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At 5 P.M. the "Endymion"
had got well within point-blank shot of the "President." It must be
appreciated that, with the whole hostile squadron at her heels, the
American frigate could not delay, or turn her side with its battery
towards an assailant behind; for to do so enabled the others to gain
on her. On the other hand, the pursuer could so deflect--yaw--at
frequent intervals, and having the greater speed could continually
recover the ground thus lost. This was what Captain Hope of the
"Endymion" did, with sound judgment. He took a position on the
off-shore quarter of the "President," where neither her broadside nor
stern guns could bear upon him, so long as she held her course.
Thence, yawing continually, the "Endymion" poured in her successive
broadsides, practically unopposed, mistress of the situation.

Decatur endured this for a time; but it was the military merit of his
antagonist's conduct that it must eventually force him to turn aside,
and so convert the stern chase of the British squadron to the more
hopeful attempt to cut him off on a new course. After half an hour the
"President's" helm was put to port, and the ship headed abruptly
south, threatening to cross the "Endymion's" bow, and rake. The
British frigate had to follow this movement of her opponent, and the
two ran off on parallel lines, exchanging broadsides. The object of
Decatur was to dismantle this enemy, strip him of his motive power,
and so increase his own chance of escape. In this he was successful.
After two hours and a half, between 8 and 8.30 P.M., the "Endymion's"
sails were stripped from the yards. She dropped astern, and the
"President" again steered east, bringing the other enemy's ships once
more in her wake,--a stern chase.

At 11 P.M. the "Pomone" and "Tenedos" overtook her. These were of the
class of the "Guerrière," "Macedonian," and "Shannon," very much
lighter, singly, than the "President," which had a heavier battery than
the "Constitution." Had the American ship retained her normal speed, she
probably would have escaped; but the "Pomone," the first to arrive,
outsailed her without using studdingsails, which the "President" was
still able to carry alow and aloft, despite her engagement with the
"Endymion." This fresh British ship luffed to port, and fired her
starboard broadside. The "President" imitated the manoeuvre, heading up
to north; but she did not fire. At this point the historian is met by a
direct contradiction of evidence. Decatur says that the "Pomone" was now
on the port bow, within musket-shot,[464] the "Tenedos" five hundred
yards astern, "taking up a raking position on our quarter, and the rest
(with the exception of the 'Endymion') within gunshot."[465] These
statements are confirmed by the sworn testimony before the American
Court of Inquiry. The log of the "Pomone," published with intention,
reads that the "Tenedos" was not more than three miles off,--a distance
to which no gun on shipboard of that day could carry,--and the
"Endymion" and "Majestic" so far away that they did not come on the
scene until 12.45 and 3 A.M., respectively, of the 16th. The "Pomone"
fired a second broadside, and hauling still further to port was about to
discharge a third, from a raking position ahead, when the "President"
struck. She had not fired a gun at either the "Pomone" or the "Tenedos."
The log of the "Pomone" is clear on this point, and Decatur's elaborate
report makes no mention of having done so. The witnesses before the
Court of Inquiry are equally silent.

Between the "Endymion" and the "President," in point of battery, the
proportion of force was as four to three, in favor of the American
ship. Against that must fairly be weighed the power of the "Endymion"
to maintain for half an hour a quartering and raking position, owing
to the necessity to escape laid on the "President." A quantitative
estimate of this advantage would be largely guess; but it may safely
be said that the disproportion of killed and wounded[466] can probably
be laid to this, coupled with the very proper endeavor of Decatur to
throw off his immediate enemy by aiming at her spars. After two and a
half hours' fighting, the sails of the "Endymion" were "stripped from
the yards," Captain Hayes reported; while the "President," by the
"Pomone's" log, "continued to stand east under a press of sail," all
studdingsails set, from lower to royal. This result accounts for where
the "President's" shot went, and under the circumstances should have
gone, and for why the "Endymion" lost fewer men; and it was not the
sole reason for the last. There is, in the writer's judgment, no
ground whatever for the assumption that the "Endymion" did, or singly
would, have beaten the "President." The disparity of material force
was counterbalanced by the circumstance that the "President" had the
other vessels to take into account. From the legal point of view ships
merely in sight contribute, and are therefore entitled to prize money.
In the present instance they necessarily affected the manoeuvring and
gunnery of the "President."

There is a good deal of human nature, and some food for quiet
entertainment, in the British accounts. There were several to share,
and apparently the glory was not quite enough to go round. With
Admiral Hotham, not present in the action, but in immediate command of
the station during Cochrane's absence at New Orleans and Cockburn's in
Georgia, it was "the force which I had collected off the bar of New
York." Captain Hayes had much to say on his calculations of the
enemy's movements: "What is a little singular, at the very instant of
arriving at the point of the supposed track of the enemy, Sandy Hook
west-northwest fifteen leagues, we were made happy by the sight of a
ship and a brig, not more than two miles on the weather bow." The
published report of Captain Hope, of the "Endymion," is simple and
modest; but some of his followers apparently would have all the glory.
The "Endymion" had done the whole business. This drew forth the
publication of the "Pomone's" log, concerning which the Naval
Chronicle remarks, "It appears that some differences have taken place
between the British frigates engaged, as to the honor of having
captured the 'President.'"[467]

Had Decatur appreciated at the moment that his speedy surrender to the
"Pomone" would be attributed to the subjection to which the "Endymion"
was supposed to have reduced his ship, he very probably would have
made a second fight of it. But he was convinced that ultimate escape
was impossible. "Two fresh," though much weaker, ships of the enemy at
hand, his own having fought for two hours and a half; "about one fifth
of my crew killed and wounded, my ship crippled, and a more than
fourfold force opposed to me, without a chance of escape left, I
deemed it my duty to surrender." Physical and mental fatigue, the
moral discomfiture of a hopeless situation, are all fairly to be taken
into account; nor should resistance be protracted where it means
merely loss of life. Yet it may be questioned whether the moral tone
of a military service, which is its breath of life, does not suffer
when the attempt is made to invest with a halo of extraordinary
heroism such a resistance as Decatur made, by his own showing. Unless
the "President" was really thrashed out by the "Endymion," which was
the British assertion,[468] she might have put one of his Majesty's
thirty-eight-gun frigates, the "Pomone," out of commission for a long
time; and that, in addition to the "Endymion,"--the two fastest
British vessels,--would have been no light matter in the then state of
the New York blockade. If the finding of the American Court of
Inquiry,[469] that "the 'Endymion' was conquered, while the
'President' in the contest with her had sustained but little injury,"
be admitted, there seems no reply to the comment that the "President"
surrendered within musket-shot of a thirty-eight-gun frigate which
with three or four broadsides she should have nearly annihilated. She
was out to destroy commerce and enemy's cruisers, and she struck
before her powers in that respect--by the Court's finding--were
exhausted. Escape was impossible; one object of her cruise--the
enemy's commerce--had become impracticable; was it justifiable to
neglect the last opportunity for the other? Decatur's personal
gallantry is beyond question; but, if the defence of the "President"
is to be considered "glorious," and "heroic," it is difficult to know
what term can be applied to that of the "Essex." War is violence,
wounds, and death. Needless bloodshed is to be avoided; but even more,
at the present day, is to be deprecated the view that the objects of a
war are to be sacrificed to the preservation of life.

After a long detention, through the closeness of the Boston blockade,
the "Constitution," still commanded by Captain Charles Stewart,
effected her escape to sea towards the end of December. On February
20, 1815, two hundred miles east-northeast from Madeira, she fell in
with two British ships of war, the "Cyane," and the "Levant," then on
their way from Gibraltar to the Azores, and thence to the American
coast. The "Cyane," a frigate-built ship, carried a battery of
carronades: thirty 32-pounders, two 18-pounders. She had also two long
9-pounders; making a total of thirty-four guns, throwing a broadside
weight of five hundred and seven pounds.[470] The "Levant" was a sloop
of war, of the American "Hornet" class, carrying eighteen 32-pounder
carronades and two long 9-pounders; giving two hundred and
ninety-seven as her broadside weight. Between the two they therefore
threw eight hundred and four pounds of metal. The "Constitution's"
broadside was seven hundred and four pounds; but of this three hundred
and eighty-four were in long 24-pounders. Supposing both parties
willing to fight under such circumstances, the game would be all in
the "Constitution's" hands. Her problem rather was so to conduct the
contest that neither enemy should escape. Captain Stewart, in
reporting his success, dwelt upon the advantages derived by the enemy
"from a divided and more active force, as also their superiority in
the weight and numbers of guns." One cannot but feel the utmost
diffidence in differing from a seaman of the time, and one so skilful
as Stewart; but the advantage of a divided force is as difficult to
see as the superiority in battery power.

Though consorts, the enemy when first seen were separated by a
distance of ten miles; and were sighted successively between 1 and 2
P.M.



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