Captain Ingraham Teaches Austria A Lesson
OUR NAVY UPHOLDS THE RIGHTS OF AN AMERICAN IN A FOREIGN LAND
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 i
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
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
"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
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.