Captain Ingraham Teaches Austria A Lesson


NOW I have a story to tell you about how this country looks after its

citizens abroad. It is not a long story, but it is a good one, and

Americans have been proud of Captain Ingraham ever since his gallant


In 1848 there was a great rebellion in Hungary against Austria. Some

terrible fighting took place and then it was put down with much cruelty

and slaughter. The Austrian government tried to seize all the leaders of

the Hungarian patriots and put them to death, but several of them

escaped to Turkey and took refuge in the City of Smyrna. Among these was

the celebrated Louis Kossuth, and another man named Koszta.

Austria asked Turkey to give these men up, but the Sultan of Turkey

refused to do so. Soon after that Koszta came to the United States, and

there in 1852 he took the first step towards becoming an American

citizen. He was sure that the United States would take care of its

citizens. And he found out that it would.

The next year he had to go back to Smyrna on some business. That was not

a safe place for him. The Austrians hated him as they did all the

Hungarian patriots. They did not ask Turkey again to give him up, but

there was an Austrian warship, the Huszar, in the harbor, and a plot

was made to seize Koszta and take him on board this ship. Then he could

easily be carried to Austria and put to death as a rebel.

One day, while Koszta was sitting quietly in the Marina, a public place

in Smyrna, he was seized by a number of Greeks, who had been hired to do

so by the Austrian consul. They bound him with ropes and carried him on

board the Huszar.

It looked bad now for poor Koszta, for he was in the hands of his

enemies. It is said that the Archduke John, brother of the Emperor of

Austria, was captain of the ship. By his orders iron fetters were

riveted on the ankles and wrists of Koszta, and he was locked up in the

ship as one who had committed a great crime.

But a piece of great good fortune for the prisoner happened, for the

next day the St. Louis, an American sloop-of-war, came sailing into

the harbor. Captain Duncan N. Ingraham, who had been a midshipman in the

War of 1812, was in command.

He was just the man to be there. He was soon told what had taken place,

and that the prisoner claimed to be an American, and he at once sent an

officer to the Huszar and asked if he could see Koszta. He was told

that he might do so.

Captain Ingraham went to the Austrian ship and had an interview with the

prisoner, who told him his story, and said that he had taken the first

step to become a citizen of the United States. He begged the captain to

protect him.

Captain Ingraham was satisfied that Koszta had a just claim to the

protection of the American flag, and asked the Austrians to release him.

They refused to do so, and he then wrote to Mr. Brown, the American

consul at Constantinople and asked him what he should do.

Before he could get an answer a squadron of Austrian warships, six in

number, came gliding into the harbor, and dropped anchor near the

Huszar. It looked worse than ever now for poor Koszta, for what could

the little St. Louis do against seven big ships? But Captain Ingraham

did not let that trouble him. In his mind right was stronger than might,

and he was ready to fight ten to one for the honor of his flag.

While he was waiting for an answer from Consul Brown he saw that the

Huszar was getting ready to leave the harbor. Her anchor was drawn up

and her sails were set. Ingraham made up his mind that if the Huszar

left, it would have to be over the wreck of the St. Louis. He spread

his sails in a hurry and drove his sloop-of-war right in the track of

the Austrian ship. Then he gave orders to his men to make ready for a


When Archduke John saw the gun-ports of the St. Louis open he brought

his ship to a standstill and Captain Ingraham went on board.

"What do you intend to do?" he asked.

"To sail for home," said the Austrian. "Our consul orders us to take our

prisoner to Austria."

"You must pardon me," said Captain Ingraham, "but if you try to leave

this port with that American I shall be compelled to resort to extreme


That was a polite way of saying that Koszta should not be taken away if

he could prevent it.

The Austrian looked at the six ships of his nation that lay near him.

Then he looked at the one American ship. Then a pleasant smile came on

his face.

"I fear I shall have to go on, whether it is to your liking or not," he

said, in a very polite tone.

Captain Ingraham made no answer. He bowed to the Archduke and then

descended into his boat and returned to the St. Louis.

"Clear the ship for action!" he ordered. The tars sprang to their

stations, the ports were opened, and the guns thrust out. There was many

a grim face behind them.

The Archduke stared when he saw these black-mouthed guns. He was in the

wrong and he knew it. And he saw that the American meant business. He

could soon settle the little St. Louis with his seven ships. But the

great United States was behind that one ship, and war might be behind

all that.

So the Archduke took the wisest course, turned his ship about, and

sailed back. Then he sent word to Ingraham that he would wait till

Consul Brown's answer came.

The Consul's reply came on July 1. It said that Captain Ingraham had

done just right, and advised him to go on and stand for the honor of his


The daring American now took a bold step. He sent a note to the

Archduke, demanding the release of Koszta. And he said that if the

prisoner was not sent on board the St. Louis by four o'clock the next

afternoon, he would take him from the Austrians by force of arms.

A refusal came back from the Austrian ship. They would not give up their

prisoner, they said. Now it looked like war indeed. Captain Ingraham

waited till eight o'clock the next morning, and then he had his decks

cleared for action and brought his guns to bear on the Huszar. The

seven Austrian ships turned their guns on the St. Louis. The train was

laid; a spark might set it off.

At ten o'clock an Austrian officer came on board the St. Louis. He

began to talk round the subject. Ingraham would not listen to him. It

must be one thing or nothing.

"All I will agree to is to have the man given into the care of the

French consul at Smyrna till you can hear from your government," he

said. "But he must be delivered there or I will take him. I have stated

the time at four o'clock this afternoon."

The Austrian went back. When twelve o'clock came a boat left the

Huszar and was rowed in shore. An hour later the French consul sent

word to Captain Ingraham that Koszta had been put under his charge.

Captain Ingraham had won. Soon after, several of the Austrian ships got

under way and left the harbor. They had tried to scare Captain Ingraham

by a show of force, but they had tried in vain.

When news of the event reached the United States everybody cheered the

spirit of Captain Ingraham. He had given Europe a new idea of what the

rights of an American citizen meant. The diplomats now took up the case

and long letters passed between Vienna and Washington. But in the end

Austria acknowledged that the United States was right, and sent an


As for Koszta, the American flag gave him life and liberty. Since then

American citizenship has been respected everywhere.

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