Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

suite, together with a supply of stores, particularly 1812. of copper, for the Cornwallis 74, and Chameleon and Icarus 10-gun sloops, building at Bombay. There was no difficulty in commissioning the ship, in calking her sides and decks, in fitting up her accommodations, in putting on board her 46 guns, or her stores for the voyage, or for the new ships building; but there was a difficulty in providing her with a crew. Officers, and a few petty-officers, were soon obtained. The ship’s 50 marines also came on board ; and, although 18 of the number were raw. recruits, they were upon the whole a good set 'of men. Then came about 60 Irishmen, who had never smelt salt water, except in crossing from their own shores to England. As a fine addition to a crew that, in less than a month after the ship sailed, might have to fight an american frigate similar to that which had taken the Guerrière, a draught of 50 disaffected wretches came on board from the 18-gun ship-sloop Coquette, lying at Spithead. Pressgangs and the prison-ships furnished others not much better. As to boys, the established number, 23, was easily filled up; and, at length, 292, out of a complement of 300, men and boys were got together.

Feeling as every brave officer must feel, captain ReLambert remonstrated about the inefficiency of his strand ship's company; but he was told that a voyage to of capt. the East Indies and back would make a good crew. berton It was in vain to urge the matter further; and, as thie

subject some slight amendment to the Java's crew, eight seamen were allowed to volunteer from the Rodney 74. Thus, out of a complement of 300 men and boys, the whole number of petty-officers and men, exclusively of those of the former that walked the quarterdeck, who had ever been present in an action, amounted to fewer than 50. Here was a ship's company! As several officers and men were to come on board as passengers, some hopes were entertained that these might compensate for the worthlessness of the crew; but, of the 86 supernumeraries, a very large proportion turned out to be marine-society boys.

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

and cap

1

1812. Manned in this way, with a total of 397 persons

of Dec. every description, the Java, on the 12th of NoSails vember, set sail from Spithead, having in charge two from outward-bound indiamen. On the 12th of Decemhead ber the Java captured the american ship William,

and placed on board a master's mate and 19 men, tures a (the latter of some experience, undoubtedly, or they prize. would have been of no use there,) with orders to

keep company. On the 24th, being rather short of
water, and being unable, without much difficulty, to
get at what remained in the hold, on account of some
articles of stores that laid over the casks, captain
Lambert determined to put into St.-Salvador. With
this object in view, the Java altered her course; but
the two Bombay ships, not wishing to go so far out
of their way, parted company, and proceeded alone
on their voyage.

Hitherto, owing to the necessity, in a newly fitted
ship, of setting up the rigging, to the length of
time, that a crew so inexperienced as the Java’s would
expend in the operation, to the number of other extra
duties required on board a fighting ship so loaded
and lumbered as the Java, and, particularly, to a
succession of gales of wind since the day of departure,

the men had only been exercised occasionally at of Java training the guns. But, as the ship was now aptake proaching a coast, where there was a probability of first falling in with an enemy's frigate, french or american, aces the captain Lambert, on the 28th, ordered the crew to

be exercised at firing the guns. Accordingly, for
the first time since she had become a british frigate,
the Java, on that evening, discharged six broad-
sides of blank cartridges. With the majority of
the crew, of course, those six broadsides were
the first they had ever assisted in firing.

What
a crew to go into action, not with an american
frigate a third superior, but with a french frigate
barely their equal! Previously to his departure
from Portsmouth, captain Lambert had actually
declared to some of his friends, that, owing solely
to the ineffective state of his crew, he did not

guns.

Dec.

Guns

[ocr errors]

consider himself equal to any french frigate he 1812. might meet.

Having no private brass guns, like the Macedonian, and no pair of long 18-pounders forward to of the bring down her head like the Guerrière, the Java frigates mounted no more, including 16 carronades, 32pounders, and two long nines, than her 46 guns and a boat-carronade. Since her action with the Guerrière, either because the ship was beginning to hog, or for some unexplained reason, the Constitution had disarmed herself of two of her 32-pounder carronades, and taken on board one 18-pounder carronade fitted on a travelling carriage; and for which, as has already been shown, she had more than one pair of spare ports.

Casting off the William, with directions to her to Java proceed to St.-Salvador, the Java, soon after 8 A. M., off the with the wind blowing moderately from the north-Wineast, bore up in chase of the Constitution, then in and the south-south-west, standing on the larboard tack. At 10 a. M. the Java made the private Constisignals, english, spanish, and portuguese, in succession; none of which were answered. At 10 h. 45 m. the Constitution tacked to the northward and westward, and stood for the Java; whom captain Bainbridge took for his expected consort, the Essex. At noon, when about four miles distant, the

frigate Constitution hoisted the private signal. Having hoists kept it flying 10 minutes, and finding it not answered, colours the Constitution wore from the Java, as the american and account states, to avoid being raked; and, again pare setting her mainsail and royals, kept away about for the two points free, in order, as commodore Bainbridge says, to draw the Java from her consort, the William merchantman, then standing in for the land, and supposed probably to be another ship of

chases the

tution,

Each

[ocr errors]

war.

Hauling up, the Java steered a course, parallel to that of the Constitution, and gained upon her considerably; but, the breeze freshening, the Java, who was then going 10 knots, lay over so much, that she was obliged to

Dec,

Constitution opens

1812. take in her royals. At about 1 h. 30 m. P. M. the Constiso tution, who found no inconvenience from carrying her

royals, hoisted a commodore's pendant at the main, one american ensign at the mizen peak and another at the main topgallantmast-head, also an american jack at the fore. At 1 h. 40 m., by which time the Java had closed her within two miles, the american frigate shortened sail to top and topgallant sails, jib, and spanker, and luffed up to the wind. The british frigate now hoisted her colours, consisting of an ensign at the mizen peak, one union jack at the mizen topgallantmast-head, and another lashed to the main rigging; and, putting herself under top and topgallant sails, jib, and spanker, the Java stood for the Constitution, then bearing about three points on her lee bow.

At 2 h. 10 m. P. M., when by her lasking course

the Java had approached within half a mile of the herfire, Constitution, the latter opened a fire from her lar

board guns; the shot from which, as a proof of their good direction, splashed the water against the Java's starboard side. Not being so close as he wished, captain Lambert stood on until within pistol-shot on the Constitution's weather or larboard bow; when, at 2h. 20m. P. M., having received a second broadside, which, because the guns were now elevated too much, as before they had been too little, passed over her, the Java discharged a broadside in return. Almost every shot of this broadside took effect. The Constitution had her wheel knocked away, besides receiving other damage, and lost four men killed and several wounded.

Dreading a repetition of this warm salute, the tution american frigate, having fired her third broadside from without much effect, wore in the smoke to get fur

ther to-leeward. As soon as she discovered that her wary antagonist was running before the wind, the Java made sail after her; and at 2 h. 25 m. P. M.,* the Constitution, and then the Java, having

and action commences

Consti

the Java's fire.

* See diagram at p. 192.

ness of

crew.

come round on the starboard tack, the two frigates 1812, again exchanged broadsides. Again the Constitu- Dec. tion wore to get away. The Java wore also; and at 2 h. 35 m., passing slowly under the latter's stern, with her larboard main yard-arm over the Constitution's taffrail, which, owing to the height of her lower battery from the water and her being nearly eight feet between decks, was nearly as high as that of the 74-gun ship Plantagenet,* the british frigate Proof might have raked the american frigate in a most worthdestructive manner.t But, either panic-struck at the less sight of so large and formidable a ship, or unable, the from sheer ignorance, to appreciate the value of Java's the opportunity thus afforded them of reducing the strength of their antagonist, the Java's crew did not fire a gun, except the 9-pounder on the forecastle; and that was pointed and discharged by lieutenant James Saunders, one of the supernumerary officers. The Constitution had now the weathergage; but this did not suit her long-shot tactics : the american frigate therefore made sail free on the larboard tack, followed by the british frigate; who, at 2 h. 40 m., luffing up, crossed again, but in an oblique manner, the Constitution's stern, and fired, this time, two or three of her foremost starboard guns.

At 2 h. 43 m. P. M., feeling ashamed of thus avoid - Constiing an antagonist so much inferior in size and force to himself, or impelled by his officers, some of whom, her for perhaps, hinted at the powerless state of the Java's battery, as recently witnessed, commodore Bainbridge, but

again as he tells us in his journal, “ determined to close with the enemy notwithstanding his raking.” The Constitution accordingly hauled on board her fore and main tacks, and luffed up for her opponent. On arriving abreast of the Java, who had stood on upon the larboard tack, and now lay close to-windward, the Constitution shortened sail and engaged her. At

* Built, as well as the Courageux, without a poop. + See diagram.

tution closes

a short time,

wears.

« AnteriorContinuar »