out of the smoke came the voice of a grievously
wounded sailor : -
"The cowards are hanging back, even though they
were the first to get the order for close action.
When the smoke lifted a few minutes ago I saw the
brig almost out of range, using her heavy guns as if
at target practice."
Alec, uttering a cry of mingled sorrow and anger,
ran aft, I keeping close at his heels, and he had no
more than gained the quarterdeck when a splintered
fragment of our starboard rail struck him on the
shoulder, literally tearing the clothes from his back.
I sprang forward quickly, believing him to be
wounded ; but the commodore was ahead of me, and
for an instant he ceased to observe what was going
on around us in his anxiety for the lad.
" I'm not hurt, Oliver dear," Alec said with a
smile ; but the sudden pallor of his face told that the
shock had been a severe one. " It's not the nearest
THE FIRST SHOT. 2/3
call for a wound that I have had," he added, showing
his hat, through which had passed two musket-balls.
" I don't ask you to be less brave, brother mine,
for now is the time when every man must hold his
life cheaply ; but you should be sufficiently cautious
not to expose yourself unnecessarily."
" I came to ask why the commander of the Niag-
ara had not obeyed orders ? It is said she lays at
long range while we are so sorely pressed."
" I cannot answer your question, lad," the com-
modore replied bitterly. " Elliott is no coward, and
yet he has given us but little support. Richard Dob-
bins, go forward and ascertain how much damage
the Lawrence has sustained in that quarter."
I obeyed on the instant, forgetting all my fear and
horror in the terrible thought that we were surely
being worsted, else why had our commander spoken
in so hopeless a tone.
Once forward of the foremast, and I did not get
there without stumbling again and again over a dead
or a wounded man, it was as if I had suddenly
boarded a wreck.
Everything was carried away forward from the
.after portion of the forecastle-deck, and I was like to
being pitched overboard as I pressed blindly along until
coming upon the very edge of the shattered timbers.
274 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
I believe of a verity that a missile of some de-
scription struck this portion of the brig every five
seconds, and but for the horror of the discovery my
legs would have trembled beneath me in abject fear
of death ; whereas I utterly failed to realize the
The Lawrence was little better than a wreck ; it
did not seem possible she could swim ten minutes
longer, and I hastened back over that deck slippery
with blood, despite the sand which had been strewn
upon it, to make my doleful report.
I had but just gained the quarterdeck when a round
shot struck the mainmast within three feet of my head,
sending huge splinters flying in every direction, one of
them hitting Alec Perry full in the breast.
I saw the dear lad fling up his hands convulsively,
and then pitch forward upon the deck like one smitten
by sudden death.
It was as if that terrible sight deprived me of all my
senses save that of affection for him who had proven
himself such a true comrade, and with a cry of despair
I flung myself upon the deck by his side, heeding
neither the danger to life, nor of defeat.
AFTER reading over what has been set down, I am
afraid that I have made it appear much as if the
commodore, old Silas, Alec, and myself were the only
Americans present at the battle of Lake Erie.
That I have said too much regarding my own fears
and hopes is positive, and in these last pages I will try
to remedy the matter by speaking of the battle as I
have heard old and experienced men, who were present,
describe it, halting here only so long as may be neces-
sary to explain that Alec Perry was not dangerously
Every one who saw him fall felt certain he had re-
ceived his death-blow. During fully a moment the
commodore was convinced of the same ; but within a
very short time after I flung myself down by his side,
the dear lad revived sufficiently to speak, and the ter-
rible load was lifted from my heart.
Alec was badly bruised, as indeed any one would
likely be who had been struck twice by splinters, but
the injuries were not serious, and he refused decidedly
2/6 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
to present himself before Dr. Parsons, as I suggested
and even urged.
While we two lay there, I trying to make out if my
comrade was nigh to death, Lieutenant Yarnall came
up, looking more ghastly than any man I had seen since
the action began. His nose had been cut through by a
splinter, and was swollen until it resembled a huge
piece of liver rather than anything I can bring to mind.
He was bleeding from several wounds, but his courage
was in nowise injured.
" All the officers in my division have been cut down,
sir, and I would like to have others," he said, saluting
gravely as if on parade.
" I have no more to give you," the commodore re-
plied, returning the salute. " You must endeavor to
make out alone."
" Very well, sir," and the first officer of the Lawrence
returned through that storm of cannon-balls and mus-
ket-bullets to his station as calmly as he might have
done had we simply been firing a friendly salute.
Now here is a description of the battle from the
beginning up to this time, as I have seen it written
down by one who was more familiar with the details
than I, for enshrouded in smoke, and a novice in such
matters, I know no more than what happened immedi-
ately around me :
THE BATTLE. 277
" Perry l soon perceived that he was yet too far dis-
tant to damage the enemy materially, so he ordered
word to be sent from vessel to vessel by trumpet for all
to make sail, bear down upon Barclay, and engage in
" The order was transmitted by Captain Elliott, who
was the second in command, but he failed to obey it
himself. His vessel was a fast sailer, and his men were
the best in the squadron, but he kept at a distance from
the enemy, and continued firing his long guns.
" Perry, meanwhile, pressed on with the Lawrence,
accompanied by the Scorpion, Ariel, and Caledonia;
and at meridian exactly, when he supposed he was
near enough for execution with his carronades, he
opened the first division of his battery on the star-
board side of the Detroit. His balls fell short, while
his antagonist and her consorts poured upon the Laiv-
rence a heavy storm of round shot from their long
guns, still leaving the Scorpion and Ariel almost un-
" The Caledonia, meanwhile, engaged with the
Hunter, but the Niagara kept at a respectful dis-
tance from the Queen Charlotte, and gave that vessel
an opportunity to go to the assistance of the Detroit.
She passed the Hunter, and, placing herself astern
1 Lossing's " War of 1812."
2/8 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
of the Detroit, opened heavily upon the Lawrence,
now, at a quarter past twelve, only musket-shot dis-
tance from her chief antagonist.
" For two hours the gallant Perry and his devoted
ship bore the brunt of the battle with twice his force,
aided only by the schooners on his weather bow and
some feeble shots from the distant Caledonia, when
she could spare time from her adversary, the Hunter.
During that tempest of war his vessel was terribly
shattered. Her rigging was nearly all shot away ;
her sails were torn in shreds ; her spars were bat-
tered into splinters ; her guns were dismounted ; and
she lay upon the waters almost a helpless wreck.
"The carnage on her deck had been terrible. Out
of one hundred and three sound men that composed
her officers and crew when she went into action,
twenty-two were slain and sixty-one were wounded.
Perry's little brother had been struck down by a
splinter at his side, but soon recovered. . . .
" While the Lawrence was being thus terribly smit-
ten, officers and crew were anxiously wondering why
the Niagara the swift, stanch, well-manned Niagara
-kept aloof, not only from her prescribed antago-
nist, the Queen CJiarlotte, now battling the Lawrence,
but the other assailants of the flag-ship. Her com-
mander himself had passed the order for close con-
THE BATTLE. 2 79
flict, yet he kept far away ; and when afterward
censured, he pleaded, in justification of his course, his
perfect obedience to the original order to keep at
' half cable length behind the Caledonia on the line.'
It may be said that his orders to fight the Queen
Charlotte, who had left Jicr line and gone into the
thickest of the fight with the Lawrence and her sup-
porting schooners, were quite as imperative, and that
it was his duty to follow. This he did not do until
the guns of the Lawrence became silent, and no
signals were displayed by, nor special orders came
from Perry. These significant tokens of dissolution
doubtless made Elliott believe that the commodore
was slain, and he himself had become the chief com-
mander of the squadron.
" He then hailed the Caledonia, and ordered Lieu-
tenant Turner to leave the line and bear down upon
the Hunter for close conflict, giving the Niagara a
chance to pass for the relief of the Lawrence. The
gallant Turner instantly obeyed, and the Caledonia
fought her adversary nobly. The Niagara spread her
canvas before a freshening breeze that had just
sprung up ; but, instead of going to the relief of the
Lawrence, thus silently pleading for protection, she
bore away toward the head of the enemy's squadron,
passing the American flag-ship to the windward, and
28O WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
leaving her exposed to the still galling fire of the
enemy, because, as was alleged in extenuation of this
apparent violation of the rules of naval warfare and
the claims of humanity, both squadrons had caught
the breeze and moved forward, and left the crippled
vessel floating astern."
It was only by the cessation of the shocks which
told of the brig's having been struck by a ball that
we on board knew the enemy was moving forward,
leaving us little else than a hulk upon the waters.
Then the smoke of battle which had hung over
our decks like a shroud was wafted away by the
wind ; and we saw the Niagara, half a mile or more
on the larboard beam, engaged with the Queen Cliar-
lotfe, Lady Prevost, and Hunter.
It was as if we had been cast aside as worthless,
and that the remainder of the fight would be be-
tween those who had suffered less injury.
Perhaps, under another commander, such would
have been the case ; but Oliver Perry was never one
to be cast aside or to shrink from any danger, and
it was not in his mind to remain at a distance.
First, however, he gave heed to the gallant fellows
who had been disabled ; and Alec and I walked by his
side as he moved from one to another of those who as
yet had not been carried into the dismantled cockpit.
THE BATTLE. 28 1
There were but fourteen men and boys on board
who had not been injured more or less severely, and
among them no more than two guns' crews could
have been made up.
While we were amidships, Alec and I took advantage
of the opportunity to run into the ward-room, where Dr.
Parsons, now working alone because all his assistants
had been summoned on deck to aid in working the brig,
was performing his cruel-looking offices of mercy.
It was for the purpose of learning if old Silas yet
lived that we ventured into the horrible place, strewn
here and there with dismembered limbs or fragments
of human flesh, and to our great joy the gunner had
so far recovered from his faintness as to be quarrel-
ling with the surgeon because that officer refused to
allow him to go on deck.
" A bit knocked up, lads ; but with blood enough
left in my veins to give the Britishers another chance
at drawin' it. This 'ere sawbones is takin' too much
on himself, when he sets up that Silas Boyd shan't
do his duty."
" There is nothing left for you to do, Master Boyd,"
Alec said, as he laid his hand upon the old man's head.
" The Lawrence is out of the fight just now, and even
though she wasn't, I question if you could find a ser-
viceable gun aboard."
282 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
" You're not tellin' me that the brig has struck her
colors ? " and the old man would have sprung up but
that we two lads held him down by main strength.
" Not a bit of it. The blue flag is still flying ; but
the brig appears to be little better than a wreck, and
both squadrons have drawn off from us."
"And the fight? What kind of a turn is that
takin' ? "
" We appear to be holding our own."
" No more ? No more than holdin' our own, lad ? "
" I cannot see that we gain any advantage ; but
the flag-ship is the only craft which has been so badly
The 'commodore's voice from above summoned us
to the deck, and as we clambered up the narrow com-
panionway I heard old Silas giving the surgeon a
tongue-lashing because the latter had threatened to
tie the gunner to a stanchion if he persisted in his
attempts to leave the cockpit.
When Alec and I were come on deck again an ex-
clamation of surprise burst from our lips.
We had left the commodore clad in the garb of a
sailor, smoke-begrimed and covered with the blood
of others to whom he had lent a helping hand.
Now he was arrayed in the uniform of an officer in
the American navy, from the epaulets to the sword,
THE BATTLE. 283
and looked to my eye more like a victor than one whose
ship had been literally torn to pieces beneath his feet.
I stared at him in astonishment ; but Alec, going to
his brother's side, asked in surprise :
"What is the meaning of this, Oliver?"
" Of what, lad ? "
"Why have you laid aside the clothes you wore in
action ? "
" It is well that not only my own men, but the enemy,
shall recognize me when I transfer my flag."
Alec looked at the commodore in mute surprise, and
for the moment I believed our commander had lost his
"The Niagara appears to be in good condition,"
Perry said with a smile, " and it is from her deck that
I will direct the battle to a glorious ending."
I looked out over the waters, which were literally boil-
ing and spouting under the falling shot, asking myself
how it might be possible for the commodore to do as he
had said, knowing full well that the Lawrence, wreck as
she was, could not be manoeuvred.
" Lieutenant Yarnall," Perry said, turning to the first
officer, who was bleeding from four or five wounds,
with his face disfigured as I have already related, " I
leave the Lawrence in your charge, with discretionary
powers. Hold out, or surrender, as your judgment and
284 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
the circumstances shall dictate. Have a boat lowered,
and detail a full complement of oarsmen, if it so be that
number of unwounded men be found aboard. Take
down my pennant and the blue banner, for the remain-
der of the fleet shall fight under both until victory is
brought out of this tangle."
" Will you leave me here, Oliver ? " Alec asked, when
Lieutenant Yarnall had set about obeying the orders.
" You shall go with me, lad, for it is well we two re-
main together while it be possible."
"And Richard? " the dear lad asked, noting the look
of entreaty in my eyes.
" He had best stay here ; we cannot take too many
into such peril, for it will be no child's play to pull
through yonder storm of shot."
" You need oarsmen, sir, and I question if enough
can be found to man the boat, without taking every
one from the brig," I said quickly, distressed beyond
measure at the thought that I might be separated from
" You shall go as a member of the boat's crew," the
commodore replied promptly, and at the same time
kindly; "yet I am not certain it is a friendly act to
take you two lads through that deadly fire."
" We would venture very much more, sir, for the sake
of being with you," I made bold to say, and was re-
THE BATTLE. 285
warded for the speech by a kindly smile from the man
who on that day proved himself to be chief of a band
wherein every man was a hero.
At this point Lieutenant Yarnall reported that the
required number of unwounded men could not be mus-
tered in the brig unless all the guns were abandoned,
and I stepped forward, for now was come the time
when I could make no claim of comradeship - in this
hour of death the brothers stood apart by themselves,
out of my world, as it were.
"With this lad, I can give you four at the oars, sir,"
the lieutenant reported, and our commodore replied,
with that smile which had come to be in my eyes more
precious than anything he could bestow : -
" It will do, Mr. Yarnall. The smaller the number
the less to be put in jeopardy of their lives. Is the
boat away? "
" Ay, sir, all is ready, now that the lad will be taken
on as an able seaman."
Obeying a gesture of the lieutenant's, I went for-
ward to the starboard rail, beneath which was the tiny
craft for the conveyance of the commander-in-chief,
and without venturing to presume upon any possible
claims of comradeship, took my place among the oars-
As soon thereafter as might be, the commodore and
286 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
Alec came over the shattered rail, the former carrying
under his arm the broad banner of blue, and the pen-
I had been eager to accompany the commander, and
yet when I took my station in the boat, and had a better
view of that stretch of water whereon it seemed that
every square inch was covered by bullet or ball, the
chance of escaping with life seemed less than when we
stood on the deck of the Lawrence exposed to the fire
of the Britishers' heaviest guns.
" Little show of takin' a cockle-shell like this across
yonder stretch, eh ? " one of the seamen said, with a
grin, observing the direction of my glance, and most
likely noting the sudden pallor of my face.
" It surely seems as if we would be cut to pieces
before going fifty yards from the brig's side," I replied,
and certain am I that my voice trembled like a coward's,
although at the moment I was not conscious of what
might rightly be called fear.
"That's what I allow will happen," the man said, as
he stuffed his mouth full of tobacco. " It's a likely
spot in which to swamp a boat, yet I'm not so sure but
that a decent man would choose to die there, rather
than in yonder hole where Dr. Parsons hacks an'
hews to his heart's content before the breath of life
THE BATTLE. 287
Perhaps it was some such reminder as this which I
needed to give me the proper amount of spirit, for once
he spoke of the cockpit I felt such a sense of relief
at being free from it for the moment that there came
to me a certain degree of calmness, enabling me to greet
our commander properly when he came over the rail,
followed by Alec.
It was as if my comrade shared in the glory which
Commodore Perry had already won, and yet I did not
envy him the honor. He was a brave lad, while I could
be counted only as a timorous being whose courage was
like to fail him at the supreme moment, and I felt more
pride in his distinction of place than if our positions
had been reversed.
Alec and his brother took their places in the stern-
sheets, and the latter cried to Lieutenant Yarnall and
the other bleeding, brave fellows who overhung the
rail : -
" Do as you will with the Laivrence, Mr. Yarnall, and
whatever may be the turn of affairs, count on our
speedily coming to your assistance."
"God bless you, commodore!" was the gallant
officer's reply, and then we left him on a sinking ship
with only grievously wounded men as shipmates and
It was the commodore himself who gave the order
288 WITH PERRY ON LAKE ERIE.
for us to push off, and, as if thinking we at the oars
needed heartening lest we should falter in the task
after reaching that spot where the iron hail was
thickest, he wrapped the pennant around his shoulders,
standing erect while we pulled out to what seemed
Once we were clear of the brig it was as if the
enemy knew full well the precious cargo our boat car-
ried, and understood that only by compassing the com-
modore's death could they hope to win the day, for on
the instant every gun was aimed at us, and every sharp-
shooter on the Britishers' decks used us as a target.
I may live to be a very old man, and take part in
many another battle, but it is not possible I shall ever
again find myself in such a deadly shower as was
poured upon us from the moment we left the side of
the shattered Lawrence.
The bullets struck everywhere around us ; the can-
non-balls made the water boil and spout so high as to
come over the gunwales until the light craft was in
great danger of being swamped ; but, singularly
enough, not one found lodgment among us.
At that moment I believed a divine Providence was
watching over our commodore lest he should come to
harm, and I have never since had good reason to
change my opinion.
THE BATTLE. 289
Of a verity all the marines who wore red coats aimed
their guns at Perry, and we at the oars cried out to him
that he must take such shelter as was possible.
" It is proper the commander of a squadron show
himself," was all the reply our entreaties could pro-
voke, and finally I said to Alec, emboldened now by
the despair which came upon me with the thought that
the day was indeed lost if that bold spirit continued to
present himself as a mark for the British bullets :
" Unless the commodore sits down, and takes care
to hide himself from sight of the enemy, I for one will
lay down my oar, trusting that the wind may blow us
out of musket-shot range ! "
" I stand by what the lad has said," one of the sea-
men cried, and on the instant every man stopped row-
ing, for there was not one aboard minded to have any
share in a martyr's death.
" To your oars, lads, to your oars ! " the commodore
cried excitedly. " Every second may be of the greatest
value to us now ! "
I had not the courage to oppose his will, but the
eldest of the seamen said decidedly : -
"We're not warranted in disobeying orders, sir;
but I for one will never carry you to certain death,
whatever may be the commission you hold."
And another added : -
2QO WITH PERRY OX LAKE ERIE.
" Cease to make yourself so conspicuous, sir, an'
you shall see how readily we will obey the lightest
order you choose to give, even though knowin' we
go to our death. It is your life, not ours, which is
of importance this day."
The gallant young officer looked at us for an in-
stant as if minded to administer some sharp reproof,
and then I, who observed him closely, saw the mois-
ture gathering in his eyes as he said in a low tone :
"You be brave lads, all; and at such a moment
as this there shall be no question of authority."
Whereat he seated himself by Alec's side, and the
dear lad clasped his brother's neck closely as he
looked at me with pride beaming from his eyes.
The bunting was unwound from around the hero's
shoulders, and while he presented quite as fair a
target for the bullets, it did not seem to us that he
offered the enemy as much of an advantage.
Then we bent ourselves to the oars once more, pull-
ing with every ounce of strength that could be forced
from our muscles, and heading straight toward the
Niagara whereon was Captain Elliott, hugging to his
heart the belief that at last he was the sole com-
mander of the American squadron.
It is not for such as me to criticise the doings of
one whom the government had placed high in com-
THE BATTLE. 29 1
mand, yet I say now, as I have a thousand times
since that terrible yet glorious day, that the com-
mander of the Niagara kept aloof from the heat of
battle with no other idea in his mind save that he
might rise to fame over the dead body of our com-
To look back now in my mind's eye on what I saw
then, it seems like relating the story of some miracle
to say that we came out of that murderous fire, pull-
ing alongside the Niagara in safety.
Our boat was literally riddled with bullets, and yet
not one of us had received a wound. Every oar was
shattered, but we worked with such timber as re-
mained, until our hero had been put in a position
which enabled him to win the day.
Even now, the proudest memory of mine is that I
did my share in winning the battle of Lake Erie,
timorous lad though I am.
It was Captain Elliott himself who met Commodore
Perry at the Niagara 's gangway, and he stared as if
facing a ghost, when our commander saluted him
ceremoniously, for he believed him dead.
"How is the day going, sir?" Elliott asked, as soon
as he could control his voice sufficiently to speak.