Imagens das páginas
[ocr errors]

was by him soon after promoted to the first lieutenancy of that ship; and, at subsequent periods, Truxtun took pleasure, wherever opportunities presented, in doing justice to his merit, by rendering him that applause to which he was entitled as an officer and a man.

This he uniformly practised to all who, from their deportment and I vigilance in their profession, merited his notice, while under his

command. From this voyage he returned with the most valuable cargo brought into the United States during the war. It would be impossible for us, within the limits of this article, to recount the various instances of activity and zeal displayed by this gallant officer, during our struggle for Independence, not only at sea, but on two remarkable occasions on the land. We content ourselves with observing that in all his actions with British vessels of war, many of which were of force greatly superior to his own, he was invariably victorious.

After the peace of 1783, he turned his attention to commerce ; and was concerned in an extensive trade to Europe, China, and the East Indies, until the commencement of our naval establishment in 1794; when, unable calmly to behold the rights of his country invaded, he stepped forward at her call, and was one of the first six captains selected by PRESIDENT WASHINGTON. The frigate Constellation, of 36 guns, which he was destined to command, he was directed to superintend the building of, at Baltimore ; and she was the first one of that armament at sea.

Appointed, with a squadron under his command, to the protection of the American commerce in the West Indies, our Commodore had an arduous task to perform, in the infancy of a navy not yet organized; but every difficulty yielded to the excellence of his discipline, for which he has ever been celebrated. On this station his indefatigable vigilance guarded, in the most effectual manner, the property of our merchants; and an enemy's privateer could scarcely look out of port without being captured.

At noon, on the 9th of February 1799, the Island of Nevis bearing W. S. W. five leagues distant, the Constellation being then alone, a large ship was seen to the southward, upon which Commodore Truxtun immediately bore down. On his hoisting the American ensign, the strange sail showed French colours, and fired a gun to windward (the signal of an enemy.) At a quarter past 3 P. M. the Commodore was hailed by the French Captain,

and the Constellation, ranging along side of the enemy's frigate, who had so declared herself, by firing a gun to windward, poured in a close and extremely well-directed broadside, which was instantly returned by her antagonist, who after a very warm engagement of an hour and a quarter, hauled down her colours, and proved to be L'Insurgente, of 40 guns, and 417 men; 29 of whom were killed, and 44 wounded in the action. She was commanded by Monsieur Barreau, a distinguished officer, who did not strike his colours till his ship was a perfect wreck. The Constellation had only one man killed and two wounded. A stronger in. stance of the strict and exemplary discipline preserved on board the Constellation cannot be given than this disparity of loss in the two ships: and yet, during the whole time that Commodore Truxtun commanded her, but one man was whipt at the gangway, and that for extreme bad conduct, and he was immediately discharged from the ship, as unworthy of belonging to her. Scarce a man of her crew had ever been in action before. The prize was taken into Basseterre, St. Christopher's, and after being refitted, added to the American navy.

This was the first opportunity that had offered to an American frigate of engaging an enemy of superior force ; and the gallantry displayed by Commodore Truxtun was highly applauded, not only by his own countrymen, but by foreigners. He received congratulatory addresses from all quarters, and the merchants of Lloyd's Coffeehouse sent him a present of plate, worth upwards of six hundred guineas, with the action between the frigates elegantly engraved on it. It is a relief to the horrors of war, to see those whom the collisions of their countries have placed in hostile array, treat each other, when the battle is over, with all the urbanity of accomplished cavaliers. Gapt. Barreau, in a letter to Commodore Truxtun, says: “I am sorry that our two nations are at war; but since I unfortunately have been vanquished, I fe. licitate myself and crew upon being prisoners to you. You have united all the qualities which characterize a man of honour, courage, and humanity. Receive from me the most sincere thanks, and be assured, I shall make it a duty to publish to all my fellowcitizens, the generous conduct which you have observed towards 'us.”

The Constellation, in a very short time, was again at sea. It is unnecessary to give a list of the privateers and small vessels captured by the squadron; it is sufficient to say that the most effectual convoy was afforded by it, and France saw the West Indies cleared of her bucaniers by our infant navy on that station. While the different ships belonging to it, were cruising separately, so as to give the best protection to our merchant vessels, our Commodore hearing that La Vengeance, a large French national ship of 54 guns, with upwards of five hundred men, including several general officers and troops on board, was lying at Guadaloupe, proceeded in January, 1800, off that port, determined if possible, notwithstanding the superiority of her force, to bring her to action should she put to sea. On the 1st of February at half past seven A. M. the road of Basseterre, Guadaloupe, bearing E. five leagues distant, he discovered a sail in the S. E. standing to the westward, which soon proved to be the long sought for La Vengeance. The French officer, one would suppose, could have had no hesitation in engaging an enemy so inferior in guns and men as the Constellation; but this did not prove to be the case, for he crowded all sail to avoid his foe, and it was not till after a most persevering chase of upwards of twelve hours that the Constellation brought him to action. The engagement began by a fire from the stern and quarter deck guns of the French ship, which was returned, in a few minutes afterwards, by a broadside from the Constellation, that had by this time got upon the weather quarter of her antagonist, and a close and desperate action commenced, which lasted from eight o'clock until within a few minutes of one A. M. when the fire of La Vengeance was completely silenced. At this moment, when the American Commander considered himself sure of his prize, and was endeavouring to secure his mainmast, which had been very much wounded, he had the misfortune to see it go by the board. A heavy squall coming on at the same time, before the Constellation could be completely cleared of the wreck, the French ship was enabled to effect her escape. Indeed, so sudden was her disappearance in the squall, that she was supposed by all on board the Constellation to have sunk. It however appeared, afterwards, that five days after the action she got into Curracoa, in a most shattered condition, having had 160 men killed and wounded, and nearly all her masts and rigging shot away. It had required all hands at the pumps for several days, to keep her from foundering. Her captain had the candour to acknowledge that he had twice struck his colours, but owing to the darkness of the night, this was not perceived on board the Constellation, and he, finding that her fire continued, and concluding that it was the determination of his enemy to sink him, renewed the combat from necessity. When her mast went overboard, he took the advantage of the accident, and got off. In this engagement, the Constellation had fourteen men killed and twenty-five wounded. Among the former was James Jarvis, a young midshipman of great promise, who commanded in the main top. When told by one of the old seamen of the danger of the mast falling, and requested, with his men, to come down, he replied, that if it went, they must go with it. In a few minutes after, it went over, and but one of the topmen was saved.

For the signal gallantry displayed in this action, the Congress of the United States voted that a MEDAL (of which we insert an engraving) should be given to Commodore Truxtun.

Since the accommodation of our dispute with France, in 1801, the Commodore has been retired from the sea, and now resides in Philadelphia, in the enjoyment of that attention and respect which should ever accompany the retirement of the man who has devoted the best years of his life to the service of his country. And should that country again be forced into war, we may safely predict that, whoever may be the foe, he would cheerfully resign all the delights of ease on shore, to meet her enemy on the ocean.

IVe shall, for the present, conclude this subject, but probably resume it in a future number.


« Our regard will not be confined to books. It will extend to ALL THE PRODUCTIONS OF SCIENCE. Any new calculation, a commodious instrument, the discovery of any property in nature, or any new method of bringing known properties into use or view, shall be diligently treasured up, wherever found.”-Dr.JOHNSON,




I have hastily put together some desultory observations on the following interesting question, which are at your disposal.


In what manner are the Human Functions affected by a rarefied At

mosphere, and how are these Affections to be explained? All travellers whose reports on the subject I have consulted, agree in representing the corporeal, as well as some of the mental functions, to be very strangely influenced by this condition of the atmosphere. But the celebrated de Saussure, a writer, who unites to the profundity of philosophical research, the polish of literary refinement, has, from personal experience described these affections with the most precision. To his description I shall, therefore, principally adhere in the ensuing inquiry.

He states, that at a certain height above the level of the sea, there uniformly takes place a sudden and uncommon exhaustion of the muscular power. The natives of the Alps, who can climb for hours at the foot of the mountains without being at all wearied, are forced to stop, and take breath every few minutes when they ascend the height of fourteen or fifteen hundred toises. Those who are less accustomed to the air of the mountains are obliged to rest much more frequently. So intolerable, indeed, is the fatigue induced in this situation, that the person suffering it, is rendered sometimes wholly incapable of motion. If he attempt to move, his legs sink under him, his heart palpitates, his arteries throb, his head becomes giddy, his eyes are dazzled, and, to avoid fainting, he is forced to sit down. Near the top of Mont Blanc our traveller could not advance more than a few steps without stopping to res. pire, and on the summit of it, though his exertions were moderate, he was constrained frequently to desist altogether from them,


« AnteriorContinuar »