ePub 版

shifted each a larboard-bow gun over to the starboard side—a course that almost any commander would be likely to adopt under the circumstances of the action. It is not probable that the Detroit, commencing her fire at so great a distance, with the certainty that it must be some time before her enemy could get within reach of his short-guns, neglected to bring her most available pieces into battery also. Admitting this to have been done, there would be a very different result in the figures. The Detroit fought 10 guns in broadside, and she had an armament that would permit her to bring to bear on the Lawrence, at one time, two 24s, one 18, six 12s, and one 9 pounder. This would leave the comparison between the guns as 6 are to 11, and between the metal as 84 are to 147. Nor is this all

. The Hunter lay close to the Detroit, and as the vessel which assailed her was still at long-shot, it is probable that she also brought the heaviest of her guns into broadside, and used them against the nearest vessel ; more particularly as her guns were light, and would be much the most useful in such a mode of firing.

But other circumstances conspired to sacrifice the Lawrence. Finding that he was suffering heavily, and that he had got nearly abreast of the Detroit, Perry furled his topgallant-sail, hauled up his foresail and rounded to, opening with his carronades. The distance from the enemy at which this was done, as well as the length of time after the commencement of the fire, have given rise to contradictory statements. The distance, Perry himself, in his official letter, says was “within canister shot,” a term too vague, to give any accurate notion that can be used in a critical analysis of the facts of the engagement. A canister shot, thrown from a heavy gun, would probably kill at a mile; though seamen are not apt to apply the term to so great a range. Still they use all such phrases as "yard-arm and yard-arm," " musket-shot," "canister-shot," and "pistol-shot” very vaguely; one applying a term to a distance twice as great as would be understood by another. The distance from the English line, at which the Lawrence backed her topsail, has been placed by some as far as half a mile, and by others as near as 300 yards. It was probably between the two, nearer to the last than to the first; though the brig, as she became crippled aloft, and so long as there was any wind, must have been slowly drifting nearer her enemies.

On the supposition that there was a two-knot breeze the whole time, that the action commenced when the Lawrence was a mile and a half from the enemy, and that she went within a quarter of a mile of the British line, she could not have backed ber topsail until after she had been under fire considerably more than half an hour. This was a period quite sufficient to cause her to suffer heavily, under the peculiar circumstances of the case.

The effect of a cannonade is always to deaden, or even “ to kill,” as it is technically termed by seamen, a light wind. Counteracting forces neutralize each other, and the constant explosions from guns, repel the currents of the atmosphere. This difficulty came to increase the critical nature of the Lawrence's situation, the wind falling to something very near, if not absolutely to a flat calm. This fact, which is material to a right understanding of the events of the day, is unanswerably shown in the following manner.

The fact that the gun-boats had been kept astern by the lightness of the wind, is mentioned by Perry, himself, in his official account of the battle. He also says, “at half past two, the wind springing up, Capt. Elliot was enabled to bring his vessel, the Niagara, gallantly into close ac. tion," leaving the unavoidable inference that a want of wind prevailed at an earlier period of the engagement. Several officers testify that it fell nearly calm, while no one denies it. One officer says it became “perfectly calm," and others go near to substantiate this statement. There is a physical fact, however, that disposes of this point more satisfactorily than can ever be done by the power of memories, or the value of opinions. Both Perry and his sailing master say that the Lawrence was perfectly unmanageable for a considerable time. This period, a rigid construction of Perry's language would make two hours; and by the most liberal that can be given to that of the master, must have been considerably more than one hour. It is physically impossible that a vessel, with her sails loose, should not drift a quarter of a mile, in an hour, had there been even a two-knot breeze. The want of this drift, which would have carried the Lawrence directly down into the English line had it existed, effectually shows, then, that there must have been a consid. erable period of the action, in which there was little or no wind, and corroborates the direct testi. mony that has been given on this point.

Previously, however, to its falling calm, or nearly so, and about the time the Lawrence backed her topsail, a change occurred in the British line. The Queen Charlotte had an armament of three long-guns, the heaviest of which is stated by Capt. Barclay to have been a 12 pounder, on a pivot, and fourteen 241b. carronades. The latter guns were shorter than common, and, of course, were useless when the ordinary American 321b. guns of this class could not be served. For some reason which has not been quite satisfactorily explained, this ship shifted her berth, after the engagement had lasted some time, filling her topsail, passing the Hunter, and closing with the Detroit, under her lee. Shortly after, however, she regained the line, directly astern of the commanding British vessel. The enemy's line being in very compact order, and the distance but trifling, the Queen Charlotte was enabled to effect this in a few minutes, there still being a little wind. The Detroit probably drew ahead to enable her to regain a proper position.

This evolution on the part of the Queen Charlotte has been differently accounted for. At the time it was made the Niagara was engaging her sufficiently near to do execution with her long

twelves, and, at the moment, it was the opinion on board that brig, that she had driven her oppo. nent out of the line. As the Queen Charlotte opened on the Lawrence with her carronades, as soon as she got into her new position, a more plausible motive was that she had shifted her berth, in order to bring her short-guns into efficient use. The letter of Capt. Barclay, however, gives a more probable solution to this manœuvre, than either of the foregoing conjectures. He says that Capt. Finnis, of the Queen Charlotte, was killed soon after the commencement of the action, and that her first lieutenant was shortly after struck senseless by a splinter. These two casualties threw the command of the vessel on a provincial officer of the name of Irvine. This part of Capt. Barclay's letter is not English, and has doubtless been altered a little in printing. Enough remains, however, to show, that

he attaches to the loss of the two officers mentioned, serious con. sequences; and in a connection that alludes to this change of position, since he speaks of the prospect of its leaving him the Niagara also to engage. From the fact that the Queen Charlotte first went under the lee of the Detroit, so close as to induce the Americans to think she was foul of the quarter of that ship, a position into which she never would have been carried had the mo. tive been merely to get nearer to the Lawrence, or further from the Niagara, we infer that the provincial officer, finding himself unexpectedly in his novel situation, went so near to the Detroit to report his casualties and to ask for orders, and that he regained the line in obedience to instructions from Capt. Barclay in person.

Whatever was the motive for changing the Queen Charlotte's position in the British line, the effect on the Lawrence was the same. Her fire was added to that of the Detroit, which ship appeared to direct all her guns at the leading American brig, alone. . Indeed, there was a period in this part of the action, during which most, if not all of the guns of the Detroit, the Queen Charlotte, and Hunter, were aimed at this one vessel. Perry appears to have been of opinion that it was a premeditated plan, on the part of the enemy, to destroy the commanding American vessel. It is true, that the Ariel, Scorpion, Caledonia, and Niagara, from a few minutes after the commencement of the action, were firing at the English ships, but that the latter disregarded them, in the main, would appear from the little loss the three small American vessels sustained, in particular. The Caledonia and Niagara, nforeover, were still too distant to render their assistance of much effect. About this time, however, the gun-boats astern got near enough to use their heavy guns, though most of them were yet a long way off. The Somers would seem to have engaged a short time before the others.

At length, Capt. Elliot finding himself kept astern by the bad sailing of the Caledonia, and his own brig so near as again to be under the necessity of bracing her topsail aback, to prevent going into her, determined to assume the responsibility of changing the line of battle, and to pass the Caledonia. He accordingly hailed the latter, and directed that brig to put her helm up and let the Niagara pass ahead. As this order was obeyed, the Niagara filled and drew slowly ahead, continuing to approach the Lawrence as fast as the air would allow. This change did not take place, however, until the Lawrence had suffered so heavily as to render her substantially a beaten ship:

The evidence that has been given on the details is so contradictory and confused, as to render it exceedingly difficult to say whether the comparative calm of which we have spoken occurred before or after this change in the relative positions of the Lawrence and Caledonia. Some wind there must have been, at this time, or the Niagara could not have passed. As the wind had been light and baffling most of the day, it is even probable that there may have been intervals in it, to reconcile in some measure these apparent contradictions, and which will explain the inconsistencies. After the Niagara had passed her second ahead, to do which she had made sail, she continued to approach the Lawrence in a greater or less degree of movement, as there may have been more or less wind, until she had got near enough to the heavier vessels of the enemy to open on them with her carronades ; always keeping in the Lawrence's wake. The Caledonia, having pivot guns, and being now nearly or quite abeam of the Hunter, the vessel she had been directed to engage, kept off more, and was slowly drawing nearer to the enemy's line. The gun-vessels astern were closing, too, though not in any order, using their sweeps, and throwing the shot of their long heavy guns, principally 32 pounders, quite to the head of the British line ; beginning to tell effectually in the combat.

As the wind was so light, and the movements of all the vessels had been so slow, much time was consumed in these several changes. The Lawrence had now been under fire more than two hours, and, being almost the sole aim of the headmost English ships, she was dismantled. Her decks were covered with killed and wounded, and every gun but one in her starboard battery was dismounted, either by shot or its own recoil. At this moment, or at about half past two, agreeably to Perry's official letter, the wind sprung up and produced a general change among the ves. sels. One of its first effects was to set the Lawrence, perfectly unmanageable as she was, astern and to leeward, or to cause her to drop, as it has been described by Capt. Barclay, while the enemy appear to have filled, and to commence drawing ahead. The Lady Prevost, which had been in the rear of the British line, passed to leeward and ahead, under the published plea of having had her rudder injured, but probably suffering from the heavy metal of the American gunvessels as they came nearer. An intention existed on the part of Capt. Barclay to get his vessels

[ocr errors]

[The narrative is continued on the next page.] (Mr. Cooper illustrates his parrative with three diagrams, of which we have room for only two. According to his first diagram the two fleete occupied nearly the same relative position as in diagram II, except that they were a little more distant. Nos. 1 and 2 of the Americans were as in diagram II; the others were in a straight line in the regular order of the numbers The irregularity of the numbers in diagram II, shows the changes of position in both floete. Mr. Cooper says, in connection with diagram 1 :)

The English are heading about 8. S. W., a little off, lying-to; the Americans about S. W., or with the wind abeam: the leading American vessels about 8 mile

from the enemy, and the sternmost more than two. The Lawrence having made sail, is leaving the Caledonia. The witnesses who testify against Capt. Elliott, evidently think he ought to have passed the Caledonia in this stage of the battle, without orders.

A. English. 1, Chippewa. 2. Detroit. 3. Hunter. 4, Queen Charlotte. 5, Lady Prevost. 6, Little Belt.

. , 2, . %, 8, Tigross. Trippe.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]
[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small]

In thiş diagram the Lawrence is lying abreast of the English ships, hove-to; No. 5, the Niagara, has passed No. 4, the
Caledonin, and the vessels astern are endeavoring

to get

down. The distances are not accurate, on account of the small space on which the diagram is drawn, but the intention is to represent the Lawrence at about a quarter of a mile from the enemy, and the Niagara nearly as far astern of her. The

Niagara, Caledonia, &c., are all placed a little too far to leczoard in this dingram. The four sternmost American vessels, at this period of the action, were probably

a mile and a half from the enemy, but making the shot of their long heavy guns tell. At this period of the action it must have been nearly, or quite calm.


[ocr errors][merged small][graphic][subsumed]

round, in order to bring fresh broadsides to bear. The larboard battery of the Detroit by this time was nearly useless, many of the guns having lost even their trucks, and, as usually happens in a long cannonade, the pieces that had been used were getting to be unserviceable, from one cause or another.

At this moment the Niagara passed the Lawrence to windward, and then kept off towards the head of the enemy's line, which was slowly drawing more towards the southward and westward. In order to do this, she set topgallant-sails and brought the wind abaft the beam. The Caledonia also followed the enemy, passing inside the Lawrence, having got nearer to the enemy, at that moment, than any other American vessel. As soon as Perry perceived that his own brig was dropping, and that the battle was passing ahead of him, he got into a boat, taking with him a young brother, a midshipman of the Lawrence, and pulled after the Niagara, then a short distance ahead of him. When he reached the latter brig, he found her from three to five hundred yards to windward of the principal force of the enemy, and nearly abreast of the Detroit, that ship, the Queen Charlotte, and the Lady Prevost being now quite near each other, and probably two cables' length to the southward and westward; or that distance nearly ahead of the Lawrence, and about as far from the enemy's line as the latter brig had been lying for the last hour.

Perry now had a few words of explanation with Capt. Elliot, when the latter officer volunteered to go in the boat, and bring down the gun-vessels, which were still astern, and a good deal scattered. As this was doing precisely what Perry wished to have done, Capt. Elliot proceeded on this duty immediately, leaving his own brig, to which he did not return until after the engage. ment had terminated. Perry now backed the main-topsail of the Niagara, being fairly abeam of his enemy, and showed the signal for close action. After waiting a few minutes for the different vessels to answer and to close, the latter of which they were now doing fast as the wind con. tinued to increase, he bore up, bringing the wind on the starboard quarter of the Niagara, and stood down upon the enemy, passing directly through his line. Capt. Barclay, with a view of getting his fresh broadsides to bear, was in the act of attempting to ware, as the Niagara approached, but his vessel being much crippled aloft, and the Queen Charlotte being badly handled, the latter ship got foul of the Detroit, on her starboard quarter. At this critical instant, the Niagara had passed the commanding British vessel's bow, and coming to the wind on the starboard tack, lay raking the two ships of the enemy, at close quarters, and with fatal effect. By this time, the gun-vessels under Capt. Elliot had closed to windward of the enemy, the Caledonia in company, and the raking cross-fire soon compelled the enemy to haul down their colors. The Detroit, Queen Charlotte, Lady Prevost, and Hunter, struck under this fire, being in the mélée of vessels ; but the Chippewa and Little Belt made sail and endeavored to escape to leeward. They were followed by the Scorpion and Trippe, which vessels came up with them in about an hour, and firing a shot or two into them, they both submitted. The Lawrence had struck her flag also, soon after Perry quitted her.

Such, in its outline, appears to have been the picture presented by a battle that has given rise to more controversy than all the other naval combats of the republic united. We are quite aware that by rejecting all the testimony that has been given on one side of the disputed points, and by exaggerating and mutilating that which has been given on the other, a different representation might be made of some of the incidents; but, on comparing one portion of the evidence with another, selecting in all instances that which in the nature of things should be best, and bringing the whole within the laws of physics and probabilities, we believe that no other result, in the main, can be reached, than the one which has been given. To return more particularly to our subject.

Perry had manifested the best spirit, and the most indomitable resolution not to be overcome, throughout the trying scenes of this eventful day. Just before the action commenced, he coolly prepared his public letters, to be thrown overboard in the event of misfortune, glanced his eyes over those which he had received from his wife, and then tore them. He appeared fully sensible of the magnitude of the stake which was at issue, remarking to one of his officers, who possessed his confidence, that this day was the most important of his life. In a word, it was not possible for a commander to go into action in a better frame of mind, and his conduct in this particular might well serve for an example to all who find themselves similarly circumstanced. The possibility of defeat appears not to have been lost sight of, but in no degree impaired the determination to contend for victory. The situation of the Lawrence was most critical, the slaughter on board her being terrible, and yet no man read discouragement in his countenance. The survi. vors all unite in saying that he did not manifest even the anxiety he must have felt at the omin. ous appearance of things The Lawrence vas effectually a beaten hip an hour before she struck; but Perry felt the vast importance of keeping the colors of the commanding vessel flying to the last moment; and the instant an opportunity presented itself to redeem the seemingly waning fortunes of the day, he seized it with promptitude, carrying off the victory not only in triumph, but apparently against all the accidents and chances which for a time menaced him with defeat.

His victory at once raised Perry from comparative obscurity to a high degree of renown before the nation. With the navy he had always stood well, but neither his rank nor his age had given him an opportunity of becoming known to the world. The government granted gold medals to

Perry and his second in command, and the former was promoted to be a captain, his commission being dated on the 10th Sept. 1813. As he returned to the older parts of the country, his journey was a species of triumph, in which warm spontaneous feeling, however, rather than studied exhibition, predominated.

After several years of useful and honorable service in the navy, Com. Perry died at Trinidad, on the 23d Aug. 1819, at the age of 34. Several of the victorious vessels, with their prizes, lay sunk for many years in the harbor at Erie. The Queen Charlotte, and perhaps others of them, were recently raised and put into use on the lake.

WATERFORD, a pleasant borough, is situated at Le Bæuf lake, on the turnpike between Erie and Pittsburg, 13 miles southeast of Erie. The town contains an academy, a flouring-mill, one or more churches, &c. Population in 1840, 403. This place was laid out by Andrew Ellicott, in 1794, and the survey was confirmed by the act of 1795. It had been settled as early as 1792–93. The state had a garrison here about that time for the protection of the surveyors on the donation and state lands. A part of the old blockhouse still remains, attached to the large hotel where the stages stop. Among the first settlers here were Robert King, Martin Strong, Gen. Charles Martin, and others. The place was then known as Le Beuf, the name of Waterford having been given by the law of 1795. The early French history of this place is given above, in the history of the county. Waterford was a busy point while the transportation of salt was carried on across the portage from Presqu'isle, and down the waters of Le Beuf and French crs. to Pittsburg. This trade ceased with the opening of the salt-wells on the Kiskiminetas, about the year 1820.

NORTHEAST is situated near the lake, on the Buffalo road, 16 miles northeast from Erie. It is a very neat and pleasant borough, containing, by the census of 1840, 339 inhabitants. Sixteen-mile cr. enters the lake near this place, and affords water-power for several manufacturing establishments. This place was formerly called Burgettstown.

A curious case of partial insanity, resulting, we understand, from belief in Rev. Mr. Miller's theory respecting the end of the world, has lately occurred at Northeast, Pa., the statements relative to which are furnished by a friend. The subject is a young man named Putnam, who imbibed the notion that he should die on the last day of the year just expired. For some length of time he had been laboring under this delusion, which he strenuously declared was made known to him by revelation. So infatuated was he with the idea, that he gave up his business, employed his time in drawing devices on the tomb-stones in the grave-yard, and occupied nine days in hewing out a sepulchre in which to die--a grave six feet deep in a rock! Accordingly, having made all the preparations, he proceeded to his tomb, which was situated in a secluded spot, accompanied by some two hundred persons, present by invite, and unflinchingly laid himself down in his grave to die. He remained there for the space of an hour and a half, the assembled multitude, no doubt, waiting with anxious suspense to see him give up the ghost; but, to use a vulgar phrase, "he couldn't come it.” The miserable man crept out of his hole and departed thence, strongly impressed that he should not die that day.-Fredonia Censor.

WATTSBURG is at the forks of French cr., 18 miles southeast from Erie. There is a fine water-power here. Population in 1840, 131. A railroad was once projected from Erie, through this place, to Jamestown, and thence to connect with the New York and Erie ad.

GIRARD is a flourishing village, on the road to Cleveland, 16 miles west of Erie. The canal is located through this place; and it enjoys also the advantage of the water-power of Elk cr.

FAIRVIEW is about 9 miles west of Erie, near the confluence of Walnut cr. with the lake. It contains several grist, paper, and fulling mills.

« 上一頁繼續 »