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In the opinion of the writer,
he had, in the then condition of the theory and practice of fleet
battles; his transfer of his own position transferred the line of
battle in its entirety to the distance relative to the enemy which he
himself was seeking to assume. Were other authority lacking, his
action was warrant to his captains; but the expression in his report,
"I made sail, and directed the other vessels to follow, for the
purpose of closing with the enemy," causes increased regret that the
exact facts were not ascertained by cross-examination before a
Court-Martial.

Elliott's place therefore was alongside the "Queen Charlotte," so to
engage her that she could attend to nothing else. This he did not do,
and for failure the only possible excuse was inability, through lack
of wind. The wind was light throughout, yet not so light but that the
"Lawrence" closed with the "Detroit," and the "Queen Charlotte" with
her flagship when she wished. None of Elliott's witnesses before the
Court of Inquiry state that he made sail before the middle of the
action, but they attribute the failure to get down to the lightness of
the wind. They do state that, after the "Lawrence" was disabled, a
breeze springing up, sail was made; which indicates that previously it
had not been. Again, it is alleged by the testimony in favor of
Elliott that much of the time the maintopsail was sharp aback, to keep
from running into the "Caledonia;" a circumstance upon which Cooper
dwells triumphantly, as showing that the "Niagara" was not by the wind
and was in her place, close astern of the "Caledonia." Accepting the
statements, they would show there was wind enough to fan the "Niagara"
to--what was really her place--her commodore's aid; for in those days
the distance between under fire and out of fire for efficient action
was a matter of half a mile.[92] Perry's formulated charge, addressed
to the Navy Department, and notified to Elliott, but never brought to
trial, was that when coming into action an order was passed by trumpet
for the vessels astern to close up in the line; that a few moments
previously to the enemy's opening fire the "Niagara" had been within
hail of the "Lawrence," and nevertheless she was allowed to drop
astern, and for two hours to remain at such distance from the enemy as
to render useless all her battery except the two long guns. Perry
himself made sail at the time the hail by trumpet was passed. The
"Niagara" did not.

There is little reason for doubt that the tenor of Perry's
instructions required Elliott to follow the "Queen Charlotte," and no
doubt whatever that military propriety imperiously demanded it of him.
The question of wind must be matter of inference from the incidents
above stated: the movement of the "Lawrence" and "Queen Charlotte,"
and the bracing aback of the "Niagara's" topsail. A sentence in
Perry's report apparently, but only apparently, attenuates the force
of these. He said, "At half-past two, the wind springing up, Captain
Elliott was enabled to bring his vessel, the 'Niagara,' gallantly into
close action." Alluding to, without insisting on, Perry's subsequent
statement that he endeavored to give as favorable a color as possible
to Elliott's course, it is clear enough that these words simply state
that Captain Elliott at 2.30 reached the range at which the "Lawrence"
had fought since a little after noon.

Quitting now the discussion of proprieties, the order of events seems
to have been as follows: Perry having taken the initiative of bearing
down, under increased sail, Elliott remained behind, governed by, or
availing himself of--two very different motives, not lightly to be
determined, or assumed, by the historian--the technical point, long
before abandoned in practice, that he could not leave his place in the
line without a signal. Thus his action was controlled by the position
of his next ahead in the line, the dull-sailing "Caledonia," a vessel
differing radically from his own in armament, having two long and for
that day heavy guns, quite equal in range and efficiency to the best
of the "Detroit's,"[93] and therefore capable of good service, though
possibly not of their best, from the distance at which Perry changed
his speed. Elliott's battery was the same as Perry's. He thus
continued until it became evident that, the "Queen Charlotte" having
gone to the support of the "Detroit," the "Lawrence" was heavily
overpowered. Then, not earlier than an hour after Perry bore down, he
realized that his commander-in-chief would be destroyed under his
eyes, unless he went to his support, and he himself would rest under
the imputation of an inefficient spectator. He ordered the "Caledonia"
to bear up, in order that he might pass (position 3; C_{1}, C_{2}).
Though not demonstrably certain, it seems probable that the wind,
light throughout, was now so fallen as to impede the retrieval of his
position; the opportunity to close, used by Perry, had passed away. At
all events it was not till between 2 and 2.30 that the "Niagara"
arrived on the scene, within effective range of the carronades which
constituted nine tenths of her battery.

With this began the second stage of the battle (3). Perry's bearing
down, receiving only the support of the long guns of the "Caledonia"
and of the schooners ahead of him, had brought the "Lawrence" into hot
engagement with the "Detroit," supported a half hour later by the
"Queen Charlotte." By a little after two o'clock both flagships were
well-nigh disabled, hull and battery; the "Lawrence" most so, having
but one gun left out of ten on the broadside. "At 2.30," wrote
Barclay, "the Detroit was a perfect wreck, principally from the raking
fire of the gunboats." Which gunboats? Evidently the "Ariel" and
"Scorpion," for all agree that the rear four were at this hour still
far astern, though not absolutely out of range. To these last was
probably due the crippling of the "Lady Prevost," which by now had
gone to leeward with her rudder injured. Up to this time, when the
first scene closed, what had been the general course of the action?
and what now the situation? Assuming, as is very probable, that
Barclay did not open with his long 24's until Perry was a mile, two
thousand yards, from him,--that distance requiring six degrees
elevation for those guns,--an estimate of speeds and courses, as
indicated by the evidence, would put the "Lawrence" in action, at two
hundred and fifty yards, at 12.10. This calculation, made
independently, received subsequent confirmation in consulting
Barclay's report, which says 12.15.[94] The same time, for the duller
"Caledonia" and the "Niagara," would place them one thousand yards
from the British line. This range, for the 32-pounder carronades of
the "Niagara," and the 24's of the "Queen Charlotte," required an
elevation of from four to six degrees. Coupling this with the British
statement, that the carronades of the "Charlotte" could not reach the
"Niagara," we obtain probable positions, two hundred and fifty yards
and one thousand yards, for the principal two American vessels at
quarter-past noon.

From the general lightness and occasional failure of the wind up to 2
P.M., it is more than likely that no great change took place before
that hour. What air there was might touch all alike, but would affect
least the "Lawrence," "Detroit," and "Queen Charlotte," because their
sails were being rent; and also they were in the centre of the
cannonade, which is believed usually to kill the breeze. The tendency
of the "Caledonia," "Niagara," and American vessels in rear of them,
between 12.30 and 2 P.M., during which period, to use Barclay's
report, "the action continued with great fury," would therefore be to
approach slowly the scene where the "Lawrence," supported by the long
guns of the "Ariel," "Scorpion," and "Caledonia," maintained the day
against the "Detroit" and "Queen Charlotte," backed by the schooner
"Chippewa" and the 6 and 4 pounder pop-guns of the "Hunter." How near
they drew is a mere matter of estimate. Taking all together, it may be
inferred that the "Niagara" had then been carried as close as five
hundred to six hundred yards to the British line, but it would appear
also towards its rear; rather, probably, that the British had advanced
relatively to her, owing to her course being oblique to theirs.

The situation then was as follows: The "Lawrence," disabled, was
dropping astern of the "Detroit," "Queen Charlotte," and "Hunter."
More than half her ship's company lay dead or wounded on her decks.
Her loss, 83 killed and wounded out of a total of 142,--sick
included,[95]--was mostly incurred before this. With only one gun
left, she was a beaten ship, although her colors were up. The
"Detroit" lay in the British line almost equally mauled. On her lee
quarter,--that is, behind, but on the lee side,--and close to her, was
the "Queen Charlotte." Her captain, second to Barclay, had been
killed,--the first man hit on board,--and her first lieutenant
knocked senseless; being succeeded in command by an officer whom
Barclay described as of little experience. The first lieutenant of the
"Detroit" was also wounded mortally; and Barclay himself, who already
had been once hit in the thigh, was now a second time so severely
injured,--being his eighth wound in battle, though now only
thirty-two,--that he was forced at this critical instant to go below,
leaving the deck with the second lieutenant. The "Hunter" was astern
of her two consorts. The "Lady Prevost," fifth in the British order,
had fallen to leeward with her rudder crippled. The position of the
leading and rear British schooners is not mentioned, and is not
important; the reliance of each being one long 9-pounder gun.

Before this, taking advantage of the breeze freshening, the "Niagara"
had gone clear of the "Caledonia," on her windward side, and had stood
to the southwest, towards the "Detroit." She had not at first either
foresail or topgallantsails set; and since she passed the "Lawrence"
to windward, she was then almost certainly over two hundred and fifty
yards from the British line, for there is no conclusive proof that the
"Lawrence" was nearer than that.



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