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Hero Tales From American History by Henry Cabot Lodge and Theodore Roosevelt

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Hence it is that the fathers of these men and ours also, and they
themselves likewise, being nurtured in all freedom and well born,
have shown before all men many and glorious deeds in public and
private, deeming it their duty to fight for the cause of liberty
and the Greeks, even against Greeks, and against Barbarians for
all the Greeks."
--PLATO: "Menexenus."

TO E. Y. R.

To you we owe the suggestion of writing this book. Its purpose,
as you know better than any one else, is to tell in simple
fashion the story of some Americans who showed that they knew how
to live and how to die; who proved their truth by their endeavor;
and who joined to the stern and manly qualities which are
essential to the well-being of a masterful race the virtues of
gentleness, of patriotism, and of lofty adherence to an ideal.

It is a good thing for all Americans, and it is an especially
good thing for young Americans, to remember the men who have
given their lives in war and peace to the service of their
fellow-countrymen, and to keep in mind the feats of daring and
personal prowess done in time past by some of the many champions
of the nation in the various crises of her history. Thrift,
industry, obedience to law, and intellectual culvation are
essential qualities in the makeup of any successful people; but
no people can be really great unless they possess also the heroic
virtues which are as needful in time of peace as in time of war,
and as important in civil as in military life. As a civilized
people we desire peace, but the only peace worth having is
obtained by instant readiness to fight when wronged--not by
unwillingness or inability to fight at all. Intelligent foresight
in preparation and known capacity to stand well in battle are the
surest safeguards against war. America will cease to be a great
nation whenever her young men cease to possess energy, daring,
and endurance, as well as the wish and the power to fight the
nation's foes. No citizen of a free state should wrong any man;
but it is not enough merely to refrain from infringing on the
rights of others; he must also be able and willing to stand up
for his own rights and those of his country against all comers,
and he must be ready at any time to do his full share in
resisting either malice domestic or foreign levy.


WASHINGTON, April 19, 1895.







KING'S MOUNTAIN--Theodore Roosevelt.




THE CRUISE OF THE "WASP"--Theodore Roosevelt.


THE BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS--Theodore Roosevelt.



"REMEMBER THE ALAMO"--Theodore Roosevelt.

HAMPTON ROADS--Theodore Roosevelt.

THE FLAG-BEARER--Theodore Roosevelt.








FARRAGUT AT MOBILE BAY--Theodore Roosevelt.


"Hor. I saw him once; he was a goodly king.
Ham. He was a man, take him for all in all
I shall not look upon his like again."



The brilliant historian of the English people* has written of
Washington, that "no nobler figure ever stood in the fore-front
of a nation's life." In any book which undertakes to tell, no
matter how slightly, the story of some of the heroic deeds of
American history, that noble figre must always stand in the
fore-front. But to sketch the life of Washington even in the
barest outline is to write the history of the events which made
the United States independent and gave birth to the American
nation. Even to give alist of what he did, to name his battles
and recount his acts as president, would be beyond the limit and
the scope of this book. Yet it is always possible to recall the
man and to consider what he was and what he meant for us and for
mankind He is worthy the study and the remembrance of all men,
and to Americans he is at once a great glory of their past and an
inspiration and an assurance of their future.

*John Richard Green.

To understand Washington at all we must first strip off all the
myths which have gathered about him. We must cast aside into the
dust-heaps all the wretched inventions of the cherry-tree
variety, which were fastened upon him nearly seventy years after
his birth. We must look at him as he looked at life and the facts
about him, without any illusion or deception, and no man in
history can better stand such a scrutiny.

Born of a distinguished family in the days when the American
colonies were still ruled by an aristocracy, Washington started
with all that good birth and tradition could give. Beyond this,
however, he had little. His family was poor, his mother was left
early a widow, and he was forced after a very limited education
to go out into the world to fight for himself He had strong
within him the adventurous spirit of his race. He became a
surveyor, and in the pursuit of this profession plunged into the
wilderness, where he soon grew to be an expert hunter and
backwoodsman. Even as a boy the gravity of his character and his
mental and physical vigor commended him to those about him, and
responsibility and military command were put in his hands at an
age when most young men are just leaving college. As the times
grew threatening on the frontier, he was sent on a perilous
mission to the Indians, in which, after passing through many
hardships and dangers, he achieved success. When the troubles
came with France it was by the soldiers under his command that
the first shots were fired in the war which was to determine
whether the North American continent should be French or English.
In his earliest expedition he was defeated by the enemy. Later he
was with Braddock, and it was he who tried, to rally the broken
English army on the stricken field near Fort Duquesne. On that
day of surprise and slaughter he displayed not only cool courage
but the reckless daring which was one of his chief
characteristics. He so exposed himself that bullets passed
through his coat and hat, and the Indians and the French who
tried to bring him down thought he bore a charmed life. He
afterwards served with distinction all through the French war,
and when peace came he went back to the estate which he had
inherited from his brother, the most admired man in Virginia.

At that time he married, and during the ensuing years he lived
the life of a Virginia planter, successful in his private affairs
and serving the public effectively but quietly as a member of the
House of Burgesses. When the troubles with the mother country
began to thicken he was slow to take extreme ground, but he never
wavered in his belief that all attempts to oppress the colonies
should be resisted, and when he once took up his position there
was no shadow of turning. He was one of Virginia's delegates to
the first Continental Congress, and, although he said but little,
he was regarded by all the representatives from the other
colonies as the strongest man among them. There was something
about him even then which commanded the respect and the
confidence of every one who came in contact with him.

It was from New England, far removed from his own State, that the
demand came for his appointment as commander-in-chief of the
American army. Silently he accepted the duty, and, leaving
Philadelphia, took command of the army at Cambridge. There is no
need to trace him through the events that followed. From the time
when he drew his sword under the famous elm tree, he was the
embodiment of the American Revolution, and without him that
revolution would have failed almost at the start. How he carried
it to victory through defeat and trial and every possible
obstacle is known to all men.

When it was all over he found himself facing a new situation. He
was the idol of the country and of his soldiers. The army was
unpaid, and the veteran troops, with arms in their hands, were
eager to have him take control of the disordered country as
Cromwell had done in England a little more than a century before.
With the army at his back, and supported by the great forces
which, in every community, desire order before everything else,
and are ready to assent to any arrangement which will bring peace
and quiet, nothing would have been easier than for Washington to
have made himself the ruler of the new nation. But that was not
his conception of duty, and he not only refused to have anything
to do with such a movement himself, but he repressed, by his
dominant personal influence, all such intentions on the part of
the army. On the 23d of December, 1783, he met the Congress at
Annapolis, and there resigned his commission. What he then said
is one of the two most memorable speeches ever made in the United
States, and is also memorable for its meaning and spirit among
all speeches ever made by men. He spoke as follows:

Mr. President:--The great events on which my resignation depended
having at length taken place, I have now the honor of offering my
sincere congratulations to Congress, and of presenting myself
before them, to surrender into their hands the trust committed to
me and to claim the indulgence of retiring from the service of my

Happy in the confirmation of our independence and sovereignity
and pleased with the opportunity afforded the United States of
becoming a respectable nation, I resign with satisfaction the
appointment I accepted with diffidence; a diffidence in my
abilities to accomplish so arduous a task, which, however, was
superseded by a confidence in the rectitude of our cause, the
support of the supreme power of the Union, and the patronage of

The successful termination of the war has verified the most
sanguine expectations, and my gratitude for the interposition of
Providence and the assistance I have received from my countrymen
increases with every review of the momentous contest.

While I repeat my obligations to the Army in general, I should do
injustice to my own feelings not to acknowledge, in this place,
the peculiar services and distinguished merits of the Gentlemen
who have been attached to my person during the war. It was
impossible that the choice of confidential officers to compose my
family should have been more fortunate. Permit me, sir, to
recommend in particular those who have continued in service to
the present moment as worthy of the favorable notice and
patronage of Congress.

I consider it an indispensable duty to close this last solemn act
of my official life by commending the interests of our dearest
country to the protection of Almighty God, and those who have the
superintendence of them to His holy keeping.

Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great
theatre of action, and, bidding an affectionate farewell to this
august body, under whose orders I have so long acted, I here
offer my commission and take my leave of all the employments of
public life."

The great master of English fiction, writing of this scene at
Annapolis, says: 'Which was the most splendid spectacle ever
witnessed--the opening feast of Prince George in London, or the
resignation of Washington? Which is the noble character for after
ages to admire--yon fribble dancing in lace and spangles, or
yonder hero who sheathes his sword after a life of spotless
honor, a purity unreproached, a courage indomitable and a
consummate victory?"

Washington did not refuse the dictatorship, or, rather, the
opportunity to take control of the country, because he feared
heavy responsibility, but solely because, as a high-minded and
patriotic man, he did not believe in meeting the situation in
that way. He was, moreover, entirely devoid of personal ambition,
and had no vulgar longing for personal power. After resigning his
commission he returned quietly to Mount Vernon, but he did not
hold himself aloof from public affairs. On the contrary, he
watched their course with the utmost anxiety. He saw the feeble
Confederation breaking to pieces, and he soon realized that that
form of government was an utter failure. In a time when no
American statesman except Hamilton had yet freed himself from the
local feelings of the colonial days, Washington was thoroughly
national in all his views. Out of the thirteen jarring colonies
he meant that a nation should come, and he saw--what no one else
saw--the destiny of the country to the westward. He wished a
nation founded which should cross the Alleghanies, and, holding
the mouths of the Mississippi, take possession of all that vast
and then unknown region. For these reasons he stood at the head
of the national movement, and to him all men turned who desired a
better union and sought to bring order out of chaos. With him
Hamilton and Madison consulted in the preliminary stages which
were to lead to the formation of a new system. It was his vast
personal influence which made that movement a success, and when
the convention to form a constitution met at Philadelphia, he
presided over its deliberations, and it was his commanding will
which, more than anything else, brought a constitution through
difficulties and conflicting interests which more than once made
any result seem well-nigh hopeless. When the Constitution formed
at Philadelphia had been ratified by the States, all men turned
to Washington to stand at the head of the new government. As he
had borne the burden of the Revolution, so he now took up the
task of bringing the government of the Constitution into
existence. For eight years he served as president. He came into
office with a paper constitution, the heir of a bankrupt,
broken-down confederation. He left the United States, when he
went out of office, an effective and vigorous government. When he
was inaugurated, we had nothing but the clauses of the
Constitution as agreed to by the Convention. When he laid down
the presidency, we had an organized government, an established
revenue, a funded debt, a high credit, an efficient system of
banking, a strong judiciary, and an army. We had a vigorous and
well-defined foreign policy; we had recovered the western posts,
which, in the hands of the British, had fettered our march to the
west; and we had proved our power to maintain order at home, to
repress insurrection, to collect the national taxes, and to
enforce the laws made by Congress. Thus Washington had shown that
rare combination of the leader who could first destroy by
revolution, and who, having led his country through a great civil
war, was then able to build up a new and lasting fabric upon the
ruins of a system which had been overthrown. At the close of his
official service he returned again to Mount Vernon, and, after a
few years of quiet retirement, died just as the century in which
he had played so great a part was closing.

Washington stands among the greatest men of human history, and
those in the same rank with him are very few. Whether measured by
what he did, or what he was, or by the effect of his work upon
the history of mankind, in every aspect he is entitled to the
place he holds among the greatest of his race. Few men in all
time have such a record of achievement. Still fewer can show at
the end of a career so crowded with high deeds and memorable
victories a life so free from spot, a character so unselfish and
so pure, a fame so void of doubtful points demanding either
defense or explanation. Eulogy of such a life is needless, but it
is always important to recall and to freshly remember just what
manner of man he was. In the first place he was physically a
striking figure. He was very tall, powerfully made, with a
strong, handsome face. He was remarkably muscular and powerful.
As a boy he was a leader in all outdoor sports. No one could
fling the bar further than he, and no one could ride more
difficult horses. As a young man he became a woodsman and hunter.
Day after day he could tramp through the wilderness with his gun
and his surveyor's chain, and then sleep at night beneath the
stars. He feared no exposure or fatigue, and outdid the hardiest
backwoodsman in following a winter trail and swimming icy
streams. This habit of vigorous bodily exercise he carried
through life. Whenever he was at Mount Vernon he gave a large
part of his time to fox-hunting, riding after his hounds through
the most difficult country. His physical power and endurance
counted for much in his success when he commanded his army, and
when the heavy anxieties of general and president weighed upon
his mind and heart.

He was an educated, but not a learned man. He read well and
remembered what he read, but his life was, from the beginning, a
life of action, and the world of men was his school. He was not a
military genius like Hannibal, or Caesar, or Napoleon, of which
the world has had only three or four examples. But he was a great
soldier of the type which the English race has produced, like
Marlborough and Cromwell, Wellington, Grant, and Lee. He was
patient under defeat, capable of large combinations, a stubborn
and often reckless fighter, a winner of battles, but much more, a
conclusive winner in a long war of varying fortunes. He was, in
addition, what very few great soldiers or commanders have ever
been, a great constitutional statesman, able to lead a people
along the paths of free government without undertaking himself to
play the part of the strong man, the usurper, or the savior of

He was a very silent man. Of no man of equal importance in the
world's history have we so few sayings of a personal kind. He was
ready enough to talk or to write about the public duties which he
had in hand, but he hardly ever talked of himself. Yet there can
be no greater error than to suppose Washington cold and
unfeeling, because of his silence and reserve. He was by nature a
man of strong desires and stormy passions. Now and again he would
break out, even as late as the presidency, into a gust of anger
that would sweep everything before it. He was always reckless of
personal danger, and had a fierce fighting spirit which nothing
could check when it was once unchained.

But as a rule these fiery impulses and strong passions were under
the absolute control of an iron will, and they never clouded his
judgment or warped his keen sense of justice.

But if he was not of a cold nature, still less was he hard or
unfeeling. His pity always went out to the poor, the oppressed,
or the unhappy, and he was all that was kind and gentle to those
immediately about him.

We have to look carefully into his life to learn all these
things, for the world saw only a silent, reserved man, of
courteous and serious manner, who seemed to stand alone and
apart, and who impressed every one who came near him with a sense
of awe and reverence.

One quality he had which was, perhaps, more characteristic of the
man and his greatness than any other. This was his perfect
veracity of mind. He was, of course, the soul of truth and honor,
but he was even more than that. He never deceived himself He
always looked facts squarely in the face and dealt with them as
such, dreaming no dreams, cherishing no delusions, asking no
impossibilities,--just to others as to himself, and thus winning
alike in war and in peace.

He gave dignity as well as victory to his country and his cause.
He was, in truth, a "character for after ages to admire."


. . . Boone lived hunting up to ninety;
And, what's still stranger, left behind a name
For which men vainly decimate the throng,
Not only famous, but of that GOOD fame,
Without which glory's but a tavern song,--
Simple, serene, the antipodes of shame,
Which hate nor envy e'er could tinge with wrong;

'T is true he shrank from men, even of his nation;
When they built up unto his darling trees,
He moved some hundred miles off, for a station
Where there were fewer houses and more ease;

* * * * * * *

But where he met the individual man,
He showed himself as kind as mortal can.

* * * * * * *

The freeborn forest found and kept them free,
And fresh as is a torrent or a tree.

And tall, and strong, and swift of foot were they,
Beyond the dwarfing city's pale abortions,
Because their thoughts had never been the prey
Of care or gain; the green woods were their portions

* * * * * * *

Simple they were, not savage; and their rifles,
Though very true, were yet not used for trifles.

* * *

Serene, not sullen, were the solitudes
Of this unsighing people of the woods.


Daniel Boone will always occupy a unique place in our history as
the archetype of the hunter and wilderness wanderer. He was a
true pioneer, and stood at the head of that class of
Indian-fighters, game-hunters, forest-fellers, and backwoods
farmers who, generation after generation, pushed westward the
border of civilization from the Alleghanies to the Pacific. As he
himself said, he was "an instrument ordained of God to settle the
wilderness." Born in Pennsylvania, he drifted south into western
North Carolina, and settled on what was then the extreme
frontier. There he married, built a log cabin, and hunted,
chopped trees, and tilled the ground like any other frontiersman.
The Alleghany Mountains still marked a boundary beyond which the
settlers dared not go; for west of them lay immense reaches of
frowning forest, uninhabited save by bands of warlike Indians.
Occasionally some venturesome hunter or trapper penetrated this
immense wilderness, and returned with strange stories of what he
had seen and done.

In 1769 Boone, excited by these vague and wondrous tales,
determined himself to cross the mountains and find out what
manner of land it was that lay beyond. With a few chosen
companions he set out, making his own trail through the gloomy
forest. After weeks of wandering, he at last emerged into the
beautiful and fertile country of Kentucky, for which, in after
years, the red men and the white strove with such obstinate fury
that it grew to be called "the dark and bloody ground." But when
Boone first saw it, it was a fair and smiling land of groves and
glades and running waters, where the open forest grew tall and
beautiful, and where innumerable herds of game grazed, roaming
ceaselessly to and fro along the trails they had trodden during
countless generations. Kentucky was not owned by any Indian
tribe, and was visited only by wandering war-parties and
hunting-parties who came from among the savage nations living
north of the Ohio or south of the Tennessee.

A roving war-party stumbled upon one of Boone's companions and
killed him, and the others then left Boone and journeyed home;
but his brother came out to join him, and the two spent the
winter together. Self-reliant, fearless, and the frowning defiles
of Cumberland Gap, they were attacked by Indians, and driven
back--two of Boone's own sons being slain. In 1775, however, he
made another attempt; and this attempt was successful. The
Indians attacked the newcomers; but by this time the parties of
would-be settlers were sufficiently numerous to hold their own.
They beat back the Indians, and built rough little hamlets,
surrounded by log stockades, at Boonesborough and Harrodsburg;
and the permanent settlement of Kentucky had begun.

The next few years were passed by Boone amid unending Indian
conflicts. He was a leader among the settlers, both in peace and
in war. At one time he represented them in the House of Burgesses
of Virginia; at another time he was a member of the first little
Kentucky parliament itself; and he became a colonel of the
frontier militia. He tilled the land, and he chopped the trees
himself; he helped to build the cabins and stockades with his own
hands, wielding the longhandled, light-headed frontier ax as
skilfully as other frontiersmen. His main business was that of
surveyor, for his knowledge of the country, and his ability to
travel through it, in spite of the danger from Indians, created
much demand for his services among people who wished to lay off
tracts of wild land for their own future use. But whatever he
did, and wherever he went, he had to be sleeplessly on the
lookout for his Indian foes. When he and his fellows tilled the
stump-dotted fields of corn, one or more of the party were always
on guard, with weapon at the ready, for fear of lurking savages.
When he went to the House of Burgesses he carried his long rifle,
and traversed roads not a mile of which was free from the danger
of Indian attack. The settlements in the early years depended
exclusively upon game for their meat, and Boone was the mightiest
of all the hunters, so that upon him devolved the task of keeping
his people supplied. He killed many buffaloes, and pickled the
buffalo beef for use in winter. He killed great numbers of black
bear, and made bacon of them, precisely as if they had been hogs.
The common game were deer and elk. At that time none of the
hunters of Kentucky would waste a shot on anything so small as a
prairie-chicken or wild duck; but they sometimes killed geese and
swans when they came south in winter and lit on the rivers.

But whenever Boone went into the woods after game, he had
perpetually to keep watch lest he himself might be hunted in
turn. He never lay in wait at a game-lick, save with ears
strained to hear the approach of some crawling red foe. He never
crept up to a turkey he heard calling, without exercising the
utmost care to see that it was not an Indian; for one of the
favorite devices of the Indians was to imitate the turkey call,
and thus allure within range some inexperienced hunter.

Besides this warfare, which went on in the midst of his usual
vocations, Boone frequently took the field on set expeditions
against the savages. Once when he and a party of other men were
making salt at a lick, they were surprised and carried off by the
Indians. The old hunter was a prisoner with them for some months,
but finally made his escape and came home through the trackless
woods as straight as the wild pigeon flies. He was ever on the
watch to ward off the Indian inroads, and to follow the
warparties, and try to rescue the prisoners. Once his own
daughter, and two other girls who were with her, were carried off
by a band of Indians. Boone raised some friends and followed the
trail steadily for two days and a night; then they came to where
the Indians had killed a buffalo calf and were camped around it.
Firing from a little distance, the whites shot two of the
Indians, and, rushing in, rescued the girls. On another occasion,
when Boone had gone to visit a salt-lick with his brother, the
Indians ambushed them and shot the latter. Boone himself escaped,
but the Indians followed him for three miles by the aid of a
tracking dog, until Boone turned, shot the dog, and then eluded
his pursuers. In company with Simon Kenton and many other noted
hunters and wilderness warriors, he once and again took part in
expeditions into the Indian country, where they killed the braves
and drove off the horses. Twice bands of Indians, accompanied by
French, Tory, and British partizans from Detroit, bearing the
flag of Great Britain, attacked Boonesboroug. In each case Boone
and his fellowsettlers beat them off with loss. At the fatal
battle of the Blue Licks, in which two hundred of the best
riflemen of Kentucky were beaten with terrible slaughter by a
great force of Indians from the lakes, Boone commanded the left
wing. Leading his men, rifle in hand, he pushed back and
overthrew the force against him; but meanwhile the Indians
destroyed the right wing and center, and got round in his rear,
so that there was nothing left for Boone's men except to flee
with all possible speed.

As Kentucky became settled, Boone grew restless and ill at ease.
He loved the wilderness; he loved the great forests and the great
prairielike glades, and the life in the little lonely cabin,
where from the door he could see the deer come out into the
clearing at nightfall. The neighborhood of his own kind made him
feel cramped and ill at ease. So he moved ever westward with the
frontier; and as Kentucky filled up he crossed the Mississippi
and settled on the borders of the prairie country of Missouri,
where the Spaniards, who ruled the territory, made him an
alcalde, or judge. He lived to a great age, and died out on the
border, a backwoods hunter to the last.


Have the elder races halted?
Do they droop and end their lesson, wearied over there beyond the
seas ?
We take up the task eternal, and the burden and the lesson,
Pioneers! O Pioneers!
All the past we leave behind,
We debouch upon a newer, mightier world, varied world;

Fresh and strong the world we seize, world of labor and the
Pioneers! O Pioneers!
We detachments steady throwing,
Down the edges, through the passes, up the mountains steep,
Conquering, holding, daring, venturing, as we go the unknown
Pioneers! O Pioneers!

* * * * * * *

The sachem blowing the smoke first towards the sun and then
towards the earth,
The drama of the scalp dance enacted with painted faces and
guttural exclamations,
The setting out of the war-party, the long and stealthy march,
The single file, the swinging hatchets, the surprise and
slaughter of enemies.


In 1776, when independence was declared, the United States
included only the thirteen original States on the seaboard. With
the exception of a few hunters there were no white men west of
the Alleghany Mountains, and there was not even an American
hunter in the great country out of which we have since made the
States of Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin. All
this region north of the Ohio River then formed apart of the
Province of Quebec. It was a wilderness of forests and prairies,
teeming with game, and inhabited by many warlike tribes of

Here and there through it were dotted quaint little towns of
French Creoles, the most important being Detroit, Vincennes on
the Wabash, and Kaskaskia and Kahokia on the Illinois. These
French villages were ruled by British officers comanding small
bodies of regular soldiers or Tory rangers and Creole partizans.
The towns were completely in the power of the British government;
none of the American States had actual possession of a foot of
property in the Northwestern Territory.

The Northwest was acquired in the midst of the Revolution only by
armed conquest, and if it had not been so acquired, it would have
remained a part of the British Dominion of Canada.

The man to whom this conquest was clue was a famous backwoods
leader, a mighty hunter, a noted Indian-fighter, George Rogers
Clark. He was a very strong man, with light hair and blue eyes.
He was of good Virginian family. Early in his youth, he embarked
on the adventurous career of a backwoods surveyor, exactly as
Washington and so many other young Virginians of spirit did at
that period. He traveled out to Kentucky soon after it was
founded by Boone, and lived there for a year, either at the
stations or camping by him self in the woods, surveying, hunting,
and making war against the Indians like any other settler; but
all the time his mind was bent on vaster schemes than were
dreamed of by the men around him. He had his spies out in the
Northwestern Territory, and became convinced that with a small
force of resolute backwoodsmen he could conquer it for the United
States. When he went back to Virginia, Governor Patrick Henry
entered heartily into Clark's schemes and gave him authority to
fit out a force for his purpose.

In 1778, after encountering endless difficulties and delays, he
finally raised a hundred and fifty backwoods riflemen. In May
they started down the Ohio in flatboats to undertake the allotted
task. They drifted and rowed downstream to the Falls of the Ohio,
where Clark founded a log hamlet, which has since become the
great city of Louisville.

Here he halted for some days and was joined by fifty or sixty
volunteers; but a number of the men deserted, and when, after an
eclipse of the sun, Clark again pushed off to go down with the
current, his force was but about one hundred and sixty riflemen.
All, however, were men on whom he could depend--men well used to
frontier warfare. They were tall, stalwart backwoodsmen, clad in
the hunting-shirt and leggings that formed the national dress of
their kind, and armed with the distinctive weapon of the
backwoods, the long-barreled, small-bore rifle.

Before reaching the Mississippi the little flotilla landed, and
Clark led his men northward against the Illinois towns. In one of
them, Kaskaskia, dwelt the British commander of the entire
district up to Detroit. The small garrison and the Creole militia
taken together outnumbered Clark's force, and they were in close
alliance with the Indians roundabout. Clark was anxious to take
the town by surprise and avoid bloodshed, as he believed he could
win over the Creoles to the American side. Marching cautiously by
night and generally hiding by day, he came to the outskirts of
the little village on the evening of July 4, and lay in the woods
near by until after nightfall.

Fortune favored him. That evening the officers of the garrison
had given a great ball to the mirth-loving Creoles, and almost
the entire population of the village had gathered in the fort,
where the dance was held. While the revelry was at its height,
Clark and his tall backwoodsmen, treading silently through the
darkness, came into the town, surprised the sentries, and
surrounded the fort without causing any alarm.

All the British and French capable of bearing arms were gathered
in the fort to take part in or look on at the merrymaking. When
his men were posted Clark walked boldly forward through the open
door, and, leaning against the wall, looked at the dancers as
they whirled around in the light of the flaring torches. For some
moments no one noticed him. Then an Indian who had been lying
with his chin on his hand, looking carefully over the gaunt
figure of the stranger, sprang to his feet, and uttered the wild
war-whoop. Immediately the dancing ceased and the men ran to and
fro in confusion; but Clark, stepping forward, bade them be at
their ease, but to remember that henceforth they danced under the
flag of the United States, and not under that of Great Britain.

The surprise was complete, and no resistance was attempted. For
twenty-four hours the Creoles were in abject terror. Then Clark
summoned their chief men together and explained that he came as
their ally, and not as their foe, and that if they would join
with him they should be citizens of the American republic, and
treated in all respects on an equality with their comrades. The
Creoles, caring little for the British, and rather fickle of
nature, accepted the proposition with joy, and with the most
enthusiastic loyalty toward Clark. Not only that, but sending
messengers to their kinsmen on the Wabash, they persuaded the
people of Vincennes likewise to cast off their allegiance to the
British king, and to hoist the American flag.

So far, Clark had conquered with greater ease than he had dared
to hope. But when the news reached the British governor,
Hamilton, at Detroit, he at once prepared to reconquer the land.
He had much greater forces at his command than Clark had; and in
the fall of that year he came down to Vincennes by stream and
portage, in a great fleet of canoes bearing five hundred fighting
men-British regulars, French partizans, and Indians. The
Vincennes Creoles refused to fight against the British, and the
American officer who had been sent thither by Clark had no
alternative but to surrender.

If Hamilton had then pushed on and struck Clark in Illinois,
having more than treble Clark's force, he could hardly have
failed to win the victory; but the season was late and the
journey so difficult that he did not believe it could be taken.
Accordingly he disbanded the Indians and sent some of his troops
back to Detroit, announcing that when spring came he would march
against Clark in Illinois.

If Clark in turn had awaited the blow he would have surely met
defeat; but he was a greater man than his antagonist, and he did
what the other deemed impossible.

Finding that Hamilton had sent home some of his troops and
dispersed all his Indians, Clark realized that his chance was to
strike before Hamilton's soldiers assembled again in the spring.
Accordingly he gathered together the pick of his men, together
with a few Creoles, one hundred and seventy all told, and set out
for Vincennes. At first the journey was easy enough, for they
passed across the snowy Illinois prairies, broken by great
reaches of lofty woods. They killed elk, buffalo, and deer for
food, there being no difficulty in getting all they wanted to
eat; and at night they built huge fires by which to sleep, and
feasted "like Indian war-dancers," as Clark said in his report.

But when, in the middle of February, they reached the drowned
lands of the Wabash, where the ice had just broken up and
everything was flooded, the difficulties seemed almost
insuperable, and the march became painful and laborious to a
degree. All day long the troops waded in the icy water, and at
night they could with difficulty find some little hillock on
which to sleep. Only Clark's indomitable courage and cheerfulness
kept the party in heart and enabled them to persevere. However,
persevere they did, and at last, on February 23, they came in
sight of the town of Vincennes. They captured a Creole who was
out shooting ducks, and from him learned that their approach was
utterly unsuspected, and that there were many Indians in town.

Clark was now in some doubt as to how to make his fight. The
British regulars dwelt in a small fort at one end of the town,
where they had two light guns; but Clark feared lest, if he made
a sudden night attack, the townspeople and Indians would from
sheer fright turn against him. He accordingly arranged, just
before he himself marched in, to send in the captured
duck-hunter, conveying a warning to the Indians and the Creoles
that he was about to attack the town, but that his only quarrel
was with the British, and that if the other inhabitants would
stay in their own homes they would not be molested. Sending the
duck-hunter ahead, Clark took up his march and entered the town
just after nightfall. The news conveyed by the released hunter
astounded the townspeople, and they talked it over eagerly, and
were in doubt what to do. The Indians, not knowing how great
might be the force that would assail the town, at once took
refuge in the neighboring woods, while the Creoles retired to
their own houses. The British knew nothing of what had happened
until the Americans had actually entered the streets of the
little village. Rushing forward, Clark's men soon penned the
regulars within their fort, where they kept them surrounded all
night. The next day a party of Indian warriors, who in the
British interest had been ravaging the settlements of Kentucky,
arrived and entered the town, ignorant that the Americans had
captured it. Marching boldly forward to the fort, they suddenly
found it beleaguered, and before they could flee they were seized
by the backwoodsmen. In their belts they carried the scalps of
the slain settlers. The savages were taken redhanded, and the
American frontiersmen were in no mood to show mercy. All the
Indians were tomahawked in sight of the fort.

For some time the British defended themselves well; but at length
their guns were disabled, all of the gunners being picked off by
the backwoods marksmen, and finally the garrison dared not so
much as appear at a port-hole, so deadly was the fire from the
long rifles. Under such circumstances Hamilton was forced to

No attempt was afterward made to molest the Americans in the land
they had won, and upon the conclusion of peace the Northwest,
which had been conquered by Clark, became part of the United


And such they are--and such they will be found:
Not so Leonidas and Washington,
Their every battle-field is holy ground
Which breathes of nations saved, not worlds undone.
How sweetly on the ear such echoes sound!
While the mere victor's may appal or stun
The servile and the vain, such names will be
A watchword till the future shall be free.


In December, 1776, the American Revolution was at its lowest ebb.
The first burst of enthusiasm, which drove the British back from
Concord and met them hand to hand at Bunker Hill, which forced
them to abandon Boston and repulsed their attack at Charleston,
had spent its force. The undisciplined American forces called
suddenly from the workshop and the farm had given way, under the
strain of a prolonged contest, and had been greatly scattered,
many of the soldiers returning to their homes. The power of
England, on the other hand, with her disciplined army and
abundant resources, had begun to tell. Washington, fighting
stubbornly, had been driven during the summer and autumn from
Long Island up the Hudson, and New York had passed into the hands
of the British. Then Forts Lee and Washington had been lost, and
finally the Continental army had retreated to New Jersey. On the
second of December Washington was at Princeton with some three
thousand ragged soldiers, and had escaped destruction only by the
rapidity of his movements. By the middle of the month General
Howe felt that the American army, unable as he believed either to
fight or to withstand the winter, must soon dissolve, and,
posting strong detachments at various points, he took up his
winter quarters in New York. The British general had under his
command in his various divisions twenty-five thousand
well-disciplined soldiers, and the conclusion he had reached was
not an unreasonable one; everything, in fact, seemed to confirm
his opinion. Thousands of the colonists were coming in and
accepting his amnesty. The American militia had left the field,
and no more would turn out, despite Washington's earnest appeals.
All that remained of the American Revolution was the little
Continental army and the man who led it.

Yet even in this dark hour Washington did not despair. He sent in
every direction for troops. Nothing was forgotten. Nothing that
he could do was left undone. Unceasingly he urged action upon
Congress, and at the same time with indomitable fighting spirit
he planned to attack the British. It was a desperate undertaking
in the face of such heavy odds, for in all his divisions he had
only some six thousand men, and even these were scattered. The
single hope was that by his own skill and courage he could snatch
victory from a situation where victory seemed impossible. With
the instinct of a great commander he saw that his only chance was
to fight the British detachments suddenly, unexpectedly, and
separately, and to do this not only required secrecy and perfect
judgment, but also the cool, unwavering courage of which, under
such circumstances, very few men have proved themselves capable.
As Christmas approached his plans were ready. He determined to
fall upon the British detachment of Hessians, under Colonel Rahl,
at Trenton, and there strike his first blow. To each division of
his little army a part in the attack was assigned with careful
forethought. Nothing was overlooked and nothing omitted, and
then, for some reason good or bad, every one of the division
commanders failed to do his part. As the general plan was
arranged, Gates was to march from Bristol with two thousand men;
Ewing was to cross at Trenton; Putnam was to come up from
Philadelphia; and Griffin was to make a diversion against Donop.
When the moment came, Gates, who disapproved the plan, was on his
way to Congress; Griffin abandoned New Jersey and fled before
Donop; Putnam did not attempt to leave Philadelphia; and Ewing
made no effort to cross at Trenton. Cadwalader came down from
Bristol, looked at the river and the floating ice, and then gave
it up as desperate. Nothing remained except Washington himself
with the main army, but he neither gave up, nor hesitated, nor
stopped on account of the ice, or the river, or the perils which
lay beyond. On Christmas Eve, when all the Christian world was
feasting and rejoicing, and while the British were enjoying
themselves in their comfortable quarters, Washington set out.
With twentyfour hundred men he crossed the Delaware through the
floating ice, his boats managed and rowed by the sturdy fishermen
of Marblehead from Glover's regiment. The crossing was
successful, and he landed about nine miles from Trenton. It was
bitter cold, and the sleet and snow drove sharply in the faces of
the troops. Sullivan, marching by the river, sent word that the
arms of his soldiers were wet. "Tell your general," was
Washington's reply to the message, "to use the bayonet, for the
town must be taken." When they reached Trenton it was broad
daylight. Washington, at the front and on the right of the line,
swept down the Pennington road, and, as he drove back the Hessian
pickets, he heard the shout of Sullivan's men as, with Stark
leading the van, they charged in from the river. A company of
jaegers and of light dragoons slipped away. There was some
fighting in the streets, but the attack was so strong and well
calculated that resistance was useless. Colonel Rahl, the British
commander, aroused from his revels, was killed as he rushed out
to rally his men, and in a few moments all was over. A thousand
prisoners fell into Washington's hands, and this important
detachment of the enemy was cut off and destroyed.

The news of Trenton alarmed the British, and Lord Cornwallis with
seven thousand of the best troops started at once from New York
in hot pursuit of the American army. Washington, who had now
rallied some five thousand men, fell back, skirmishing heavily,
behind the Assunpink, and when Cornwallis reached the river he
found the American army awaiting him on the other side of the
stream. Night was falling, and Cornwallis, feeling sure of his
prey, decided that he would not risk an assault until the next
morning. Many lessons had not yet taught him that it was a fatal
business to give even twelve hours to the great soldier opposed
to him. During the night Washington, leaving his fires burning
and taking a roundabout road which he had already reconnoitered,
marched to Princeton. There he struck another British detachment.
A sharp fight ensued, the British division was broken and
defeated, losing some five hundred men, and Washington withdrew
after this second victory to the highlands of New Jersey to rest
and recruit.

Frederick the Great is reported to have said that this was the
most brilliant campaign of the century. With a force very much
smaller than that of the enemy, Washington had succeeded in
striking the British at two places with superior forces at each
point of contact. At Trenton he had the benefit of a surprise,
but the second time he was between two hostile armies. He was
ready to fight Cornwallis when the latter reached the Assunpink,
trusting to the strength of his position to make up for his
inferiority of numbers. But when Cornwallis gave him the delay
of. a night, Washington, seeing the advantage offered by his
enemy's mistake, at once changed his whole plan, and, turning in
his tracks, fell upon the smaller of the two forces opposed to
him, wrecking and defeating it before the outgeneraled Cornwallis
could get up with the main army. Washington had thus shown the
highest form of military skill, for there is nothing that
requires so much judgment and knowledge, so much certainty of
movement and quick decision, as to meet a superior enemy at
different points, force the fighting, and at each point to
outnumber and overwhelm him.

But the military part of this great campaign was not all. Many
great soldiers have not been statesmen, and have failed to
realize the political necessities of the situation. Washington
presented the rare combination of a great soldier and a great
statesman as well. He aimed not only to win battles, but by his
operations in the field to influence the political situation and
affect public opinion. The American Revolution was going to
pieces. Unless some decisive victory could be won immediately, it
would have come to an end in the winter of 1776-77. This
Washington knew, and it was this which nerved his arm. The
results justified his forethought. The victories of Trenton and
Princeton restored the failing spirits of the people, and, what
was hardly less important, produced a deep impression in Europe
in favor of the colonies. The country, which had lost heart, and
become supine and almost hostile, revived. The militia again took
the field. Outlying parties of the British were attacked and cut
off, and recruits once more began to come in to the Continental
army. The Revolution was saved. That the English colonies in
North America would have broken away from the mother country
sooner or later cannot be doubted, but that particular Revolution
Of 1776 would have failed within a year, had it not been for
Washington. It is not, however, merely the fact that he was a
great soldier and statesman which we should remember. The most
memorable thing to us, and to all men, is the heroic spirit of
the man, which rose in those dreary December days to its greatest
height, under conditions so adverse that they had crushed the
hope of every one else. Let it be remembered, also, that it was
not a spirit of desperation or of ignorance, a reckless daring
which did not count the cost. No one knew better than
Washington--no one, indeed, so well--the exact state of affairs;
for he, conspicuously among great men, always looked facts
fearlessly in the face, and never deceived himself. He was under
no illusions, and it was this high quality of mind as much as any
other which enabled him to win victories.

How he really felt we know from what he wrote to Congress on
December 20, when he said: "It may be thought that I am going a
good deal out of the line of my duty to adopt these measures or
to advise thus freely. A character to lose, an estate to forfeit,
the inestimable blessing of liberty at stake, and a life devoted,
must be my excuse." These were the thoughts in his mind when he
was planning this masterly campaign. These same thoughts, we may
readily believe, were with him when his boat was making its way
through the ice of the Delaware on Christmas Eve. It was a very
solemn moment, and he was the only man in the darkness of that
night who fully understood what was at stake; but then, as
always, he was calm and serious, with a high courage which
nothing could depress.

The familiar picture of a later day depicts Washington crossing
the Delaware at the head of his soldiers. He is standing up in
the boat, looking forward in the teeth of the storm. It matters
little whether the work of the painter is in exact accordance
with the real scene or not. The daring courage, the high resolve,
the stern look forward and onward, which the artist strove to
show in the great leader, are all vitally true. For we may be
sure that the man who led that well-planned but desperate
assault, surrounded by darker conditions than the storms of
nature which gathered about his boat, and carrying with him the
fortunes of his country, was at that moment one of the most
heroic figures in history.


We are but warriors for the working-day;
Our gayness and our guilt are all besmirch'd
With rainy marching in the painful field;
There's not a piece of feather in our host
(Good argument, I hope, we shall not fly),
And time hath worn us into slovenry.
But, by the mass, our hearts are in the trim,
And my poor soldiers tell me, yet ere night
They'll be in fresher robes.
--Henry V.


The battle of Saratoga is included by Sir Edward Creasy among his
fifteen decisive battles which have, by their result, affected
the history of the world. It is true that the American Revolution
was saved by Washington in the remarkable Princeton and Trenton
campaign, but it is equally true that the surrender of Burgoyne
at Saratoga, in the following autumn, turned the scale decisively
in favor of the colonists by the impression which it made in
Europe. It was the destruction of Burgoyne's army which
determined France to aid the Americans against England. Hence
came the French alliance, the French troops, and, what was of far
more importance, a French fleet by which Washington was finally
able to get control of the sea, and in this way cut off
Cornwallis at Yorktown and bring the Revolution to a successful
close. That which led, however, more directly than anything else
to the final surrender at Saratoga was the fight at Bennington,
by which Burgoyne's army was severely crippled and weakened, and
by which also, the hardy militia of the North eastern States were
led to turn out in large numbers and join the army of Gates.

The English ministry had built great hopes upon Burgoyne's
expedition, and neither expense nor effort had been spared to
make it successful. He was amply furnished with money and
supplies as well as with English and German troops, the latter of
whom were bought from their wretched little princes by the
payment of generous subsidies. With an admirably equipped army of
over seven thousand men, and accompanied by a large force of
Indian allies, Burgoyne had started in May, 1777, from Canada.
His plan was to make his way by the lakes to the head waters of
the Hudson, and thence southward along the river to New York,
where he was to unite with Sir William Howe and the main army; in
this way cutting the colonies in two, and separating New England
from the rest of the country.

At first all went well. The Americans were pushed back from their
posts on the lakes, and by the end of July Burgoyne was at the
head waters of the Hudson. He had. already sent out a force,
under St. Leger, to take possession of the valley of the
Mohawk--an expedition which finally resulted in the defeat of the
British by Herkimer, and the capture of Fort Stanwix. To aid St.
Leger by a diversion, and also to capture certain magazines which
were reported to be at Bennington, Burgoyne sent another
expedition to the eastward. This force consisted of about five
hundred and fifty white troops, chiefly Hessians, and one hundred
and fifty Indians, all under the command of Colonel Baum. They
were within four miles of Bennington on August 13, 1777, and
encamped on a hill just within the boundaries of the State of New
York. The news of the advance of Burgoyne had already roused the
people of New York and New Hampshire, and the legislature of the
latter State had ordered General Stark with a brigade of militia
to stop the progress of the enemy on the western frontier. Stark
raised his standard at Charlestown on the Connecticut River, and
the militia poured into his camp. Disregarding Schuyler's orders
to join the main American army, which was falling back before
Burgoyne, Stark, as soon as he heard of the expedition against
Bennington, marched at once to meet Baum. He was within a mile of
the British camp on August 14, and vainly endeavored to draw Baum
into action. On the 15th it rained heavily, and the British
forces occupied the time in intrenching themselves strongly upon
the hill which they held. Baum meantime had already sent to
Burgoyne for reinforcements, and Burgoyne had detached Colonel
Breymann with over six hundred regular troops to go to Baum's
assistance. On the 16th the weather cleared, and Stark, who had
been reinforced by militia from western Massachusetts, determined
to attack.

Early in the day he sent men, under Nichols and Herrick, to get
into the rear of Baum's position. The German officer, ignorant of
the country and of the nature of the warfare in which he was
engaged, noticed small bodies of men in their shirtsleeves, and
carrying guns without bayonets, making their way to the rear of
his intrenchments. With singular stupidity he concluded that they
were Tory inhabitants of the country who were coming to his
assistance, and made no attempt to stop them. In this way Stark
was enabled to mass about five hundred men in the rear of the
enemy's position. Distracting the attention of the British by a
feint, Stark also moved about two hundred men to the right, and
having thus brought his forces into position he ordered a general
assault, and the Americans proceeded to storm the British
intrenchments on every side. The fight was a very hot one, and
lasted some two hours. The Indians, at the beginning of the
action, slipped away between the American detachments, but the
British and German regulars stubbornly stood their ground. It is
difficult to get at the exact numbers of the American troops, but
Stark seems to have had between fifteen hundred and two thousand
militia. He thus outnumbered his enemy nearly three to one, but
his men were merely country militia, farmers of the New England
States, very imperfectly disciplined, and armed only with muskets
and fowling-pieces, without bayonets or side-arms. On the other
side Baum had the most highly disciplined troops of England and
Germany under his command, well armed and equipped, and he was
moreover strongly intrenched with artillery well placed behind
the breastworks. The advantage in the fight should have been
clearly with Baum and his regulars, who merely had to hold an
intrenched hill.

It was not a battle in which either military strategy or a
scientific management of troops was displayed. All that Stark did
was to place his men so that they could attack the enemy's
position on every side, and then the Americans went at it, firing
as they pressed on. The British and Germans stood their ground
stubbornly, while the New England farmers rushed up to within
eight yards of the cannon, and picked off the men who manned the
guns. Stark himself was in the midst of the fray, fighting with
his soldiers, and came out of the conflict so blackened with
powder and smoke that he could hardly be recognized. One
desperate assault succeeded another, while the firing on both
sides was so incessant as to make, in Stark's own words, a
"continuous roar." At the end of two hours the Americans finally
swarmed over the intrenchments, beating down the soldiers with
their clubbed muskets. Baum ordered his infantry with the bayonet
and the dragoons with their sabers to force their way through,
but the Americans repulsed this final charge, and Baum himself
fell mortally wounded. All was then over, and the British forces

It was only just in time, for Breymann, who had taken thirty
hours to march some twenty-four miles, came up just after Baum's
men had laid down their arms. It seemed for a moment as if all
that had been gained might be lost. The Americans, attacked by
this fresh foe, wavered; but Stark rallied his line, and putting
in Warner, with one hundred and fifty Vermont men who had just
come on the field, stopped Breymann's advance, and finally forced
him to retreat with a loss of nearly one half his men. The
Americans lost in killed and wounded some seventy men, and the
Germans and British about twice as many, but the Americans took
about seven hundred prisoners, and completely wrecked the forces
of Baum and Breymann.

The blow was a severe one, and Burgoyne's army never recovered
from it. Not only had he lost nearly a thousand of his best
troops, besides cannon, arms, and munitions of war, but the
defeat affected the spirits of his army and destroyed his hold
over his Indian allies, who began to desert in large numbers.
Bennington, in fact, was one of the most important fights of the
Revolution, contributing as it did so largely to the final
surrender of Burgoyne's whole army at Saratoga, and the utter
ruin of the British invasion from the North. It is also
interesting as an extremely gallant bit of fighting. As has been
said, there was no strategy displayed, and there were no military
operations of the higher kind. There stood the enemy strongly
intrenched on a hill, and Stark, calling his undisciplined levies
about him, went at them. He himself was a man of the highest
courage and a reckless fighter. It was Stark who held the
railfence at Bunker Hill, and who led the van when Sullivan's
division poured into Trenton from the river road. He was
admirably adapted for the precise work which was necessary at
Bennington, and he and his men fought well their hand-to-hand
fight on that hot August day, and carried the intrenchments
filled with regular troops and defended by artillery. It was a
daring feat of arms, as well as a battle which had an important
effect upon the course of history and upon the fate of the
British empire in America.


Our fortress is the good greenwood,
Our tent the cypress tree;
We know the forest round us
As seamen know the sea.
We know its walls of thorny vines,
Its glades of reedy grass,
Its safe and silent islands
Within the dark morass.


The close of the year 1780 was, in the Southern States, the
darkest time of the Revolutionary struggle. Cornwallis had just
destroyed the army of Gates at Camden, and his two formidable
lieutenants, Tarlton the light horseman, and Ferguson the skilled
rifleman, had destroyed or scattered all the smaller bands that
had been fighting for the patriot cause. The red dragoons rode
hither and thither, and all through Georgia and South Carolina
none dared lift their heads to oppose them, while North Carolina
lay at the feet of Cornwallis, as he started through it with his
army to march into Virginia. There was no organized force against
him, and the cause of the patriots seemed hopeless. It was at
this hour that the wild backwoodsmen of the western border
gathered to strike a blow for liberty.

When Cornwallis invaded North Carolina he sent Ferguson into the
western part of the State to crush out any of the patriot forces
that might still be lingering among the foot-hills. Ferguson was
a very gallant and able officer, and a man of much influence with
the people wherever he went, so that he was peculiarly fitted for
this scrambling border warfare. He had under him a battalion of
regular troops and several other battalions of Tory militia, in
all eleven or twelve hundred men. He shattered and drove the
small bands of Whigs that were yet in arms, and finally pushed to
the foot of the mountain wall, till he could see in his front the
high ranges of the Great Smokies. Here he learned for the first
time that beyond the mountains there lay a few hamlets of
frontiersmen, whose homes were on what were then called the
Western Waters, that is, the waters which flowed into the
Mississippi. To these he sent word that if they did not prove
loyal to the king, he would cross their mountains, hang their
leaders, and burn their villages.

Beyond the, mountains, in the valleys of the Holston and Watauga,
dwelt men who were stout of heart and mighty in battle, and when
they heard the threats of Ferguson they burned with a sullen
flame of anger. Hitherto the foes against whom they had warred
had been not the British, but the Indian allies of the British,
Creek, and Cherokee, and Shawnee. Now that the army of the king
had come to their thresholds, they turned to meet it as fiercely
as they had met his Indian allies. Among the backwoodsmen of this
region there were at that time three men of special note: Sevier,
who afterward became governor of Tennessee; Shelby, who afterward
became governor of Kentucky; and Campbell, the Virginian, who
died in the Revolutionary War. Sevier had given a great barbecue,
where oxen and deer were roasted whole, while horseraces were
run, and the backwoodsmen tried their skill as marksmen and
wrestlers. In the midst of the feasting Shelby appeared, hot with
hard riding, to tell of the approach of Ferguson and the British.
Immediately the feasting was stopped, and the feasters made ready
for war. Sevier and Shelby sent word to Campbell to rouse the men
of his own district and come without delay, and they sent
messengers to and fro in their own neighborhood to summon the
settlers from their log huts on the stump-dotted clearings and
the hunters from their smoky cabins in the deep woods.

The meeting-place was at the Sycamore Shoals. On the appointed
day the backwoodsmen gathered sixteen hundred strong, each man
carrying a long rifle, and mounted on a tough, shaggy horse. They
were a wild and fierce people, accustomed to the chase and to
warfare with the Indians. Their hunting-shirts of buckskin or
homespun were girded in by bead-worked belts, and the trappings
of their horses were stained red and yellow. At the gathering
there was a black-frocked Presbyterian preacher, and before they
started he addressed the tall riflemen in words of burning zeal,
urging them to stand stoutly in the battle, and to smite with the
sword of the Lord and of Gideon. Then the army started, the
backwoods colonels riding in front. Two or three days later, word
was brought to Ferguson that the Back-water men had come over the
mountains; that the Indian-fighters of the frontier, leaving
unguarded their homes on the Western Waters, had crossed by
wooded and precipitous defiles to the help of the beaten men of
the plains. Ferguson at once fell back, sending out messengers
for help. When he came to King's Mountain, a wooded, hog-back
hill on the border line between North and South Carolina, he
camped on its top, deeming that there he was safe, for he
supposed that before the backwoodsmen could come near enough to
attack him help would reach him. But the backwoods leaders felt
as keenly as he the need of haste, and choosing out nine hundred
picked men, the best warriors of their force, and the best
mounted and armed, they made a long forced march to assail
Ferguson before help could come to him. All night long they rode
the dim forest trails and splashed across the fords of the
rushing rivers. All the next day, October 16, they rode, until in
mid-afternoon, just as a heavy shower cleared away, they came in
sight of King's Mountain. The little armies were about equal in
numbers. Ferguson's regulars were armed with the bayonet, and so
were some of his Tory militia, whereas the Americans had not a
bayonet among them; but they were picked men, confident in their
skill as riflemen, and they were so sure of victory that their
aim was not only to defeat the British but to capture their whole
force. The backwoods colonels, counseling together as they rode
at the head of the column, decided to surround the mountain and
assail it on all sides. Accordingly the bands of frontiersmen
split one from the other, and soon circled the craggy hill where
Ferguson's forces were encamped. They left their horses in the
rear and immediately began the battle, swarming forward on foot,
their commanders leading the attack.

The march had been so quick and the attack so sudden that
Ferguson had barely time to marshal his men before the assault
was made. Most of his militia he scattered around the top of the
hill to fire down at the Americans as they came up, while with
his regulars and with a few picked militia he charged with the
bayonet in person, first down one side of the mountain and then
down the other. Sevier, Shelby, Campbell, and the other colonels
of the frontiersmen, led each his force of riflemen straight
toward the summit. Each body in turn when charged by the regulars
was forced to give way, for there were no bayonets wherewith to
meet the foe; but the backwoodsmen retreated only so long as the
charge lasted, and the minute that it stopped they stopped too,
and came back ever closer to the ridge and ever with a deadlier
fire. Ferguson, blowing a silver whistle as a signal to his men,
led these charges, sword in hand, on horseback. At last, just as
he was once again rallying his men, the riflemen of Sevier and
Shelby crowned the top of the ridge. The gallant British
commander became a fair target for the backwoodsmen, and as for
the last time he led his men against them, seven bullets entered
his body and he fell dead. With his fall resistance ceased. The
regulars and Tories huddled together in a confused mass, while
the exultant Americans rushed forward. A flag of truce was
hoisted, and all the British who were not dead surrendered.

The victory was complete, and the backwoodsmen at once started to
return to their log hamlets and rough, lonely farms. They could
not stay, for they dared not leave their homes at the mercy of
the Indians. They had rendered a great service; for Cornwallis,
when he heard of the disaster to his trusted lieutenant,
abandoned his march northward, and retired to South Carolina.
When he again resumed the offensive, he found his path barred by
stubborn General Greene and his troops of the Continental line.


In their ragged regimentals
Stood the old Continentals,
Yielding not,
When the grenadiers were lunging,
And like hail fell the plunging
When the files
Of the isles
From the smoky night encampment bore the banner of the rampant
And grummer, grummer, grummer, rolled the roll of the drummer,
Through the morn!

Then with eyes to the front all,
And with guns horizontal,
Stood our sires;
And the balls whistled deadly,
And in streams flashing redly
Blazed the fires;
As the roar
On the shore
Swept the strong battle-breakers o'er the green-sodded acres
Of the plain;
And louder, louder, louder cracked the black gunpowder,
Cracked amain!
--Guy Humphrey McMaster.


One of the heroic figures of the Revolution was Anthony Wayne,
Major-General of the Continental line. With the exception of
Washington, and perhaps Greene, he was the bestgeneral the
Americans developed in the contest; and without exception he
showed himself to be the hardest fighter produced on either side.
He belongs, as regards this latter characteristic, with the men
like Winfield Scott, Phil Kearney, Hancock, and Forrest, who
reveled in the danger and the actual shock of arms. Indeed, his
eager loveof battle, and splendid disregard of peril, have made
many writers forget his really great qualities as a general.
Soldiers are always prompt to recognize the prime virtue of
physical courage, and Wayne's followers christened their daring
commander "Mad Anthony," in loving allusion to his reckless
bravery. It is perfectly true that Wayne had this courage, and
that he was a born fighter; otherwise, he never would have been a
great commander. A man who lacks the fondness for fighting, the
eager desire to punish his adversary, and the willingness to
suffer punishment in return, may be a great organizer, like
McClellan, but can never become a great general or win great
victories. There are, however, plenty of men who, though they
possess these fine manly traits, yet lack the head to command an
army; but Wayne had not only the heart and the hand but the head
likewise. No man could dare as greatly as he did without
incurring the risk of an occasional check; but he was an able and
bold tactician, a vigilant and cautious leader, well fitted to
bear the terrible burden of responsibility which rests upon a

Of course, at times he had some rather severe lessons. Quite
early in his career, just after the battle of the Brandywine,
when he was set to watch the enemy, he was surprised at night by
the British general Grey, a redoubtable fighter, who attacked him
with the bayonet, killed a number of his men, and forced him to
fall back some distance from the field of action. This mortifying
experience had no effect whatever on Wayne's courage or
self-reliance, but it did give him a valuable lesson in caution.
He showed what he had learned by the skill with which, many years
later, he conducted the famous campaign in which he overthrew the
Northwestern Indians at the Fight of the Fallen Timbers.

Wayne's favorite weapon was the bayonet, and, like Scott he
taught his troops, until they were able in the shock of
hand-to-hand conflict to overthrow the renowned British infantry,
who have always justly prided themselves on their prowess with
cold steel. At the battle of Germantown it was Wayne's troops
who, falling on with the bayonet, drove the Hessians and the
British light infantry, and only retreated under orders when the
attack had failed elsewhere. At Monmouth it was Wayne and his
Continentals who first checked the British advance by repulsing
the bayonet charge of the guards and grenadiers.

Washington, a true leader of men, was prompt to recognize in
Wayne a soldier to whom could be intrusted any especially
difficult enterprise which called for the exercise alike of
intelligence and of cool daring. In the summer of 1780 he was
very anxious to capture the British fort at Stony Point, which
commanded the Hudson. It was impracticable to attack it by
regular siege while the British frigates lay in the river, and
the defenses ere so strong that open assault by daylight was
equally out of the question. Accordingly Washington suggested to
Wayne that he try a night attack. Wayne eagerly caught at the
idea. It was exactly the kind of enterprise in which he
delighted. The fort was on a rocky promontory, surrounded on
three sides by water, and on the fourth by a neck of land, which
was for the most part mere morass. It was across this neck of
land that any attacking column had to move. The garrison was six
hundred strong. To deliver the assault Wayne took nine hundred
men. The American army was camped about fourteen miles from Stony
Point. One July afternoon Wayne started, and led his troops in
single file along the narrow rocky roads, reaching the hills on
the mainland near the fort after nightfall. He divided his force
into two columns, to advance one along each side of the neck,
detaching two companies of North Carolina troops to move in
between the two columns and make a false attack. The rest of the
force consisted of New Englanders, Pennsylvanians, and
Virginians. Each attacking column was divided into three parts, a
forlorn hope of twenty men leading, which was followed by an
advance guard of one hundred and twenty, and then by the main
body. At the time commanding officers still carried spontoons,
and other old-time weapons, and Wayne, who himself led the right
column, directed its movements spear in hand. It was nearly
midnight when the Americans began to press along the causeways
toward the fort. Before they were near the walls they were
discovered, and the British opened a heavy fire of great guns and
musketry, to which the Carolinians, who were advancing between
the two columns, responded in their turn, according to orders;
but the men in the columns were forbidden to fire. Wayne had
warned them that their work must be done with the bayonet, and
their muskets were not even loaded. Moreover, so strict was the
discipline that no one was allowed to leave the ranks, and when
one of the men did so an officer promptly ran him through the

No sooner had the British opened fire than the charging columns
broke into a run, and in a moment the forlorn hopes plunged into
the abattis of fallen timber which the British had constructed
just without the walls. On the left, the forlorn hope was very
roughly handled, no less than seventeen of the twenty men being
either killed or wounded, but as the columns came up both burst
through the down timber and swarmed up the long, sloping
embankments of the fort. The British fought well, cheering loudly
as their volley's rang, but the Americans would not be denied,
and pushed silently on to end the contest with the bayonet. A
bullet struck Wayne in the head. He fell, but struggled to his
feet and forward, two of his officers supporting him. A rumor
went among the men that he was dead, but it only impelled them to
charge home, more fiercely than ever.

With a rush the troops swept to the top of the wall. A fierce but
short fight followed in the intense darkness, which was lit only
by the flashes from the British muskets. The Americans did not
fire, trusting solely to the bayonet. The two columns had kept
almost equal pace, and they swept into the fort from opposite
sides at the same moment. The three men who first got over the
walls were all wounded, but one of them hauled down the British
flag. The Americans had the advantage which always comes from
delivering an attack that is thrust home. Their muskets were
unloaded and they could not hesitate; so, running boldly into
close quarters, they fought hand to hand with their foes and
speedily overthrew them. For a moment the bayonets flashed and
played; then the British lines broke as their assailants thronged
against them, and the struggle was over. The Americans had lost a
hundred in killed and wounded. Of the British sixty-three had
been slain and very many wounded, every one of the dead or
disabled having suffered from the bayonet. A curious coincidence
was that the number of the dead happened to be exactly equal to
the number of Wayne's men who had been killed in the night attack
by the English general, Grey.

There was great rejoicing among the Americans over the successful
issue of the attack. Wayne speedily recovered from his wound, and
in the joy of his victory it weighed but slightly. He had
performed a most notable feat. No night attack of the kind was
ever delivered with greater boldness, skill, and success. When
the Revolutionary War broke out the American armies were composed
merel y of armed yeomen, stalwart men, of good courage, and
fairly proficient in the use of their weapons, but entirely
without the training which alone could enable them to withstand
the attack of the British regulars in the open, or to deliver an
attack themselves. Washington's victory at Trenton was the first
encounter which showed that the Americans were to be feared when
they took the offensive. With the exception of the battle of
Trenton, and perhaps of Greene's fight at Eutaw Springs, Wayne's
feat was the most successful illustration of daring and
victorious attack by an American army that occurred during the
war; and, unlike Greene, who was only able to fight a drawn
battle, Wayne's triumph was complete. At Monmouth he had shown,
as he afterward showed against Cornwallis, that his troops could
meet the renowned British regulars on even terms in the open. At
Stony Point he showed that he could lead them to a triumphant
assault with the bayonet against regulars who held a fortified
place of strength. No American commander has ever displayed
greater energy and daring, a more resolute courage, or readier
resource, than the chief of the hard-fighting Revolutionary
generals, Mad Anthony Wayne.



Justum et tenacem propositi virum
Non civium ardor prava jubentium,
Non vultus instantis tyranni
Mente quatit solida, neque Auster
Dux inquieti turbidus Hadriae,
Nec fulminantis magna manus Jovis:
Si fractus illabatur orbis,
Impavidum ferient ruinae.
--Hor., Lib. III. Carm. III.


The 10th of August, 1792, was one of the most memorable days of
the French Revolution. It was the day on which the French
monarchy received its death-blow, and was accompanied by fighting
and bloodshed which filled Paris with terror. In the morning
before daybreak the tocsin had sounded, and not long after the
mob of Paris, headed by the Marseillais, "Six hundred men not
afraid to die," who had been summoned there by Barbaroux, were
marching upon the Tuileries. The king, or rather the queen, had
at last determined to make a stand and to defend the throne. The
Swiss Guards were there at the palace, well posted to protect the
inner court; and there, too, were the National Guards, who were
expected to uphold the government and guard the king. The tide of
people poured on through the streets, gathering strength as they
went the Marseillais, the armed bands, the Sections, and a vast
floating mob. The crowd drew nearer and nearer, but the squadrons
of the National Guards, who were to check the advance, did not
stir. It is not apparent, indeed, that they made any resistance,
and the king and his family at eight o'clock lost heart and
deserted the Tuileries, to take refuge with the National
Convention. The multitude then passed into the court of the
Carrousel, unchecked by the National Guards, and were face to
face with the Swiss. Deserted by their king, the Swiss knew not
how to act, but still stood their ground. There was some
parleying, and at last the Marseillais fired a cannon. Then the
Swiss fired. They were disciplined troops, and their fire was
effective. There was a heavy slaughter and the mob recoiled,
leaving their cannon, which the Swiss seized. The Revolutionists,
however, returned to the charge, and the fight raged on both
sides, the Swiss holding their ground firmly.

Suddenly, from the legislative hall, came an order from the king
to the Swiss to cease firing. It was their death warrant.
Paralyzed by the order, they knew not what to do. The mob poured
in, and most of the gallant Swiss were slaughtered where they
stood. Others escaped from the Tuileries only to meet their death
in the street. The palace was sacked and the raging mob was in
possession of the city. No man's life was safe, least of all
those who were known to be friends of the king, who were nobles,
or who had any connection with the court. Some of these people
whose lives were thus in peril at the hands of the bloodstained
and furious mob had been the allies of the United States, and had
fought under Washington in the war for American independence. In
their anguish and distress their thoughts recurred to the country
which they had served in its hour of trial, three thousand miles
away. They sought the legation of the United States and turned to
the American minister for protection.

Such an exercise of humanity at that moment was not a duty that
any man craved. In those terrible days in Paris, the
representatives of foreign governments were hardly safer than any
one else. Many of the ambassadors and ministers had already left
the country, and others were even then abandoning their posts,
which it seemed impossible to hold at such a time. But the
American minister stood his ground. Gouverneur Morris was not a
man to shrink from what he knew to be his duty. He had been a
leading patriot in our revolution; he had served in the
Continental Congress, and with Robert Morris in the difficult
work of the Treasury, when all our resources seemed to be at
their lowest ebb. In 1788 he had gone abroad on private business,
and had been much in Paris, where he had witnessed the beginning
of the French Revolution and had been consulted by men on both
sides. In 1790, by Washington's direction, he had gone to London
and had consulted the ministry there as to whether they would
receive an American minister. Thence he had returned to Paris,
and at the beginning Of 1792 Washington appointed him minister of
the United States to France.

As an American, Morris's sympathies had run strongly in favor of
the movement to relieve France from the despotism under which she
was sinking, and to give her a better and more liberal
government. But, as the Revolution progressed, he became outraged
and disgusted by the methods employed. He felt a profound
contempt for both sides. The inability of those who were
conducting the Revolution to carry out intelligent plans or
maintain order, and the feebleness of the king and his advisers,
were alike odious to the man with American conceptions of ordered
liberty. He was especially revolted by the bloodshed and cruelty,
constantly gathering in strength, which were displayed by the
revolutionists, and he had gone to the very verge of diplomatic
propriety in advising the ministers of the king in regard to the
policies to be pursued, and, as he foresaw what was coming, in
urging the king himself to leave France. All his efforts and all
his advice, like those of other intelligent men who kept their
heads during the whirl of the Revolution, were alike vain.

On August 10 the gathering storm broke with full force, and the
populace rose in arms to sweep away the tottering throne. Then it
was that these people, fleeing for their lives, came to the
representative of the country for which many of them had fought,
and on both public and private grounds besought the protection of
the American minister. Let me tell what happened in the words of
an eye-witness, an American gentleman who was in Paris at that
time, and who published the following account of his experiences:

On the ever memorable 10th of August, after viewing the
destruction of the Royal Swiss Guards and the dispersion of the
Paris militia by a band of foreign and native incendiaries, the
writer thought it his duty to visit the Minister, who had not
been out of his hotel since the insurrection began, and, as was
to be expected, would be anxious to learn what was passing
without doors. He was surrounded by the old Count d'Estaing, and
about a dozen other persons of distinction, of different sexes,
who had, from their connection with the United States, been his
most intimate acquaintances at Paris, and who had taken refuge
with him for protection from the bloodhounds which, in the forms
of men and women, were prowling in the streets at the time. All
was silence here, except that silence was occasionally
interrupted by the crying of the women and children. As I
retired, the Minister took me aside, and observed: "I have no
doubt, sir, but there are persons on the watch who would find
fault with my conduct as Minister in receiving and protecting
these people, but I call on you to witness the declaration which
I now make, and that is that they were not invited to my house,
but came of their own accord. Whether my house will be a
protection to them or to me, God only knows, but I will not turn
them out of it, let what will happen to me to which he added,
"You see, sir, they are all persons to whom our country is more
or less indebted, and it would be inhuman to force them into the
hands of the assas. sins, had they no such claim upon me."

Nothing can be added to this simple account, and no American can
read it or repeat the words of Mr. Morris without feeling even
now, a hundred years after the event, a glow of pride that such
words were uttered at such a time by the man who represented the
United States.

After August 10, when matters in Paris became still worse, Mr.
Morris still stayed at his post. Let me give, in his own words,
what he did and his reasons for it:

The different ambassadors and ministers are all taking their
flight, and if I stay I shall be alone. I mean, however, to stay,
unless circumstances should command me away, because, in the
admitted case that my letters of credence are to the monarchy,
and not to the Republic of France, it becomes a matter of
indifference whether I remain in this country or go to England
during the time which may be needful to obtain your orders, or to
produce a settlement of affairs here. Going hence, however, would
look like taking part against the late Revolution, and I am not
only unauthorized in this respect, but I am bound to suppose that
if the great majority of the nation adhere to the new form, the
United States will approve thereof; because, in the first place,
we have no right to prescribe to this country the government they
shall adopt, and next, because the basis of our own Constitution
is the indefeasible right of the people to establish it.

Among those who are leaving Paris is the Venetian ambassador. He
was furnished with passports from the Office of Foreign Affairs,
but he was, nevertheless, stopped at the barrier, was conducted
to the Hotel de Ville, was there questioned for hours, and his
carriages examined and searched. This violation of the rights of
ambassadors could not fail, as you may suppose, to make an
impression. It has been broadly hinted to me that the honor of my
country and my own require that I should go away. But I am of a
different opinion, and rather think that those who give such
hints are somewhat influenced by fear. It is true that the
position is not without danger, but I presume that when the
President did me the honor of naming me to this embassy, it was
not for my personal pleasure or safety, but to promote the
interests of my country. These, therefore, I shall continue to
pursue to the best of my judgment, and as to consequences, they
are in the hand of God.

He remained there until his successor arrived. When all others
fled, he was faithful, and such conduct should never be
forgotten. Mr. Morris not only risked his life, but he took a
heavy responsibility, and laid himself open to severe attack for
having protected defenseless people against the assaults of the
mob. But his courageous humanity is something which should ever
be remembered, and ought always to be characteristic of the men
who represent the United States in foreign countries. When we
recall the French Revolution, it is cheering to think of that
fearless figure of the American minister, standing firm and calm
in the midst of those awful scenes, with sacked palaces,
slaughtered soldiers, and a bloodstained mob about him,
regardless of danger to himself, determined to do his duty to his
country, and to those to whom his country was indebted.


And say besides, that in Aleppo once,
Where a malignant and a turban'd Turk
Beat a Venetian and traduced the state,
I took by the throat the circumcised dog
And smote him, thus.


It is difficult to conceive that there ever was a time when the
United States paid a money tribute to anybody. It is even more
difficult to imagine the United States paying blackmail to a set
of small piratical tribes on the coast of Africa. Yet this is
precisely what we once did with the Barbary powers, as they were
called the States of Morocco, Tunis, Tripoli, and Algiers, lying
along the northern coast of Africa. The only excuse to be made
for such action was that we merely followed the example of
Christendom. The civilized people of the world were then in the
habit of paying sums of money to these miserable pirates, in
order to secure immunity for their merchant vessels in the
Mediterranean. For this purpose Congress appropriated money, and
treaties were made by the President and ratified by the Senate.
On one occasion, at least, Congress actually revoked the
authorization of some new ships for the navy, and appropriated
more money than was required to build the men-of-war in order to
buy off the Barbary powers. The fund for this disgraceful purpose
was known as the "Mediterranean fund," and was intrusted to the
Secretary of State to be disbursed by him in his discretion.
After we had our brush with France, however, in 1798, and after
Truxtun's brilliant victory over the French frigate L'Insurgente
in the following year, it occurred to our government that perhaps
there was a more direct as well as a more manly way of dealing
with the Barbary pirates than by feebly paying them tribute, and
in 1801 a small squadron, under Commodore Dale, proceeded to the

At the same time events occurred which showed strikingly the
absurdity as well as the weakness of this policy of paying
blackmail to pirates. The Bashaw of Tripoli, complaining that we
had given more money to some of the Algerian ministers than we
had to him, and also that we had presented Algiers with a
frigate, declared war upon us, and cut down the flag-staff in
front of the residence of the American consul. At the same time,
and for the same reason, Morocco and Tunis began to grumble at
the treatment which they had received. The fact was that, with
nations as with individuals, when the payment of blackmail is
once begun there is no end to it. The appearance, however, of our
little squadron in the Mediterranean showed at once the
superiority of a policy of force over one of cowardly submission.
Morocco and Tunis immediately stopped their grumbling and came to
terms with the United States, and this left us free to deal with

Commodore Dale had sailed before the declaration of war by
Tripoli was known, and he was therefore hampered by his orders,
which permitted him only to protect our commerce, and which
forbade actual hostilities. Nevertheless, even under these
limited orders, the Enterprise, of twelve guns, commanded by
Lieutenant Sterrett, fought an action with the Tripolitan ship
Tripoli, of fourteen guns. The engagement lasted three hours,
when the Tripoli struck, having lost her mizzenmast, and with
twenty of her crew killed and thirty wounded. Sterrett, having no
orders to make captures, threw all the guns and ammunition of the
Tripoli overboard, cut away her remaining masts, and left her
with only one spar and a single sail to drift back to Tripoli, as
a hint to the Bashaw of the new American policy.

In 1803 the command of our fleet in the Mediterranean was taken
by Commodore Preble, who had just succeeded in forcing
satisfaction from Morocco for an attack made upon our merchantmen
by a vessel from Tangier. He also proclaimed a blockade of
Tripoli and was preparing to enforce it when the news reached him
that the frigate Philadelphia, forty-four guns, commanded by
Captain Bainbridge, and one of the best ships in our navy, had
gone upon a reef in the harbor of Tripoli, while pursuing a
vessel there, and had been surrounded and captured, with all her
crew, by the Tripolitan gunboats, when she was entirely helpless
either to fight or sail. This was a very serious blow to our navy
and to our operations against Tripoli. It not only weakened our
forces, but it was also a great help to the enemy. The
Tripolitans got the Philadelphia off the rocks, towed her into
the harbor, and anchored her close under the guns of their forts.
They also replaced her batteries, and prepared to make her ready
for sea, where she would have been a most formidable danger to
our shipping.

Under these circumstances Stephen Decatur, a young lieutenant in
command of the Enterprise, offered to Commodore Preble to go into
the harbor and destroy the Philadelphia. Some delay ensued, as
our squadron was driven by severe gales from the Tripolitan
coast; but at last, in January, 1804, Preble gave orders to
Decatur to undertake the work for which he had volunteered. A
small vessel known as a ketch had been recently captured from the
Tripolitans by Decatur, and this prize was now named the
Intrepid, and assigned to him for the work he had in hand. He
took seventy men from his own ship, the Enterprise, and put them
on the Intrepid, and then, accompanied by Lieutenant Stewart in
the Siren, who was to support him, he set sail for Tripoli. He
and his crew were very much cramped as well as badly fed on the
little vessel which had been given to them, but they succeeded,
nevertheless, in reaching Tripoli in safety, accompanied by the

For nearly a week they were unable to approach the harbor, owing
to severe gales which threatened the loss of their vessel; but on
February 16 the weather moderated and Decatur determined to go
in. It is well to recall, briefly, the extreme peril of the
attack which he was about to make. The Philadelphia, with forty
guns mounted, double-shotted, and ready for firing, and manned by
a full complement of men, was moored within half a gunshot of the
Bashaw's castle, the mole and crown batteries, and within range
of ten other batteries, mounting, altogether, one hundred and
fifteen guns. Some Tripolitan cruisers, two galleys, and nineteen
gunboats also lay between the Philadelphia and the shore. Into
the midst of this powerful armament Decatur had to go with his
little vessel of sixty tons, carrying four small guns and having
a crew of seventy-five men.

The Americans, however, were entirely undismayed by the odds
against them, and at seven o'clock Decatur went into the harbor
between the reef and shoal which formed its mouth. He steered on
steadily toward the Philadelphia, the breeze getting constantly
lighter, and by half-past nine was within two hundred yards of
the frigate. As they approached Decatur stood at the helm with
the pilot, only two or three men showing on deck and the rest of
the crew lying hidden under the bulwarks. In this way he drifted
to within nearly twenty yards of the Philadelphia. The suspicions
of the Tripolitans, however, were not aroused, and when they
hailed the Intrepid, the pilot answered that they had lost their
anchors in a gale, and asked that they might run a warp to the
frigate and ride by her. While the talk went on the Intrepid's
boat shoved off with the rope, and pulling to the fore-chains of
the Philadelphia, made the line fast. A few of the crew then
began to haul on the lines, and thus the Intrepid was drawn
gradually toward the frigate.

The suspicions of the Tripolitans were now at last awakened. They
raised the cry of "Americanos!" and ordered off the Intrepiid,
but it was too late. As the vessels came in contact, Decatur
sprang up the main chains of the Philadelphia, calling out the
order to board. He was rapidly followed by his officers and men,
and as they swarmed over the rails and came upon the deck, the
Tripolitan crew gathered, panic-stricken, in a confused mass on
the forecastle. Decatur waited a moment until his men were behind
him, and then, placing himself at their head, drew his sword and
rushed upon the Tripolitans. There was a very short struggle, and
the Tripolitans, crowded together, terrified and surprised, were
cut down or driven overboard. In five minutes the ship was
cleared of the enemy.

Decatur would have liked to have taken the Philadelphia out of
the harbor, but that was impossible. He therefore gave orders to
burn the ship, and his men, who had been thoroughly instructed in
what they were to do, dispersed into all parts of the frigate
with the combustibles which had been prepared, and in a few
minutes, so well and quickly was the work done, the flames broke
out in all parts of the Philadelphia. As soon as this was
effected the order was given to return to the Intrepid. Without
confusion the men obeyed. It was a moment of great danger, for
fire was breaking out on all sides, and the Intrepid herself,
filled as she was with powder and combustibles, was in great
peril of sudden destruction. The rapidity of Decatur's movements,
however, saved everything. The cables were cut, the sweeps got
out, and the Intrepid drew rapidly away from the burning frigate.
It was a magnificent sight as the flames burst out over the
Philadephia and ran rapidly and fiercely up the masts and
rigging. As her guns became heated they were discharged, one
battery pouring its shots into the town. Finally the cables
parted, and then the Philadelphia, a mass of flames, drifted
across the harbor, and blew up. Meantime the batteries of the
shipping and the castle had been turned upon the Intrepid, but
although the shot struck all around her, she escaped successfully
with only one shot through her mainsail, and, joining the Siren,
bore away.

This successful attack was carried through by the cool courage of
Decatur and the admirable discipline of his men. The hazard was
very great, the odds were very heavy, and everything depended on
the nerve with which the attack was made and the completeness of
the surprise. Nothing miscarried, and no success could have been
more complete. Nelson, at that time in the Mediterranean, and the
best judge of a naval exploit as well as the greatest naval
commander who has ever lived, pronounced it "the most bold and
daring act of the age." We meet no single feat exactly like it in
our own naval history, brilliant as that has been, until we come
to Cushing's destruction of the A1bemarle in the war of the
rebellion. In the years that have elapsed, and among the great
events that have occurred since that time, Decatur's burning of
the Philadephia has been well-nigh forgotten; but it is one of
those feats of arms which illustrate the high courage of American
seamen, and which ought always to be remembered.


A crash as when some swollen cloud
Cracks o'er the tangled trees!
With side to side, and spar to spar,
Whose smoking decks are these?
I know St. George's blood-red cross,
Thou mistress of the seas,
But what is she whose streaming bars
Roll out before the breeze?

Ah, well her iron ribs are knit,
Whose thunders strive to quell
The bellowing throats, the blazing lips,
That pealed the Armada's knell!
The mist was cleared,--a wreath of stars
Rose o'er the crimsoned swell,
And, wavering from its haughty peak,
The cross of England fell!


In the war of 1812 the little American navy, including only a
dozen frigates and sloops of war, won a series of victories
against the English, the hitherto undoubted masters of the sea,
that attracted an attention altogether out of proportion to the
force of the combatants or the actual damage done. For one
hundred and fifty years the English ships of war had failed to
find fit rivals in those of any other European power, although
they had been matched against each in turn; and when the unknown
navy of the new nation growing up across the Atlantic did what no
European navy had ever been able to do, not only the English and
Americans, but the people of Continental Europe as well, regarded
the feat as important out of all proportion to the material
aspects of the case. The Americans first proved that the English
could be beaten at their own game on the sea. They did what the
huge fleets of France, Spain, and Holland had failed to do, and
the great modern writers on naval warfare in Continental Europe-
-men like Jurien de la Graviere--have paid the same attention to
these contests of frigates and sloops that they give to whole
fleet actions of other wars.

Among the famous ships of the Americans in this war were two
named the Wasp. The first was an eighteen-gun ship-sloop, which
at the very outset of the war captured a British brig-sloop of
twenty guns, after an engagement in which the British fought with
great gallantry, but were knocked to Pieces, while the Americans
escaped comparatively unscathed. Immediately afterward a British
seventy-four captured the victor. In memory of her the Americans
gave the same name to one of the new sloops they were building.
These sloops were stoutly made, speedy vessels which in strength

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