Billeder på siden

was transferred from Jonathan to John Bull. We remember one marked instance of this discrepant testimony, where the Englishman-happening to go into a distant port in the East, and where the refutation of his statement has probably never been seen to this day-was honoured with municipal distinctions for his bravery, with the usual accompaniments of an address and a gold-box :His ship probably owed her escape from capture, to the sagacity of the yankee who commanded the privateer opposed to him, and who abandoned the combat, upon discovering that should he be successful, he was likely to verify the boyish proverb, of receiving "more cuffs than coppers :"-And yet the hero had the modesty to select for his opponent, in a protracted fight of several hours, the sloop of war Wasp, and commanded by the regretted Blakely -a ship and commander, that twice settled the controversy with enemy's regular cruisers within the short space of one half hour.

Too much of the volume before us, rests upon similar statements; and we regret that Mr. Clark had not confined himself to the acts of Congress, which now compose so large a part of his book, and the official documents of the regular service-it would then have formed a valuable work for reference, and been untainted with a profusion of matter, which, to say the least, is of very doubtful authority. As the author wrote his book during the war, instead of awaiting the termination of the struggle, it is necessarily incomplete; and we hope that, should he determine to continue it to the close of the contest, he will reject all but such matter as can be supported by the evidence of men, whose lives are not so repugnant to the discovery of truth, as are those of some of the heroes whom he has dignified with niches in his temple of Fame.

Mr. Clark, appears also to have fallen into the common error of his countrymen, that the trident of Neptune has passed from the grasp of Britannia to that of Columbia; and that it is enough to iusure success, to have the Stars and Stripes flying over the quarterdeck, or the pendent of an American Commodore abroad from the main-top-gallant-mast head. This desire to monopolize the glory of marine warfare to our own people, is however less extravagant in the author than in most of his cotemporary writers: it is not accompanied with any very material assertions, that have met our eyes, which are not true; though we think in many instances, he might have more ingenuously accounted for the result, by explicitly stating the force of the respective combatants, than by suffering the reader to infer, that our victories were owing to causes, inherent either in our physical or political constitutions.-There is much idle talking in this country, of the effects produced on our seamen, by the freedom of our institutions. Liberty and equality may have their merited estimation in the minds of our citizens on shore-but we apprehend that neither of these popular deities, are

admitted to an abiding place on board a vessel of war. Our successes have been owing to very different, if not very opposite causes for successes we have had, and under circumstances that give us a title to an honest fame-which make the exaggerated boastings of many among us, as unnecessary to our reputation, as they may eventually be ruinous to our service. It was the confidence generated by the indiscriminating and besotted plaudits of the British nation, that induced the neglect, which left their ships unprepared to cope with a brave, enterprising and acute enemy; and which destroyed in an hour, the charm of invincibility, that had supported them for a century.

The declaration of war in 1812, found the navy of the United States, consisting only of seventeen sea-worthy vessels, exclusive of one or two small Schooners and Gun-boats. Of this number, seven were Frigates, and the remainder Corvettes and Brigs-most of the latter very light. This was a fearful odds, with which to adventure against the most formidable marine in the world; and the chances were, that blockade or capture would soon drive the American flag from the ocean. The adventure was made, however, and we beg the patience of the reader for a few minutes, while we endeavour to show with strict impartiality, with what success.

There is something deceptive in the ordinary manner of rating vessels, but in a less degree than is generally supposed. It is not among the smallest of our triumphs, that we have driven our late enemy to an alteration of a mode which had been sanctioned by long usage, and to the adoption of another, more wide of conveying a comparative idea of the true force of vessels, and which is knowingly and grossly perverted under the patronage of official authority. There was none of the Bulletins of Napoleon more framed for the deception of the people, than is the present authorized list of the British navy.-If we go back half a century, we find vessels of war carrying the actual number of guns at which they were rated: The invention of carronades has since gradually introduced an alteration in the upper deck, which is tolerably uniform, and commonly gives to vessels, over the grade of sloops of war, ten guns more than the rate by which they are called. Formerly the quarter-deck and forecastle were much smaller than at present, and only connected by a narrow passage on each side of the ship, called gang-ways-since the introduction of short guns, and spar decks, the number of guns has been increased; so that a ship which once carried 28 long eighteens on her gun-deck, and 8 nines, or twelves, on her quarter-deck, with two of similar calibre on her forecastle, rated at what she carried, 38 guns; but now, a ship of the same rate, will carry 28 eighteen pounders below-14 thirtytwo pound carronades on her quarter-deck, and 8 of the latter on her forcastle, or perhaps in the room of two of them,

long_twelves-making in the whole 50 guns. This class of ships the British now rate at 48,-though more of them can carry (and probably would in the event of a war) 50 or even 52, than 48 guns. But the inconsistency of the new mode of rating is more strikingly exemplified in the two next grades of frigates.The only difference between an English 36 and 32, is in the size and weight of metal. The number of their guns is generally the same, at the most differing only 2; viz. they mount on the gundeck of each, 26 guns-the former eighteen pounders, the latter twelves and they put above, as many guns as they think the vessel will bear-commonly enough to bring the whole number up to 42 or 44. This is a case, in which, if they adhere strictly to the number of guns, two vessels of at least one third difference in actual force, will be of the same nominal rate. It is true the old manner of rating leads to some errors, and misconceptions of the force of vessels, yet it preserves the comparative difference between ships, better than any one which has been adopted in its room; and it answers the material object of the practice, that of ascertaining the relative force of one ship with another.

An opinion was industriously circulated in Great Britain, that the variation of the number of guns from the rate of the ship was confined to the navy of this country; whereas, in fact, it was in their own service, that a more sweeping kind of classification was resorted to, that brought down the Guerriere, Ville de Milan, &c. &c. ships of nearly the dimensions, and pierced, for 54 guns, (like our 44's,) to the level of their own 38's. The frigates of the American navy have been confined to three rates, viz.-44's, 36's and 32's. The first are large ships, with thick sides, heavy spars, and great length: they carry on their gun decks 30 twenty-four pounders, on their quarter-decks 16 thirty-two, or forty-two pound carronades, on their forecastles 8 more of the latter description of armament, making in the whole 54 guns. One or two ships of this class, which have been built since the war, carry ten guns on their forecastle, making a total of 56. But the actual number of guns of those far-famed ships the President, United States and Constitution, was 54,-or 27 in broadside :-they sometimes had a superfluous chase-gun, and sometimes made up their broadsides by shifting guns. Thus the President has carried 55 and 56; and again, when captured, we believe, mounted only 52, her fighting number in broadside being, however, 27. The 36's were, the Constellation, Congress, and Chesapeake these vessels corresponded with the English 38's-and the two former were large ships of that grade, the latter was rather smaller, and in less favour-they each fought 25 in broadside. The Essex was the 32-and differed but little from English ships of her class, except in baving thirty-two pound carronades in the place of most of her long twelves.

The carronade is a gun of modern invention, and intended solely for close action. At the distance of half a mile, it is of but little use, from the inaccuracy of its aim, and at twice that distance nearly harmless. The powder is confined in a chamber, in order to give more force to its explosion, and the quantity reduced, in a thirty-two pounder, from 11 to less than 3 lbs. The carronade is shorter by two thirds than ship guns, and its weight, in the thirtytwo pounder, reduced from near three tons to less than one ;-it consequently follows that it is sooner heated, less manageable when heated-of very uncertain aim, but of much more efficiency in close fight. It is by the adoption of this invention, that small vessels, which formerly carried sixes, nines, and twelves, now carry eighteen, twenty-four, and thirty-two pound carronades. The consequences are, that actions between small vessels are much sooner terminated than formerly, and from the quantities of grape and cannister, thrown by guns of such large calibre, of a more deadly character. It is however a matter of dispute, which is the better gun for the ordinary vicissitudes of sea-service; and it is certain that Captain Porter in the Essex, might as well have had nothing as his carronades, during the greater part of the action in which he was captured. All of the small vessels we have alluded to in our service, were, however, armed with this kind of gun, which was of a calibre suited to the size of the ship, from a forty-two to an eighteen pounder.

We believe it is now generally conceded, that Minerva did not preside over the councils which dictated our first movements of a belligerent nature against the late enemy.-On the 18th of June, 1812, a squadron, consisting of three frigates and two sloops, was lying in the port of New-York ready for sea, under the orders of Commodore Rogers. That officer immediately went out in quest of the enemy; and doubtless was of much service, in compelling the British to unite their force, and in lessening the danger to our scattered trade. But, a few weeks of activity and previous care, might have increased that squadron to seven frigates and as many sloops of war-a force, at that time, competent to the blockade of both Halifax and Bermuda. This, although a miniature picture, would have exhibited some of the usual aspects of war, and it may safely be asserted, would have preserved an immense amount of property then afloat and at the mercy of the English cruisers. No such foresight, however, characterized the navy department, and the maritime war became, like the struggle on the land at a later day, a series of splendid and victorious conflicts, but little connected with the objects of the contest, and affording brilliant instances of discipline and courage expended in separate and unavailing combats, producing nothing but renown to the actors, and from them, a reflected lustre on their country.

The first action, of any moment, which occurred, was between the Constitution and Guerriere-This was a fight, extremely fair in circumstances, both ships being completely prepared for the combat, the one seeking, and the other not avoiding it :-contrary to all expectation, the result was determined in a much less time than was anticipated by the victors themselves, and with a disparity of loss utterly disproportioned to the difference of force in the two vessels. In size, the ships were nearly equal-in guns, the Constitution had the advantage of two in her broadside-and in metal, on her gun deck, it was nominally a in her favour as four to three-this was certainly a material advantage, and when aided by a difference of 170 men, such an one, as would have made it discreditable to the American arms not to have conquered. The merit of Captain Hull was, in overlooking the reputation and moral superiority of his enemy, acquired in a long course of victories, which had made him a stranger to defeat, and had nearly driven every foe, less adventurous than himself, from the ocean. Had the case been reversed, the American captain could not have led down upon his enemy with more confidence, or done his work in a more masterly style, than did Captain Hull, in assailing what was the crack ship of the enemy in these seas. To all but nautical men, conversant with causes and effects in marine service, the conclusion of this engagement seemed as the concurrence of untoward circumstances, which for a novelty had united, to accomplish the defeat of those whom fortune had hitherto kept unacquainted with disaster; and it was universally expected that another conflict would speedily restore the laurel to the brows of Britannia. But to the high moral courage of American seamen, was added consummate discipline: and the size of their navy, forbidding that men of insufficient qualifications, should obtain command or confidence, the excitement from the glory of this first combat gave a stimulus to their character which will probably endure for ages.To Captain Hull belongs the honour of having broken the first lance successfully and it is not the least thing worthy of notice in this war, that the first combat was characterized by the same skill, the same confidence in the victors, and the same ardour to meet the enemy, as distinguished the last.

The Wasp of 16 thirty-two pound carronades and two long twelves, with a complement of about 140 men including officers, was the next public vessel that had an opportunity of meeting an enemy. Her opponent was the Frolic, a brig of 16 thirty-two pound carronades, 4 long twelves, and 2 twelve pound carronades on a top-gallant forecastle, with a crew of about 120 men. Here then was as near an equality as can be expect

(a) It has been stated, on good authority, that the American shot generally fall short in weight--the momentum consequently must be diminished.



« ForrigeFortsæt »