Old Ironsides

James Fenimore Cooper (1853)

(Putnam’s Monthly. Vol. I, No. V (May 1853), pp. 473-487; No. VI (June 1853), pp. 594-607).

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[This text has been scanned from the original and corrected by Hugh C. MacDougall (James Fenimore Cooper Society) and Steven P. Harthorn (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), and has been converted to HTML by Hugh C. MacDougall. The original footnotes have been numbered consecutively; a few evident typographical errors in the original are also marked by interpolated footnotes (numbered 2a, 3b, etc). The beginning of each page in the original journal is noted in {curly braces}. Any errors noted, or other corrections, should be reported to the Cooper Society website.]

{Publisher’s Note}

{473} [The following piece of naval biography is the last literary work upon which the pen of our great novelist was engaged and we understand it is the only posthumous publication of his writings which will be given to the world. It is printed verbatim from his manuscript, except in a few instances where dates and names are filled into the vacancies, according to his directions, and the narrative of the chase of the Constitution, which is copied, according to direction, from his Naval History.]

IN the course of the events connected with the naval history and the naval glory of the country, this ship has become so renowned by her services and her success as to be entitled to have her biography written, as well as those who have gained distinction on her deck. Half a century has endeared her to the nation, and her career may be said to be coexistent, as well as coequal in fame, with that of the service to which she belongs. It is seldom, indeed, that men have ever come to love and respect a mere machine as this vessel is loved and respected among the Americans, and we hope the day may be far distant when this noble frigate will cease to occupy her place on the list of the marine of the republic. It is getting to be an honor, of itself, to have commanded her, and a long catalogue of names belonging to gallant and skilful seamen, has already been gathered into the records of the past, that claim this enviable distinction. Among them we find those of Talbot, Nicholson, Preble, Decatur, Rogers, Hull, Bainbridge, and others, sea captains renowned for their courage, enterprise, and devotion to the flag. Neither disaster nor disgrace ever befell any man who filled this honorable station, though the keel of this bold craft has ploughed nearly every sea, and her pennant has been seen abroad in its pride, in the hostile presence equally of the Briton, the Frenchman, and the Turk.

The celebrated craft, of which we are now about to furnish a historical sketch, was built under a law that was approved by Washington himself, as President, March 27ᵗʰ, 1794. This law, which authorized the construction of six frigates, the commencement of an entirely new marine, that of the Revolution having been altogether laid aside, was a consequence of the depredations of the Dey of Algiers upon the commerce of the nation. The keel of one of the four largest of these frigates was laid down at Boston, and was named The Constitution. Her rate was that of a forty-four, though she was to be what is called a single-decked ship, or to possess but one gun deck, in addition to her forecastle and quarter deck. In the last century, it was not unusual to construct vessels of this rate, which carried batteries on two gun decks in addition to those which were mounted on their quarter decks and forecastles; but, in this instance, it was intended to introduce a new style of frigate-built ship, that should be more than equal to cope with the old-fashioned ships of the same rate, besides possessing the advantage of sailing faster on a wind and of stowing much more freely. The gun deck batteries of these four ships were intended to be composed of thirty long twenty-four pound guns, while it was then very unusual for a frigate to carry metal heavier than an eighteen. This plan was carried out in three of the six new vessels; but, owing to some mistake in getting out the frame, that laid down at Norfolk. which was also {474} intended for a forty-four, was, in the end, the smallest of the thirty-sixes. This was the ill-fated Chesapeake, a ship of which the career in the navy was almost as disastrous as that of the subject of our present memoir has been glorious and successful. The unfortunate Chesapeake would seem to have been commenced in error and to have terminated her course much as it was begun.The credit of presenting the plans for the three twenty-four pounder frigates that were built under the law of 1793, belongs of right to Mr. Joshua Humphreys, ship-builder, of Philadelphia, and the father of the gentleman of the same name, who is now the chief naval constructor. We are not certain, however, that the idea of placing such heavy metal in frigate-built ships is due to him, for the Indien, a ship built by order of Congress, at Amsterdam, during the war of the Revolution, had Swedish thirty-sixes in her, though she was not so long a vessel as either of those now built at home. As Mr. Humphreys was a builder of eminence at that time, however, it is possible his suggestions may have been attended to, even in that early day. The English certainly began to construct twenty-four pounder frigates at the close of the last, and near the commencement of the present centuries, as is seen in the Cambrian, Acasta, Endymion, &&c. Let these facts be as they may, there is no question that the plans of Mr. Humphreys produced three as fine single-decked ships as were ever put into the water, and it would be difficult to say which was the preferable vessel of the whole number. Two of them, after a lapse of half a century, still remain in service, and both are favorite cruisers with those who like fast, comfortable, and efficient ships. The new frigates are all heavier, but this is almost the only superior quality of which they can properly boast.

The builder who had charge of the Constitution, while on the stocks, was Mr. Cleghorn; but the foreman, and the person who was supposed to be the efficient mechanic, was Mr. Hartly, the father of the present naval constructor, and the builder of the Argus brig, one of the finest vessels of her class that ever sailed under the American ensign.

Captains were appointed to each of the six frigates, as soon as their keels were laid, as indeed were several other subordinate officers. We may as well mention here, that the following rule for regulating the rank of the inferior officers was adopted. The captains having ranks assigned them by the dates or numbers of their commissions, in the usual way, it was ordered that the senior lieutenant of the ship to which the senior captain was attached should rank all the other first lieutenants, and the others should follow in the same order, down to the junior lieutenant of them all. The officer to whom the original command of the Constitution was confided was Capt. Samuel Nicholson, a gentleman who had served with credit throughout the war of the Revolution, and once had worn a broad pennant. This gentleman, however, is not to be confounded with his elder brother, Capt. James Nicholson, who was at the head of the list of captains in the old navy, after Com. Hopkins was laid aside. Capt. Samuel Nicholson was the second in rank among the six captains appointed by the law of 1794, and all the Constitution’s officers subsequently obtained similar rank in consequence. Barry alone ranked Nicholson, and the United States may be said to have ranked the Constitution.

The keel of the Constitution was laid on Charlestown Neck, and some progress had been made in her construction, when a treaty of peace was signed with the Dey of Algiers without firing a shot. Of course this reconciliation was purchased by tribute. Congress now directed that the work on three of the six new frigates should be stopped, while the remainder were to be slowly completed. The three it was determined to complete were The States, Old Ironsides, and The Constellation. These three ships happened to be the most advanced, and the loss would be the heaviest by arresting the work on them.

Owing to these circumstances, the Constitution was more than two years on the stocks, though commenced in haste — a delay that probably had its influence in making her a better ship than she might otherwise have been. Nevertheless the work on her was more advanced than on either ship, and, but for an accident, she would have added the distinction of being the very first vessel of the new and permanent navy that was got into the water, to her other claims for renown. She stuck on the ways, and the States and Constellation were both launched before her. As it was, she was launched Sept. 20ᵗʰ, 1797.

In the course of the session of Congress that succeeded, the relations of the country with France became so seriously complicated, that it was determined to repel the maritime aggressions of the sister republic by force. The sudden armament Of 1795 was the consequence, and vessels of war were equipped and sent to sea as fast as circumstances would allow. Although one law was passed July 1ˢᵗ, 1797, “to {475} man and employ the three frigates,” and another was passed March 27ᵗʰ, 1798, appropriating a considerable sum with a similar object, neither was the first vessel got to sea, though the Constellation was one of the first, and the States was not far behind her. This occurred in June and July 1798. In the latter month, and on the 20ᵗʰ of the month, Old Ironsides was first moved under her canvas. She did not go to sea, however, until the succeeding month, the orders of Captain Nicholson to that effect having been dated Aug. 13ᵗʰ.

On this, her first cruise, the officers attached to the ship appear to have been as follows, viz: — The celebrated Preble, since the proudest name in American naval annals, was ordered to the ship as her original First Lieutenant, but, he got relieved from the duty, in consequence of some dislike of her commander, and never sailed is her until he did so with his broad pennant flying on board her. The complement of the frigate was composed of this following persons, and classes of persons, viz: —

CaptainLieutenantsDo. MarinesSailing MasterMaster’s MatesMidshipmenPurserSurgeonDo. MatesClerkCarpenterDo. MatesBoatswainDo. Mates   — — Gunner1  4  2  1  2  8  1  1  2  1  1  2  1  2    1  Quarter GunnersCoxwainSailmakerCooperStewardArmorerMaster at ArmsCookChaplainAble SeamenDo. OrdinaryBoysMarines         11  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  1  120  130  30  50--------  400    

At that time a captain of such a ship as the Constitution received but $100 per month, pay, and eight rations, or $2: per diem; a lieutenant received $40 a month and three rations; midshipmen, $19 and one ration; able seamen, $17 a month and ordinaries, $12. 1

It may be well to state here, that in the reports of government, the Constitution was paid for as being 1576, carpenter’s measurement, and her cost is stated at $275,000. Considered in reference to ordinary measurement, the first is more than a hundred tons too much; sand considered in reference to a complete equipment, the last materially too small. The first cost of such a ship as the Constitution must have exceeded $300,000.

Nicholson sailed in August, 1798 carrying Old Ironsides into blue water for the first time. His cruising ground was on the coast extending from Cape Henry to Florida, with orders to look out for Frenchmen. But the French, who were then at war with England, sent no heavy ships into the American waters, and it was soon found useless to keep a vessel of the Constitution’s weight so near home. We find the ship, still under Nicholson, on the West India station at the close of the year, when she formed one of Barry’s squadron, If her captain had originally worn a broad pennant in her, which we much doubt, although he appears to have had several small craft under his orders, it was now struck, Barry being the only commodore of the windward squadron, while Truxton, Nicholson’s juni four, having the leeward. Little connected with the Constitution occurred during this cruise or indeed throughout that war, of an importance to be noted. The luck of the ship had not commenced, nor was there much chance of any thing being done of éclat by a vessel of her force, under all the circumstances. The English were every where, while the French had lost so many ships already, that it was of rare occurrence to fall in with one of their frigates. By as singular fortune, the only two frigate actions that took place in the whole of the quasi war with France fell to the share of one and the same ship, the Constellation, which took the Insurgente and beat off La Vengeance. The Constitution returned to Boston ... and her command was transferred to Talbot, who hoisted a broad pennant in her, as commodore of what was called the St. Domingo station. On this cruise Hull sailed as first lieutenant.

The second cruise of Old Ironsides commenced in August, 1799. Her orders were to go off Cayenne, in the first place, where she was to remain until near the close of September, when she was to proceed via Guadaloupe to Cape François, at which point, Talbot was to assume the command of all the vessels he found on the station. In the course of the season, this squadron grew to be six sail, three frigates and as many sloops, or brigs.

Two incidents occurred to Old Ironsides, while on the St. Domingo station, that are worthy of being noticed, the first beings of an amicable, and the second of a particularly hostile character.

While cruising to windward the island, a strange sail was made, which, on closing proved to be the English frigate, the ------

The commander of this ship and Com. {476} Talbot were acquaintances, and the Englishman had the curiosity to take a full survey of the new Yankee craft. He praised her, as no unprejudiced seaman could fail to do, but insisted that his own ship could beat her on a wind. After some pleasantry on the subject, the English captain made the following proposition; he had touched at Madeira on his way out, and taken on board a few casks of wine for his own use. This wine stood him in so much a cask — now, he was going into port to refit, and clean his bottom, which was a little foul; but, if he could depend on finding the Constitution on that station, a few weeks later he would join her, when there should be a trial of speed between the two ships, the loser to pay a cask of the wine, or its price to the winner. The bet was made, and the vessels parted.

At the appointed time, the ------ reappeared; her rigging overhauled, new sails bent, her sides painted, her bottom cleaned. and, as Jack expressed it, looking like a new fiddle. The two frigates closed, and their commanders dined together, arranging the terms of the cartel for the next day’s proceedings. That night, the vessels kept near each other, on the same line of sailing, and under short canvas.

The following morning, as the day dawned, the Constitution and the ------ each turned up their hands, in readiness for what was to follow. Just as the lower limb of the sun rose clear of the waves, each fired a gun, and made sail on a bowline. Throughout the whole of that day, did these two gallant ships continue turning to windward, on tacks of a few leagues in length, and endeavoring to avail themselves of every advantage which skill could confer on seamen. Hull sailed the Constitution on this interesting occasion. and the admirable manner in which he did it, was long the subject of eulogy. All hands were kept on deck all day, and there were tacks on which the people were made to place themselves to windward, in order to keep the vessel as near upright as possible, so as to hold a better wind.

Just as the sun dipped, in the evening, the Constitution fired a gun, as did her competitor. At that moment the English frigate was precisely hull down dead to leeward; so much having Old Ironsides, or young Ironsides, as she was then, gained in the race, which lasted about eleven hours! The manner in which the Constitution eat her competitor out of the wind, was not the least striking feature of this trial, and it must in great degree he ascribed to Hull, whose dexterity in handling a craft under her canvas, was ever remarkable. In this particular, he was perhaps one of the most skilful seamen of his time, as he was also for coolness in moments of hazard. When the evening gun was fired and acknowledged, the Constitution put up her helm, and squared away to join her friend. The vessels joined a little after dark, the Englishman as the leeward ship, first rounding to. The Constitution passed under her lee, and threw her main-topsail to the mast. There was a boat out from the ------ which soon came alongside, and in it was the English Captain and his cask of wine; the former being just as prompt to “pay” as to “play.”

The other occurrence was the cutting out of the Sandwich, a French letter of marque, which was lying in Port Platte. a small harbor on the Spanish side of St. Domingo. While cruising along the coast, the Constitution had seized an American sloop called the Sally, which had been selling supplies to the enemy. Hearing that the Sandwich, formerly an English packet, but which had fallen into the hands of the French, was filling up with coffee, and was nearly full, Talbot determined to send Hull in, with the Sally, in order to cut her out. The sloop had not long before come out of that very haven. with an avowed intention to return, and offered every desirable facility to the success of the enterprise. The great and insuperable objection to its ultimate advantage, was the material circumstance that the Frenchman was lying in a neutral port, as respects ourselves, though watchful of the English who were swarming in those seas.

The Constitution manned the Sally at sea, near sunset, on the tenth of May, 1800, a considerable distance from Port Platte, and the vessels separated, Hull so timing his movements, as to reach his point of destination about mid-day of a Sunday, when it was rightly enough supposed many of the French, officers as well as men, would be ashore keeping holiday. Short sail was carried that night on board the Sally and while she was quietly jogging along, thinking no harm, a gun was suddenly heard, and a shot came whistling over the sloop. On looking around, a large ship was seen in chase, and so near, as to render escape impossible. The Sally rounded to, and presently, an English frigate ranged alongside. The boarding Officer was astonished when he found himself among ninety armed men, with officers in naval uniform at their head. On demanding an explanation, Hull told him his business, when the English lieutenant expressed his disappointment, candidly acknowledging that his own ship was waiting on the coast to let the Sandwich {477} fill up, and get her sails bent,in order to send a party in, also, in order to cut her out! It was too late, however, as the Sally could not be, and would not be, detained, and Hull proceeded.

There have been many more brilliant exploits than this of the Constitution in sending in a party against the Sandwich, but very few that were more neatly executed, or ingeniously planned. The Sally arrived off the port, at the appointed hour, and stood directly in, showing the customary number of hands on deck, until coming near the letter of marque, she ran her aboard forward, and the Constitution’s clambered in over the Sandwich’s bows, led by Hull in person. In two minutes, the Americans had possession of their prize, a smart brig, armed with four sixes and two nines, with a pretty strong crew, without the loss of a man. A party of marines, led by Capt. Cormick, landed, drove the Spaniards from a battery that commanded the anchorage, and spiked the guns. All this was against law and right, but it was very ingeniously arranged, and as gallantly executed. The most serious part of the affair remained to be achieved. The Sandwich was stripped to a girt line, and the wind blew directly into the harbor. As it was unsafe for the marines to remain in the battery any time, it was necessarily abandoned, leaving to the people of the place every opportunity of annoying their invaders by all the means they possessed. The battery was reoccupied, and the guns cleared of the spikes as well and as fast as they could be, while the Americans set about swaying up topmasts and yards and bending sails. After some smart exertion, the brig got royal yards across, and, at sunset, after remaining several hours in front of the town, Hull scaled his guns, by way of letting it be known they could be used, weighed, and began to beat out of the harbor. The Spaniards fired a few shot after him, but with no effect.

Although this was one of the best executed enterprises of the sort on record, and did, infinite credit to the coolness and spirit of all concerned, it was not quite an illustration of international law or of justice in general. This was the first victory of Old Ironsides in a certain sense, but all men must regret it was ever achieved, since it was a wrong act, committed with an exaggerated, if not an altogether mistaken notion of duty. America was not even at war with France, in the more formal meaning of the term, nor were all the legal consequences of war connected with the peculiar hostilities that certainly did exist; but with Spain she had no quarrel whatever, and the Sandwich was entitled to receive all the protection and immunities that of right belonged to her anchored in the neutral harbor of Port-au-Platte. In the end not only was the condemnation of the Sandwich resisted successfully, but all the other prize-money made by Old Ironsides in the cruise went to pay damages. The reason why the exploit itself never received the public commendation to which, as a mere military achievement, it was so justly entitled, was connected with the illegality and recklessness of the enterprise in its inception. It follows that this, which may be termed the Constitution’s earliest victory, was obtained in the face of law and right. Fortunately the old craft has lived long enough to atone for this error of her youth by many a noble deed achieved in defence of principles and rights that the most fastidious will not hesitate to defend.

The Constitution returned to Boston in Aug. 1800, her cruise being up, not only on account of her orders, but on account of the short period for which men were then enlisted in the navy, which was one year. On the 18ᵗʰ Nov., however, she was ordered to sail again for the old station, still wearing the broad pennant of Talbot. Nothing occurred of interest in the course of this cruise; and, early in the spring, orders were sent to recall all the cruisers from the West Indies, in consequence of an arrangement of the difficulties with France.

It is certain that the good fortune of Old Ironsides did not appear in the course of this, her original service. While Nicholson had her, she does not seem to have captured any thing; and, in Goldsborough’s list armed French vessels taken during the years 1798-9, and 1801, a period of near three years, during quite two years of which the ship must have been actively on her cruising grounds, he gives but four to the Constitution. These four vessels — La Tullie and L’Esther, two small privateers, the Sandwich and the Sally — the last of which, by the way, was an American, seized for illegal intercourse with the enemy.

By the peace establishment law, approved March 3d, 1801, all the frigates regularly constructed for the service were permanently retained in the navy. Old Ironsides enjoyed an excellent character among them, and was kept, of course, there being no other use for such a craft, indeed, in the country, than those connected with a military marine. Our frigate, however, was paid off and dismantled at Boston, where she remained unemployed from the spring of 1801 until the summer of 1803, rather more than two {478} years, when Preble was ordered to her, with a broad pennant, in order to repair to the Mediterranean. As this was the commencement of the brilliant portion of Old Ironsides’ career, it may be well to give a list of the officers who were now attached to, and who actually sailed in, her. It was the following: —

Commodore.  Edward Preble,     Lieutenants.

Thomas Robinson.  W.C. Jenckes. Jos. Tarbell.  Sam. Elbert.

Master.  Nathaniel Haraden.

This gentleman was known in the service by the sobriquet of “Jumping Billy.”


D.S. Dexter.  J.M. Haswell.  Ralph Izard.  Charles Morris.  John Roe.  A. Laws.  F.C. Hall.  I. Davis. W. Burrows.  D. Deacon.  Heathcote Reed.  T. Baldwin.  Leonard Hunnewell.  Jos. Nicholson.  John Thompson, act’g.

Of all these gentlemen, the present Commodore Morris and Mr. Hall, who is at present in the Marine corps, are now in the navy and very few of the others still survive. They were not selected from the part of the country where the ship happened to lie, f this time the nary had assumed so much of a fixed character that the officers were regarded as being at home in any portion of the republic. At Gibraltar, however, some important changes were made. Lt. Jenckes left the ship, and Lts. Dent and Gordon joined her, the former doing duty as acting captain. Midshipman Baldwin resigned, and Midshipmen Wadsworth, Alexis, Gadsden, Lewis, Israel, Ridgley, Carey, Robert Henly, and McDonough joined. With these alterations and additions the ship had five lieutenants and no less than twenty-three midshipmen. But changes soon occurred, which will be noticed in their places, the results of promotions and other causes. 2

The Constitution sailed from Boston, on this new service, August 14ᵗʰ, 1803, and anchored at Gibraltar, Sept. 12ᵗʰ succeeding, making her passage in twenty-nine days. This was the first time our craft had ever shown herself in the European waters, her previous cruisings being confined to the West Indies and our own coast. It may as well be said here, that wherever she went, her mould and the fine order in which she was kept attracted general admiration.

The first service in which the gallant ship was employed in the other hemisphere, was to go off Tangiers, in a squadron composed of the Constitution 44, New-York 36. John Adams 28, and Nautilus 12, in order to make a new treaty with the Emperor of Morocco. This important service successfully effected, Preble remained in and about the Straits, until the middle of November, employed in duties connected with his command. On the 23d October the ship sailed from Gibraltar for Cadiz, the Enterprise in company, and returned in a few days. While on this service and when near the Straits, a large strange sail was made in the night, when the Constitution cleared, went to quarters and ran alongside of her. Preble hailed, and got no answer, but a hail in return. After some sharp hailing on both sides, Preble took a trumpet himself and gave the name of his ship, asking that of the stranger, with an intimation that he would give him a shot unless he replied. “If you give me a shot, 1’11 give you a broadside,” returned the stranger, in English. Preble now jumped into the mizzen- rigging, and called out distinctly, “This is the United States frigate Constitution, a 44, Edward Preble, commodore; I am now about to hail you for the last time — what ship is that? — Blow your matches, boys.” “This is His Britannic Majesty’s ship, Donnegal, a razee of 60 guns,” was the answer. Preble told the stranger, in pretty plain terms, he doubted his statement, and that he should lie by him, until daylight, in order to ascertain his true character. Before things could be carried any further, however, a boat arrived from the stranger, who, as it {479} now appeared, was the Maidstone 36, Captain Burdett, The delay in answering arose from a wish to gain time to clear for action, and get to quarters, Old Ironsides having got alongside so quietly that she had been taken by surprise.

After passing the time mentioned, in the vicinity of the Straits, the Constitution sailed in quest of declared enemies. She left Gibraltar on the 13ᵗʰ November 1803, 2ᵃ and proceeded first to Algiers, where she landed Colonel Lear, who had come out as Consul General. On the 20ᵗʰ she left Algiers, and on the 24ᵗʰ, while standing up the Mediterranean, on her way to Malta, she spoke an English frigate, which communicated a rumor, that the Philadelphia had run ashore, off Tripoli, and had fallen into the hands of the enemy. On reaching Malta, the 27ᵗʰ, while lying off the port, the unpleasant rumor was confirmed. The ship stood on without anchoring, and arrived at Syracuse the next day.

Here then, was Old Ironsides, for the first time, in the centre of the Mediterranean, and with something serious to do; more, indeed, than could easily be accomplished in a single ship. Her commander was as active a seaman as ever undertook an enterprise, and the career of the good ship, for the next seven months. though she did not fire a shot in anger during the whole time, was probably as remarkable as that of any vessel which ever floated,and which encountered neither enemies, shipwreck, nor accident of any sort.

The Constitution lay until the 17ᵗʰ December at Syracuse, when she sailed for Tripoli to look at her enemy, and to communicate with the unfortunate commander of the Philadelphia. On the 23d the Enterprise, Lieutenant Decatur, which was in company, captured a Tripolitan ketch, celled the Mastico, or Mistico, with seventy Turks of one sort and another on board her, the prize being sent in. While lying off Tripoli on the 26ᵗʰ, it came on to blow 2ᵇ fiercely, and the stout ship had need off her excellent qualities to claw off shore. Her escape was somewhat narrow, but she went clear, and returned to Syracuse.

February 3d, 1804, Preble sent the Mastico, now named the Intrepid, to Tripoli, on the well-known expedition to cut out the Philadelphia. All the connection our ship had with this successful and brilliant exploit, arose from the fact that her commander ordered it, and four of her midshipmen were of the party. These young gentlemen were Messrs, Izard, Morris, Laws, and Davis, all of whom returned safely, after their victory, to the steerage of Old Ironsides. Mr. Morris was shortly after promoted for being the first; man on the Philadelphia’s decks, as was Mr. Izard, for other good and sufficient claims, The last Of these officers resigned about six years later, when first lieutenant of the old craft, and we shall have occasion hereafter to speak of Morris’s service on board her, in the same character.

Having effected this important preliminary step, Preble set the ship in motion, in good earnest. On the 2d of March she sailed for Malta, arrived on the 3d, and returned on the 17ᵗʰ. On the 20ᵗʰ she sailed again for Tripoli, where she arrived in time to send in a flag on the 27ᵗʰ; a day or two later she sailed for Tunis, encountering a heavy gale on the passage, and anchored in the bay on the 4ᵗʰ of April. She left Tunis on the 7ᵗʰ, it blowing a gale from the northwest at the time, and reached Malta on the 12ᵗʰ; sailed for Syracuse on the 14ᵗʰ, and arrived on the 15ᵗʰ. All these movements were made necessary, in order to keep Tunis quiet, ascertain the state of things at Tripoli and obtain supplies at Malta. Business detained the ship at Syracuse until the 20ᵗʰ, when she was again off. On the 29ᵗʰ the busy craft again touched at Malta, having scoured along the enemy’s coast, and on the 2d of May, less than a month from her appearance, the Bey of Tunis had the equivocal gratification of again seeing her in his harbor. War had been menaced, but peace succeeded this demonstration, and next day the ship was off for Naples, where she arrived on the 9ᵗʰ. The slow movements of the Neapolitans kept the active vessel ten days in that magnificent gulf, when away she went for Messina, with an order to get some of the king’s gun-boats on board her. On the 25ᵗʰ she was at Messina, and on the 30th she left that place, going round to Syracuse, where she anchored next day. On the 4ᵗʰ of June, the Constitution was away once more for Malta, where she anchored on the 6ᵗʰ, and on the 9ᵗʰ she went to take another look at Tripoli. A flag was sent in on the 13ᵗʰ to know the Bashaw’s ultimatum, but that dignitary refusing to accede to the terms offered, the Constitution got her anchor next day, and went to Tunis the third and last time, accompanied by two of the small vessels, as a hint to the Bey to remain quiet. The demonstration succeeded, and having reached Tunis on the 19ᵗʰ, the ship left it on the 22d for Syracuse, touched at Malta on the 24ᵗʰ, and reached her post on the 25ᵗʰ. On the 29ᵗʰ, away the frigate went again for Messina arriving the 1ˢᵗ July, and sailing again {480} on the 9ᵗʰ for Syracuse and getting in the same day.

Here was an activity almost without a parallel. Nor did it end here. On the 14ᵗʰ, the good old craft lifted her anchor and went to sea; was in Malta on the 16ᵗʰ; left Malta on the 21ˢᵗ, and appeared off Tripoli, in company with all the force that had by this time been collected, in readiness to commence the war in earnest. We know very well that Preble’s extraordinary energy was at the bottom of all these ceaseless movements; but the good old ship must come in for all that share of the credit, which properly belongs to a most admirably constructed machine. If the reader mill recur to our dates he will find what was really done. Between the 2d March and the 25ᵗʰ July, there are 145 days, or less than five months. Between these dates, Old Ironsides left port eighteen times, without counting visits to different places where she did not anchor. The distances run were necessarily short, in some instances quite so, but the Mediterranean Sea was actually crossed in its entire breadth twice. and several of the passages were hundreds of miles in length. The ship that is in and out of port three times a month — and four times would be nearer the true proportion of the Constitution’s movements — cannot be called idle; and our good craft, on all occasions, did her part of the duty admirably well.

It was not favorable weather for anchoring until the 28ᵗʰ, when Preble fetched up with all his squadron, which now consisted of fifteen sail, of one sort and another of fighting craft, with Old Ironsides at their head. The good frigate lay about a league from Tripoli, and the parties had now a good opportunity of looking at each other. The same day, however, a gale came on, and sent every thing out into the offing again; and it was August 3d before Preble brought his force in again.

The 3d August, 1804, will ever be memorable in American naval annals. It was the day on which Preble first attacked the batteries of Tripoli, and on which Decatur made his celebrated hand-to-hand assault on the gun-boats, that had ventured to take up an anchorage outside the rocks. It does not come within the scope of our plan to give the particulars of the whole of this desperate engagement, and we shall confine ourselves principally to the part that was borne in it by the subject of our sketch. The battle itself began at three quarters past two P.M., but it was a little later before Old Ironsides took a part in the fray. It ought to be mentioned here, that this ship had taken on board six long twenty-sixes at Syracuse, which had been mounted in her waist, and which were now manned by the marines, under Captain Hall; musketry being of no account in the service she was on. These six additional guns must have increased her entire armament to ------ guns in broadside, and all long; viz., ------ twenty-four twenty-fours below, ------ twelves on the quarter-deck and forecastle, and the six twenty-sixes just mentioned.

The manner in which the Constitution went into action that day has often been the theme of praise. As she stood down to range along the rocks and batteries, and a harbor filled with armed craft, her people were aloft rolling up the light canvas as coolly as if about to come to in peaceable times, nor was a gun fired until as near the rocks as was deemed prudent, when she let the Turks have her larboard broadside, sending the shot home as far as the Bashaw’s Castle. That was the first shotted broadside that Old Ironsides ever discharged at an enemy. As she was launched Sept. 20ᵗʰ, 1797, it follows that the good craft was just six years, ten months, and fourteen days old, ere she fired what may be called a shot in anger. No occasion had occurred on her previous service to bring the vessel herself alongside of an enemy, and here she was now commencing the brilliant part of her career: on the coast of Barbary, the very service for which she had been originally designed, though against a different prince. The ship kept ranging along the rocks, mole and batteries, often as near as within two cables’ length of the first, and three of the last, silencing every thing that she could get fairly under her guns, so long as she lay opposed to it. The flotilla within the rocks, in particular, was the object of her attentions, and she made great havoc among its people by means of grape. It was when tacking or wearing, that the Constitution was most exposed, having no vessel of any size to cover her. It will be remembered that Tripoli mounted one hundred and forty-five pieces of heavy ordnance, behind stone walls, in addition to a large number of guns she had afloat, many of which were of as heavy calibre as any possessed by the Americans. At half-past four, the smaller vessels began to retire, covered by a blazing fire from the Constitution; and a quarter of an hour later, the frigate herself hauled off the land, and went out of action. In this, which may be termed her début in active warfare, our favorite ship escaped singularly well, considering the odds with which she had to contend, and the circumstances under which she fought. In all that service before Tripoli, she fought at great disadvantage, being held at precisely {481} the distance that batteries wish to keep ships, by the rocks, within which it would have been madness for a single frigate to enter. The nearer a vessel can get to batteries the better; not only on account of the greater effect of their shot on walls, but on account of the advantage it gives by placing them within her range of fewer guns.

Although Old Ironsides was two full hours under fire, on the 3d August, time enough to have cut her into splinters, at the distance at which she was fought, and the number of guns that were brought to bear on her, had the Turkish gunnery been better than it was, she suffered very little, and not at all in her hull. One twenty-four pound shot passed through the center of her mainmast, thirty feet above the deck; her main-royal-yard was shot away altogether; two lower shrouds and two back-stays were also shot away; and the running rigging, and sails generally, were a good deal cut. One heavy shot, supposed to have been a thirty-two, entered a stern port as the ship was wearing, and when she was most exposed, passed quite near to Preble, some accounts say actually beneath his leg, as he stood with it raised on the port sill, struck the breech of one of the quarter-deck twelves, which it damaged materially, and broke into fragments, that flew forward into the waist, along a deck crowded with men, of whom only one was injured. Here was the old ship’s luck! — a good fortune or a providential care, as men may choose to regard the spirit of providential interferences,that has more or less attended the craft in all her subsequent battles and adventures. The man who was first wounded in battle, on the deck of Old Ironsides, deserves to have his name recorded. It was Charles Young, a marine, who had his elbow shattered by one of the fragments of the shot just mentioned. On this occasion, both Mr. Dent and Mr. Robinson were out of the ship. The former had been transferred to the Scourge, but commanded one of the bomb-ketches in the attacks; while the other, who had succeeded, as acting-captain of the frigate, commanded the other. Charles Gordon was now the first lieutenant, and did duty as such in the action, while Jumping Billy handled Old Ironsides under fire as he would have handled her in an American port.

The Constitution herself had no particuLar agency in the affairs which occurred between the 3d and the 28ᵗʰ August, though many of her officers and people were engaged. On the 7ᵗʰ, she lifted her anchor and stood in with an intention to mingle in the combat, but the wind coming out from the northward, it was thought imprudent to carry her as near the rocks as would be necessary to render her fire efficient, since the loss of a mast might have thrown her ashore. The 7ᵗʰ was the day on which Caldwell was blown up. Although the ship herself did not find a shot that day, many of her people were in the thickest of the fight. The gun-boats and ketches received crews from the other vessels whenever they went into action, and that day, besides having her boats out in numbers, the Constitution put Mr. Wadsworth in No. 6, Trippe’s boat, as her commander. The lateen yard of this boat was shot away in the action. Although the frigate did not engage, she kept so close in, directly to windward, as to overawe the Tripolitan flotilla, and keep them within the rocks. On the evening of the 7ᵗʰ, Chauncy joined from America, in the John Adams, armed en flute. The 28ᵗʰ was intended to be a day of special attack. All the boats of the squadron were manned and armed and sent to remain by the small vessels, in case the flotilla, which had shown some signs of a determination of coming to close quarters again, should put the intention in execution. To supply the places of those who left the ship, Chauncy joined her with several officers and about seventy seamen of the John Adams, and did duty as Preble’s captain. Lieut.-Com. Dent also came on board — the ketches not engaging — and took charge of the quarter-deck. Izard, too, then a lieutenant on board the Scourge, which was not engaged, came on board his old ship. Wadsworth continued in No. 6, and Gordon took charge of No. 2, for the occasion. These changes made, the vessel was ready to engage.

The 28ᵗʰ was the day, when the attack commenced early in the morning; before it was light, indeed. For this purpose the American flotilla went quite close to the rocks, and began their fire through the openings. The brigs and schooners kept under way, near at hand, to cover them against any assaults from the enemy’s boats, galleys, &c. All the Constitution’s boats went in with the gun- boats, and were under fire from the first. As the day dawned, Old Ironsides weighed anchor, and stood in towards the town. Her approach was in the most admirable style, and Fort English, the Bashaw’s Castle, the Crown, and Mole Batteries, all opened upon her, as soon as she came within range. The signal was now made for the gun-boats to withdraw, and for the brig’s and schooners to take them in tow. Old Ironsides then took the game into her own hands, to cover the retreat, and may be {482} said to have fought Tripoli single-handed. She ranged along within two cables’ length of the rocks, and opened with round and grape on thirteen of the Turkish galleys and gun-boats, which had just been pretty closely engaged with the American. For a few minutes the good old craft was a perfect blaze of fire, and she soon sunk one boat, drove two more ashore to keep from sinking, and scattered all the rest. Not satisfied with this, on went the frigate, until she got off the Mole, and within musket shot, when she hove to and sent ten broadsides into the different works. Three hundred round shot alone were fired, to say nothing of large quantities of grape and canister. After having been warmly engaged for near an hour the flotilla being by this time out of danger, the gallant frigate herself filled and hauled proudly off the land, disdaining to fire any longer than she chose to engage.

Such work as this ought not to have been done by any single ship that ever floated, without her being cut to pieces. Nevertheless Old Ironsides was not really hulled; or if hulled at all, it was in a way so slight and peculiar as to induce Preble to report her as not having been hulled. Not a man on board her was injured, though grape was sticking in her side, and had passed through her sails in considerable quantities: Three lower shrouds, two spring-stays, two topmast back-stays, and the tresses, chains and lifts of the main-yard were all shot away, the running rigging suffered materially, and several round shot went through the canvas, but not a man was hurt. An anchor stock was shot away, and the larboard bower cable was cut. We think it probable that this last shot was the one which hit her figure-head. As Preble reports she was not hulled, meaning doubtless struck fairly in her main body by a round shot, and both an anchor stock and a cable were hit, it follows that the shot or shots which did this mischief must have passed ahead. Owing to the manner in which the ship lay exposed to guns at different points, nothing was more likely to occur than this. At all events it is known that Old Ironsides then carried an image of Hercules, with his club, as her figure-herd, and that the head of this figure was knocked away, or materially injured before Tripoli. A canvas covering was put on to conceal the blemish, and continued there for some months. Chauncy did good service that day, and has thus left his name connected with the history of the gallant ship. At 11 in the forenoon, after such a morning’s work. the Constitution anchored safely about five miles from the town, with all the squadron around her, when all hands went to work to repair damages.

On the 2d September, Preble got the whole squadron under way at 4 P.M., and kept it so all night. A little before midnight, the Constitution made a general signal to clear for action. At half past two next day, another signal was made to the gun-boats, then in tow of different vessels, to cast off, advance upon the enemy and commence an attack, which was done in the direction of Fort English, or well to windward, while the ketches went nearer the town, and further to the westward, and opened with their mortars. All the brigs and schooners were pressing the enemy, at the harbor’s mouth, or cannonading Fort English, while the Bashaw!s Castle, the Crown, Mole and other batteries kept up a heavy fire on the ketches, which were in great danger; that commanded by Lieut.Com. Robinson, being with difficulty kept from sinking. In order to cover these vessels, Old Ironsides now ran down inside of them and brought to, within range of grape as before, where she let fly eleven broadsides into the works. The berth of the good frigate was a warm one, as no less than seventy guns, or more than double her own number in broadside, bore on her at the same time, and they, too, all mounted behind stone walls. At half past 4, the wind had commenced hauling to the northward, when Preble made a signal for every thing to get away the land, and he hauled off into offing with his own ship. On this occasion the Turks threw a good many shells, besides round and grape, at Old Ironsides. One of these shells hit the back of the main-topsail, and nearly tore the sail in two. It was got into the top, however, and the sailmakers went to work on it, in the midst of the fray. Another shell went through the fore-topsail, and a third through the jib; making big holes, but doing no more harm. All the sails were much cut up, as was the running rigging, by round shot. The mainsheet, foretack, lifts, braces and bowlines were all hit, but nothing larger than grape touched the hull. As on the 7ᵗʰ, not a man was hurt!

When grape shot nearly bury themselves in the bends of such a ship as the Constitution, and she is fairly within the range of batteries, it is almost marvellous to think, that a vessel could be thus exposed, on three several occasions, and have but one man hurt. This was the last action in which the frigate was engaged in that war, however, and it is certain that in her three engagements with the batteries, and fighting not only against such odds, but under such disadvantages, she had but the {483} single marine already named, Charles Young, injured on her decks.

The attempt with the Infernal came next, and in her went Wadsworth and Israel, with six of the Constitution’s crew, to man the cutter. Somers had the Nautilus’ boat, and four of his own men. All were lost of course, which made the total loss of the frigate out of her proper crew, while engaged before Tripoli, only two lieutenants and six men killed, and one marine wounded. The whole of the important service, indeed, effected by Preble, in his memorable forty days of active operations before the town, cost the country but thirty killed and twenty-four wounded. Among those who fell were one commander, four lieutenants, and one midshipman; and among the wounded, one captain (Decatur), and one lieutenant.

On the 10ᵗʰ. Com. Barron arrived with the President and Constellation, to relieve Preble. On the 12ᵗʰ, the Constitution captured two Greek ships, loaded with wheat, that were trying to force the blockade, and Barron sent the frigate to Malta, with her prizes, where she arrived December l7ᵗʰ. Soon after reaching Malta, the command of Old Ironsides was transferred to Decatur, Preble returning home in the John Adams.

The active service of the war, so far as the larger vessels were concerned, had now terminated, though the blockade was maintained by different vessels. Decatur’s command of the Constitution was of short continuance, Rodgers claiming her, on account of rank, and exchanging her for his old ship, the Congress. The transfer was made at Syracuse on the 6ᵗʰ November.

By this time Old Ironsides had used up, transferred, or lost, one way with another, about eighty of her original crew, and Barren ordered her to Lisbon to pick up others there, if possible, assigning important duties to her near the Straits. The ship left Syracuse, November 27ᵗʰ, and having touched at Gibraltar and Tangiers, anchored before the town of Lisbon, December 28ᵗʰ. It was February 5ᵗʰ, before the men were picked up, when the ship sailed from Lisbon, and remaining off Tangiers and about the Straits, for a few days, she proceeded aloft, again, and joined the squadron at Malta, on the 25ᵗʰ of the same month. Soon after she went off Tripoli, her old scene of glory, but returned by orders within the month. By this time the health of Barron was so bad, as to render Rodgers the efficient commander of the squadron, and the ship went off Tripoli, once more, coming in sight of the place, April 5ᵗʰ, 1805. The President, under Commander Cox, soon afterwards joined her, and on the 24ᵗʰ, Old Ironsides took an armed xebeck and two Neapolitans her prizes, that were endeavoring to enter the port. Not long after, the ship went to Malta.

On the 22d May, Commodore Barron formally transferred the command of the squadron to Rodgers, who hoisted a pennant once more on board Old Ironsides. Commodore Rodgers had now the choice between the sister vessels, the President and Constitution, but he chose to keep the one he was in.

As the active season was at hand, it became necessary now to treat, or to prepare For another series of offensive operations. Col. Lear had been sent for the Essex, and the Constitution going off Tripoli, the negotiations commenced which terminated in the desired peace, the end of all war. Nations go to war because they are at peace, and they make peace because they are at war! The negotiations that terminated the war with Tripoli, took place in the cabin of Old Ironsides. She had come late into the conflict, but had done more to bring it to a conclusion, than all the frigates that had preceded her, and was fated to see the end. It is said that this was the first treaty ever concluded with one of the States of Barbary, on shipboard. It was certainly a striking event for a hostile vessel to be thus employed, and proved the impressions which recent occurrences had made on the usually haughty Turk. The treaty was signed on shore by the Bashaw, however, and June 3d a copy was brought by the Danish Consul, Nissen, on board the Constitution, and delivered to Col. Lear and Rodgers. Old Ironsides now exchanged salutes with the town, and thus ended the war with Tripoli, after more than four years’ continuance.

The occupation of the good craft did not cease, however, with the arrangement with the Bashaw, nor was she destined to return to this hemisphere for some time longer. The Bey of Tunis had manifested a warlike disposition for a long time, and a strong force being now in the Mediterranean, Rodgers saw that the present was a good occasion to bring that difficulty to a conclusion also. He had collected most of his vessels at Syracuse, where the Constitution arrived about the middle of June. At a later day the squadron passed over to Malta, and July 23d, 1805, Old Ironsides sailed from Malta, leading a squadron, composed of three other frigates, a brig, two schooners, a sloop, and several large, American- built gun-boats, that had actually crossed the ocean that summer. The Congress and Vixen were already off the port, making, when every thing was {484} collected, a force of five frigates, two brigs, two schooners, a sloop and four gun-boats. The Constitution led this respectable armament into Tunis Bay, July 30th, where it anchored on the 1ˢᵗ of August.

This demonstration had the desired result, and an arrangement of all the difficulties was happily effected by the middle of the month. The squadron lay in the bay thirty-two days, in order to make all sure, when it separated; some going one way, and some another, most returning home. Old Ironsides, nevertheless, was too much of a favorite to be easily given up. Rodgers continued in her until the succeeding year, when he gave her up, with the command of the squadron, to Campbell, who remained out for a considerable period longer, almost alone. It would be of little interest to turn over log-books, in order to record how often the ship went in and out of the different ports of the Mediterranean, but nothing of consequence occurred until near the close of 1807, when the ship had been from home quite four years.

By this time the relations between this country and England became much embroiled. and, in the midst of all the other difficulties, occurred the attack on the Chesapeake, by the Leopard. The Chesapeake had been intended for the relief ship on the Mediterranean station, and she sailed near the close of June, on that duty. After the attack her cruise was abandoned, and in expectation of hostilities which threatened to be of early occurrence, this station itself was broken up. There were but two ships on it, the Constitution and the Wasp, and the times of many of the people of the former had long been up. There were a good many of the original crew of Old Ironsides still on board her, and these men had now been out four years, when they had shipped for only three. It is true, new engagements had been made with many of the men, but others had declined making any. In this state of things, Campbell brought the ship down to Gibraltar, and waited anxiously for the appearance of his relief. She did not come, but, in her stead arrived the report of what had occurred to her. It now became necessary for some one to go aloft, and Campbell determined to move the good ship, once more, in that direction. All hands were called to get the anchors, when the men refused to man the bars unless the ship sailed for home. There was a moment when things looked very serious, but Campbell was nobly sustained by his officers, with Ludlow at their head, and after a crisis, in which force was used in seizing individuals, and the marines were paraded, and found to be true, the insubordinate spirit was quelled. No one was ever punished for this attempt at mutiny, for it was felt that, on principle, the men had a great deal of right on their side. A law has since been passed to prevent the possibility of setting up a claim for discharge, until a ship is properly relieved.

At length the station was abandoned and Old Ironsides sailed for her native place, Boston. On her arrival in that port, it was found necessary, however, to send her to New-York, in order to he paid off. She reached the last port in November 1807, and was dismantled for repairs.

Thus terminated the fourth of the Constitution!s cruises, which had been twice as long as the three others put together, and a hundred times more momentous. She had now seen enemies, had fought them again and again, had witnessed the signing of treaties under her pennant, besides their dictation. In a word the good craft had been magna pars in many an important event. She was in some measure entitled to the character of a statesman, as well as that of a warrior.

The Constitution was now more than ten rears old, and some serious repairs had become necessary. America did not then possess a single dry-dock, and preparations were made for heaving her out. This was done, at Brooklyn Yard, in the spring of 1808, when her copper was examined and repaired. All this time the ship was not properly out of commission; many officers were attached to her; and as soon as she was righted, and got her spare aloft, Rodgers, who commanded on the station afloat, as Chauncy did the yard, showed his broad pennant in her again. For a time, Lawrence acted as her first lieutenant, as did Izard, his successor, when Lawrence was transferred to the command of a brig. Nevertheless, the ship lay near, if not quite, a twelvemonth at the yard, before she received a full crew. and began to cruise.

This was a period when all the active naval force of the country was kept on the coast. The Mediterranean been the only foreign station, after the peace with France, and that was broken up. Two home squadrons were maintained — one to the northward, under Rodgers, and one to the southward, under a different commander. The broad pennant of the commander-in-chief afloat was flying on board Old Ironsides. This gave the old craft an opportunity of showing herself. and making acquaintances, in various of the home ports. Until Campbell brought her round to New-York, in 1807, to be paid off, it is believed she had never entered any American harbor but {485} that of Boston. Yankee born, and Yankee bred, she had had Yankee commanders, until Decatur got her; and in that day there was more of provincial feeling among us than there is at present. This was probably the reason that the Constitution was so often taken to Boston; out of which port she has sailed, owing to peculiar circumstances, on every one of her most successful cruises.

When Nicholson went on the southern coast, there was no port, in that quarter, into which he would be likely to go with so heavy a ship; and unless he did, we do not see when Old Ironsides could have been in any haven of the country, except Boston, until the close of the year 1807. This visit to New-York, however, broke the charm, and since that, nearly every important point of the coast, that has sufficient water to receive her, has had a visit. Rodgers kept Old Ironsides, until 18 — , when he shifted his pennant to the President, under the impression that the last was the faster ship. Some persons fancied the good craft had lost her sailing.

Deaths and resignations had made Rodgers the oldest officer afloat, and he did very much as he chose in these matters. Off the wind, the President was unquestionably one of the fastest ships that ever floated, but on a wind, the Constitution was her match, any day, especially if the vessels were brought to double-reefed topsails. The President was a more roomy ship, perhaps, tumbling home the least, but Old Ironsides was confessedly of the stoutest frame, and the best ribbed.

The sailing of many of the vessels fell off about this time, and we think an intelligent inquiry would show that it was owing to a cause common to them all. The commanders were anxious to make their vessels as efficient as possible, by loading them with guns, and filling them with men. The spars too, were somewhat increased in weight, which produced an increase in ballast. The guns and spars were not of so much moment, but the additional men required additional provisions and water, and this sunk the hull deeper in the water, and demanded a greater moving power. When Barry first took the States out to the West Indies, she was one of the fastest frigates that ever floated, though the Constitution was thought to be her equal. About the year 1810, nevertheless, the States had got so bad a name for sailing, that she went by the soubriquet of the Old Waggoner, and was held quite cheap by all who were in a hurry. The Macedonian, her prize, certainly beat her under a jury mizzenmast; but some one took the trouble to overhaul the hold of the States one day, and to lighten her, and now she defies the world!

Rodgers had a good and a deserved reputation for fitting out a ship; but he was fond of men, and usually filled his vessels too full of one thing and another. Owing to this, or some other reason, he lost his first love for Old Ironsides, and deserted her for the President.

It is a great mistake to try to give a puissant battery to a vessel that was never meant to carry one. One cannot make a frigate of a sloop-of-war, by any expedient; and the uses of an active sloop may be injured by an abortive attempt so to do. This is particularly true of very small, sharp vessels, which lose their trim by slight variations, and which, at the best, can be nothing but small, sharp vessels, and if properly stowed, of great efficiency, on account of their speed; if not, of very little, on account of an unavoidable want of force.

Hull succeeded Rodgers in the command of the Constitution, and the good ship was compelled to strike her broad pennant. As for Hull, he knew his ship well — having been a lieutenant in her, and her first lieutenant besides. Morris, too, who had sailed in her as a midshipman, under Preble, and who bad been promoted out of her into the Argus, Hull’s old brig, before Tripoli, now joined her, as her new first lieutenant. The transfer was made at Hampton Roads, in the summer of 1810. During the remainder of the season, the ship cruised on the coast, and she wintered at New London.

Nothing worthy of being recorded occurred under this new state of things, until the Constitution was ordered to Europe, in the course of the year 1811, with Mr. Barlow on board, and with money to pay the interest on the Dutch debt. In that day, it was a common thing to send vessels of war across the Atlantic, on the errands of the public, though this was the first time, since 1800, that a ship as heavy as the Constitution was thus employed. Under Hull, while thus employed, the Constitution’s lieutenants appear to have been, Messrs. Morris, Page, Wadsworth, Read, ****** and Morgan. Of these officers, Messrs. Morris, Wadsworth, Read, and Morgan, are still living, and have all carried broad pennants.

The ship sailed for Cherbourg direct. Off that port she found a strong British squadron, under the late Sir Pultney Malcolm, who was in the Royal Oak seventy-four. Old Ironsides, on this occasion, was nearly surrounded by Englishmen, all of {486} whom came up on her quarters, one, a frigate, speaking her, first telling her own name, as is usual between vessels of war, and then asking hers. When the last was given, permission was asked to send a boat on board, which was readily granted. The English commodore now sent a request to see Captain Hull, on board the Royal Oak, if it were his intention to go into Cherbourg. The answer was, it was contrary to usage for an American captain to leave his vessel at sea, unless to wait on his own immediate superior. A second request followed, that he would not go in until a certain hour next morning. To this Hull replied, that he was bound into Cherbourg, with a minister on board, and he felt it to be his duty to enter the port the moment circumstances permitted. These were ticklish times — the affair of the Chesapeake, and the generally high pretensions of the English marine, placing every American commander strictly on the alert. No further communications passed, however, and the ship went into her port, as soon as circumstances would allow.

Having landed Mr. Barton, the Constitution sailed for the Downs, where she obtained a pilot, and proceeded to the Texel. Here she sent ashore about $200,000 in specie, and returned to the Downs, whence she stood on to Portsmouth, anchoring at Spithead, among a force of between thirty and forty English cruisers. Hull now went up to London, leaving Morris in command. After lying st Spithead near a fortnight, an incident occurred that is well worthy of being mentioned. Nearly in a line with Old Ironsides, following the course of the tides, lay the Havannah, 36, one of the frigates then in port. One night, near the close of the first watch, Mr. Read having the deck, a man of the name of Holland contrived to get out of the ship, and to swim down to the Havannah, where he caught hold of something, and held on until he could make himself heard, when he was picked up greatly exhausted. The first lieutenant of the Havannah, knowing that Holland was a deserter from the Constitution, under his first professional impulse, sent the boat alongside of the American ship to report the occurrence, adding that the man was too much exhausted to be moved then, but that he should be sent back in the morning. Mr. Morris waited until ten o’clock, when he sent a boat alongside of the Havannah to procure the deserter. The first lieutenant of that Ship, however, had seen the propriety of reporting the whole affair to the admiral (Sir Roger Curtis), who had ordered him to send the man on board his flag ship, the Royal William. Thither, then, it was necessary to proceed, and Mr. Read was despatched to that vessel with a renewal of the demand. This officer met with a very polite reception from the captain of the Royal William, who acquainted him with the fact, that no British officer could give up a man who claimed protection as a British subject. Holland was an Irishman, and had put in his claim to the protection of the British flag. To this Mr. Read replied, it might be true that the man was born in Ireland. but he had entered voluntarily into the American service, and was bound to adhere to his bargain, until the term of his enlistment had expired. The English officer could only regret that the respective duties of the two services seemed to conflict. and adhered to his first decision. Mr. Read then remarked that since the Constitution had lain at Spithead several letters had teen received on board her from men professing to be Americans, who stated that they had been impressed into the English service, and should any of these men run and get on board the Constitution, that her commanding officer might feel himself bound to protect them. The captain of the Royal William hoped nothing of the kind would occur, and here the conversation ended.

That night a man was heard in the water alongside of the Constitution, and a boat was immediately lowered to bring him on board. It was a seaman of the Havannah, who had fastened some shells of blocks beneath his arms, lowered himself into the water, and floated with the tide down to the American frigate, which he hailed. A boat was lowered and he was taken on board. A few minutes later a boat came from the Havannah to claim him. “You cannot have the man:” said Morris; “he says he is an American: and claims our protection.” “Can I see him?” asked the English lieutenant. “No sir.” “We will have him, as you shall find out.” said the young man, as he descended the ship’s side and got into his own boat.

There was a good deal of negotiation, and some correspondence the next day. Morris had visited the admiral himself, and Hull arrived in the course of the day. The last approved of all that had been done. The deserter from the Havannah, whose name was Byrne, or Burns. had insisted that he was a native of New-York, and had been impressed, and it is not unlikely his story may have been true, as an English subject would hardly have ventured on the experiment he had tried. But true or not, the principle was the same, and Hull was determined not to give him up unless Holland was sent back. In {487} each case the assertion of the man himself was all the testimony as to nationality, while Hull could show his deserter had shipped voluntarily, whereas Burns had been impressed.

The occurrence of such a transaction, in the roads of Spithead, in the height of a war, and among forty English cruisers, could not but produce a great excitement st Portsmouth. Every boat that came off to the Constitution brought rumors of a hostile character from the shore. “It was impossible,” these rumors said, “that a foreign man-of-war could be permitted to quit the roads under such circumstances, carrying off an English deserter in her.” Hull meant to do it, nevertheless. and Old Ironsides manifested every disposition to do her duty. A frigate anchored near her, and Hull took his ship outside of the fleet, where he was followed by the heaviest frigate in the roads. “This will do well enough!” said Hull, to one of his lieutenants,” if they don’t send any more I think I can manage that chap, and it will be a pretty fair fight.” The Constitution went to quarters and lighted up her batteries, exercising guns for a quarter of an hour. The frigate came close to her, but no hostilities were offered, and the Constitution carried off her man unmolested.

Off Cherbourg the Constitution again fell in with the English blockading force. After communicating with one of the vessels she began to beat in towards the harbor. It was raining a little, and the day was clouded, though clear enough for all the purposes of war. The English vessels formed in a line ahead, and beat up a short distance to leeward of the American frigate, tacking as she tacked, while one of their light cruisers kept close under her lee. Hull, on quitting Cherbourg, had agreed on a signal, by which his ship might be known on her return; but some peculiar circumstances prevented the signal being shown just at that moment, and the batteries mistaking her for an enemy, began to fire. This was a most critical situation for Old Ironsides, as she was now near enough to be torn to pieces if she bore up, and the French commenced in earnest on her. As it was, every, or nearly every shot fired, hit her. Hull was standing in one of her gangways with Read near him, just as a gun was fired. Read was looking towards the battery that was firing, and Hull was looking in-board at that moment. As soon as the shot was clear of the smoke Read saw it, and he spoke to his captain requesting him to move. Hull did not move, however, or even look round, and the shot passed through the hammocks: within two or three feet of the place where he stood, knocked the stem of the launch into pieces, and damaged another boat that was stowed alongside her. Another shot struck in the bend, just below the gangway, but did not pass through. Notwithstanding all this, Old Ironsides stood steadily on, and the signal was soon after shown, though not from the part of the ship agreed on. It was the nerve manifested on board that caused the French to cease firing,and the ship shortly after passed inside. This was the only occasion on which our gallant frigate ever received a French shot in her ribs, although she had been used in a French war.

After lying some time at Cherbourg, the Constitution sailed for home, reaching Hampton Roads late in the winter of 1812, or early in the spring. The ship was soon after carried up to Washington, and most of her people were discharged. Morris and Page left her, but some of her lieutenants continued attached to her — it being intended to fit her out again. Hull also continued his command. He told the Secretary of the bad sailing of the ship, and advised that she should be hove out that her copper might be examined. Harraden, her old master, under Preble, was then master of the Washington Yard, and he offered to put the ship in sailing trim, if Hull would give her up to him for that purpose. The arrangement was made, and Jumping Billy 3 went to work, like a true seaman as he was. After repairing the ship’s copper, she was restowed with about two-thirds of her former ballast, and the effect was magical. Her old officers, when they came to try her, scarce knew the ship, she proved to be so much lighter and livelier than before. There is little question that Jumping Billy’s precaution served Old Ironsides in the arduous trial she was now so soon to undergo.

[To be concluded in our next.]


Concluded from page 487.

RUMORS of an approaching war began to circulate freely before the Constitution got fully equipped, and she soon dropped down as low as Alexandria. This was about the beginning of June, 1812. At this time the ship had about two hundred and fifty men on board her, that had been collecting for a few weeks previously, and some of her late officers rejoined her. She was still off Alexandria when the news came down that war was actually declared against Great Britain. Read was the oldest lieutenant then on board, and he had all hands called and made them a speech. When he had ended, the men asked permission to cheer; a request that was granted of course, and nine hearty cheers succeeded. This demonstration of feeling, however, was scarcely over, when several of the crew came forward, and stated that they were English deserters, and they were afraid to serve against their native country. The case was stated to Hull, who ordered them all discharged. This done, the remainder of the people were perfectly ready to engage. About this time Beekman Verplanck Hoffman joined as one of the lieutenants.

The frigate gradually dropped down lower, receiving stores, and was joined again by Morris and Wadsworth, the former as her first, and the latter as her second lieutenant. Shortly after she went up the bay to Annapolis, where the equipment of the vessel was completed. Here John Shubrick and Aylwin, a new master, joined, and a draft of men came on also. This nearly filled up the complement; and Hull, who had joined in the river, was ordered to carry the vessel round to New-York. On the 5ᵗʰ of July the anchor was weighed, and Old Ironsides proceeded down the bay and to sea, on the 13ᵗʰ to cruise in the third and last of her wars.

At this time the principal officers of this well-known frigate were Isaac Hull, Esq., captain; Messrs. Charles Morris, Alexander Wadsworth, George Campbell Read, Beekman Verplanck Hoffman, John Templer Shubrick, and Charles W. Morgan, 4 (acting) lieutenants; Messrs. Bush and Contee, lieutenants of marines; Wm. C. Aylwin, master; T. J. Chew, purser; and Amos A. Evans, surgeon. Among the midshipmen were Messrs. Gilliam, Beatty, Madison, Salter (now a captain), German, Cordon, Field, Baury (lost in the Wasp), Cross, Belcher, W. Taylor, Eskridge, Delany, Greenleaf, Griffin, and Tayloe. Morris, Read, and Wadsworth 5 are still living, as commodores; but Shubrick and Hoffman are both dead.

The Constitution got under way, from her moorings off Annapolis, July 5ᵗʰ, 1812, or sixteen days after the declaration of war. The intermediate time had passed in completing the crew and the equipments of the ship. A draft of men having arrived only the previous evening, Morris was occupied in stationing them, as the vessel was leaving the bay. Many of the guns even had been taken on board low down in the Potomac, and a vast deal of necessary work had been done between the time when the ship left the Potomac and her day of going to sea. Much also {594} remained to be done. The berth of a first lieutenant was no sinecure then.

Friday, July the 17ᵗʰ, the ship was out of sight of land, though at no great distance from the coast, with a light breeze from the N. E., and under easy canvas. At one, she sounded in twenty-two fathoms; and about an hour afterwards, four sail were made in the northern board, heading to the westward. At three, the Constitution made sail, and tacked in eighteen and a half fathoms. At four, she discovered a fifth sail to the northward and eastward, which had the appearance of a vessel of war. This ship subsequently proved to be the Guerriere, thirty-eight, Capt. Dacres. By this time, the other four sail were made out to be three ships and a brig; they bore N.N.W., and were all on the starboard tack, apparently in company. The wind now became very light, and the Constitution hauled up her mainsail. The ship in the eastern board, however, had so far altered her position by six, as to bear E.N.E., the wind having hitherto been fair for her to close. But at a quarter past six, the wind came out light at the southward, bringing the American ship to windward. The Constitution now wore round with her head to the eastward, set her light studding-sails and staysails, and at half-past seven beat to quarters, and cleared for action, with the intention of speaking the nearest vessel.

The wind continued very light at the southward, and the two vessels were slowly closing until eight. At ten, the Constitution shortened sail, and immediately after she showed the private signal of the day. After keeping the lights aloft near an hour, and getting no answer from the Guerriere, the Constitution, at a quarter past eleven, lowered the signal, and made sail again, hauling aboard her starboard tacks. During the whole of the middle watch the wind was very light, from the southward and westward. Just as the morning watch was called, the Guerriere tacked, then wore entirely round, threw a rocket, and fired two guns. As the day opened, three sail were discovered on the starboard quarter of the Constitution, and three more astern. At five A.M., a fourth vessel was seen astern.

This was the squadron of Com. Broke, which had been gradually closing with the American frigate during the night, and was now just out of gun-shot. As the ships slowly varied their positions, when the mists were entirely cleared away, the Constitution had two frigates on her lee quarter, and a ship of the line, two frigates, a brig, and a schooner astern. The names of the enemy’s ships have already been given; but the brig was the Nautilus, and the schooner another prize. All the strangers had English colors flying.

It now fell quite calm, and the Constitution hoisted out her boats, and sent them ahead to tow, with a view to keep the ship out of the reach of the enemy’s shot. At the same time, she whipt up one of the gun-deck guns to the spar-deck, and run it out aft as a stern chaser, getting a long eighteen off the forecastle also, for a similar purpose. Two more of the twenty-fours below were run out at the cabin windows, with the same object, though it was found necessary to cut away some of the wood-work of the stern frame, in order to make room.

By six o’clock the wind, which continued very light and baffling came out from the northward of west, when the ship’s head was got round to the southward, and all the light canvas that would draw was set. Soon after, the nearest frigate, the Shannon, opened with her bow guns, and continued firing for about ten minutes; but perceiving she could not reach the Constitution, she ceased. At half past six, Captain Hull sounded in twenty-six fathoms, when, finding that the enemy was likely to close, as he was enabled to put the boats of two ships on one, and was also favored by a little more air than the Constitution, all the spare rope that could be found, and which was fit for the purpose, was payed down into the cutters, bent on, and a kedge was run out near half a mile ahead, and let go. At a signal given, the crew clapped on, and walked away with the ship, overrunning and tripping the kedge as she came up with the end of the line. While this was doing, fresh lines and another kedge was carried ahead, and, though out of sight of land, the frigate had glided away from her pursuers before they discovered the manner in which it was done. It was not long, however, before the enemy resorted to the same expedient. At half past seven, the Constitution had a little air, when she set her ensign, and fired a shot at the Shannon, the nearest ship astern. At eight, it fell calm again, and further recourse was had to the boats and the kedges, the enemy’s vessels having a light air and drawing ahead, towing, sweeping, and kedging. By nine. the nearest frigate, the Shannon, on which the English had put most of their boats, was closing fast, and there was every prospect, notwithstanding the steadiness and activity of the Constitution’s people, that the frigate just mentioned would get near enough to cripple her, when her capture by the rest of the squadron would be inevitable. At this trying moment the best spirit prevailed in the ship. Every thing {595} was stoppered, and Capt. Hull was not without hopes, even should he be forced into action, of throwing the Shannon astern by his fire, and of maintaining his distance from the other vessels. It was known that the enemy could not tow very near, as it would have been easy to sink his boats with the stern guns of the Constitution, and not a man in the latter vessel showed a disposition to despondency. Officers and men relieved each other regularly at the duty, and while the former threw themselves down on deck to catch short naps, the people slept at their guns.

This was one of the most critical moments of the chase. The Shannon was fast closing, as has been just stated, while the Guerriere was almost as near on the larboard quarter. An hour promised to bring the struggle to an issue, when, suddenly, at nine minutes past nine, a light air from the southward struck the ship, bringing her to windward. The beautiful manner in which this advantage was improved, excited admiration even in the enemy. As the breeze was seen coming, the ship’s sails were trimmed, and as soon as she was under command, she was brought close up to the wind, on the larboard tack; the boats were all dropped in alongside; those that belonged to the davits were run up, while the others were just lifted clear of the water, by purchases on the spare outboard spars, where they were in readiness to be used again at a moment’s notice. As the ship came by the wind, she brought the Guerriere nearly on her lee beam, when that frigate opened a fire from her broadside. While the shot of this vessel was just falling short of them, the people of the Constitution were hoisting up their boats with as much steadiness as if the duty was performing in a friendly port. In about an hour, however, it fell nearly calm again, when Capt. Hull ordered a quantity of the water started to lighten the ship. More than two thousand gallons were pumped out, and the boats were sent ahead again to tow. The enemy now put nearly all his boats on the Shannon, the nearest ship astern; and a few hours of prodigious exertion followed, the people of the Constitution being compelled to supply the place of numbers by their activity and zeal. The ships were close by the wind, and every thing that would draw was set, and the Shannon was slowly, but steadily, forging ahead. About noon of this day: there was a little relaxation from labor, owing to the occasional occurrence of cat’s paws, by watching which, closely, the ship was urged through the water. But at a quarter past twelve, the boats were again sent ahead, and the toilsome task of towing and kedging was renewed.

At one o’clock a strange sail was discovered nearly to leeward. At this moment the four frigates of the enemy were about one point on the lee quarter of the Constitution, at long gun-shot, the Africa and the two prizes being on the lee-beam. As the wind was constantly baffling, any moment might have brought a change, and placed the enemy to windward. At seven minutes before two, the Belvidera, than the nearest ship, began to fire with her bow-guns, and the Constitution opened with her stern chasers. On board the latter ship, however, it was soon found to be dangerous to use the main-deck guns, the transoms having so much rake, the windows being so high, and the guns so short, that every explosion lifted the upper deck, and threatened to blow out the stern frame. Perceiving, moreover, that his shot did little or no execution, Capt. Hull ordered the firing to cease at half past two.

For several hours the enemy’s frigates were now within gun-shot, sometimes towing and kedging, and at others endeavoring to close with the puffs of air that occasionally passed. At seven in the evening the boats of the Constitution were again ahead, the ship steering S.W.½ W., with an air so light as to be almost imperceptible. At half past seven she sounded in twenty-four fathoms. For hours the same toilsome duty was going on, until a little before eleven, when a light air from the southward struck the ship. The boats instantly dropped alongside, hooked on, and were all run up, with the exception of the first cutter. The topgallant studding-sails and staysails were set as soon as possible, and for about an hour the people caught a little rest.

But at midnight it fell nearly calm again, though neither the pursuers nor the pursued had recourse to the boats, probably from an unwillingness to disturb their crews. At two A.M., it was observed on board the Constitution, that the Guerriere had forged ahead, and was again off their lee beam. At this time, the topgallant studding-sails were taken in.

In this manner passed the night, and on the morning of the next day, it was found that three of the enemy’s frigates were within long gun-shot, on the lee quarter, and the other at about the same distance on the lee beam. The Africa and the prizes were much further to leeward.

A little after daylight, the Guerriere, having drawn ahead sufficiently to be forward of the Constitution’s beam, tack- {596} ed, when the latter ship did the same, in order to preserve her position to windward. An hour later the Æolus passed on the contrary tack, so near that it was thought by some who observed the movement, that she ought to have opened her fire; but, as that vessel was merely a twelve-pounder frigate, and she was still at a considerable distance, it is quite probable her commander acted judiciously. By this time, there was sufficient wind to cause Hull to hoist in his first cutter.

The scene on the morning of this day was very beautiful, and of great interest to the lovers of nautical exhibitions. The weather was mild and lovely, the sea smooth as a pond, and there was quite wind enough to remove the necessity of any of the extraordinary means of getting ahead, that bad been so freely used during the previous eight-and-forty hours. All the English vessels had got on the same tack with the Constitution again, and the five frigates were clouds of canvas, from their trucks to the water. Including the American ship, eleven sail were in sight, and shortly after a twelfth appeared to windward, that was soon ascertained to be an American merchantman. But the enemy were too intent on the Constitution to regard any thing else, and, though it would have been easy to capture the ships to leeward, no attention appears to have been paid to them. With a view, however, to deceive the ship to windward, they hoisted American colors, when the Constitution set an English ensign, by way of warning the stranger to keep aloof.

Until ten o’clock the Constitution was making every preparation for carrying sail hard, should it become necessary, and she sounded in twenty-five fathoms. At noon the wind fell again, though it was found, that while the breeze lasted, she had gained on all the enemy’s ships; more, however, on some than on others. The nearest vessel was the Belvidera, which was exactly in the wake of the Constitution, distant about two and a half miles, bearing W.N.W. The nearest frigate to leeward bore N. by W. ½ W, distant three or three and a half miles; the two other frigates were on the lee quarter, distant about five miles, and the Africa was hull down to leeward on the opposite tack.

This was a vast improvement on the state of things that had existed the day previous, and it allowed the officers and men to catch a little rest, though no one left the decks. The latitude by observation this day was 38°, 47 N., and the longitude by dead reckoning 73°, 57 W.

At meridian the wind began to blow a pleasant breeze, and the sound of the rippling under the bows of the vessel was again heard. From this moment the noble old ship slowly drew ahead of all her pursuers, the sails being watched and tended in the best manner that consummate seamanship could dictate, until four P.M., when the Belvidera was more than four miles astern, and the other vessels were thrown behind in the same proportion, though the wind had again got to be very light.

In this manner both parties kept pressing ahead, and to windward, as fast as circumstances would allow, profiting by every change, and resorting to all the means of forcing vessels through the water, that are known to seamen. At a little before seven, however, there was every appearance of a heavy squall, accompanied by rain; when the Constitution prepared to meet it with the coolness and discretion she had displayed throughout the whole affair. The people were stationed and every thing was kept fast to the last moment, when, just before the squall struck the ship, the order was given to clew up and clew down. All the light canvas was furled, a second reef was taken in the mizzen-topsail, and the ship was brought under short sail, in an incredibly little time. The English vessels, observing this, began to let go and haul down without waiting for the wind, and when they were shut in by the rain, they were steering in different directions to avoid the force of the expected squall. The Constitution, on the other hand, no sooner got its weight, than she sheeted home and hoisted her fore and main-top gallant sails, and while the enemy most probably believed her to be borne down by the pressure of the wind, steering free, she was flying away from them, on an easy bowline, at the rate of eleven knots.

In a little less than an hour after the squall had struck the ship, it had entirely passed to leeward, and a sight was again obtained by the enemy. The Belvidera, the nearest vessel, had altered her bearings, in that short period, two points more to leeward, and she was a long way astern. The next nearest vessel was still further to leeward, and more distant, while the two remaining frigates were fairly hull down. The Africa was barely visible in the horizon!

All apprehensions of the enemy now ceased, though sail was carried to increase the distance, and to preserve the weather gauge. At half-past ten, the wind backed further to the southward, when the Constitution, which had been steering free for some time, took in her lower studding sails. At 11, the enemy fired two guns, and {597} the nearest ship could just be discovered. As the wind baffled and continued light, the enemy still persevered in the chase, but at daylight the nearest vessel was hull down astern and to leeward. Under the circumstances it was deemed prudent to use every exertion to lose sight of the English frigates; and the wind falling light, the Constitution’s sails were wet down from the skysails to the courses. The good effects of this care were soon visible, as at six A.M. the topsails of the enemy’s nearest vessels were beginning to dip. At a quarter past eight, the English ships all hauled to the northward and eastward, fully satisfied, by a trial that had lasted nearly three days and as many nights, under all the circumstances that can attend naval manoeuvres, from reefed topsails to kedging, that they had no hope of overtaking their enemy.

The chase off New-York brought the Constitution largely before the public mind. It is true that this exploit was not one of a character to excite the same feeling as a successful combat; but men saw that the ships and crews that could achieve such an escape from a British squadron, must both of them have the right stuff for a glorious marine. Among the other amiable political misrepresentations of that day, it had been boldly asserted in the opposition prints, that the ship had gone to sea without the necessary supply of powder; and the assertion had been so audaciously and perseveringly made, as is most apt to be the case, with this class of moralists, who usually make up the deficiencies in their facts by the vigor of their assertions, that the public had been more than half disposed to anticipate some early disaster to this particular vessel, when the news arrived of her successful struggle with the only collected force the enemy then possessed in the American seas.

It was the good fortune of Old Ironsides to destroy two of the illusions of that portion of the people of this country, which had faith in English superiority in all things, then a numerous and devout class of believers, by first demonstrating that a Yankee man-of-war could get away from her enemy when there was occasion for the attempt, and that she could deal roughly with him, when the motive for avoiding an action did not exist.

It is worthy of remark that the English abandoned the chase of the Constitution, at eight in the morning, and that at half past eight the busy old craft seeing a stranger on her starboard bow, made sail in chase, to ascertain her character. The vessel proved to be an American brig. At ten, another vessel was chased and brought to, which also proved to be an American. At noon of the same day, having no further use for it, the boarding cutter was hoisted up, and the ship stood to the eastward, going into Boston a few days later, or near the close of the month.

Hull remained a very short time at Boston. It was the intention of the department to remove him from his ship, in order to give him the Constellation, in exchange with Bainbridge, the latter ranking him; and it has been sometimes imagined, that he was resolved to get another cruise out of his old craft, ere he was compelled to give her up. It is now known that Capt. Hull’s orders had gone to New-York, to which place he had been ordered, and that he did not get them before he sailed a second time. The order to relinquish the ship to Bainbridge must have been issued at Washington, just after Hull reached Boston, and the receipt of his report of the chase was dated the very next day. This last letter was dated July 29ᵗʰ, and closed with these words “Remain at Boston until further orders.” Luckily, Hull did not get this letter until he returned from his second cruise, sailing again on the 2d August.

The Constitution now stood along the coast to the eastward, as far as the Bay of Fundy, and thence off Cape Sable and Halifax, meeting with nothing. Passing near the Isle of Sables, she next went to the mouth of the St. Lawrence, where she made two captures of little value. On the 15ᵗʰ she chased a sloop of war with four merchant-men in company. The chases separated, one of them, a prize, being abandoned and set fire to. The sloop of war being to windward, the Constitution followed a ship, which proved to be an Englishman, with an American privateer prize-crew on board, that the sloop of war had brought to but had not taken possession of, in consequence of the appearance of the frigate. Another of the vessels was overhauled and recaptured, being an American, with an English prize-crew on board her. Mr. Madison 6 was put in charge of this vessel. After this little success, the Constitution stood to the southward and eastward, seeing nothing of any moment, until the 19ᵗʰ, when she made a suspicious sail from the mast-head, a long way to leeward. This was on the 19ᵗʰ, the frigate then being in N. Lat. 41°, 41’, and W. Long. 55°, 48’, or less than 700 miles nearly east of Cape Cod. Having looked for his enemy in the vicinity of Halifax, without success, Hull was now [598] on his way to go off Bermuda, with a similar purpose, when he fell in with this vessel. The strange sail was first seen at two P.M., and at three she was made out to be a ship, under short canvas, and close hauled, apparently waiting for the Constitution to come down to her. At half past three, the stranger was distinctly made out to be a frigate, and little doubt was entertained of his being an enemy.

The Constitution continued to run down, until near enough to take a good look at the strange sail, when she came by the wind, and began to clear for action. While lying in this situation, the enemy having his main-topsail aback, gallantly waiting for his adversary, Hull reconnoitered, and made up his mind that he had a first-class English frigate to deal with. The top-gallant sails were furled, and her flying jib and all of her light staysails stowed. A second reef was taken in all the topsails, the courses were hauled up, and the royal yards sent down. By this time the ship was clear and the drum beat to quarters, when the crew responded with three hearty cheers. After this the helm was put up, and the ship bore directly down upon the enemy. The Constitution had about a league to run, before she could get alongside of the stranger. At five P.M., being then at long gun-shot, the Englishman showed three ensigns, in different parts of his vessel, and commenced firing at very long shot. After discharging the guns of one side, he would wear and fire those of the other. These manoeuvres induced the Americans to yaw, to prevent being raked, though they fired but three or four guns in approaching. These evolutions, and the short sail carried, retarded the approach of the Constitution essentially, and she was near an hour getting within a short range of her enemy. At six P.M., however, the Englishman bore up, and ran off with the wind on his larboard quarter, under his topsails and jib. The Constitution then set her main-topgallant-sail, to close. A few minutes later, the forward guns of the American ship, and the after guns of the English, bore, when each party commenced his fire, the two frigates being within a hundred yards of each other. As the Constitution had the most way on her, she drew gradually ahead, until she came fairly abeam. Just as the two ships were square with each other, the mizzen-mast of the stranger came down, over the starboard quarter. This, of course, caused the American frigate to draw ahead still faster, and in about fifteen minutes after she had begun to fire, she was so far forward, as to induce Hull to luff short round his enemy’s bows, to rake him. After having fired three raking broadsides, the Constitution attempted to wear and resume her former course, parallel to that of the Guerriere, but owing to the loss of braces and other running-rigging, the Constitution wore so slowly that the bowsprit of the Guerriere passed diagonally over the quarter- deck of the Constitution, and finally dropped astern with her starboard bow against the Constitution’s larboard or lee quarter gallery. This was an awkward position, and might have led to serious consequences, had not the enemy been pretty effectually threshed before it occurred. As it was, two or three of the Englishman’s forward guns were discharged with effect into the stern and quarter of Old Ironsides, so close as to set fire to the cabin. Hoffman, who was in command there, behaved admirably, extinguishing the fire and protecting his men with great spirit and coolness.

While this scene was in the course of being acted below, one still more serious occurred on the quarter-deck. Both parties called away boarders, as the ships came foul. All the English boarders and marines collected forward, while the Americans rushed aft. Morris, Aylwin, and Bush (lieutenant of marines), were foremost among the Constitution’s people. On the other hand, many of the English exhibited equal gallantry, and for a few moments the musketry did great execution. Lieutenant Morris was in the act of lashing some of the head-gear of the English frigate to the Constitution, when he was hit by a bullet in the body. Mr. Bush fell dead by a ball received in the forehead, and Mr, Aylwin was shot through the shoulder. Missiles were thrown by hand from ship to ship, but boarding was out of the question, on account of the sea, the distance between the bulwarks of the two frigates, and the force collected on the deck of each to repel such an attempt. However, several lives were lost and many brave men wounded, by the close and murderous fire of the musketry. The Constitution drew ahead and parted from her adversary, moving off on the same tack. As the two ships separated, the Englishman’s fore and main mast both came by the board, leaving him wallowing in the sea and encumbered with wreck. Of course, this decided the affair, leaving Old Ironsides effectually the victor, and affording her time to look to the security of her own spars, which were of the last moment to her, in a sea that would certainly be soon swarming with enemies.

Having hauled off a short distance, and rove new rigging, besides looking to the stoppers and other securities for the masts, Hull was ready to run down on {599} his enemy, who still kept a jack flying on the stump of his mizzen-mast. The Constitution accordingly wore ship, and coming close in on the enemy’s weather bow, in a position to rake him, the jack came down, and the first English frigate that had done such a thing since the war of the Revolution, struck to an American. The prize proved to be the Guerriere, 38, a French-built ship, that had been taken by the English in the year ---- , by the ------ Captain ------ and now commanded by Captain Dacres. The Guerriere was a fine vessel of her class, mounting on her gun-deck thirty eighteens, and nineteen carronades and chase guns on her quarter-deck and forecastle; or twenty-five guns in broadside. She is said, however, to have been pierced for twenty-seven guns in broadside, which was just the number now carried by the Constitution. Some explanation, nevertheless, becomes necessary, in order not to convey to the reader a false idea of the respective forces of these two ships. The gun-deck battery of the Constitution consisted then, as now, of thirty guns of the bore of twenty-four pounders. The shot, notwithstanding, owing to defective casting, often weighed less than twenty-two pounds. Now, a shot of the size of a twenty-four pound shot, that weighs less than ought to have been its weight in solid metal, is less efficient than one, even, that has the accurate proportions between its weight and its diameter. The elements of the momentum, the principle that controls the efficiency of a shot, are the same in both cases, though the momentum itself differs, on account of the greater resistance of the atmosphere to a large, than to a small shot. In the case of the guns of the Constitution, the influence of the diameter may not have amounted to much, especially in an action fought at such close quarters; though two pounds in the weight of a shot is a matter of some moment, in naval warfare. The carronades of both ships were thirty-twos, alike. As the defective castings pertained to nearly, if not to quite all the American shot used at that time, the difference applied to the carronade shot, as well as to those of the long guns, making the quarter-deck and forecastle batteries of the Guerriere, gun for gun, actually heavier than those of the Constitution.

Nevertheless, the Constitution was a vessel decidedly superior to her prize, in all and each of the elements of force. She was of more tonnage, had heavier spars, carried heavier metal, and had a larger crew. The inferiority of the Guerriere was most apparent, indeed, in the number of her crew, she having less than three hundred men at quarters, while our own ship had considerably more than four hundred. There is not much doubt, however, that three hundred men in the Constitution ought to have been able to contend with four hundred in the Guerriere, though, in that case, the conflict would have been nearer on an equality. It is no more than fair to mention, also, that while it would seem to be certain, that the Guerriere actually carried thirty guns on her gun-deck, her regular armament would have been only twenty-eight. She was somewhat longer than was usual for vessels of her class, and it has been asserted that two guns were mounted in her bridle-ports, to bring her by the head. These two guns, it will be remembered, on the other hand, were of particular service to her, on account of the peculiar manner in which the battle was fought, the Constitution being so much on the bows of her adversary. Here, then, had Old Ironsides fairly beaten an English frigate in a yard-arm fight, leaving her opponent without an upright stick in her, except the stumps of masts, while she still carried every essential spar of her own in its place!

As Morris was wounded, Wadsworth had to attend to the duty of the ship, and George Campbell Read was sent to take possession of the prize. Dacres was wounded, but not so seriously that he could not walk, and he was transferred to the vessel of his captor, a boat having been sent to apprise Hull of the name of his prize, and the state of his prisoner. Hull was a man of few words, and totally without flourish, but kind-hearted and direct. As Dacres went up the side of the Constitution, Hull appeared in the gangway, extended an arm, and said, as if addressing an old friend — “Dacres, give me your hand — I know you are hurt.” This was not Decatur’s or Truxtun’s mode of receiving a captive.

Not long after the Guerriere was taken possession of, a strange sail was seen, and the Constitution cleared for another action, precisely as she had begun to chase on a former occasion, as soon as her enemies ceased chasing her. On this occasion, the stranger hauled off on perceiving the Constitution, he being most probably a merchantman, That night and next day, the prisoners were removed from the prize, and orders were given to set her on fire. Hoffman was the officer employed on this duty, and he left the Guerriere in the last boat, about 3 o’clock in the succeeding afternoon. Shortly after, the ship blew up. Captain Dacres reported his loss in the action, at fifteen killed and sixty-three wounded; or a total of seven-{600}ty-eight casualties. The Americans added one to this account. Captain Hull reported his loss at seven killed and seven wounded; or a total of fourteen casualties. Among the slain of the Guerriere, was her second lieutenant, and among her wounded, her captain, first lieutenant, master, etc. The Constitution lost her lieutenant of marines, the gallant Bush, and Morris was wounded, together with one other officer. Encumbered with so many prisoners, Hull now deemed it necessary to go into port. The ship had not received any material damage, but it was every way desirable to return home, for a short time at least. On reaching Boston, Hull gave up the ship, Bainbridge having had some time in his possession his orders to join her. It was September 15ᵗʰ, however, before the latter officer hoisted his broad pennant on board Old Ironsides.

The Constitution had been made a favorite ship under Preble, but this brilliant success added immensely to her favor with the nation. From this moment she became dear to every American, and it would have caused great pain to the entire Republic, had she fallen into the hands of the enemy. Still, there was no intention to keep her out of harm’s way, in order to nurse her up as a thing merely to boast of. On the contrary, to sea she was immediately ordered again, and to sea she went, as soon as she could be got ready.

Bainbridge was to have a squadron, consisting of his own ship, the Constitution 44, the Essex 32, Capt. Porter, and the Hornet 18, Capt. Lawrence. The first and last of these vessels were at Boston, while the Essex was in the Delaware. Giving the last two places of rendezvous at different ports, the Commodore sailed, with the Hornet in company, October 26ᵗʰ, 1812. On this cruise there was necessarily some change of officers, in addition to that of the commanders. Morris having been promoted, George Parker, of Virginia, was ordered to the ship as her first lieutenant. Aylwin had been promoted to a lieutenant, and was junior of the ship. G. Campbell Read was transferred to the United States, and Wadsworth to the Adams, as her first lieutenant. This made the list of lieutenants read as follows, viz.: Parker, Hoffman, Shubrick, Morgan, and Aylwin. Of these, all but the senior-lieutenant had been in the ship since the commencement of the war.

The two ships were off St. Salvador, December 13ᵗʰ, having looked in vain for the Essex, at the appointed place of rendezvous. An English ship of war was lying in St. Salvador, and, in the expectation that she might be induced to come out, and engage the Hornet, Bainbridge left the latter ship alone, off the harbor, and stood along the coast to the southward, on the 26ᵗʰ of the month. Three days later, when in lat. 13° 6’ S. and long. 31° W., the Constitution saw two strange sail, in shore, and to windward. The smallest of these vessels continued to stand in for the land, which was then distant from the Constitution rather more than thirty miles; while the other, much the larger vessel of the two, edged away to take a nearer look at Old Ironsides. The wind was far from fresh, at E.N.E.

By 11 A.M., the Constitution’s officers were satisfied that the ship to windward was an enemy’s frigate, and being now nearer to the land than was desirable, in the event of a chase, the ship was taken to the southward and eastward, to draw the stranger off shore. At the same time, the royals were set, and the main-tack boarded, the stranger sailing the best, in the light wind that prevailed. At meridian each vessel showed her ensign; signals were also made on board each ship, but they proved to be mutually unintelligible. Some time after 1 P.M., the Constitution hauled up her mainsail, and furled her royals.

The action commenced about two. The English ship, which was afterwards ascertained to be the Java, was about a mile to windward of the Constitution, both vessels now heading to the southward and eastward, the Java being well on her antagonist’s quarter. In this state of things, the Englishman had hauled down his ensign, though he kept a jack flying, and Old Ironsides threw a shot ahead of him, to induce him to show his colors. By some mistake, the order to fire this gun brought on a discharge of the Constitution’s broadside, which was immediately returned. The Java going much the faster in the light wind which prevailed, she was soon so far ahead as to be able to attempt crossing the Constitution’s bow. This induced Bainbridge to keep off and to wear, the Java coming round at the same time. Both vessels now headed to the westward. These changes brought the two ships much closer together, and within pistol-shot. The Java repeated the attempt to cross the Constitution’s bow, but was again foiled by the latter ship’s wearing. Both vessels came round at the same time, with their heads again to the eastward. The Java forereached as usual, and with a view to keep her weatherly position, she attempted to tack, but missed stays. At the same time, the Constitution wore, having lost her wheel early in the action. Old Ironsides coming round {601} the soonest, got an effective raking fire into her enemy.

Both ships now ran off free, wearing again, the English still to windward, though greatly injured. At fifty-five minutes past two, finding his berth too hot, the Englishman attempted to run Old Ironsides aboard, actually getting his jib-boom into her mizzen-rigging. In this situation the good old craft punished her bold assailant very severely, nor did she let him get clear until the head of his bowsprit was shot away. Soon after, his foremast came down, and, in passing ahead, the two vessels ran so close together that the stump of the Englishman’s bowsprit actually scraped over the Constitution’s taffrail. In a moment the Constitution wore, and passing her enemy to leeward, wore again. The Java keeping off, the two ships once more ranged fairly alongside of each other, during which time the Englishman’s mizzen-mast came down, leaving nothing standing on board him but his main-mast, and of that, the yard was shot away in the slings.

By this time the Java’s fire had ceased, and Bainbridge, supposing her to have submitted, boarded his main-tack, and passed out of the combat, luffing directly athwart his adversary’s bows. Standing on, a short distance to windward, the Constitution came to the wind, and passed an hour in securing her masts, and reeving new running-rigging. At the end of that time, an ensign was seen flying on board the Java, when Bainbridge wore short round, and ran down directly across his enemy’s forefoot. This evolution was sufficient, and before a gun was fired the English flag was lowered, for the second time, to Old Ironsides!

The prize was the Java, 38, Capt. Lambert, with a large number of supernumeraries in her, bound to the East Indies. Her commander was mortally wounded, but her first lieutenant reported her loss twenty-two killed, and one hundred and two wounded. This was a very severe loss, though Bainbridge thinks it was considerably greater. He says her loss was certainly sixty killed, and one hundred and one wounded. It is probable that more were killed, or died early of their wounds, than were reported by the English, and that fewer were killed than Bainbridge supposed. The English say that the ship’s company and supernumeraries amounted to three hundred and seventy-seven souls, while the Americans affirm that they found a muster-roll in the ship, that was made out several days after she had sailed, and which had on it considerably more than four hundred names. All this is of little moment, as three hundred and seventy-seven men were quite enough for such a ship, no one who understands vessels ever supposing that the Java was equal in force to the Constitution.

It was the manner in which Old Ironsides invariably did her work, that excited the admiration of the knowing. On this occasion she had shot out of her adversary every spar she had (the mainmast coming down before she struck), while she herself could carry royals!

In her action with the Java, the good ship suffered more than she did in her previous engagements. She had nine killed and twenty-five wounded. Among the latter was Bainbridge himself, and Aylwin, the junior lieutenant, the same officer who was wounded in the combat with the Guerriere, died of hurts received in this battle. The ship, herself, was not much injured. Some of her spars were wounded, and a few shots struck her hull; but the great cause of surprise to the Americans was to know where all the enemy’s shot had gone.

In consequence of the water’s being so smooth, the Java was not much injured below the water-line. She might very well have been taken into port, but the experiment would have been hazardous on many accounts. She was without spars, far from America, the sea was covered with English cruisers, and the nearest countries were much under the control of English influence. Keeping all the circumstances in view Bainbridge removed all his prisoners, and two or three days after the action, he ordered Hoffman to blow up this prize, too, and return to St. Salvador. Here he landed his prisoners, among whom were Lt. Gen. Hyslop, with his staff, and several supernumerary sea officers.

As Old Ironsides rejoined her consort, the Hornet, the utmost anxiety prevailed on board the latter vessel, on the subject of the result of the action. The vessel in company with the Java previously to the battle, was an American prize, which had stood on toward St. Salvador, and fallen into the hands of the Hornet, off the port. Her prize-crew, of course, related the fact, that the Java had left her to engage an American frigate, but could say nothing of the result. Lawrence had great confidence in Old Ironsides, but as he approached her, he kept every thing ready for flight should it be necessary. It could be seen that stoppers were on the standing rigging, and that the ship had been in a warm combat; but where was the prize? It was possible, that the English had got hold of the good old craft, and had sent her in to decoy the Hornet under her guns. The signals read well, but {602} the prize-crew of the ship retaken, gave marvellous accounts of the Java, and of her all-powerful, double-jointed crew, and so many men might have been thrown on board our ship, as to have swept her out of our grasp! This feeling prevailed on board the Hornet, until the vessels were near enough to distinguish countenances, when the number of well-known faces that appeared above the Constitution’s hammock-cloths settled the matter. Hearty cheers soon proclaimed that it was a meeting between friends. As soon as Lawrence got on board the Constitution, he told Bainbridge that the English sloop-of-war, in the port, had hove short, and it was thought, intended to come out that night. If such had been the plan, the arrival of Old Ironsides, with the crew of the Java as prisoners, was argument enough to cause it to be abandoned. Willing, however, to give Lawrence a chance, Bainbridge remained as short a time at St. Salvador as possible, sailing for home, Jan. 6ᵗʰ, 1813, and reaching Boston, Feb. 27ᵗʰ.

Old Ironsides carried the news of her own success. No one believed that the capture of an isolated ship, here and there, could have any great influence on the result of the war, in a mere material sense; England had too many frigates, and America too few, for such occurrences to conduce essentially to direct conquests, but indirectly they were of vast weight. The moral effect of Hull’s victory cannot readily be estimated. Great it was, beyond all doubt, and here was a second success by the same ship, bringing the vessel itself into the account as particeps gloriæ. Until the return of the Constitution from this cruise, the Constellation had been the champion of the navy. Her two battles in the French war eclipsed any thing else that had been done by any other vessel of her size, then in existence, but the Constellation’s exploits would not compare with those of Old Ironsides. The former ship had captured one French frigate, and beaten off another; but the Constitution had taken two Englishmen! The difference was essential, and considering all things, even the glorious little Enterprise, one of the most successful cruisers to the very last, that ever floated, could scarce be thought to compete with Old Ironsides. Here was the war only seven months old, and, in that brief space, tho eyes of the country were drawn on that ship, by the chase, worth a victory any day, and the combats with the Guerriere and the Java! Three such exploits in so short a time, were sufficient to give any ship a name, and the nation had not forgotten the achievements of Preble before Tripoli. It seemed to make no difference who commanded, the old barky was always successful; always in harm’s way, and always getting out of the scrape with credit. Preble, Hull, or Bainbridge; each, and all had been victorious on the decks of this staunch old ship. Jack began to think that if he wanted a victory and prize-money, he had only to ship on board Old Ironsides.

There was one singular exception to the rule, however, which it may be well to mention. One of the Hornet’s lieutenants, Mr. Ballard, was anxious to share in the luck of Old Ironsides, after the capture of the Java, while Lawrence was willing to try the luck of John Shubrick, who had now been in the chase and the two battles, and an exchange was made, off the port of St. Salvador. Both parties may be said to have succeeded, in a certain sense; for John Shubrick was in the Hornet, when she took the Peacock, and Ballard, by sticking to his new ship, subsequently shared in her honors.

A new commander was now given to the Constitution, in the person of Charles Stewart, Bainbridge being transferred to a ship of the line then building. Some other changes also took place among her superior officers. Henry E. Ballard became her first lieutenant, Parker having been promoted and attached to the Siren. John Shubrick had left the ship off St. Salvador, and did not return to her; but his brother, William Branford Shubrick, was transferred from the Constellation, Stewart’s last ship, to Old Ironsides. Mr. Hunter also was attached to her. Hoffman stuck to the old craft, going through the whole war in her, and sharing in all her honors. Morgan quitted her also. The crew was principally transferred, and a new one was shipped. When the ship was ready to sail, which was not until the ensuing winter, in consequence of the extensive repairs she required, her lieutenants were as follows, viz.: — H. Ballard, 1ˢᵗ; B.V.P. Hoffman, 2d; W.B. Shubrick, 3d; Hunter, 4ᵗʰ; Winter, 5ᵗʰ; Taylor, 6ᵗʰ; the two last, acting. Hickson was the sailing-master. The present General Henderson commanded her marine guard.

When Stewart had got a. new crew and was ready to go out, it was already winter. The ship shaped her course for the West Indies, old cruising ground for both vessel and commander, passing along our own coast. In this cruise Old Ironsides had no action, though she came near engaging a frigate off the Mona Passage, which was afterwards ascertained to be La Pique, 36. The English vessel got off in the night, by running through the Mona {603} passage. She captured a vessel of war, however, in the Pictou, a schooner of 14 guns. Following the coast, Capt. Stewart returned to Boston. As he reached the capes, he fell in with the Juno, 38, and Tenedos, 35, both under the orders of Capt. Upton, which vessels pushed him hard, chasing him into Marblehead. After remaining a short time in this port, the frigate went out and proceeded to Boston, giving the blockading force the slip.

Dec. 17ᵗʰ, 1814, Ironsides went out again with Stewart, and substantially the same set of officers and men. She now went off Bermuda, thence via Madeira into the Bay of Biscay. England was now at peace with all the world but America. From the Bay of Biscay the old barky 6ᵃ went off Lisbon to look for Englishmen, and came near chasing an English 74 up to the rock. This ship, the Elizabeth, hearing in Lisbon that the good craft was off the coast, came out immediately in quest of her, but the bird had flown. While off Lisbon, a large ship was run alongside of, in the night, and after some bailing, two or three shot were fired into her, to compel answers, when it was ascertained she was a Portuguese.

Defeated in his hopes of finding any thing where he was, and quite aware of the imprudence of staying long in any one place, Feb. 20ᵗʰ, Stewart up helm and stood off to the southward and westward, for twenty or thirty leagues. At 1 P.M. of that very day, a stranger was made on the larboard bow, and to leeward. The Constitution hauled up a little and made sail in chase. It was not long before another vessel was seen to leeward of the first, which, at 2 P.M., was made out to be a ship. All three vessels were now standing on the same tack, on bowlines, gradually nearing each other. At 4 P.M., the nearest of the strangers up helm and ran down to speak his consort, which was the commanding vessel, as it appeared in the end. Seeing this, Old Ironsides squared away in chase, setting every thing that would draw, alow and aloft. For an hour or more the two weathermost ships were thus running off, nearly dead before the wind, while the most leewardly vessel was luffing to close.

It may render the relation more clear if we at once say, that the two strangers proved to be the Cyane, 20, and Levant, 18, British vessels of war; the former mounting 34 and the latter 22 guns. The Cyane was commanded by Capt. Falcon, and the Levant by the Hon. Capt. Douglas, a son of Lord Douglas, who was the child that gave rise to the celebrated “Douglas cause,” at the close of the last century.

Stewart could see that the nearest vessel was frigate-built, and had reason to suppose that both were enemy’s ships of war. They had made signals to each other, and the ship to leeward soon ran off before the wind also, but under short canvas, to allow her consort to close. It is now understood that the ship to windward had signalled to the commanding vessel, an American frigate which was “superior to one, but inferior to us both,” and that Capt. Douglas kept away, under the impression that a night action might enable him to get some advantage in manoeuvering. Stewart, who could not know this, supposed their object was to escape, and he crowded on his old craft until her main-royal mast came down. The chase gained after this accident.

At half-past five the two English ships were so near together that it was impossible to prevent a junction, and Old Ironsides, then rather more than a league distant from them, began to strip and clear for battle. A few minutes later, the Englishmen passed within hail of each other; soon after which they both hauled by the wind, with their heads to the northward, and shortened sail. It was evident they were clearing ship and intended to fight. As Old Ironsides was travelling towards them all this time, they soon fancied themselves in a state to weather on her, and both, at the same instant, set their main courses, and made all other sail in a taut-bowline. But it would not do; the good old craft was too much in earnest to be out-manoeuvered in this wise, but came down so fast that in a. few minutes they hauled up their courses again, and formed in line, the commanding ship, or the Levant, leading. At 6 P.M., Stewart let the enemy see the stars and stripes for the first time. On this hint the English set their own ensigns, and, five minutes later, Ironsides ranged up abeam of the Cyane, distant about a cable’s length, passing ahead with her sails lifting until the three vessels lay about equi-distant from each other. In this masterly position the Constitution let fly her first broadside, receiving those of her enemies.

For about a quarter of an hour the firing was very warm and unremitted, but at the end of that time, the enemy grew less active in his cannonading. Stewart now ordered his people to stand fast and let the smoke rise from the surface of the water, in order to get a better view of the state of things to the leeward. In a very few minutes this was obtained, and it was found that the Levant lay directly under the frigate’s lee, while the Cyane was luffing to cross her wake, if possible. Old Ironsides now let the ship {604} abeam have all her guns, and then backed astern, as if plying in a tides-way, and compelled the Cyane to keep off to avoid being raked. As it was, she got it abeam. The Levant was not idle, but, in her turn, she now luffed and tried to tack, in order to cross the frigate’s forefoot, but the busy old craft was too nimble for her. Filling every thing, Stewart shot ahead, forced the sloop of war to wear, under a raking broadside, in order to keep clear of him, and to run off to leeward to get out of the range of his shot. The Cyane, perceiving the state of things, wore ship, when the Constitution came round too, and so quick as to rake this adversary, as she came by the wind. The Englishman came up as high as he could and fired his broadside, but, finding Old Ironsides closing on his weather quarter, he hauled down his ensign. Hoffman immediately took possession of him. As soon as this was done, Stewart went to look for the Levant.

In running to leeward, Capt. Douglas had no intention of abandoning his consort. He had found his berth too warm, and very wisely got out of it, as fast as he could; but having repaired his most material damages, as well as he was able, he had hauled up to look for her.

He met the Constitution about nine, there having been an intermission in the combat, of some duration, in consequence of this separation. The Levant knew nothing of the fate of the Cyane, and her commander probably thought the Yankee was running away from her, when he thus met him. Each vessel brought the wind abeam, and they crossed each other, on opposite tacks, firing in passing. The Levant was satisfied this would never do, but up helm and tried to escape. Old Ironsides followed, firing her chase guns with great deliberation and effect. Captain Douglas soon saw that every shot struck him and raked him, and he came by the wind, and fired a gun to leeward, in token that he gave it up. Shubrick was sent to take possession.

This combat was remarkable for its brilliant manoeuvering. It is seldom that one vessel can fight two, at the same time, without being raked. This Stewart did, however, not only escaping from all the attempts of the enemy to get this advantage over him, but actually raking both of his adversaries, each in his turn. Taking the evolutions all together, it would not be easy to find an action in which a ship was better handled. Nor did the enemy neglect his duty. Old Ironsides was several times hulled, and her loss was three killed and twelve wounded. The English loss is uncertain, no English report of the action having been made, and there being supernumeraries in each ship. Forty-two wounded were found in the two ships, and the slain have been variously computed at, from thirty-five, down to ten or twelve. No officer was hurt on board the Constitution. This action, it will be remembered, was fought in the night, though there was a moon for a part of the time. The light of the moon proved of great service to one poor fellow. In the heat of the combat, a man at one of the forecastle guns fell, at the precise moment when a shot entered near him. He was reported dead, and an order was given to pass the body across the deck, and to throw it overboard. A midshipman and two men were thus employed, but were baffled in endeavouring to pass the shoulders through a port. The midshipman sprang over into the fore-chains to assist, when he saw some muscles of the supposed dead man’s face twitching, and he ordered the body drawn back, and passed below to the surgeons. Before the Levant struck, the man was back at his gun, fighting as well as the rest of them. He was subject to fits and had fallen in one, but recovered in time to return to his quarters. The story should be told, as a warning against haste in such cases. Thousands are buried alive, on shore, and living men are sometimes committed to the deep in the hurry of sea-fights.

Stewart went to Port Praya, with his prizes, arriving there on the 10ᵗʰ March. In the mean time Ballard had been put in the Levant as prize-master, as due to his rank, and Shubrick went back to the frigate, acting as her first lieutenant. This change was not made, however, until the last came near losing his life on board the prize. It had been found necessary to get a new mizzen-topmast aloft, the right 6ᵇ possession was taken, and the spar came down in consequence of the mast-ropes parting. In descending, the head of the topmast struck Mr. Shubrick on the head, and left him senseless for hours. Nothing saved his life but the fact that he wore the boarding cap, with which he had left his quarters, to take charge of the prize.

A vessel was chartered at Port Praya, for a cartel, and about a hundred of the English prisoners were sent to fit her for sea. In this state of things, and the very day after the arrival of Old Ironsides at Port Praya, occurred one of the narrowest escapes from her enemies it was ever the good fortune of this lucky ship to run.

The weather was thick, more particularly near the water, where lay a bank of mist, that could not be penetrated by the eye at any distance. A boat had just left the ship, with orders to tow the cartel off, {605} and the duty of the vessel was in some measure at a stand. Shubrick, on whom the discharge of the executive duties of the vessel had fallen, in his new character of first lieutenant, was walking the quarterdeck, deeply ruminating on the business before him, when he heard an exclamation from one of the English midshipmen, who was aft on the taffrail. The lad had spoken to Capt. Falcon, late of the Cyane, his words being, “Oh! Capt. Falcon, look at the large ship in the offing!” So intent was Shubrick on his own ruminations, that these words might have passed unheeded for the moment but for the answer. “Hold your tongue, you little rascal,” answered Capt. Falcon, in a low voice. This completely aroused the lieutenant, who, walking aft, saw, over the bank of mist, the upper sails of a large ship, that was apparently beating up to gain the harbor. After taking a good look at the stranger, Shubrick went below and reported the fact to the Captain. Stewart was shaving at the time, and without discontinuing the operation, he answered coolly, “Very well, sir. It is an Indiaman, or it may be a frigate — call all hands and heave short, and we’ll go out and see what she is made of.” Shubrick ordered “all hands up anchor,” called, and then went on deck to take another look at the stranger, while the men were tumbling up, and manning the bars. He now saw the upper sails of two more large ships in the mist, above the bank, all three beating up for the roads. Capt. Stewart was immediately informed of this, and without a moment’s hesitation he gave the order to “cut.” It is probable that this prompt command saved the ship. A signal was made for the prizes to follow, and the duty went on in the most beautiful and cool manner. In fourteen minutes after the first ship was seen, and in ten after the order to cut was given, Old Ironsides was walking out of the roads under her topsails. Preparations of all sorts were made rapidly, and away all three of the ships went together, just clearing the shore, and passing at gun-shot to windward of the strangers; now known to be heavy vessels of war, though no one, as yet, had seen their hulls. They were thought to be two ships of the line and a large frigate. As the Constitution cleared the land, she crossed topgallant yard, boarded her tacks, and set her staysails. No sooner were the Americans abeam of their enemies, than the latter tacked, and all six of the ships stood to the southward and eastward, carrying every thing that would draw, with about ten knot-way on them.

As Ironsides drew into the offing, she cut adrift two boats that were towing astern. As yet no one had seen the hulls of the enemy, though there could be no mistake as to their character. The mist seemed to settle, however, in the offing, lying nearer to the water, and the air become a little clearer aloft. The vessel that was taken for a frigate, weathered on every thing, her own consorts, as well as on the American vessels. The English officers, prisoners in the Constitution, could not conceal their delight, and confidently predicted the capture of Old Ironsides, and the recapture of their own vessels. They announced the chasing ships to be the Leander 50, Sir George Collier; Newcastle 50, Lord George Stuart, and Acasta 40, Capt. Kerr. The first two vessels were new ships on one deck, built expressly to overmatch the American 44’s. The English prisoners were particularly confident “Kerr in the Acasta” would overtake the Constitution, which vessel they fancied could not sail, from seeing her jog along at an easy rate, in company with her prizes. Stewart kept her travelling on the present occasion, and it was not quite so easy a thing to come up with her, as hope had induced the prisoners to believe. One of the English captains was so sanguine as to get into the quarter-gallery, and make signs to the weatherly frigate, inviting her to come on, and exclaiming in the presence of American officers, “Capt. Kerr, I envy you your glory this day.” With Stewart, himself, these gentlemen did not maintain much reserve, pretty plainly intimating that Old Ironsides had not the speed necessary to get clear of the “British Phoenix,” as they termed “Kerr, in the Acasta.”

Whatever may have been the fact, as regards our own honest old craft, it is certain the prizes were in a bad way. The Cyane was a short ship, mounting twenty-two guns on one deck and twelve above, and of course was not very weatherly. Stewart saw that the frigate, or supposed frigate for no one had yet seen the hull of an Englishman was weathering on her fast, and he made a signal for her to tack. Hoffman went round immediately, and passed his most dangerous adversary a short gun-shot to windward, on contrary tacks. Not a ship of the enemy went about. The “British Phoenix” stood gallantly on, endeavoring to get into the wake of the Constitution, and the Cyane was soon lost sight of in the haze. Hoffman was a practical, plain sailor, and knew perfectly well what he was about. Instead of running into port again, no sooner had the mist shut in the enemy, than he went about again, and continued making short tacks to windward for {606} twenty-four hours, when, giving the islands a good berth, he squared away for America, bringing his ship successfully into New-York. She was taken into the service, and her namesake is now in the navy.

At half-past two, one of the English vessels was pretty well up, on the lee quarter of Ironsides. By this time the fog had packed on the water so low, that her officers could be seen standing on the hammock-cloths, though her ports were not yet visible. She fired, by division, and conjectures could be made concerning the extent of her batteries, by the flashes of her guns, as seen through the fog. The shot fell within a hundred yards of the Constitution, but did not rise again. After trying this experiment unsuccessfully, the firing ceased.

The Levant all this time was falling in astern, nearer and nearer to the weatherly frigate, or was getting into the very danger from which the Cyane had been relieved an hour or two before. Stewart made her signal to tack. Ballard went round immediately, but could not work off to windward as Hoffman had just done; for seven minutes after he had got about, all three of the Englishmen tacked, by signal, and were on his heels. This compelled him to run back into the roads and anchor. The enemy paid no attention to the neutrality of the island, but stood in after the Levant, and opened a heavy fire on that ship. The prisoners ashore joined them, and added the guns of the battery to the attack. Of course Ballard submitted, but he had some relief for his mortification in losing his ship, in what passed with the boarding officer. “I presume I have the honor to receive the sword of Captain Biddle, of the U.S. ship Hornet,” said that gentleman, when Ballard offered his sword. “You receive the sword of Lieut. Ballard of the Constitution, prize master of His Britannic Majesty’s late ship Levant,” was the caustic reply. The enemy supposed the three ships they had chased to be the President, Com. Rodgers; Congress, Capt. Smith; and Hornet, Capt. Biddle. Had such been the case, they would have been much too strong to fight; but the truth rendered their little success bitter, rather than otherwise!

As for Old Ironsides, she went steadily on her way, and was soon out of sight of her pursuers. Deep was the mortification of the English officers on board her, when they saw their three ships tack together, abandoning such a frigate as the Constitution, and following a prize into a neutral Port! The “British Phoenix” was now changed into an Indiaman, and it never could be the squadron they had supposed. It was, however, and Sir Geo. Collier was much condemned for his course. In the end that officer committed suicide, though whether it was the consequence of morbid feelings in connection with this affair, or from some other cause, we do not know. He was in the Leander, the vessel farthest astern, and to leeward, and was not in as good a situation to make his observations, as he would have been on board the Newcastle, which was the vessel on the Constitution’s lee quarter, and which fired at her. It is also said, that the Newcastle made a signal, that she had sprung her mainyard, a circumstance that may have contributed to Sir Geo. Collier’s decision. Nevertheless, one cannot easily see why the Acasta, or the Leander, might not have been left to follow Old Ironsides alone, a course which would have been very apt to have brought on an engagement. The Acasta was a twenty-four pounder frigate, rating 40, besides being the “British Phoenix,” and both the Leander and the Newcastle were thirty-two pounder vessels.

Whatever we may think of the manoeuvring of the enemy, off Port Praya, we can have but one opinion of Old Ironsides, and her cool, judicious commander. Stewart deserves a great deal for the orders he gave, and the signals he made. Had the “British Phoenix” come up singly, it is highly probable she would have met with such a reception, as would soon have satisfied her that she was not engaged in child’s play.

Stewart crossed the ocean to Maranham, where he landed his prisoners, on parole, and shaped his course for home, going into Boston in the month of May. Peace was actually made when he took the Cyane and Levant, though the captures were legal, in the latitude and longitude in which they were made, under the provision of the treaty.

Thus terminated the services of Old Ironsides, in the third of the wars she has seen. In each she was a useful and important vessel, but, in this last, her exploits surpassed those of any other vessel in the navy. In the short period of two years and nine months, she had fought three battles successfully, had captured five vessels of war, two of which were frigates, and one was frigate-built, and had been three times hard pressed in chases, by squadrons of greatly superior force. One of these chases was a naval incident of remarkable features, and was worth a victory any day, while another was of a character to reflect credit, in an almost equal degree, on the good old barky 6ᶜ herself, and on the officer who commanded her. The names of Preble, Hull, Bain-{607}bridge and Stewart, were now inseparably associated with that of the ship, as indeed might it almost be said was that of Hoffman, who served in her throughout the war of 1812, with the exception of the short time he was in command of the Cyane, one of her prizes.

The remainder of the career of the Constitution, down to the present time, is not without its interest, though necessarily less brilliant than her services in a time of war. As she arrived so late in the season, she was not employed in the squadron that went against the Algerines, but was put out of commission. The good old ship, indeed, was now in want of a thorough repair. Her upper works had proved so rotten of late, that it was remarked when a shot went through them, it did not make splinters, an advantage in one respect certainly, but a very serious defect in all others.

From May 1815, until ------ 1821, Old Ironsides lay at her native place, Boston, during which time she was thoroughly overhauled, and prepared for sea. Jacob Jones then hoisted a broad pennant in her, and took her to her old cruising ground, the Mediterranean. Nothing occurred worth recording on this occasion, with the exception of one somewhat painful event. One dark night, while she was in or near the Gut of Gibraltar, her officers below heard something brushing against her side, thumping along from gun to gun, as if she touched something in the line of her ports. Running on deck, it was ascertained that the old craft had rubbed somewhat hard against a small brig, which had not been seen until it was too late to avoid her. The brig was English, and, as it turned out, sunk almost immediately, her crew being saved by a vessel astern. This is almost the only serious accident that ever happened to the honest old craft, and this was serious to another, and not to herself.[Mr. Cooper’s MS. ends here. The subsequent history of the old ship, with notes and other additions to the preceding narrative, will appear in the next edition of Cooper’s Naval Biographies.]


1 The writer of this sketch was once asked by a French admiral, “how much America paid her seamen?” The answer was, “$12, $10, and $8, according to class.” “You never can have a large marine, then, on account of the cost.” “That is not so clear. What does France pay for the support of the kingly office?” “About $8,000,000,” said Lafayette, who was present, “and America pays $25,000 to her king, or $100,000, if you will, including all expenses.” “I think, Admiral, the difference would man a good many ships.”

2 Mr. Robinson is still living, having resigned a commander: Mr. Jenckes left the service; Tarbell died a captain, and Elbert a commander; Haswall resigned a lieutenant, and is dead; Dexter died a commander; Morris is now a commodore; Davis is out of service, and believed to he dead; Izard resigned a lieutenant, and is dead; Burrows was killed in battle. a lt. com.; Deacon died a captain; Laws resigned; Reed died a lieutenant; Rowe died, having been a lieutenant; Hall is now in the marine corps; Hunnewell out of service; Nicholson died a lieutenant. Of those who joined at Gibraltar or shortly after, Dent died a captain; Gordon died a captain; Wadsworth was blown up, a lieutenant; Gadsden died a lt. com.; Lewis was lost at sea a commander; Israel was blown up a lieutenant; Ridgley Is the present commodore Henly died a captain; McDonough died at sea a commodore. The fortune of Alexis has been singular; he was born of a French noble family, and was sent, when quite young, to this country, to save his life, during the excesses of the French revolution. His real name was Louis Alexis de Courmont. As Lewis Alexis he rose to be a commander in the navy; but, at the restoration of the Bourbons, he was summoned to rejoin his family in France. He continued in the service, notwithstanding, until about the year 1827 or 1828 as Capt. Alexis, when he was compelled to quit his family or resign. He preferred the latter, and is believed to be still living as Mons. de Courmont He was amiable, and much liked in the navy, and served gallantly at the defence of New Orleans.  McDonough had been left, by Bainbridge, as a prize-master, at Gibraltar, and thus escaped capture in ths Philadelphia. He ass early transferred to the Enterprise, Lt. Com. Decatur. and was with that officer in all his battles off Tripoli. Morris, Ridgley, Wadsworth, Israel, Reed, Dexter, Haswell, and Izard, were all promoted in 1804.

2a [The Putnam Monthly text reads “1813”, an obvious typographical error. — Hugh C. McDougall]

2b [The Putnam Monthly text reads “flow”, but the account of the incident in Cooper’s Naval History makes clear that “blow” was intended. — Hugh C. McDougall]

3 This soubriquet came from the name of a purchase that is called a “Jumping Billy,” and which was a great favorite with this officer. Harraden pased with many persons as an Englishman; but, in truth, he was a native of Massachussetts, who had been impressed, and had served a long time in the English Navy.

4 Morgan died, a captain, Jan. 5ᵗʰ, 1853.

5 Wadsworth died, a captain, April 5ᵗʰ, 1851, since the above was written.

6 This gentleman was subsequently lost, in command of the Lynx.

6a [Here, as at footnote 6c, Cooper refers to the Frigate Constitution as “the old barky”, apparently a term of endearment for the vessel. — Hugh C. McDougall]

6b [The Putnam Monthly text reads “night”, an apparent typographical error. — Hugh C. McDougall]

6c [See footnote 6a, above.]