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Let us here imagine the commodore turning suddenly at a cry for quarter, uttered by some craven souls who thought the vessel was sinking. The flag-staff was shot away, the ensign was trailing in the water over the stern; voices cry from out the smoke and darkness, “Quarter, for God's sake! We are sinking !” Pistols flash, and a stentorian voice is heard shouting, “Who are those rascals ? Shoot them ! kill them !" The rush of hurrying feet across the deck, the dash of heavy bodies leaping through the hatchways, tell, in unmistakable terms, that the speaker there is more to be dreaded than the terrors of the sinking ship.
From all accounts, the conflict at this juncture must have been terrible beyond description. While the sides of the ship were being literally pounded to pieces by cannon actually fired within a few feet of the timbers they were crushing, the men, .maddened to fury by wounds, flame, and smoke, were fighting with hatchets, pikes, and every other weapon at hand, including even the rammers of the guns; and while this was going on below the decks, the rigging and round-tops presented a still more frightful picture. The vessels were now both on fire, the flames pouring up through the gaps in the deck, licking up the tarry ropes and tackle, and throwing around all a lurid light of terror. The yard-arms of the contending ships crossed each other's decks, entangled and enveloped in smoke, crowded with sailors, cutting and hacking at each other, more like devils than men, while some exploded handgrenades on the heads of those below. The musketry of the marines rattling from the decks and blending with the sullen roar of cannon, the sharpshooters in the tops, dealing death from above, the shouts of the commanders, the cries of the combatants, of pain or of defiance, the crackling flames shooting through enshrouding smoke, the decks all ablaze with fire or enveloped in Egyptian darkness,—these separate horrors all combined to render that midnight death-struggle on the ocean more like a picture of fiends and furies, .conjured up to delight the hellish fancies of infernal spectators, realizing the words of Shakspeare, “Hell is empty, and all the devils are here."
And yet such are the scenes from which we draw our inspirations of heroism, and in which we see our cherished types of valor, daring, and patriotism.
How truly might these gallant combatants realize that fierce pleasure Sir Walter Scott speaks of,—
“The stern joy that clansmen feel
In foemen worthy of their steel”! This terrible and obstinate conflict lasted three and a half hours; and when the Englishman surrendered, his vessel was found to be anchored, and the flag nailed to the mast. Some time, therefore, elapsed before the usual token of submission could be made manifest; while our vessel was only kept afloat by the almost superhuman efforts of a body of prisoners, who had been confined below decks, and had been during the latter part of the action set at liberty by the officer in charge. Had it not been for this circumstance, the Bonhomme Richard would have sunk alongside her
enemy before his flag had been struck. Thus ended one of the most sanguinary battles ever fought on the ocean. The Bonhomme Richard sank the next morning,—the officers and crew being first transferred on board the English ship, which was almost as badly disabled as the Richard. She, however, was kept afloat, but with great difficulty, and finally made the Texel, to which port Paul Jones had been ordered for repairs.
The Alliance now became the flag-ship of our hero, and in her he made another of those voyages which called forth
the eulogy of the nation, and during which the enemy's gazettes had, as usual, matter enough for comment on the movements and doings of the “Bold Buccaneer,” as they termed him.
During the next year, we find Commodore Jones in America once more, where he received a vote of thanks from Congress, and the appointment to the command of an American seventy-four; but, the war terminating soon after, he did not get into active service again. The King of France presented him with a gold-mounted sword, and requested Congress to decorate him with the Order of Merit.” This was done, the badge, &c. having been sent over for the purpose. Congress also presented him with a gold medal, in consideration of the zeal, prudence, and intrepidity with which he had sustained the honor of the American flag. He was now the Chevalier Paul Jones, and, having returned to Paris on a mission for the United States, he was honored by the Empress of Russia with an appointment as rearadmiral of the Russian fleet. He served with distinction, and was invested with the order of “St. Anna." He retired for the last time to Paris, and died there, much honored and respected. His funeral was marked by public ceremonies befitting a hero and a good man, which there is no doubt he was. “That Paul Jones was a remarkable man,” says Cooper, the naval historian, “cannot justly be questioned. In his enterprises are to be discovered much of that boldness of conception that marks a great naval captain; though his most celebrated battle is probably the one in which he evinced no other very high quality than that of invincible resolution to conquer. The expedient of running the Serapis aboard was like him; and it was the only chance of victory that was left.”
It will be remembered that the lamented Lawrence in
tended to accomplish the same result in the grapple with the Shannon. But accident frustrated his plan, and gave the enemy an advantage, which resulted in the capture of our ship and the death of her commander.
In all bold and daring departures from custom or orders, success throws a halo of glory around the master-spirit of innovation, while failure is attended with obloquy and oblivion.
Frost, in his “Naval Memoirs,” pays this tribute to the memory of the man the nation honored,—“It is but just to place him among the first of our naval commanders; for his splendid career exhibited a degree of courage and ability which has been surpassed by none of those who have succeeded him in the brilliant line of our naval heroes."
The Bonhomme Richard. When in a French port awaiting the result of Franklin's negotiations regarding the fitting out of a naval force for the service of the Republic, Paul Jones became weary of inactivity, and what he thought procrastination on the part of the agents. Therefore he went to Paris, to urge the proceeding personally. The result was that complete success crowned his efforts. He returned to the seaboard and fitted out his vessels without further delay. To the one he had selected as his flag-ship he gave the name of The Goodman Richard. It will be remembered in Franklin's Almanac of Poor Richard there were many terse and wise proverbs and sayings, among which was one to the effect that what a man wants to accomplish well and speedily he
had better attend to himself, rather than trust to the assistance of others. So Paul Jones called his ship The Goodman Richard, in compliment to the sayings of Benjamin Franklin.
The following old-fashioned nautical song was a favorite in
my boyhood. I have heard my father sing it with great delight. I am not able to give the author's name. Whatever may be said of the poetry, the sentiment is truly American, while the fire of national pride burns in every
At the hour of twelve, Pierce came alongside.
We fought them five glasses, five glasses most hot,