« ForrigeFortsæt »
to mess with them. My shipmates also participated in similar feelings in both ships. All idea that we had been trying to shoot each other so shortly before seemed forgotten. We ate together, drank together, joked, sung, laughed, told yarns ; in short, a perfect union of ideas, feelings, and purposes seemed to exist among all hands. A corresponding state of unanimity existed, I was told, among the officers.
Our voyage was one of considerable excitement. The seas swarmed with British cruisers, and it was extremely doubtful whether the United States would elude their grasp, and reach the protection of an American port with her prize. I hoped most sincerely to avoid them, as did most of my old shipmates : in this we agreed with our captors, who wisely desired to dispose of one conquest before they attempted another. Our former officers, of course, were anxious for the sight of a British flag, but we saw none; and after a prosperous voyage from the scene of conflict, we heard the welcome cry of “ Land ho!” The United States entered the port of New London ; but, owing to a sudden shift of the wind, the Macedonian had to lie off and on for several hours. Had an English cruiser found us in this situation, we should have been easily recovered ; and as it was extremely probable we should fall in with one, I felt quite uneasy ; until after several hours, we made out to run into the pretty harbour of Newport. We fired a salute as we came to anchor, which was promptly returned by the people on shore.
While we lay here a few days, several of our men contrived to run away. I would have done so too, but for the vigilance of the prize-officers, who were ordered to keep us that we might be exchanged for those Americans who had fallen into British hands. My desire for freedom at length prevailed over prudence, and I made my escape, glad to be rid of the tyranny to which I had been so long exposed. But this step, which, on reflection, I do not commend, brought another evil. I was destitute of any means of support, and after numerous ineffectual efforts to get employment on land, I again took to a seafaring life—this time, however, entering myself on board a United States brig of war, the Syren, carrying sixteen guns. I was then in the seventeenth year of my life. I was recommended by acquaintances to ship myself under a false name; but, in defiance of my fears, I entered under my own proper name of Samuel Leech.
My first impressions of the American service were very favourable. The treatment in the Syren was more lenient than in the Macedonian. The captain and officers were kind ; while there was a total exemption from that petty tyranny exercised by the upstart midshipmen in the British service. As a necessary effect, our crew were as comfortable and happy as men ever are in a man-of-war.
Our brig had before this taken in her guns, consisting of two long nine-pounders, twelve twenty-four-pound carronades, and two fortytwo-pounders. Our crew was composed of about one hundred and twenty-five smart active men. We were all supplied with stout leathern caps, something like those used by firemen. These were crossed by two strips of iron covered with bear-skin, and were designed to defend the head, in boarding an enemy's ship, from the stroke of the cutlass. Strips of bear-skin were likewise used to fasten them on, serving the purpose of false whiskers, and causing us to look as fierce as hungry wolves. We were also frequently exercised in the various evolutions of a sea-fight; first using our cannon, then seizing our cutlasses and boarding-pikes, and cutting to the right and left, as if in the act of boarding an enemy's ship. Thus we spent our time from early in the fall until after Christmas, when we received orders to hold ourselves in readiness for sea.
As we lay waiting for our final orders, a report reached us that a large English brig of war, called the Nimrod, lay in a cove somewhere near Boston Bay. Upon this information, our officers planned a night expedition for the purpose of effecting her capture. Our intended
mode of attack was to run close alongside, pour a broadside upon her, and then, without further ceremony, board her, cutlass in hand. So we took in our powder, ground up our cutlasses, and towards night got under weigh. A change in the wind, however, defeated our designs, and we put into Salem harbour, with no other result than the freezing of a man's fingers, which happened while we were furling our sails. Thus ended our first warlike expedition in the Syren.
Shortly after this affair we received orders to start on a cruise to the coast of Africa, and, in company with the Grand Turk, a privateer, set sail from Salem. Passing the fort, we received the usual hail from the sentry of “Brig, ahoy! where are you bound to ?”
To this salutation the first-lieutenant jocosely answered: “There and back again, on a man-ofwar's cruise.” Such a reply would not have satisfied a British soldier; but we shot past the fort unmolested. After two days, we parted company with the Grand Turk, and, by the aid of a fair wind, soon found ourselves in the Gulf Stream ; where, instead of fearing frozen fingers, we could go barefooted and feel quite comfortable.
We now kept a sharp look-out at the masthead, but met with nothing until we reached the Canary Islands, near which we saw a boatload of Portuguese, who, coming alongside,
talked in their native tongue with great noise and earnestness, but were no more intelligible to us than so many blackbirds.
While off the African coast, our captain died. His wasted body was placed in a coffin, with shot to sink it. After the service had been read, the plank on which the coffin rested was elevated, and it slipped into the great deep. The yards were braced round, and we were under weigh again, when, to our surprise and grief, we saw the coffin floating on the waves. The reason was, the carpenter had bored holes in the top and bottom: he should have made them only in the top.
After the funeral, the crew were called aft, and the first-lieutenant, Mr Nicholson, told us that it should be left to our decision whether he should assume the command and continue the cruise, or return home. We gave him three hearty cheers, in token of our wish to continue the cruise. He was a noble-minded man, very kind and civil to his crew, and the opposite in every respect to the haughty, lordly captain with whom I first sailed in the Macedonian. Seeing me one day with rather a poor hat on, he called me aft and presented me with one of his own, but little worn. “Goodluck to him," said I in sailor phrase, as I returned to my messmates. We also lost two of our crew, who fell victims to the heat of the climate,