Robert Tomes.

Battles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) online

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with fixed bayonets, and forced their way
in spite of every obstacle. Both the right
and left columns met in the centre of the
enemy s works almost at the same mo

Lieutenant-Colonel Fleury was the first
to enter and strike the British standard,
closely followed by Major Posey, his sec
ond in command, who sprang upon the
ramparts, shooting the enemy s counter
sign, " The fort is our oivn !" Wayne, while
advancing up the ascent, was struck on
the head by a musket-ball, and brought
to the ground. Thinking himself mortal
ly wounded, he cried to his aid-de-camp,
who came to his assistance, " Carry me
into the fort, and let me die at the head
of my column !" He was lifted up and
borne into the fortress in the midst of his
victorious troops. His wound proved less
serious than he had at first supposed, and
the general revived in time to share in



the immediate exultation on the success
of his enterprise.

The British yielded themselves up as
prisoners-of-war; and, before the morning
dawned, Wayne was enabled to send in
telligence of his victory to Washington, in
this characteristic despatch :

" STON-V POINT. July 16, 1779. )
" Two o clock, A. At. \

" DEAR GENERAL : The fort and garrison,
with Colonel Johnson, are ours. Our offi
cers and men behaved like men who are
determined to be free.

" Yours most sincerely,


Next morning, General Wayne turned
the guns of the captured fortress on the
works ol Fort Lafayette at Verplanck s
Point opposite, and upon the English ves
sels in the river. The latter were forced
to slip their cables and move down the
stream. The former stood fire ; for the
detachment of Americans under General
Robert Howe, which had been ordered
to attack the fort at Verplanck s Point,
in co-operation with Wayne, had failed |
in consequence of neglect to bring with
them the implements necessary for the |
success of the enterprise.

The loss of the Americans amounted
to fifteen killed and eighty-three wound
ed; that of the British to sixty-three in
killed, while the commander and all the
garrison (numbering fiv.e hundred and
forty-three officers and men) were taken
prisoners. The forty gallant men who
had volunteered to lead the van of the
Americans were the greatest sufferers in

the assault. Their daring officers, Lieu
tenants Gibbon and Knox, were especial
ly commended by Wayne in his despatch
for " their distinguished bravery."

On hearing of the fall of Stony Point,
Sir Henry Clinton immediately broke up
his conference at Throgg s Point, where
in conjunction with Tryon he was plan
ning an expedition against New London ;
and, abandoning that scheme, he hurried
up the Hudson with reinforcements. It
was hoped that Washington would risk a
battle for the possession of Stony Point ;
but, finding that it could not be held with
less than fifteen hundred men a force
which he could ill spare from his army
the commander-in-chief decided to aban
don it.

The fort, having been dismantled of its
cannon, and its stores removed, was de
stroyed ; whereupon the enemy
resumed possession of the site,
and reconstructed fortifications of greater
strength than ever.

Washington, solicitous for the safety
of West Point, now removed his head
quarters to that post, and urged on the
completion of the works in progress, un
der the supervision of Kosciusko. The
army was stationed, in two divisions, in
the Highlands of the Hudson, where it
remained until going into winter-quarters
in December. The right wing, consisting
of the Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Vir
ginia troops, were on the west side of the
river, and commanded by General Put
nam. The left wing, made up of New-
England troops, under General Heath,
rested on the east side.

July 18.



[PART 11.


Paul Jones in France. He gets a Squadron. The Bon Homme Richard. Sailing of the Ships. Refitting at Brest.
A British Cruiser taken. L Orient. The Richard all alone. A Hundred American Tars. First-Lieutenant Dale.
A Fresh Cruise. Occasional Prizes. Attempt on Leith. A Gale. The Bon Homme Riehurd aoandoned by her
Consorts. A Daring Plan. Falls in with a British Fleet. The Fight begins. Jones abandoned by Captain Landais.
The Serapis. A Close Hug. The Enemy attempt to board. The Repulse. The Man in the Tops An Explo
sion. Terrible Havoc. A Friend turned Enemy. Panic. Treason. Quarter. Fierce Oaths. The Fight renewed
Fire. The Serapis strikes her Flag. The Richard abandoned, and goes down. Jones hoists his Flag on board the
Serapis. The Blood spilt.


PAUL JONES S spirited and success
ful cruise in the Ranger, on the Eng
lish coast, had won for him great renown
in France ; and consequently he found
his ambitious projects readily seconded by
the French government. A small squad
ron, consisting of the Duras, the Alliance,
the Pallas, the Cerf, and the Vengeance,
was now placed under his command. The
Alliance was the only American-built ship
among them, but they were all to carry
the American ensign, and were to be gov
erned and considered in every respect as
American vessels.

Benjamin Frankli-n, then the United
States minister at the court of Versailles,
had rendered effective aid in obtaining
and fitting out the squadron ; and Paul
Jones complimented the philosopher by
changing the name of his Hag-ship, the
Duras, to the Bon Homme Richard, a free
rendering in French of the proverbial
"Poor Richard." This vessel had been an |
Indiaman, and was clumsily constructed,
with an old-fashioned poop, which rose
from the stern like a tower. She was
originally a single-decked ship, but Jones
caused twelve ports to be cut in the gun

room, where he mounted six old eigh teen-
pounders, which had done service in the
French navy for thirty years. Her whole
armament amounted to forty-two guns,
of varying weights, but generally rattier

The crew consisted of a motley mix
ture of English, Scotch, Portuguese, Amer
icans, Germans. Spaniards, Swedes, Ital
ians, Malays, and channel-islanders. The
officers, however, were for the most part
Americans. One hundred and thirty-five
marines, hardly less diversified in their
nationality than the crew, were taken on
board, chiefly to assist in preserving the
discipline of the vessel. The Alliance was
the best ship in the fleet; but, as related
in a previous chapter,* she was command
ed by Captain Landais, a Frenchman, and
failed under his handling to be of the <>i-
fective service that was expected. All the
other vessels, with the exception of the
Bon Homme liichard, were likewise under
French commanders.

The squadron got under weigh from

L Orient, and, having convoyed

June 19.

some transports and coasters to

* See page 164-




heir destined ports in France, prepared
for a cruise. While lying- to, the Alli
ance, by clumsy management, got foul
of the Richard, losing by the collision her
own mizzen-mast, and carrying away the
head, cut-water, and jib-boom, of her con
cert. They were now forced to return
to L Orient for repairs.

While making for port, the Cerf was
sent in chase of a strange sail, and suc
ceeded in coming up with what proved
to ue a small English cruiser of sixteen
guns. After a sharp action of about an
hour, the enemy was forced to strike her
flag , but the Cerf had to abandon her, on
the appearance of a larger British vessel,
and made her way to L Orient, with a loss
of several men killed and wounded.

The rest of the squadron, in the mean
time, had caught sight of three British
men-of-war, which bore down before the
wind as if disposed to engage ; but, prob
ably frightened by the apparent magni
tude of the Richard, which stood high out
of the water, and looked like a two-decker,
they soon hauled up and made off with
all the sail they could carry, and thus es

The Richard was now left alone, the
Alliance and the Pallas having parted
company, and the Vengeance having been
sent into port. Captain Jones, however,
continued to look out for an antagonist,
and soon fell in with two British cruisers ;
hut, after first threatening to engage, they
made off again, as if alarmed, like their
countrymen on the previous occasion, by
the iormidable aspect of the pretentious
American. Jones now 7 made the best of
Ins way to his old anchorage, under the

isle of Groix, off L Orient. Here the en
tire squadron was reunited.

Jones was detained by the necessary
repairs to his vessel, the session of a coiir*
of inquiry appointed to investigate the
conduct of Landais (of the Alliance) in
running foul of the Richard, and other
matters, for more than six weeks. In the
meantime, however, he ha,d the good for
tune to gain a very welcome accession to
his crew by the arrival in France of more
than a hundred American sailors. These
were men who had been held as prison
ers in England, and were now exchanged.
They almost to a man joined the Ameri
can squadron, and were chiefly divided
between the Richard and the Alliance.
Jones now 7 counted no less than three
hundred and eighty souls on board his
ship, and nearly a hundred of these were
Americans, as were all his quarter-deck
officers, with the exception of himself and
a midshipman. A young American offi
cer, of the name of Richard Dale, who
had made his escape from an English
prison, and joined the squadron on its
first cruise, won so greatly the esteem of
his commander, that he was now pro
moted to the rank of first-lieutenant.

The squadron at length put to
sea for the second time, with a
reinforcement of two French privateers,
the Monsieur and the Granville. A dis
pute about the division of a prize taken
a few days after sailing, however, caused
the commander of the Monsieur to leave,
which was felt to be a serious loss, as his
ship mounted no less than forty guns.
With various incidents, and an occasional
success in taking a prize, the squadron

Aiiff, 14,



[PART n.

Sept, 13,

(with the exception of the Cerf, which
had returned to France) sailed around
Ireland and Scotland, until it came off
the frith of Forth

Jones, having learned that a
twenty-gun ship and two or three
men-of-war cutters were lying off Leith,
the port of Edinburgh, two miles distant,
determined to make a descent upon the
town. He accordingly beat into the frith
with the Richard, until he arrived within
gun-shot of Leith, when he got out his
boats and manned them. His first-lieu
tenant, Dale, who was to command the
sailors on the occasion, was about receiv
ing his last orders, when a sudden squall
struck the ships and nearly dismasted
them. Jones strove to keep his ground,
with the view of carrying out his pur
pose, but the wind became too strong, and
he was obliged to bear up. A severe gale
followed, in the course of which all the
vessels were driven into the North sea,
and one of the prizes foundered.

Another still more daring enterprise
was planned by the bold commodore, but
his French subordinates strenuously pro
tested against carrying it into effect. The
scheme has never been explained, but it
is said to have been warmly sanctioned
by every officer from lieutenant to mid
shipman. Apparently with the fear that
Jones would not be deterred from his
project by the opinions of his colleagues,
two of them determined to thwart him
by their acts, and accordingly the com
manders of the Pallas and the Vengeance
sailed off with their ships. As the com
modore could ill spare any of his little
squadron, he reluctantly abandoned his

Sept, 23

scheme, and sailed to the south, to over
take the absentees.

OffWhitby. on the coast of Yorkshire,
the Pallas and the Vengeance again joined
company with the commodore, and with
the aid of the latter he entered the Hum
her and took and destroyed a number of
vessels. The wdiole coast now became
greatly alarmed, and the inhabitants were
so frightened, that many of them began
to bury their plate and money. With
this general excitement on shore, Jones
thought it advisable to keep off the land,
and he accordingly bore away in the di
rection of Flamborough head. While
steering toward the north, two sails were
made, which turned out to- be the Alli
ance and the Pallas; and on the
second day after leaving the
mouth of the Humber, occurred the most,
memorable event in the career of Paul

The wind was southerly and light, ami
the sea smooth, as the American squadron
now composed of the Richard, the Al
liance, the Pallas, and the Vengeance
gathered together. Soon a fleet of more
than forty sail was seen stretching out
from behind Flamborough head, and turn
ing down toward the straits of Dover.
It was mainly composed of traders re
turning from the Baltic, under convoy of
the Serapis (forty-four), Captain Bicliard
Pearson, and the Countess of Scarborough
(twenty-two), Captain Piercy. The for
mer was a new ship, with a good reputa
tion as a sailer. She carried fifty guns
twenty eigh teen-pounders on the lowei
gim-deck,twenty nine-pounders on the up
per, and ten six-pounders on her quarter

I i



deck and forecastle, and was manned by
a regular man-of-war s crew, numbering
three hundred and twenty, of whom some
fifteen were Lascars. The Scarborough
was not a naval vessel, but had been armed
and was now being temporarily used as

Commodore Jones, on discovering the
character of the fleet, hoisted a signal for
the rest of the squadron to begin a gen
eral chase, and crossed royal yards on
board his own vessel. The English fleet
of merchantmen were alarmed by these
signs of hostility, and, hurriedly tacking
together, firin<; alarm-guns, letting fly

o o o o /

their top-gallant sheets, and making oth
er signals of the danger they were in,
ran to leeward or sought shelter closer
in with the land. The Serapis, on the
contrary, signalling the Scarborough to
follow, hauled boldly out to sea, until she
got far enough to windward, when she
tacked and stood in shore again, to cover
her convoy.* Captain Pearson had been
informed, by the bailiff of the town of
Scarborough, of the presence of the Amer
ican squadron, and was accordingly on
his guard.

The Alliance, being the fastest sailer,
took the lead in the chase. As she moved
ahead, Captain Landais spoke the Pallas,
and told her commander that, if the ene
my proved to be a fifty-gun ship, there
was nothing to do but to try to get out
of his way. Landais acted accordingly;
for he had no sooner closed in sufficiently
with the land to discover the size of the
Serapis, than he hauled off again. His

* Cooper, whose ;iccount we follow, as being the most
authentic on record.


example was also followed by the Pallas ;
but, as her commander conducted himself
so well in the subsequent part of the ac
tion, it has been readily allowed that he
was under the supposition, as he afterward
declared, that the crew of the Richard
(since she was observed heading for the
land) had mutinied, and were running off
with her.

It was now quite dark, and Jones was
obliged to use a night-glass in order to
follow the movements of the enemy. The
Richard, however, stood steadily on, and
about half-past seven she came up with
the Serapis, while the Scarborough was a
short distance to leeward. The American
ship was to windward, and, as she slowly
drew near, Captain Pearson hailed her:
" What ship is that ?" The answer was,
" Come a little nearer, and I ll tell you."
" What are you laden with ?" rejoined the
Englishman. " Round, grape, and double-
headed shot!" was the ready-witted re
sponse to what was considered by a man-
of-war a contemptuous demand ; and the
two ships, without further parley, poured
in their broadsides almost simultaneously.

The discharge proved terribly disas
trous to the Richard ; for two of the eigh-
teen-pounders which Jones had caused to
be placed in the gun-room, and from which
he had expected so much good service,
burst on the first fire, killing many of the
men, and blowing up the deck above. All
faith in these old eighteen-pounders be
ing now gone, the men were ordered to
abandon them, and trust entirely to their
other guns. The inequality of the con
test was in this way greatly increased, for

/ o /

it reduced the armament of the Richard



[PART n.

to nearly a third less than that of her an

The Richard, having backed her top
sails, exchanged several broadsides, when
she filled again and shot ahead of the
Serapis, which ship luffed across her stern,
and came up on the weather-quarter of
her antagonist, taking the wind out of
her sails, and in her turn passing ahead.

In the meantime, while the two ships
were engaged closely and furiously, the
Scarborough approached ; but in the dark
ness of the night not being able to distin
guish friend from foe, she edged away,
without firing a shot. The Scarborough,
however, exchanged broadsides with the
Alliance at a great distance, and was at
lf.ot brought tc close quarters by the Pal
las, and, after a struggle of about an hour,
forced CD strike her flag.

Let us, however, return to the two
main antagonists. " As the Serapis kept
her luff," says Cooper, " sailing and work
ing better than the Richard, it was the
intention of Captain Pearson to pay broad
off across the latter s forefoot, as soon as
he had got far enough ahead ; but, ma
king the attempt, and finding he had not
room, he put his helm hard down to keep
clear of his adversary, when the double
movement brought the two ships nearly
in a line, the Serapis leading. By these
uncertain evolutions the English ship lost
some of her way; while the American,
having kept her sails trimmed, not only
closed, but actually ran aboard of her an
tagonist, bows on, a little on Jier weather-
quarter." At this moment, Jones cried
out: "Well done, my brave lads; we ve
fc ot her now! Throw on board the

grappling-irons, and stand by for board



As, during these manoeuvres, not a shot
had been fired for some time, Captain
Pearson hailed his antagonist, demanding,
" Have you struck your colors?" "I have
not yet begun to fiyht /" was Jones s answer.
The chains of the grappling-irons having
been cut away, and the yards of the Rich
ard being braced back, while the sails of
the Serapis were filled, the two vessels
separated. As soon as she was at a suffi
cient distance, the Serapis put her helm
hard down, laid all aback forward, shiv
ered her after-sails, and wore short round
on her heel, or was box-hauled, with a
view, most probably, of 1 n (Ting up athwart
the bow of her enemy, in order to rake
her. " In this position, the Richard would
have been fighting her starboard and the
Serapis her larboard guns ; but Commo
dore Jones, by this time, was conscious
of the hopelessness of success against so
much heavier metal ; and, after having
backed astern some distance, he filled on
the other tack, luffing up with the inten
tion of meeting the enemy as he came
to the wind, and of laying him athwart

In the smoke and confusion as the
firing continued the whole time from
deck to main-top there was necessarily
great difficulty in manoeuvring, and the
two vessels ran foul again, the bowsprit
of the Serapis passing over the Richard s
poop. As the weather was mild, neither
ship had much headway, and no damage
was done by the collision. Paul Jones,
having now got the enemy fast, resolved

* Cooper.




not to let him go again ; and accordingly,
taking some lashings, he fastened with
his own hands the head-gear of the Sera-
pis to the Richard s mizzen-mast. Stacey,
the sailing-master, a Yankee skipper, was
at Jones s side, assisting him, and was
swearing with all the energy of an old
tar. " Mr. Stacey," exclaimed the commo-

/ J

dore, who was ordinarily not very honey-
tongued himself, " this is no time for swear
ing you may be the next moment in
eternity ; but let us do our duty."*

The Serapis, being before the wind,
now had her hull swung round by her
after-sails, and the two ships fell close
alongside of each other. The jib-boom,
however, of the Serapis, which Jones had
lashed, gave way in the strain ; but her
spare anchor having got hooked into the
quarter of the Richard, and additional
lashings got out, she became faster than

Captain Pearson, finding that the ves
sels were foul, dropped an anchor, with
the hope that, as the current was setting
strong, his enemy might drift clear of
him ; since, knowing the superiority of
his ship, he preferred a regular combat
with his guns to a close hand-to-hand
struggle. The vessels, however, were too
fast to part thus. The hulls were jammed


close alongside ; the yards were inter
locked, so that the sailors of the Richard
could pass from her maintop to the fore-
top of the Serapis ; strong lashings bound
the ships close together fore and aft ; and
the mouldings and ornamental work of
the bows and sterns of the two had got
so inextricably caught, that all hope of

* Analectic Magazine, vol. viii. An eye-witness.

working clear had to be given up. Find
ing themselves thus locked in a fatal em
brace, the English strove to board, but
were driven back.

The fight now raged fiercely. The low
er ports of the Serapis, which had been
closed as she swung, to prevent boarding,
were now blown off. as there was no room
between the closely-jammed hulls to raise
them. The guns were actually so close
to the sides of the Richard, that in load
ing them the rammers projected into her
ports. These heavy guns of the Serapis,
with their muzzles thrust into the very
ports of her enemy, cleared all before
them ; and the Americans were obliged
to forsake their main-deck, and gather
above. Some mounted the upper deck
and forecastle, while others got upon the
yards and into the tops, whence they kept
up a constant fire of musketry, and threw

The enemy was having the fight all
to himself below, tearing the hull of the
Richard to pieces with his heavy guns.
The guns, amidships, from the close con
tact of the two vessels, were of no use,
for they could neither be sponged nor
loaded. Jones could only bring into ser
vice three or four of his smaller cannon
on the quarter-deck, one of which he had
dragged over from the larboard side, and
stood by it himself directing its fire
through the whole action. The enemy
seemed determined to carry the day, and
would have done so, but for the activity
and spirit of the Richard s men in the

Jones s sailors and marines lay out on
the Richard s main-vard : and. while some



[PART n.

threw grenades down upon the enemy s
deck, others kept up a constant fire with
musketry, blunderbusses, pistols,
and every other kind of firearm
which they could get hold of. Almost
every man of the SerapLs was thus driven
below. They were not even safe here.
One bold fellow had provided himself with
a bucketful of combustibles and a match,
and taken his post on the extreme end
of the Richard s yard, whence he dropped
his grenades down into the very main-
hatchway of the Serapis. One of these
grenades probably settled the day. By
the carelessness of the powder-boys of
the Serapis, a number of cartridges had
been left on the main-deck, in a line with
the guns, when a grenade dropped right
among them, and in a moment the whole
exploded in a flash from main to mizzen
mast !

The effect of the explosion was terrific.
More than a score of men were killed out
right, and so completely torn to pieces,
that of some nothing was left but the col
lars and wristbands of their shirts, or the
waistbands of their duck trousers. Thir
ty-eight more were wounded, and some
so severely, that there was little hope of
recovery. Nearly sixty of the Serapis s
crew were thus disabled, and all were
greatly disheartened by the fatal acci
dent. The sufferings and cries of the in
jured were so heart-rending, that the peo
ple of the Serapis, who were all crowded
below, and were thus compelled to wit
ness and hear them, began t9 give up in
despair. Their drooping spirits, however,
were suddenly aroused to hope, if not by
an alleviation of their own misery, yet

by a misfortune which now happened to
their enemy.

The Alliance came bearing down, and,
although the moon was up and the night

Online LibraryRobert TomesBattles of America by sea and land. With biographies of naval and military commanders (Volume 01) → online text (page 91 of 126)