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The wind was easterly and light. The "Constitution" was unable to
prevent their junction, which was effected at 5.45. They then formed
in line on the starboard tack, the "Levant" leading; with an interval
between them of three hundred feet. At six the "Constitution" drew up
on the weather side of the "Cyane," and five minutes later the action
began at a distance of three hundred yards. After a quarter of an
hour, noting the enemy's fire to slacken, Stewart stopped his own, to
allow the smoke to lift. When he could see, he found the
"Constitution" abreast the "Levant," with the "Cyane" astern, luffing
up for his port quarter. He gave his port broadside to the "Levant,"
then braced aback his after-sails, and so went astern towards the
"Cyane," bringing her abeam under cover of the renewed cannonade. At
6.35--about ten minutes later--the enemy's fire again weakened, and
the "Levant" was seen to be bearing up before the wind. Stewart made
sail ahead, raked her twice from astern with the port guns, and then
saw the "Cyane" also wearing. The "Constitution" immediately wore
short round, and caught this opponent before she had completed her
manoeuvre, so that she raked her also from astern with the starboard
battery. The "Cyane" then came to the wind on the port tack, and fired
that broadside, to which the "Constitution," having reloaded after
raking, was about to reply, when, at 6.50 this enemy struck, and fired
a lee gun,--the signal of submission. A prize crew, with a party of
marines to guard prisoners, was hastily thrown on board, and at eight
the "Constitution" made sail again after the "Levant." At 8.30 this
plucky little ship was met returning to the conflict. At 8.50 the two
passed on opposite tacks, and exchanged broadsides, after which the
"Constitution" kept away under the enemy's stern and raked again. The
"Levant" could now run with a clear conscience. Whatever argument can
be based on the united batteries of the two British ships, and the
advantage of divided force, eighteen 32-pounder carronades were no
match for the "Constitution." The "Levant" took to her heels, but at
10 P.M. was overtaken and surrendered.[471]

The losses as reported by Stewart were: "Constitution," killed three;
wounded twelve; "Cyane," killed twelve; wounded twenty-six; "Levant,"
killed twenty-three; wounded sixteen. Captain Stewart's management of
his vessel was strikingly clever and prompt. The advantages which he
attributed to the enemy, an aggregate of guns, slightly superior in
total weight, divided between two smaller ships, the author has never
been able to recognize.[472]

The sloops of war "Hornet," Commander James Biddle, and "Peacock,"
Commander Lewis Warrington, and the brig "Tom Bowline," which were
waiting their opportunity in the lower bay of New York when the
"President" sailed, got to sea five days after her, January 20. When
two days out, the "Hornet" separated in chase. The vessels had a
rendezvous at the lonely island of Tristan d'Acunha, in the South
Atlantic, some fifteen hundred miles west of the Cape of Good Hope.
The "Hornet" arrived first, and was about to anchor, at 10.30 in the
morning of March 23, when a sail was seen to the southeast, steering
west. As it soon passed behind the island, the "Hornet" made sail to
the westward, and the two shortly came within sight. The stranger was
the British sloop of war "Penguin," Captain Dickinson. By the report
of Captain Biddle, based on examination after the action, she carried
sixteen 32-pounder carronades, two long 12-pounders in broadside, and
one long twelve on a pivot, fighting either side. The "Hornet" had
eighteen 32-pounder carronades, and two long twelves.

The wind being south-southwest, the "Penguin" was to windward, and
bore up to close. At 1.40 P.M., being nearly within musket-shot, she
hauled to the wind on the starboard tack, a movement which the
"Hornet" at once imitated, and the battle began; the "Hornet" to
leeward, the two running on parallel courses,--an artillery duel. The
"Penguin" drew gradually nearer, and at 1.55 put her helm hard up, to
run her antagonist on board. The American crew were called to repel
boarders, and so were on hand when the enemy's bowsprit came in
between the main and mizzen rigging; but, while ready to resist an
attempt to board, the course of the action had so satisfied Biddle of
the superiority of his ship's gunnery that he would not throw his men
away in a hand-to-hand contest upon the enemy's decks. The small arms
men and marines, however, distributed along the "Hornet's" side kept
up a lively musketry fire, which the British endured at great
disadvantage, crowded upon the narrow front presented by a ship's
forecastle. The "Penguin" finally wrenched clear with the loss of her
foremast and bowsprit, and in this crippled state surrendered
immediately. From the first gun to hauling down the flag was
twenty-two minutes. The British ship had lost fourteen killed and
twenty-eight wounded, her captain being among the slain. The "Hornet"
had one killed and ten wounded. The comparative efficiency of the two
vessels is best indicated by the fact that the "Hornet" had not a
single cannon-ball in her hull, nor any serious injury even to her
lower masts; yet that her rigging and sails were very much cut proves
that her opponent's guns were active. By the ready skill of the seamen
of that day she was completely ready for any service forty-eight hours
later. The "Penguin" was scuttled.

The action between the "Hornet" and "Penguin" was the last naval
combat of the War of 1812. The day after it, March 24, the "Peacock"
and "Tom Bowline" arrived, in time to see the "Penguin" before her
captor sunk her. The brig "Macedonian," which had sailed in company
with the "President," but escaped her fate, also came to Tristan
d'Acunha, which would seem to have been intended as a fresh starting
point for some enterprise in common.


[394] Memoirs and Correspondence of Lord Castlereagh. Series iii. vol.
ii. pp. 86-91.

[395] Castlereagh Memoirs, series iii. vol. ii. pp. 86-91.

[396] Castlereagh to Liverpool (Prime Minister), Aug. 28, 1814. Ibid.,
pp. 100-102.

[397] Wellington to Liverpool, Nov. 9, 1814. Castlereagh Memoirs, series
iii. vol. ii. pp. 186-189.

[398] Canadian Archives, C. 680, p. 46. The date is Sept. 10, 1813.

[399] Letter of Captain Evans, commanding N.Y. Navy Yard, Aug. 6, 1813.

[400] Canadian Archives, C. 679, pp. 348, 362.

[401] Izard says two. Official Correspondence of the Department of War
with Major-General Izard, 1814 and 1815, p. 7.

[402] British Court Martial Record.

[403] Confidence.

[404] Account of the Public Life of Sir George Prevost, p. 136.

[405] Prevost to Bathurst, July 12, 1814. Report on Canadian Archives,
1896. Lower Canada, p. 31.

[406] Prevost to Bathurst, Aug. 5, 1814. Ibid., p. 35.

[407] Prevost to Bathurst, Aug. 27.

[408] Official Correspondence of General Izard with the Department of
War, pp. 56, 57. Philadelphia, 1816.

[409] Ridout, Ten Years in Upper Canada, p. 282.

[410] Niles' Register, vol. vi. p. 357.

[411] June 8, 1814. Navy Department MSS.

[412] Macomb's Report, Brannan's Military and Naval Letters, p. 415.
Izard (Correspondence, p. 98) says, "There were at or about the works at
Plattsburg not less than three thousand regulars, of whom fifteen
hundred were fit for duty in the field. In the number were three
companies of artillery."

[413] General Benjamin Mooers, who was in command of the New York State
militia during these operations, in a letter to Governor Tompkins, dated
Sept. 16, 1814 (Gov. Tompkins MSS. vol. ix. pp. 212-217, State Library,
Albany, N.Y.), claims that Macomb was here less than just to the
militia, "many of whom stood their ground as long as it was tenable"
during the first day. In a general order issued by him Sept. 8 (Niles'
Register, vol. vii. p. 70), he spoke of some "who fled at the first
approach of the enemy, and afterwards basely disbanded themselves, and
returned home." Macomb himself wrote that after the first day, when the
army had retired to the works, "the militia behaved with great spirit."

[414] For copies of these letters, and of Macdonough's reply and
endorsement, I am indebted to Mr. Rodney Macdonough, the Commodore's
grandson. Cochran's is dated March 22, and Colden's June 26, 1815;
Macdonough's reply July 3. It is well to note that all these preceded
the British naval court martial, held in Portsmouth, Aug. 18-21, 1815,
where the testimony that the squadron was within range was unanimous and
accepted by the Court.

[415] The first lieutenant of the "Confiance" in his evidence said that
it was not more than ten minutes after the ship rounded Cumberland Head
that the enemy began firing at her, and that the shot at first fell
short. As far as it goes, this would show that the American squadron was
over a mile from the Head; and, if so, scarcely more than a mile from
the batteries.

[416] For information as to ranges, the author applied to Professor
Philip R. Alger, U.S. Navy, whose intimate acquaintance with questions
of ordnance and gunnery is known throughout his service.

[417] Vol. viii. p. 70, April 1, 1815.

[418] These two letters of Macomb are given in the "Account of the
Public Life of Sir George Prevost," p. 165.

[419] Izard's Correspondence, p. 98.

[420] Yeo to the Admiralty, Sept. 24, 1814. From a copy in the Court
Martial Record.

[421] In his Narrative, submitted to the Court Martial, Captain Pring
stated that Prevost wished a joint attack, because, in the advance along
the head of Cumberland Bay, the left flank of the army, when crossing
Dead Creek, had been much annoyed by the American gunboats. He feared
the same in crossing the Saranac to the assault of the works, and wanted
the navy to draw off the gunboats.

[422] Robertson's Narrative before the Court Martial.

[423] The correspondence between Prevost and Downie, Sept. 7-10, is in
the Canadian Archives, M. 389.6. pp. 176-183.

[424] This letter of Major Coore, published in a Canadian paper, Feb.
26, 1815, is to be found in the Canadian Archives MSS., M.

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