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Hillyar could only suppose that her
cable had been severed by a shot; but Porter states that under the
galling fire to which she was subjected, without power to reply, he
cut the cable, hoping, as the enemy were to leeward, he might bring
the ship into close action, and perhaps even board the "Phoebe." The
decision was right, but under the conditions a counsel of desperation;
for sheets, tacks, and halliards being shot away, movement depended
upon sails hanging loose,--spread, but not set. Nevertheless, he was
able for a short time to near the enemy, and both accounts agree that
hereupon ensued the heat of the combat; "a serious conflict," to use
Hillyar's words, to which corresponds Porter's statement that "the
firing on both sides was now tremendous." The "Phoebe," however, was
handled, very properly, to utilize to the full the tactical advantages
she possessed in the greater range of her guns, and in power of
manoeuvring. In the circumstances under which she was acting, the sail
power left her was amply sufficient; having simply to keep drawing to
leeward, maintaining from her opponent a distance at which his guns
were useless and her own effective.

Under these conditions, seeing success to be out of the question, and
suffering great loss of men, Porter turned to the last resort of the
vanquished, to destroy the vessel and to save the crew from captivity.
The "Essex" was pointed for the shore; but when within a couple of
hundred yards the wind, which had so far favored her approach, shifted
ahead. Still clinging to every chance, a kedge with a hawser was let
go, to hold her where she was; perhaps the enemy might drift
unwittingly out of range. But the hawser parted, and with it the
frigate's last hold upon the country which she had honored by an
heroic defence. Porter then authorized any who might wish to swim
ashore to do so; the flag being kept flying to warrant a proceeding
which after formal surrender would be a breach of faith. At 6.20 the
"Essex" at last lowered her colors.[244] Out of a ship's company of
two hundred and fifty-five, with which she sailed in the morning,
fifty-eight were killed, or died of their wounds, and sixty-five were
wounded. The missing were reported at thirty-one. By agreement between
Hillyar and Porter, the "Essex Junior" was disarmed, and neutralized,
to convey to the United States, as paroled prisoners of war, the
survivors who remained on board at the moment of surrender. These
numbered one hundred and thirty-two. It is an interesting particular,
linking those early days of the United States navy to a long
subsequent period of renown, and worthy therefore to be recalled, that
among the combatants of the "Essex" was Midshipman David G. Farragut,
then thirteen years old. His name figures among the wounded, as well
as in the list of passengers on board the "Essex Junior."

The disaster to the "Essex" is connected by a singular and tragical
link with the fate of an American cruiser of like adventurous
enterprise in seas far distant from the Pacific. After the defeat at
Valparaiso, Lieutenant Stephen Decatur McKnight and Midshipman James
Lyman of the United States frigate were exchanged as prisoners of war
against a certain number of officers and seamen belonging to one of
the "Essex's" prizes; which, having continued under protection of the
neutral port, had undergone no change of belligerent relation by the
capture of her captor. When the "Essex Junior" sailed, these two
officers remained behind, by amicable arrangement, to go in the
"Phoebe" to Rio Janeiro, there to give certain evidence needed in
connection with the prize claims of the British frigate; which done,
it was understood they would be at liberty to return to their own
country by such conveyance as suited them. After arrival in Rio, the
first convenient opportunity offering was by a Swedish brig sailing
for Falmouth, England. In her they took passage, leaving Rio August
23, 1814. On October 9 the brig fell in with the United States sloop
of war "Wasp," in mid-ocean, about three hundred miles west of the
Cape Verde Islands, homeward bound. The two passengers transferred
themselves to her. Since this occurrence nothing further has ever been
heard of the American ship; nor would the incident itself have escaped
oblivion but for the anxiety of friends, which after the lapse, of
time prompted systematic inquiry to ascertain what had become of the
missing officers.

The captain of the "Wasp" was Master-Commandant, or, as he would now
be styled, Commander Johnstone Blakely; the same who had commanded the
"Enterprise" up to a month before her engagement with the "Boxer,"
when was demonstrated the efficiency to which he had brought her
ship's company. He sailed from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, May 1, 1814.
Of his instructions,[245] the most decisive was to remain for thirty
days in a position on the approaches to the English Channel, about one
hundred and fifty miles south of Ireland, in which neighborhood
occurred the most striking incidents of the cruise. On the outward
passage was taken only one prize, June 2. She was from Cork to
Halifax, twelve days out; therefore probably from six to eight hundred
miles west of Ireland. The second, from Limerick for Bordeaux, June
13, would show the "Wasp" on her station; on which, Blakely reported,
it was impossible to keep her, even approximately, being continually
drawn away in pursuit, and often much further up the English Channel
than desired, on account of the numerous sails passing.[246] When
overhauled, most of these were found to be neutrals. Nevertheless,
seven British merchant vessels were taken; all of which were
destroyed, except one given up to carry prisoners to England.

While thus engaged, the "Wasp" on June 28 sighted a sail, which proved
to be the British brig of war "Reindeer," Captain Manners, that had
left Plymouth six days before. The place of this meeting was latitude
48- North, longitude 11 East; therefore nearly in the cruising
ground assigned to Blakely by his instructions. The antagonists were
unequally matched; the American carrying twenty 32-pounder carronades
and two long guns, the British sixteen 24-pounders and two long; a
difference against her of over fifty per cent. The "Reindeer" was to
windward, and some manoeuvring took place in the respective efforts to
keep or to gain this advantage. In the end the "Reindeer" retained it,
and the action began with both on the starboard tack, closehauled, the
British sloop on the weather quarter of the "Wasp,"--behind, but on
the weather side, which in this case was to the right (1). Approaching
slowly, the "Reindeer" with great deliberation fired five times, at
two-minute intervals, a light gun mounted on her forecastle, loaded
with round and grape shot. Finding her to maintain this position, upon
which his guns would not train, Blakely put the helm down, and the
"Wasp" turned swiftly to the right (2), bringing her starboard battery
to bear. This was at 3.26 P.M. The action immediately became very hot,
at very close range (3), and the "Reindeer" was speedily disabled. The
vessels then came together (4), and Captain Manners, who by this time
had received two severe wounds, with great gallantry endeavored to
board with his crew, reduced by the severe punishment already
inflicted to half its originally inferior numbers. As he climbed into
the rigging, two balls from the "Wasp's" tops passed through his head,
and he fell back dead on his own deck. No further resistance was
offered, and the "Wasp" took possession. She had lost five killed and
twenty-one wounded, of whom six afterwards died. The British
casualties were twenty-three killed and forty-two wounded. The brig
herself, being fairly torn to pieces, was burned the next day.[247]

[Illustration: Diagram of the Wasp vs. Reindeer battle]

The results of this engagement testify to the efficiency and
resolution of both combatants; but a special meed of praise is
assuredly due to Captain Manners, whose tenacity was as marked as his
daring, and who, by the injury done to his stronger antagonist,
demonstrated both the thoroughness of his previous general preparation
and the skill of his management in the particular instance. Under his
command the "Reindeer" had become a notable vessel in the fleet to
which she belonged; but as equality in force is at a disadvantage
where there is serious inferiority in training and discipline, so the
best of drilling must yield before decisive superiority of armament,
when there has been equal care on both sides to insure efficiency in
the use of the battery. To Blakely's diligence in this respect his
whole career bears witness.

After the action Blakely wished to remain cruising, which neither the
condition of his ship nor her losses in men forbade; but the number of
prisoners and wounded compelled him to make a harbor. He accordingly
went into L'Orient, France, on July 8. Despite the change of
government, and the peace with Great Britain which attended the
restoration of the Bourbons, the "Wasp" was here hospitably received
and remained for seven weeks refitting, sailing again August 27. By
September 1 she had taken and destroyed three more enemy's vessels;
one of which was cut out from a convoy, and burnt under the eyes of
the convoying 74-gun ship. At 6.30 P.M. of September 1 four sails
were sighted, from which Blakely selected to pursue the one most to
windward; for, should this prove a ship of war, the others, if
consorts, would be to leeward of the fight, less able to assist. The
chase lasted till 9.26, when the "Wasp" was near enough to see that
the stranger was a brig of war, and to open with a light carronade on
the forecastle, as the "Reindeer" had done upon her in the same
situation. Confident in his vessel, however, Blakely abandoned this
advantage of position, ran under his antagonist's lee to prevent her
standing down to join the vessels to leeward, and at 9.29 began the
engagement, being then on her lee bow. At ten the "Wasp" ceased firing
and hailed, believing the enemy to be silenced; but receiving no
reply, and the British guns opening again, the combat was renewed.



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