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As to the greater
numbers, one hundred and twenty is certainly almost twice sixty-six,
and the circumstance should be weighed; but in an engagement confined
to the guns, and between 18-pounder carronade batteries, it is of less
consequence than at first glance appears. A cruiser of those days
expected to be ready to fight with many men away in prizes. Had it
come to boarding, or had the "Boxer's" gunnery been good, disabling
her opponent's men, the numbers would have become of consideration. As
it was, they told for something, but not for very much.

If national credit were at issue in every single-ship action, the
balance of the "Chesapeake" and "Shannon," "Enterprise" and "Boxer,"
would incline rather to the American side; for the "Boxer" was not
just out of port with new commander, officers, and crew, but had been
in commission six months, had in that time crossed the ocean, and been
employed along the coast. The credit and discredit in both cases is
personal, not national. It was the sadder in Blyth's case because he
was an officer of distinguished courage and activity, who had begun
his fighting career at the age of eleven, when he was on board a
heavily battered ship in Lord Howe's battle of June 1, 1794. At
thirty, with little influence, and at a period when promotion had
become comparatively sluggish, he had fairly fought his way to the
modest preferment in which he died. Under the restricted opportunities
of the United States Navy, Burrows had seen service, and his qualities
received recognition, in the hostilities with Tripoli. The unusual
circumstance of both captains falling, and so young,--Burrows was but
twenty-eight,--imparted to this tiny combat an unusual pathos, which
was somewhat heightened by the fact that Blyth himself had acted as
pall-bearer when Lawrence, three months before, was buried with
military honors at Halifax. In Portland, Maine, the two young
commanders were borne to their graves together, in a common funeral,
with all the observance possible in a small coast town; business being
everywhere suspended, and the customary tokens of mourning displayed
upon buildings and shipping.

After this engagement, as the season progressed, coastwise operations
in this quarter became increasingly hazardous for both parties. On
October 22, Hull wrote that neither the "Enterprise" nor the
"Rattlesnake" could cruise much longer. The enemy still maintained his
grip, in virtue of greater size and numbers. Ten days later comes the
report of a convoy, with one of the brigs, driven into port by a
frigate; that the enemy appear almost every day, and never without a
force superior to that of both his brigs, which he fears to trust out
overnight, lest they find themselves at morning under the guns of an
opponent of weightier battery. The long nights and stormy seas of
winter, however, soon afforded to coasters a more secure protection
than friendly guns, and Hull's letters intermit until April 6, 1814,
when he announces that the enemy has made his appearance in great
force; he presumes for the summer. Besides the danger and interruption
of the coasting trade, Hull was increasingly anxious as to the safety
of Portsmouth itself. By a recent act of Congress four seventy-fours
had been ordered to be built, and one of them was now in construction
there under his supervision. Despite the navigational difficulties of
entering the port, which none was more capable of appreciating than
he, he regarded the defences as so inadequate that it would be
perfectly possible to destroy her on the stocks. "There is nothing,"
he said, "to prevent a very small force from entering the harbor." At
the same moment Decatur was similarly concerned for the squadron at
New London, and we have seen the fears of Stewart for Norfolk. So
marked was Hull's apprehension in this respect, that he sent the
frigate "Congress" four miles up the river, where she remained to the
end of the war; her crew being transferred to Lake Ontario. New York,
the greater wealth of which increased both her danger and her capacity
for self-protection, was looking to her own fortifications, as well as
manning, provisioning, and paying the crews of the gunboats that
patrolled her waters, on the side of the sea and of the Sound.

The exposure of the coasting trade from Boston Bay eastward was
increased by the absence of interior coastwise channels, until the
chain of islands about and beyond the Penobscot was reached. On the
other hand, the character of the shore, bold, with off-lying rocks and
many small harbors, conferred a distinct advantage upon those having
local knowledge, as the coasting seamen had. On such a route the
points of danger are capes and headlands, particularly if their
projection is great, such as the promontory between Portsmouth and
Boston, of which Cape Ann is a conspicuous landmark. There the coaster
has to go farthest from his refuge, and the deep-sea cruiser can
approach with least risk. In a proper scheme of coast defence
batteries are mounted on such positions. This, it is needless to say,
in view of the condition of the port fortifications, had not been done
in the United States. Barring this, the whole situation of the coast,
of trade, and of blockade, was one with which British naval officers
had then been familiar for twenty years, through their employment upon
the French and Spanish coasts, as well Mediterranean as Atlantic, and
in many other parts of the world. To hover near the land, intercepting
and fighting by day, manning boats and cutting out by night,
harassing, driving on shore, destroying the sinews of war by breaking
down communications, was to them simply an old experience to be
applied under new and rather easier circumstances.

Of these operations frequent instances are given in contemporary
journals and letters; but less account has been taken of the effects,
as running through household and social economics, touching purse and
comfort. These are traceable in commercial statistics. At the time
they must have been severely felt, bringing the sense of the war
vividly home to the community. The stringency of the British action is
betrayed, however, by casual notices. The captain of a schooner burned
by the British frigate "Nymphe" is told by her commander that he had
orders to destroy every vessel large enough to carry two men. "A brisk
business is now carrying on all along our coast between British
cruisers and our coasting vessels, in ready money. Friday last, three
masters went into Gloucester to procure money to carry to a British
frigate to ransom their vessels. Thursday, a Marblehead schooner was
ransomed by the "Nymphe" for $400. Saturday, she took off Cape Ann
three coasters and six fishing boats, and the masters were sent on
shore for money to ransom them at $200 each." There was room for the
wail of a federalist paper: "Our coasts unnavigable to ourselves,
though free to the enemy and the money-making neutral; our harbors
blockaded; our shipping destroyed or rotting at the docks; silence and
stillness in our cities; the grass growing upon the public
wharves."[195] In the district of Maine, "the long stagnation of
foreign, and embarrassment of domestic trade, have extended the sad
effects from the seaboard through the interior, where the scarcity of
money is severely felt. There is not enough to pay the taxes."[196]

South of Chesapeake Bay the coast is not bold and rocky, like that
north of Cape Cod, but in its low elevation and gradual soundings
resembles rather those of New Jersey and Delaware. It has certain more
pronounced features in the extensive navigable sounds and channels,
which lie behind the islands and sandbars skirting the shores. The
North Carolina system of internal water communications, Pamlico Sound
and its extensions, stood by itself. To reach that to the southward,
it was necessary to make a considerable sea run, round the far
projecting Cape Fear, exposed to capture outside; but from Charleston
to the St. Mary's River, which then formed the Florida boundary for a
hundred miles of its length, the inside passages of South Carolina and
Georgia were continuous, though in many places difficult, and in
others open to attack from the sea. Between St. Mary's and Savannah,
for example, there were seven inlets, and Captain Campbell, the naval
officer in charge of that district, reported that three of these were
practicable for frigates;[197] but this statement, while literally
accurate, conveys an exaggerated impression, for no sailing frigate
would be likely to cross a difficult bar for a single offensive
operation, merely to find herself confronted with conditions
forbidding further movement.

The great menace to the inside traffic consisted in the facility with
which cruisers outside could pass from entrance to entrance,
contrasted with the intricacies within impeding similar action by the
defence. If a bevy of unprotected coasters were discerned by an
enemy's lookouts, the ship could run down abreast, send in her boats,
capture or destroy, before the gunboats, if equidistant at the
beginning, could overcome the obstacles due to rise and fall of tide,
or narrowness of passage, and arrive to the rescue.[198] A suggested
remedy was to replace the gunboats by rowing barges, similar to, but
more powerful than, those used by the enemy in his attacks. The
insuperable trouble here proved to be that men fit for such work, fit
to contend with the seamen of the enemy, were unwilling to abandon the
sea, with its hopes of prize money, or to submit to the exposure and
discomfort of the life. "The crews of the gunboats," wrote Captain
Campbell, "consist of all nations except Turks, Greeks, and Jews." On
one occasion the ship's company of an American privateer, which had
been destroyed after a desperate and celebrated resistance to attack
by British armed boats, arrived at St. Mary's. Of one hundred and
nineteen American seamen, only four could be prevailed upon to enter
the district naval force.[199] This was partly due to the
embarrassment of the national finances. "The want of funds to pay off
discharged men," wrote the naval captain at Charleston, "has given
such a character to the navy as to stop recruiting."[200] "Men could
be had," reported his colleague at St.



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