"RECAPITULATORY JOURNAL" OF ASHETON Y. HUMPHREYS, CHAPLAIN, USS CONSTITUTION

 

17 December 1814 ‑ 26 March 1815

 

On the 17th December 1814 sailed from Boston in United states frigate Constitution as her chaplain having previously sailed in her as Captains Clark with Captain Stewart on his first cruise. At sunset a fine smart breeze from the Nd & Wds with every prospect of continuing through a fine clear starlight night, [?] Boston light bearing W by S of us discharged the pilot and cracked on the old ship till [sic] her way was ten knots. Twas now time to collect our thoughts and let the joyous feelings consequent upon getting to sea, with every prospect of eluding the vigilance of a heavy blockading force, give way to reflections of what we were about to undertake and weigh the responsibility. It may easily be supposed that by the morning of the 18th we were all well prepared to give our ideas upon what was most consonant to our wishes, and we felt no little degree of importance when the circumstance of our being the only American frigate at sea presented itself to our minds. We felt that the eyes of the country were upon us and that every thing [sic] within the bounds of possibility was expected and we knew that a desperate chance was before us, however we had escaped from Port and hope presented bright prospects. Flattering however as every thing appeared at this moment, yet the fact was little chance of being able to realize a safe arrival to port, should we be in any wise crippled by an equal force or by disaster of the ocean; particularly as the terms demanded by the British Government as the sine qua non for peace were such as no nation jealous of its sovereignty and independence could listen to and the war had began [sic] to assume a character which it appeared would render it interminable and consequently as there was nothing else to occupy the attention of the enemy's numerous squadrons they would be thrown upon our coast and close every avenue to an arrival already deemed, in the technics of mercantile life, extra hazardous.

 

At meridian on the 18th, the weather became overcast with every appearance of its continuance, the wind however still steady to the Northwd & Wd and the ship running off to the Southwd and Ed at a good rate. At sunset a tolerable sea was up, and continued through the night; and Friday morning the 23d had come round before the weather had abated, and then left so high a sea that our decks already wet since the noon of the 18th, had little prospect of becoming drier, a desideratum devoutly to be wished for so leaky did we prove the gun deck to be that clothes bags, bedding, and every thing partaking of the comforts of life had quite changed their natures and become greatly inconvenient. Our latitude at noon on Friday, as well as I now recollect, was about 32N and our longitude about 58W. Bermuda bearing nearly East of us and some little signs of disappointment and chagrin became evident at our not having yet fallen in with a sail of any description since leaving port; and it appeared particularly hard as we kept a bright look out [sic] off the Delaware and Chesapeake for a straggler from the blockading squadrons off those bays. Add to all these little sea miseries that the last bone of the fresh beef we brought out from Boston was finished by the first lieutenant to day [sic] at dinner, and unless we shortly fell in with something of a prize salt junk and biscuit must be our portion, for as to any thing [sic] else 'tis wholly out of the question. Indeed so miserably poor were we all when we left port, by reason of treasury notes being at 30 Per cent discount, and too proud to ask for credit (and in fact I have been since assured that we were looked upon so indifferently that the credit of every of every man seen in conversation with a navy uniform was in some degree rendered equivocal) that save a few pounds of fresh beef and an ounce or two of sugar & tea, the parsimonious savings of the caterer, we had nothing. Things must mend when at the worst and it is now as near that as can be without being really the case, so a little salt beef and a glass of grog and I'll turn in, trusting to chance for better fare on the morrow.

 

Saturday the 24th was ushered in with a clear sky and our prospects of a dry deck improving. A week at least of good weather will be required to make the ship comfortable. At 7 A.M. the man on the fore topgallant yard sung out "Sail ho!" (a joyful sound in this part of the world as Bermuda is not very [sic] and the idea suggested itself it might be a cruiser bound out or in). "Where away!" "A point on the lee bow!" ‑‑ "W    let the Captain know there's a sail in sight in sight"‑‑ "Aye, aye, sir"‑‑ The Captain comes on deck "What do you make of that sail"‑‑ "Mast head there!"‑‑ "Sir" "What do you make of that sail"‑‑ "It is very hazy, Sir, and I cannot distinguish!"‑‑ "All hands to make sail in chase!" but there was no need of the order; sail ho! had rung through the ship and the sick, the lame, the blind, and the lazy, were all on deck; the blind to see the lame to work and the lazy to look on, while the sick to give the lie to the doctor could not be distinguished from the idle or busy so intent were all upon the prospect before us and eager to overhaul the stranger. In a short time she was made out to be a schooner standing to the westward; disappointment appeared depicted in every countenance so little were we dreaming of the comforts in store for us, and so eager were all to try their skill in combat that had a superior force been close aboard I believe many of the long visages now stalking about the deck would have been full an inch shorter. But as I estimate the good things of this world the higher in proportion to my want of them, so was I not a little pleased to find a good breakfast in lieu of a hard fight. At 9 the chase having previously hove to, and hoisted English colours after the old fashion, union down, we ranged alongside of her to windward with British colours flying also, upon hailing were informed she was the British schooner Lord Nelson from St. Johns Newfoundland bound to Bermuda, having parted from her convoy in a gale. This information appeared to cheer up and make some little compensation to the disappointed in their late visionary schemes, but perhaps they were all dreaming of overhauling the convoy; be that as it may a boat was lowered down and sent on board the prize to collect what information relative to the convoy it was possible to obtain. In a few minutes it returned with the skipper of the schooner who was yet deceived as to our real national character and supposed us "for all the world" (in his own lingo), to be one of his countrymen. His papers had been left on board, the boat was again sent for them with an officer to take possession and a prize crew, and upon the boat again leaving the schooner for the ship her proper colours were displayed on board the latter. The astonishment of the skipper can better be imagined than depicted and it was sometime [sic] before he could be made sensible that it was no "joke," and when convinced expressed his surprise very laconically, by saying, he had been told, "that no men of war were allowed to be on the ocean but English." Upon overhauling the invoices of the schooner she proved to be a perfect slop ship and grocery store, very opportunely sent to furnish a good rig and bountiful cheer for christmas [sic], and never more opportune could Fortune have us played her very best freak ‑‑ there was lots of meats tongues, corn beef in rounds, smoked salmon, dried beef and codfish, tongues and rounds, fine apple cheeses & barrels of loaf sugar of the most superior kinds, pipes of best brandy, gin, and port wine, chests of imperial and gunpowder tea, barrells [sic] of flour, hams inferior not even to Smithfield virginia [sic], and besides various other inside linings, abundance of outward covering, for use and show, from inferior qualities, to the very best superfine. No loss of time occurred in gutting the schooner of these desirable valuables, more precious than the diamonds of Golconda, and ere the Christmas sun was low it shone no longer on the hull of the Lord Nelson, it had sunk below the wave to rest with its godfather. This schooner was one of a convoy under protection of the [blank] frigate bound for the windward islands, to rendezvous to the eastward of Bermuda and detach the vessels bound thence under the charge of a Sloop of War. Here was a bright prospect and in imagination we had already the frigate and whole convoy in possession, worth a few millions. Having disposed of the Nelson, (a name from which the sailors argued a propitious omen for the remainder of the cruise), at sunset on Christmas, being Sunday, filled away under short sail to the westward, in hope of falling in with the convoy, which although it sailed in November yet has had a succession of heavy gales to retard its progress, and as a gun was heard in the latter part of last nights first watch hope is alive and expectations awake to realize our anticipation. We have plenty of good cheer and a little more fine weather will give us a dry ship.‑‑ Throughout Monday and Tuesday we continued standing off and on Bermuda, crossing the probable track and place of rendezvous for the convoy, our expectations though not quite so keen yet sufficiently alive to keep the watch at night wide awake, and bring the idlers from their nests at daylight; the ship getting quite comfortable but on the evening of the latter day the weather lowred [sic] with every prospect of a boisterous night and we were not deceived. Wednesday & Thursday were passed lying to under a close reefed Main Topsail; Friday in scudding under a close reefed Fore topsail until midnight, when the gale abating hove to under a close reefed Main Topsail.

 

Saturday the 31st. day of December 1814. By daylight the gale had abated considerably and we filled away under close reefed topsails to the Westward. At 6 A.M. discovered a schooner lying too on our weather quarter with her head to the Nd, and from appearances supposed to be a cruiser, hauled on the Starboard tack to the southward intending to gain her wake before making sail in chase, hoping that she would haul her wind upon the larboard tack depending upon his laying well up for his safety, when the high sea would knock him off, but he was no Englishman and was not to be caught in this way; for no sooner had we made sail than he squared away, set all the sail he could carry, and by sunset had led us a chase of 120 miles to the Eastwd when he answered signal. She was the Anaconda privateer schooner of New York. At sunset gave up the chase and having a fresh westerly breeze abandoned all further hopes of falling in with the convoy here and made sail to the southward and E'd with a very wet ship and a high sea, not a little down in the mouth that the convoy had not furnished us with richer booty, and having yet a faint hope of falling in with them before they got sufficiently to windward of the Barbadoes [sic] to enable them to keep away for it. Continued standing to the southward and Eastward for some days and at length found pleasant weather and experienced the comforts of a dry ship. By and by, a circumstance occurred in the gale off Bermuda which I had forgotten in this recapitulatory journal to notice, and which although it may be deemed exaggeration by the incredulous, yet as I was an eye witness to it I will risk the hazard of my veracity being questioned, and relate it, particularly as it will give some idea of a "blow" as Saw[??]y says; it is no other than this, that a coat belonging to Capt. Henderson of Marines stopped in the rigging for the benefit of fresh air had a button torn off of it by the violence of the wind.‑‑ Quere [sic] Was it loose before?‑‑. No doubt many little incidents will slip my memory which occurred during the cruise the apology for which will be found by and by and a good reason assigned not very creditable to an officer commanding one of the finest frigates in his Majesty's service.‑‑

 

Standing to the Southward a few days found us south of the tropic when having seen nothing nor heard any tidings of the convoy as low down as 18N.; about ship to recross it, which we accomplished without the occurrence of any thing more remarkable than the monotony always attendant upon a life at sea in time of war, with nothing in sight. Thence we stood to the Northward & Ed. intending to make Madeira crossing the track of the homeward bound Brazil men. The only circumstances worth noting were a heavy gale which we encountered on the passage, which kicking up a terrible sea at midnight stove in the hawse plugs, and deluged the gun deck. In a few moments nothing was to be heard but the washing of a great body of water fore and aft on the gun deck and as my cot in the War Room was slung to the beams of that deck (having no cabin). I was soon sensible that something novel was the matter, and I was soon confirmed in my belief by hearing the Carpenter sing out the ship was foundering and call upon the Boatswain to turn out all hands. No water yet had found its way into the Ward Room and though a little frightened I concluded to remain where I was, in which I was further encouraged by Capt. Henderson, who having been waked by the noise, ejected his head with night cap on and eyes half opened thro [sic] the door of his stateroom & enquired what was the matter, upon being told, he coolly observed there was no water here, and then turned in, an example I speedily followed, concluding that if he took it so easily, there was no reason why I should not. In a short time a little order was established, and by cutting down the hammocks of the men birthed [sic] forward and jamming them in the hawse holes further ingress to the water was denied. and egress obtained for that already shipped by manning the pumps and drawing the scupper plugs. 'Tis certain a large body of water, a weight of many tons, found its way into the ship, but I cannot subscribe to the opinion of Soundings that she was settling by the head. Standing up for Madeira we boarded several homeward Portuguese Brazil men but met with none of the Enemys vessels. A Portuguese vessel, whom we boarded a little to the westward and southward of the island under English colours, was inquisitive upon several points particularly asking if there was any probability of the differences being accommodated between England and America, upon being told by the boarding officer that there was not, he expressed his satisfaction, saying that he was glad of it, for if the yankees got again abroad they would spoil all trade and mar the fortunes of the Portuguese which were now very prosperous ‑‑ the mate of this vessel recognized in the coxswain of the boat an old shipmate and among other things enquired what we were cruising there for, being told for American frigates and privateers he replied in broken English Ah you want to see the privateer but no frigate. We now began to fall in with frenchan [sic] bound to the West Indies one of whom a little to the Northward of Madeira gave us information of a treaty of peace having been sent to America for ratification, and which was confirmed the next day by a dutchman [sic] bound from Limerick to Amelia island, from whom we got a paper containing the outlines of the treaty. Here was a field for discussion and various were the opinions upon the causes of so great a change in the dispositions of the British Government and the reasons for their abandoning so quickly the pretensions they had so pertinaciously adhered to and insisted when as the only alternatives for a cessation of hostilities. Whether the treaty would be ratified was now a question, and I was singular in the belief that it would not. My reasons for this supposition were, that I believed something had occurred in Europe not quite consonant to the interest of the British, perhaps some schism in the Congress at Vienna that might place her monstrous numerical monopoly in jeopardy, or had excited the attention of other powers to restrict it within due bounds. Under those circumstances I thought more than an armistice, tho' the previous correspondence of the negociators [sic] admitted on the part of England that all the pretensions she had set up were in some degree questionable ‑‑ the advantages, however, from the embarrassing situation in which the government was placed from the want of money and unanimity, I considered as being all upon our side, though I have since had reason to believe that had the war continued another year we should have taught the enemy a lesson they would not have forgotten in the present generation. In one opinion we were unanimous, that if any thing was to be done there was now no time to lose, and as we approached the shores of Europe we began to feel confident that we should soon have something to do. Hitherto every sail that we have seen but one, have been on Saturday and so great a favourite has the day become that any of the men would wager a months pay that another will not be seen until its return, but we are now getting in the track to fall in with them daily. On one of these Saturdays a sail was discovered at day light (the only one we have not yet overhauled) on our weather beam, the wind light and a smooth sea but freshening and rising gradually, made all sail in chase and by 2 P.M. had got in her wake, when having gone about, William Herrington [sic], a seaman, being in the weather fore chains setting up the rigging incautiously caught hold of a rope yarn which was not sufficient to sustain him and overboard he went; in a moment the main and mizen [sic] topsails were aback the courses brailed up, a boat lowered down, and in eight minutes he was picked up a degree of dispatch seldom surpassed. The chase however reaped the benefit from this accident for we fell so fast to leeward that by the time the boat returned a space of half an hour she was again on our weather beam and as night was fast approaching it was useless to continue the pursuit. The man who was unfortunately the cause of losing this fellow was well known among his companions on the forecastle for a great swimmer, one of whom during the circumstances just related, upon perceiving preparations to have to came aft, and related what he knew of this mans swimming abilities, and (more anxious to overhaul the chase than regardless of the life of his shipmate) said, he knew he would swim for a month, so if we only overhauled the brig we could come back for him at night, a piece of advice which however good, the man who was the subject of it had some reason to congratulate himself upon its not having been followed.

 

It is now advanced in the month of February and we are steering to the Northwd. & Ed. under short cruising sail, with the weather variable and squally, though by no means so cold and disagreeable as the weather in parallel latitudes on the coast of America. Falling in with neutrals daily but hear nothing of the Enemy except that a large cork fleet have several times been obliged to put back from stress of weather, and their numbers diminished in some degree by the privateers in the channell [sic] ‑‑ there will still be enough left for us yet should they fall in our way ‑‑ the India fleet too it appears by the papers are ready, so much the better, all will be fish in our net if they come to it.‑‑ On Sunday the 12th the look out at the mast head descried land, and the promontory of Cape Finisterre rising majestically from amid the waves that lashed its base was soon apparent from deck, and at noon bore East of us a league or two distant; descried several small craft close under the land. Found a strong current setting to the E.S.E. and at four o clock P.M. found it had set us so close in shore and the wind lulling that it was necessary to claw of[f] in which we at length succeeded just weathering the cape within safety distance and got a good offing at night in the mouth of the bay of biscay [sic]. During the night it became turbulent and we soon were made sensible of the uncomfortable sea so well known to navigators of this bay. At daylight on Monday disagreeable weather wind to the westward, the chill so common in the Easterly winds on the coast of America is here felt as sensibly when Westerly winds prevail from the vast body of water over which it passes before it comes in contact with the land ‑‑ Made cape Ortegal [sic] and then hauled off shore to the northward until noon when we tacked to the southward. At sunset fresh breezes and the weather lowering, finding ourselves to the southward of Cape Finisterre shortened sail and headed off shore, a strong current setting on to the land about S.E.‑‑ Tuesday the 14th comes in with thick hazy weather rather cold ‑‑ during yesterday afternoon from the look out [sic] being more inclined to shelter himself under the lee of the mast head than ambitious of performing the tasks assigned them [sic], allowed a brig to cross our bows without discovering her and when the man at the wheel first saw her she was so far under our lee that it was hazardous to run in shore after her.‑‑ Being all severely corrected for such great remissness it was reasonable to suppose that such an example would keep the eyes of all at the mast heads opened for the future ‑‑ but to day was to prove that more comfort was to be found under the lee of the mast in bad weather than compensated for all the uncomfortables of a round dozen not very well laid on.‑‑ A terrier dog (named Guerriere) belonging to Lieut. Hoffman, from the very great sagacity with which he was gifted had become a great favourite with all hands officers and man [sic]. So a display of almost natural faculties did he exhibit that many were of the opinion that he would talk were it not that he feared he should be set to work, be the talking part as it may, he frequently did work, for whenever all hands were called to about ship he was sure to pay his respects to the Captain of the mast who placing the end of the weather fore brace in his mouth he would lead it along in as perfect order as any two legged sea dog and perform various little duties about the mast full as well. Never would the drum beat to quarters but with every token of the greatest satisfaction he would repair to the taffrel [sic], and there remain until it again beat for boarders, firemen, &c when he would always go with them and when they returned to their quarters or guns he would return to his former station. On this day his sagacity appeared preeminent. 'Twas about 4 o'clock P.M. Lieut. Ballard and myself were walking the weather side of the quarter deck lamenting our hard luck in not falling in with an Enemys [sic] ship altho' we had almost bearded the lion in his den, and all unconscious of any craft being near us. Guerriere who was playing about the heels of Lieut Ballard appeared uncommonly frisky and was rather troublesome, at length becoming an incumbrance he attracted the particular attention of the Lieut, perceiving which he jumped upon the hammock clothes and stretching his head to windward began to bark most vehemently;‑ upon looking to discover what attracted his notice lo! and behold! there was a large frigate standing down before the wind under a press of sail, which the gentlemen at the mast head had not yet discovered, fearing perhaps to look to windward lest "the winds should visit their cheeks too unduly" as my friend Hamlet the dane [sic], says. Hove about and hauled too on the larboard tack head to the northward, at 5 she crossed our stern took in her topgallant sails & hauled by the wind to the southward; tacked ship and made sail in chase of her. At 9 ranged close alongside of a large frigate with her gun deck lit up and apparently all hands at quarters, hoisted our colours with a lanthorn to windwards of them that they might be discovered distinctly; perceived her colours flying but could not make them out, hailed to know what she was, received no answer, hailed a second and third time with no better success; an order was sent down to the gun deck not to fire unless she returned the fire from our Quarter deck; fired the three forward carronades on the Quarter deck into her; a reply was instantly made that she was the Portuguese frigate Amazon from the Canary islands bound to Lisbon (a little out of her way to be sure) ordered her to heave to, with which she complied, but blowing heavy and a high sea up could not board her, filled away under double reefed topsails to the Westward and Southward‑‑‑‑

 

Wednesday the 15th of February came in with more moderate weather, stood to the Southward, making our comments on the conduct of the gentlemen we encountered last evening, which was certainly foolish in the extreme as he had nothing to fear in making himself known; and he owes his getting off so easily in some measure to the boisterous weather, but more particularly to the high state of discipline prevailing on board the Constitution for had the order sent down to the gun deck been disregarded (and from the eagerness expressed to engage it was lately to be expected that it would claim much attention) the consequences would have been very disastrous and he would have had nobody to blame but himself for drawing upon him a punishment he so richly merited.‑‑ At 10 AM spoke a vessel bound into St. Ubes in distress having encountered a severe gale to the westwd [sic] of the Azores. Had fallen in the same Portuguese frigate that we did, a few hours before we saw him, last night. At 11 spoke another sail from St. Ubes got information of a convoy sailing thence for the channell [sic] two days before ‑‑ deemed it strange we had seen nothing of them ‑‑ learned that the Voluntaire frigate with the Duke of Bedford & family on board were expected along from Lisbon bound to England, and thought our prospects of getting his Grace and graceless suit [sic] on board were tolerable [sic] good ‑‑ saw nothing for the remainder of the day; continued under easy sail throughout the night, and our surprise on the morning of Thursday was no little when at daylight we found that the strong current had set us so far to the Eastwd [sic] that the Rock of Lisbon was in sight under our lee. At 8 bore away for the Rock, the winds growing light and a smooth sea. At 9 discovered a schooner on the starboard bow apparently a cruiser standing for us; discovered a large ship which we afterwards knew for the Elizabeth 74 going into the Tagus ‑‑ made sail in chase of the Schr when she hove about and stood in for the Rock; discovered several sail in shore [sic] of her; at 10 gaining slowly on the Schr wind very light. At 10.30 discovered a ship on the larboard bow standing for the rock, gave over the chase of the Schr and hauled up for the ship supposing that the long wished for moment had come, and were almost confirmed in the idea by perceiving her haul up for us; blow, blow ye winds! whistling and chirping by all hands on the forecastle, but it would not do, the winds were obstinately light; at length at 3 PM we made him out by his colours to be English and at 4 hove to alongside the British ship Susan, Malcolm Ross, master, from Buenos Ayres [sic] for Liverpool putting into Lisbon for water. Hailed him upon coming alongside supposing him to be one of the Cork Convoy, "how dare you part company with your convoy and when did you have them" "What convoy" "The Cork fleet convoy." But he was not the right one he was bound the contrary way, but his course was soon to be changed, though as yet he was quite unconscious of it, not suspecting the integrity of the flag at our peak, which was British. Sent a boat on board and when it had reached the ship hoisted proper colours. A little boy, a passenger, going to England to be educated, upon being told that we were Americans fell at the feet of the boarding officer and entreated he would not kill him; being assured of his safety he acquired confidence, and replied to the question, of what motive induced him to behave so, that the inhabitants of the country from whence he came were assured by the British Officers that the American ships were all provided with scalping knives and tomahawks, and that none of their prisoners were spared. One method of exalting their own character at the expense of an enemy whose conduct towards them had been but too liberal, and it is my opinion that their national character for magnanimity has been acquired in the same way, at least every passing day strengthens the surmise. From this character is appreciated by individuals of their own nation a simple fact well demonstrated; as was the case with the Lord Nelson, so was it with the Susan, and with every other British ship that I have seen upon the ocean; whenever a frigate heaves in sight their colours are displayed union down, and all hands are seen at the pump brake, labouring as though their utmost exertions would be unavailing to keep them from foundering; and this expedient is resorted to to prevent any of the crew from being impressed, a fate more dreadful in idea to them than if they were actually foundering. Another instance of their magnanimity in their treatment of a brave fallen foe, was related to me by Capt Ross, who says, that he saw upon the arrival of the late U. S. frigate Essex at Rio Janeiro [sic] the American ensign displayed under the spritsail yard of every man of war in the port from Admiral Dixon's flagship down to the smallest craft; but the "galled jade will wince" when their "withers are wrung."‑‑‑ Sent a prize crew on board the Susan and ordered them to keep company through the night. Received an addition to our crew in the persons of two tigers found on board the Susan intended as a present (somewhat outre to be sure) to the owners from his late consignees in S. America. They are perfectly docile and upon a short acquaintance became very familiar, and though but four or five months old are remarkably large and exhibit feats of strength beyond what I have ever seen in any other animals of a similar size ‑‑ with a blow of the paw they capsize a dog much heavier than themselves and have taught some of the men in the same manner to keep a respectful distance while they are at meals, at which time they appear to have a particular aversion to being disturbed, in which however they are not singular.‑‑ Friday the 16th comes in with pleasant weather and a light breeze from Sd. & Wd.‑‑ Under short sail standing to the Westward, the Susan in company; at 9 A.M. spoke a Portuguese ship bound into Lisbon with the loss of her maintopmast and otherwise disabled in a severe gale to the westward; in the course of the day spoke several neutral sail bound in under like circumstances for repairs. On board the first of these put Capt. Ross and his crew and were well pleased to get rid of the latter and give them but a short passage to port. Their long passage from America upon a very scant allowance having introduced the scurvy among them and the poor fellows in a miserable situation. As for the Captain he was a jolly, short round visaged fall [sic] little gentleman and bore his misfortune with all the philosophy of a man inured to them, consoling himself for this mishap by saying he had been running all the war in safety and had twice beaten off a privateer in the very ship we had now taken from him. Upon coming on deck with his baggage when about to leave the ship he cast round an inquiring eye until they [sic] fell upon the brace of tigers when looking in the face of Captain Stewart he asked him in his Scottish dialect if he "wad na restore him his pet kie" roundly asserting that he paid a considerable sum for them and that they were his own, and he could hardly be convinced that he was lying when the letters advising the owners they were on board were produced to him. Foiled in this he sought for something else that might strike his fancy and soon pitched on the cot of an officer airing on the booms, "'twould be a fine thing to have a cot to sling in instead of making may bed up on the bare deck, wad it not." "O yes it would be preferable" and he was supplied with one; in this strain he continued until he had attained several conveniences with which merchant Captains generally dispense, and perceiving an inclination in the Captain to baulk his desires, he stated, "what a pretty thing it wad be to ha' a boat to paddle about in the harbour of Lisbon and the Susan's boat wad be a muckle gude one for that" in this he also succeeded upon condition that it should be his last request, to which he assented, but when he had got over the side the spirit still moved him, and he thought "a acorrn [sic] or two of tallow and a small package of furs wad be a pretty thing to set him on his legs again in Lisbon;" it is needless to say his understanders were not strengthened by a compliance with this hint. Throughout the remainder of this day and Saturday continued standing under short sail to the westward the Susan in company and preparing her for a trip to the western side of the Atlantic. Sunday comes in with a continuance of fine weather and no appearance of a change for the worse, standing under short sail to the southward. At 9 discovered a large sail on the larboard bow ordered the Susan to stand to the southward and westward under short sail while we went in chase of the stranger who was standing to the Westward. At 9.30 came up with him and hoisted English colours he having displayed Russian. Sent a boat on board the stranger intending to pass for the Endymion, but the boarding officer to his surprise was addressed by name by the commander of the ship and could not prevail upon him to believe she was any other than the Constitution‑‑ the fact was, this ship had been lying in Boston within a cables length of the Constitution during the whole of last summer and as her appearance had in no respect undergone alteration 'twas not to be wondered at that her Captain should know her again, and perhaps anticipating an event like the present had made himself familiar with the persons of the officers to prevent imposition in case of being boarded. Descried another sail to the Eastward, filled away in chase of her and at 1 P.M. spoke a Portuguese. Tacked ship and stood to the Westward to fall in with the Susan and at sunset discovered her on the starboard bow standing to the Sd. & Wd. at [sic] 7 sent her papers on board and parted company relying on her safe arrival for a good blow out. Throughout the night standing to the Northwd and westward [sic] under short sail on the starboard tack; continued on this tack without seeing any thing [sic] untill [sic] 1 h. 10m. P.M. on Monday when a sail was cried from the mast head as being on the weather bow; hauled up for her under all sail, shortly after another sail was descried on the lee bow and word from aloft that the ship to windward had bore up for us. As we were now in the direct track for craft bound from the Meditterranean [sic] to Madeira &C felt assured that none but men of war would maneouvre in this way and were not mistaken. At 2.30 P.M. the ship standing for us displayed signals which not being answered she squared away to the westward to join her consort setting all studdg [sic] sails and making a great display of bunting, which she enforced with a number of guns. Let every rag in chase, the wind rather lulling. At a Few minutes before three commenced firing from the forward guns on the gun deck, the shot falling short ceased firing; at 3.15 opened again from the forward guns the shot just reaching At 3.45 carried away the Main royal Mast which enabled the chase to distance our fire. Set Carpenters to work to make a new royal mast which they completed about five. At 5.30 the breeze freshening a little. The ship to leeward tacking to the Southward under all sail. At 6 the weather ship passed under the stern of the other and spoke with her took in all light sails and both of them hauled up their mainsails and hauled too on the starboard tack in line. At 6.10 ranged ahead of the sternmost which we found to be a frigate built ship, bringing her on the quarter, and her consort on the bow distant about two hundred yards, and opened our broadside which was returned with great quickness and spirit and some degree of precision; continued exchanging broadsides until the whole were enveloped in smoke upon the clearing away of which perceived we had got abreast of the headmost ship, manned both sides in case it should be necessary to ware [sic] ship, and backed the main and mizen topsails and dropped into our first station, the ship on the bow backing her topsails also; broke the men off from the starboard battery and renewed the action from the larboard; after a few broadsides the ship on the bow perceived the error she had committed in getting sternboard, & filled away with the intention of tacking athwart our bows, the ship on the quarter at the same moment falling off perfectly unmanageable; filled away in pursuit of the former and compelled him to put his helm up at about one hundred yards distant pouring several raking broadsides into him he made all sail before the wind which we did not think proper to reduce knowing his crippled situation would enable us to overhaul him after securing his consort, wore round and ranged alongside the latter when she hoisted a light and fired a gun to leeward and upon being hailed to that effect replied she had surrendered. Sent a boat on board and took possession of His Majesty's Ship Cyane Capt Gordon Falcon mounting 34 guns 32 pound carronades ‑‑ having received her Commander and officers on board with the greater part of her crew ordered her to keep company and filled away in chase of the other gentleman and in a short time discovered him on the weather [sic] bow standing for us. In a few minutes he luffed to and fired his broadside which was duly replied, he then tacked ship and made all sail by the wind receiving a rake from our starboard broadside; set the Royals and soon gained his wake and opened upon him from the gun deck chase guns with great effect and in a few minutes after she hoisted a light and hove too [sic]. Ranged alongside sent a boat on board and took possession of His Majesty's Ship Levant Capt Douglas of 18 23 pound carronades and 2 long 12 pounders. The whole of this business occupied about three hours, only forty five minutes of which were taken up in compelling both ships to yield to our superior gunnery.‑‑ The Cyane when she struck had five feet water in the hold and otherwise very much cut up, her masts tottering and nothing but the smoothness of the sea preventing them from going over the side‑‑ The Levant in a condition somewhat better, her spars having generally escaped, but her hull pretty well drilled and her deck a perfect slaughter house, in fact so hardly had she been dealt with on deck that her men by the acknowledgement of their Officers twice went below from their quarters. The Constitution lost not a spar but the fore topgallant yard, and was in better order if possible to have fought a similar action than when the late one commenced. The loss on the part of the two ships was upwards of forty killed and nearly double that number wounded, the Constitution had four killed and eleven wounded. Two or three hours sufficed to place the three ships in a condition to make sail and by four oclock on the morning of Sunday [sic] Feby 21st they were standing to the Westward. Throughout Tuesday every disposition was made to render all things snug and comfortable and by the evening every thing [sic] had assumed a comfortable aspect, and the prisoners began to feel a little at home and no pains were spared to make their time pass agreeably. In fact they appeared determined that it should, for a few hours sufficed to make them as independent and unruly as though the ship belonged to them and it was necessary to check them before they became aware of the impropriety of their conduct and then it was dropped for the moment only, again to be resumed with additional impertinence. The loss of their vessels appeared to give them no uneasiness nor did they appear at all to feel the least mortification from being taken by inferior force, though they frequently resorted to very unmanly recrimination in mutually accusing each others ship as the cause of their being here. Nor was this confined to the Ward room; Cabin and steerage were alike the scenes of ungentlemanly accusation and recriminations.‑‑ Were I disposed I could here dwell upon scenes that would astonish all who have any idea of the conduct becoming an officer and gentleman, but 'tis an unpleasant theme and better dispensed with, suffice it to say, that the sun of Britain's naval glory has set unless measures are taken to prevent influence and sordid interest from rising paramount to merit and ability, and plebian worth from being obscured by the rubbish of lordly imprudence and ignorance‑‑ Of the baleful effects of this influence I will cite only one instance of many which have come under my notice; would it be believed, in any Service, that a first lieutenant of a frigate would have for his commander at any future day an officer who at that time was a young midshipman, under his control and subject to his beck in all things. Yet the first lieutenant on board the Newcastle frigate was first lieutenant of the frigate that his commander, Lord George Stewart, first went on board of as a midshipman, and the comparison between the two, as men or as seamen,‑‑ it would be doing an injustice to the lieutenant to make one.

 

Wednesday the 22d of February comes in with some of the finest weather I have ever experienced, and in which with a due degree of temperance and no cares to harrass [sic] him I think a man would live for ever [sic]. But a truce with speculation, and let us proceed as well as the recollection of the unruly and disagreeable scenes I witnesses at this period from men calling themselves English naval officers will allow, in cool blood and matter of fact narrative; forgetting to record what is disagreeable as far as truth will justify it.‑‑ At daylight made the island of Porto Santo on the larboard beam still standing west; continued this course untill [sic] 4 P.M. when we hauled our wind to the Southwd on the larboard tack and continued under short sail on this tack thro' the night.

 

Thursday hails a continuance of the same pleasant weather, and deeming it a favorable opportunity to place the prizes in as good condition as possible hove the maintopsails aback of all the ships,‑‑ and fell to. On board the Levant Lieut Ballard rigged his shears whipped out his mizen [sic] mast and sent it on board the Constitution to be scarfed and fished much to the amusement of the British Officers who declared it wholly impracticable to restep it. Strong fishes were applied to the masts of the Cyane and she was soon placed in a condition to carry a tolerable press of sail; and on board the Constitution the Carpenter was not dilatory with the aid of the armorer in furnishing the Levant with her repaired stick susceptible of more labour and pressing than ever, and much to the astonishment of all at 7 P.M. he stood with his peers with royal yard athwart, a monument of the skill and industry of her commander and much to the mortification of her late proprietors. At * P.M. filled away to the southward in hopes of intercepting on her homeward passage the British frigate Inconstant with upwards of a million on board whom we learned from letters found on board the Susan captured the 16th was to sail the beginning of January from Rio Janeiro [sic]. As Fortune had now turned her wheel a spoke at least in our favor, we were willing to believe that that tide in our affairs which would carry us to the top was now in the young flood and surely did we build on her handmaid luck to carry us through the shallows that hope was overlooked in the prospect of certainty. In excellent spirits save when occasionally jarred by the discord of the Prisoners whom neither intreaties [sic] nor threats would prevail upon to adjourn their quarrels until they could settle them on shore.‑‑ Nothing occurred worthy of remark while standing to the Southward until the 27th (Monday) when much to my satisfaction I received an order from Capt Stewart to repair on board the Levant as her Purser and a reprieve to any condemned malefactor was never hailed with sincerer gratulation, for add to the disagreeables of a crowded ward room, a precarious state of health and continual annoyance from the Prisoners, whose only amusement and gratification appeared to arise from lavishing abuse upon one another, (and to get rid of whom 'twas necessary only to give them a quantity of liquor and by four in the afternoon intoxication would stand the friend of order, not from any inclination on their part to be less turbulent but from inability to be more so) and it will require no uncommon penchant for ease and quietness to determine that I was making a happy exchange. One exception however to this general character of the prisoners I am in duty bound to record, not only from a sense of the liberality of feeling with which I was treated by him when fortune had turned the tables in his favour, but from his uniform gentlemanly deportment, which was so conspicuous that it extorted the esteem of even those whom the conduct of his fellow prisoners had compelled to forget that any attention or respect was due to them, in fact had the conduct of the Commanding Officers of the two vessels corresponded in the least with that of Lieutenant Jellicoe 2d of the Cyane, that respect which we had all been taught to believe attached itself to the [blotted] of a British naval officer would have been heightened, but the contrary with a solitary exception has been the result and in so great a degree have they compromitted [sic] themselves that I question whether any officer at that time on board the Constitution will be hereafter disposed to treat one of that nation with the least respect until he shall have proved himself deserving of it.‑‑‑‑

 

Upon joining the Levant I found her to be one of the best fitted ships I had ever seen, abounding in every convenience that could be desirable for the comfort of a cruising vessel and much more roomy than vessels of her description generally are, and perfectly new. In fact when an officer of that service receives his commission for any particular vessel he expects to remain in that vessel until promotion six or eight years thereafter and most frequently a time much longer procrastinated shall give him a chance for a change; under these circumstances his ship becomes his home, all his moveables follow him to her to sink or swim as fate shall mark his destiny, and not forgetful of the comforts he has been accustomed to enjoy on shore he sets to work and in a few days his new habitation is rigged out with every desirable convenience.The effect of this custom in this particular will be well defined in the following trifling occurrence ‑‑‑ what are called the "spice boxes" on board men of war are temples erected to the service of Cloacinas; those on board the Constitution had been displaced to afford room to work the forward gun deck guns in action and those who paid their respects at her shrine were now compelled to make the chains the scene of their profane rites, or worship at her [?] by stealth in the quarter gallery. It was upon the third day that Capt Falcon had been on board and his eyes upon every thing that passed, when walking the Quarter deck in company with Lieut Ballard he remarked in a tone truly contemptuous that "a British Officer would think it derogatory to be found in the chains in the obscene manner in which he perceived the Americans visited them." To this impertinent remark the following pertinent answer was made and it had the effect of silencing the gentleman upon such subjects for the future "Why, Sir, we know that these things are mere matter of opinion and our reputation not at all affected by it provided our discipline otherwise is such as will do ourselves credit and our country justice, and when her reputation is at stake we are particular in little else, provided our guns tell well, and you can be a competent judge of how far that end has been attained." To a similar illiberal observation of Capt Douglas's relative to the discipline of the Constitution (which from the diminished state of her crew in manning her prizes had necessarily become a little relaxed in unimportant particulars), made with the intention of being heard by Capt Henderson, the latter observed that the former had tested it on the 20th and could best tell whether it were effectual or not. But to resume my narrative and leave this keen encounter of others wit, I was surprised to find that the marks of slaughter had not yet been wholly got rid of, for upon overhauling the sail room a few hours after I had been on board, the mangled limbs of several persons were found, intangled [sic] in a lower studding sail, which in the bustle of taking in sail clearing decks &c had been carelessly thrown in without being made up, and since she had been in our possession an opportunity had not before offered for overhauling. Although every mode had been adopted to repair her damage, yet marks enough remained in her bulwarks masts &c to denote that there was some justification for the crew leaving their quarters; in the Spanker alone, below the first reef band, were one hundred and forty seven patches on the hole [sic] of musket balls, and lots upon lots of them in higher parts, in fact the sail was literally cut to pieces and would not have been patched had it not been considered an excellent trophy and a testimonial of great execution‑‑ On board the Levant I found her late Purser and Surgeon, the former an Englishman and the latter an Irishman, in their characters apparently somewhat better than the prisoners on board the Constitution, but as I afterwards discovered their deportment arose more from want of opportunity than from any regard for us or our attentions. The purser [sic], Hunt, was a well informed man, a qualification rarely found in British ships, but from the want of a friend at court he had been unable to obtain a larger ship, which seventeen years service entitled him to. One circumstance however convinced me how little dependance [sic] is to be placed on the integrity of a Purser in that service. There were several beeves on board the ship when she went into action one of which was killed, the remainder fell into our hands. This Purser, nothing loth, requested me to see how nicely he would place the whole of them to the debit of his government, or to use his own words "how nicely he would cheat my Lords" which with the assistance of the Steward and Clerk he accomplished in a few minutes and gained three whole beeves in the transaction. Kelly, the Surgeon, though young was apparently a man of science and skill, and appeared to be the only man whom the prisoners had any respect for, and to do him justice his unwearied attention to the wounded and the sick made an impression in his favour which was hardly effaced by a knowledge of his selfish disposition otherwise. Speaking of the attainments of the officers in a literary point of view as well as professional, it was with no little degree of satisfaction that it was perceived the advantages lay all on the American side, even the youngest of the Midshipmen having read most of the classics and added thereto a stock of very general information improved by their intercourse with polite society; whereas the extent of the researches of the British Officers with but a few exceptions were bounded by the title and finis pages of Hamilton Moore. It may be conceived that this superiority did not pass unnoticed by the British, who more than once expressed their surprise stating that they expected to find us a set of uncouth animals uninformed and possessing little more intelligence than a brute, for such we had always been represented to them, and such was the force of British prejudice that they had never troubled themselves with the idea that we might be Christians. If I might judge from what I have seen in the British colonies I should say that a naval officer of that nation is as little respected at home as he is feared in America and that his opportunities of becoming a man of the world are restricted within very narrow bounds. In the colonies they are not tolerated in the least by any man having a family, and it is rarely that they are to be found in company with any one [sic] whose licentiousness has not closed the doors of every thing like respectability against him. From the 27th February to the evening of the 7th of March being Tuesday we were standing to the Southwd under short cruising sail, smooth seas and delightful weather, only occasionally for the last twenty four hours thick fog and appearances denoting the proximity of land, such as drift weeds, and the occasional appearance of man of war birds &c. At 4 P.M. the haze lifting discovered the land on the larboard beam and made signal to that effect to the Constitution, who hailed shortly after to know what land we called it, informed them we supposed it to be the isle of May [sic]. Tacked ship to the Westward and through the night stood off and on the centre of the island as we supposed, but the strong current setting to the Southward carried us considerably to leeward of it, and from daylight until 5 P.M. on Wednesday was spent beating in round and weathering the dangerous reef at the North West end of the island, The Constitution and Levant delayed therein by the heavy working of the Cyane and her inability to carry a press of sail. At 5 P.M. all three ships came to in English road in the isle of May, a Spanish Schooner engaged in the Slave trade [sic] making her escape from the harbour upon our appearance, leaving behind a boat and boats' crew.‑‑ Upon displaying our colours a Portuguese flag was displayed upon the hovel of the governor and a boat being sent on shore he manifested every disposition to supply us with what we might want that lay in his power, but his means were quite limited except in the article of goats and for these we were not very well disposed to trade in great numbers; he gave us to understand however that at Port Praya in the island of St. Jago abundance of fruit and stock was to be procured and advised our going thither. The inhabitants and natives of the island, who live in a state of almost patriarchal simplicity dispensing with the use of coin and trading with each other for what may be superfluous with either, and with strangers for old clothes which they esteem of more price than gold and for which they give their goats fowls and other commodities, were very happy in recognizing our flag and were earnest in the wish that the war might soon be at an end; and for this wish there appeared to be good grounds their salt pans having gone into disuse, and hundreds of tons of that article standing, without value, on the quay, for want of the American trade. This harbour is not a very convenient one for large vessels being rather exposed to a fresh trade wind and of a depth of water so great that the anchorage is too near the beach upon which there is at all times a heavy surf running in so much that at the quay it has been found necessary to erect a crane for the safety of those who go there in boats; smaller vessels however will find good anchorage under the lee of a projecting point of land a little to leeward of the town, if town it may be called which town is none. Abundance of fish are to be caught in the harbour of all hue and colours, some a deep red, others lighter, and you may pursue the colour through all its gradations, as well as the green, the yellow, the purple &c. red speckled with black is the most predominant and is found in a fish resembling the perch in size and conformation, and is not objectionable as a pan fish‑‑‑ one species of fish is caught here which is boiled equal to the boasted tortoise or favorite parts of halliboat [sic], it is called the grouper of a light greenish cast when in the water but has in common with the rest of the fish caught here all the properties of the dolphin in changing their hue and colours when taken from their element, though not so distinctly defined as in the dolphin‑‑ the grouper has a head resembling in some degree that of a hog being rather flatter on the top and his mouth is furnished in the upper jaw with a perfect row of canine teeth the under one is furnished with but one tooth if it can be called being a solid piece of bone extending from one extremity of the jaw to the other and set in so strongly and furnished with an edge so keen that it is necessary to be careful of your fingers if you wish to preserve them when disengaging one from the hook.‑‑ While speaking of the finny tribe it may not be improper to remark that in this part of the Atlantic the Nautilus or what is called by sailors, the Portuguese man of war, are to be seen in fleets in all directions, nor is the eye less gratified with the continual shoals of flying fish which are alternately courting the water and the air, and it would be doing father Neptune [sic] and his Court no injustice to suppose that they had forsaken their abode upon the equator to wanton in the smooth seas at this season. Thomson in his seasons remarks that the birds found within the tropics boast more elegant plumage than those of the more northern or Southern latitudes, but that they are deficient in melody;‑‑ this remark might extend to the water and embrace the finny tribe as respects their utility and flavor, for in elegance nothing can compare with them but in other essentials they are more than deficient, they are destitute. The flying fish that phenomenon of the water and which is beheld with so much surprise and admiration at first sight of it, though beautiful in form yet has with it when served up a dryness and strength of flavor that renders it unpalatable, and though great abundance of them are caught near the windward West India islands yet they are food for none but the Slaves... Kelly the Surgeon who had never before been within or near the tropics was so struck with the appearance of the flying fish, which he in common with most of his countrimen [sic] believed only to exist in fable, that his impatience to procure a sight of one had very near cost him a trip to Old davy [sic]. His desire was soon however gratified, a luckless one soaring beyond his abilities falling upon the deck, a circumstance not uncommon and easily reconciled to belief when it is known, that their powers of locomotion in the air extends no further than to the time that their wings or fins remain wet after they rise from the water, and in the hot tropical sun this is not of a minutes duration. His pleasure upon this occurrence was like that of a school boy in being gratified in the possession of a long wished for toy, and he forthwith fell to dissecting and stuffing the Skin which he accomplished in its natural form and suspended it in his state room, much to the amusement of his shipmates, intending it as he said for a future present to his uncle in Killmallock, that he might be convinced there was such a thing as a flying fish.‑‑‑ We remained in English roads until Tuesday at noon when the signal was made from the Constitution to get under way which was accordingly done and all three ships under easy sail standing to the Southward and Westward with a fresh trade wind for Port Praya in the island of St. Jago distant 5 or 6 leagues and where we had every expectation of anchoring in an hour or two, or at furthest before sunset; but after leaving the land a league astern the breeze lulled and left us almost becalmed a circumstance which we afterwards found was almost always the case about these islands to leeward and accounted for upon the principle that it has been attempted to account for the trade winds and other phenomena of the tropics, that is, that the land becoming heated from the sun so rarefies the air in passing over it that a current is formed to windward of the islands which rushes in with such velocity as to force off to leeward a bulk of the rarified air equal to its own, and which in passing over a mile or two of sea contracts a density greater in proportion to its high state of rarefaction, and thus in the product of an equilibrium a total calm almost ensues‑‑‑ Throughout the afternoon and evening light baffling winds and hazy which continued until 10 at night when the breeze freshened which ought to have warned us of our proximity to land but being unacquainted with the signs of the times in these parts were not aware of its being so close aboard when the look out [sic] sung "breakers ahead and land upon the lee bow"! what was it? "breakers, Sir, and land under the lee bow!" here was the devil to pay, the Constitution close aboard of us to windward, land under the lee bow about two ships length off, and only the watch upon deck. "Constitution, ahoy!" "Holloa!" Put your helm down instantly, we are close aboard the land!" Fortunately this was done in time to allow us to do likewise just at the critical moment when a few yards more headway would have precipitated us upon the rock under the last point bluff of the island of St. Jago, and had not the Levant been a very quick smart working ship even then our chance would have been desperate, as it was, 'twas a very narrow Squeak.‑‑‑ Shortened sail and stood to the Southward to get sea room and at 12 on Thursday night hauled up to the Nd. & Wd. to prevent the Southerly current setting us too far to leeward of the port and at 4 A.M. on Friday tacked to the Eastwd standing off and on until daylight when the island of St. Jago loomed up astern of us tacked again to the Eastwd and at 10 o'clock came to in the Harbour of Port Praya. The town of Port Praya is the residence of the governor general of the Cape Verd [sic] islands but boasts nothing remarkable in its appearance, save that here as well as in all other parts of these islands window glass is wholly dispensed with, which to the eye accustomed to meet it gives an appearance to their shabby houses truly wretched and disgusting; it is situated on a high bluff overlooking and commanding the harbour in all directions, and upon which are erected works of defense which in the hands of any people in the least jealous of their sovereignty or independence would prove efficient against any force sent against it, but Portuguese valour certainly has discretion for its better part, and the weapons placed in their hands for defense are the instruments of their dishonor. A few miles in the interior of the island is the town of Rio Grande which it is said boasts some handsome buildings and every desirable convenience that makes life comfortable, but this I believe is only the apology of the inhabitants of Port Praya for their apparent poverty and their wish to be thought something better than what they really are. This harbour is one of the best in the world with water sufficient for the heaviest vessels and almost land locked and can be but slightly affected although it opens to the South a little westerly by the hurricane which most generally come up from the South West. The eastern side of the entrance to the harbour is a high bluff called East point (the same upon which we were so near being in contact) and with which bearing East a little northerly the Cyane came to, with the Constitution on her larboard beam and the Levant on the larboard beam of the Constitution the latter consequently being the westernmost ship and the Constitution the outre‑‑ In the harbour we found lying a Portuguese and an English brig trading for Jackasses mules &c‑‑ The latter upon perceiving our colours showed signs of great uneasiness by hauling down hers, hoisting out boat &c.‑‑ a boat was despatched from the Constitution to inform them they might make themselves easy, the neutrality of the port being a sufficient protection, with which they were Satisfied. The boat then visited the governor to obtain his permission to land the prisoners which he readily granted and expressed his satisfaction at seeing us, tendering his services to aid and assist in procuring any supplies of which we might be in want and intimating indirectly that his friend Capt. Porter had saluted him when he was there in the Essex, and inferring that he should on this instance deem it a great compliment and would return it; circumstances however as will be seen prevented his vanity from being gratified in that particular. Upon the return of the boat preparations were made on board the Constitution for landing the prisoners and several boat loads were landed that evening. Captains Falcon and Douglass [sic] at their request were allowed to visit the shore for the purpose of endeavoring to make arrangements with the Master of the English brig to change the description of his live stock [sic] and carry them and their officers to Barbadoes [sic] under a flag of truce. Of this opportunity they availed themselves to behave in a manner unbecoming men of honour on parole for not satisfied with succeeding in the ostensible purpose of their visit, they paid a visit to the governor and by some misrepresentation on their part succeeded in poisoning his ear and a message was sent on board the Constitution that no more prisoners could be received on shore; about 12 o clock at night this was followed by a boat load of them, accompanied by a Portuguese officer, who said he would be alongside with another load before daylight, but precautions were taken to prevent it by detaining him on board till daylight when he was dispatched back with the same luggage he brought. At daylight on Saturday the 11th March 1815 the signal was made from the Constitution to land all prisoners which was accordingly done on board the Levant, and every arrangement was made for painting her &c afterwards‑‑ The Sailmaker and crew came from the Constitution to repair her sails and topgallant sails, royals &c were unbent for that purpose, and the yards painted &c remained on deck to dry. At 11 A.M. a boat was sent from the Constitution to get the brig chartered by the British Officers under weigh, to receive the baggage from the Constitution alongside. While in the act of doing this, and Capt Stewart (as I afterwards understood) on the point of leaving the Constitution to visit the governor, three large sail were discovered standing in for the harbour, a few minutes sufficed to make them out Enemy's men of war the signal from the Constitution to cut and make all sail by the wind was immediately made, and in a few minutes our sails were bent and yards aloft and we were under weigh standing to the Eastward on the larboard tack, the enemy hauled to to leeward on the starboard tack and apparently in great confusion, clearing ship for action; in a few moments the enemy wore and gave chase‑‑ At about 1 P.M. passed the Cyane to leeward and followed in the wake of the Constitution the Enemy gaining upon us, but the Constitution dropping them; by 2 the situation of the chased and pursuers was as follows, the constitution at the head of the former line at about 5 miles distance from the Levant and the Cyane in the rear of the latter distant 3 miles; the pursuing squadron thus, a large fifty gun ship (which we afterwards knew to be the Newcastle mounting 64 guns of heavy calibre [sic]) on the lee quarter of the Constitution and lee bow of the Levant and fast head reaching on the former though she did not hold so good a wind; another forty four gun frigate (which proved to be the Acasta) on the lee beam of the Levant fast head reaching on her and apparently coming up bodily to windward, and another large fifty gun ship (the Leander, similar in her armament to the Newcastle) broad on the quarter of the Levant and close under the lee bow of the cyane which ship sagged considerably to leeward and her situation at this moment extremely perilous. At a few minutes past 2 we discovered the Signal from the Constitution for the Cyane to tack which we repeated and with which her commander instantly complied and stood to the Northward and Westward. Shortly after the Cyane left us the enemy opened their broadsides upon us, but as yet fell short, and on board the Levant we yet cherished the hope that we could hold way until dark when night might enable us to bother our pursuers and effect our escape, but another half hour convinced us that there were no hopes on this tack and we soon perceived the signal from the Constitution to haul round upon the other with which we most cheerfully complied. At this time (previous to tacking) our situation was thus, the Leander 50 about 2 points abaft the lee beam and the Acasta 44 one point on the lee bow of the Levant and eating us out of the wind as fast as she head reached on us; the Newcastle considerably to leeward but had gained so fast that she was full two points on the lee bow of the Constitution‑‑‑ our situation after tacking thus, the whole of the enemy having abandoned the chase of the Constitution and tacked after us, the Leander close under our lee bow yawing occasionally and giving us her broadside, but badly directed; the Acasta in our wake, so sufficiently to windward of it to set light staysails, which she did; and the Newcastle in her wake‑‑ the latter ship was ordered by signal from the Commodore (the Leander Sir George Collier) to continue in chase of the Constitution but my lord George Stewart declined the perilous duty replying that his fore topsail yard was sprung and his ship other wise [sic] injured but upon which yard he afterwards carried whole topsails and steering sails all the way over the Atlantic‑‑ 'tis most true that this ship in firing her broadsides to day, such is the state of her discipline, had more men wounded than the Constitution had in her late action with two ships. In about an hour standing to the Northward and Westward we made t he land ahead and found that it trended considerably to leeward and that there were no hopes of reaching the harbour other than by running immediately under the battery of the Leander. In this predicament Lieut Ballard determined to beach her at all hazards and should time permit destroy her; but the Surgeon of the Levant and Purser upon being informed of this determination represented the situation of their wounded (which in truth with many of them was deplorable in the extreme) in so bad a light that they must inevitably become victims to it if put in execution, at the same time endeavoring to impress a belief that the neutrality of the Port would command that respect from the commanders of the ships of His Majesty as would insure our safety, that a contrary determination was the result and at all hazards the harbour was to be gained. The helm was accordingly put up and we run down the island in the rake of the Leander's continuing broadsides, until having given the bluff which forms the easternmost side of the harbour a narrow birth [sic] we hauled round it, borrowing [sic] within half pistol shot of it, into the harbour of Port Prays, and came to in a three fathoms [sic] under a fort of 37 guns with our jib boom over the beach. In rounding the bluff, the Acasta, in our wake, wore and poured her broadsides into us but so badly directed that it had no other effect than cutting away some of our loftiest rigging, while the fire of the Leander on our lee beam which was almost constant had no other effect than that of covering our deck with dust and gravel from the bluff, where all her shot lodged. The Acasta after firing hauled up again in our wake and entering the harbour anchored on our quarter at about a short half cables length distant and opened upon us from her forward divisions, and the Leander and Newcastle soon after wore under out stern and gave us a badly directed broadside each, afterwards anchoring in convenient positions to annoy us and notwithstanding our colours were down continued so to do until they were again hoisted and hauled down, when we perceived a boat push off from the Acasta for us. Having come alongside the first lieutenant of the Acasta (Davis) briskly came over the gangway and being met by Lieut Ballard, said, "I am commanded to take possession of this ship in the name of his [sic] Majesty" "His Majesty! and pray Sir to whom of his [sic] Majesty's gallant officers are we indebted for all the good conduct displayed upon this occasion." "M commander, Sir will enlighten you upon that head when you get on board his ship" At this moment, a noise on the forecastle, occasioned by the prize crew having recognized some of their old shipmates in the prisoners we had on board, arrested the attention of the Lieutenant and he jumped forward to ascertain its meaning. Returning in a few moments he presented to Lieut Ballard his side arms which had been surrendered to him when he first came on board saying, "Captain Biddle, I beg your pardon, I have no authority to receive your arms, they will be surrendered to the commodore." "not Captain Biddle, Sir, but Lieutenant Ballard of the United States Navy." "Not Captain Biddle Sir! I presume Sir this is the United states Ship Hornet!"‑‑ "there is some presumption in that Sir; ‑‑ No sir this is his Brittanic Majesty's late ship Levant"‑‑ "and that ship which escaped to the Westward?" "Is, Sir, his majestys [sic] ship Cyane"‑‑ "and what was the ship of which we gave up the chase"‑‑ "that was the United states frigate Constitution, and the Cyane and Levant are her prizes"‑‑ The boat was immediately dispatched to the Leander to communicate this intelligence to the commodore, and preparations in the mean time for sending the Americans on board the different ships were made on board the Levant. We had expected that when the intelligence sent to the Commodore was received by him, that a signal for immediate sailing in pursuit of the Constitution would be displayed, and that in the hurry and bustle consequent upon such an event would not be allowed to send all the Americans out of the Levant and that enough might be left in case she were allowed to remain in the harbour to regain possession of her and we derived some little consolation from this hope. We were disappointed however, and upon the return of the boat from the commodore, found that although their disappointment was great, yet they were fully satisfied with having regained the Levant, although to keep her was a most flagrant breach of the respect due to the neutral rights of the Portuguese, in whose harbour we had sought protection, and were now lying. Circumstances however will show how much the Portuguese themselves respected those rights, and the little regard they had for the belligerent rights of a nation, (whose policy hitherto had been to esteem them as friends,) in a wanton attack upon her citizens who had sought her protection, in her waters, and under her guns, and which instead of being fought in their defense were used to compel a speedier surrender, to their enemy and her ally. The boat brought an order for the late commander of the Levant to be sent on board the Acasta, with his papers &c. which was complied with, and upon his arrival there found the commanders of the respective ships assembled on board her. Not satisfied with demanding from Lieut B. his authority for taking command of the Levant and insisting upon a sight of his commission, (declining to take his word) they demanded so far, as to require that his desk, letters, &c should undergo and overhaul at the same time inferring in not the most decent or gentlemanly manner that the same scrutiny should take place with regard to the other officers of the Levant. This being communicated by Lieut B upon the return of the boat, it was agreed that journals, charts and every thing that in any wise related to the cruise or track of the Constitution should be destroyed, and in the general wreck the journal of which I have spoke on the 6th page of this recapitulatory narrative met its fate. By sunset all the Americans were removed from the Levant and distributed among the ships of the Enemy in such a manner as to prevent any two officers being members of the same wardroom or steerage, and doctor Johnson and myself were all that were allowed to remain on board the Levant. The proportion of men which fell to the lot of each ship could not have been more than twenty four at furthest, as the crew of the Levant officers and men when captured was but eighty. The original prize crew was sixty three and an additional seventeen were had by picking up the boat which was absent from the Constitution when the Enemy appeared off the harbour, yet notwithstanding there were no other prisoners on board any of their ships, and the lenity with which the British prisoners on board the Levant acknowledged themselves to have been treated these twenty odd men on board each ship were treated with a vigour that would put humanity to the blush. Confined in the hold with double irons, and deprived of their bedding, they were obliged to take the partial rest, which such circumstances allowed, upon [the stones constituting] the shingle ballast used in the stowage of the water casks; add to this a total privation of grog (the elixir vitae of a sailor) in a warm climate, and a reduction of water and provision, in the proportion of four of their own crew allowance to six prisoners, and obliged to submit to all the indignities which British seamen are so fruitful in towards their prisoners, and it will require no great degree of sympathy to conceive their situation truly pitiable. On board the Newcastle it fared still worse with the poor fellows than on board either of the other vessels, and her commander Lord George Stewart with brutal satisfaction, boasted upon his arrival at Barbadoes, that his yankee prisoners were not so spirited by half as when he first saw them, and that those of Sir George Collier and Capt Kerr did little justice in appearance to the discipline of either of those commanders. In truth, my Lord was right, for bad as all of them appeared those from his ship would have done justice to a resurrection from the dead. in [sic] point of flesh, though in spirit unbroke. It now remains to account for the appearance of this squadron at a moment so unlucky, for although the prisoners (the officers) were continually warning us that a squadron was not far off, that would release them from durance, yet we looked upon it more as a thing that they wished than that they were apprised of, or something of that character so peculiar to their country which gave rise to the bombast, "that the Sea is her domain and not a sail but by permission spread" and which one half of them believed. But in this case they were better informed, and knew that this very squadron had sailed from Boston bay [sic] in pursuit of us, and every vessel on the eastern coast of the Atlantic was apprised of their instructions and were furnished with orders that should they fall in with us or any American frigate to cruise afterwards (in the event of escape) in the track of this squadron and give them every necessary information. By a reference it will be seen that on the day previous to the capture of the Cyane we fell in with a Russian ship which recognized our true character, and which a few hours after leaving us fell in likewise with our prize ship the Susan. The Susan hoisted English colours and the Captain of the Russian informed him of his having but an hour before been boarded by the Constitution to the eastwards and which ship when he left was standing to the Southwd and advised the prize master if he meant to be safe to stand more to the Northward and Westward, the prize master thanked him for his advice and stood on. The Russian standing to the Westward, on the morning of Monday (the day of the action) fell in with the British Squadron, and communicated to them like particulars who judging from the course concluded our destination was for the Canary islands [sic] and in the hope of there finding us had visited Fortaventura, Teneriffe &c &c and had cruised round them for several days when not hearing of us concluded to visit the Cape Verds [sic] where they so much surprised us and by their unskilfulness [sic] allowed an escape that ought deservedly to claim the merits of a victory. After lying in the harbour of Port Praya throughout the night of Saturday (during which time the Constitution must have been standing to the Southward and Eastward, or beating up between the islands and the coast of Africa, and in either case had she been pursued must have been overtaken by one or other of the three ships) without evincing any disposition to pursue the Constitution, on the following morning the order was given to weigh, and at 11 o'clock the commodore exchanged salutes with the governor. It has been already stated that the guns of the Portuguese in the harbour of Port Praya instead of being used in the defense of those who had sought their protection were used to compel a speedier surrender to the enemy. This was literally the case, for the moment the British squadron hove in sight off the harbour, and indicated a disposition to attack us, the guns from the Portuguese forts commenced a fire upon us; nor did they cease after we had got under weigh until their shot would no longer reach‑‑ Upon the return of the Levant to the harbour she was welcomed back in the same stile [sic] although the American colours were yet flying on board her, and the presumption is that as long as those colours continued to fly so long would they hostilely having continued, had they not been dislodged from their forts by the shot from the enemy's vessels, which passed over or through us, creating alarm and dismay among them, and penetrating as well as others, the house of their Governor, and their church. Notwithstanding these multiplied enormities, this outrageous violation of his sovereign's rights, this total want of respect for himself, and the people over whom he presided, and the wantonness which had endangered so many of their lives, notwithstanding all this, this Portuguese Viceroy, Governor, or whatever other title may be most applicable to so black a villain, consented to compromise, (for a cask of wine sent to him by the commodore and a promise of uncontested possession of the boats unavoidably cut a drift [sic] by the Constitution and her prizes) the indignities offered to his sovereign, and returned the Salute of the commodore [sic] when under weigh gun for gun. The Squadron, now under weigh, consisting of the Leander, Sir George Collier‑‑ the New Castle, Lord Geo. Stewart‑‑ the Acasta, Capt Kerr and the Levant their illegal prize, shaped their course for Barbadoes, the British officers full confident of intercepting the Constitution, and building pretty security upon the recapture of the Cyane, whom they had seen square away to the Southward and Westwd and whom they knew had not yet hauled up for the States. How earnestly their prisoners wished them disappointed in these anticipations must be apparent. There is little doubt from what has since transpired that had they conducted themselves as their duty to their country required that both these objectives would have been accomplished, but for eight days after leaving the Cape Verde islands [sic], these four ships were never without signal distance of each other; in the mean time the cyane was beating to the Nd & Ed and passed astern of the squadron before she shaped her course for America. On the 9th day after leaving the harbour of Port Praya the Levant was instructed to make the best of her way to Barbadoes and upon her arrival to request of the admiral to permit the Venerable 74 to look out to windward while this gallant and puissant squadron went in pursuit of the constitution on the Coast of South America‑‑ On the 26th of March the Levant arrived at Barbadoes, and in one hour after the Venerable was out of sight to windward under a press of sail. How my time passed in crossing the Atlantic is a subject that I take no pleasure in recording, suffice it that the unmanly exultation that I was every day doomed to hear and see made my arrival, even as a prisoner, a circumstance more to be desired than regretted. The conduct and gentlemanly feeling of Lieutenant Jellicoe, (second of the Cyane, placed in charge of the Levant when she was retaken), was such as in a great degree to counteract most of the other disagreeables to which I was subjected when he was not present, and from which I had no appeal, and no refuge but retort, and much to my chagrin, I must say, that I was by no means sparing in recrimination. On my arrival in Barbadoes a great cause of exultation was the supposed capture by the Endymion Capt Hope of the President but a few days turned the tables [sic]

 

 

This typescript was made from the microfilm of the Humphreys mss. collection in the Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana. Permission to quote, or publish from this material or to reproduce this material for any purpose must be obtained from the Curator of Manuscripts, Lilly Library, Bloomington, Indiana.