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DEATH OF GENERAL BROCK-AMERICAN PRISONERS.
immediately attacked with great vigor. Rensselaer soon CHAP. fell, wounded, but he ordered Captains Ogilvie and Wool to storm the battery, which they did in fine style, 1812. driving the British into a strong stone house, from which they could not be dislodged. General Brock, the same to whom Hull surrendered a few months before, was Oct. in command. Suddenly he headed a sortie from this house, which was promptly repulsed, and he himself slain,
During this time, a space of five or six hours, the Americans were striving to pass the river, but only five or six hundred succeeded. Suddenly a band of Indians emerged from the woods, and joined in the fray ; these were soon put to flight by Lieutenant Winfield Scott, who, with a company of regulars, volunteered for the purpose. The want of boats, and the want of system, had prevented a suitable number of Americans from passing
In the mean while General Sheafe was advancing from Fort George, with reinforcements for the British. This intelligence, together with the sight of the wounded, who were brought in boats to the American side, somewhat cooled the ardor of the militia, and they refused to pass the river to aid their countrymen. Their wits were also sharpened, and they suddenly discovered that their commander had no constitutional authority to lead them into Canada. The result was, that those who had gone over, about one thousand in number, were compelled to surrender themselves prisoners of war.
General Van Rensselaer, mortified at the want of spirit manifested on the occasion, resigned his command in disgust.
Inefficiency reigned in triumph all along the frontier. An expedition against Detroit, under the command of Harrison, was abandoned for want of means. The volunteers from Kentucky, as well as others, became mutinous and refused to advance. One failure followed another in rapid succession. The officers were quarrelling among
CHAP. themselves, charging each other with cowardice, and
fighting bloodless duels, while the soldiers deserted in 1812. bands, and those who remained were insubordinate.
These failures were unsparingly ridiculed in the newspapers opposed to the war, undertaken as it was without sufficient preparation.
The Vessels of the Navy.The chase of the Constitution.-Capture of the
Alert.—The Guerrière.— Incidents. The Macedonian.—The Frolic.-
WHILE the disasters recorded in the last chapter were char:
XLIII. in progress, the despised little navy had won laurels, by a series of victories as unexpected as they were glorious. 1812. When the war commenced, the whole navy of the United States in commission, consisted of only three first-class frigates; the President, the Constitution, and the United States ; of the second class two, the Congress and the Essex; the Wasp and Hornet, sloops-of-war; and the brigs Argus, Syren, Nautilus, Enterprise, and Vixen. The second class frigates Chesapeake, Constellation, and John Adams, were undergoing repairs. The fleet was ordered to assemble at New York to be in readiness to lefend harbors, and not to venture to sea, lest it should
CHAPfall in the hands of the enemy; a result which had been XLIII.
predicted again and again. Owing to the urgent remon1812. strances of Captains Stewart and Bainbridge, the intention
of thus withdrawing the navy was abandoned. Within a few hours after the declaration of war was known in New York, a portion of the fleet was passing out to sea, in search of the enemy. This prompt movement was made for the double purpose of avoiding the orders, which the officers suspected were on the way from Washington, to detain them in the harbor, and to make a dash at the Jamaica fleet, said to be passing under convoy off the coast. When two days out, they chased and exchanged shots with the British frigate Belvidera, which, however, escaped and carried the news of the commencement of hostilities to Halifax. The Americans continued the pursuit of the Jamaica fleet, even to the entrance of the British Channel, but without overtaking it.
Meanwhile a British squadron issued from Halifax, to cruise off the port of New York. The Constitution, better known as Old Ironsides, commanded by Captain Isaac Hull, in endeavoring to enter that port fell in with this fleet, and was chased by all its vessels for four days—the most remarkable chase on record. The unexampled skill
with which she was managed, elicited universal admiraJuly. tion. Every nautical device was exhausted ; such as
during a calm carrying out anchors and dropping them, and then pulling the ship up; in the mean while, when opportunity served, exchanging shots with her adversaries. Finally she escaped into Boston. Orders from Washington were sent to Captain Hull to remain there ; but he anticipated them, and put to sea before they arrived.
The Essex was the first to capture a prize-a transport filled with soldiers-and shortly after, the British sloop-of-war Alert. The latter mistook the Essex for a merchantman, and came on expecting an easy victory, but
CAPTURE OF THE GUERRIERE-INCIDENTS.
found herself so severely handled, that in a few minutes CHAP. she was fain to strike her colors.
Off the mouth of the St. Lawrence, Captain Hull fell 1812. in with the British frigate Guerrière, one of the fleet which had recently chased him. The Guerrière was on the look-out for “ Yankee craft ; on one of her flags was the inscription, Not the Little Belt. Courting the combat, she shortened sail, and at long range opened upon the approaching Constitution ; the latter did not fire a gun, but manæuvred to obtain a desirable position. Thus an hour and a half was consumed. When the Constitution secured her position, she poured in her broadsides with such rapidity and effect, that the enemy struck his colors in thirty minutes. So completely was the Guerrière cut to pieces, that it was impossible to bring her into port, and Hull ordered her to be burned. The Guerrière had Aug seventy-nine killed and wounded, while the Constitution had only seven, and was ready for action the next day. In connection with this encounter may be related two incidents, which show the spirit on board the respective ships. When the Constitution came within cannon-shot, the opening fire from the Guerrière killed two men. The men were impatient to avenge their companions, and Lieutenant Morris came on deck, and asked, " Can we return the fire, sir ? ” “No, sir,” calmly replied Hull. Soon after, Morris came again, and reported that another man was slain, and asked again, “Shall we return the fire ?” “No, sir," was still the reply. For the third time, Morris soon appeared : “Can we fire now ? ” Hull, pausing a moment to survey the position of the ships, replied, “ Yes, sir, you may fire now." The order was promptly obeyed, and Hull, with his eye intently fixed upon the enemy, exclaimed, when he saw the effect, " That ship is ours !”
On board the Guerrière were ten impressed Americans. They refused to fight against their countrymen, and were ordered below. One of them was afterward called upon