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American Heros

The General Armstrong Privateer
We have fought such a fight for a day and a night As m...

Sheridan At Cedar Creek
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The Burning Of The Philadelphia
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The Battle Of New Orleans
The heavy fog of morning Still hid the plain from...

Remember The Alamo
The muffled drum's sad roll has beat The soldier'...

The Death Of Stonewall Jackson
Like a servant of the Lord, with his bible and his sword...

The Storming Of Stony Point
In their ragged regimentals Stood the old Contin...

The brilliant historian of the English people [*] has written...

George Rogers Clark And The Conquest Of The Northwest
Have the elder races halted? Do they droop and end the...

King's Mountain
Our fortress is the good greenwood, Our tent the ...

General Grant And The Vicksburg Campaign
What flag is this you carry Along the sea and sho...

John Quincy Adams And The Right Of Petition
He rests with the immortals; his journey has been long: ...

Farragut At Mobile Bay
Ha, old ship, do they thrill, The brave two hundre...

The Cruise Of The Wasp
A crash as when some swollen cloud Cracks o'er th...

Lieutenant Cushing And The Ram Albemarle
God give us peace! Not such as lulls to sleep, But...

Daniel Boone And The Founding Of Kentucky
... Boone lived hunting up to ninety; And, what's s...

Charles Russell Lowell
Wut's wurds to them whose faith an' truth On war'...

We are but warriors for the working-day; Our gayne...

Hampton Roads
Then far away to the south uprose A little feathe...

Francis Parkman
(1822-1893) He told the red man's story; far and wide...

The Cruise Of The Wasp

A crash as when some swollen cloud
Cracks o'er the tangled trees!
With side to side, and spar to spar,
Whose smoking decks are these?
I know St. George's blood-red cross,
Thou mistress of the seas,
But what is she whose streaming bars
Roll out before the breeze?

Ah, well her iron ribs are knit,
Whose thunders strive to quell
The bellowing throats, the blazing lips,
That pealed the Armada's knell!
The mist was cleared,--a wreath of stars
Rose o'er the crimsoned swell,
And, wavering from its haughty peak,
The cross of England fell!

In the war of 1812 the little American navy, including only a dozen
frigates and sloops of war, won a series of victories against the
English, the hitherto undoubted masters of the sea, that attracted an
attention altogether out of proportion to the force of the combatants
or the actual damage done. For one hundred and fifty years the English
ships of war had failed to find fit rivals in those of any other
European power, although they had been matched against each in turn; and
when the unknown navy of the new nation growing up across the Atlantic
did what no European navy had ever been able to do, not only the English
and Americans, but the people of Continental Europe as well, regarded
the feat as important out of all proportion to the material aspects of
the case. The Americans first proved that the English could be beaten
at their own game on the sea. They did what the huge fleets of France,
Spain, and Holland had failed to do, and the great modern writers
on naval warfare in Continental Europe--men like Jurien de la
Graviere--have paid the same attention to these contests of frigates and
sloops that they give to whole fleet actions of other wars.

Among the famous ships of the Americans in this war were two named the
Wasp. The first was an eighteen-gun ship-sloop, which at the very
outset of the war captured a British brig-sloop of twenty guns, after
an engagement in which the British fought with great gallantry, but were
knocked to Pieces, while the Americans escaped comparatively unscathed.
Immediately afterward a British seventy-four captured the victor. In
memory of her the Americans gave the same name to one of the new sloops
they were building. These sloops were stoutly made, speedy vessels which
in strength and swiftness compared favorably with any ships of their
class in any other navy of the day, for the American shipwrights were
already as famous as the American gunners and seamen. The new Wasp, like
her sister ships, carried twenty-two guns and a crew of one hundred
and seventy men, and was ship-rigged. Twenty of her guns were 32-pound
carronades, while for bow-chasers she had two "long Toms." It was in
the year 1814 that the Wasp sailed from the United States to prey on the
navy and commerce of Great Britain. Her commander was a gallant South
Carolinian named Captain Johnson Blakeley. Her crew were nearly all
native Americans, and were an exceptionally fine set of men. Instead of
staying near the American coasts or of sailing the high seas, the Wasp
at once headed boldly for the English Channel, to carry the war to the
very doors of the enemy.

At that time the English fleets had destroyed the navies of every other
power of Europe, and had obtained such complete supremacy over the
French that the French fleets were kept in port. Off these ports lay the
great squadrons of the English ships of the line, never, in gale or
in calm, relaxing their watch upon the rival war-ships of the French
emperor. So close was the blockade of the French ports, and so hopeless
were the French of making headway in battle with their antagonists,
that not only the great French three-deckers and two-deckers, but their
frigates and sloops as well, lay harmless in their harbors, and the
English ships patroled the seas unchecked in every direction. A few
French privateers still slipped out now and then, and the far bolder and
more formidable American privateersmen drove hither and thither across
the ocean in their swift schooners and brigantines, and harried the
English commerce without mercy.

The Wasp proceeded at once to cruise in the English Channel and off
the coasts of England, France, and Spain. Here the water was traversed
continually by English fleets and squadrons and single ships of war,
which were sometimes covoying detachments of troops for Wellington's
Peninsular army, sometimes guarding fleets of merchant vessels bound
homeward, and sometimes merely cruising for foes. It was this spot,
right in the teeth of the British naval power, that the Wasp chose for
her cruising ground. Hither and thither she sailed through the narrow
seas, capturing and destroying the merchantmen, and by the seamanship
of her crew and the skill and vigilance of her commander, escaping the
pursuit of frigate and ship of the line. Before she had been long on the
ground, one June morning, while in chase of a couple of merchant ships,
she spied a sloop of war, the British brig Reindeer, of eighteen guns
and a hundred and twenty men. The Reindeer was a weaker ship than the
Wasp, her guns were lighter, and her men fewer; but her commander,
Captain Manners, was one of the most gallant men in the splendid British
navy, and he promptly took up the gage of battle which the Wasp threw

The day was calm and nearly still; only a light wind stirred across the
sea. At one o'clock the Wasp's drum beat to quarters, and the sailors
and marines gathered at their appointed posts. The drum of the Reindeer
responded to the challenge, and with her sails reduced to fighting trim,
her guns run out, and every man ready, she came down upon the Yankee
ship. On her forecastle she had rigged a light carronade, and coming up
from behind, she five times discharged this pointblank into the American
sloop; then in the light air the latter luffed round, firing her guns
as they bore, and the two ships engaged yard-arm to yard-arm. The guns
leaped and thundered as the grimy gunners hurled them out to fire and
back again to load, working like demons. For a few minutes the cannonade
was tremendous, and the men in the tops could hardly see the decks for
the wreck of flying splinters. Then the vessels ground together, and
through the open ports the rival gunners hewed, hacked, and thrust at
one another, while the black smoke curled up from between the hulls. The
English were suffering terribly. Captain Manners himself was wounded,
and realizing that he was doomed to defeat unless by some desperate
effort he could avert it, he gave the signal to board. At the call the
boarders gathered, naked to the waist, black with powder and spattered
with blood, cutlas and pistol in hand. But the Americans were ready.
Their marines were drawn up on deck, the pikemen stood behind the
bulwarks, and the officers watched, cool and alert, every movement of
the foe. Then the British sea-dogs tumbled aboard, only to perish by
shot or steel. The combatants slashed and stabbed with savage fury, and
the assailants were driven back. Manners sprang to their head to lead
them again himself, when a ball fired by one of the sailors in the
American tops crashed through his skull, and he fell, sword in hand,
with his face to the foe, dying as honorable a death as ever a brave man
died in fighting against odds for the flag of his country. As he fell
the American officers passed the word to board. With wild cheers the
fighting sailormen sprang forward, sweeping the wreck of the British
force before them, and in a minute the Reindeer was in their possession.
All of her officers, and nearly two thirds of the crew, were killed or
wounded; but they had proved themselves as skilful as they were brave,
and twenty-six of the Americans had been killed or wounded.

The Wasp set fire to her prize, and after retiring to a French port to
refit, came out again to cruise. For some time she met no antagonist
of her own size with which to wage war, and she had to exercise the
sharpest vigilance to escape capture. Late one September afternoon, when
she could see ships of war all around her, she selected one which was
isolated from the others, and decided to run alongside her and try to
sink her after nightfall. Accordingly she set her sails in pursuit, and
drew steadily toward her antagonist, a big eighteen-gun brig, the Avon,
a ship more powerful than the Reindeer. The Avon kept signaling to two
other British war vessels which were in sight--one an eighteen-gun brig
and the other a twenty-gun ship; they were so close that the Wasp
was afraid they would interfere before the combat could be ended.
Nevertheless, Blakeley persevered, and made his attack with equal skill
and daring. It was after dark when he ran alongside his opponent,
and they began forthwith to exchange furious broadsides. As the ships
plunged and wallowed in the seas, the Americans could see the clusters
of topmen in the rigging of their opponent, but they knew nothing of
the vessel's name or of her force, save only so far as they felt it. The
firing was fast and furious, but the British shot with bad aim, while
the skilled American gunners hulled their opponent at almost every
discharge. In a very few minutes the Avon was in a sinking condition,
and she struck her flag and cried for quarter, having lost forty or
fifty men, while but three of the Americans had fallen. Before the Wasp
could take possession of her opponent, however, the two war vessels
to which the Avon had been signaling came up. One of them fired at the

Wasp, and as the latter could not fight two new foes, she ran off easily
before the wind. Neither of her new antagonists followed her, devoting
themselves to picking up the crew of the sinking Avon.

It would be hard to find a braver feat more skilfully performed
than this; for Captain Blakeley, with hostile foes all round him, had
closed with and sunk one antagonist not greatly his inferior in force,
suffering hardly any loss himself, while two of her friends were coming
to her help.

Both before and after this the Wasp cruised hither and thither making
prizes. Once she came across a convoy of ships bearing arms and
munitions to Wellington's army, under the care of a great two-decker.
Hovering about, the swift sloop evaded the two-decker's movements, and
actually cut out and captured one of the transports she was guarding,
making her escape unharmed. Then she sailed for the high seas. She made
several other prizes, and on October 9 spoke a Swedish brig.

This was the last that was ever heard of the gallant Wasp. She never
again appeared, and no trace of any of those aboard her was ever found.
Whether she was wrecked on some desert coast, whether she foundered
in some furious gale, or what befell her none ever knew. All that is
certain is that she perished, and that all on board her met death in
some one of the myriad forms in which it must always be faced by those
who go down to the sea in ships; and when she sank there sank one of the
most gallant ships of the American navy, with as brave a captain and
crew as ever sailed from any port of the New World.

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