagement, running alongside of me, and sending me forty men on board for reinforcement. More than half of my own crew perished in this action. I lost in it one of my cousins, first Lieutenant of my own ship, and two other kinsmen on board the Sans-Pareil, with many other officers killed or wounded. It was an awful butchery.”

But at last he had won, and the victorious pennon of the Privateer fluttered triumphant over the battered hulks which barely floated upon the spar-strewn water.

“The horrors of the night,” he writes, “the dead and dying below, the ship scarcely floating, the swelling waves threatening each moment to engulf her, the [Pg 136] wild howling of the storm, and the iron-bound coast of Bretagne to leeward, were all together such as to try severely the courage of the few remaining officers and men.

“At daybreak, however, the wind went down; we found ourselves near the Breton coast; and, upon our firing guns and making signals of distress, a number of boats came to our assistance. In this manner was the St. Jacques taken into Port Louis, followed in the course of the day by the three Dutch ships-of-war, twelve of the merchant ships, the Lenore, and the two St. Malo privateers. The Sans-Pareil did not get in till the next day, after having been twenty times upon the point of perishing by fire and tempest.”

Thus ended the great fight of Rénee Du Guay-Trouin, whose blood, you see, was quite as blue as his breeches.

“Again,” wrote His Majesty the King, “do I offer you a commission in the Royal Navy, Du Guay-Trouin. Will you accept? This time it is a Captaincy.”

“I do,” replied little Rénee,—quite simply—and, at the next dinner of the officers of the Royal Marines, they sang a chorus, which ran:

“Oh, yes, he’s only a Democrat, his blood is hardly blue,
Oh, Sacre Nom de Dieu! Sapristi! Eet is true!
But he’s a jolly tar dog, with dirk and pistol, too,
He fights like William the Conqueror, he fights!
Egad! that’s true!
A health to Rénee the terrible; soldier and sailor too.”



(1690?-about 1725)

[Pg 138]

“A Privateer’s not a Buccaneer, but they’re pretty chummy friends,
One flies a reg’lar ensign, there’s nothing that offends.
One sails ’neath Letters Legal, t’other ’neath Cross-Bones,
But, both will sink you, Sailor, or my name’s not Davy Jones.”

Old Ballad.

[Pg 139]

(1690?-about 1725)

“If England wuz but wind an’ paint,
How we’d hate him.
But he ain’t.”

Log of the Royal James.

HIT him with a bottle, he deserves it, th’ brute!”

The man who spoke was a thick-set sailor of some forty-five summers, with a swarthy skin, a brownish mat of hair, a hard visage, and a cut across one eye. He stood upon the deck of a good-sized brig, which was drowsily lolling along the coast of Africa.

“Yes, he treated us like dogs aboard th’ Cuttlefish. Here, give me a shot at ’im.”

Thus cried another sailor—a toughish customer also—and, as his voice rang out, a dozen more came running to the spot.

Cringing before the evil gaze of the seamen stood the Captain of a Bristol merchantman—the Cadogan—which lay a boat’s length away, upon the glassy surface of a rocking sea.

Again rang out the harsh tones of him who had first spoken.

[Pg 140] “Ah, Captain Skinner, it is you, eh? You are the very person I wished to see. I am much in your debt, and I shall pay you in your own coin.”

The poor Captain trembled in every joint, and said, with a curious chattering of his teeth,

“Yes, Edward England, you’ve got me now. But go easy like, will yer? I always was a friend o’ yourn.”

“Yer didn’t look like a friend on th’ old Jamaica, when you refused to pay me my wages,” interrupted the first speaker. “Yer didn’t remove me to ’er cursed man-o’-warsman, did yer? Yer didn’t see that I got th’ cat-o’-nine-tails on my back, did yer? Now, Mr. Skinner, it’s my chance ter get even. Tie him ter th’ windlass, boys, and we’ll fix th’ feller’s hash.”

With a jeering laugh the sailors seized the frightened man, roped him tightly to the desired prop, and, procuring a lot of glass bottles, pelted him with them until their arms were tired.

“You wuz a good master to me, Captain Skinner,” cried one. “Now you’re gettin’ a dose of your own medicine. Overboard with him, Boys.”

And, suiting the action to the words, he seized him by the collar. The ropes were unwound. The poor wretch was dragged to the rail, and, as his body spun out into the oily sea, a shot ended the life of poor Thomas Skinner of the Cadogan from Bristol. Captain Edward England and his men had had a sweet and sure revenge.

Where this reckless mariner was born, it is difficult [Pg 141] to ascertain. We know that he started life honestly enough, for he was mate of a sloop that sailed from Jamaica, about the year 1715, and was taken by a pirate called Captain Winter. The youthful sailor soon took up the careless ways of his captors, and it was not many years before he became Captain of his own vessel: a sloop flying the black flag with a skull and cross-bones.

Off the east coast of Africa he soon took a ship called the Pearl, for which he exchanged his own sloop, fitting the new vessel up for piratical service, after rechristening her the Royal James. Cruising about in this staunch craft, he captured several ships of different sizes and flying the flags of many nations. He was rich and prosperous.

“Captain,” said one of his reckless followers, at this time, “man-o’-warsmen are gettin’ too thick in these parts for an honest sailor. Let’s get across th’ pond to th’ Brazilian coast.”

“You’re quite right,” answered England. “We’ve got to look for other pickings. After we provision-up, we’ll sail towards th’ setting sun. That’s a fresh field and we can have it to ourselves.”

So all made ready for a trans-Atlantic voyage.

But Captain England was in error when he said that he was sailing for fields which had never before been touched. Two other piratical vessels: the Revenge and the Flying King, had been cruising off the coast of Brazil, just before his advent. Fighting in partnership, they had taken two Portuguese schooners, and were making off with them, when a Portuguese [Pg 142] man-o’-warsman came booming along under full canvas. She was an unwelcome guest.

Setting all sail the two pirates had attempted to get away and the Revenge succeeded in doing so. Two days later a typhoon struck her and she was soon swinging bottom upwards, with the kittiwakes shrieking over her barnacled keel.

But the revengeful man-o’-warsman ploughed relentlessly after the Flying King, which could not fly quite fast enough, this time, and—in despair—was run, bows on, upon the shore, where the crew scrambled to the sand in a desperate endeavor to get away. The sailors from the man-o’-warsman were speedy; they shot twelve of the buccaneers, took the rest prisoners (there were seventy in all) and hanged thirty-eight to the yard-arm. News of this came to Captain England when he neared the tropic coast of Brazil.

“It’s all in a life-time,” said he. “If I’m captured, of course I’ll swing. But, meanwhile, I hope to have a good life.”

Not many days afterwards he heard the welcome sound of:

“Sail ho! Off the port bow!”

And raising the glass to his eye discovered two fat, prosperous-looking merchant ships, slipping quietly along like an old maid fresh from market.

“Slap on all sail and give chase!” was bellowed out in stentorian tones, and the Royal James was soon fairly boiling along with every stitch aloft, which she could carry.

[Pg 143] As she neared the merchantmen, the names came plainly to view: the Peterborough of Bristol, and the Victory of Liverpool, but a shot screamed across the bowsprit of the latter and victory was turned into defeat. A white flag was fluttering at her mainmast in a moment, for the Captain had no stomach for a fight.

“Egad, it’s a pirate,” said the good seaman in despair, as the black flag with the skull and cross-bones fluttered from the rigging of his capturer. “I thought she was a privateersman under Letters of Marque. It’s all up with us.”

As the boat-load of boarders came bobbing alongside he cried out,

“Mercy! Have mercy upon the souls of these poor wretches who sail with me.”

The pirates guffawed, helped themselves to everything of value, and took the merchantmen with them to the coast of Brazil, where the crew were allowed to escape to the shore. The Peterborough was re-christened the Victory and was manned by half of England’s crew, while the other vessel was burned at night; the pirates dancing on the beach to the light of the flames and singing the weird songs of the sea.

Now there was a scene of wild revel upon the Brazilian coast; but the natives grew angry at the conduct of these rough men of the ocean.

“Ugh!” spoke a chief, “we must drive them away, else they will burn our own villages as they did their houses upon the water.”

One peaceful evening the followers of Captain [Pg 144] England were hard beset by fully a thousand black-skinned warriors from the Brazilian jungle.

There was a fierce battle. The negroes were pressed back upon their principal town and were driven through it on the run, for their arrows and spears were not as effective as the guns and pistols of the English, Dutch, Spaniards and Portuguese, who had adopted a piratical career. Their thatched huts were set on fire, and, satisfied with the day’s work, the pirates retired to their ships, where a vote was cast where was to be their next venture. It fell to the East Indies and the Island of Madagascar. So they set sail, singing an old ballad which ran,

“Heave the lead and splice th’ topsail,
Tie her down, and let her fill,
We’re agoin’ to Madagascar,
Where th’ little tom-tits trill,
“Bill an’ coo, an’ sing so sweetly,
In th’ dronin’ hours of noon,
That you want to die there, neatly,
Just drop off into ’er swoon.”

The voyage across was a good one and the pirates captured two East Indiamen and a Dutchman, bound to Bombay. These they exchanged for one of their own vessels, and then set out for Madagascar Island, where several of their hands were set ashore with tents and ammunition, to kill such beasts and venison as the place afforded.

Then they sailed for the Isle of Juanna,—not a great distance from Madagascar,—and here had as [Pg 145] keen a little engagement as ever employed a piratical crew. Hear the story of this fight in the words of Captain Mackra, an English sea-captain who happened at that time to be in the harbor.

Bombay, November 16th, 1720.

“We arrived on the 25th of July last, in company with the Greenwich, at Juanna, an island not far from Madagascar. Putting in there to refresh our men, we found fourteen pirates who came in their canoes from the Mayotta (island) where the pirate ship to which they belonged, the Indian Queen—two hundred and fifty tons, twenty-eight guns, commanded by Captain Oliver de la Bouche, bound from the Guinea coast to the East Indies—had been bulged (run ashore) and lost. They said they left the Captain and forty men building a new vessel, to proceed upon their wicked designs.

“Captain Kirby and I concluding that it might be of great service to the East India Company to destroy such a nest of rogues, were ready to sail for this purpose on the 17th of August, about eight o’clock in the morning, when we discovered two pirates standing into the Bay of Juanna, one of thirty-four and the other of thirty-six guns.

“I immediately went on board the Greenwich where they seemed very diligent in preparation for an engagement, and I left Captain Kirby with mutual understanding of standing by each other. I then unmoored, got under sail, and brought two boats ahead to row me close to the Greenwich; but he being open [Pg 146] to a breeze, made the best of his way from me; which an Ostender in our company of twenty-two guns, seeing, did the same, though the Captain had promised heartily to engage with us, and, I believe would have been as good as his word, if Captain Kirby had kept his.

“About half an hour after twelve, I called several times to the Greenwich to bear down to our assistance, and fired a shot at him, but to no purpose; for, though we did not doubt but he would join us, because, when he got about a league from us he brought his ship to and looked on; yet both he and the Ostender basely deserted us, and left us engaged with barbarous and inhuman enemies, with their black and bloody flags hanging over us, without the least appearance of ever escaping, but to be cut to pieces.

“But God in his good providence, determined otherwise; for, notwithstanding their superiority, we engaged them both about three hours, during which time the biggest of them received some shot betwixt wind and water, which made her keep a little off, to stop her leaks. The other endeavored all she could to board us, by rowing with her oars, being within half a ship’s length of us about an hour; but, by good fortune, we shot all her oars to pieces, which prevented them from getting in close, and consequently saved our lives.


“About four o’clock most of the officers and men posted on the quarter-deck being killed and wounded, the largest ship made up to us with diligence, after giving us a broadside. There now being no hopes of [Pg 147] Captain Kirby’s coming to our assistance, we endeavored to run ashore; and though we drew four feet of water more than the pirate, it pleased God that he stuck fast on a higher ground than happily we fell in with; so was disappointed a second time from boarding us.

“Here we had a more violent engagement than before. All of my officers and most of my men behaved with unexpected courage; and, as we had a considerable advantage by having a chance to hurl a broadside into his bow, we did him great damage. Had Captain Kirby come in then, I believe we should have taken both the vessels, for we had one of them, sure.

“The other pirate (who was still firing at us) seeing the Greenwich did not offer to assist us, supplied his consort with three boats full of fresh men. About five in the evening the Greenwich stood clear away to sea, leaving us struggling hard for life, in the very jaws of death; which the other pirate that was afloat, seeing, got a hawser out, and began to haul under our stern.

“By this time many of my men were being killed and wounded, and no hopes left us of escaping being all murdered by enraged barbarous conquerors, I ordered all that could to get into the long-boat, under the cover of the smoke from our guns; so that, with what some did in boats, and others by swimming, most of us that were able got ashore by seven o’clock.

“When the pirates came aboard, they cut three of our wounded men to pieces. I, with some of my [Pg 148] people, made what haste I could to Kings-town, twenty-five miles from us; where I arrived next day, almost dead with the fatigue and loss of blood, having been sorely wounded in the head by a musket-ball.

“At this town I heard that the pirates had offered ten thousand dollars to the country people to bring me in, which many of them would have accepted, only they knew that the king and all his chief people were in my interest. Meanwhile I caused a report to be circulated that I was dead of my wounds, which much abated their fury.

“We had, in all, thirteen killed and twenty-four wounded; and we were told that we destroyed about ninety, or a hundred, of the pirates. I am persuaded that, had our consort the Greenwich done her duty, we could have destroyed both of them, and got two hundred thousand pounds ($1,000,000.00) for our owners and ourselves.”

What say you to this fight? And to think that our own good friend Captain Mackra just missed being a millionaire! Weep for the gallant sea warrior!

At any rate he got safely away, for, at length going aboard one of the piratical vessels,—under a flag of truce—he discovered that several of the wild sea-robbers knew him; some of them—even—had sailed with him in earlier years.

“I found this to be of great advantage,” he writes. “For, notwithstanding their promise not to harm me, some of them would have cut me to pieces, had it not [Pg 149] been for their chief, Captain Edward England, and some others whom I knew.”

And he used his powers of persuasion to such effect that: “They made me a present of the shattered ship—which was Dutch built—called the Fancy, her burden being about three hundred tons.

“With jury-masts, and such other old sails as they left me, I set sail on September 8th, with forty-three of my ship’s crew, including two passengers and twelve soldiers. After a passage of forty-eight days I arrived at Bombay on the 26th of October, almost naked and starved, having been reduced to a pint of water a day, and almost in despair of ever seeing land, by reason of the calms we met with between the coast of Arabia and Malabar.”

The gallant writer of this interesting description was certainly in imminent danger of his life, when he trusted himself upon the pirate ship, and unquestionably nothing could have justified such a hazardous step but the desperate circumstances in which he was placed. The honor and influence of Captain England, however, protected him and his men from the wrath of the crew, who would willingly have wreaked their vengeance upon those who had dealt them such heavy blows in the recent fight.

But the generosity of Captain England toward the unfortunate Mackra proved to be calamitous to himself.

“You are no true pirate,” cried one of his crew. “For a buccaneer never allows his foes to get away.”

“No! No!” shouted others. “This fighting [Pg 150] Mackra will soon come against us with a strong force. You did wrong in letting him escape.”

“To the yard-arm with the traitor!” sounded from the throat of many a ruffianly seaman.

Thus grew the feeling of mutiny—and the result of these murmurs of discontent—was that Captain England was put ashore by the cruel villains; and, with three others was marooned upon the island of Mauritius. Had they not been destitute of every necessity they might have been able to live in comfort, for the island abounds in deer, hogs, and other animals. Dissatisfied, however, with this solitary situation, Captain England and his three men exerted their industry and ingenuity, built a small boat, and sailed to Madagascar, where they lived upon the generosity of some more fortunate piratical companions.

But can a pirate remain happy when not pirating?

“Away with this life,” cried Captain England. “I pine for more treasure and for battle. Let’s out and to sea!”

“Good! Good!” said his mates. “Let’s ship aboard another vessel and get away from here.”

So, they again took to the ocean, but what became of Edward England is not known.

Some say that he was killed in a brawl; some that he was again marooned and was adopted by a savage tribe; some that he perished in a fight upon the Indian Ocean. At any rate that rough and valiant soul is lost to history, and—somewhere—in the vast solitude of the Southern Hemisphere, lie the bleaching bones of him who had flaunted the skull-and-cross-bones [Pg 151] upon the wide highway of the gleaming wastes of salty brine. His was a rough and careless life. Do not emulate the career of Edward England!

Near the straits of Madagascar; near the sobbing oceans’ roar,
A ghostly shape glides nightly, by the beady, kelp-strewn shore.—
As the Cubic monkeys chatter; as the Bulbul lizards hiss,
Comes a clear and quiet murmur, like a Zulu lover’s kiss.
The flying-fishes scatter; the chattering magpies scream,
The topaz hummers dart and dip; their jewelled feathers gleam.
The mud-grimed hippos bellow; the dove-eyed elands bleat,
When the clank of steel disturbs them, and the beat of sandalled feet.
The pirate crew is out to-night, no rest is for their souls,
The blood of martyrs moves them; they charge a million tolls.
On! On! Their souls must hasten. On! On! Their shapes must go,
While the limpid rushes quiver, and the beast-lapped waters glow.
No rest for Captain England. No rest, for King or pawn,
On! On! Their feet must wander. On! On! Forever on!

[Pg 152]


“To the mast nail our flag! it is dark as the grave,
Or the death which it bears while it sweeps o’er the wave;
Let our decks clear for action, our guns be prepared;
Be the boarding-axe sharpened, the scimetar bared:
Set the canisters ready, and then bring to me,
For the last of my duties, the powder-room key.
It shall never be lowered, the black flag we bear,
If the sea be denied us, we sweep through the air.
Unshared have we left our last victory’s prey;
It is mine to divide it, and yours to obey:
There are shawls that might suit a Sultana’s white neck,
And pearls that are fair as the arms they will deck;
There are flasks which, unseal them, the air will disclose
Diametta’s fair summers, the home of the rose.
I claim not a portion: I ask but as mine—
But to drink to our victory—one cup of red wine.
Some fight, ’tis for riches—some fight, ’tis for fame:
The first I despise, and the last is a name.
I fight ’tis for vengeance! I love to see flow,
At the stroke of my sabre, the life of my foe.
I strike for the memory of long-vanished years;
I only shed blood where another sheds tears,
I come, as the lightning comes red from above,
O’er the race that I loathe, to the battle I love.”




[Pg 154]

“If you want to win a lass, or a sea fight; don’t cajole. Sail in!”—Old Proverb.

[Pg 155]


For he can fight a Spaniard, like a Tipperary cat,
For he can sack a city, like a blawsted, rangy rat;
Woodes Rogers was a Gentleman, from Bristol-town he sailed,
An’ his crew came from th’ prisons, an’ were

YES, you can have the Duke and the Duchess. They are both staunch craft and we expect to get a good return for our investment in them.”

The fellow who spoke—a stout-bodied Quaker—looked quizzically at a bronzed sea-captain, who, cap in hand, stood before him. By his side were seated a number of merchants, fat, sleek, contented-looking. They were giving instructions to Captain Woodes Rogers: their privateersman, who was about to make a voyage of adventure in their behalf.

“My good friends,” said the mariner, “I shall do my very best for you all. The French and Spaniards have been having it all their own way in the South seas. It is about time that the English had a share in the rich spoils of that treasure highway. I shall work my hardest for you.”

[Pg 156] The merchants, ship-owners and Quakers nodded.

“May Providence guide your course aright,” said they. And—as Captain Woodes Rogers went off to inspect his privateersmen—all indulged in a glass of Madeira to pledge “good luck and good health” to the staunch seaman from Bristol.

It was not many weeks before the Duke (of three hundred and twenty tons) with thirty guns and one hundred and seventeen men, and the Duchess (of two hundred and sixty tons) with twenty-six guns and one hundred and eight men, sailed from King Road for Cork, in Ireland.

“Egad!” cried Captain Rogers, as they passed out to sea. “Our rigging is slack. Our decks are lumbered up. Our stores are badly stowed. Our crew is so very mixed that I must stop in Ireland to get more able sea-dogs. Was ever captain in a worse fix?”

His Lieutenants grinned, for they saw that things were in a sorry mess, indeed.

“Most of us have embraced this trip around the world in order to retrieve our fortunes,” continued the captain. “Did you ever see a harder crew than this? There are tinkers, tailors, haymakers, peddlers, fiddlers, a negro and ten boys. None know how to use the cutlass and they haven’t got any sea-legs. Well, well; I’ll make the best of it, but it’s hard goin’, I assure you.”

And still the Lieutenants grinned.

They grinned still more when they had lain a few days at Cork, for the crew were continually marrying, although they expected to sail immediately. However, [Pg 157] as the two privateers got under way on September 1st,—with the Hastings, a man-of-war—the majority of the crew drank a health to their spouses; waved their hands to them over the rail; and “parted unconcerned.” Truly, a sailor has a lass in every port.

Not many days after their out-going, a sail was sighted and all speed was made to capture her. The Swedish colors fluttered from her mast-head, and she hove to at the first gun. Rogers boarded.

“No contraband goods are here,” said he, after looking into the hold. “We must let her off.”

Then—turning to her captain—he said,

“You can go. I am not a pirate—but a privateer—sailing under Letters of Marque. I only seize goods that are contraband.”

Bobbing and courtesying on the waves, the little Swede soon drifted from view.

But the crew grew mutinous,—for had they not come out for plunder? The boatswain even called Rogers a traitor.

“Seize the fellow and flog him,” cried the sturdy captain. “Put ten of these talkative hounds in irons. We’ll do the talking on this boat, and the sailors must do theirs in the fo’castle.”

This was done immediately.

Next day a seaman came aft, with near half the ship’s company in his rear, and cried:

“I demand the boatswain out of his irons, Captain Rogers. He’s done nothing to deserve such a severe punishment.”

“Speak with me privately, on the quarter-deck,” [Pg 158] said the bluff commander. “I cannot discuss this matter with you in such a crowd.” And he moved aft.

The grumbler followed, but, no sooner was he alone with stout Woodes, than the captain sprang upon him with the agility of a leopard. He was thrown to the ground, held, and bound by two officers. Then he was stripped and whipped until the blood ran.

“This method,” writes the doughty Woodes, “I deemed best for breaking any unlawful friendship among the mutinous crew. It allayed the tumult, so that they began to submit quietly and those in irons begged my pardon, and promised amendment.”

Thus the captain had won the first round with the mutineers.

Now, know you, that the War of the Spanish Succession was then in progress; a war in which one party was endeavoring to put the Archduke Charles of Austria upon the Spanish throne; another to place Philip, grandson of Louis XIV of France, in the chair of the rulers. And when—a few days later—the two privateers captured a small Spanish vessel, they found that their possession of it was disputed, when they sailed into the Canaries.

“It has been agreed between Queen Anne of England and the Kings of Spain and France,” said the Vice-Consul of that place—an Englishman—“that all vessels trading to the Canary Isles shall be exempt from interference by men-o’-war, or privateers. The prize must be released. If you do not do so, we will keep your agent, Mr. Vanbrugh, who has come ashore, and will throw him into irons.”

[Pg 159] But the Vice-Consul had reckoned without his host.

“We are apprehensive that you are obliged to give us this advice in order to gratify the Spaniards,” wrote Captain Rogers. “If you do not allow my agent to come on board my ship, you may expect a visit from my guns at eight o’clock to-morrow morn.”

To this there was no reply.

Next day the two English privateers stood in close to shore, and, just as the shot was rammed home, a boat put off, in the stern of which sat Mr. Vanbrugh with a present of wine, grapes, hogs and jelly. The prize which had been captured was sent back to Bristol with a picked crew.

The two sea-rovers bore towards the South—soon crossed the Tropic of Cancer—and there had appropriate ceremonies for the occasion. The tinkers, peddlers, fiddlers, and tailors who made up the crew, were each and all hoisted overboard by a rope. A stick was placed between their legs and they were ducked again and again in the brine.

“If any man wants to get off,” spoke Captain Rogers, “he can do so by paying me a half-a-sovereign ($2.50) which must be expended on an entertainment for the rest of the company when England shall be reached. Every man that is ducked is paid in proportion to the number of times that he goes under.”

Several accepted this offer. At which a sailor cried out:

“Duck me twelve times, Captain. I want to have a regular orgy when I get back home.”

And the sailors did it, laughing uproariously.

[Pg 160] Sailing to the Cape Verde Islands, the Duke and the Duchess anchored in the harbor of St. Vincent, where one of the crew, who was a good linguist (Joseph Alexander) was sent in a boat to the Governor, at San Antonio, in order to negotiate for supplies. He seemed to prefer Cape Verde to privateering.

“On October 6th,” writes the gallant Rogers, “our boat went to San Antonio to get our linguist, according to appointment. No news of him.”

“On October 6th, our boat returned with nothing but limes and tobacco. No news of our linguist.”

“On October 7th, no news of our linguist.”

“On the 8th, boat sent ashore, but no news of our linguist.”

“On the 9th, as the trade-winds are blowing fresh, concluded to leave our good Alexander to practice his linguistic and other accomplishments ashore. Adieu to our linguist.”

Thus disappeared the sleek and crafty Joseph.

There was still trouble from insubordination, for Mr. Page—second mate of the Duchess—refused to accompany Mr. Cook (second in command on the Duke). Whereupon the hot-tempered Captain Cook—being the superior officer on board—struck him, and several blows were interchanged.

At last Page was forced into the boat and brought to the Duke, where he was ordered to the forecastle in the bilboes (leg irons sliding upon a long, iron bar). But he jumped overboard—despising the chance of being gobbled up by a shark—and started to swim to his own ship. He was brought back, flogged, and [Pg 161] put in irons; and he evidently found a week of this kind of thing sufficient; for he submitted himself humbly to future orders.

Thus Woodes Rogers had already learned that the life of a privateer commander was not a happy one.

Steering southwest, a large French ship was seen and chased, but she got away from the two consorts with surprising ease. On March 6th, when off the coast of Peru, a sail was sighted.

“Let the Duchess bear down on her port and the Duke to starboard,” cried Captain Rogers. “Heave a solid shot across her bow, and, if she refuses to capitulate, let her have your broadsides.”

Dipping, tossing, rolling; the two privateers swooped down upon their prey, like hawks. She flew the yellow flag of Spain—and—as the first ball of lead cut across her bowsprit, it fluttered to the deck. Up went a white shirt, tied to a rat-line, and the crew from the Duke was soon in charge, and steering her for Lobas: a harbor on the coast.

“She’s a tight little barque,” said Rogers, when he had landed. “I’ll make her into a privateer.”

So she was hauled up, cleaned, launched, and christened the Beginning; with a spare topmast from the Duke as a mast, and an odd mizzen-topsail altered for a sail. Four swivel-guns were mounted upon her deck, and, as she pounded out of the bay, loud cheers greeted her from the decks of the Duchess, which was loafing outside, watching for a merchantman to capture and pillage.

Next morn two sails were sighted, and both Duke [Pg 162] and Duchess hastened to make another haul. As they neared them, one was seen to be a stout cruiser from Lima; the other a French-built barque from Panama; richly laden, it was thought.

“Broadsides for both,” ordered Woodes Rogers. “Broadsides and good treatment when the white flag flutters aloft.”

As the Duchess chased the Lima boat, the Duke neared the Frenchman and spanked a shot at her from a bow-gun. The sea ran high and she did not wish to get too close and board, because it would be easier to send her men in pinnaces.

“They’re afraid!” cried the Captain of the Duke. “We can take ’em with no exertion.” But he was like many an Englishman: despised his foe only to find him a valiant one.

Piling into four boats, the men from the Duke, fully armed, rowed swiftly towards the rolling Frenchman. They approached to within twenty yards. Then

Crash! Crash! Rattle! Crash!

A sheet of flame burst from her sides; muskets and pistols spoke; cannon spat grape and cannister; the Englishmen were frightfully cut up.

“On! On!” shouted young John Rogers—a brother of Woodes—as he waved his cutlass aloft to enliven the sailors. But it was his last cry. A bullet struck him in the forehead, and he fell into the sea without a murmur.

Crash! Crash!

Again roared out a volley. Oars were splintered. One boat was pierced below the water line. She sank, [Pg 163] and her men floundered about upon the surface of the oily sea.

“Bear off, and rescue our comrades!” cried the leaders of this futile attack, and, as the French barque drifted away, the remaining boats busied themselves with the swimming sailors. The assault had been a complete failure.

“Curses upon the Frenchman!” cried Captain Rogers when he saw the saucy fighter drawing off. “We’ll go after her to-morrow, and catch her, or my blood’s not English. What say you, men?”

“Yes. After her and board her amid-ships!” cried all. “Run our own vessel alongside.”

“And that I will do,” answered Rogers, watching the lumbering merchantman through his glass. “She’s entirely too well armed for a trader.”

When morning dawned, the Frenchman was still ploughing along the coast in the light breeze, with all sail set. But there was not wind enough to force her ahead of her pursuer. The Duchess now returned from her chase of the Lima boat, and, joining her Duke, bore in upon the able fighter from the open sea.

“Egad! We’ll have her yet,” shouted Captain Rogers, rubbing his hands.

“She luffs!” cried a lieutenant. “She’s coming to!”

Sure enough the Frenchman saw that resistance now was useless. She staggered into the wind, and a white flag beckoned for a prize-crew to come and take her.

“And,” writes Captain Rogers, “I found that a [Pg 164] Bishop who had been aboard of her, had been put ashore, which gave me much grief. For I always love to catch fat prelates, as they give up a stout sum as their ransom. In truth they are nice pickings.”

Things were going well with the wild rovers from Bristol. Plunder there was aplenty and the holds of the Duke and the Duchess bulged with treasure. Yet Woodes Rogers was not satisfied.

“On! On to Guayaquil!” cried he. “We’ll capture this wealthy city; demand a great ransom; and sail to England, richer than the Spanish conquerors of the Incas.”

“Hurrah!” shouted his staunch followers. “On! On! to Guayaquil!”

So—steering for the coast of Ecuador—the privateers drew near this rich Spanish-American town. A gulf lay before their eyes in which was a small island; with a little, white-housed village (called Puna) on its Eastern shore.

“Take the place!” cried Rogers, as the two ships forged into the sleepy shallows, and rounded to before the peaceful habitation.

With a cheer, the sailors piled into the boats, rowed ashore, and—with cutlass and dirk in hand—pressed through the narrow streets. Shots rang out from a few of the thatched houses; two seamen fell to the ground with mortal wounds; but, cheering wildly, the privateers rushed through the narrow highway; pressed into the court-house; and seized upon the Lieutenant-Governor of the town of Guayaquil, as he was attempting to hide behind an old clothes-press.

[Pg 165] “Let no man get away in order to warn the large town of our approach!” shouted Captain Rogers. “Catch all who dash for the canoes upon the beach!”

“Crush the bloomin’ canoes!” yelled Cook, as he saw some of the natives running towards them on the sandy shore. “Crush the canoes before the devils can get there!”

“All right!” answered several of his men, as they ran for the clusters of boats. “We’ll put holes in them!”

As they hurried forward, several of the natives were ahead. Two jumped into the bark boats and paddled furiously for Guayaquil. The zip, zip of bullets nipped the water around them, but,—with desperate sweeps—they dug their blades into the sea and got safely off. As a result, the city was all ready and prepared for the invaders.

“Ho! Ho!” laughed Rogers, as he thumbed the papers of the Lieutenant-Governor. “What is this?”

“A warning to the townsfolk of Guayaquil,” said one of his men, as he peered over his shoulder.

Rogers chuckled.

“Beware, all you people”—he read—“of a squadron from the faraway isles of Great Britain which is coming shortly upon you. There will be full ten great ships, heavily manned and well armed for attack. The arch rogue, William Dampier, will be in control,—he who has plundered Puna before. Be on your guard, citizens! Be prepared! Arm yourselves!”

“Hah! Hah!” laughed the free-booting captain. [Pg 166] “They think I’m Dampier. That’s good. But we’ll have a tough time with them, for they know that we mean to assault their pretty little town.”

His followers looked solemn.

“Let’s attack, right away,” cried several, “before the Spaniards have time to prepare for our charge!”

Rogers, however, would not hear of it.

“We must rest. Equip ourselves. Place cannon in the bows of our boats, and then we will be ready.”

His men murmured, but they knew that when Rogers had made up his mind upon a thing, there was no use in endeavoring to dissuade him. So they collected what plunder was to be had and awaited his further orders.

Two days later all was ready for the advance. It was near midnight—upon April 22nd,—when the command was passed around:

“Muffle your oars and take the town!”

With one hundred and ten men in the jolly boats, the privateers neared the sleepy, little seaport. Not a sound broke the silence, save the drip, drip of the sweeps, yet, as they approached the white-washed walls of the lower town,—a bonfire was touched off upon the shore.

“’Tis well,” whispered a stout sailor. “Now we can see to shoot!”

As he said this, many lights appeared in the houses of Guayaquil. The townspeople were wide awake.

“What means this, sirrah?” thundered Rogers at a native guide, who was piloting him to the shore.

The fellow had a ready answer.

[Pg 167] “’Tis the celebration of All Saints Day,” he answered smiling. “The people here are good Christians.”

“They know that we are coming,” growled the English captain, for, as the native spoke, a Spaniard upon the shore was heard to shout:

“Puna has been captured! The enemy is advancing! Arm! Arm!”

Bells clanged from the steeples of the little churches. Muskets and guns went off. Black masses could be seen surging into the streets. Cannon roared, and a screeching shot spun ahead of the on-coming boats.

“’Tis nothing,” said Rogers. “The alarm has only just been given. Preparations are not complete and we can rush them, easily.”

But Captain Cook had his own opinion upon the affair.

“The Buccaneers,” said he, “never attack any large place after it is alarmed. My advice is to keep away.”

“Don’t go in,” cried several. “Wait and rush them when they are not so well prepared.”

Even the men seemed disinclined to advance.

Thus cautious counsel prevailed: the boats dropped down-stream again—about three miles below the town—and were joined by two small barques. They were prizes which had been recently captured. Here the flotilla lay while the cries in the city grew inaudible,—for the inhabitants saw that the attack had been avoided.

When flood-tide came, Captain Rogers once more ordered an advance upon the town.

[Pg 168] “No! No!” argued Dover. “They are too well prepared. Night will cloak our movements, so we should then go on. I, myself, advise the sending of a trumpeter with a flag of truce. He shall propose that we make some trades with the people of this place.”

“Your measure is half-hearted,” said Rogers, with heat. “You are a craven knave. Let’s rush the town like Englishmen and heroes!”

Again cautious counsel prevailed. Two prisoners—a Lieutenant from Puna, and the Captain of the Frenchman of recent capture—were sent to parley with the Spaniards.

“The English are afraid!” whispered the inhabitants. “Let us keep them off with braggadocio, and mayhap reinforcements will come to us.”

So they bickered and delayed.

“These dogs would palaver forever,” said Captain Rogers, when negotiations had proceeded for full two days without result. “I, for one, am for attacking the city right now!”

“Yes! On! On!” cried his men.

Even the cautious Dover was ready to advance; so, landing upon the beach, the one hundred and ten ran towards the town with a wild, exultant whoop!

Zip! Zip! came the bullets from the nearer houses, as the privateers advanced.

Boom! Boom! sounded the guns from the Duchess and the Duke, which had edged up near the wharves and anchored. Shells shrieked and burst; guns [Pg 169] roared; and, with a hoarse cheer, the English beat down two lines of Spaniards who opposed them.

Back, back, they crushed the defenders of Guayaquil to the market-place in the centre of the town, where four cannon were drawn up behind a barricade which was flanked by cavalry.

Crash! Crash! they roared at the on-coming privateers, and many a man went down before the exploding grape and cannister. But the blood of the English was now up.

“Take the guns!” shouted Woodes Rogers. “Scale the barricade and spike the pieces!”

With a mighty roar the jack-tars ran for the engines of death; leaping over the wall of the defenses; bayonetting the gunners; turning the spitting war-engines upon the cavalry, which, in confusion and dismay, was driven down a crooked lane. It was the last stand. The English standard soon waved from the flag-pole of the House of Justice.

“And now,” cried Captain Rogers, gleefully, “I’ll meet the worthy Padres and treat with them for a ransom. We’ll make them pay full well to get back the neat little town of Guayaquil.”

Crestfallen and abashed, the city fathers were soon brought before the privateer.

“Señor,” said they, “your men can fight like devils. Señor, you are the first man to have taken our town, and many a Buccaneer has endeavored to do so!”

Captain Rogers smiled.

“Tut! Tut!” said he. “The English can always battle. But—Fathers—you must pay me well for [Pg 170] this affair. I demand thirty thousand pieces of eight ($35,000 or about £6,750) as ransom for your fair city. I will give you two days in which to collect it.”

The worthy Padres hung their heads.

“You English,” said they, “are cruel extortioners.”

Yet—in two day’s time—the British marched to their boats with colors flying, bugles blowing, and drums beating a rollicking tattoo. Captain Rogers brought up the rear with a few men. He had secured the ransom and fairly smiled with exuberant joy. “Our sailors,” says he, “kept continually dropping their pistols, cutlasses, and pole-axes; which shows they had grown careless and very weak—weary of being soldiers—and it was high time that we should be gone from hence to the shores of Merrie England.”

Thus, on April 28th, when the Duke and the Duchess weighed anchor and stood out to sea: guns roared: trumpets blew: the men cheered.

“And so,” writes the gallant Rogers, “we took leave of the Spaniards very cheerfully, but not half so well pleased as we should have been if we had taken ’em by surprise; for I was well assured from all hands, that at least we should then have got about two hundred thousand pieces of eight in money (£45,000 or $225,000); and in jewels, diamonds, and wrought and unwrought gold and silver.”

The owners of the two privateers: the Duke and the Duchess, sat in solemn meeting at the good town of Bristol. It was the month of October, 1711.

[Pg 171] The fat Quakers were smiling, for Captain Rogers had brought them back equally fat moneys.

The rugged merchants laughed, for the venture had been a howling success.

“And you were wounded?” said a stockholder, turning to the bronzed sea-rover who stood before them, giving account and reckoning of his journey to the Spanish Main.

“A scratch,” replied the stout sea-dog, smiling. “When we tackled a Manila ship on the way home from Guayaquil, I got a ball through the jaw, and a splinter in the left foot. It laid me up for full three weeks, but, gentlemen, a cat and Woodes Rogers both have nine lives.”

And even the sober Quaker fathers laughed at this sally.

“You have done well,” they said. “We will reward you with money and a good berth. How would you care to be Governor of the Bahamas?”

“Fine!” said Woodes Rogers, chuckling.

And that is the way the old sea-barnacle spent his declining years, dying at the tropic isle on July 16th, 1732. Hail to this Prince of Privateers!

[Pg 172]


The twilight hours like birds flew by,
As lightly and as free;
Ten thousand stars were in the sky,
Ten thousand on the sea;
For every wave with dimpled face,
That leaped up in the air,
Had caught a star in its embrace,
And held it trembling there.




[Pg 174]

“It was a high counsel which I once heard given to a young person: ‘Always do what you are afraid to do.’”—Emerson.

[Pg 175]


“‘Be sure you’re right, then go ahead!’ was coined by Andrew Jackson,
Who was a fighter, tough as nails, and loved to lay the whacks on,
He followed out this sage advice, in spite of opposition,
While everybody winked and said,—‘A Fellow with a Mission!
In other days, in other climes, there lived a seaman daring,
Who loved a fight, as well as he,—was just as good at swearing;
His name was Wright, and thus in spite of all his foemen said,
Old Fortune Wright, was surely right, whene’er he went ahead!”

Chants of the Eastern Clipper Ships.—1846.

IN the year 1744 war was declared between England and France. French privateers harried the coast of her rival, caught her merchantmen whenever they ventured away from stout men-o’-warsmen, and chased them in the blue, shimmering waters of the Mediterranean. It seemed as if there were never gun-boats enough to protect the British shipping, and thus many of the English merchants grew choleric and angry.

Englishmen carried on quite a trade with Italy, Greece, and the countries of Asia Minor, and at [Pg 176] Leghorn—upon the Italian coast—they had numerous trading shops and docks for their own vessels. They began to suffer, not only great annoyance, but also great loss, from the depredations of the French privateers which swarmed about the harbor mouth and scurried into every corner of the ragged coast-line. Their trade was hampered, their ships compelled to remain in port, or—if they ventured out—they were inevitably captured. The situation was unbearable.

“My! My!” said one of the red-faced merchants. “My! My! We must have a remedy for this. My! My! We must have our own privateers!”

“Well spoken,” cried another. “And I know the very man to help us out. He is living here, now, and his name is Fortunatus Wright. Gentlemen! I tell you he is a true sea-dog! He is the fellow to cripple these saucy, French bushwhackers of the sea.”

“Hear! Hear!” cried others.

And thus Mr. Fortunatus Wright was sought for, and was asked:

“Will you take charge of a privateer for the British merchants of Leghorn? Will you chase these rascally Frenchmen? Will you cripple their operations? Will you chastise these sea-robbers?”

To this Mr. Fortunatus Wright, being a true seaman with the love of the salt water tugging at his heart strings, is said to have remarked,


Which being interpreted means:

“Gentlemen, I’m dee-lighted!”

[Pg 177] As luck would have it, there was a vessel lying in the harbor which was directly available. She was a brigantine called the Fame, and, although we know little about her tonnage and the number of stout sea-dogs whom she could carry, it is apparent that Fortunatus Wright considered her most admirably suited for his venture. At any rate he soon boarded her, swore in a crew of stalwart seamen, and saw that plenty of gunpowder, cutlasses, boarding-pikes and muskets were aboard.

It was September, 1746, and, before the close of the month of December, the Fame had captured eighteen prizes, one of which was a hulking, French privateer with twenty guns and one hundred and fifty men, especially fitted out to put an end to the career of the vessel of Fortunatus Wright. They had met off the port of Messina and had had a roaring, little scrimmage, but—seeing that matters were going ill with him—the French captain had cried:

“Run for the shore! Run our ship aground! We will fix her so that this English hound cannot make a prize of us!”

“Voilà! Voilà!” his men had shouted. “Oui! We will f-e-e-x th-e-es Eengleesh chien! Oui! Au revoir, Monsieur Wright!”

So saying, the privateer had been run upon the sandy beach, bows on, where her crew took to the brush, yelling derisively at the Fame as she came up within hail,—sails snug down so as to move cautiously.

The Frenchmen had counted without their host.

[Pg 178] “We’ll float her, my hearties!” cried Wright. “All hands ashore in the small boats. Tie hawsers to her stern and pull her off!”

This they did, while the French captain, far back in the brush, saw it and fairly boiled with disappointment and rage.

“Zees Wright,” he blustered. “One cannot outweet heem.”

So the privateer was towed into the harbor of Leghorn, where all the English merchants cried:

“Good! Good! Now we have a true man to fight our battles! Huzzah for Fortunatus Wright!”

The French were furious, while at the island of Malta (where were numerous French, Spanish, Austrian and English traders) the feeling grew intense. Here the Austrians sided with the English and several duels were fought by angry officers, as crafty Fortunatus Wright continued to send in his prizes.

Finally the French merchants forwarded a missive to Marseilles, in France, which ran:

“Can the French be further humiliated by this corsair—this robber—Fortunatus Wright? Let our people fit out a privateer sufficiently large to cope with him, and let her defeat and cripple this fellow. Make haste, for he is doing much damage!”

An answer came back.

“Before a month is gone, Monsieur Wright will no more harass your privateers. What we have determined to do, we shall do!”

Word of this was brought to Captain Fortunatus Wright and he only smiled broadly. “There’ll be [Pg 179] another ship to bring into Malta, care of F. Wright, Esq.,” said he. “And it will be labelled Collect on Delivery.”

Not three weeks later the French vessel came jauntily into the harbor of Malta. The captain was a man of considerable repute as a seaman and fighter, and he was warmly received by the French. They invited him to many dinners.

“Voilà!” said they. “Here is the fellow to do the tr-e-e-k. Tenez! There will soon be one b-e-eg mince pie we-eth Captain Wright eenside. Ha! Ha!”

It is never well to count your chickens before they hatch or to pat a man upon the back before he has won a victory.

Eagerly the French captain cruised outside, continually upon the watch for slippery Skipper Wright. His vessel was superior to the Fame in numbers of both guns and men. He was sure of victory. “If only the hated Englishman would appear!” he grumbled.

Meanwhile the excitement and expectation at Malta became intense. Finally it was noised abroad that the terrible privateer had been sighted about five miles off the harbor. All factions were aroused: the Austrians and English slapping the French and Spaniards upon the back, and saying, “Now there will be a chance to sink bold Captain Wright, Messieurs!”

To which the irritable Frenchmen would answer, “Ah! Yes! He will be gobbled up like Jonah by the whale. Pouff!”

The French privateer sailed out to meet the foe, [Pg 180] and soon her white canvas had disappeared from view around a jutting headland. The stranger ran off. The Frenchman pursued, and soon both were lost to the eager gaze of the population of Malta, which crowded every headland, eager and expectant for the bloody battle. The shore was black with people.

Hours passed. Another day came and with it the news that two vessels had been sighted off the entrance to the harbor. Hundreds rushed to the headlands and cliffs in order to see the victor and the vanquished, for two cruisers were approaching, the one towing the other.

“Huzzah!” shouted an enthusiastic Frenchman. “We have won! See—up go the French colors upon the first vessel. The other—poof—eet ees a jelly. Eet ees pounded to ze shreds.”

“Huzzah!” shouted all of his compatriots, and they danced about, shaking hands, embracing, and waving their hats and their handkerchiefs.

“Ce cher Wright!” cried they. “He ees een the soup, eh?”

And what of the Englishmen?

They—of course—said nothing, but bit their lips, looked at their Austrian friends, and hung their heads dejectedly.

Here is the most beautiful part of all this story, for Fortunatus Wright, my boys, was a joker—a real, true end man in a minstrel show—and he was having his fun with “the Frenchies.” His vessel—indeed—had come off victorious, in spite of the fact that she had been much more shattered than the other [Pg 181] contestant. Therefore, Wright had put her in tow of the captured Frenchman, which he, himself, was steering, with the crew of his opponent down in the hold, as prisoners of war.

Seeing the crowded headlands and swarming ramparts in the harbor, he could not resist the temptation of hoisting the flag of France. He chuckled as he saw the effect it produced upon the crowd, then—as the vessels rounded a fort at the entrance to the harbor—down came the colors of France and up went the English flag to the peak, with the French flag below.

And then—well, you can imagine how the Englishmen and Austrians yelled, and how the poor Frenchmen beat a hasty flight for their homes. Fortunatus Wright had had a sweet revenge. He laughed long and hard, while the Frenchmen said, “Curse heem! He ees a devil! A thousand curses upon the head of thees Wright! Sapristi!” And they did not open any more bottles of wine for their supposedly great captain from Marseilles.

As for Fortunatus Wright, he continued to harass the French and get into trouble, as the following anecdote well shows.

Not long after his famous battle, he was travelling in Italy with introductions to many of the nobility, and arrived—one day—before the city gates of Lucca. Here was stationed a guard, and a sentinel scrutinized him with great care and deliberation.

Fortunatus Wright grew impatient.

“Can I not go by?” said he. “My passports are correct!”

[Pg 182] “No! No!” answered the soldier. “I no likea zose peestols in your belta. You must deeliver them to me before you can go to ze ceety.”

The English sea-captain said nothing, but the color rose in his cheeks. In an instant he raised one of his pistols and pointed it at the head of the astonished sentry.

“The first man that endeavors to take my weapons from me,” he yelled, “does so at the cost of his life!”

The guardsman was flabbergasted.

“Corporal of the Guard! Post Number Two!” he shouted, presenting his musket at the same instant, and pointing it at the head of the irascible Captain Wright.

Immediately a dozen soldiers came running to the spot. They surrounded the irate English traveller. He was ordered to “Throw up your hands!”

“You air one mad Englishmana!” said the Officer of the Guard. “Here. Comea weeth usa! We weel feexa youa!”

Seeing that the odds were too much against him, Captain Wright allowed himself to be taken to the guard house, while a soldier was dispatched to the British Ambassador in order to explain that “they had captured an Englishman as mad as a mad dog!”

Things looked bad for the great privateersman. But was his name not Fortunatus? And was not good fortune always with him?

A nobleman to whom the bold mariner had a letter now intervened in his favor, and secured the release of the high-tempered man-of-the-sea. On the morning [Pg 183] of the fourth day of his captivity, and at the early hour of four, a soldier waked Captain Fortunatus Wright, who was peacefully sleeping at a military prison. A missive was handed him, and he read:

Seigneur Wright:—Since you have been so daring as to attempt to enter the town of Lucca by force, it is therefore ordered that you shall now leave the State and never presume to enter it again, without leave from the Republic. Post-horses, with a guard to see you over the border, are now ready for you. We trust that you shall have a safe journey.

“By order of the
Governor of Lucca.”

“These Italians are the most unreasonable people alive,” growled Captain Wright. But he pocketed both his pride and his pistols, entered the post-chaise at the door, and was soon rolling forth for other parts. In spite of this order—he continued to reside in Italy, with the true independence of a privateersman.

In December, 1746, the bold seafarer made an exceptionally good capture: a French vessel on a voyage from Marseilles to Naples, with a rich cargo and the servants and luggage of a real potentate,—the Prince of Campo Florida.

When valorous Wright stepped aboard of her, her captain was scraping and bowing near the rail.

“Ah, Seigneur!” said he, “you have taken me, that is true. But you cannot touch my cargo or my men. See,—here is a pass from King George the [Pg 184] Second of England. It says, ‘All of the cargo, passengers, and crew of La Belle Florence shall be exempt from molestation by English cruisers and privateers.’ What say you to that?”

Captain Wright looked sad, but he seized the paper and read it with care. His smile broadened as he perused the document.

“How am I to know that this particular ship is to go free?” said he. “For although you told me that the name of your vessel (La Belle Florence) was mentioned in this document, I do not find that it is mentioned. The paper merely states that ‘the vessel’ shall not be molested, and, my boy, you may have stolen this from some other skipper. Ah! Ha! You are my prize and shall go with me into Leghorn.”

You should have seen the face of the Frenchman!

“I vill haf revenge!” said he. And he had it.

For, when the matter was referred to the British Minister, he turned it over to the Admiral who commanded the English ships at this station, and this high official made Captain Wright give up both vessel and cargo. He did so with the same unwillingness that he had shown when asked to leave the quaint, little town of Lucca. Captain Wright, you see, had that bull-dog stubbornness which is characteristic of men of the British Isles. He believed in hanging on to everything which he took.

A bit later, this trait got him into serious difficulties and into prison.

A number of English merchants were trading with [Pg 185] the people of Turkey under the name of “The Company of English Merchants trading to the Levant Sea,” and, finding it impossible to ship all of their goods in British vessels, they often sent them in the holds of French ships. True it was that France was at war with England at this time, but, as these were English cargoes, the British naturally thought that they should be allowed to come through, unmolested, even though the French vessels might be captured by English privateers. But they had not reckoned with Fortunatus Wright.

Two French clipper ships were scudding quietly along off the Italian coast, one bright day in June of 1747, when a rakish vessel appeared upon the horizon and speedily bore down upon them. They crowded on sail, but they could not outdistance their pursuer, who was soon near enough to fire a gun across the bow of the foremost, and flaunt the English colors in her face.

“Helas!” growled the French skipper. “Eet ees that devil, ze Captain Wright. Eet is all up with me! Helas!”

So he came to and surrendered; but the other fellow pounded away at the British privateer with a couple of swivel guns and put up a smart, little skirmish before a well-directed shot from the deck of the Englishman, knocked a topmast crashing over the port side. Crippled, she surrendered.

It did not take Captain Wright long to sail into Leghorn harbor with his prizes. The holds were filled with bales of rich goods, marked: “The property [Pg 186] of the Company of English Merchants trading to the Levant Sea.”

“I’ll sell the bloomin’ cargoes,” cried Wright. “For the vessels were under the French flag and we’re at war with that nation. Besides this, one of them put up a fight against me.”

Thus—the cargoes were sold—Captain Fortunatus pocketed the money, and went upon his way, rejoicing.

But he did not rejoice very long, for the British merchants were furious with anger, and procured—through some means or other—an order from the English Government to the effect that English cargoes in French vessels were not to be touched—when captured by British privateers. Word was sent to Captain Wright to refund the money which he had secured by the sale of the cargoes captured in the French ships, and the property of “The Company of English Merchants trading to the Levant Sea.”

To this Captain Wright answered, “Bah! I have the money. I intend to keep it!”

Orders were sent from England to have this fellow arrested and shipped home; so the Italian police obligingly captured the old sea-dog, locked him up, and kept him in jail for six months, while the attorneys fought over the legality of the affair.

At length the bluff privateersman was allowed to go free, and—he never paid back the money. “These fellows attacked me at law,” he wrote, “but I have not acted contrary to it. I am an Englishman. I am acting under a commission from the King of England, [Pg 187] and, when we are at war with France, I intend to hold and keep all the cargoes which I capture in French vessels. As for this ‘English Company trading to the Levant Sea!’ let them learn a lesson and pack their goods in future in English vessels. English oak should be good enough for English cargoes.”

The “English Company trading to the Levant Sea” had certainly learned that Fortunatus Wright was as stubborn as a mule, and—in the future—they employed no French vessels to carry their bales of commerce. A wise dog only allows himself to be bitten once.

France and England now came to a peaceable settlement of their difficulties, but in 1755 war broke out afresh. Fortunatus Wright chuckled, for he itched for another brush upon the wide sweep of the ocean, and a chance to take a prize or two. So the Fame not being available, he had a small vessel constructed at Leghorn, and called her the Saint George. She was a fast sailer and was as graceful as a sea-gull. “In this fair ship,” said he, as he gazed upon her admiringly, “I shall take many a prize and shall have, I trust, many a sharp adventure. Saint George, I salute you! May you bring me only the best of luck!”

Trouble was in store for the well-hated mariner even before he turned his vessel’s prow into the Mediterranean, for—in spite of the fact that the Italians were neutral—their sympathies were strongly with France, and they looked with decided disfavor upon the graceful hull of the Saint George, as she bobbed serenely upon the surface of the bay. Knowing full [Pg 188] well the reputation of this famous seaman, they paid particular attention to his little craft, and sent a number of officials to inspect her. In a few days the intrepid Fortunatus received the information that, as his was a merchant vessel, he must carry a crew of only five-and-twenty men, and an armament of four small guns.

At this the old sea-dog only laughed, and exhibited the greatest anxiety to comply with the requirements of the law.

“I would suggest,” said he to one of the officials of the town, “that you keep guard-boats rowing around my ship in order to be sure that I do not take on more guns and men than the law permits, before I set sail.”

The officer smiled. “We are watching you closely,” said he. “For Monsieur Wright, it is said that you are as crafty as a cat!”

The mariner grinned, and, before going to sea, obtained from the Governor, a certificate to the effect that he had complied with all the requirements of the law.

Armed with this, on July 28th, 1756, he put to sea, in company with four merchant vessels laden with valuable cargoes, and bound for the shores of England. Carefully the Saint George had been watched, so carefully, in fact, that the authorities had overlooked the lading of the other vessels, aboard which numerous guns, howitzers, and hand-spikes had been smuggled, besides a number of seamen who were well-experienced in fighting upon the ocean. It is [Pg 189] true that Fortunatus Wright was as crafty as a cat, or—as they say in Maine—“You’d have to git up early if yer wanted ter lick him.”

Not only had the officials at Leghorn watched every move of this well-known privateersman, but they had sent word to the French that Wright had only a feeble force, that he was accompanying several rich prizes, and that he could be easily beaten and captured by a vessel of any size. So much hated was he, that it is said the French king had promised Knighthood and a handsome life pension to the sailor who could bring Wright to the shores of France dead or alive. The merchants of Marseilles were particularly bitter against him, for he had captured many of their ships, and in the market-place (where all could see it) had been posted a placard, which ran:


To the person, or persons, who will capture and bring to France, the body of the arch-villain Captain Fortunatus Wright, shall be given


Frenchmen! Catch this Thief! Bring him in Dead or Alive! Do your Duty!

This sum is guaranteed by the Merchants and Ship-owners of Marseilles, and the Chamber of Commerce.”

Wright had heard of this, and it sent a grim look into his eyes. He also heard that a vessel was cruising outside the harbor in wait for him, and thus he was not surprised, as he saw a large boat upon his [Pg 190] port bow, when only a few hours’ sail from the snug harbor of Leghorn.

This vessel—a zebeque—had been waiting for the well-hated privateersman for several days, as her captain had been warned by the Italians that Wright was about to set sail. She had three masts, each carrying a huge, three-cornered sail, sixteen guns of considerable size, and several swivels. Her crew numbered two hundred and eighty men, well armed and eager for a brush with the famous Fortunatus, whose proverbial good fortune seemed now to have deserted him.

Rounding to, Wright signalled to his merchantmen to draw near and hurriedly transported some of the cannon, which he had smuggled, to his own vessel. He also added to his small crew, so that—when the zebeque came pounding down within shooting distance—he had increased his sailors from twenty-five to seventy-five, and his guns, from four to twelve.

“Now let the Frenchie come on!” he cried. “I’m half prepared, but I’ll give her a warmer welcome than she ever had in all her career!”

“Huzzah! Huzzah!” shouted his men, who were a motley collection of all nationalities: Italians, English, Portuguese, Dutch, Germans, and a few Arabs. “Huzzah! Huzzah! Wright forever!” The Arabs, of course, didn’t say this, but they tried to.

The French were very confident, and, as they came within range of the guns of the little Saint George they began to sing a hymn of victory, while their [Pg 191] captain already saw, in his hands, the rich reward offered by the good citizens of Marseilles.

“Poof!” he chuckled. “Monsieur Wright, he soon take dinnaire in my cabin. Poof!”

But Monsieur Wright was a different fellow than he imagined, and his men—although of all nationalities—were so animated by his stirring and martial spirit, that they fought better than they had ever fought in their lives before. You all know how necessary to success “Spirit” is in a foot-ball team, or a base-ball nine. The team which has the do-or-dare spirit, the never-give-up-until-the-last-gun-is-fired determination, is usually the team that wins. And the spirit of the captain is the controlling factor in any contest. If he be no desperate fighter, his followers will not be desperate fighters. If he is weak-kneed in a crisis, his followers will be weak-kneed.

So this motley crew, under Fortunatus Wright, cheered onward by the dauntless navigator, fought as they had never fought before. Arab and German strove as well as Englishman and Italian to battle strenuously beneath the eye of the famous privateersman. They had never been together before, but, animated by the presence of this fearless “cock-of-the-Mediterranean,” they now sailed into the Frenchman as if the zebeque were a vessel of equal strength and armament. Cheer after cheer welled into the air as the two antagonists drew near each other, while the puff of white smoke from the sides of the French vessel was followed by the chug! chug! of solid shot, [Pg 192] as it cut up the waves near the body of the staunch, little Saint George.

“It’s three to one against us, Boys!” shouted the battle-scarred Captain Wright. “Fire for the enemy’s rigging and bring down one of her masts, if you can. If you fight hard we can lick her!”

The screech of a shell cut his words short, for a piece of iron passed dangerously near his lips, striking a stout Italian in the neck, and rendering him useless for further conflict.

Around and around in a wide circle floated the two sea-warriors, for the wind was light and just drove them along at the rate of a snail’s pace. The rag-tag-and-bob-tail crew on the Saint George stood to their guns like veterans and poured in such a hot fire that the French captain speedily realized that his only chance for victory was to board and overwhelm the English by superior numbers.

“Bring the vessel up on her starboard side!” he commanded. “And get out the boarding-pikes! Now we’ll finish Captain Wright!”

The zebeque soon ranged alongside the battered Saint George, threw her grappling hooks into the rigging, and her men were in a hand-to-hand struggle with the motley crew who battled for the veteran Fortunatus. Slash! Slash! Crack! The cutlasses cut and parried, the pistols spat, and the boarding-pikes thrust and struck. Cheering wildly the Frenchmen attempted to climb upon the deck of the privateer, but the followers of old Wright fought like demons. They parried and thrust like fiends; and such was the [Pg 193] ferocity of their struggle that the boarders were repulsed with great slaughter.


“Thees Wright ees a very hornet for a fight!” sighed the French captain, as he ordered the grappling hooks cast off, and floated his vessel away.

Poom! Poom!

There was still some fight left in the little Saint George and her dauntless crew kept pounding iron at the sullen zebeque, which, shattered and torn, filled away and made for the open sea. Her captain had been struck by a piece of shell just as the battle closed; two lieutenants were killed, seventy men were wounded, and eighty-eight had been killed by the accurate shooting of the “Never-Say-Dies” under Captain Fortunatus Wright: the invincible. It had been a gallant battle, gallantly fought by both sides, and gallantly won.

Bold navigator Wright followed his crippled adversary for several miles, then—seeing another French gun-boat threatening his convoy—he returned to the merchant-ships which had accompanied him; sent them back into Leghorn harbor; and followed, next day, with the proud, but battered Saint George. It had been a glorious victory.

No sooner had the war-scarred Captain Wright let go his anchor chains in the harbor of Leghorn than he realized that he had only just begun to fight.

“Sapristi!” said an Italian official. “This pirate has deceived us! This fellow was allowed but four guns upon his ship and he had twelve. To the jail [Pg 194] with this dog! To the prison with this cut-throat! Sapristi!”

A boat soon rowed to the Saint George and an order was delivered to Captain Wright to the effect that he must bring his vessel into the inner harbor, and, if he did not obey, she would be brought in by Italian gun-boats. Wright—of course—refused. So two big Italian warships sailed up upon either side of the Saint George, ran out their guns, and cast anchor.

“I will not move for the entire Italian Government!” roared Captain Fortunatus. “I will appeal to the British consul for protection, as England is at war with France, not with Italy.”

Now was a pretty how-de-do. The Italians were furious with the stubborn privateersman for refusing to obey their orders, but, in truth, the way that he had deceived them in smuggling the extra cannon aboard—when under their own eyes—is what had roused their quick, Tuscan tempers. They thought that they had been sharp—well—here was a man who was even sharper than they, themselves. “Sapristi!” they cried. “To the jail weeth heem!”

There was a terrific war of words between the British consul and the officials of that snug, little town. Then, the problem was suddenly solved, for, two powerful, English men-of-war dropped into the harbor: the Jersey of sixty guns, and the Isis mounting fifty. The authorities of Leghorn were told that they had orders from the Admiral of the British, Mediterranean fleet, to convoy any English merchantmen [Pg 195] which might be there, and to release the Saint George immediately. Wright threw up his cap and cheered, but the officials of Leghorn said things which cannot be printed. Thus the Saint George sailed upon her way, unmolested, and was soon taking more prizes upon the broad waters of the Mediterranean.

The path of the privateer is not strewn with roses. Captain Fortunatus found that his reputation had gone abroad and it had not been to his credit, for, when he put in at Malta he was not allowed to buy provisions for his ship.

“You are a beastly pirate!” said an official. “You cannot purchase anything here for your nefarious business.”

“I am a privateer!” answered Wright, with anger.

“A privateer looks just the same to me as a pirate,” sarcastically sneered the official. And Captain Fortunatus had to look elsewhere for provisions.

As he cruised along, a big, French cruiser of thirty-eight guns chased the little Saint George as if to gobble her up alive.

“Boys! We shall now have some fun!” said Captain Wright. “I can sail faster than this Frenchy. Just watch me!”

So, when the great beast of a French vessel came lumbering by, Wright played with her like a cat with a mouse; sailed around her in circles; shot guns at her rigging—just to aggravate the men from the sunny land—and then dipped his ensign and went careening away as if nothing had happened. No wonder that the French hated and despised this valiant mariner! [Pg 196] Wouldn’t you have done so if you had been a Frenchman?

Thus Captain Fortunatus Wright continued upon his privateering, his fighting, and his cruising; bearing terror to his enemies but satisfaction to his friends. His name was as well known among those who sailed the Mediterranean as was that of the great Napoleon in later years, and it was just as cordially hated by those who opposed him. “The Ogre from Leghorn” was one of his titles, while some applied to him the choice epithet of “The Red Demon from Italy.” At any rate this did not seem to worry the veteran sea-dog, who continued to take prizes and make money until the year 1757. Then he disappears from history, for the body of brave, resolute, stubborn, and valiant Captain Fortunatus Wright mysteriously and suddenly vanished from this earth.

What was his end?

Perhaps he perished while boarding the deck of some craft which was manned by men as gallant as his own. Perhaps he fell while stemming the advance of a crew of wild Frenchmen, eager for his blood and remembering the many victories which he had won over their countrymen. Perhaps, in the wild, wind-tossed wastes of the Mediterranean, his vessel—unable to cope with the elements—was hurled upon some jagged rock and sunk in the sobbing waters of the frothing sea. Perhaps he was captured, hurried to some dark prison, and died in one of those many dungeons which disgrace the cities of the Italian coast. Perhaps he was hanged for privateering.

[Pg 197] At any rate, nothing is known of the last days of this dauntless navigator save what can be gathered from an old grave in St. Peter’s churchyard, in Liverpool.

Here is the tombstone of the father of Fortunatus Wright, an inscription upon which, tells us that he was a master-mariner of Liverpool; that he defended his ship—on one occasion—most gallantly against two vessels of superior force; and that he died, not by the stroke of a boarding-pike, but safely in his own home. To this is added the information that:

“Fortunatus Wright, his son, was always victorious, and humane to the vanquished. He was a constant terror to the enemies of his king and his country.” That is all.

[Pg 198]


There’s beauty in the deep:
The wave is bluer than the sky;
And though the lights shine bright on high,
More softly do the sea-gems glow
That sparkle in the depths below;
The rainbow tints are only made
When on the waters they are laid.
And sea and moon most sweetly shine
Upon the ocean’s level brine.
There’s beauty in the deep.
There’s quiet in the deep.
Above, let tide and tempest rave,
And earth-born whirlwinds wake the wave;
Above, let care and fear contend
With sin and sorrow to the end:
Here, far beneath the tainted foam
That frets above our peaceful home,
We dream in joy, and walk in love,
Nor know the rage that yells above.
There’s quiet in the deep.




[Pg 200]

“‘War is Hell,’ said General William T. Sherman. But,—better have war than bow to an inferior nation.”—Doctrines of the Strenuous Life.

[Pg 201]


“If Britain can but breed th’ men,
Who are like Walker made,
She’ll have no fear of danger,
When th’ foe starts to invade.
When th’ foe starts to invade, my boys,
An’ creep along th’ shore,
Where th’ curling breakers wash th’ cliffs,
Where th’ breeching combers roar.
Then, lift a glass to Walker,
Of Glorioso fame,
May we ne’er forget his deed lads,
May we ne’er forget his name.”

Chants from The Channel.—1769.

IT was the year 1739, and the good people of Charleston, South Carolina, were in a great state of agitation. Little knots of merchants, sailors, clerks, and dock-hands clustered about each other in the narrow streets. And, above the hub-bub of many voices, could be heard the solemn sentence, oft repeated:

“The pirate is off the narrows! The pirate will soon be here!”

Then all would gaze seaward with startled faces, and would murmur:

[Pg 202] “The pirate—the Spanish pirate will be here.”

As they thus stood irresolutely, a strongly-knit fellow came walking towards the dock-end. He was clad in gray; his face was deeply seamed by long exposure to the elements; and high top-boots of leather encased his lower limbs.

“What ho! Good citizens,” said he. “Do I understand that a Spaniard has frightened you all? Why, where’s your courage?”

“Courage?” answered a rotund-bodied merchant. “Of that we have a plenty. But we have no ship with which to combat this fellow—or fellows—for some of my skippers tell me that there are two of them off the coast, and that they’ve captured twenty trading vessels.”

The newcomer smiled.

“I’ve got a staunch craft here,” said he. “My name is Walker, and I hail from Bristol, England. My ship—the Duke William—mounts but twenty guns, and my crew is but of thirty-two, yet, I know that many of you gentlemen will volunteer your services, particularly if there is to be a nice little battle.”

“Hear! Hear!” came from all sides. “You’re the boy for us! You’re the chap we’ve been looking for! Hear! Hear!”

It did not take long to increase the crew of the Duke William. Several of the wealthy colonists volunteered their services; many sailors were there who had been fighting on the Spanish Main. They were eager and anxious to join. So, before three days were out, the Duke William spread her canvas for the open [Pg 203] sea, carrying one hundred men and an additional twenty guns. Now—you see—she could put up an excellent fight with the average pirate-ship which cruised about the low-lying and sandy coast.

Out into the broad expanse of the Atlantic glided the little barque and eagerly the mariners scanned the horizon for some signs of the pirate.

“She’s been hereabouts!” cried one stout seaman. “For several of my mess-mates saw her sails down near the channel islands. And her flag was surely black with th’ skull an’ cross-bones.”

“Must have heard that we were coming, then,” growled Captain Walker, “for there’s nothing in view.”

In an hour’s time he thought differently, for, “Sail ho!” sounded from the forward deck, and there, far off to leeward, was the outline of a long, blackish vessel, bearing no flag at her mizzen or stern.

Crowding on all canvas—for the breeze was light—the Duke William bore away towards her. “It must be the pirate!” said all, for, also crowding on all sail, the vessel headed up the coast, and did her utmost to get away.

On, on, went pursuer and pursued; on, on, and the Duke William began to draw dangerously close to the fleeing vessel, which now could be easily seen. She was a brigantine, carrying about eighteen guns, with a high stern and graceful lines. No flags waved from her mast-heads.

Suddenly the scudding sea-warrior pointed her nose in-shore, ran around the corner of a sandy island, and [Pg 204] bore away into a seemingly large lagoon upon the other side. The Duke William followed, and, as she rounded a jutting sand-spit, there before her lay a little schooner, on the deck of which were seen several sailors, waving and gesticulating frantically. Behind, and on the shore, was an earth-work, from which several cannon pointed their black muzzles. On a flag-pole in the centre, waved a Spanish flag, and, beneath it, a black ensign upon which was the skull-and-cross-bones.

“It’s the pirate stronghold!” cried several, at once. “We’re in for a tight skirmish!”

But Captain Walker only smiled.

The brigantine, which he had been following, now rounded-to, opened her port-holes, and fired a couple of shots toward the pursuing craft. At the same time an English flag was hoisted on the schooner, and a fellow on her deck sang out through a speaking trumpet.

“Thank Heaven you have come! We were only captured two days ago! Hurrah for the English flag!”

The Duke William kept on after the brigantine, her mixed crew yelling with joy, now that they were to have an action.

Bang! Bang!

Her two forward guns spoke, and a shot went ripping through one of the foresails of the pirate.

This was enough for the fighting spirit of those who sailed the Spanish Main. For, putting about, the brigantine scudded through a narrow channel, known [Pg 205] only to her skipper (for no one else could have followed without grounding upon a sand-spit), and was soon running away upon the opposite side of a low-lying island, now flaunting the pirate-flag from her halyards.

“She’s gone!” sadly remarked the gallant Captain Walker, “but we can capture the gun-battery. Make ready to go ashore, if needed!”

Steering for the coast, the guns of the Duke William opened upon the sandy barricade, and shot after shot was soon making the dirt and gravel fly in every direction:

Poom! Poom! Cu-poom!

The cannon in the earth-work next began to speak, and, it was apparent, from the strange noises which some of them made, that they were full of rust.

Cu-Poom! Cu-Pow! Chuck-chuck-cu-swash! they roared, and a few balls began to whistle about the spars of the Duke William.

There were some accurate marksmen upon the deck of the British vessel, and, as she lay broadside to the fortification, one well-aimed shot struck a cannon and dismounted it; while another shattered the flag-pole and brought down the flag with a crash.

“Hurrah!” shouted the men from Charleston. “Now we’ll even up with these cursed pirates for all the damage that they’ve done us. Now, we’ll teach them not to ravage our coasts and catch our merchant ships!”

Cu-whow! barked the rust-caked guns of the barricade. “Go-slow! Go-back! Go-home!

[Pg 206] To this a full broadside roared, and the balls tore the top of the earth-work to shreds.

“Now let thirty men take to the boats!” commanded Captain Walker. “Steer for the beach and rush the barricade with pistols and cutlasses. I don’t believe that there are more than a dozen men inside the earth-work.”

“Huzzah!” was the cheerful answer to this order, and, in a few moments, several boats were racing for the beach, each eager to be the first ashore.

As they approached, the antiquated guns on the sand-spit became strangely silent, and, as the eager raiders rushed valiantly upon the pirate fortress, no shots were fired at them to impede their progress. With a wild yell they leaped over the side of the barricade, only to find it deserted; for whatever had been the force that had fired these cannon, it had taken to the brush as the English seamen drew near. Only a few charges of ammunition were there, so it was plainly evident that the pirates (whatever their strength might have been) could only have held out for a few more rounds.

“Hurrah! Hurrah!” shouted the raiders. “The fort is ours!”

“And it’s a sorry victory,” said one of the crew, “for there’s nothing here worth the having, except the cannon, and they couldn’t stand more than two more shots without blowing up. I call it a pretty hollow success.”

In spite of this the men of Charleston were well pleased. They had dispersed the pirates; taken their [Pg 207] fort; and had re-captured a schooner which had recently been taken only a few miles from the harbor-mouth of that fair, southern city.

When they sailed into their home port they received a tremendous ovation. The bells were rung in all the churches; shots were fired; trumpets were blown.

“We could fall in with nothing that would stay for us upon the seas,” said Captain Walker, modestly; but, in spite of this, he was treated like a great hero. All the influential persons in the Colony offered to sign a request that he might be given the command of a king’s ship; but this he declined. So they tendered him an immense tract of land if he would remain in that country and drive off the pirates when next they became too bold and daring; but this he also declined, and stuck to his ship. In a few weeks he sailed for the Barbadoes, and then to England, in company with three unarmed trading-vessels which placed themselves under his convoy. The good people of Charleston bade him a sad and affectionate farewell.

George Walker sailed forth smiling, but he was now to have far more trouble than his little affair with the pirates.

When half way to England, a terrific gale struck the Duke William and her convoys, which separated them by many miles, and made this good vessel (which had dispersed the pirates) leak like a sieve. The gale continued in its violence, while Captain Walker was so ill that the ship’s surgeon despaired of his life. But note how grit and nerve pulled him through!

[Pg 208] On the second day of the tempest, a sailor rushed into his cabin, crying:

“Captain! Captain! We’ll founder, for the water is pouring into our bottom by the hogshead. We’re gone for unless we take to the boats!”

Captain Walker was not the man to leave his ship in such a crisis.

“Throw all of the guns overboard, but two!” he ordered. “We need those in order to signal for help if a vessel comes near us. That will lighten us so that we can still float awhile.”

This was done, but, as the last cannon shot into the waves, a sailor burst into his cabin with the intelligence that the men had prepared to desert in the tenders.

“Carry me on deck!” roared the resolute captain. “I’ll give these cowards a piece of my mind.”

Three sailors seized him and bore him aloft, where he remonstrated with his men in the strongest language possible. In spite of this, many clustered about one of the boats.

“The ship’s a-sinking,” cried one. “She won’t stand up for an hour.”

As he spoke, the welcome sound of, “Sail ho!” arose, above the wash and roar of the angry water.

Sure enough, a ship was bearing down upon them, but, to the dismay of all, she hastily hauled off again.

Captain Walker was astonished. “She thinks us an armed enemy,” said he. “Fire a gun, men, and cut the mizzen-mast in two, so that it falls overboard. That will show the stranger that we’re a friend in distress.”

[Pg 209] His orders were immediately obeyed and the mast came ripping and tearing over the side. A gun also roared, and the stranger, now convinced that the ship was a friend, and not a foe, came bearing down upon the crippled Duke William, to the rescue.

“She’s one of our own convoy!” shouted a seaman, waving his hand joyfully. And such she proved to be. Captain Walker had saved his crew by his foresight and quickness of decision. Had he thrown all of his cannon overboard he would have had no gun with which to hail the stranger, and, had he not cut away his own mast, she would have gone away, fearful that he was an enemy. Three cheers for the brave and thoughtful Captain Walker! He reached England, at last, but he and his men were in a sorry plight, for the vessel which had rescued them was almost as unseaworthy as their own, which sank in a great whirl of eddying foam, not half an hour after they had left her. Thus ended the career of the good ship which had chased all of the pirates away from the harbor of Charleston. A sad fate, indeed, for such a gallant craft.

Captain Walker was not long idle, for he soon took charge of a brigantine trading to the Baltic Sea, in spite of the fact that war had been declared with France, and the privateers and gun-boats of that nation hovered in his path, eager and anxious to secure some English merchant vessel, as a prize.

“I see that these fellows mean to catch me, if they can,” said the keen-witted mariner. “So I intend to be ready for them if I do not happen to be near an [Pg 210] English man-of-warsman when they come sailing by.”

He therefore shipped a number of wooden guns, which were painted black, so that, at a distance, they looked exactly like the real thing. Upon his vessel were only six cannon, so when—a short time afterwards—he was chased by a French privateer off the coast of Scotland—he had an excellent opportunity to “bluff” the bold marauder.

As the Frenchman drew near, the vessel which Captain Walker was on kept steadily upon her way, and, through his glass, the cautious mariner saw that his pursuer carried fully twenty guns.

“Run out our dummy cannon!” he ordered.

Out were thrust the black, wooden muzzles, twenty-five in number, and—as the Frenchman was now within shooting distance—the English boat was luffed into the wind. In a second the British jack, ensign, and man-of-war’s pendant were hoisted, and a gun was fired across the bow of the arrogant privateer.

“Come on!” shouted bold Walker. “I am waiting for you!”

But the enemy did not come on. Instead of this, she turned tail in a hurry, filled away, and made off as fast as a freshening breeze would drive her.

“Ha! Ha! Ha!” laughed the genial, English skipper. “Bluffed by a lot of wooden guns. Ha! Ha! Ha!”

And all of his sailors gave a rousing cheer.

This was indeed good fortune, but Captain Walker [Pg 211] was soon to meet with some fortune which was quite the reverse.

It was the year 1744 and the doughty sailor had accepted the command of the privateer Mars, of twenty-six guns and one hundred and thirty men, which sailed from London for a cruise in the English channel. With her was the Boscawen, another privateer with about the same number of guns, but with a crew of fully one hundred and eighty. They soon had an adventure which was not all to the liking of bold George Walker.

At midnight, late in December, the two privateers were running near the coast of France. There was a heavy mist and rain, also a fresh breeze, so the steersmen could not well see what way they were going. Suddenly the hulls of two large vessels loomed up in the blackness, and the twinkling lights from their port-holes shone upon the dripping sides of the British privateers. Voices came through the mist—French voices—so it was apparent that the ships were not friends.

“Those fellows are showing much alarm,” said Captain Walker, a few moments later. “I therefore believe that the vessels are full of treasure. We’ll hang on until daylight, at any rate, and see whether or no we cannot capture a rich cargo.”

Next morning, at eight o’clock, the fog suddenly lifted, disclosing—not two treasure ships—but two French men-of-war; one bearing seventy-four guns, the other sixty-four.

“Egad!” ejaculated the startled Walker. “We’re [Pg 212] in a hornet’s nest! I guess we’d better run for it!”

The Frenchmen, however, were both treasure-ships, as well as men-of-war; both bound from the West Indies, with cargoes worth about four millions sterling ($20,000,000), which they were carrying into the harbor of Brest. They were not in good fighting trim, as their heavy cargoes made them low in the water, and very unwieldy. It is probable that they would not have attacked the two Englishmen, had not the captain of the Boscawen turned tail and fled, leaving the Mars all alone.

“Did you ever see such a coward?” cried Captain Walker, with heat. “Boys! We’re in for it now!”

Sure enough, they were: for the Frenchmen saw that only one enemy was left, and immediately sent the sixty-four gun ship—the Fleuron—in pursuit.

Walker turned his vessel about and clapped on all sail, but the large gun-boat quickly overhauled him.

“Gentlemen!” said Captain Walker, as she rapidly approached. “I do not mean to be so rash as to attempt a regular engagement with so superior a force; all I ask of you is to confide in me and my orders, to get away—if possible—without striking our flag; and, be assured, I shall not call upon you to fight unless there is excellent opportunity for success. The ship which pursues us is certainly the better sailer of the two French men-of-war; yet, if we have good fortune with our shots, we may bring down a topmast or yard; or hurt her rigging so as to retard her [Pg 213] pursuit. We may yet get entirely clear. So, my hearties, do not lose your nerve!”

These wise remarks were greeted with a “Hip! Hip! Hooray!”

Now was a lively chase. The Mars hoisted the English flag, opened with her stern guns, and put on all available canvas. But she was not a fast sailer, and gradually but surely, the Fleuron crept up on one side, and the other French man-of-war upon the other. She, too, had entered the chase.

Finally the French vessels had the British privateer directly between them.

“The jig is up!” cried Captain Walker, sadly. “Gentlemen, we do not strike to one ship only. Haul down the colors!”

Down came the proud ensign, the sails were lowered, and the gallant Walker entered a boat, in order that he might be put aboard the Fleuron and give up his sword. When he arrived on the deck he found the French captain by no means in the politest of humors.

After receiving the weapon of the vanquished privateersman, the Frenchman thundered in very good English:

“How dare you fire against a force like mine in so small a ship? Sirrah, you must be stark mad. I compliment you upon your lack of judgment.”

Captain Walker was nettled.

“Sir,” he replied, with warmth, “if you will look at my commission you will find that I had as good a right to fight as you, yourself, had. Furthermore, if my force had not been so inferior to yours, I would [Pg 214] have shown you more civil treatment on board my own ship, after I had captured you.”

The Frenchman winced.

“How many of your bushwhackers have I killed?” said he.

“None at all, sir!” replied the Englishman.

“Then, sir, you should be well ashamed of your scurvy fighting. For you have killed six of my brave men and have wounded several with pieces of glass. Pray, when, sir, did the rules of war allow glass to be used as ammunition?”

“You lie,” cried Captain Walker. “No glass was used by my men.”

The Frenchman curbed his anger.

“Then what was it?” said he.

Here a British seaman interrupted.

“If it would please your French Majesty,” he said, with a bow, “I reckon I know what it was that you took for glass. The captain of one of our stern guns, when he found out that we must surrender, sir, took about sixteen shillings from his pocket, saying: ‘Sooner than let these French rascals plunder me of all I’ve got in the world, I’ll see what a bribe can do!’ So he wrapped the money up in a bag, sir, crammed it into a gun, and let fly at your deck. Faith, your men were lucky to be struck by good, British coin!”

At this all had a good laugh, and the unpleasantness between the French captain and George Walker was at an end. The privateersman was treated with the greatest courtesy and was made as comfortable as could be.

[Pg 215] The action took place on Friday and the ships were headed for Brest, about three days’ sail away. At daybreak on Sunday morning, four large boats were sighted astern, and it did not take long to realize that they were coming up pretty fast and were flying the English colors.

“Hurray!” shouted Captain Walker. “No French prison for me. Hurray!”

The English squadron gained steadily. The boats grew nearer and nearer, while Walker’s hopes soared higher and higher. Finally, the French officer, who was in charge of his own boat—the Mars—put his helm up and ran to leeward, hoping to draw one of the British vessels after him. He was successful, for a seventy-gun ship made after him, chased him for several miles, and finally re-captured the English privateer. The other ships kept on and drew closer and closer.

Seeing that an action would soon take place, the French captain politely requested Walker and his officers to go below.

“Messieurs!” said he. “There will soon be a leetle affair in which the balls will fly. You will be better off in the hold, where they cannot reach you so easily as up here.”

“Sir!” replied the English privateer-captain. “I go below with the greatest of pleasure, for I am now certain of my liberty. Au revoir!”

“Do not count your chickens before they hatch!” cried the Frenchman, after his retreating form.

The British vessels were the Hampton Court of [Pg 216] seventy guns, and the Sunderland and Dreadnought of sixty each; so, being three to two, they should have had a fairly easy victory over the Frenchmen. But the Sunderland lost a spar overboard, and dropped astern; so it left but two to two: an even affair.

Alas for gallant Captain Walker! Although the Englishmen came near the two French men-of-war, they hung about without firing a shot; allowed the Frenchmen to sail on unmolested, and thus carry their astonishingly rich treasure into Brest, amid wild and enthusiastic cheering of their crews, and groans of disappointment from the English prisoners.

Yet these same prisoners had little cause to complain of their treatment when they arrived at Brest; for they were landed at once, and the captain and officers were liberated on parole. The French also treated them very well and invited the valorous George Walker to many a repast, where they laughed at the narrow shave that he had had from death,—for they had left the Fleuron none too soon.

On the day following the landing, Captain Walker was seated in the office of a counting-house, near the dock-end, and was writing a letter to the captain of the Fleuron, requesting him to send him his letter-of-credit, which was in a tin box in a cabin of the French man-of-war, when a terrible Boom! sounded upon his ears.

A sailor came running past the open window.

“The Fleuron has blown up!” he cried. “The Fleuron is a total loss!”

Captain Walker dashed into the street; to the end [Pg 217] of the quay; and there a sad spectacle greeted his eager gaze. Strewn about upon the surface of the water were broken spars; pieces of sail; and the débris of a once gallant man-of-war. The remnants of the Fleuron were burning brightly.

The captain of the French ship came running by. “Helas!” he wailed. “A careless gunner has destroyed my gallant vessel. Helas! Helas!”

It was too true. Four or five powder barrels had been left in the magazine for saluting purposes, and quite a little loose powder had been allowed to lie upon the floor. Some careless seamen had gone down into the hold with a decrepit, old lantern. The handle broke, the flame set fire to the loose powder,—and that was the end of the gallant ship Fleuron. She burned to the water’s edge and then went down to the bottom with a dull, sizzling hiss; while the treasure also disappeared. Later on, divers secured a part of it, but much that was of value was never recovered.

Captain Walker did not long grieve over the loss of his letter-of-credit, left on board the ill-starred Fleuron, for he was exchanged, after a few weeks, and was sent back to England with his crew. This was in 1745. He lost no time in reporting to the owners of the Mars, and so well did they think of him, that in a short while they sent him upon another privateering venture aboard the Boscawen, which, as you remember, had run away from the Mars, after she had fallen in with the two French men-of-war. Now occurred his greatest sea-fight.

The Boscawen had been built in France and had [Pg 218] been a prize, taken at sea. She mounted twenty-eight guns (nine-pounders), but Walker added two more, and shipped a crew of three hundred and fourteen men. Without waiting for the Mars, the stout sea-dog put out to sea on April 19th, 1745, steering for the shores of France where cruised the prize-laden clipper ships, and the unwelcome men-of-warsmen. The British privateersman cruised about for a whole month without any luck, and, falling in with the privateer Sheerness, joined with her in a little run in search of inoffensive merchantmen. At daybreak a cry came from the forward watch,—

“Sails ho! Sails ho! Off the starboard quarter! There’re eight o’ them an’ heading no’ east.”

Both the privateers started in pursuit, but the Sheerness was left far astern, as the Boscawen was a speedy sailer. The latter drew near the eight scudding sail, which suddenly veered about and formed a line, awaiting an attack. The Sheerness was way astern. Would Captain Walker advance?

It was eight against one, and there was no certainty what was the armament of the vessels now standing in a row, all ready for action. The faces of the officers on the Boscawen showed anxiety and suspense, but there was no shadow of fear upon the countenance of Captain Walker, who now addressed them in the following words:

“Gentlemen, I hope that you do not think the number of prizes before us too many. Be assured, my good friends, that by their being armed, they have something on board of them that is worth defending. [Pg 219] I take them to be merchantmen with letters of marque (privateers), and homeward bound. Without doubt we shall meet with some opposition, in which I know that you will exhibit your usual courage. We must conquer these superior numbers by superior skill. Be cool. Be careful that you aim correctly, for, as we shall be pressed on all sides, let every man do his best to engage the enemy that he sees before him.

“In a word, Gentlemen, if you will put full confidence in me for leading you on, I will pawn my life upon the fact that I will bring you off victorious.”

“Hurray! Hurray for Walker!” came the reassuring response.

“Then go to your quarters, my hearties! Fight like Britishers of old, and all will be well!” cried the brave mariner.

Like a hornet among a group of snap-dragons, the Boscawen now sailed into the centre of the enemy’s line.

“Do not fire until I give the word!” cried Captain Walker, as the salt spray kicked and splashed about the bow of the on-coming Boscawen. “Then hammer away like anvils on a sledge!”

Sixty men were ill on board the stout little English privateer, but all save three crawled on deck in order to render what assistance they could in pointing and handling the guns.

Now was a glorious fight.

Bang! Crash! Z-i-i-p!

The French privateers were hammering away as the Englishman approached and their balls cut and tore [Pg 220] through the rigging, damaging the mizzen topsail, and splitting a topmast. Steering straight for the largest vessel, Walker waited until he was within close range and then gave the order:

“Fire, and hull her if you can.”

Poof! Cr-a-a-sh!

A blinding broadside rolled from the port of the Boscawen, and the solid shot bit and tore the stranger like a terrier mouthing a rat.

The valiant little privateer was now in the midst of the enemy. Two were to right of her; two to the left of her; one across her bow; and one across her stern. Two of the eight decamped, at this juncture; making the odds six, instead of eight, to one.

Pow! Pow! Cu-boom!

The vessel astern was banging away like a Banshee, but a sudden crash from the stern guns so badly damaged her that she hauled off. It was now five to one.

“Keep it up, boys!” cried Walker, above the roar and rattle of the fray. “You’re doing splendidly. You all deserve statues in the temple of fame.”

“Huzzah!” shouted his men. “Hurray for the Boscawen. Down with the Frenchmen!”

Cu-pow! Boom! Boom!” roared the cannon, while the broadsides from the Boscawen were delivered without either confusion or disorder. The five were sparring gamely, but they were lightly armed, with only a few guns to each, so the thirty nine-pounders on board the English privateer were about an equal match for the greater numbers of the foe.

Thus the fight raged for an hour, when, suddenly, [Pg 221] the ensign upon the mast of the French flagship was seen to flutter to the deck. Ten minutes later a cry arose from a sailor aboard the Boscawen:

“Look, Captain, she’s sinking!”

Sure enough, the accurate fire from the British privateer had so riddled the hull of the Frenchman, that she fast filled with water, and sank, stern first, her men escaping in their small boats.

“That’s one less, anyway,” mused Captain Walker.

The remaining four continued the fight, but the little privateer was too much for them. Around and around she veered, broadsiding with astonishing accuracy, and knocking the spars about like a foot-ball team kicking a ball. “Pow! Pow!” the guns roared, and the men cried, “Remember the oath of our captain! Let’s take ’em all!”

It began to look as if they would do it, too; for, now upon the starboard quarter appeared the white sails of a vessel, and, as she approached, a joyous cheer arose from the deck of the Boscawen, for it was the Sheerness.

“Now we’ll get ’em! Now we’ll get ’em!” yelled the British sailors, and they plied their guns with renewed activity and care.

Down came the flag upon one of the Frenchmen, and—in a few moments—down came another. Then, as the Sheerness rolled closer, two more ensigns fluttered to the deck. There was but one Frenchman left, and she made off, with the newcomer hot in pursuit.

“Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!” The sailors on [Pg 222] board the Boscawen were fairly jumping for joy. “Hurray! Hurray! Hurray!” they yelled.

And well might they cheer, for had they not won one of the pluckiest sea-fights of all history? The enemy is said to have had one hundred and thirteen killed and drowned, while the casualties of the Boscawen amounted to but one killed and seven wounded. “And this,” says an old chronicler of the spirited affair, “was due to the fact that the British privateer had a bulwark of elm-planking, man-high, around her deck. It was so fashioned that there was a step on which the marines could mount and fire, and then come down in order to load. Furthermore, this elm-wood did not splinter; but kept out the bullets, and closed up around the holes made by shot.”

At any rate, it was a glorious victory, and when—a few hours later—the Sheerness came back with the other French vessel a prize, the total capture amounted to six vessels: homeward bound traders from Martinique, provided with letters of marque, and with about six guns each. Their crews were undoubtedly undisciplined and ill-used to shooting, else how could they have done so badly with the Boscawen?

The prizes were headed for the English coast and arrived at King’s Road, Bristol, in a few days, where a swarm of eager sight-seers crowded about the shattered craft.

“My! My!” said many. “This Walker is another Drake. He is a valiant soul!”

And so thought the British Admiralty, for they sent him a letter (upon his reporting to them) which read:

[Pg 223] “We cannot too highly congratulate and commend you upon the seamanship and courage which you have displayed in the capture of these French vessels. Your daring and ability should always make your name one to be revered by those Britishers who follow the sea. May your future career upon the ocean but add to the laurels which you have already won!”

And were they not right?

Seldom has such a feat been accomplished, and seldom has one vessel come off victorious against such odds. If you love a game warrior, cheer for George Walker, for he deserves it. If you are an admirer of the fighting quality in a man, give three times three for the privateersman who had the nerve to sail into eight vessels,—and won out.

So much, indeed, did the British owners of the privateer vessels think of Captain Walker, that he was now placed in command of four ships, known as “The Royal Family of Privateers,” for each was named after some member of the English royal family. These were the Princess Amelia, of twenty-four guns and one hundred and fifty men: the Prince Frederick of twenty-six guns and two hundred and sixty men: the Duke of twenty guns and two hundred and sixty men; and the King George, of thirty-two guns and three hundred men. This last boat was commanded by Walker, himself; the Duke by Edward Dottin, a staunch sailor; the Prince Frederick by Hugh Bromedge; and the Princess Amelia by Robert Denham. The entire squadron carried nearly a thousand men and one hundred and two guns, so, you see, that [Pg 224] it could do quite a little damage to the enemies of Merrie England.

Sailing in May, 1746, the squadron soon met with hard luck, for the Prince Frederick ran upon a rock in Bristol Channel, and had to be left behind; for she was badly punctured below the water-line. The three others sailed for the coast of France, and—a week later—had a startling little adventure.

A heavy fog lay over the sobbing water, and the three English sea-robbers were gliding along within easy gun-shot of each other, when it was evident that they were near some other vessels. Voices came out of the mist, lights flashed (for it was near the close of day), and the wash of water could be heard, as the waves beat against solid oak planking.

“Egad!” whispered Captain Walker to one of his lieutenants. “Listen, my boy, and tell me whether these voices are French, Spanish, or English.”

The lieutenant held a speaking-trumpet to his ear.

The swish, swish of water came to the eager senses of the anxious privateersman. That was all!

Captain Walker passed the word around among his men to be absolutely silent, and, as he strained his hearing, in order to catch the faintest sound from the strangers, suddenly he heard the sentence,

“Pressy! Chantez une chanson. Je vais me coucher.” (Sing a song, Pressy. I am going to bed.)

In a second the gallant Walker knew that, as once before, he was in the midst of some French vessels.

[Pg 225] “Caught!” he whispered. “And I believe that they’re men-of-warsmen! Now we’re in a pretty pickle!”

His officers scowled.

“I know that they’re men-o’-warsmen,” said one, “for, just now, the fog lifted for a second, and I could make out—by their lights—that they were large gun-ships.”

Captain Walker looked dejected.

“The deuce,” said he.

But he soon regained his composure.

“Put every light out on board,” he ordered. “These fellows see us, for I hear them bearing over our way.”

Sure enough, from the swashing of water and glimmer of lights in the fog, it could be seen that the great lumbering men-of-war were closing in upon the privateer. But the Frenchmen had a human eel to capture and he was equal to the occasion.

“Bring up a couple of casks from below!” cried Captain Walker. They were soon on deck.

“Now put a lantern in one and lash them together,” he continued. “We’ll alter our course and skip, while the Frenchies will follow this light.”

The ruse worked magnificently, and, when morning dawned and the bright sun burned off the fog, the French men-of-war found themselves hovering around a couple of old casks with a lantern tied to the top; while Captain Walker in the King George was scudding along the French coast, many miles away. At which the French captain remarked,

[Pg 226] “Sapristi! L’oiseau s’est envolé.” (Egad! The bird has flown!)

Not long after this “The Royal Family of Privateers” took some valuable prizes, and, having chased a small, French merchantman into the bay of Safia, in Morocco, Captain Walker determined to capture her at night, by sending a party against her in the long-boats. A second lieutenant was put in charge of this venture, and, at dark three tenders, crowded with armed seamen and propelled by muffled oars, started after the prize. As they neared the merchantman a hail came through the blackness:

“Qui est la?” (Who is there?)

No answer was made to this, but the boats kept straight on.

Crash! Bang!

A gun roared in the faces of the privateers, and shots came falling around them like hail-stones,—but still they kept on.

Again Crash! Crash! Crash!

The Frenchmen were plying their guns right willingly, but the English sailors could not be stopped, and they neared the vessel under vigorous sweeps of the oars. The lieutenant in command was badly wounded, and was forced to lie in the bottom of his boat, but—in a few moments—the tenders were alongside the merchantman, and the sailors, with a wild yell, were clambering to her deck. There was a fierce hand-to-hand struggle, but nothing would gainsay the rush of the British tars. In twenty minutes the fight was all over and the vessel was towed out of [Pg 227] the bay, in triumph, next morning. As she was a smart, little craft she was turned into a privateer in place of the Prince Frederick (which had run aground) and was christened the Prince George.

The “Royal Family” continued upon its way, made many captures, and—after eight months—put into the harbor of Lisbon with prizes and prize-money amounting to £220,000 (about $1,100,000). So you can see that privateering was a very lucrative trade in those days, when successfully pursued. Not a single man had been killed aboard the little fleet, but many had been severely wounded. The ships were overhauled, refitted, and, being joined by the Prince Frederick, amounted to six in number, for the vessel captured in the harbor of Safia had been converted into a full-fledged privateer. Now was to be one of the most gruelling sea-fights in which George Walker ever engaged.

In the month of October the squadron was cruising off of Lagos Bay, on the coast of Portugal, when a large sail was sighted at about five in the morning. The Princess Amelia was at anchor in the harbor of Lagos, so Captain Walker sent a small sloop (a recent capture) after her to tell her to “Hurry up and get under way,” while he gave signal to the other vessels to chase the stranger at once. All started after the foreigner, who stood to the northward and could be seen to be crowding on all possible canvas. There were four ships in this merry little chase, but two of them—the Duke and the Prince George—dropped out, after about an hour’s run. They either could not [Pg 228] get up, or else their captains grew tired of the affair.

On, on, went the other privateers, and—at about noon—Walker drew near the fugitive, in the King George. The Prince Frederick, with her twenty-six guns, was still some distance away, but Walker kept after the stranger, although he now saw that she was a large vessel,—much more powerful than the King George, with her thirty-two guns and three hundred men. He was rapidly nearing the big fellow, when it grew suddenly calm, so that neither could move.

At this moment an ejaculation of astonishment burst from the lips of some of the officers aboard the saucy King George.

“She’s a seventy-four!” cried several. “We’re in a tight hole!”

Sure enough, the pursued hoisted her colors, ran out her guns, and showed herself to be a man-of-warsman carrying seventy-four cannon: over double the amount of armament aboard the plucky King George.

“I can’t make out whether she’s Spanish or Portuguese,” said Captain Walker, gazing carefully at her drooping flag.

The colors hung down in the dead calm, and it was impossible to tell whether they were Spanish or Portuguese; for the two ensigns—at that period—were very similar.

The sea-warriors drifted along, eyeing each other, for about an hour, when the stranger ran in her lower deck-guns and closed her port-holes.

[Pg 229] “She’s a treasure ship,” cried a sailor. “And she won’t fight if she can avoid it!”

Walker turned to his officers and asked,

“Gentlemen, shall we fight her?”

“Aye! Aye!” came from all. “She’s afraid of us!”

The vessel, in fact, was a treasure ship which had been recently chased by some English men-of-war and had already landed her treasure, to the value of about one million sterling (about $5,000,000). A slight breeze sprang up, at about five in the afternoon, and the big ship kept on her course; the gamey King George following, while the white sails of the Prince Frederick were far astern, as the breeze had not yet struck her. So they swashed along, the Englishmen anxious for a fight, and a chance to overhaul the supposed treasure which the stranger was carrying. At eight o’clock the King George was struck by a favorable puff of wind, and came quite close to the seventy-four. It was time for battle.

“What ship is that?” hailed Captain Walker, in the Portuguese tongue. He was cleared for action and his men were all lying down at their quarters. There was no answer to his challenge.

“What ship is that?” he asked again; this time in English.

A voice came back,—also in English,

“And what ship may you be?”

“The King George.”

Crash! B-oo-m!

A thundering broadside belched from the side of [Pg 230] the seventy-four, dismounting two guns on the port side of the King George, and bringing the main topsail yard crashing to the deck. It was now bright moonlight, and in its radiance the flag of the stranger was seen to blow straight out, disclosing her nationality to be Spanish. She was the Glorioso: a strong and powerful vessel, ably officered and ably manned. She towered above the little King George like a church-spire, and her broadsides now sputtered with great regularity.

Crash! Crash! Crash!

The sprightly little King George kept after the big warship like a sword-fish chasing a whale. She drew so close that some burning wads from the Spanish guns set fire to her mainsail. Continually hoping that the Prince Frederick would come up, the gallant Walker hammered away at the Glorioso with furious precision, and drove her so near the rocks off Cape Vincent that the castle guns began to play upon the two grappling warriors of the sea. The British sea-captain fought and commanded with “a calmness peculiar to himself” and his example secured order and discipline even in the thickest of the fight, when the mainsail was set on fire. He was magnificent in action.

So the unequal struggle kept on. By half-past ten the King George had been so severely damaged aloft that she could not have escaped if she had tried. All the braces were shot away; the foremast was quite disabled; and the mainmast was badly splintered. Battered, torn, and distressed she kept banging away [Pg 231] at the great, towering Spaniard; while the big fellow ceased her fire somewhat, and ever now and again let go a broadside, like the blow from the mouth of a huge whale. It sounded like, Chu-spow!


But hurrah! hurrah! The Prince Frederick had at last caught the breeze, and came bouncing by, her little pennons fluttering like so many silk stockings on a clothes-line.

“Are you all well?” shouted her commander, as he neared the splintered King George. “You look as if you’re sinking.”

Captain Walker came to the rail with the speaking-trumpet in his hand.

“One killed and fifteen wounded,” he answered. “Now sail after that Spanish villain and take her, in revenge for all the damage that she has done me. She’s a treasure ship.”

“All right,” Captain Dottin called back, and he kept on after the Glorioso, which was now rapidly drawing away.

By the bright moonlight it could be seen that the Duke and the Prince George were also approaching. And, when they came close enough to the maimed and battered King George, her captain called to them, “to keep on after the Spaniard, and catch the rascal.” They continued on their way, and, at daybreak the three vessels could be seen, through the glass, as they closed in upon the Spanish game-cock from three sides. “She’ll be ours before nightfall,” said Captain Walker, chuckling.

The headmost ship, apparently the Duke under [Pg 232] Captain Dottin, could now be seen to hotly engage the Glorioso, which greatly displeased the captain of the dismantled King George.

“Dottin will fire away all of his cartridges,” said he, turning to a few of his officers, who clustered around him. “He will shoot them all off at too great a distance, and will afterwards be obliged to load with loose powder, by which some fatal accident is sure to occur. He’s a brave fellow, but a rash one!”

He had scarcely spoken, when a broadside rang out. Simultaneously, with the discharge of the guns, a pillar of smoke and flame shot high into the air.

“Good Heavens, the Duke has blown up!” cried Captain Walker. “Dottin and his brave followers have found a watery grave!”

“It is merely the smoke of a broadside,” one of the officers interrupted.

“No! No!” answered Walker, dejectedly. “It’s the last that will ever be seen of noble Dottin and his men!”

The smoke now cleared away and no ship was to be seen upon the surface of the water. The Glorioso was still-belching both smoke and flame, and near her were three sails, indistinctly seen through a haze of smoke and fog. Could it not have been the Duke, after all? “Vain thought,” cried bold Walker, aloud. “Our bravest and best ship has gone to the bottom.”

This terrible incident had such an effect upon the seamen of the King George that Captain Walker called the officers aside into the companionway, and there made them a speech.

[Pg 233] “My brave men,” said he, “you must keep up an air of cheerfulness before these fellows of ours, for, otherwise they will be backward in fighting, and will not have the courage which we desire. Go among them and show no sign that you are lacking in pleasantry.”

As he ceased speaking there was a series of sudden explosions, mingled with cries of alarm.

“Gad zooks! What’s happened!” cried all, rushing to the deck.

They found matters in a sorry state, for the crew was in a panic; some clinging outside the ship; some climbing out upon the bowsprit, all ready to jump overboard should the vessel blow up.

Captain Walker was astonished. “Why, men!” said he. “What means this confusion?”

It was easily explained, for the alarm had been caused by a seaman who stepped upon a number of loaded muskets, which had been covered by a sail. One was fired off accidentally, and this exploded some spare ammunition, set the sail on fire, and completely demoralized the crew; who still were thinking of the sad tragedy which they had just witnessed. Order was quickly restored, the blazing sail was torn down and bucketed, and the terrified sailors came back to their posts. When men have their nerves shattered, it is easy to startle them.

But how about the Glorioso?

The fair-fighting Spaniard was far out of sight, by now, still whanging away at her many enemies, and still proudly flaunting the flag of Arragon in the faces [Pg 234] of the British war-dogs, who were snapping and snarling at her like a wolf pack. What became of her was not known for several days, when the poor, battered King George staggered into a sheltering harbor, there to meet with the Duke herself, which was Dottin’s good ship,—the one which all had thought to have exploded and sunk.

“Hurray!” shouted many. “She’s afloat after all!”

Eager questioning brought out the fact that it had been the frigate Dartmouth which had exploded; a vessel which had run near the fight in order to see the fun. Some loose powder had set fire to her magazine, and thus she had suffered the same fate as the Fleuron, which, as you remember, had blown up, when at anchor in the harbor of Brest. It’s a wise ship that keeps away from a sea battle.

Only seventeen of the crew of this unfortunate craft had been picked up by the boats of the Prince Frederick; one of whom was an Irish lieutenant named O’Brien, who was hauled aboard Dottin’s vessel, clad only in a night shirt.

“Sirrah!” said he, bowing politely. “You must excuse the unfitness of my dress to come aboard a strange ship, but really I left my own in such a hurry that I had no time to stay for a change.” He had been blown out of a port-hole!

An additional vessel, the Russel, had aided in the capture of the powerful Glorioso, so it had taken four privateers to down the proud Castilian: the Duke, the Prince George, the Prince Frederick, and the Russel. [Pg 235] Certainly she had put up a magnificent battle and she had completely crippled the stout little craft sailed by Captain Walker, who was now filled with chagrin and mortification, when he found that the treasure (which he had been sure was in the hold) had been safely landed at Ferrol, before he had sighted this valorous man-of-warsman. It was a great blow both to him and to his men, and, upon arriving at Lisbon he was met by one of the owners of his own vessel, who severely reprimanded him for fighting with such a powerful boat.

“Captain Walker,” said he, “I fear that your fighting blood is superior to your prudence!”

But to this, the game old sea-dog replied, with considerable heat:

“Had the treasure been aboard the Glorioso, as I expected, my dear sir, your compliment would have been far different. Or had we let her escape from us with the treasure aboard, what would you have said then?”

To these sage reflections the owner did not reply.

The honesty and courage of this able seaman were never questioned, and the following incident bears good witness to the first quality. Upon one occasion he was sailing for Lisbon in a well-armed privateer, when a couple of East India trading ships offered him £1,000 ($5,000) if he would act as their guard and protect them from the enemy.

“Gentlemen,” said he to the captain of these vessels, “I shall never take a reward for what I consider it my duty to do without one. I consider it my bounden [Pg 236] duty to conduct you both safely into port, for you are both British ships, and I am engaged to fight the enemies of our King.”

So he convoyed them safely into port and would not take even the smallest present, in recompense for his services.

As a fighter he had no superior. War is simply glorified sport and those who are best trained athletically can usually win upon the battle-field. Did not Wellington say, “The battle of Waterloo was won upon the foot-ball grounds of Eton and Harrow?” Which was another way of saying that the boys who had learned to stand punishment upon the athletic field, could take it manfully and well upon the field of battle.

Walker believed in athletic exercise and made his sailors continually practice both gunnery and work with the cutlass. They were always in training and always prepared. That is the reason why they won. As you know, if you want to win in athletics you have to train hard and practice daily. If you want to win at warfare you have to do likewise. The most athletic nation is the nation which will win in the long fight, providing that it has sufficient resources and money to carry out a war, once that it has placed its men in the field. It takes a great deal of money to fight a war, but it takes trained men also, and those who are the most fit will win every time.

The English are an athletic nation, an island nation, and great numbers of her people have had to follow the sea as a matter of course. Hence England [Pg 237] has always had a vast quantity of well-trained seamen at her beck and call. For this reason she has been more successful upon the ocean than many of her neighbors. Will she continue to be?

If she continues to breed men like George Walker there is little reason to doubt that she will always be a winner in sea fighting.

As for this famous mariner, little is known of his later life save that he was once imprisoned for debt, but this was no disgrace in those times and I am sure that he was soon liberated. He died September 20th, 1777, but where he was buried is not known, nor is there any record of his marriage. At any rate he has left the reputation of a brave and valiant seaman who was beloved by his men, feared by his enemies, and appreciated by his contemporaries.

“Britannia’s glory first from ships arose;
To shipping still her power and wealth she owes.
Let each experienced Briton then impart,
His naval skill to perfect naval art.”

[Pg 238]


Their silvered swords are red with rust,
Their pluméd heads are bowed;
Their haughty banner, trailed in dust,
Is now their martial shroud.
And plenteous funeral tears have washed
The red stains from each brow,
And the proud forms, by battle gashed,
Are free from anguish now.
Yon marble minstrel’s voiceless stone
In deathless song shall tell,
When many a vanished age hath flown,
The story how ye fell:
Nor wreck, nor change, nor winter’s blight,
Nor Time’s remorseless gloom,
Shall dim one ray of glory’s light
That gilds your deathless tomb.

From “The Army and Navy of the United States.”





[Pg 240]

“Every generation has its own war. To forget the disagreeable is a characteristic of the human mind.”—The Philosopher.

[Pg 241]


“Why! Shiver my bones! It’s John Paul Jones!
Johnny the Pirate! Johnny should swing!
Johnny who hails from Old Scotlant y’ know,
Johnny who’s tryin’ to fight our good King.
Shiver my Timbers! We’ll catch the old fox!
Clew up those top-sails! Ware o’ th’ shoals!
Fire ’cross his bow-lines! Steer for th’ rocks!
Ease away on the jib-boom; shoot as she rolls!
“Oh! Johnny, my Johnny, you’re slick as can be,
But, Johnny, My John, you’ll be nipped present-ly.”

Song of the English Privateers.—1794.

A FRENCH frigate lay in the silvery water off Norfolk, Virginia, and, as she swung quietly upon her anchor chains, a small sloop came bobbing alongside. A hail arose from her stern, where sat a man of about twenty-eight years; of medium stature, strongly built and swarthy. He was dressed in the gray clothing of a Virginian planter.

“Hallo,” he shouted in very good French. “May I come aboard?”

Certainement! Certainement!” cried a French officer, as he neared the rail. “Welcome, Monsieur Jones!”

[Pg 242] And, as the Virginian farmer scrambled upon the deck, he was greeted most effusively by a handsome nobleman. It was Louis Philippe Joseph, Duke de Chartres; known as “the Sailor Prince of France.” The Virginian was John Paul Jones, of “Whitehaven” upon the river Rappahannock.

“I bring you delicacies of the season from my garden,” said the planter, smiling. “Some for you, and some for the commander—the Commodore de Kersaint. I trust that you will accept them, with my kindest regards. Meanwhile, I beg that you will give me leave to inspect your vessel and obtain information in regard to her plan, construction of the hull, arrangement of the batteries, her spars, her rig and other technical particulars. For, know you, Gentlemen, that war has just commenced between Great Britain and her Colonies and the newly-formed Marine Department of the Government will require a knowledge of ships and their construction. Partly for this I have visited you.”

Kersaint’s face grew sober.

“Monsieur Jones,” said he, “I have just heard the news from Lexington and I am the senior officer upon this coast. France is at peace with England. The situation for me is a delicate one. I must refuse to allow you to sketch any plans of my vessel.”

But the young Duke de Chartres looked upon the matter in a different light.

“You shall have all the assistance from me that you wish,” he cried. “I do not fear the displeasure of England.”

[Pg 243] So the Virginian planter was allowed to obtain the most complete data of the new frigate, even to copies of deck plans and sail spread, which he caused his carpenter to make. John Paul Jones was the guest of the Frenchman for two or three days.

“And now you will visit my plantation,” said he, when the time came for him to leave. “Is it not so? For there I can repay some of the kindnesses which you have shown me.”

“That we cannot do,” replied the French commander. “It would be most impolitic for us to accept entertainment ashore from persons known to be hostile to King George. But we thank you, exceedingly, for your kind offer.”

So John Paul Jones proceeded alone to his plantation, and the French warship sailed for Corunna, Spain, after firing one gun as a salute to the new-born nation.

The son of a Scotch gardener of Arbigland, Parish of Kirkbean, the youthful farmer had emigrated to America, where his brother owned the large plantation upon which he now resided. He found his kinsman dying of what was then called lung fever—in our time pneumonia—and, as he willed him his Virginian possessions, Jones was soon residing upon “3,000 acres of prime land, on the right bank of the Rappahannock; 1,000 acres cleared and under plough, or grass; with 2,000 acres of strong, first-growth timber.” He had a grist-mill; a mansion; overseer’s houses; negro quarters; stables; tobacco houses; threshing floors; thirty negroes of all ages; twenty [Pg 244] horses and colts; eighty neat cattle and calves; and many sheep and swine. Thus lived the future sea-captain; in peace, plenty, and seclusion, at the outbreak of the American Revolution.

John Paul Jones had gone to sea at the early age of twelve. As a master’s apprentice upon the stout brig Friendship, he had sailed from Scotland to the North American Colonies, the West Indies, and back again. He had kept to his seaman’s life, and—so improved in knowledge of his profession—that he became second mate; then first mate; then Captain. At twenty-one he had amassed a fortune of about one thousand guineas ($5,000) in gold,—then equal, in purchasing power, to three times this sum. Besides this he had studied French and Spanish assiduously, so that he could speak the first like a native. It was to be of great help to the ambitious mariner. And he had plenty of nerve, as the following incident bears full witness:

Upon one of his many voyages, the crew was reduced, by fever, to five or six hands. One of them was a huge mulatto named Munro—or “Mungo”—Maxwell. They became mutinous, and, as Captain Jones was the only officer who could keep the deck, it was found necessary to subdue the refractory seaman.

“Will you obey my orders?” cried Jones, picking up a belaying pin.

“You go sit down,” cried Maxwell. “I no like you. Pish! I could kill you with one crack.”

John Paul Jones did not answer, but walking [Pg 245] towards the big black, he struck him just one blow with his pin. “Mungo” dropped to the deck and lay there. He never rose again.

Upon arriving at port, Captain Jones surrendered to the authorities, and asked for a trial. It was given him.

“Captain Paul,” asked the Judge, “are you, in conscience, satisfied that you used no more force than was necessary to preserve discipline on your ship?”

“May it please the most Honorable Court, Sir,” answered the doughty seaman, “it became imperative to strike the mutinous sailor, Maxwell. Whenever it becomes necessary for a commanding officer to hit a seaman, it is also necessary to strike with a weapon. I may say that the necessity to strike carries with it the necessity to kill, or to completely disable the mutineer. I had two brace of loaded pistols in my belt, and could easily have shot him. I struck with a belaying pin in preference, because I hoped that I might subdue him without killing him. But the result proved otherwise. I trust that the Honorable Court and the jury will take due account of the fact that, though amply provided with pistols throwing ounce balls, necessarily fatal weapons, I used a belaying pin, which, though dangerous, is not necessarily a fatal weapon.”

The judge smiled and Captain Paul was acquitted.

The famous Lord Nelson once said: “A naval officer, unlike a military commander, can have no fixed plans. He must always be ready for the chance. It may come to-morrow, or next week, or next year, [Pg 246] or never; but he must be always ready!” Nunquam non Paratus. (Never unprepared.)

Paul Jones kept a copy of this maxim in his head. He was always in training; always on the qui vive; always prepared. And—because he was always prepared—he accomplished what would seem to be the impossible.

Shortly placed in command of a sloop-of-war, the Alfred (one of the four vessels which constituted the American Navy), Lieutenant Jones assisted in an expedition against Fort Nassau, New Providence Island, in the Bahamas, which was a complete and absolute failure. On the way home, and when passing the end of Long Island, his boat was chased by the twenty-gun sloop-of-war Glasgow. The long shot kicked up a lot of spray around the fleet American vessel, but it was of no use. Jones got away and sailed into Newport Harbor, Rhode Island, with sails full of holes and stern-posts peppered with lead. But he was created a Captain; placed in command of the Providence—sloop-of-war, fourteen guns and one hundred and seven men—and soon harried the seas in search of fighting and adventure. With him were two faithful negro boys—Cato and Scipio—who followed him through the many vicissitudes of the Revolutionary War.

The seas traversed by the Providence were full of English cruisers—superior in size to the saucy American—but inferior in alertness and resources of her commander and her crew. She captured sixteen vessels—of which eight were sent to port and eight [Pg 247] were destroyed at sea. Twice she was chased by British frigates, and, on one of these occasions, narrowly escaped capture.

As the little sloop was running into one of the many harbors of the coast, a fast-sailing frigate bore down upon her from the starboard quarter.


Her bow-guns spoke and said “Heave to!”

But Captain Jones had heard this call before, and kept on upon his course.

“She’s got me,” said he. “But, as the breeze is fresh I may run away. Stand ready, Boys, and let go your tackle immediate, when I give the command!”

The helm was now put hard-up and the Providence crept into the wind. Closer and closer came the brig—now her bow-guns sputtered—and a shot ricochetted near the lean prow of the Providence. But the sloop kept on.

Suddenly—just as the brig drew alongside—Paul Jones swung his rudder over, wore around in the wind, and ran dead to leeward.

“Watch her sniffle!” cried the gallant Captain, as the brig chug-chugged on the dancing waves, and, endeavoring to box short about, came up into the wind. But fortune favored the American skipper. Just then a squall struck the Englishman; she lost steering way; and hung upon the waves like a huge rubber ball, while her Captain said things that cannot be printed.

When in this condition, Jones ran his boat within half gun-shot, gave her a dose of iron from one of [Pg 248] his stern-guns, and—before the frigate could get squared away—was pounding off before the wind, which was the sloop’s best point of sailing.

“Well,” said the crafty John Paul, his face wreathed in smiles. “If the frigate had simply followed my manœuver of wearing around under easy helm and trimming her sails as the wind bore, I could not have distanced her much in the alteration of the course, and she must have come off the wind very nearly with me, and before I could get out of range.

“I do not take to myself too great credit for getting away. I did the best that I could, but there was more luck than sense to it. A good or bad puff of wind foils all kinds of skill one way or the other—and this time when I saw the little squall cat’s-pawing to windward—I thought that I would ware ship and see if the Britisher wouldn’t get taken aback. The old saying that ‘Discretion is the better part of valor’ may, I think, be changed to ‘Impudence is—or may be, sometimes—the better part of discretion.’”

Two kinds of news greeted the slippery sailor when he arrived in port. One was a letter from Thomas Jefferson, enclosing his commission as Captain in the Continental Navy, by Act of Congress. The other—an epistle from his agents in Virginia, informing him that, during the month of July previous, his plantation had been utterly ravaged by an expedition of British and Tories (Virginians who sided with England in the war) under Lord Dunmore. His buildings had all been burned; his wharf demolished; his livestock killed; and every one of his able-bodied slaves [Pg 249] of both sexes had been carried off to Jamaica to be sold. The enemy had also destroyed his growing crops; cut down his fruit trees; in short, nothing was left of his once prosperous and valuable plantation but the bare ground.

“This is part of the fortunes of war,” said Jones. “I accept the extreme animosity displayed by Lord Dunmore as a compliment to the sincerity of my attachment to the cause of liberty.”

Bold words, well spoken by a bold man!

“But,” continued the able sailor, “I most sadly deplore the fate of my poor negroes. The plantation was to them a home, not a place of bondage. Their existence was a species of grown-up childhood, not slavery. Now they are torn away and carried off to die under the pestilence and lash of Jamaica cane-fields; and the price of their poor bodies will swell the pockets of English slave-traders. For this cruelty to those innocent, harmless people, I hope sometime, somehow, to find an opportunity to exact a reckoning.”

Again bold sentiments,—and the reckoning, too, was forthcoming.

“I have no fortune left but my sword, and no prospect except that of getting alongside of the enemy,” wrote the impoverished sea-captain to a Mr. Hewes.

This prospect also was to soon have ample fulfilment.

Ordered to take command of the Alfred, Captain Jones made a short cruise eastward, in 1776, [Pg 250] accompanied by the staunch little Providence. The journey lasted only thirty-three days, but, during that time, seven ships of the enemy fell into the clutches of the two American vessels.

“Aha!” cried Captain Jones, as he rubbed his hands. “This looks more propitious for our cause. We have taken the Mellish and the Biddeford. Let us break into them and see how much of the King’s treasure has been secured.”

And it was indeed good treasure!

The Mellish was found to contain ten thousand complete uniforms, including cloaks, boots, socks and woollen shirts, for the winter supply of General Howe’s army; seven thousand pairs of blankets; one thousand four hundred tents; six hundred saddles and complete cavalry equipments; one million seven hundred thousand rounds of fixed ammunition (musket cartridges); a large quantity of medical stores; forty cases of surgical instruments; and forty-six soldiers who were recruits sent out to join the various British regiments then serving in the Colonies.

The larger prize—the Biddeford—carried one thousand seven hundred fur overcoats for the use of the Canadian troops; eleven thousand pairs of blankets, intended partly for the British troops in Canada, and partly for the Indians then in British pay along the northern frontier; one thousand small-bore guns of the type then known as the “Indian-trade smooth-bore,” with hatchets, knives, and boxes of flint in proportion, to arm the redskins. There were eight light six-pounder field guns and complete harness and [Pg 251] other equipage for the two four-gun batteries of horse-artillery. Also some wines and table supplies for Sir Guy Carleton and a case of fine Galway duelling pistols for a British officer then serving in Canada.

“These I will appropriate as mine own portion,” cried Captain Jones. “And also a share of the wines, for I must have something to drink the health of mine enemy in.” And—so saying—he chuckled gleefully. It had been a rich haul.

But the Captain was not happy. His pet project was to cruise in European waters, and he wanted to get near the British coast with a ship—or better—a squadron of some force.

“Cruises along the American coast,” said he, “will annoy the enemy and result in capture of small ships and consorts from time to time. But who—forsooth—will hear of this in Europe? We will add nothing to our prestige as a new nation if we win victories upon this side of the ocean.”

All who heard him were much impressed by the vehement earnestness of his arguments.

“You have had so much success, Mr. Jones,” said they, “that we feel you will have still greater good fortune in future years.”

And Jones said to himself: “Oh, if I only could get the chance!”

It soon came, for on June the 14th, 1777, the Continental Congress passed the following resolution:

Resolved: That Captain John Paul Jones be appointed to command the ship Ranger” (a brand-new [Pg 252] sloop-of-war which had just been launched at Portsmouth, N. H.).

This boat was designed to carry a battery of twenty long six-pounders and was planned expressly for speed. She was one hundred and sixteen feet long, twenty-eight feet in breadth, and her bottom was covered with copper: the first American ship to be thus protected. Captain Jones put fourteen long nine-pounders in her and only four six-pounders, but even then she was top-heavy.

In spite of the fact that it was not quite safe to carry full sail, if clearing to windward, close-hauled in squally weather; when running free—before the wind—she could course through the water like a jack-rabbit. In outward appearance she was a perfect beauty, and, as she was rather low in the water for her length, and her masts raked two or three degrees more than any other ship of the day, she was—on the whole—the sauciest craft afloat. Jones was delighted.

“I have the best crew I have ever seen,” said he. “I believe it is the best in the world. They are nearly all native Americans, and the proportion of able seamen to the total is much beyond the average. I’m going to make one or two short runs off the coast—a day or two at a time—to shake down the sails and find the best trim of the ship. Then away to the shores of England and France!”

He waited impatiently for orders to proceed across the blue Atlantic. On October the 18th, 1777, a courier raced frantically into Portsmouth, crying,

[Pg 253] “Burgoyne has surrendered! Burgoyne has surrendered!” And Jones’ impatience to be off increased ten-fold.

There were no details of the American victory, for the courier had reached the sleepy New England town from the field of Stillwater, in about thirty hours, and it was one hundred and forty-seven miles—as the crow flies—or, about one hundred and seventy-five by the shortest road. He had stopped only long enough to saddle a fresh horse and shift his saddle, eating his meals in the stirrups, and never thinking of rest until he had shouted his tidings for three full days. The patriot country was wild with enthusiasm.

“I will spread the news in France in thirty days,” said Jones, when his dispatches were placed in his hands, about midnight of October the thirty-first. And, running by the whirling eddies of “Pull-and-be-damned” Point, he soon had the Ranger clear of the low-lying Isle of Shoals: the sea cross and choppy, but the good ship bowling along before a fresh gale of wind.

“I had sailed with many Captains,” writes Elijah Hall, second Lieutenant of the staunch, little vessel, “but I never had seen a ship crowded as Captain Jones drove the Ranger. The wind held northeasterly and fresh ’til we cleared Sable Island and began to draw on to the Banks. Then it came northeast and east-northeast with many snow squalls, and thick of nights.”

Imagine the situation of the Ranger’s crew, with [Pg 254] a top-heavy, cranky ship under their feet, and a Commander who day and night insisted on every rag she could stagger under, without laying clear down!

As it was, she came close to beam-ends more than once, and on one occasion righted only by letting-fly her sheets cut with hatchets. During all this trying work Captain Jones was his own navigating officer, keeping the deck eighteen or twenty hours out of the twenty-four; often serving extra grog to the men with his own hands; and, by his example, silencing all disposition to grumble. In the worst of it, the watch and watch was lap-watched, so that the men would be eight hours on to four off; but no one complained. It speaks well alike for commander and crew that not a man was punished or even severely reprimanded during the terrific voyage.

But Captain Jones made good his boast. He actually did land at Nantes—upon the coast of France—early in the morning of December second, 1777, thirty-two days out from Portsmouth. His crew were jubilant, and sang a song which ran:

“So now we had him hard and fast,
Burgoyne laid down his arms at last,
And that is why we brave the blast,
To carry the news to London!
Heigh-ho! Carry the News!
Go! Go! Carry the News!
Tell old King George that he’s undone!
He’s licked by the Yankee squirrel gun.
Carry the news to London!”

[Pg 255] And Captain John made haste to proceed to Paris, placing the dispatches in the hands of Dr. Franklin early upon the fifth day of December,—travelling two hundred and twenty miles in sixty hours. He returned to his ship about the middle of the month, to find that several of the crew were mutinous.

“See here, Captain,” said one—a seaman from Portsmouth, New Hampshire—“Me and my pals enlisted at home after readin’ a hand-bill which said that we wuz to get $40.00 apiece extra, for this cruise. Now, your young Lieutenant tells us that the reg’lations of Congress say that we are to only get th’ reg’lar salary allotted by those old pals, who make our laws. We came with you thinkin’ that we wuz ter git this money, and, by gum, we intend to git it!”

“Calm yourself, my good fellow,” said Jones soothingly. “If the hand-bill said that you were to receive $40.00 you shall have it. You shall get this sum even if I have to pay it myself.”

And this he did.

“I would not deceive any man who has entered or may enter, to serve in my command,” remarked John Paul Jones. “I consider myself as being under a personal obligation to these brave men, who have cheerfully enlisted to serve with me, and I accept their act as a proof of their good opinion of me, which I value so highly, that I cannot permit it to be dampened in the least degree, by misunderstanding, or failure to perform engagements. I wish all my men to be happy and contented. The conditions of the hand-bills will be strictly complied with.”

[Pg 256] Accordingly he disbursed one hundred and forty-seven guineas (about $800.00) out of his own pocket, in making good the terms of the hand-bill. Is it any wonder that the gallant seaman was popular with his followers?

But the Ranger lay at Brest—eager for action—her light sails furled; her spars shining with new varnish; her polished guns winking in the rays of the sun.

“Come, my Hearties!” cried Captain Jones on April the 10th, “we’ll hie us out to the west coast of Ireland and see if our new ship cannot make a good name for herself.”

Sails were hoisted upon the staunch, little vessel. Her bow was turned toward the ocean—and—with the new flag of the infant republic fluttering from her masts, the Ranger went forth for battle, for plunder, and for glory. She was to get a little of each.

Arriving off the coast of Cumberland, and, learning from fishermen decoyed on board, that there was a large amount of shipping in the harbor of Whitehaven, with no warship of superior force in the neighborhood to protect it, the bold American skipper resolved to make a dash into this quiet cove, with a view of destroying the ships there in port. The British authorities had no suspicion of his presence in the Irish Sea.

As the Ranger drew near to Whitehaven, the wind blew such a gale from the southwest, that it was impossible to land a boat.

“We must hold off until the breeze slackens!” [Pg 257] cried bold Captain Jones. “This cannot last forever, and our opportunity will soon be here.”

Sure enough—the wind died out about midnight of April 22nd—and the Ranger beat up towards the town. When about five hundred yards from the shore, the vessel was hove to—two boats were lowered—and twenty-nine seamen, with third Lieutenant Wallingford, Midshipmen Arthur Green and Charles Hill, jumped into them. With Jones in command they hastened toward the coast.

The surprise was complete. Two small forts lay at the mouth of the harbor, but, as the seamen scrambled ashore, they were precipitately abandoned by the garrison of “coast-guards.” Captain Jones, Midshipman Green, and six men rushed shouting upon one of these, capturing it without an effort; the other was taken by Lieutenant Wallingford and eight sailors,—while four were left behind as a boat-guard. A few pistols spattered, a few muskets rang; but, when the stout sea-dogs reached the tidal basin, where the shipping lay, the townsfolk were thoroughly aroused. Burning cotton was thrown on board of the ships lying at anchor, but only one took fire. It was full daylight, and the insignificance of Jones’ force became evident to the townsfolk, who were rallying from all directions.

“Retreat to the ships,” shouted the Yankee Captain, “there is no time to lose!”

The landing party—small as it was—had become separated into two groups; one commanded by Jones, the other by Wallingford. Thinking that Wallingford’s [Pg 258] party was, for the moment, more seriously menaced than his own, Jones attacked and dispersed—with his dozen men—a force of about one hundred of the local militia who were endeavoring to retake the lower fort, or battery, whose guns had been spiked by the Americans. The townsfolk and coast-guards had joined and were making a vigorous assault upon Wallingford. But shots flew thick and fast from the muskets of the followers of the daring Paul Jones—as they retreated to their own boats. The whole landing party—with the exception of one man—finally leaped safely into the boat, and were on board the Ranger before the sun was an hour over the horizon.

Jones was delighted.

“The actual results of this affair,” said he, “are of little moment, as we destroyed but one ship. The moral effect—however—is very great, as it has taught the English that the fancied security of their coasts is a Myth.”

In fact this little raid of the valiant John Paul made the Government take expensive measures for the defense of numerous ports hitherto relying for protection upon the vigilance and supposed omnipotence of the navy. It also doubled the rates of marine insurance; which was the most grievous damage of all.

“Now to attack a castle!” cried Jones, “and bag an Earl, too, if he is around!”

The Ranger was headed for Solway Firth—not more than three hours’ sail away—where, upon St. Mary’s Isle, was the castle of the Earl of Selkirk.

[Pg 259] “If we can catch the noble owner of this keep,” said John Paul, “we will hold him as hostage for the better treatment of American prisoners in England.”

As luck would have it, the Earl was away at this particular time, and, although the wild sea-dogs of the Ranger carried off several pieces of silverware from the castle, this was all that was captured. Lucky Earl! But, had he fallen into the clutches of John Paul, he would have been treated with the greatest consideration, for the Captain of the Ranger was the most chivalrous of conquerors.

The Ranger stood across the Irish Channel and next day ran into some fisher boats.

“Ah! Ha!” laughed one of the sons of Ireland. “The Drake—the guard-ship at Carrickfergus—is after you, and she’s a twenty-gun sloop-of-war.”

John Paul smiled.

“To lessen trouble,” said he, “I’ll heave-to off the mouth of Belfast Lough and wait for her to work out. This will save her the pains of coming after me.”

So he luffed his ship, lay to, and waited for the Drake to sail on. Her white sails could be seen more clearly as she neared the adventurous American. A boat was sent out to reconnoitre—but—as it approached, it was surrounded by tenders from the Ranger; a midshipman and five men in her, were made prisoners. Tide and wind were both against the Drake; she came on slowly; and, at an hour before sundown, was just within hail. The sea was fairly smooth, the wind southerly and very light.

[Pg 260] “What ship is that?” sounded from the deck of the Drake.

“The American Continental ship Ranger,” rang the clear reply. “Lay on! We are waiting for you!”

Both ships bore away before the wind and neared each other to within striking distance. Boom! a broadside roared from the side of the Drake, and the fight had begun.

Crash! Crash! Muskets spoke from the rigging of the Ranger, where several seamen had climbed in the endeavor to pick off the gunners on the deck of the British warship. There were one hundred and fifty-seven men upon the Drake; Paul Jones had one hundred and twenty-six. The Drake’s battery was sixteen nine-pounders and four sixes. Thus—you see—the advantage was clearly with the Britishers.

Both boats swung along under full canvas, pounding away at each other like prize-fighters. Spars were shattered; sails ripped; masts splintered in the hail of iron. And—as the fight progressed—it could be plainly seen that the marksmanship of those upon the Drake was infinitely less accurate than that of the Americans.

“Every shot of our men told,” said Jones—not long afterwards. “They gave the Drake three broadsides for two, right along, at that. The behavior of my crew in this engagement more than justifies the representations I have often made, of what American sailors would do, if given a chance at the enemy in his own waters. We have seen that they fight with [Pg 261] courage on our own coast—but fought here, almost in hail of the enemy’s shore.”

From “The Army and Navy of the United States.”


As the two ships were going off the wind, which was light, they both rolled considerably, and together; that is, when the Ranger went down to port, the Drake came up to starboard. The gunners upon the quarter-deck of the Ranger timed their guns, so that they were fired as their muzzles went down and the enemy’s side arose. By this practice they began to hull the Drake below the water-line.

“Sink the English! Sink the English!” cried the powder-blackened fighters.

But Captain Jones thought differently.

“Don’t sink her!” he yelled to gunner Starbuck, above the din of battle. “I want to take her alive, instead of destroying her; for it will be much more to our advantage if we carry her as a visible prize into a French port.”

“All right, Cap’n!” shouted his men. “We’ll cripple her aloft!”

They now fired as the muzzles rose, and, so terrific were their broadsides, that the fore and main topsail-yards came tumbling across the starboard quarter, in a tangle of ropes, sails, and rigging.

“Rake her! Rake her!” shouted Jones to his men.

The Ranger luffed and crossed the stern of the Drake with the purpose of spanking a full broadside down her decks. The British boat was badly crippled and had lost steering way.

But, before the well-aimed guns belched another destructive volley into the shattered Englishman, a [Pg 262] white flag went aloft, and a voice came: “Hold your fire. We surrender!” The Drake was a prisoner-of-war.

Thus Paul Jones had won a notable victory, and thus he had proved that the British were not invincible, and could be defeated, upon the sea, by their own cousins, as readily as upon the land.

When the Ranger lay in the harbor of Brest, a few days later, with the Drake alongside, boats crowded about in order to view the vessel which had captured another,—larger than herself. And, as the Ranger had taken three merchant ships on the way to the coast of France, the black eyes of the natives shone with beady lustre as they gazed upon the graceful hull of the victorious sloop-of-war from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

“See Monsieur Jones,” said they, as they nudged each other. “Voilà! Here is a man who is better than our own sailors. Look at this American sea-devil!”

And the chest of John Paul Jones swelled with pride.

Eager and active, the gallant Commodore was most unhappy during the next few months, for the Ranger was ordered back to America—under his Lieutenant Simpson. Twenty-seven of his crew, however, elected to remain and fight with him, when he should get another command,—among them a little Narragansett Indian called Antony Jeremiah.

“Me like to see big gun shoot,” said he. “Me like to walk on deck of enemy’s big boat when you [Pg 263] take it! Byme-by we take bigger ship than Drake and kill heap more enemy! Ugh! Ugh!”

At this John Paul laughed.

“Antony Jeremiah,” said he, “you shall witness one big fight if you stay with John Paul. You wait and see!”

And what John Paul had said soon came to pass.

“The French,” writes the doughty warrior, “have little conception of an expedition such as I propose; to harry the coast and destroy the commerce of the enemy. Their idea is to leave all of that to privateers, of which I have already been offered a dozen commands. Some of the ships they fit out as privateers are really respectable frigates in size, and I have seen one, called the Monsieur, that mounts thirty-eight or forty guns. But I do not wish to engage in privateering. My object is not that of private gain, but to serve the public in a way that may reflect credit on our infant navy and give prestige to our country over the sea.”

Noble sentiments—nobly expressed!

In spite of the gloomy outlook he at last secured a vessel from the King himself, called the Duras, which he re-christened “Le Bon Homme Richard”—“The Good Richard”—the name assumed by Dr. Benjamin Franklin when writing his famous “Almanack,” except that he called him “Poor Richard.” This was a well-merited compliment to the great and good man, who was then Commissioner from the United States to France, and a firm friend to the ardent John Paul. The vessel had forty guns, “and,” [Pg 264] writes the Minister of Marine, “as you may find too much difficulty in enlisting a sufficient number of Americans, the King permits you to levy French volunteers, until you obtain a full crew.”

John Paul hastened to get her ready for a cruise. “I mounted twenty-eight long twelve-pounders on the gun-deck,” he says, “put eight of the long nines on the quarter-deck, and discarded the six-pounders of her old battery. This gave her a battery of forty-two guns, throwing two hundred and fifty-eight pounds of metal in a single broadside. She was the fair equivalent of a thirty-six gun frigate.”

From February to June she was worked over; refitted; resparred. On June 19th, 1779, the gallant John Paul Jones swung out into the English Channel; he, himself, in command of the Good Richard, which carried a crew of three hundred and seventy-five, not more than fifty of whom were Americans. Four other vessels were with him: the Alliance, a thirty-two gun frigate; the Pallas, a twenty-eight gun frigate; the Vengeance, a twelve gun brig; and the Cerf, a cutter.

On the second day out the Alliance fouled the Richard, causing so much damage to both, that the squadron was compelled to return to port for repairs, which—with other transactions—consumed six weeks. But the accident was a lucky one, for numerous American sailors, who were in English prisons, were shortly exchanged with English seamen in French dungeons; and thus Paul Jones was able to man the Good Richard with one hundred and fourteen native Americans, [Pg 265] who were anxious to have a crack at those who had captured them but a short time before.

Finally, with refitted ships and reorganized crews, Paul Jones was ready to sail from the roadstead of Isle de Groaix, in the early part of August, 1779, bound upon his cruise around the British Islands. There were four ships in this squadron: the Good Richard; the Alliance, under Pierre Landais (a depraved and dishonest Frenchman); the Pallas, under Cottineau (an honest Frenchman); and the Vengeance, a sloop-of-war. The prevailing winds were light and baffling, so the squadron moved slowly.

War had been declared between France and England, and thus the English Channel was thronged with privateers from both countries. The Richard and a French privateer, in company, re-captured a large ship belonging to Holland, but bound from Barcelona to Dunkirk, France, which had been taken some days before by an English vessel off Cape Ortegal and ordered into Falmouth, England. England and Holland were still at peace, at this time, but the English claimed the right to intercept and send into their own port for examination, all neutral vessels bound to French ports, as England and France were then at war. Commodore Jones took the English prize-crew out of the Dutch ship, as prisoners of war, and then ordered the ship into l’Orient in charge of her own crew, but under the command of one of his midshipmen, until she could come under the protection of a French port.

[Pg 266] “Things are going well with us!” cried Captain Jones, rubbing his hands gleefully.

He soon felt much happier. For, on the morning of August 23rd, when in the vicinity of Cape Clear, the Richard sent three boats, and afterwards a fourth, to take a brig that was becalmed in the northwest quarter—just out of gun-shot. It proved to be the Fortune, of Bristol, bound from Newfoundland for her home-port with whale-oil, salt fish, and barrel staves. Manned by a prize-crew of two warrant officers and six men, she was sent to Nantes.

All were happy. All were looking forward to a good fight. It was to come to them.

The little fleet of war-dogs sailed northward, and, on September 1st, about ten o’clock in the morning, the northwest promontory of Scotland was sighted. At the same instant, two large ships bore in sight on the same quarter, and another vessel appeared to windward.

“Bear up! Bear up!” cried Jones.

The Richard held over toward the first two ships until he saw that it was the Alliance and a prize she had taken about daylight,—a vessel bound for Jamaica, from London.

“Now chase the other fellow!” he cried, turning the wheel with his own hands, and soon the Good Richard was bounding over the waves in hard pursuit of the second sail. Slowly but surely she was overhauled. Heavily armed, she did not surrender until after the exchange of several shots, which the [Pg 267] Richard pumped into her, after running up close enough to show her broadside.

A boat soon carried a number of seamen to take possession of her, and she proved to be the British privateer, the Union, mounting twenty-two six-pounders, and bound northward from London to Quebec, in Canada, laden with a cargo of naval and military stores for the British troops and flotillas on the Lakes. The Union also carried a valuable mail, including dispatches for Sir William Howe, in New York, and Sir Guy Carleton, in Canada. “These were lost,” writes John Paul to good Doctor Franklin, at Paris, for the Alliance imprudently showed American colors, though English colors were still flying on the Bon Homme Richard; “the enemy thereby being induced to throw his papers of importance overboard before we could take possession of him.” The prizes were manned from the Alliance and sent (by Landais) into the seaport of Bergen, in Norway.

The squadron now beat down the east coast of Scotland, and, after capturing five or six small prizes, rounded-to off the Firth of Forth.

“I intend to attack the port of Leith!” cried Jones, “as I understand that it is defended only by a small guard-ship of twenty-two guns, and an old fortification (old Leith Fort) garrisoned by a detachment of Militia.”

The wind was adverse, blowing off shore, with frequent heavy squalls, but about noon of the 17th of September, the Richard and the Pallas beat up within gun-shot of Leith Fort and were lowering [Pg 268] away their tenders in order to land, when a heavy Northwest gale sprang up, compelling them to hoist their boats, and put to sea. The gale lasted about twenty-four hours, but, on the morning of the 19th, the wind took another turn, the sea grew calm, and Jones proposed to renew the attack upon Leith. The Commander of the Pallas made strong objection to this. “I do not believe that we should stay here,” cried he. “If we persist in the attempt to remain on this station three days longer, we shall have a squadron of heavy frigates, if not a ship of line, to deal with. Convinced of this, I offer it as my judgment that we had better work along the shore to-day and to-morrow, as far as Spurn Head, and then, if we do not fall in with the Baltic merchant fleet, stand off the coast and make the best of our way to Dunkirk.”

Commodore Jones spent a few moments in reflection. “You are probably right, Cottineau,” said he. “I only wish that another man like you were in command of the Alliance. However, we cannot help what is and must make the best of it. Go aboard your ship and make sail to the south-southwest. Speak the Vengeance as you run down, and tell Ricot—her commander—to rendezvous off Spurn Head. I will bring up the rear with this ship. We may fall in with the Baltic fleet between here and Scarboro’, which is usually their first English port of destination at this time of the year. Should you happen to sight the Alliance, inform Captain Landais of our destination, but do not communicate it to him as an order, [Pg 269] because that would be likely to expose you only to insult.”

The two ships turned South, and the next three days were without events of importance. At length they neared the harbor of Scarboro’, and, as they hovered about twelve miles off the land, they saw some vessels making for the shore, and protecting a fleet of merchantmen.

“They’re a heavy man-of-war—either a fifty-gun frigate, or a fifty-four—with a large ship-of-war in company,” cried one of his Lieutenants, who had been watching them through a glass. “The Captain of the larger one has cleverly manœuvered to protect his merchant ship.”

Commodore Jones seemed to be much pleased.

“At last we’ll have a little fight,” cried he. “Bear hard for the land, and get between the larger vessel and the shore!”

Captain Cottineau was signalled to and requested to go after the sloop-of-war. About sundown the Richard succeeded in weathering the large frigate and manœuvered between her and the land.

The ships neared each other very gradually, for the breeze was slight. They were on opposite tacks and Commodore Jones readily made out the force and rate of his antagonist. By the light of the dying day—for it was about seven P. M.—he saw that she was a new forty-four; a perfect beauty. It was the Serapis—Captain Richard Pearson commanding—but six months off the stocks and on her first cruise as a convoy to the Baltic fleet of merchantmen: consisting [Pg 270] of about forty vessels laden with timber and other naval stores for the use of the British dockyards. Jones had hoped to have an opportunity to attack this flotilla, but his plans had been frustrated by the vigilance and skill of the commander of the men-of-war in convoy.

Even now Landais might have got among the merchantmen in the fast-sailing Alliance, while Jones and Cottineau occupied the attention of the two men-of-war; but the French officer did not have sufficient courage to tackle them, and kept well beyond striking distance.

The Captain of the Serapis stood upon the deck, intently gazing at the on-coming vessel.

“Gad Zooks!” he uttered. “From the size of her spars and her height out of water I take her to be a French fifty of the time of the last war. It’s too dark for me to see whether she has any lower ports or not.” He raised his night glasses to his eyes, and, in the light of the full moon which was now flooding the sea with a silvery haze, saw that his opponent was intent upon a fight.

“It is probably Paul Jones,” said he, lowering the glasses. “If so—there’s tight work ahead. What ship is that?” he cried out in loud tones.

No answer came from the dark hull of the Good Richard, but, as she swung nearer upon the rolling waves, suddenly a flash, a roar, and a sheet of flame belched from her side. The battle was on!

It was a struggle which has been talked of for years. It was a battle about which the world never [Pg 271] seems to tire of reading. It was the battle which has made the name of John Paul Jones nautically immortal.

The two warriors of the deep were on the same tack, headed northwest, driven by a slight wind which veered to the westward. The sea was smooth, the sky was clear, the full moon was rising—the conditions for a night struggle were ideal.

Crash! Crash! Crash!

Broadside after broadside rolled and shrieked from ship to ship, as the air was filled with flying bits of iron.

Crash! Crash! Crash!

Travelling very slowly, for the wind was little more than sufficient to give them steering-way in the tide, the two antagonists drifted along for twenty minutes, at cable length (600 to 900 feet—about the distance of the 220 yard dash). But suddenly—Boom! an explosion sounded in the gun-room of the Good Richard. Two of her eighteen-pounders had blown up back of the trunnions; many of the crew lay dead and dying, the after part of the main gun-deck was shattered like a reed: Senior Midshipman and Acting Lieutenant John Mayrant—who had command of this battery—was severely wounded in the head by a fragment of one of the exploded shells, and was scorched by the blast of flame.

“Abandon your guns!” shouted First Lieutenant Dale, “and report with your remaining men to the main-deck battery!”

“All right!” answered Mayrant, as he bound a [Pg 272] white kerchief around his bleeding head. “I’ll be with you just as soon as I give them one more shot.”

This he endeavored to do, but not a gun could be touched off. “The old sixteen-pounders that formed the battery of the lower gun-deck, did no service whatever, except firing eight shots in all,” writes John Paul Jones. “Two out of three of them burst at the first fire, killing almost all the men who were stationed to manage them.”

The gunnery of the Good Richard was excellent. Though her battery was one-third lighter than that of the Serapis; though her gun-crews were composed—to a great extent—of French volunteers, who had never been at sea before—in quickness and rapidity of fire, the shells from the American fell just as accurately as did those from the Britisher; pointed and gauged by regular, trained English men-of-war seamen. The roar of belching cannon was deafening. The superior weight and energy of the British shot began to tell decisively against the sputtering twelve-pounders of the Richard, in spite of the fact that they were being served with quickness and precision. As the two battling sea-monsters drifted slowly along, a pall of sulphurous smoke hung over their black hulls, like a sheet of escaping steam. They were drawing nearer and nearer to each other.

It was now about a quarter to eight. Wounded and dying littered the decks of both Britisher and American, but the fight was to the death.

“Luff! Luff!” cried Captain Pearson, as the Richard began to forge near him. “Luff! Luff! and let [Pg 273] fly with all guns at the water-line. Sink the Yankee Pirate!”

But Paul Jones was intent upon grappling with his adversary. Quickly jerking the tiller to one side, he shoved the Richard into the wind and endeavored to run her—bows on—into the side of his opponent. The Serapis paid off, her stern swung to, and, before she could gather way, the Richard’s jib-boom shot over her larboard quarter and into the mizzen rigging.

Jones was delighted.

“Throw out the grappling hooks!” cried he, in shrill tones. “Hold tight to the Britisher and be prepared to board!”

In an instant, many clawing irons spun out into the mizzen stays of the Serapis; but, though they caught, the lines holding them soon parted. The Serapis fell off and the Richard lurched ahead. Neither had been able to bring her broadsides to bear.

“We can’t beat her by broadsiding,” cried Jones. “We’ve got to board!”

Crash! Crash! Crash!

Again the cannon made the splinters fly. Again the two game-cocks spat at each other like angry cats, but, the fire from the Richard was far weaker than before.

Commodore Jones walked hastily to the gun-deck.

“Dick,” said he to Lieutenant Dale, “this fellow’s metal is too heavy for us at this business. He is hammering us all to pieces. We must close with him! We must get hold of him! Be prepared at any moment to abandon this place and bring what men you [Pg 274] have left on the spar-deck—and give them the small arms for boarding when you come up.”

Lieutenant Dale saluted.

“All right!” cried he. “I’ll be with you in a jiffy, Commodore.”

As Jones walked hastily to the main deck—the Lieutenant ran to the store-room and dealt out cutlasses, pistols and pikes, to the eager men. The deck was red with blood.

The worst carnage of all was at “number two” gun of the forward, starboard division. From the first broadside until the quarter-deck was abandoned, nineteen different men were on this gun, and, at this time, only one of the original crew remained. It was the little Indian, Antony Jeremiah; or, as his mates called him, “Red Cherry.”

“Let me join you,” he cried, as he saw Mayrant’s boarding party. Seizing a cutlass and dirk, he stood beside the cluster of men, eager and keen to have a chance at the enemy. A soul of fire was that of the little savage—and now he had a splendid opportunity to indulge in the natural blood-thirst of his race, for an Indian loves a good fight, particularly when he is upon the winning side.

The vessels swung on slowly—the fire from the Serapis still strong and accurate; the sputtering volleys from the Richard growing weaker and weaker. Only three of the nine-pounders on the starboard quarter-deck were serviceable; the entire gun-deck battery was silent and abandoned.

“We have him,” cheerfully cried Captain Pearson [Pg 275] to one of his aides. “But, hello”—he continued, “what sail is that?”

As he spoke the Alliance came bounding across the waves, headed for the two combatants, and looking as if she were to speedily close the struggle.

“The fight is at an end,” said Jones, jubilantly.

Imagine his astonishment, chagrin, and mortification! Instead of pounding the English vessel, the French ally discharged a broadside full into the stern of the Richard, ran off to the northward, close hauled, and soon was beyond gun-shot.

“Coward!” shouted John Paul, shaking his fist at the retreating ally. “I’ll get even with you for this if it takes me twenty years!”

No wonder he was angered, for, with his main battery completely silenced, his ship beginning to sink, nearly half his crew disabled, his wheel shot away, and his consort firing into him, there remained but one chance of victory for John Paul Jones: to foul the enemy and board her.

Luckily a spare tiller had been fitted to the rudder stem of the Richard below the main tiller—before leaving port—because of the fear that the wheel would be disabled. The foresight of the Commodore had effected this; and now—by means of this extra steering-gear—the battered warrior-ship was enabled to make one, last, desperate lunge for victory. It was touch and go with John Paul Jones.

“I could distinctly hear his voice amid the crashing of musketry,” says a seaman. “He was cheering on the French marines in their own tongue, uttering such [Pg 276] imprecations upon the enemy as I have never before or since heard in French, or any other language. He exhorted them to take good aim, pointed out the object of their fire, and frequently took their loaded muskets from their hands in order to shoot them himself. In fact, towards the very last, he had about him a group of half a dozen marines who did nothing but load their firelocks and hand them to the Commodore; who fired them from his own shoulder, standing on the quarter-deck rail by the main topmast backstay.”

Luck now came to the disabled Richard. A fortunate puff of wind struck and filled her sails, shooting her alongside of the growling Serapis, and to windward. The canvas of the Britisher flapped uselessly against her spars. She was blanketed and lost steering-way. In a moment the jib-boom of the English vessel ran over the poop-deck of the American ship. It was seized, grappled by a turn of small hawsers, and made fast to the mizzen-mast.

“She’s ours!” cried John Paul Jones. “Seize that anchor and splice it down hard!”

As he spoke, the fluke of the starboard anchor of the Serapis hooked in the mizzen chains. It was lashed fast, and the Richard had been saved.

Rattle! Rattle! Crash! sounded the muskets of the French marines. The English tried to cut their anchor chains and get free, but all who attempted to sever these hawsers were struck dead by the accurate balls from the marksmen on the poop-deck and round-house of the Richard.

“I demand your surrender!” shouted Pearson.

From an old print.


[Pg 277] “Surrender?” cried John Paul Jones. “Why, I am just beginning to fight!”

Then he turned to John Mayrant, who stood ready to rush across the hammock-nettings into the waist of the enemy’s ship. Twenty-seven sailors were nearby, each with a cutlass and two ship’s pistols.

“Board ’em!” he cried.

Over the rail went the seamen—monkey-wise—over the rail, John Mayrant leading with a dirk in his teeth, like a Bermuda pirate. They swarmed into the forecastle amidst fierce cheers, the rattle of musketry, and the hiss of flames. Just at the moment that John Mayrant’s feet struck the enemy’s deck, a sailor thrust a boarding-pike through the fleshy part of his right thigh. Crack! a pistol spat at him, and he fell prostrate.

“Remember Portsea jail! Remember Portsea jail!” cried the dauntless raider, rushing down into the forecastle with his wild, yelping sailors. Pearson stood there; crest-fallen—abashed.

Seizing the ensign-halyards of the Serapis, as the raging torrent of seamen rolled towards him, the brave English sea-captain hauled the flag of his ship to the deck.

The Richard had won!

“He has struck; stop firing! Come on board and take possession!” yelled Mayrant, running to the rail.

Lieutenant Dale heard him, and, swinging himself on the side of the Serapis, made his way to the quarter-deck, where Captain Pearson was standing. “I have the honor, sir, to be the first Lieutenant of the [Pg 278] vessel alongside,” said he saluting. “It is the American Continental ship Bon Homme Richard, under command of Commodore Paul Jones. What vessel is this?”

“His Britannic Majesty’s late man-of-war the Serapis, sir,” was the sad response, “and I am Captain Richard Pearson.”

“Pardon me, sir,” said the American officer, “in the haste of the moment I forgot to inform you that my name is Richard Dale and I must request you to pass on board the vessel alongside.”

Pearson nodded dejectedly.

As he did so, the first Lieutenant of the Serapis came up from below, and, looking at Captain Pearson, asked,

“Has the enemy struck, sir?”

“No, sir! I have struck!” was the sad reply.

“Then, I will go below and order our men to cease firing,” continued the English Lieutenant.

But Lieutenant Dale interrupted.

“Pardon me, sir,” said he, “I will attend to that; and, as for yourself, please accompany Captain Pearson on board the ship alongside.”

With reluctant steps the two officers clambered aboard the battered Good Richard, where Commodore Jones received them with much courtesy.

Bowing low, Captain Pearson offered him his sword. His first Lieutenant did likewise.

“Captain Pearson,” said the victorious John Paul, “you have fought heroically. You have worn this weapon to your own credit and to the honor of your [Pg 279] service. I hope that your sovereign will suitably reward you.”

The British commander was the image of chagrin and despair. He bowed again, and then walked slowly into the cabin, followed by his crest-fallen Lieutenant.

It was nearly midnight. The full moon above—in a cloudless sky—made it almost as light as day. Seven feet of water were in the hold of the Richard; she had sunk so much that many shot-holes were below the water-line and could not be plugged. Nearly sixty of her crew lay dead upon her decks; more than a hundred and twenty were desperately wounded. Every twelve-pounder of the starboard broadside was either dismounted, or disabled. The starboard side, which had been opposite the Serapis’s eighteen-pounders, was driven so far in, that, but for a few frames and stanchions which remained, the whole gun-deck would have fallen through. She was afire, and the flames licked upward with an eager hiss.

“Take the wounded aboard the Serapis!” commanded Captain Jones. “We must desert our good ship!”

In an hour’s time all were upon the deck of the vanquished Britisher. No one was left on the Richard but the dead. The torn and tattered flag was still flying from the gaff, and, as the battered sea-warrior gradually settled in the long swell, the unconquered ensign fluttered defiantly in the slight breeze. At length the Bon Homme Richard plunged downward [Pg 280] by the head; her taffrail rose momentarily on high, and, with a hoarse roar of eddying bubbles and sucking air, the conqueror disappeared from view. To her immortal dead was bequeathed the flag which they had so desperately defended.

So ended the great battle. Thus Paul Jones had made his name immortal. And by it he was to be known for all time.

This was not the end of his career, by any means. He never again fought for the infant Republic of the United States. But he became an Admiral in the Russian Navy: battled valorously for the great Empress Catherine against the Turks, and died in Paris, July 18th, 1792.

Buried at the French capital, his body was disinterred in the year 1905, and brought to the United States, to be entombed with military honors, at Annapolis, Maryland.

Paul Jones loved brave men. The braver they were the more he loved them. When he went ashore and happened to meet his old sailors—every one of whom he knew and called by his first name—they seldom failed to strip his pockets of the last shilling. He was generous to a fault and faithful to his friends. His time, his purse, his influence were always at the call of those who had served under him. A typical sea-dog: a brave fighter,—

Then, why not give three times three for John Paul Jones?

Are you ready?

[Pg 281]


’Tis of a gallant, Yankee ship that flew the Stripes and Stars,
And the whistling wind from the west-nor’-west blew through her pitch-pine spars:
With her starboard tacks aboard, my Boys, she hung upon the gale;
On the Autumn night, that we passed the light, on the old Head of Kinsale.
It was a clear and cloudless eve, and the wind blew steady and strong,
As gayly, o’er the sparkling deep, our good ship bowled along;
With the foaming seas beneath her bow, the fiery waves she spread,
And, bending low her bosom of snow, she buried her lee cat-head.
There was no talk of short’ning sail, by him who walked the poop,
And, under the press of her pounding jib, the boom bent like a hoop!
And the groaning, moaning water-ways, told the strain that held the tack,
But, he only laughed, as he glanced aloft, at the white and silvery track.
The mid-tide met in the Channel waves that flow from shore to shore,
And the mist hung heavy upon the land, from Featherstone to Dunmore,
And that sterling light in Tusker Rock, where the old bell tolls each hour,
And the beacon light, that shone so bright, was quenched on Waterford tower.
What looms upon our starboard bow? What hangs upon the breeze?
’Tis time that our good ship hauled her wind, abreast the old Saltees,
For, by her pond’rous press of sail, and by her consorts four,
We saw that our morning visitor, was a British Man-of-War.
[Pg 282] Up spoke our noble Captain—then—as a shot ahead of us passed,—
“Haul snug your flowing courses! Lay your topsail to the mast!”
Those Englishmen gave three loud cheers, from the deck of their covered ark,
And, we answered back by a solid broad-side, from the side of our patriot barque.
Out booms! Out booms!” our skipper cried, “Out booms! and give her sheet!
And the swiftest keel that e’er was launched, shot ahead of the British fleet,
’Midst a thundering shower of shot,—and with stern-sails hoisting away,
Down the North Race Paul Jones did steer, just at the break of day.

Old Ballad.




[Pg 284]

“If you want ter learn how ter fight, why jest fight.”—Dock-end Philosophy.

[Pg 285]


“Talk about your clipper ships, chipper ships, ripper ships,
Talk about your barquentines, with all their spars so fancy,
I’ll just take a sloop-o’-war with Talbot, with Talbot,
An’ whip ’em all into ’er chip, an’ just to suit my fancy.
“So, heave away for Talbot, for Talbot, for Talbot,
So, heave away for Talbot, an’ let th’ Capting steer,
For, he’s the boy to smack them, to crack them, to whack them,
For he’s th’ boy to ship with, if you want to privateer.”

Ballads of Rhode Island.—1782.

A TRADING vessel, laden with wheat, from Cardigan in Wales, was lying to in the English Channel. Nearby rolled a long-bodied American Privateer, while a boat neared the trader, in the stern of which sat a staunch, weather-beaten officer in a faded pea-jacket. It was the year 1813 and war was on between England and the United States.

When the blustering captain entered the cabin to survey his prize, he spied a small box with a hole in the top, on which was inscribed the words, “Missionary Box.” He drew back, astonished.

“Pray, my bold seaman,” said he, turning to the Welsh captain, “what is this?”

[Pg 286] “Oh,” replied the honest, old sailor, heaving a sigh, “’tis all over now.”

“What?” asked the American privateersman.

“Why, the truth is,” said the Welshman, “that I and my poor fellows have been accustomed, every Monday morning, to drop a penny each into that box for the purpose of sending out missionaries to preach the Gospel to the heathen; but it’s all over now.”

The American seemed to be much abashed.

“Indeed,” said he, “that is very good of you.” And, pausing a few moments, he looked abstractedly into the air, humming a tune beneath his breath.

“Captain,” said he, at length, “I’ll not hurt a hair of your head, nor touch your vessel.”

So saying, he turned on his heel, took to his boat, and left the Welshman to pursue its even course. And—as the privateer filled away to starboard—a voice came from the deck of the helpless merchantman,

“God bless Captain Silas Talbot and his crew!”

But we do not know what the owners of the privateer said to the humane skipper about this little affair when he returned to New York. They might have uttered hard words about a Welshman who scored upon him by means of a pious fraud. At any rate Silas Talbot had done a good deed.

This valorous privateer was born at Dighton, Massachusetts, on the Sakonet River about the year 1752; beginning his career at sea as a cabin-boy. At twenty-four he was a captain in the United States army and fought in the Revolutionary war, for a time, on land. But—by reason of his nautical training—he was [Pg 287] placed in command of a fireship at New York, and was soon promoted to be Major—but still with duties upon the water and not the shore. While here, a soldier came to him, one day, with his eyes alight in excitement.

“Major,” said he, “there’s a chance for a splendid little enterprise. Just off the coast of Rhode Island, near Newport, lies a British vessel, moored to a kedge. She mounts fifteen guns and around her is stretched a stout netting to keep off a party of boarders. But we can cut it and get through, I’ll warrant. And the game is worth the candle.”

Young Talbot was delighted at the thought of a little expedition.

“I’ll tell you how we’ll cut through,” said he. “We’ll fix a small anchor at the bowsprit of our sloop. Then, we’ll ram her into the netting at night, and—if our vessel can punch hard enough—we’ll have forty Americans upon the deck before you can say ‘Jack Robinson.’”

The soldier laughed.

“Major Talbot,” said he, “you are a true fighting man. I’ll have a crew for you within twenty-four hours and we’ll take the good sloop Jasamine, lying off of Hell Gate. Ahoy for the capture of the Englishman!”

In two days’ time, all was ready for the expedition. The sloop Jasamine slowly drifted into the harbor of New York, an anchor spliced to her bowsprit, a crew of sturdy adventurers aboard; and, filling away in a stout sou’wester, rolled down the coast in the direction [Pg 288] of Rhode Island. Reaching the vicinity of Newport, she lay to behind a sheltering peninsula, waiting for the night to come, so that she could drop down upon the Englishman under the cloak of darkness.

Blackness settled upon the still and waveless water. With muffled oars the sloop now glided towards the dark hull of the British gun-boat; her men armed to the teeth, with fuses alight, and ready to touch off the cannon at the slightest sign of discovery. All was still upon the towering deck of the war-vessel and the little lights twinkled at her bow.

But what was that?

Suddenly a voice came through the darkness.

“Who goes there?”

No answer came but the dip of the oars in unison.

“Who goes there? Answer, or I fire!”

Again the slow beat of the oars and nothing more.


A musket spoke from the jutting bow in front of the sloop and a bullet struck in the foremast of the staunch attacker, with a resounding z-i-n-n-g!

“We’re discovered,” whispered Talbot. “Pull for your lives, men, and punch her like a battering-ram. When we’ve cut through the netting, let every fellow dash upon her decks, and fight for every inch you can.”

As he ceased speaking, the bow of the sloop struck the roping stretched around the man-o’-warsman, and a ripping and tearing was plainly heard above the crash of small arms, the shouts of men, and the rumble of hawsers. Two cannon spoke from the side of the Englishman, and, as their roar echoed across the still [Pg 289] ocean, the guns of the Jasamine belched forth their answer.


The anchor attached to the bowsprit had done what was desired. It tore a great hole in the stout netting, ripped open a breach sufficiently wide for entrance to the deck, and, as the cannon grumbled and spat at the sloop,—the bowsprit was black with jack-tars scrambling for an opportunity to board the Britisher.

“Now, men,” shouted Major Talbot, above the din. “Swing our craft sideways! Let go the port guns, and then let every mother’s son rush the foe! And your cry must be, ‘Death and no quarter!’”

As he ceased, the good Jasamine was forced sideways into the man-o’-warsman, and, propelled by the current, drifted against her with tremendous force, crushing the remaining nets as she did so. A few of the Americans were already on the deck in a terrific struggle with the half-sleepy English seamen, but—in a moment—Talbot, himself, at the head of his entire crew, came leaping across the side.

Now was a scene of carnage. The cutlasses of both Yankee tar and British, were doing awful execution, and pistols were cracking like hail upon the roof. Back, back, went the English before the vigorous assault of the stormers, and, as the deck was now piled with the dead and dying, the commander of the man-o’-warsman cried out,

“I surrender! Cease, you Yankee sea-dogs. You’re too smart for me!”

So saying, he held up a handkerchief tied to his cutlass, and the battle ceased.

[Pg 290] The story of the fight of Silas Talbot’s was now on every lip, and all praised the daring and courage of this valorous Major, who was as bold as a lion, and as courageous as any seaman who sailed upon the sea.

Promotion came rapidly to the soldier-sailor. In 1779 he became a colonel and was placed in command of the Argo, a sloop of about one hundred tons, armed with twelve six-pounders, and carrying but sixty men. ’Tis said that she looked like a “clumsy Albany trader,” with one great, rakish mast, an immense mainsail, and a lean boom. Her tiller was very lengthy, she had high bulwarks and a wide stern—but, in spite of her raw appearance, she could sail fast and could show a clean pair of heels to most vessels of twice her size.

Shortly after taking charge of this privateer, word was brought that Captain Hazard of the privateer King George was off the coast of Rhode Island.

“That’s what I want,” cried Captain Talbot, slapping his knee. “This fellow Hazard is an American. He was born in Rhode Island, and, instead of joining in our righteous cause against the Mother Country, he has elected to fight against us. For the base purpose of plundering his old neighbors and friends, he has fitted out the King George and has already done great damage on the coast. Let me but catch the old fox and I’ll give him a taste of American lead. I’ll put a stop to the depredations of this renegade.”

The King George had fourteen guns and eighty men, but this did not worry staunch and nervy Silas Talbot. He started in pursuit of her, as soon as he learned of her whereabouts, and, before many days, sighted a sail [Pg 291] just off the New York coast, which was hoped to be the vessel of the renegade.

Mile after mile was passed. Hour by hour the Argo ploughed after the silvery sails, until, late in the afternoon, the stranger hovered near a shallow harbor on the coast, and seemed to await the on-coming privateer with full confidence.

The Argo boomed along under a spanking sou’wester and, sailing near the stranger, to the keen eyes of Talbot came the welcome sight of King George painted upon the stern of the rakish privateer.

“All hands man the guns,” cried he. “We’ll sink th’ rascally Hazard with all his crew, unless he strikes. She’s got more men and guns, but what care we for that. Take hold, my Hearties, and we’ll soon make her know her master.”

The King George seemed to welcome the coming fight; she luffed; lay to; and her men could be seen standing ready at the polished cannon. Now was one of the strangest battles of American sea history.

The King George cruised along under a full spread of canvas, jibbed, came about upon the port quarter of the stranger, and ran up to within shooting distance, when a broadside was poured into the deck of the rolling Argo. She replied with her own fourteen guns, and, before they could be reloaded, the King George struck her alongside; the American seaman swarmed across the rail; and—if we are to believe a historian of the period—“drove the crew of King George from their quarters, taking possession of her, without a man on either side being killed.” Hats off [Pg 292] to the doughty Silas Talbot for this brave adventure! Did you ever hear of such a fight with no man ever being slaughtered?

Again rang the fame of Silas Talbot, but he was not to rest long upon laurels won. The British privateer Dragon—of three hundred tons and eighty men—was hovering near Providence, Rhode Island, hungry and eager for unprotected merchantmen.

“I’ll have to strike her,” said Captain Talbot.

It was a beautiful day in June. As the Dragon drowsed along listlessly a dozen miles off the shore, her topsails barely filling in the gentle southerly breeze, the watch suddenly stirred, and sang out in no gentle tones,

“Sail ho, off the starboard! Looks like Captain Talbot of the Argo!”

The captain came bounding from his cabin, glass in hand.

“Sure enough,” said he, scanning the white sails upon the horizon. “It’s Talbot and we’re in for a tight affair. All hands prepare for action!”

There was noise and confusion upon the deck of the privateer as the guns were sponged, charges were rammed home, and all prepared for battle. Meanwhile, the stranger came nearer, and rounding to within striking distance, crashed a broadside into the slumbering Dragon, who had not yet shown her fangs.

Crackle! Crackle! Boom!

The small arms from the Britisher began to spit at the advancing privateer, and seven of her fourteen guns rang out a welcome to the sailors of Rhode [Pg 293] Island. The solid shot ploughed through the rigging, cutting ropes and spars with knife-like precision.

“Round her to on the port quarter!” shouted Captain Talbot, “and get near enough for boarding!”

But, as the Argo swung near her antagonist, the Dragon dropped away—keeping just at pistol-shot distance.

“Run her down!” yelled the stout Rhode Islander, as he saw this manœuvre of his wily foe. Then he uttered an exclamation of disgust, for, as he spoke, a bullet struck his speaking trumpet; knocking it to the deck, and piercing it with a jagged hole.

“Never mind!” cried he, little disconcerted at the mishap. “Give it to her, boys!”

Then he again uttered an exclamation, for a bounding cannon ball—ricochetting from the deck—took off the end of his coat-tail.[1]

“I’ll settle with you for that,” yelled the old sea-dog, leaping to a cannon, and, pointing it himself, he touched the fuse to the vent. A puff of smoke, a roar, and a ball ploughed into the mainmast of the rocking Dragon.

Talbot smiled with good humor.

“Play for that, my brave fellows,” he called out, above the din of battle. “Once get the mainmast overside, and we can board her.”

With a cheer, his sailors redoubled their efforts to sink the Dragon, and solid shot fairly rained into her hull, as the two antagonists bobbed around the rolling [Pg 294] ocean in this death grapple. Thus they sparred and clashed for four and a half hours, when, with a great splitting of sails and wreck of rigging, the mainmast of the Dragon trembled, wavered, and fell to leeward with a sickening thud.

“She’s ours!” yelled Captain Talbot, through his dented speaking trumpet.

Sure enough, the Dragon had had enough. Her wings had been clipped, and, in a moment more, a white flag flew from her rigging.

“The Argo is sinking! The Argo is sinking!” came a cry, at this moment.

“Inspect the sides of our sloop,” cried Talbot.

This was done, immediately, and it was found that there were numerous shot-holes between wind and water, which were speedily plugged up. Then, bearing down upon the crippled Dragon, she was boarded; a prize-crew was put aboard; and the Argo steered for home, her men singing,

“Talk about your gay, old cocks,
Yankee, Doodle, Dandy,
‘Si’ Talbot he can heave the blocks,
And stick like pepp’mint candy.
“Yankee—Doodle—Shoot and kill,
Yankee—Doodle—Back an’ fill,

Silas Talbot, in fact, had done extremely well, but, not content with his laurels already won, he soon put out again upon the Argo, in company with another [Pg 295] privateer from Providence, Rhode Island, called the Saratoga; which sailed under a Captain Munro. They were not off the coast more than two days when they came across the Dublin; a smart, English privateer-cutter of fourteen guns, coming out of Sandy Hook. Instead of running away, she ploughed onward, and cleared for action.

The Argo and the Saratoga ran in upon the windward quarter and banged away with audacity. The fight lasted for an hour. Then—as the Argo tacked in closer in order to grapple and board—the Saratoga was headed for the privateer. But—instead of coming in—she began to run off in the wind.

“Hard a-weather! Hard up there with the helm!” cried Captain Munro.

“It is hard up!” cried the steersman.

“You lie, you blackguard!” cried Munro. “She goes away lasking! Hard a-weather I say again!”

“It is hard a-weather, I say again, captain,” cried the fellow at the tiller.

“Captain Talbot thinks that I am running away when I want to join him,” cried Munro. “What the deuce is the matter anyway?”

“Why, I can tell you,” cried a young Lieutenant. “You’ve got an iron tiller in place of the wooden one, and she’s loose in the rudder head, so your boat won’t steer correctly.”

“Egad, you’re right,” said Munro, as he examined the top of the tiller. “Now, jam her over and we’ll catch this Dublin of old Ireland, or else I’m no sailor. We’ll give her a broadside, too, when we come up.”

[Pg 296] The Argo, meanwhile, was hammering the Englishman in good fashion, and, as the Saratoga pumped a broadside into her—raking her from bow to stern—the Dublin struck her colors.

“Two to one, is too much odds,” cried the English captain, as a boat neared the side of his vessel. “I could have licked either of you, alone.”

And, at this, both of the American privateersmen chuckled.

Old “Si” Talbot was soon in another fight. Three days later he chased another sail, and coming up with her, found his antagonist to be the Betsy: an English privateer of twelve guns and fifty-eight men, commanded by an honest Scotchman.

The Argo ranged up alongside and Talbot hailed the stranger. After a bit of talk he hoisted the Stars and Stripes, crying,

“You must haul down those British colors, my friend!”

To which the Scot replied:

“Notwithstanding I find you an enemy, as I suspected, yet, sir, I believe that I shall let them hang a little longer, with your permission. So fire away, Flanagan!”

“And that I’ll do,” yelled Talbot. “Flanagan will be O’Toole and O’Grady before the morning’s over. For I’ll beat you like an Irish constable from Cork.”

So it turned out. Before an hour was past, the Betsy had struck, the captain was killed, and all of his officers were wounded.

“Old Si”—you see—had had good luck. So [Pg 297] well, indeed, had he fought, that in 1780 he was put in command of a good-sized vessel, the General Washington. In her he cruised about Sandy Hook in search of spoil.

One hazy day in August, the watch sang out,

“Several sail astern, Sir! Looks like a whole squadron!”

Talbot seized the glass and gazed intently at the specks of white.

“Egad! It is a squadron,” said he, at length. “And they’re after me. Crowd on every stitch of canvas and we’ll run for it.”

So all sail was hoisted, and the General Washington stood out to sea.

But the sails of the pursuers grew strangely clear. They came closer, ever closer, and Talbot paced the deck impatiently.

“Gad Zooks!” cried he, “I wish that I could fly like a bird.”

He could not fly, and, in two hours’ time the red flag on the foremast of a British brig was clear to the eyes of the crew of the privateer. When—an hour later—a solid shot spun across his bow, “Old Si” Talbot hove to, and ran up the white flag. He was surrounded by six vessels of the English and he felt, for once, that discretion was the better part of valor.

“Old Si” was now thrown into a prison ship off Long Island and then was taken to England aboard the Yarmouth. Imprisoned at Dartmoor, he made four desperate attempts to escape. All failed.

[Pg 298] In the summer of 1781 he was liberated; found his way home to Rhode Island; and died “with his boots on” in New York, June 30th, 1813. The old sea-dogs of his native state still cherish the memory of “Capting Si;” singing a little song, which runs:

“He could take ’er brig or sloop, my boy,
An’ fight her like ’er man.
He could steer ’er barque or barquentine,
An’ make her act jest gran!
‘Ole Si’ wuz ’er rip-dazzler,
His flag wuz never struck,
Until ’er British squadroon,
Jest catched him in th’ ruck.
“So drink ’er drop ter ‘Ole Si,’ Sky-high, Oh my!
Drink ’er glass ter ‘Ole Si,’ th’ skipper from our kentry.
Give three cheers fer ‘Ole Si,’ Sky-high, Oh my!
Give three cheers fer ‘Ole Si,’ th’ pride o’ Newport’s gentry.”


[1] A true incident vouched for by two historians.

From “The Army and Navy of the United States.”





[Pg 300]

“Never strike your flag until you have to. And if you have to, why let it come down easy-like, with one, last gun,—fer luck.”—Maxims of 1812.

[Pg 301]


If you would hear of fighting brave,
Of war’s alarms and prisons dark,
Then, listen to the tale I tell,
Of Yankee pluck—and cruising barque,
Which, battling on the rolling sea,
There fought and won,—Can such things be?

IT was about eight o’clock in the evening. The moon was bright, and as the privateer Pomona swung along in the fresh breeze, her Captain, Isaiah Robinson of New York, laid his hand softly upon the shoulder of his first officer, Joshua Barney, saying,

“A ship off the lee-quarter, Barney, she’s an Englishman, or else my name’s not Robinson.”

Barney raised his glass.

“A British brig, and after us, too. She’s a fast sailer and is overhauling us. But we’ll let her have a broadside from our twelve guns and I believe that we can stop her.”

The Pomona carried thirty-five men. Laden with tobacco for Bordeaux, France, she was headed for that sunny land,—but all ready for a fight, if one should come to her. And for this she carried twelve guns, as her first officer had said.

[Pg 302] The British boat came nearer and nearer. Finally she was close enough for a voice to be heard from her deck, and she ran up her colors. A cry came from the black body,

“What ship is that?”

There was no reply, but the Stars and Stripes were soon floating from the mainmast of the American.

“Haul down those colors!” came from the Britisher.

There was no answer, but the Pomona swung around so that her port guns could bear, and a clashing broadside plunged into the pursuer. Down came her fore-topsail, the rigging cut and torn in many places, and, as the American again showed her heels, the British captain cried out,

“All sail aloft and catch the saucy and insolent privateer!”

Then commenced one of the most interesting running actions of American naval history.

“The cursed American has no stern-gun ports,” said the British sea-captain. “So keep the ship abaft, and on th’ port quarter, where we can let loose our bow-guns and get little in return.”

This was done, but—if we are to believe an old chronicler of the period—“The British crew had been thrown into such confusion by the Pomona’s first broadside that they were able to fire only one or two shots every half hour.”

“By Gad,” cried Joshua Barney to Captain Robinson, about this time, “let’s cut a hole in our stern, shove a cannon through it, and whale the British [Pg 303] landlubber as he nears us for another shot with her bow-chasers.”

The captain grinned.

“A good idea, Barney, a good idea,” he chuckled. “Now we can teach her to keep clear of us.”

So a three-pounder soon poked her nose through the stern, and, when the proud Britisher again came up for one of her leisurely discharges, she received a dose of grape which made her captain haul off precipitously. Nor did he venture near again for another shot at the saucy fugitive.

When daylight came, sixteen guns were counted upon the British brig.

“By George!” shouted Barney. “See those officers in the rigging. She’s a gun-ship—a regular ship-of-war.”

But Captain Robinson laughed.

“That’s an old game,” said he. “They’re tryin’ to fool us into the belief that she’s a real gun-boat, so’s we’ll surrender immediately. But see—she’s drawin’ near again—and seems as if she’s about to board us from the looks of her crew.”

Barney gazed intently at the stranger.

“You’re right,” said he. “Load the three-pounder with grape-shot.”

“And here’s a crow-bar as’ll top it off nice,” put in a sailor.

Captain Robinson laughed.

“Yes, spike her in, too. She’ll plunk a hole clear through th’ rascal,” he cried. “I’ll touch her off myself.”

[Pg 304] The British gun-boat drew nearer and nearer. Just as she was within striking distance—about ten yards—the three-pounder was touched off with a deaf’ning roar.

“So accurate was the aim,” says an old historian, “that the British were completely baffled in their attempt; their foresails and all their weather foreshrouds being cut away.”

“Give her a broadside!” called out Captain Robinson, as the brig sheered off in order to support its foremast, which tottered with its own weight; the rigging which supported it, being half cut away. And, as he spoke—the crew let drive a shower of balls and grape-shot. It was the last volley.

The Pomona kept upon her course, while the white sails of the attacker grew fainter and fainter upon the horizon.

“I saw her name as she ranged in close to us,” said Joshua Barney, slapping Captain Robinson on the back. “And it was the Rosebud.”

“I reckon that Rosebud has no thorns left,” chuckled Captain Robinson, and he was still chuckling when the little Pomona safely sailed into the harbor of Bordeaux in France. The voyage had been a success.

Here a store of guns, powder and shot was purchased, and, having shipped a cargo of brandy, and raised the crew to seventy men, the staunch, little vessel set sail for America.

Not three days from the coast of France the cry of “Sail ho!” startled all on board, and, upon the [Pg 305] starboard quarter—loomed a British privateer. Upon nearer view she was seen to have sixteen guns and seventy men.

“All hands for a fight!” cried Robinson. “Don’t let th’ fellow escape.”

Now was a hard battle. It lasted for full two hours, and—in the end—the Britisher struck, with twelve killed and a number wounded, while the American loss was but one killed and two wounded. The Pomona kept upon her course, jubilantly.

But the saucy ship was not to have all smooth sailing. She was soon captured—by whom it is not known—and stout “Josh” Barney became a prisoner of war. In December, 1780, with about seventy American officers, he was placed on board the Yarmouth—a sixty-four-gun brig—and was shipped to England.

Now listen to the treatment given him according to a contemporaneous historian. Did you ever hear of anything more atrocious? Peace—indeed—had more horrors than war in the year 1780.

“From the time these Americans stepped aboard the Yarmouth their captors gave it to be understood, by hints and innuendos, that they were being taken to England ‘to be hanged as rebels;’ and, indeed the treatment they received aboard the Yarmouth on the passage over, led them to believe that the British officers intended to cheat the gallows of their prey, by causing the prisoners to die before they reached port.

“On coming aboard the ship-of-the-line, these officers were stowed away in the lower hold, next to [Pg 306] the keel, under five decks, and many feet below the water-line. Here, in a twelve-by-twenty-foot room, with upcurving floor, and only three feet high, the seventy-one men were kept for fifty-three days, like so much merchandise—without light or good air—unable to stand upright, with no means to get away.

“Their food was of the poorest quality, and was supplied in such insufficient quantities, that, whenever one of the prisoners died, the survivors concealed the fact, in order that the dead man’s allowance might be added to theirs. The water which they were served to drink was atrocious.

“From the time the Yarmouth left New York till she reached Plymouth, in a most tempestuous winter passage, these men were kept in this loathsome dungeon. Eleven died in delirium; their wild ravings and piercing shrieks appalling their comrades, and giving them a foretaste of what they, themselves, might expect. Not even a surgeon was permitted to visit them.

“Arriving at Plymouth, the pale, emaciated men were ordered to come on deck. Not one obeyed, for they were unable to stand upright. Consequently they were hoisted up, the ceremony being grimly suggestive of the manner in which they had been treated,—like merchandise. And what were they to do, now that they had been placed on deck?

“The light of the sun, which they had scarcely seen for fifty-three days, fell upon their weak, dilated pupils with blinding force; their limbs were unable to uphold them, their frames wasted by disease and want. [Pg 307] Seeking for support, they fell in a helpless mass, one upon the other, waiting and almost hoping for the blow that was to fall upon them next. Captain Silas Talbot was one of these unfortunate prisoners.

“To send them ashore in this condition was ‘impracticable,’ so the British officers said, and we readily discover that this ‘impracticable’ served the purpose of diverting the indignation of the land’s folk, which sure would be aroused, if they knew that such brutality had been practiced under the cross of St. George (the cross upon the British flag).

“Waiting, then, until the captives could, at least, endure the light of day, and could walk without leaning on one another, or clutching at every object for support, the officers had them removed to the old Mill Prison.”

This story has been denied, for the reason that the log of the Yarmouth shows that she was forty-four and not fifty-three days at sea, and the captain writes:

“We had the prisoners ‘watched’ (divided into port and starboard watch) and set them to the pumps. I found it necessary so to employ them, the ship’s company, from their weak and sickly state, being unequal to that duty, and, on that account to order them whole allowance of provisions.”

It would have been impossible for men to be in the condition which the first historian describes if they had to man the pumps. It would have been impossible for them to have done an hour’s work. Therefore, I, myself, believe the second story. Don’t you?

But to return to stout “Josh” Barney, now [Pg 308] meditating thoughts of escape in old Mill Prison. Bold and resourceful he was always, and he was now determined to face the difficulties of an exit and the chances of detection. “I must and can get away,” he said.

The prisoners were accustomed to play leap-frog, and one day the crafty “Josh” pretended that he had sprained his ankle. Constructing two crutches—out of pieces of boards—he limped around the prison-yard and completely deceived all but a few of his most intimate friends.

One day—it was May the eighteenth, 1781—he passed a sentry near the inner gate. The fellow’s name was Sprokett and he had served in the British army in America, where he had received many kindnesses from the country people. For this reason his heart warmed to the stout, young “Josh,” who had often engaged him in conversation.

Hopping to the gate upon his crutches, the youthful American whispered,

“Give me a British uniform and I will get away. Can you do it?”

Sprokett smiled.

“Sure,” said he.



And this meant one o’clock, when the warders dined.

“All right,” whispered “Josh,” smiling broadly, and he again hobbled around the yard.

After awhile the sentry motioned for him to come nearer. He did so—and as he approached—a large [Pg 309] bundle was stealthily shoved into his arms. He hastened to his cell and there put on the undress uniform of an officer of the British army.

Drawing on his great-coat, he went into the yard and hobbled about upon his two sticks until the time drew near for the mid-day mess. Then he drew close to the gate.

One o’clock tolled from the iron bell upon the prison rampart, and, as its deep-toned echoes sounded from its tower, several of Barney’s friends engaged the half-dozen sentries in conversation. It was the time for action.

The astute “Josh” suddenly dropped his crutches. Then—walking across the enclosure towards the gate,—he winked to the sentry. A companion was at hand. With a spring he leaped upon his shoulders. One boost—and he was on top of the walk. Another spring, and he had dropped to the other side as softly as a cat.

But the second gate and sentry had to be passed.

Walking up to this red-coated individual he placed four guineas (about $20.00) into his outstretched palm. The soldier smiled grimly, as the great-coat was tossed aside, and the shrewdest privateer in the American Navy walked towards the opening through the outer wall, which was usually left ajar for the convenience of the prison officials. Another sentry stood upon duty at this point.

Barney nodded. The sentry had been “squared” (told of the coming escape) and so he turned his back. Thus—with his heart beating like a trip-hammer—“Josh,” [Pg 310] the nervy one—walked down the cobbled street outside of the “Old Mill.” He was free.

Dodging into a lane, he soon met a friend who had been told of his attempt, and who took him to the house of an old clergyman in Plymouth. In the morning, with two fellow-countrymen, who were also in hiding (for they had been captured as passengers in a merchant vessel), he secured a fishing-smack. “Josh” now covered his uniform. Putting on an old coat with a tarred rope tied around his waist, a pair of torn trousers, and a tarpaulin hat, the disguised Jack-tar ran the little vessel down the River Plym, just as day was dawning. The forts and men-of-war were safely passed, and the little shallop tossed upon the gleaming wavelets of the English channel.

We are told that his escape was not noticed for some time because “a slender youth who was capable of creeping through the window-bars at pleasure crawled into Barney’s cell (in the Old Mill Prison) and answered for him.” I doubt this, for—if you have ever seen the bars of a prison—it would take a Jack Spratt to get through them, and Jack Spratts are not common. At any rate someone answered to the daily roll-call for Joshua B., so that it was full two weeks before the authorities knew of his escape. Perhaps there was a ventriloquist in the jail.

The tiny boat in which the adventurous American hoped to reach the welcome shores of France, bobbed up and down, as she ambled towards the low-lying coast, under a gentle southerly breeze. But there was trouble in this self-same wind, for the white wings [Pg 311] of a British privateer grew nearer and nearer, and a hail soon came:

“What’s your name, and where are you bound?”

Barney and his partners in distress did not answer at all. They scowled as a boat was lowered from the side of their pursuer, and quickly splashed towards them. In not many moments, a swearing sea-captain swung himself upon their deck.

“Who are you, you lubbers?” said he. “Where’ yer papers, and where’ yer bound to?”

“I’m a British officer,” replied the astute Joshua, opening his coat and disclosing the uniform of the service. “I am bound for France upon official business.”

The Captain snickered.

“An’ with two others in er’ launch? Aw go tell that to th’ marines!”

“It’s God’s truth. I’m in a state secret.”

“Wall—be that as it may be—you must come aboard of my vessel and tell yer state secret to th’ authorities in England. Meanwhile, I’ll put a skipper of my own aboard yer vessel and we’ll travel together—bein’ friends.”

Barney swore beneath his breath.

Thus the two boats beat towards the coast of Merrie England in company, and upon the day following, came to anchor in a small harbor, six miles from Plymouth. The captain of the privateer went ashore in order to report to Admiral Digby at Plymouth, while most of the crew also hastened to the beach in order to avoid the chance of being seized by the press-gang, [Pg 312] which harried incoming vessels for recruits for His Majesty’s service.

“Can’t I go, too?” asked the cautious “Josh.”

“No, you must remain on board until we come for you,” said the captain, as he jumped into his boat en route for the shore. “Mister Officer, I want to search your record.” Then he laughed brutishly.

But Barney’s thinking cap was working like a mill race. There was a jolly-boat tied to the stern of the privateer, and, when all were safe ashore, he gently slipped into this, purposely skinning his leg as he did so. Then he sculled to the beach; where a group of idlers stood looking out to sea.

“Here,” he cried, as he neared them. “Help me haul up this boat, will yer? She’s awful heavy.”

A custom’s officer was among these loiterers and he was inquisitive.

“Who are you?” said he. “What regiment and where stationed, pray?”

“That I cannot answer, my friend,” calmly replied the acute “Josh,” pointing to the blood as it trickled through his stocking. “I am badly injured, you see, and must go away in order to get my leg tied up. Prithee, kind sir, can you tell me where the crew from my vessel have gone to?”

“They are at the Red Lion at the end of the village,” replied the official of the law. “You are, indeed, badly hurt.”

“Wall, I reckon,” replied the American, and, stumbling up the beach, he was soon headed for the end of the little village.

[Pg 313] But things were not to go too well with him. He found that he was obliged to pass the Red Lion, and he had almost succeeded in doing so unmolested, when one of the sailors who was loitering outside, cried out after him,

“Ho, friend! I would speak with you!”

“Josh” had to stop although sorely tempted to run for it.

“I’ve got some idee of shippin’ in th’ Navy,” said the fellow, as he approached. “Now, friend, you can tell me somethin’ of th’ pay an’ service, as you’re an officer of th’ army.”

Barney’s eyes shone with pleasure, as he saw that his disguise had deceived the fellow.

“Walk along with me towards Plymouth,” said he, “and I’ll explain everything to you. I have business there which will not wait and I must get on to it.”

So they jogged along together, talking vigorously about the Navy, but, in the course of half an hour the jack-tar seemed to think better of his plan for entering “a service noted for its cruelty to seamen,” and turned back, saying,

“Thank’ee my fine friend. Thank’ee. I’ll stick to privateerin’. It’s easier an’ there’s less cat-o’-nine-tails to it.”

As soon as his burly form disappeared down the winding road, Barney began to grow anxious about his safety. Perhaps a guard would be sent after him? Perhaps—even now—men had discovered his absence and were hurrying to intercept him? So—with [Pg 314] these thoughts upon his mind—he jumped over a stiff hedge into the grounds of Lord Mount-Edgecumbe.

“Egad! it’s touch and go with me,” said he, as he walked down one of the gravelled paths. “I’m in for it now for here comes the gardener.”

Sure enough, towards him ambled a middle-aged fellow, smiling as he pushed along a wheel-barrow filled with bulbs.

Joshua walked up to him, extending his right hand.

“My friend,” said he, “I am an officer escaping from some seamen who wish my life because of a duel in which I recently engaged over the hand of a fair lady. Here is a guinea. It is all that I possess. And—if you could but pilot me to the waterside and will not tell of my whereabouts—I will bless you to my dying day.”

The good-humored man-of-the-soil smiled benignly.

“Prithee, but follow me,” said he, “and we’ll soon see that you pass by the way of the water gate. Your money is most welcome, sir, for my wife is just now ill and doctors must be paid, sir. That you know right well.”

Barney breathed easier as they walked towards the sea; for out of the corner of his eye he saw a guard—sent to capture him—tramping along the other side of the hedge over which he had leaped.

“Good-bye and good luck!” cried the kind-hearted servant as he closed the private gate which led to the [Pg 315] waterside. And, with a wave of the hand, the fleeing American was soon hastening to the winding river, over which he must cross in order to get on to Plymouth.

Luck was still with him. A butcher who was ferrying some beeves by water, took him in his boat, and, as night fell, the keen-witted privateersman crept through the back door of the old clergyman’s house at Plymouth—from which he had started. For the time being, he was safe.

Strange to relate, the two friends of the fishing-smack adventure here joined him once more, for they, also, had run away from the crew of the privateer, and—as they sat around the supper-table—the town-crier went by the house, bawling in harsh and discordant tones:

“Five guineas reward for the capture of Joshua Barney; a rebel deserter from Mill Prison! Five guineas reward for this deserter! Five guineas! Five guineas!”

But Barney stuffed his napkin into his mouth in order to stop his laughter.

Three days later a clean-shaven, bright-cheeked, young dandy stepped into a post chaise, at midnight, and drove off to Exeter. At Plymouth gate the conveyance was stopped; a lantern was thrust into the black interior; and the keen eyes of the guard scanned the visages of those within:

“He’s not here,” growled the watchman, lowering the light. “Drive on!”

Thus Joshua Barney rolled on to home and freedom, [Pg 316] while the stout-bodied soldier little guessed that the artful privateersman had slipped through his fingers like water through a sieve.

Two months later—in the autumn of 1781—Joshua Barney: fighter, privateer, liar and fugitive, walked down the quiet streets of Beverly, Massachusetts, and a little fish-monger’s son whispered to his companions,

“Say, Boys! That feller is a Jim Dandy. He’s been through more’n we’ll ever see. Say! He’s a regular Scorcher!”

Many months later—when the Revolutionary War had ended—the good ship General Washington lay in Plymouth Harbor on the south coast of England. Her commander—Captain Joshua Barney—gazed contentedly at the Stars and Stripes as they flew jauntily from the mizzen-mast, and then walked to the rail, as a group of British officers came over the side. But there was one among these guests who was not an officer. He was bent, old, weather-beaten; and his dress showed him to be a tiller and worker of the soil. It was the aged and faithful gardener of Lord Mount-Edgecumbe.

“You remember me?” cried the genial American, grasping the honest servant by the hand.

The gardener’s eyes were alight with pleasure.

“You are the feller who jumped over the hedge—many years ago—when the sea-dogs were hot upon your trail.”

Joshua Barney chuckled.

[Pg 317] “The same,” said he. “And here is a purse of gold to reward my kind and worthy helpmeet.”

So saying, he placed a heavy, chamois bag of glittering eagles into the trembling hands of the ancient retainer.

[Pg 318]


Unmoored, unmanned, unheeded on the deep—
Tossed by the restless billow and the breeze,
It drifts o’er sultry leagues of tropic seas.
Where long Pacific surges swell and sweep,
When pale-faced stars their silent watches keep,
From their far rhythmic spheres, the Pleiades,
In calm beatitude and tranquil ease,
Smile sweetly down upon its cradled sleep.
Erewhile, with anchor housed and sails unfurled,
We saw the stout ship breast the open main,
To round the stormy Cape, and span the World,
In search of ventures which betoken gain.
To-day, somewhere, on some far sea we know
Her battered hulk is heaving to and fro.




[Pg 320]

“If you would be known never to have done anything, never do it.”—Emerson.

[Pg 321]


Parlez-vous Français? Yes, Monsieur,
I can speak like a native,—sure.
Then, take off your cap to the lilies of France,
Throw it up high, and hasten the dance.
For “Bobbie” Surcouf has just come to town,
Tenez! He’s worthy of wearing a crown.

IT was a sweltering, hot day in July and the good ship Aurora swung lazily in the torpid waters of the Indian Ocean. Her decks fairly sizzled in the sun, and her sails flopped like huge planks of wood. She was becalmed on a sheet of molten brass.

“I can’t stand this any longer,” said a young fellow with black hair and swarthy skin. “I’m going overboard.”

From his voice it was easy to see he was a Frenchman.

Hastily stripping himself, he went to the gangway, and standing upon the steps, took a header into the oily brine. He did not come up.

“Sacre nom de Dieu!” cried a sailor. “Young Surcouf be no risen. Ah! He has been down ze long time. Ah! Let us lower ze boat and find heem.”

“Voilà! Voilà!” cried another. “He ees drowned!”

[Pg 322] Plunkety, plunk, splash! went a boat over the side, and in a moment more, a half dozen sailors were eagerly looking into the deep, blue wash of the ocean.

“He no there. I will dive for heem,” cried out the fellow who had first spoken, and, leaping from the boat, he disappeared from view.

In a few moments he re-appeared, drawing the body of the first diver with him. It was apparently helpless. The prostrate sailor was lifted to the deck; rubbed, worked over, scrubbed,—but no signs of life were there.

Meanwhile, a Portuguese Lieutenant, who was pacing the poop, appeared to be much pleased at what took place.

“The fellow’s dead! The beggar’s done for,—sure. Overboard with the rascal! To the waves with the dead ’un!”

“Give us a few more moments,” cried the sailors. “He will come to!”

But the Lieutenant smiled satirically.

“To the waves with the corpse! To the sharks with the man from St. Malo!” cried he.

And all of this the senseless seaman heard—for—he was in a cataleptic fit, where he could hear, but could not move. The Portuguese Lieutenant and he were bitter enemies.

“Oh, I tell you, Boys, the fellow’s dead!” again cried the Portuguese. “Over with him!”

So saying, he seized the inert body with his hands; dragged it to the ship’s side; and started to lift it to the rail.

[Pg 323] Conscious of all that went on around him, the paralyzed Surcouf realized that, unless he could make some sign, he had only a few seconds to live. So, with a tremendous effort—he made a movement of his limbs. It was noticed.

“Voilà! Voilà!” cried a French sailor. “He ees alife. No! No! You cannot kill heem!”

Running forward, he grabbed the prostrate form of Robert Surcouf, pulled it back upon the deck, and—as the Portuguese Lieutenant went off cursing—he rubbed the cold hands of the half-senseless man. In a moment the supposed corpse had opened its eyes.

“Ah!” he whispered. “I had a close call. A thousand thanks to all!”

In five more moments he could stand upon the deck, and—believe me—he did not forget the Portuguese Lieutenant!

Robert Surcouf was born at St. Malo—just one hundred years after Du Guay-Trouin, to whom he was related. And like his famous relative he had been intended for the Church,—but he was always fighting; was insubordinate, and could not be made to study. In fact, he was what is known as a “holy terror.”

Finally good Mamma Surcouf sent him to the Seminary of St. Dinan, saying:

“Now, Robert, be a good boy and study hard thy lessons!”

And Robert said, “Oui, Madame!” But he would not work.

One day the master in arithmetic did not like the [Pg 324] method in which young “Bobbie” answered him, and raising a cane, he ran towards the youthful scholar. But Robert had learned a kind of “Jiu-Jitsu” practiced by the youths of France, and he tackled his irate master like an end-rush upon the foot-ball team, when he dives for a runner. Both fell to the ground with a thud. And all the other boys yelled “Fine!” in unison.

Now was a fierce battle, but weight told, and “Bobbie” was soon underneath, with his teeth in the leg of his tutor. They scratched and rolled until “Bobbie” freed himself, and, running to the window, jumped outside—for he was on the ground floor—scaled the garden fence, and made off. Home was twenty miles away.

“I must get there, somehow,” said young “Bobbie.” “I can never go back. I will be spanked so that I cannot seat myself.”

So little “Bob” trudged onward in the snow, for it was winter. It grew dark. It was bitterly cold, and he had no hat. At length—worn out with cold and hunger—he sank senseless to the roadside.

Luck pursues those destined for greatness.

Some fish-merchants happened that way, and, seeing the poor, helpless, little boy, they picked him up; placed him upon a tiny dog-cart; and carried him to St. Malo, where he had a severe attack of pneumonia. But his good mother nursed him through, saying:

“Ta donc! He will never be a scholar. Ta donc! Young Robbie must go to sea!”

So when “Bobbie” was well he was shipped aboard [Pg 325] the brig Heron, bound for Cadiz, Spain—and he was only just thirteen. But he threw up his cap crying,

“This is just what I’ve always wanted. Hurrah for the salty brine!”

At about twenty years of age we find him upon the good ship Aurora from which his dive into the Indian Ocean came near being his last splash. And the Portuguese Lieutenant did not forget.

Upon the next visit of the cruiser Aurora to the coast of Africa an epidemic of malarial fever struck the crew. Among those who succumbed to the disease was the Portuguese Lieutenant. He was dangerously ill.

The ship arrived at the island of Mauritius, and, Lieutenant Robert Surcouf was just going ashore, when he received a message which said:

“Come and see me. I am very ill.” It was from his enemy,—the Portuguese.

Surcouf did not like the idea, but after thinking the matter over, he went. But note this,—he had a pair of loaded pistols in his pocket. Dead men—you know—tell no tales.

As he entered the sick man’s cabin, a servant was there. The Portuguese made a sign to him to retire.

“I wish to speak to you with a sincere heart,” said he, turning his face to young Surcouf. “Before I pass from this world I want to relieve my conscience, and ask your forgiveness for all the evil which I have wished you during our voyages together.”

“I bear you no malice,” said Surcouf. “Let by-gones be by-gones.”

[Pg 326] As he spoke a spasm seemed to contort the body of the dying man. One arm stretched out towards a pillow nearby, and Robert had a sudden, but excellent thought. Stepping forward, he seized the hand of his old enemy, lifted the pillow, and, then started back with an exclamation of astonishment.

“Ye Gods!” cried he. “You would murder me!”

There, before him, were two cocked and loaded pistols.

Leaping forward he grabbed the weapons, pointing one at the forehead of the rascally sailor.

“You miserable beast!” cried he. “I can now shoot you like a dog, or squash you like an insect; but I despise you too much. I will leave you to die like a coward.”

“And,” says a historian, “this is what the wretched man did,—blaspheming in despairing rage.”

In October, 1794, Lieutenant Surcouf saw his first big battle, for, the English being at war with the French, two British men-of-war hovered off the island of Mauritius, blockading the port of St. Thomas. They were the Centurion of fifty-four guns, and the Diomede, also of fifty-four cannon, but with fewer tars. The French had four ships of war: the Prudente, forty guns; the Cybele, forty-four guns; the Jean Bart, twenty guns; and the Courier, fourteen guns. Surcouf was junior Lieutenant aboard the Cybele.

It was a beautiful, clear day, as the French vessels ploughed out to battle; their sails aquiver with the soft breeze; their pennons fluttering; guns flashing; [Pg 327] and eager sailors crowding to the rails with cutlasses newly sharpened and pistols in their sashes.


The first gun spoke. The first shell spun across the bow of the British bull-dog Diomede, and the battle was on.

Have you ever seen a school of pollock chasing a school of smaller fry? Have you ever seen them jump and splash, and thud upon the surface of the water?

Well—that is the way that the shells looked and sounded—as they plumped and slushed into the surface of the southern sea; and every now and then there was a punk, and a crash, and a chug, as a big, iron ball bit into the side of a man-of-war.

Around and around sailed the sparring assailants, each looking for a chance to board. Crash! Roar! Crash! growled the broadsides. Shrill screams sounded from the wounded; the harsh voices of the officers echoed above the din of the conflict; and, the whining bugle squealed ominously between the roaring crush of grape and chain-shot.

But the French got nearer and nearer. Great gaps showed in the bulwarks of the Diomede; one mast was tottering. Beaten and outnumbered she stood out to sea, her sailors crowding into the rigging like monkeys, and spreading every stitch of white canvas.

“She runs! Egad, she runs!” cried the Commander of the other British vessel. “Faith, I cannot stand off four Frenchmen alone. I must after her to save my scalp.”

[Pg 328] So—putting his helm hard over—he threw his vessel before the wind, and she spun off, pursued by bouncing shells and shrieking grapnel.

“Voilà!” cried the French. “Ze great battaile, eet belongs to us!” But there were many dead and wounded upon the decks of the proud French warships.

Soon after this smart, little affair the soldiers and sailors who had been in this fight were discharged,—and—looking about for employment, young Robert took the first position that presented itself: the command of the brig Creole,—engaged in the slave trade. He made several successful voyages, but orders were issued to—

“Arrest the Slave Hunter and all his crew,
When they arrive at the Mauritius.”

One of those little birds which sometimes carry needed information, both on sea and land, whispered this ill news to the gallant, young sea-dog. So he steered for the isle of Bourbon, and there landed his human freight in a small bay. At daybreak he lay at anchor in the Harbor of St. Paul in that self-same island.

About eight in the morning a boat was seen approaching, and to the hail,—“Who goes there?” came the reply—

“Public Health Committee from St. Denis. We wish to come on board and to inspect your ship.”

Surcouf was much annoyed.

[Pg 329] “You can climb aboard,” said he, stifling an exclamation of disgust. “I am at your service.”

In a few moments the commissioners were upon the deck, and, in a few moments more, they had discovered that the ship was a slaver.

Turning to the youthful captain, one of the committee said:

“You, sir, are engaged in illegal traffic. You must suffer for this, and must come with us at once to the city to answer an indictment drawn up against you.”

Surcouf smiled benignly.

“I am at your service,” said he, with a polite bow. “But do not go—I pray thee—until you have given me the great pleasure of partaking of the breakfast which my cook has hastily prepared.”

The Committee-men smiled.

“You are very kind,” said one. “We accept with pleasure.”

The hasty efforts of the cook proved to be most attractive. And, as the Commissioners smacked their lips over the good Madeira wine, the mate of the Creole dismissed the boat which had brought the stolid Commissioners to the side.

“The tender of our brig will take your people ashore,” said he to the coxswain.

No sooner had this tender neared the shore, than the cable of the Creole was slipped; she left her anchorage; and quickly drew out to sea in a fresh sou’westerly breeze.

The unaccustomed rallying soon warned the Commissioners that the vessel was no longer at anchor, [Pg 330] and, rushing to the deck, they saw—with dismay—that a full half mile of foam-flecked ocean lay between them and the island.

“Ye Gods!” cried one, turning to Surcouf. “What mean you by this, sir?”

The crafty Captain was smiling like the Cheshire cat.

“You are now in my power,” said he—very slowly and deliberately. “I am going to take you to the coast of Africa among your friends—the negroes. You seem to prefer them to the whites, so why not, pray? Meanwhile,—my kind sirs,—come below and take my orders.”

The Commissioners were flabbergasted.

“Pirate!” cried one.

“Thief!” cried another.

“Scamp!” shouted the third.

But they went below,—mumbling many an imprecation upon the head of the crafty Robert Surcouf.

That night the wind freshened, the waves rose, and the good ship Creole pitched and tossed upon them, like a leaf. The Committee-men were very ill, for they were landsmen, and Surcouf’s smile expanded.

“Take us ashore! Take us ashore!” cried one. “We must get upon land.”

Surcouf even laughed. Everything was as he wished.

“I will land you upon one condition only,” said he. “Destroy the indictment against me and my ship. Write a document to the effect that you have found no traces of slaves upon my staunch craft. Say that [Pg 331] my boat was driven from her anchor by a tidal wave—and you can put your feet upon solid ground.”

The three Commissioners scowled, but he had them. Besides they were sea-sick.

In an hour’s time, the desired paper had been drawn up. The Creole was headed for the Mauritius,—and, in eight days, the sad but wiser Commissioners were brooding over the smartness of Robert Surcouf when seated in their own snug little homes. “He is a rascal,” said one. “He’s a slick and wily cur.”

So much reputation came to the young mariner—at this exploit—that he was soon offered the command of the Emilie: a privateer of one hundred and eighty tons and four guns. He accepted with glee, but when about to go to sea, the Governor refused him Letters of Marque.

“What shall I do?” asked the crest-fallen Robert, approaching the owners of the trim and able craft.

“Sail for the Seychelles (Islands off the east coast of Africa) for a cargo of turtles,” said they. “If you fail to find these; fill up with corn, cotton and fruit. Fight shy of all English cruisers, and battle if you have to.”

Surcouf bowed.

“I am not a regular privateer,” he answered. “For I have no Letters of Marque. But I can defend myself if fired upon, and am an armed vessel in war-time. I may yet see some fighting.”

He was not to be disappointed.

While at anchor at the Seychelles, two large and fat [Pg 332] English men-of-war appeared in the offing. Surcouf had to run for it.

Steering in among the many little islets, which here abound, he navigated the dangerous channels and got safely off, his men crying,

“Voilà! Here is a genius. We did well to ship with such a master!”

But the gallant Surcouf soon turned from privateer to pirate.

South of the Bay of Bengal, a cyclone struck the Emilie and she was steered for Rangoon, where—

“The flying fishes play,
An’ the dawn comes up like thunder,
Outer China across the Bay.”

And here a British vessel steered for her: white-winged, saucy, vindictive-looking.

She came on valiantly, and, when within a hundred yards, pumped a shot across the bow of the drowsing Emilie. It meant “Show your colors.”

Hoisting the red, white and blue of France, Surcouf replied with three scorching shots. One struck the Britisher amid-ships, and pumped a hole in her black boarding.

Like a timid girl, the Englishman veered off, hoisted her topsail, and tried to get away. She saw that she had caught a tartar.

The blood was up of the “Man from St. Malo.” “I consider the shot across my bows as an attack,” said he, and he slapped on every stitch of canvas, so that the Emilie was soon abreast of the Britisher. Boom! [Pg 333] A broadside roared into her and she struck her colors. Bold Robert Surcouf had passed the Rubicon,—he had seen the English flag lowered to him, for the first time; and his heart swelled with patriotic pride, in spite of the fact that this was an act of piracy, for which he could be hanged to the yard-arm.

“On! On!” cried Surcouf. “More captures! More prizes!”

Three days later three vessels carrying rice fell into his hands,—one of which,—a pilot-brig—was appropriated in place of the Emilie, which had a foul, barnacled bottom and had lost her speed. The Diana, another rice-carrier—was also captured—and Robert Surcouf headed for the Mauritius: pleased and happy.

A few days later, as the vessels pottered along off the river Hooghly, the cry came:

“A large sail standing into Balasore Roads!”

In a moment Surcouf had clapped his glass to his keen and searching eye.

“An East Indiaman,” said he. “And rich, I’ll warrant. Ready about and make after her. She’s too strong for us,—that I see—but we may outwit her.”

The vessel, in fact, was the Triton, with six-and-twenty guns and a strong crew. Surcouf had but nineteen men aboard, including the surgeon and himself, and a few Lascars,—natives. The odds were heavily against him, but his nerve was as adamant.

“My own boat has been a pilot-brig. Up with the pilot flag!” he cried.

[Pg 334] As the little piece of bunting fluttered in the breeze, the Triton hove to, and waited for him, as unsuspecting as could be. Surcouf chuckled.

Nearer and nearer came his own vessel to the lolling Indiaman, and, as she rolled within hailing distance, the bold French sea-dog saw “beaucoup de monde”—a great crowd of people—upon the deck of the Englishman.

“My lads!” cried he, turning to his crew. “This Triton is very strong. We are only nineteen. Shall we try to take her by surprise and thus acquire both gain and glory? Or, do you prefer to rot in a beastly English prison-ship?”

“Death or victory!” cried the Frenchmen.

Surcouf smiled.

“This ship shall either be our tomb, or the cradle of our glory,” said he. “It is well!”

The crew and passengers of the Triton saw only a pilot-brig approaching, as these did habitually (to within twenty or thirty feet) in order to transfer the pilot. Suddenly a few uttered exclamations of surprise and dismay. The French colors rose to the mast of the sorrowful-looking pilot-boat, and with a flash and a roar, a heavy dose of canister and grape ploughed into the unsuspecting persons upon the deck of the Indiaman. Many sought shelter from the hail of iron.

A moment more, and the brig was alongside. A crunching: a splitting of timber as the privateer struck and ground into the bulwarks of the Triton, and, with a wild yell—Surcouf leaped upon the deck of his [Pg 335] adversary—followed by his eighteen men, with cutlass, dirks and pistols.

There was but little resistance. The Captain of the Triton seized a sword and made a vain attempt to stem the onslaught of the boarders, but he was immediately cut down. The rest were driven below, and the hatches clapped tight above them. In five minutes the affair was over, with five killed and six wounded upon the side of the English: one killed and one wounded among the French. Surcouf had made a master stroke. The Triton was his own.

The many prisoners were placed on board the Diana and allowed to make their way to Calcutta, but the Triton was triumphantly steered to the Mauritius, where Surcouf received a tremendous ovation.

“Hurrah for Robert Surcouf: the sea-hound from St. Malo!” shrieked the townsfolk.

“Your captures are all condemned,” said the Governor of the island, a few days after his triumphant arrival. “For you sailed and fought not under a Letter of Marque, so you are a pirate and not a privateer. Those who go a-pirating must pay the piper. Your prizes belong to the Government of France, and its representative. I hereby seize them.”

Surcouf was nonplussed.

“We will take this matter to France, itself,” cried he. “And we shall see whether or no all my exertions shall go for nought.”

So the case was referred to the French courts, where Robert appeared in person to plead his cause. And the verdict was:

[Pg 336] “The captures of Captain Robert Surcouf of St. Malo are all declared ‘good prize’ and belong to him and the owners of his vessel.”

So the wild man from St. Malo was very happy, and he and his owners pocketed a good, round sum of money. But he really was a pirate and not a privateer. Tenez! He had the money, at any rate, so why should he care?

The remaining days of Robert’s life were full of battle, and, just a little love, for he returned to his native town during the progress of the law-suit—in order to see his family and his friends, and there became engaged to Mlle. Marie Blaize, who was as good as she was pretty. But the sea sang a song which ran:

“For men must work and women must weep,
The home of a hero is on the deep.”

which the stout sea-dog could not resist. So he left the charming demoiselle without being married, and ’tis said that she wept bitterly.

Now came his greatest exploit.

On October 7th, 1800, the hardy mariner—in command of the Confiance; a new vessel with one hundred and thirty souls aboard—was cruising off the Indian coast. He had a Letter of Marque this time, so all would go well with him if he took a prize. The opportunity soon came. A sail was sighted early that day, and Surcouf scanned her carefully through his glass.


“She’s a rich prize,” said he. “An Indiaman. All [Pg 337] hands on deck. Make sail! Drinks all round for the men! Clear for action!”

He spoke this to himself, for he was aloft, and, climbing to the deck, ordered everybody aft to listen to a speech. When they had collected there, he said, with feeling:

“I suppose each one of you is more than equal to one Englishman? Very good—be armed and ready for boarding—and, as it is going to be hot work, I’ll give you one hour for pillage. You can fight, and, behind me, you should be invincible! Strike, and strike hard; and you will be rich.”

The Kent had four hundred and thirty-seven souls aboard, says an old chronicler, for she had picked up a great part of the crew of the Queen: an East Indiaman which had been destroyed off the coast of Brazil. Her Captain’s name was Rivington and he was a fellow of heroic courage.

As the Confiance drew near, the crew of the Englishman gave her a fair broadside and pumped gun after gun into her hull. But the Frenchman held her fire, and bore in close, in order to grapple. Hoarse shouts sounded above the roar of the guns and the splitting of timber, as the two war-dogs closed for action. The crew of the Kent were poorly armed and undisciplined: they had never fought together. With Surcouf it was far different. His sailors were veterans—they had boarded many a merchantman and privateer before—and, they were well used to this gallant pastime. Besides, each had a boarding-axe, a cutlass,—pistol and a dagger—to say nothing of a blunderbuss loaded [Pg 338] with six bullets, pikes fifteen feet long, and enormous clubs—all of this with “drinks all round” and the promise of pillage. No wonder they could fight!

With a wild, ear-splitting whoop the wild men of the French privateer finally leaped over the rail—upon the deck of the Englishman—and there was fierce struggling for possession of her. At the head of his men, Rivington fought like a true Briton,—cutlass in hand, teeth clinched, eyes to the front. He was magnificent.

But what could one man do against many?

Back, back, the French forced the valiant lion, while his crew fell all about in tiers, and, at length, they drove him to the poop. He was bleeding from many a wound. He was fast sinking.

“Don’t give up the ship!” he cried, casting his eye aloft at the red ensign of his country.

Then he fell upon his face, and the maddened followers of Surcouf swept over the decking like followers of Attila, the terrible Hun.

“Spare the women!” shouted the French Captain above the din—and roar of battle. “Pillage; but spare the women!”

It was well that he had spoken, for his cut-throats were wild with the heat of battle. In twenty minutes the Kent was helpless; her crew were prisoners; and the saucy pennon of France fluttered where once had waved the proud ensign of Great Britain.

Surcouf was happy. Landing the English prisoners in an Arab vessel, he arrived at the Mauritius with his prize in November, and soon took his doughty [Pg 339] Confiance to the low shores of France, catching a Portuguese merchant en route, and anchoring at La Rochelle, on April 13th, 1801.

Rich, famous, respected; he now married the good Mlle. Marie Blaize, and became the owner of privateers and a respected citizen of the Fatherland. Fortune had favored this brave fellow.

As a prosperous ship-owner and ship-builder of his native village—“the Sea-Hound of St. Malo”—closed his adventurous life in the year 1827. And when he quietly passed away, the good housewives used to mutter:

“Look you! Here was a man who fought the English as well as they themselves could fight. He was a true son of William the Conqueror. Look you! This was a King of the Ocean!”

And the gulls wheeled over the grave of the doughty sea-warrior, shrieking,

“He-did-it! He-did-it! He-did-it!”

[Pg 340]


Come down, ye greyhound mariners,
Unto the wasting shore!
The morning winds are up,—the Gods
Bid me to dream no more.
Come, tell me whither I must sail,
What peril there may be,
Before I take my life in hand
And venture out to sea!
We may not tell thee where to sail,
Nor what the dangers are;
Each sailor soundeth for himself,
Each hath a separate star;
Each sailor soundeth for himself,
And on the awful sea,
What we have learned is ours alone;
We may not tell it thee.
Come back, O ghostly mariners,
Ye who have gone before!
I dread the dark, tempestuous tides;
I dread the farthest shore.
Tell me the secret of the waves;
Say what my fate shall be,—
Quick! for the mighty winds are up,
And will not wait for me.
Hail and farewell, O voyager!
Thyself must read the waves;
What we have learned of sun and storm
Lies with us in our graves;
What we have learned of sun and storm
Is ours alone to know.
The winds are blowing out to sea,
Take up thy life and go!




[Pg 342]

“For it’s fourteen men on a dead man’s chest,
Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of rum.”


[Pg 343]


“He was the mildest mannered man,
That ever scuttled ship or cut a throat;
With such true breeding of a gentleman,
That you could ne’er discern his proper thought.
Pity he loved an adventurous life’s variety,
He was so great a loss to good society.”

Old Ballad.—1810.

CAPTAIN, we can’t live much longer unless we have food. We’ve got enough to last us for two weeks’ time, and then—if we do not get fresh provisions—we’ll have to eat the sails.”

The fellow who spoke was a rough-looking sea-dog, with a yellow face—parched and wrinkled by many years of exposure—a square figure; a red handkerchief tied about his black hair; a sash about his waist in which was stuck a brace of evil-barrelled pistols. He looked grimly at the big-boned man before him.

“Yes. You are right, as usual, Gascon. We’ve got to strike a foreign sail before the week is out, and capture her. And I, Lafitte, must turn from privateer to pirate. May my good mother at St. Malo have mercy on my soul.”

[Pg 344] And, so saying, he turned to pace restlessly upon the sloping deck of the two-hundred-ton barque which boiled along under a spread of bellying canvas, and was guided by the keen eye of this youthful mariner. He came from the same little town in France which sheltered the good mother of Du Guay-Trouin, the great French “blue.” His name was Jean Lafitte.

This sea-rover had been born in 1781, and had taken to the ocean at the age of thirteen, when most boys are going to boarding-school. After several voyages in Europe, and to the coast of Africa, he was appointed mate of a French East Indiaman, bound to Madras in India. But things did not go any too well with the sturdy ship; a heavy gale struck her off the Cape of Good Hope; she sprung her mainmast, and—flopping along like a huge sea-turtle—staggered into the port of St. Thomas in the island of Mauritius, off the east coast of Africa.

“Here,” said young Lafitte to his Captain, “is where I leave you, for you are a bully, a braggart, and a knave.”

And, so saying, he cut for shore in the jolly-boat, but—if the truth must be known—Lafitte and the Captain were too much alike to get on together. They both wished to “be boss.” Like magnets do not attract, but repel.

Luck was with the young deserter. Several privateers were being fitted out at the safe port of St. Thomas and he was appointed Captain of one of them. Letters of Marque were granted by the Governor of the Mauritius.

[Pg 345] “Ah ha!” cried the youthful adventurer. “Now I can run things to suit myself. And I’ll grow rich.”

This he speedily succeeded in doing, for, in the course of his cruise, he robbed several vessels which came in his path, and, stopping at the Seychelles (Islands off the eastern coast of Africa), took on a load of slaves for the port of St. Thomas. Thus he had descended—not only to piracy—but also to slave catching; the lowest depths to which a seaman could come down.

When four days out from the curiously named islands, a cry went up from the watch,

“Sail ho! Off the port bow! A British frigate, by much that’s good, and she’s after us with all speed!”

To which bold Lafitte answered, “Then, we must run for it!” But he hoisted every bit of canvas which he had about and headed for the Bay of Bengal. “And,” said he, “if she does not catch us and we get away, we’ll take an English merchantman and burn her.” Then he laughed satirically.

The British frigate plodded along after the lighter vessel of Lafitte’s until the Equator was reached, and then she disappeared,—disgruntled at not being able to catch the saucy tartar. But the privateersman headed for the blue Bay of Bengal; there fell in with an English armed schooner with a numerous crew; and—although he only had two guns and twenty-six men aboard his own vessel—he tackled the sailors from the chilly isle like a terrier shaking a rat. There was a stiff little fight upon the shimmering waves of [Pg 346] the Indian Ocean. When night descended the Britisher had struck and nineteen blood-stained ruffians from the privateer took possession of the battered hulk, singing a song which ran:

“For it’s fourteen men on a dead man’s chest,
Yo-Ho-Ho and a bottle of rum.”

Lafitte was now feeling better; his men had been fed; he had good plunder; and he possessed two staunch, little craft.

“Let’s bear away for India, my Hearties,” cried he, “and we’ll hit another Englishman and take her.”

What he had said soon came to pass, for, when off the hazy, low-lying coast of Bengal, a rakish East Indiaman came lolling by, armed with twenty-six twelve-pounders and manned with one hundred and fifty men. A bright boarding upon her stern-posts flaunted the truly Eastern name: the Pagoda.

The dull-witted Britishers had no suspicions of the weak, Puritan-looking, little two-’undred tonner of Lafitte’s, as she glided in close; luffed; and bobbed about, as a voice came:

“Sa-a-y! Want a pilot fer the Ganges?”

There was no reply for a while. Then a voice shrilled back,

“Come up on th’ port quarter. That’s just what we’ve been lookin’ for.”

The fat Pagoda ploughed listlessly onward, as the unsuspicious-looking pilot plodded up on the port side; in fact, most of the crew were dozing comfortably under awnings on the deck, when a shot rang out. [Pg 347] Another and another followed, and, with a wild, ear-splitting whoop, the followers of Lafitte clambered across the rail; dirks in their mouths; pistols in their right hands, and cutlasses in their left.

Now was a short and bloodless fight. Taken completely by surprise, the Englishmen threw up their hands and gave in only too willingly. With smiles of satisfaction upon their faces, the seamen of the bad man from St. Malo soon hauled two kegs of spirits upon the decks, and held high revel upon the clean boarding of the rich and valuable prize. The Pagoda was re-christened The Pride of St. Malo, and soon went off privateering upon her own hook; while Lafitte headed back for St. Thomas: well-fed—even sleek with good living—and loaded down with the treasure which he had taken. “Ah-ha!” cried the black-haired navigator. “I am going to be King of the Indian waters.”

Now came the most bloody and successful of his battles upon the broad highway of the gleaming, southern ocean.

Taking command of the La Confidence of twenty-six guns and two hundred and fifty men, whom he found at the port of St. Thomas, he again headed for the coast of British India; keen in the expectation of striking a valuable prize. And his expectations were well fulfilled.

In October, 1807, the welcome cry of “Sail Ho!” sounded from the forward watch, when off the Sand Heads, and there upon the starboard bow was a spot of white, which proved to be a Queen’s East Indiaman, [Pg 348] with a crew of near four hundred. She carried forty guns.

There were double the number of cannon, there were double the number of men, but Lafitte cried out:

“I came out to fight and I’m going to do it, comrades! You see before you a vessel which is stronger than our own, but, with courage and nerve, we can beat her. I will run our own ship close to the enemy. You must lie down behind the protecting sides of our vessel until we touch the stranger. Then—when I give the signal to board—let each man seize a cutlass, a dirk, and two pistols, and strike down all that oppose him. We must and can win!”

These stirring words were greeted by a wild and hilarious cheer.

Now, running upon the port tack, the La Confidence bore down upon the Britisher with the water boiling under her bows; while the stranger luffed, and prepared for action. Shrill cries sounded from her huge carcass as her guns were loaded and trained upon the on-coming foe, while her masts began to swarm with sharpshooters eager to pick off the ravenous sea-dogs from the Mauritius.

Suddenly a terrific roar sounded above the rattle of ropes and creak of hawsers—and a broadside cut into the La Confidence with keen accuracy.

“Lie flat upon the deck,” cried Lafitte, “and dodge the iron boys if you can see ’em.”

His men obeyed, and, as the missiles pounded into the broad sides of their ship, the steersman ran her afoul of the Queen’s East Indiaman. When he did [Pg 349] so, many sailors swarmed into the rigging, and from the yards and tops threw bombs and grenades into the forecastle of the enemy, so that death and terror made the Britishers abandon the portion of their vessel near the mizzen-mast.

“Forty of the crew will now board,” cried Lafitte. “And let every mother’s son strike home!”

With pistols in their hands and daggers held between their teeth, the wild sea-rovers rollicked across the gunwales like a swarm of rats. Dancing up the deck of the Britisher they beat back all who opposed them, driving them below into the steerage. Shots rang out like spitting cats; dirks gleamed; and cutlasses did awful execution. But the Captain of the Indiaman was rallying his men about him on the poop, and, with a wild cheer, these precipitated themselves upon the victorious privateers.

“Board! Board!” cried Lafitte, at this propitious moment, and, cutlass in hand, he leaped from his own vessel upon the deck of the East Indiaman. His crew followed with a yelp of defiant hatred, and beat the Captain’s party back again upon the poop, where they stood stolidly, cursing at the rough sea-riders from St. Thomas.

But Lafitte was a general not to be outdone by such a show of force. He ordered a gun to be loaded with grape-shot; had it pointed towards the place where the crowd was assembled; and cried—

“If you don’t give in now, I’ll exterminate all of you at one discharge of my piece.”

It was the last blow. Seeing that it was useless to [Pg 350] continue the unequal struggle, the British Captain held up his long cutlass, to which was bound a white handkerchief, and the great sea battle was over. Lafitte and his terrible crew had captured a boat of double the size of his own, and with twice his numbers.

Says an old chronicler of the period: “This exploit, hitherto unparalleled, resounded through India, and the name of Lafitte became the terror of English commerce in these latitudes. The British vessels now traversed the Indian Ocean under strong convoys, in order to beat off this harpy of South Africa.”

“Egad,” said Lafitte about this time, “these fellows are too smart for me. I’ll have to look for other pickings. I’m off for France.”

So he doubled the Cape of Good Hope, coasted up the Gulf of Guinea, and, in the Bight of Benin, took two valuable prizes loaded down with gold dust, ivory, and palm oil. With these he ran to St. Malo, where the people said:

“Tenez! Here is a brave fellow, but would you care to have his reputation, Monsieur?” And they shook their heads, shrugged their shoulders, and looked the other way when they saw him coming.

The privateersman, slaver, and pirate was not going to be long with them, however, for he soon fitted out a brigantine, mounted twenty guns on her, and with one hundred and fifty men, sailed for Guadaloupe, among the West Indies. He took several valuable prizes, but, during his absence upon a cruise, the island was captured by the British, so he started for a more congenial clime. He roved about for some months, [Pg 351] to settle at last at Barrataria, near New Orleans, Louisiana. He was rich; he had amassed great quantities of booty; and he was a man of property. Lafitte, in fact, was a potentate.

“Now,” said the privateer and pirate, “I will settle down and found a colony.”

But can a man of action keep still?

It is true that Lafitte was not as bold and audacious as before, for he was now obliged to have dealings with merchants of the United States and the West Indies who frequently owed him large sums of money, and the cautious transactions necessary to found and to conduct a colony of pirates and smugglers in the very teeth of civilization, made the black-haired Frenchman cloak his real character under a veneer of supposed gentility. Hundreds of privateers, pirates, and smugglers gathered around the banner of this robber of the high seas.

But what is Barrataria?

Part of the coast of Louisiana is called by that name: that part lying between Bastien Bay on the east, and the mouth of the wide river, or bayou of La Fourche, on the west. Not far from the rolling, sun-baked Atlantic are the lakes of Barrataria, connecting with one another by several large bayous and a great number of branches. In one of these is the Island of Barrataria, while this sweet-sounding name is also given to a large basin which extends the entire length of the cypress swamps, from the Gulf of Mexico, to a point three miles above New Orleans. The waters from this lake slowly empty into the Gulf [Pg 352] by two passages through the Bayou Barrataria, between which lies an island called Grand Terre: six miles in length, and three in breadth, running parallel with the coast. To the West of this is the great pass of Barrataria, where is about nine to ten feet of water: enough to float the ordinary pirate or privateersman’s vessel. Within this pass—about two miles from the open sea—lies the only safe harbor upon the coast, and this is where the cut-throats, pirates, and smugglers gathered under Lafitte. They called themselves Barratarians, and they were a godless crew.

At a place called Grand Terre, the privateers would often make public sale of their cargoes and prizes by auction. And the most respectable inhabitants of the State were accustomed to journey there in order to purchase the goods which the Barratarians had to offer. They would smile, and say,

“We are going to get some of the treasure of Captain Kidd.”

But the Government of the United States did not take so kindly to the idea of a privateer and pirate colony within its borders. And—with malice aforethought—one Commodore Patterson was sent to disperse these marauders at Barrataria, who, confident of their strength and fighting ability, defiantly flaunted their flag in the faces of the officers of the Government. “We can lick the whole earth,” chuckled the piratical followers of Lafitte.

Patterson was a good fighter. On June the eleventh he departed from New Orleans with seventy members of the 44th regiment of infantry. On the sixteenth [Pg 353] he made for the Island of Barrataria, with some six gun-boats, a launch mounting one twelve pound carronade; the Sea Horse (a tender carrying one six-pounder) and the schooner Carolina.

“We must fight, Boys,” cried Lafitte to his ill-assorted mates. “Come, take to our schooners and show these officers that the followers of Lafitte can battle like Trojans.”

A cheer greeted these noble sentiments.

“Lead on!” yelled his cut-throats. “Lead on and we’ll sink these cocky soldiers as we’ve done to many an East Indiaman!”

So, about two o’clock in the afternoon, the privateers and pirates formed their vessels, ten in number (including their prizes) near the entrance of the harbor.


A shell from the forward gun of the leading gun-boat spun across the bows of Lafitte’s flagship and buried itself in the gray water with a dull sob.

Up went a huge white flag upon the foremost mast-head of the king pirate and these words could be plainly seen:

“Pardon for all Deserters.”

“Ah, ha,” chuckled Patterson. “The arch ruffian has heard that some of my men are ashore and this is the way he would hire them.”


Another shell ricochetted across the still surface of the harbor and sunk itself in the side of a piratical brig.

[Pg 354] “Hello!” cried a Lieutenant, running up to the United States Commander. “They’re giving up already. See! The beggars are hastening ashore in order to skip into the woods.”

“I’m afraid so,” answered the disappointed Commodore. “All my pains for nothing. The fellows are getting away.”

Sure enough—afraid to remain and fight it out—the craven followers of Lafitte now turned their schooners to the shore—ran their bows into the sand, and, leaping overboard, made into the forest as fast as their legs could carry them. Thus—without firing a shot—the cowardly pirates of Barrataria “took to the bush.”

“The enemy had mounted on their vessels, twenty pieces of cannon of different calibre,” wrote Patterson, after this tame affair. “And, as I have since learnt, they had from eight hundred to one thousand men of all nations and colors. When I perceived the pirates forming their vessels into a line of battle I felt confident, from their fleet and very advantageous position, and their number of men, that they would have fought me. Their not doing so I regret; for had they, I should have been enabled more effectually to destroy or make prisoners of them and their leaders; but it is a subject of great satisfaction to me, to have effected the object of my enterprise, without the loss of a man. On the afternoon of the 23rd, I got under way with my whole squadron, in all seventeen vessels, but during the night one escaped and the next day I arrived at New Orleans with my entire command.”

[Pg 355] Thus ended the magnificent (?) attempt of the vainglorious Lafitte to stem the advance of the Government of the United States. In the parlance of the camp, “He was a fust-class quitter.”

But he did not show himself to be a “quitter” in the battle of New Orleans.

The English and Americans, in fact, were soon at each other’s throats in the ungentle game of war. At different times the British had sought to attack the pirates of Barrataria, in the hope of taking their prizes and armed vessels. On June 23rd, 1813, while two of Lafitte’s privateers were lying to off of Cat Island, an English sloop-of-war came to anchor at the entrance of the pass, and sent out two boats in the endeavor to capture the rakish sea-robbers. But they were repulsed with severe and galling loss.

On the 2nd of September, 1814, an armed brig appeared on the coast, opposite the famous pass to the home of the rangers of the sea. She fired a gun at a smuggler, about to enter, and forced her to poke her nose into a sand-bar; she then jibed over and came to anchor at the entrance to the shallows.

“That vessel means business, sure,” said one of the pirates to Lafitte. “She has spouted one gun, but now she’s lyin’ to. Better see what’s up.”

“You’re right,” answered the famous sea-rover. “We’ll go off in a boat and look out for what’s going to happen.”

So, starting from the shore, he was soon on his way to the brig, from which a pinnace was lowered, in which could be seen two officers, one of whom had a [Pg 356] flag of truce. The two boats rapidly neared each other.

“Where is Mr. Lafitte?” cried one of the Britishers, as the pinnace neared the shore. “I would speak with the Laird of Barrataria.”

But Lafitte was not anxious to make himself known.

“He’s ashore,” said he. “But, if you have communications for him, these I can deliver.”

“Pray, give him these packages, my good man,” spoke the English tar, handing him a bundle of letters, tied up in tarpaulin.

Lafitte smiled.

“I would be delighted to do so,” he replied. “But, pray come ashore and there I will return you your answer after I have seen the great Captain, who is camping about a league inland.”

The Britishers readily assented, and both rowed towards the sandy beach, where a great number of pirates of Barrataria had collected.

As soon as the boats were in shallow water, Lafitte made himself known to the English, saying:

“Do not let my men know upon what business you come, for it will go ill with you. My followers know that war is now on between Great Britain and the United States, and, if they hear you are making overtures with me, they will wish to hang you.”

It was as he had said. When the Englishmen landed, a great cry went up amongst the privateers, pirates and smugglers:

“Hang the spies! Kill the dirty dogs! To the yard-arm [Pg 357] with the rascally Englishmen! Send the hounds to New Orleans and to jail!”

But Lafitte dissuaded the multitude from their intent and led the officers in safety to his dwelling, where he opened the package, finding a proclamation addressed to the inhabitants of Louisiana, by Col. Edward Nichalls—British commander of the land forces in this state—requesting them to come under the sheltering arm of the British Government. There were also two letters to himself, asking him to join and fight with the English.

“If you will but battle with us,” said Captain Lockyer—one of the British officers—“we will give you command of a forty-four gun frigate, and will make you a Post Captain. You will also receive thirty thousand dollars,—payable at Pensacola.”

Lafitte looked dubiously at him.

“I will give answer in a few days,” he replied, with courtesy.

“You are a Frenchman,” continued the British Captain. “You are not in the service of the United States, nor likely to be. Come—man—give us a reply at once.”

Captain Lafitte was obdurate, for—strange as it may seem—he wished to inform the officers of the State Government of this project of the English. So he withdrew to his own hut.

As he did this, the pirates seized the British officers, dragged them to a cabin, and thrust them inside. A guard was stationed at the door, while cries went up from every quarter:

[Pg 358] “To New Orleans with the scoundrels! A yard-arm for the butchers! A rope’s end for the scurvy tars!”

Lafitte was furious when he learned of this, and, after haranguing the crowd, had the Britishers released.

“If you treat men under a flag of truce as prisoners,” he cried, “you break one of the first rules of warfare. You will get the same treatment if you, yourselves, are captured, and you will lose the opportunity of discovering what are the projects of the British upon Louisiana.”

His men saw the good sense of these words of advice, and acted accordingly.

Early the next morning the officers were escorted to their pinnace with many apologies from Lafitte, who now wrote a letter to Captain Lockyer, which shows him to have been a man of considerable cultivation, and not a mere “rough and tumble” pirate—without education or refinement. He said:

Barrataria, 4th Sept., 1814.

To Captain Lockyer,

Sir:—The confusion which prevailed in our camp yesterday and this morning, and of which you have a complete knowledge, has prevented me from answering in a precise manner to the object of your mission; nor even at this moment can I give you all the satisfaction that you desire. However, if you could grant me a fortnight, I would be entirely at your disposal at the end of that time.

[Pg 359] “This delay is indispensable to enable me to put my affairs in order. You may communicate with me by sending a boat to the Eastern point of the pass, where I will be found. You have inspired me with more confidence than the Admiral—your superior officer—could have done, himself. With you alone I wish to deal, and from you, also, I will claim in due time, the reward of the services which I may render you.

“Your very respectful servant,
J. Lafitte.

His object in writing this letter—you see—was, by appearing to accede to the proposals, to give time to communicate the affair to the officers of the State Government of Louisiana and to receive from them instructions how to act, under circumstances so critical and important to his own country: that is, the country of his adoption.

He, therefore, addressed the following epistle to the Governor of Louisiana. Do you think that you, yourself, could write as well as did this pirate?

Barrataria, Sept. 4th, 1814.

To Governor Claiborne:

Sir:—In the firm persuasion that the choice made of you to fill the office of first magistrate of this State, was dictated by the esteem of your fellow citizens, and was conferred on merit, I confidently address you on an affair on which may depend the safety of this country.

“I offer to you to restore to this State several citizens, who perhaps, in your eyes, have lost that sacred [Pg 360] title. I offer you them, however, such as you could wish to find them, ready to exert their utmost efforts in the defence of the country.

“This point of Louisiana, which I occupy, is of great importance in the present crisis. I tender my services to defend it; and the only reward I ask is that a stop be put to the proscription against me and my adherents, by an act of oblivion, for all that has been done heretofore.

“I am the stray sheep wishing to return to the fold.

“If you are thoroughly acquainted with the nature of my offences, I should appear to you much less guilty, and still worthy to discharge the duties of a good citizen. I have never sailed under any flag but the republic of Carthagena, and my vessels were perfectly regular in that respect.

“If I could have brought my lawful prizes into the ports of this State, I should not have employed illicit means that have caused me to be proscribed (hounded by the State authorities).

“I decline to say more upon this subject until I have your Excellency’s answer, which I am persuaded can be dictated only by wisdom. Should your answer not be favorable to my ardent desire, I declare to you that I will instantly leave the country, to avoid the imputation of having coöperated towards an invasion on this point, which cannot fail to take place, and to rest secure in the acquittal of my conscience.

“I have the honor to be,

“Your Excellency’s Most Humble Servant,
J. Lafitte.

[Pg 361] Now how is that for a swashbuckling privateer? Anyone would be proud of such a letter and it does honor to the judgment of this sand-spit king, giving clear evidence of a strange but sincere attachment to the American cause. Hurrah for the Frenchman!

This missive, in fact, made such an impression upon the Governor that he had an interview with Lafitte, who was ushered into his presence only to find General Andrew Jackson (Old Hickory) closeted with the chief executive.

“My dear sir,” said the effusive Governor. “Your praiseworthy wishes shall be laid before the council of the State, and I will confer with my august friend, here present, upon this important affair, and send you an answer.”

Bowing low, the courteous privateersman withdrew.

“Farewell,” cried Old Hickory after his retreating form. “When we meet again I trust that it will be in the ranks of the American Army.”

And in two days’ time appeared the following proclamation:

“The Governor of Louisiana, informed that many individuals implicated in the offences hitherto committed against the United States at Barrataria, express a willingness at the present crisis to enroll themselves and march against the enemy.

“He does hereby invite them to join the standard of the United States, and is authorized to say, should their conduct in the field meet the approbation of the Major General, that that officer will unite with the Governor in a request to the President of the United [Pg 362] States, to extend to each and every individual, so marching and acting, a free and full pardon.”

When Lafitte saw these words, he fairly yelled with delight, and it is said that he jumped into the air, cracking his heels three times together before he struck the ground.

The orders were circulated among his followers and most of them readily embraced the pardon which they held out. Thus—in a few days—many brave men and skillful artillerists flocked to the red-white-and-blue standard of the United States. And when—a few months afterwards—Old Hickory and his men were crouched behind a line of cotton bales, awaiting the attack of a British army (heroes, in fact, of Sargossa), there, upon the left flank, was the sand-spit King and his evil crew. Lafitte’s eyes were sparkling like an electric bulb, and the language of his followers does not bear repetition.

It was the morning of January eighth. The British were about to attack the American Army defending New Orleans, which—under the leadership of stout Andrew Jackson—now crouched behind the earthworks and cotton bales, some miles from the city. Rockets shot into the air with a sizzling snap. The roar of cannon shook the thin palmettos, and wild British cheers came from the lusty throats of the British veterans of Spain, as they advanced to the assault in close order—sixty men in front—with fascines and ladders for scaling the defences. Now a veritable storm of rockets hissed and sizzed into the American lines, while a light battery of artillery [Pg 363] pom-pomed and growled upon the left flank. All was silence in the dun-colored embankments.

But look! Suddenly a sheet of flame burst from the earthworks where lay the buck-skin-clad rangers from Tennessee and Kentucky: men who had fought Indians; had cleared the forest for their rude log huts, and were able to hit the eye of a squirrel at one hundred yards. Crash! Crash! Crash! A flame of fire burst through the pall of sulphurous smoke, a storm of leaden missiles swept into the red coats of the advancing British, and down they fell in windrows, like wheat before the reaper. Boom! Boom! Boom! The cannon growled and spat from the cotton bales, and one of these—a twenty-four pounder—placed upon the third embrasure from the river, from the fatal skill and activity with which it was managed (even in the best of battle),—drew the admiration of both Americans and British. It became one of the points most dreaded by the advancing foe. Boom! Boom! It grumbled and roared its thunder, while Lafitte and his corsairs of Barrataria rammed home the iron charges, and—stripped to the waist—fought like wolves at bay.

Two other batteries were manned by the Barratarians, who served their pieces with the steadiness and precision of veteran gunners. The enemy crept closer, ever closer, and a column pushed forward between the levee and the river so precipitously that the outposts were forced to retire, closely pressed by the coats of red. On, on, they came, and, clearing the ditch before the earthworks, gained the redoubt through the [Pg 364] embrasures, leaped over the parapet and quickly bayonetted the small force of backwoodsmen who held this point.

“To the rescue, men,” cried Lafitte, at this juncture. “Out and at ’em!”

Cutlass in hand, the privateer called a few of his best followers to his side; men who had often boarded the decks of an East Indiaman and were well used to hand-to-hand engagements. With a wild cheer they leaped over the breastworks and rushed upon the enemy.

The British were absolutely astonished at the intrepidity of this advance. Pistols spat, cutlasses swung, and one after another, the English officers fell before the snapping blade of the King of Barrataria, as they bravely cheered on their men. The practiced boarders struck the red-coated columns with the same fierceness with which they had often bounded upon the deck of an enemy, and cheer after cheer welled above the rattle of arms as the advancing guardsmen were beaten back. All the energies of the British were concentrated upon scaling the breastworks, which one daring officer had already mounted. But Lafitte and his followers, seconding a gallant band of volunteer riflemen, formed a phalanx which it was impossible to penetrate. They fought desperately.

It was now late in the day. The field was strewn with the dead and dying. Still spat the unerring rifles of the pioneers and still crashed the unswerving volleys from their practiced rifles. “We cannot take the works,” cried the British. “We must give up.” [Pg 365] And—turning about—they beat a sad and solemn retreat to their vessels. The great battle of New Orleans was over, and Lafitte had done a Trojan’s share.

In a few days peace was declared between the United States and Great Britain, and General Jackson—in his correspondence with the Secretary of War—did not fail to speak in the most flattering terms of the conduct of the “Corsairs of Barrataria.” They had fought like tigers, and they had been sadly misjudged by the English, who wished to enlist them in their own cause. Their zeal, their courage, and their skill, were noticed by the whole American Army, who could no longer stigmatize such desperate fighters as “criminals.” Many had been sabred and wounded in defence of New Orleans, and many had given up their lives before the sluggish bayous of the Mississippi. And now, Mr. Lafitte, it is high time that you led a decent life, for are you not a hero?

But “murder will out,” and once a privateer always a privateer, and sometimes a pirate.

Securing some fast sailing vessels, the King of Barrataria sailed to Galveston Bay, in 1819, where he received a commission from General Long as a “privateer.” Not content with living an honest and peaceful life, he proceeded to do a little smuggling and illicit trading upon his own account, so it was not long before a United States cruiser was at anchor off the port to watch his movements. He was now Governor of Galveston, and considered himself to be a personage of great moment. Five vessels were generally cruising [Pg 366] under his orders, while three hundred men obeyed his word. Texas was then a Republic.

“Sir”—wrote Lafitte to the Commander of the American cruiser off the port of Galveston—“I am convinced that you are a cruiser of the navy, ordered here by your Government. I have, therefore, deemed it proper to inquire into the cause of your lying before this port without communicating your intention. I wish to inform you that the port of Galveston belongs to and is in the possession of the Republic of Texas, and was made a port of entry the 9th day of October, last. And, whereas the Supreme Congress of the said Republic have thought proper to appoint me as Governor of this place, in consequence of which, if you have any demands on said Government, you will please to send an officer with such demands, who will be treated with the greatest politeness. But, if you are ordered, or should attempt, to enter this port in a hostile manner, my oath and duty to the Government compel me to rebut your intentions at the expense of my life.

“Yours very respectfully,
J. Lafitte.

But to this the American officer paid no attention. Instead, he attacked a band of Lafitte’s followers, who had stationed themselves on an island near Barrataria with several cannon, swearing that they would perish rather than surrender to any man. As they had committed piracy, they were open to assault. Twenty were taken, tried at New Orleans, and hung,—the [Pg 367] rest escaped into the cypress swamps, where it was impossible to arrest them.

When Lafitte heard of this, he said with much feeling:

“A war of extermination is to be waged against me. I, who have fought and bled for the United States. I who helped them to win the battle of New Orleans. My cruisers are to be swept from the sea. I must turn from Governor of Galveston, and privateer to pirate. Then—away—and let them catch me if they can.”

Now comes the last phase of his career. Too bad that he could not have died honestly!

Procuring a large and fast-sailing brigantine, mounting sixteen guns, and having selected a crew of one hundred and sixty men, the desperate and dangerous Governor of Galveston set sail upon the sparkling waters of the Gulf, determined to rob all nations and neither to give quarter nor to receive it.

But luck was against him. A British sloop-of-war was cruising in the Mexican Gulf, and, hearing that Lafitte, himself, was at sea, kept a sharp lookout at the mast-head for the sails of the pirate.

One morning as an officer was sweeping the horizon with his glass he discovered a long, dark-looking vessel, low in the water: her sails as white as snow.

“Sail off the port bow,” cried he. “It’s the Pirate, or else I’m a landlubber.”

As the sloop-of-war could out-sail the corsair, before the wind, she set her studding-sails and crowded every inch of canvas in chase. Lafitte soon ascertained the character of his pursuer, and, ordering the awnings to [Pg 368] be furled, set his big square-sail and shot rapidly through the water. But the breeze freshened and the sloop-of-war rapidly overhauled the scudding brigantine. In an hour’s time she was within hailing distance and Lafitte was in a fight for his very life.


A cannon belched from the stern of the pirate and a ball came dangerously near the bowsprit of the Englishman.

Crash! Crash!

Other guns roared out their challenge and the iron fairly hailed upon the decks of the sloop-of-war; killing and wounding many of the crew. But—silently and surely—she kept on until within twenty yards of the racing outlaw.

Now was a deafening roar. A broadside howled above the dancing spray—it rumbled from the port-holes of the Englishman—cutting the foremast of the pirate in two; severing the jaws of the main-gaff; and sending great clods of rigging to the deck. Ten followers of Lafitte fell prostrate, but the great Frenchman was uninjured.

A crash, a rattle, a rush, and the Englishman ran afoul of the foe—while—with a wild cheer, her sailors clambered across the starboard rails; cutlasses in the right hand, pistols in the left, dirks between their teeth.

“Never give in, men!” cried the King of Barrataria. “You are now with Lafitte, who, as you have learned, does not know how to surrender.”

But the Britishers were in far superior numbers. [Pg 369] Backwards—ever backwards—they drove the desperate crew of the pirate ship. Two pistol balls struck Lafitte in the side which knocked him to the planking; a grape-shot broke the bone of his right leg; he was desperate, dying, and fighting like a tiger. He groaned in the agony of despair.

The deck was slippery with blood as the Captain of the boarders rushed upon the prostrate corsair to put him forever out of his way. While he aimed a blow a musket struck him in the temple, stretching him beside the bleeding Lafitte, who, raising himself upon one elbow, thrust a dagger at the throat of his assailant.

But the tide of his existence was ebbing like a torrent; his brain was giddy; his aim faltered; the point of the weapon descended upon the right thigh of the bleeding Englishman. Again the reeking steel was upheld; again the weakened French sea-dog plunged a stroke at this half-fainting assailant.

The dizziness of death spread over the sight of the Monarch of the Gulf of Mexico. Down came the dagger into the left thigh of the Captain; listlessly; helplessly; aimlessly; and Lafitte—the robber of St. Malo—fell lifeless upon the rocking deck. His spirit went out amidst the hoarse and hollow cheers of the victorious Jack-tars of the clinging sloop-of-war.

“The palmetto leaves are whispering, while the gentle trade-winds blow,
And the soothing, Southern zephyrs, are sighing soft and low,
As a silvery moonlight glistens, and the droning fire-flies glow,
Comes a voice from out the Cypress,
‘Lights out! Lafitte! Heave ho!’”

[Pg 370]


I’ve been ploughin’ down in Devonshire,
My folks would have me stay,
Where the wheat grows on th’ dune side,
Where th’ scamperin’ rabbits play.
But th’ smells come from th’ ocean,
An’ th’ twitterin’ swallows wheel,
As th’ little sails bob landwards,
To th’ scurryin’ sea-gulls’ squeal.
Oh, it’s gold, gold, gold,
That’s temptin’ me from here.
An’ it’s rum, rum, rum,
That makes me know no fear.
When th’ man-o-war is growlin’,
As her for’ard swivels roar,
As th’ decks are black with wounded,
An’ are runnin’ red with gore.
I’ve been goin’ to church o’ Sundays,
An’ th’ Parson sure can talk,
He’s been pleadin’ for my soul, Sir,
In Paradise to walk.
An’ I kind o’ have th’ shivers,
Come creepin’ down my spine,
When th’ choir breaks into music,
While th’ organ beats th’ time.
But it’s gold, gold, gold,
That glitters in my eye,
An’ it’s rum, rum, rum,
That makes me cheat an’ lie,
When th’ slaver’s in th’ doldrums,
Th’ fleet is closin’ round,
An’ th’ Captain calls out, furious,
“Now, run th’ hound aground!”
No matter how I farm, Sir,
No matter how I hoe,
Th’ breezes from th’ blue, Sir,
Just kind uv make me glow.
[Pg 371] When th’ clipper ships are racin’,
An’ their bellyin’ sails go past,
I just leave my team an’ swear, Sir,
I’ll ship before th’ mast.
For it’s gold, gold, gold,
That makes me shiver, like,
An’ it’s rum, rum, rum,
That makes me cut an’ strike,
When th’ boarders creep across th’ rail,
Their soljers all in line,
An’ their pistols spittin’ lead, Sir,
Like er bloomin’ steam engine.
So I’ll kiss my plough good-bye, Sir,
I’ll throw my scythe away,
An’ I’m goin’ to th’ dock, Sir,
Where th’ ships are side th’ quay.
Shake out th’ skull an’ cross-bones,
Take out th’ signs of Marque,
An’ let’s cut loose an’ forage,
In a rakish ten-gun barque.

[Pg 372]


A cheer and salute for the Admiral, and here’s to the Captain bold,
And never forget the Commodore’s debt, when the deeds of might are told!
They stand to the deck through the battle’s wreck, when the great shells roar and screech—
And never they fear; when the foe is near, to practice what they preach:
But, off with your hat, and three times three, for the war-ship’s true-blue sons,
The men who batter the foe—my Boys—the men behind the guns.
Oh, light and merry of heart are they, when they swing into port, once more,
When, with more than enough of the “green-backed stuff,” they start for their leave-o’-shore;
And you’d think, perhaps, that these blue-bloused chaps who loll along the street,
Are a tender bit, with salt on it, for some fierce chap to eat—
Some warrior bold, with straps of gold, who dazzles and fairly stuns
The modest worth of the sailor boys,—the lads who serve the guns.
But, say not a word, till the shot is heard, that tells of the peace-blood’s ebb,
Till the long, low roar grows more and more, from the ships of the “Yank” and “Reb.”
Till over the deep the tempests sweep, of fire and bursting shell,
And the very air is a mad Despair, in the throes of a living Hell:
Then, down, deep down, in the mighty ship, unseen by the mid-day suns,
You’ll find the chaps who are giving the raps—the men behind the guns.

Rooney (Adapted).




[Pg 374]

“Sit apart, write; let them hear or let them forbear; the written word abides, until, slowly and unexpectedly, and in widely sundered places, it has created its own church.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson.

[Pg 375]


“We started from Ole England fer to cripple up our foes,
We started from Ole England fer to strike some rapid blows,
So we coasted to the Azores where we ran a packet down,
And then to the Bermudas, where we burned the Royal Crown,
Then we scampered to Bahia, fer to sink the gay Tycoon,
And to scuttle the Justina, before the Harvest Moon.
We hit across the ocean to race by Cape Good Hope
And in Madagascar channel towed Johanna with a rope.
Away off at Sumatra, we had lots an’ lots uv fun,
When we winged the Pulo Condor; but say,—we had a run,
An’ a pretty bit uv fightin’, when we took the Emma Jane
Off th’ heated coast uv India, near th’ bendin’ sugar cane.
Yes, we did some privateerin’, as wuz privateerin’, sure,
An’ we scuttled many a schooner, it wuz risky business pure.
But—stranger—we’d be laughin’, jest filled with persiflage,
If we hadn’t had a seance with that bloomin’ Kearsarge.”

Song of the Chief Mate of the Alabama.—1864.

IT was off the east coast of South America. The year was 1864, and a little schooner—the Justina—bobbed along, with the flag of the United States Government flying jauntily from her gaff.

Suddenly there was a movement on deck. Men rushed hither and thither with some show of excitement. Glasses were brought out and raised,—smothered cries of excitement were mingled with [Pg 376] orders to trim sails. All eyes looked with suspicion and dismay at a long, graceful vessel which was seen approaching from the northward.

“The Alabama!” cried one.

“Yes, the cursed Alabama!” answered another. “We are lost!”

On, on came the pursuing vessel; a cloud of black smoke rolling from her smoke-stack; her white sails bellying in the fresh breeze; for she was rigged like a barquentine, with a lean body, single smoke-stack, and a polished rifle-gun winking in the sun-rays upon her bow. On, on, she came, and then—puff! boom!—a single shot came dancing in front of the slow-moving schooner.

“Pull down the colors!” shouted the Captain of the Justina. “We’re done for!”

Down came the ensign of the United States, and the little schooner was luffed so that she stood still. The Alabama ranged up alongside, a boat soon brought a crew of boarders, and, before many moments, she was in the hands of Captain Raphael Semmes and his men.

That evening the Alabama steamed southward, the crew of the Justina was on board, her rich cargo filled the hold, and a black curl of smoke and hissing flames marked where the proud, little merchantman had once bobbed upon the rolling water. Raphael Semmes was happy, for his work of destroying the commerce of the United States Navy had progressed far better than he had hoped.


“Men!” cried he, “The cause of the Confederate [Pg 377] States of America was never brighter upon the ocean than now. Give three times three for Jeff. Davis—his soldiers and his sailors!”

A rousing cheer rose above the waves, and the proud privateer bounded onward upon her career of destruction and death. The Alabama was in the zenith of her power.

The scene now shifts to the harbor of Cherbourg, upon the western coast of France. The Alabama lay there,—safely swinging at her anchor-chains within the break-water. She had come in to refit, for her bottom was much befouled by a long cruise, which had been successful. Built at Birkenhead, England, for the Confederate States Government, she set sail in August, 1862; and had been down the coast of North and South America; around the Cape of Good Hope to India, and back to the shores of France. Sixty-six vessels had fallen into her clutches, and of these fifty-two had been burned; ten had been released on bond; one had been sold, and one set free. Truly she had had a marvellous trip.

As she slumbered on—like a huge sea-turtle—a black cloud of smoke appeared above the break-water, and a low-bodied United States cruiser slowly steamed into the harbor. She nosed about, as if looking for safe anchorage, and kept upon the opposite side of the little bay.

Immediately all hands clambered to the side of the Confederate cruiser, and glasses were levelled at this vessel which carried the flag of opposition.

[Pg 378] “She’s stronger than we are,” said one of the crew.

Another grinned.

“Look at her eleven-pounders,” said he. “I see her name, now. She’s the Kearsarge, and about our tonnage, but I reckon that she carries more men.”

Captain Semmes, himself, had come up from below, and was examining the intruder with his glass.

“Boys!” said he, “we’ve got to fight that ship.”

And, as he withdrew into the cabin, all seemed to be well pleased with this announcement.

The Kearsarge, commanded by Captain John A. Winslow, had been lying at anchor in the Scheldt, off Flushing, Holland, when a gun roared from the forward part of the ship, warning those officers who had gone ashore, to come on board. Steam was raised, and, as soon as all were collected on deck, the Captain read a telegram from Mr. Dayton, the Minister to France from the United States. It said:

“The Alabama has arrived at Cherbourg. Come at once or she will escape you!”

“I believe that we’ll have an opportunity to fight her,” said Captain Winslow. “So be prepared.”

At this, all of his sailors cheered wildly.

The Kearsarge was a staunch craft; she was two hundred and thirty-two feet over all, with thirty-three feet of beam, and carried seven guns; two eleven inch pivots, smooth bore; one thirty-pound rifle, and four light thirty-two pounders. Her crew numbered one hundred and sixty-three men. The sleeping Alabama had but one hundred and forty-nine souls on board, and eight guns: one sixty-eight pounder [Pg 379] pivot rifle, smooth bore; one one hundred-pounder pivot, and six heavy thirty-two pounders. So, you see, that the two antagonists were evenly matched, with the superior advantage of the numbers of men on the Kearsarge offset by the extra guns of her opponent.

Most of the officers upon the Kearsarge were from the merchant service, and, of the crew, only eleven were of foreign birth. Most of the officers upon the Alabama had served in the navy of the United States; while nearly all of her crew were either English, Irish, or Welsh. A few of the gunners had been trained aboard the Excellent: a British training ship in Portsmouth Harbor. Her Captain—Raphael Semmes—was once an officer in the navy of the United States. He had served in the Mexican War, but had joined the Southern cause, as he was a Marylander. He was an able navigator and seaman.

The Kearsarge cruised about the port of Cherbourg, poked her bows nearly into the break-water, and then withdrew. The French neutrality law would only allow a foreign vessel to remain in a harbor for twenty-four hours.

“Will she come out?” was the question now upon every lip aboard the Kearsarge. “Will she come out and fight? Oh, just for one crack at this destroyer of our commerce!”

But she did not come out, and the Kearsarge beat around the English Channel in anxious suspense.

Several days later Captain Winslow went ashore [Pg 380] and paid a visit to the United States Commercial Agent.

“That beastly pirate will not fight,” he thought. “All she wants to do is to run away.”

Imagine how his eyes shone when he was handed the following epistle!

“C.S.S. Alabama, Cherbourg, June 14th, 1864.

“To A. Bonfils, Esqr., Cherbourg;

Sir:—I hear that you were informed by the United States Consul that the Kearsarge was to come to this port solely for the prisoners landed by me, and that she was to depart in twenty-four hours. I desire you to say to the U. S. Consul that my intention is to fight the Kearsarge as soon as I can make the necessary arrangements. I hope these will not detain me more than until to-morrow evening, or after the morrow morning at furthest. I beg she will not depart before I am ready to go out.

“I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

“Your obedient servant,
R. Semmes, Captain.”

“Ha! Ha!” chuckled Winslow. “We’re in for it, now. Hurray!” and he hastened back to his ship to spread the glad tidings.

“My boys!” said he to his crew. “It is probable that the two ships will engage on parallel lines, and, if defeated, the Alabama will seek for neutral waters. It is necessary, therefore, that we begin this action several miles from the break-water. The Alabama [Pg 381] must believe that she can win, or she would not fight us, for, if we sink her, she cannot be replaced by the Confederate Government. As for ourselves, let us never give up, and—if we sink—let us go down with the flag flying!”

“Hear! Hear!” cried all. “We’re with you, Captain. Never give up the ship!”

“Clean decks, boys!” continued brave Winslow. “Get everything ship-shape for the coming affair, for we’re in for as tight a little fight as e’er you entered upon.”

Preparations were immediately made for battle, but no Alabama appeared.

Thursday passed; Friday came; the Kearsarge waited in the channel with ports down; guns pivoted to starboard; the whole battery loaded; and shell, grape, and canister ready to use in any method of attack or defence,—but no Alabama appeared. A French pilot-boat drifted near, and the black-eyed skipper cried out,

“You fellers look out for ze Alabama. She take in much coal. Whew! She take much of ze captured stuff ashore. Whew! She scrub ze deck. Whew! She put ze sailors to ze business of sharpening ze cutlass and ze dirk. Whew! You look out for ze great privateer! Whew!”

Captain Winslow only smiled.

“Zey have ze big feast,” continued the Frenchman. “Zey dr-e-e-nk ze wine. Zey stan’ on ze chairs and zey say, ‘We will seenk ze Yankee dog.’ Ta donc! Zey call you ze dog!”

[Pg 382] And still Captain Winslow smiled. But, next day, his smile turned to a frown.

It was Sunday, the nineteenth day of June. The weather was beautiful; the atmosphere was somewhat hazy; the wind was light; and there was little sea. At ten o’clock the Kearsarge was drifting near a buoy about three miles eastward from the entrance of Cherbourg break-water. Her decks had been newly holy-stoned; the brass work had been cleaned; the guns polished, and the crew had on their Sunday clothes. They had been inspected, and dismissed—in order to attend divine service.

At 1.20 a cry rang out:

“She comes!”

The bell was tolling for prayers.

“The Alabama! The Alabama! She’s moving, and heading straight for us!”

All rushed to the deck; the drum beat to quarters. Captain Winslow laid aside his prayer-book, seized his trumpet, ordered the boat about, and headed seaward. The ship was cleared for action and the battery was pivoted to starboard.

Yes, she was coming!

From the western entrance of the safe, little French seaport steamed the long-bodied, low-hulled privateer: her rakish masts bending beneath the spread of canvas: her tall funnel belching sepia smoke. A French iron-clad frigate—the Couronne—accompanied her, flying the pennant of the Commander-of-the-Port. In her wake plodded a tiny fore-and-aft-rigged steamer-yacht: the Deerhound, showing the [Pg 383] flag of the Royal Mersey (British) Yacht Club. The frigate—having convoyed the Confederate privateer to the limit of the French waters (three marine miles from the coast)—put down her helm and ploughed back into port. The steam yacht continued on, and remained near the scene of action.

As the Alabama had started upon her dash into the open, Captain Semmes had mounted a gun-carriage, and had cried,

“Officers and Seamen of the Alabama:

“You have at length another opportunity of meeting the enemy—the first that has been presented to you since you sank the Hatteras! In the meantime you have been all over the world, and it is not too much to say that you have destroyed, and driven for protection under neutral flags, one-half of the enemy’s commerce, which, at the beginning of the war, covered every sea. This is an achievement of which you may well be proud, and a grateful country will not be unmindful of it. The name of your ship has become a household word wherever civilization extends! Shall that name be tarnished by defeat? The thing is impossible! Remember that you are in the English Channel, the theatre of so much of the naval glory of our race, and that the eyes of all Europe are, at this moment, upon you. The flag that floats over you is that of a young Republic, which bids defiance to her enemies whenever and wherever found! Show the world that you know how to uphold it! Go to your quarters!”

A wild yell had greeted these stirring expressions.

[Pg 384] The shore was black with people, for the word had been passed around that the two sea-warriors were to grapple in deadly embrace. Even a special train had come from Paris to bring the sober townsfolk to Cherbourg, where they could view the contest. They were chattering among themselves, like a flock of magpies.

“Voilà!” said a fair damsel, whose eyes were fairly shining with excitement. “Oh, I hope zat ze beeg gray fellow weel win.”

She meant the Alabama, for the Confederates dressed in that sober color.

“Zis ees ze naval Waterloo!” whispered a veteran of the Crimean War.

It was 10.50 o’clock. The Kearsarge had been steaming out to sea, but now she wheeled. She was seven miles from shore and one and one-quarter miles from her opponent. She steered directly for her, as if to ram her and crush through her side. The Alabama sheered off and presented her starboard battery. The Kearsarge came on, rapidly, and—at 10.57 was about eighteen hundred yards from her enemy—then—Crash! Roar! A broadside thundered from the Confederate privateer, while the solid shot screamed through the rigging of the Yankee man-of-war.

On! On! came Captain Winslow’s gallant craft, while a second and a third broadside crashed into her. The rigging tore and swayed, but she was little injured. She was now within nine hundred yards.

“Sheer! Sheer!” cried the Union Commander.

The Kearsarge spun off and broke her long silence [Pg 385] with the starboard battery. Crash! Roar! the shells pounded around the great privateer, and, with a full head of steam, the corsair of the Southern Confederacy swept onward. Crash! Roar! she answered with shell, and the bursting iron shivered the foremast of her doughty opponent.

Captain Winslow was fearful that the enemy would make for the shore, so he spun over his helm to port in the endeavor to run under the Alabama’s stern and rake her. But she sheered off, kept her broadside to him, and pounded away like a pugilist. The ships were a quarter of a mile (440 yards) away from each other. They were circling around in a wide arc, plugging away as fast as they could load. The spectators cheered, for it was as good a show as they had ever witnessed.

“Eet ees fine!” said the veteran of the Crimea. “Eet remin’ me of ze battaile at Balaklava!”

Suddenly a wild cheer rose from the deck of the United States cruiser. A shot had struck the spanker-gaff on the enemy and her ensign had come down on the run.

“Hurray!” shouted the seamen. “That means we’ll win, sure!”

The fallen ensign re-appeared at the mizzen, while firing from the Alabama became rapid and wild. The gunners of the Kearsarge had been cautioned against shooting without direct aim, and had been told to point their heavy guns below, rather than above the water-line.

Captain Winslow was busy with his orders.

[Pg 386] “Clear the enemy’s deck with the light guns!” he shouted. “Sink the Confederate with the heavy iron!”

Cheer succeeded cheer from his sailors. Caps were thrown into the air, or overboard. Jackets were tossed aside. Now, certain of victory, the men were shouting wildly, as each projectile took effect.

“That’s a good one!”

“Down, boys, down!”

“Give her another like the last!”

“Now—we have her!”

The vessels continued to swing around each other in wide circles, and—at this moment—a sixty-eight pound Blakely shell passed through the starboard bulwarks of the Kearsarge below the main rigging, exploded on the quarter-deck, and wounded three of the crew of the after pivot-gun. The three unfortunate men were speedily taken below, but the act was done so quietly, that—at the termination of the fight—a large number of the crew were unaware that any of their comrades were injured.

Two shots now crashed through the port-holes occupied by the thirty-two pounders; one exploded in the hammock-netting; the other shrieked through the opposite port; yet no one was hurt. Fire blazed from the deck; the alarm calling for fire-quarters was sounded, and the men who had been detailed for this emergency put it out. The rest stayed at the guns.


The eleven-inch shells were doing terrible execution upon the quarter-deck of the Alabama. Three of them crashed into the eight-inch pivot-gun port; the [Pg 387] first swept off the forward part of the gun’s crew; the second killed one man and wounded several others; the third struck the breast of the gun-carriage and spun around on the deck until one of the men picked it up and threw it overboard. The ship was careening heavily to starboard, while the decks were covered with the dead and dying. A shell plunged into the coal bunker and a dense cloud of coal dust arose. Crippled and torn, the hulking privateer began to settle by the stern. Her guns still spat and growled, and her broadsides were going wild. She was fast weakening.

“Any one who silences that after pivot-gun will get one hundred dollars!” cried Captain Semmes, as he saw the fearful accuracy of its fire.

Crash! a whole broadside from the privateer spat at this particular piece. It was in vain.

Around and around circled the belching Kearsarge. Seven times she had swooped about the weakening gladiator of the sea, and her fire was more and more accurate. She was like a great eagle closing in for a deaththrust. Captain Semmes was in a desperate situation.

“Hoist the fore-trysail and jibs!” he called out above the din of cannon. “Head for the French coast!”

As the sailors scrambled to obey, the Alabama presented her port battery to the Kearsarge. She showed gaping sides and only two guns were bearing.

At this moment the chief engineer came up on the deck of the privateer.

[Pg 388] “The fires are all out and the engines will not work!” he reported to Captain Semmes.

The doughty seaman turned to his chief executive officer, Mr. Kell.

“Go below, sir,” he shouted, “and see how long the ship can float!”

In a few moments the sailor had returned from his inspection.

“Captain!” cried he, saluting. “She will not stay on the sea for ten minutes.”

The face of the Confederate was ashen, as he answered,

“Then, sir, cease firing, shorten sail, and haul down the colors. It will never do in this Nineteenth Century for us to go down with the decks covered with our gallant wounded!”

As he ceased speaking, a broadside roared from the side of his sinking vessel. The ensign of the Kearsarge had been stopped (rolled up and tied with a piece of twine) and, as a shell crashed through her rigging, a piece hit the flag-halyards—parted them—and unstopped the flag. It unfurled itself gallantly in the breeze, and, as its beautiful striping waved aloft, the sailors upon the deck gave a loud cheer, for this was the omen of Victory.

At this moment, two of the junior officers upon the Alabama swore that they would never surrender, and, in a spirit of mutiny, rushed to the two port guns and opened fire upon the Union vessel.

“He is playing us a trick!” shouted Winslow. “Give him another broadside!”

[Pg 389] Again the shot and shell went crashing through the sides of the Confederate cruiser. The Kearsarge was laid across her bows for raking, and, in a position to use grape and canister.

A white flag was then shown over the stern of the Alabama and her ensign was half-masted; Union down.

“Cease firing!” shouted Captain Winslow.

The great fight was over. It had lasted one hour and two minutes.

Chugety, plug, splash! The boats were lowered from the Alabama, and her Master’s mate rowed to the Kearsarge, with a few of his wounded.

“We are sinking,” said he. “You must come and help us!”

“Does Captain Semmes surrender his ship?” asked Winslow.


“All right. Then I’ll help you!”

Fullam grinned.

“May I return with this boat and crew in order to rescue the drowning?” he asked. “I pledge you my word of honor that I will then come on board and surrender.”

Captain Winslow granted his request.

With less generosity, the victorious Commander could have detained the officers and men, supplied their places with his own sailors, and offered equal aid to the distressed. His generosity was abused. Fullam pulled to the midst of the drowning; rescued several officers; went to the yacht Deerhound, and cast his [Pg 390] boat adrift; leaving a number of men struggling in the water.

The Alabama was settling fast.

“All hands overboard!” cried Mr. Kell. “Let every man grab a life-preserver, or a spar.”

As the sailors plunged into the sea, Captain Semmes dropped his sword into the waves and leaped outward, with a life-preserver around his waist. Kell followed, while the Alabama launched her bows high in the air, and—graceful, even in her death throes—plunged stern-foremost into the deep. A sucking eddy of foam, spars, and wreckage marked where once had floated the gallant ship.

Thus sank the terror of the merchantmen—riddled through and through—and no cheer arose as her battered hulk went down in forty-five fathoms of water. Her star had set.

The Deerhound had kept about a mile to windward of the two contestants, but she now steamed towards the mass of living heads, which dotted the surface of the sea. Her two boats were lowered, and Captain Semmes was picked up and taken aboard, with forty others. She then edged to the leeward and steamed rapidly away.

An officer quickly approached Captain Winslow.

“Better fire a shot at the yacht,” he said, saluting. “She’s got Captain Semmes aboard and will run off with him.”

Winslow smiled.

“It’s impossible,” said he. “She’s simply coming around!”

[Pg 391] But the Deerhound kept on.

Another officer approached the commander of the Kearsarge.

“That beastly yacht is carrying off our men,” said he. “Better bring her to, Captain!”

“No Englishman who carries the flag of the Royal Yacht Squadron can so act!” Winslow replied,—somewhat pettishly. “She’s simply coming around.”

But she never “came around,” and Captain Raphael Semmes was soon safe upon British soil. He had fought a game fight. The superior gunnery of the sailors of the Kearsarge had been too much for him. Nine of his crew were dead and twenty-one wounded, while the Kearsarge had no one killed and but three wounded; one of whom died shortly afterwards.

Thus,—the lesson is:

If you want to win: Learn how to shoot straight!

Captain Raphael Semmes died quietly at Mobile, Alabama, August 30th, 1877. His ill-fated Alabama had inflicted a loss of over seven million dollars upon the commerce of the United States.

A number of wise men met, many years afterwards, in Geneva, Switzerland, and decided, that, as the British Government had allowed this vessel to leave their shores, when warned by the American minister of her character and intention to go privateering, it should therefore pay for all the vessels which the graceful [Pg 392] cruiser had destroyed. England had broken the neutrality laws.

John Bull paid up.


[Pg 393]


There was a Captain-General who ruled in Vera Cruz,
And what we used to hear of him was always evil news:
He was a pirate on the sea—a robber on the shore,
The Señor Don Alonzo Estabán San Salvador.
“There was a Yankee skipper who round about did roam;
His name was Stephen Folger,—Nantucket was his home:
And having sailed to Vera Cruz, he had been skinned full sore
By the Señor Don Alonzo Estabán San Salvador.
“But having got away alive, though all his cash was gone,
He said, ‘If there is vengeance, I will surely try it on!
And I do wish that I may be hung,—if I don’t clear the score
With Señor Don Alonzo Estabán San Salvador.’
“He shipped a crew of seventy men—well-arméd men were they,
And sixty of them in the hold he darkly stowed away;
[Pg 394] And, sailing back to Vera Cruz, was sighted from the shore
By the Señor Don Alonzo Estabán San Salvador.
“With twenty-five soldados, he came on board, so pleased,
And said ‘Maldito, Yankee,—again your ship is seized.
How many sailors have you got?’ Said Folger, ‘Ten—no more,’
To the Captain Don Alonzo Estabán San Salvador.
“‘But come into my cabin and take a glass of wine,
I do suppose, as usual, I’ll have to pay a fine:
I’ve got some old Madeira, and we’ll talk the matter o’er—
My Captain Don Alonzo Estabán San Salvador.’
“And, as over the Madeira the Captain-General boozed,
It seemed to him as if his head were getting quite confused;
For, it happened that some morphine had travelled from ‘the Store’
To the glass of Don Alonzo Estabán San Salvador.
“‘What is it makes the vessel roll? What sounds are these I hear?
It seems as if the rising waves were beating on my ear!’
[Pg 395] ‘Oh, it is the breaking of the surf—just that, and nothing more,
My Captain Don Alonzo Estabán San Salvador!’
“The Governor was in a sleep, which muddled up his brains;
The seventy men had caught his ‘gang’ and put them all in chains;
And, when he woke the following day, he could not see the shore,
For he was away out on the sea—the Don San Salvador.
“‘Now do you see the yard-arm—and understand the thing?’
Said rough, old Folger, viciously—‘for this is where you’ll swing,
Or forty thousand dollars you shall pay me from your store,
My Captain Don Alonzo Estabán San Salvador!’
“The Captain he took up a pen—the order he did sign—
‘O my, but Señor Yankee! You charge great guns for wine!’
Yet it was not until the draft was paid, they let him go ashore,
El Señor Don Alonzo Estabán San Salvador.

[Pg 396] “The greater sharp will some day find another sharper wit;
It always makes the Devil laugh to see a biter bit;
It takes two Spaniards, any day, to comb a Yankee o’er—
Even two like Don Alonzo Estabán San Salvador.”

[Pg 397]


The curtain falls, the plays are done,
To roar of shell and shock of gun;
The scuttled shipping bobs and sways,
In grime and muck of shallow bays.
The tattered ensigns mould’ring lie,
As diving otters bark and cry;
While—in the lee of crumbling piers,
The rotting hulk its decking rears.
Gray, screaming kestrels wheel and sheer,
Above the wasted steering gear.
In moulding kelp and mackerel’s sheen,
The blighted log-book hides unseen.
Red flash the beams of northern blaze.
Through beaded clouds of Elmo’s haze;
While dim, unkempt, the ghostly crew
Float by, and chant the lesson true!
Sons of the fog-bound Northland; sons of the blinding seas,
If ye would cherish the trust which your fathers left,
Ye must strive—ye must work—without ease.
Strong have your good sires battled, oft have your fathers bled,
If ye would hold up the flag which they’ve never let sag,
[Pg 398] Ye must plod—ye must creep where they’ve led.
The shimmering icebergs call you; the plunging screw-drums scream,
By shallowing shoals they haul you, to the beat of the walking beam.
The twisting petrels chatter, as ye drift by the waiting fleet,
In your towering grim, gray Dreadnought,—a king who sneers at defeat.
While the silken pennons flutter; as the frozen halyards strain;
Comes the growling old-world mutter, the voice of the million slain:
Keep to your manly war games; keep to your warrior’s play.
Though the dove of peace is dancing to the sounding truce harp’s lay.
Arbitrate if you have to; smooth it o’er if you must,
But, be prepared for battle, to parry the war king’s thrust.
Don’t foster the chip on the shoulder; don’t hasten the slap in the face.
But, burnish your sword, ere you’re older,—the blade of the ancient race.
Hark to the deeds of your fathers; cherish the stories I’ve told,
Then—go and do like, if you have to—and die—like a Hero of Old.

Transcriber's Note

Punctuation errors have been repaired. Hyphenation has been made consistent within the main text. There is some archaic and variable spelling, which has been preserved as printed.

The following amendments have also been made:

Page 3—repeated book title deleted.

Page 77—omitted word 'to' added after row—"... jumped into two small wherries in order to row to the lugger."

Page 156—pedlers amended to peddlers—"There are tinkers, tailors, haymakers, peddlers, fiddlers, ..."

Page 178—Huzza amended to Huzzah—"“... Huzzah for Fortunatus Wright!”"

Page 226—envollé amended to envolé—"“Sapristi! L’oiseau s’est envolé.”"

Page 248—manœver amended to manœuver—"... had simply followed my manœuver of wearing around under easy helm ..."

Illustrations have been moved slightly where necessary so that they are not in the middle of a paragraph. The frontispiece and advertising matter have been moved to follow the title page.

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of Famous Privateersmen and Adventurers
of the Sea, by Charles H. L. Johnston


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