Puslapio vaizdai
PDF
„ePub“

self to those accidents which time might produce, General Washington could not permit any suspense on the part of Lord Cornwallis. He therefore immediately directed the rough articles which had been prepared by the commissioners to be fairly transcribed, and sent them to his lordship early next morning, with a letter expressing his expectation that they would be signed by eleven, and that the garrison would march out by two in the afternoon. Finding all attempts to obtain better terms unavailing, Lord Cornwallis submitted to a necessity no longer to be avoided, and, on the 19th of October, surrendered the posts of Yorktown and Gloucester Point, with their garrisons, and the ships in the harbor with their seamen, to the land and naval forces of America and France. MARSHALL.

LXXIII-BATTLE ON LAKE CHAMPLAIN.

DURING the summer of 1814, the English at the northern, and the Americans at the southern portion of the lake, had been busy in building ships to contest the supremacy of this sheet of water, whose head pierces so deep into the bosom of New York. The latter had at length assembled a flotilla consisting of four vessels-the largest carrying twenty-six guns -and ten galleys, the whole under the command of Macdonough. After some skirmishing, this little fleet, which, early in the season lay in Otter Creek, was got into the lake and steered for Plattsburgh Bay, to assist Macomb in his defence of the town. This bay opens to the southward, and instead of piercing the mainland at right angles, runs north, nearly parallel with the lake itself. A narrow tongue of land divides it from the main water, the extreme point of which is called Cumberland Head. Just within its mouth, and nearly opposite where the turbulent Saranac empties into it, Macdonough anchored his vessels, on the 2d of September. Between him and the mainland was a large shoal and an island, which effectually blocked the approach of vessels on that side. The English fleet sent to attack him, consisted also of four vessels-the largest mounting 32 guns-and 13 galleys. The American force, all told, was 14 vessels, mounting 86 guns and carrying 850 men, while that of the English was 17 vessels, mounting 96 guns and carrying 1000 men. The largest, the Confiance, "had the gun deck of a frigate," and by her superior size and strengh, and her 30 long twenty-fours,

was considered a match for any two vessels in Macdonough's squadron. Captain Downie, who commanded the British fleet. joined his gun-boats at the Isle au Motte on the 8th of September, where he lay at anchor till the 11th. In the mean time, Prevost, whose batteries were all erected, remained silent behind his works, waiting the arrival of the fleet before he should commence his fire.

During those sleepless nights and days of agitation, young Macdonough lay calmly watching the approach of his superior foe, while Macomb was straining every nerve to complete his defences. Fearless, frank, and social, the young General moved among his soldiers with such animation and confidence, that they caught his spirit, and like the Green Mountain boys and yeomanry of New York at Saratoga, resolved to defend their homes to the last.

At length, on Sunday morning, September 11th, just as the sun rose over the eastern mountains, the American guard boat, on the watch, was seen rowing swiftly into the harbor. It reported the enemy in sight. The drums immediately beat to quarters, and every vessel was cleared for action. The preparations being completed, young Macdonough summoned his officers around him, and there, on the deck of the Saratoga, read the prayers of the ritual before entering into battle, and that voice, which soon after rung like a clarion amid the carnage, sent heavenward, in earnest tones," Stir up thy strength, O Lord, and come and help us, for thou givest not always the battle to the strong, but canst save by many or by few." It was a solemn and thrilling spectacle, and one never before witnessed on a vessel of war cleared for action. A young commander who had the courage thus to brave the derision and sneers which such an act was sure to provoke, would fight his vessel while there was a plank left to stand on. Of the deeds of daring done on that day of great achievements, none evinced so bold and firm a heart as this act of religious worship.

At eight o'clock the crews of the different vessels could see, over the tongue of land that divided the bay from the lake, the topsails of the enemy, moving steadily down. They had also been seen from shore, and every eminence around was covered with anxious spectators. The house of God was deserted, and the light of that bright Sabbath morning, with its early stillness, flooded a scene at once picturesque and terrible. On one side was the hostile squadron, coming down

to the sound of music-on the other, stood the armies on shore in order of battle, with their banners flying-between, lay Macdonough's silent little fleet at anchor, while the hills around were black with spectators, gazing on the strange and fearful panorama.

The English vessels, under easy sail, swept one after another round Cumberland Head, and hauling up in the wind, waited the approach of the galleys.

As Macdonough lay anchored with his vessels in line north and south-his galleys on their sweeps forming a second line in rear-the English fleet, as it doubled the head, was compelled to approach with bows on. The Eagle was furthest up the bay, the Saratoga second, Ticonderoga third, and Preble fourth. The impressive silence which rested on the American fleet was at last broken by the Eagle, which opened her broadsides. Startled by the sound, a cock on board the Saratoga, which had escaped from the coop, flew up onto a gun slide and crowed. A loud laugh and three hearty cheers acknowledged the favorable omen, and spread confidence through the ship. Macdonough, seeing the enemy were at too great a distance to be reached by his guns, reserved his fire, and watched the Confiance standing boldly on till she came within range. He then sighted a long twenty-four himself, and fired her. The heavy shot passed the entire length of the deck of the Confiance, killing many of her men and shivering her wheel into fragments. This was the signal for every vessel to open its fire, and in a moment that quiet bay was in an uproar. The Confiance, however, though suffering severely, did not return a shot, but kept boldly on till she got within a quarter of a mile, when she let go her anchors and swung broadside to the Saratoga Sixteen long twenty-fours then opened at once with a terrific crash. The Saratoga shook from kelson to cross-trees under the tremendous discharge. Nearly half her crew were knocked down by it, while fifty men were either killed or wounded, and among them Lieutenant Gamble. He was in the act of sighting a gun, when a shot entered the port and struck him dead. The effect of this first broadside was awful, and the Saratoga was for a moment completely stunned. The next, however, she opened her fire with a precision and accuracy that told fatally on the English ship. But the latter soon commenced pouring in her broadsides so rapidly that she seemed enveloped in flame. The Eagle could not withstand it, and changed her position, falling in nearer shore,

leaving the Saratoga to sustain almost alone the whole weight of the unequal contest. She gave broadside for broadside, but the weight of metal was against her, and she was fast becoming a wreck. Her deck soon presented a scene of the most frightful carnage. The living could hardly tumble the wounded down the hatchway as fast as they fell. At length, as a full broadside burst on the staggering ship, a cry of despair rang from stem to stern, "the Commodore is killed!-the Commodore is killed;" and there he lay on the blood-stained deck amid the dead, senseless and apparently lifeless. A spar, cut in two by a cannon shot, had fallen on his back and stunned him. But after two or three minutes he recovered, and cheering on his men, took his place again beside his favorite gun that he had sighted from the commencement of the action. As the men saw him once more at his post they took new courage.

But a few minutes after, the cry of "the Commodore is killed," again passed through the ship. Every eye was instantly turned to a group of officers gathered around Macdonough, who lay in the scuppers, between two guns covered with blood. He had been knocked clean across the ship, with a force sufficient to have killed him. Again he revived, and limping to a gun, was soon coolly hulling his antagonist. Maimed and suffering, he fought on, showing an example that always makes heroes of subordinates.

At length every gun on the side of his vessel toward the enemy was silenced, but one; and this, on firing it again, bounded from its fastenings, and tumbled down the hatchway. Not a gun was left with which to continue the contest, while the ship was on fire. A surrender, therefore, seemed inevitable. Macdonough, however, resolved to wind his ship, so as to get the other broadside to bear. Failing in the first attempt, the sailing-master, Brum, bethought him of an expedient, which proved successful-the crippled vessel slowly swung her stern around, until the uninjured guns bore. The Confiance, seeing the manoeuvre, imitated it, but she could not succeed, and lay with her crippled side exposed to the fire of the Saratoga.

Captain Downie had fallen some time before-not a gun could be brought to bear-the ship had been hulled a hundred and five times-while half of her men were killed and wounded. Farther resistance was therefore useless; and she surrendered.

The Eagle, commanded by Capt. Henley, behaved gallantly in the engagement, while the Ticonderoga, under Lieutenant Cassin, was handled in a manner that astonished those who beheld her. This fearless officer walked backward and forward over his deck, encouraging his men and directing the fire, apparently unconscious of the balls that smote and crashed around him. His broadsides were so rapid and incessant, that several times the vessel was thought to be on fire.

The surrender of the Confiance virtually terminated the contest, which had lasted two hours and a quarter; and as flag after flag struck, the galleys took to their sweeps and escaped.

In the midst of this tremendous cannonade, came, at intervals, the explosions on shore. The first gun in the bay was the signal for Prevost on land, and as the thunder of his heavy batteries mingled in with the incessant broadsides of the contending squadrons, the very shores trembled, and far over the lake, amidst the quiet farm-houses of Vermont, the echoes rolled away, carrying anxiety and fear into hundreds of families. Its shore was lined with men, gazing intently in the direction of Plattsburgh, as though from the smoke that rolled heavenward some tidings might be got of how the battle was going.

To the spectators on the commanding heights around Plattsburgh, the scene was indescribably fearful and thrilling. It was as if two volcanoes were raging below-turning that quiet Sabbath morning into a scene wild and awful as the strife of fiends. But when the firing in the bay ceased, and the American flag was still seen flying, and the Union Jack down, there went up a shout that shook the hills. From the water to the shore, and back again, the deafening huzzas echoed and re-echoed. The American army took up the shout, and sending it high and clear over the thunder of cannon, spread dismay and astonishment into the heart of the enemy's camp.

The American loss in killed and wounded, was one hundred and ten, of whom all but twenty fell on board the Saratoga and Eagle-that of the English was never fully known, though it was supposed to be nearly double.

J. T. HEADLEY.

« AnkstesnisTęsti »