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water, and one of the pumps being shot away, the carpenter expressed his fears that she would sink, and the other two concluded that she was sinking, which occasioned the gunner to run aft on the poop, without my knowledge, to strike the colors. Fortunately for me, a cannon-ball had done that before, by carrying away the ensign staff; he was therefore reduced to the necessity of sinking, as he supposed, or of calling for quarter, and he preferred the latter.
All this time the Bon Homme Richard had sustained the action alone, and the enemy, though much superior in force, would have been very glad to have got clear, as appears by their own acknowledgments, and by their having let go an anchor the instant that I laid them on board, by which means they would have escaped, had I not made them well fast to the Bon Homme Richard.
At last, at half-past nine o'clock, the Alliance appeared, and I now thought the battle at an end; but, to my utter astonishment, he discharged a broadside full into the stern of the Bon Homme Richard. We called to him for God's sake to forbear firing into the Bon Homme Richard; yet they passed along the off side of the ship, and continued firing. There was no possibility of his mistaking the enemy's ship for the Bon Homme Richard, there being the most essential difference in their appearance and construction. Besides, it was then full moonlight, and the sides of the Bon Homme Richard were all black, while the sides of the prize were all yellow. Yet, for the greater security, I showed the signal of our reconnoissance, by putting out three lanterns, one at the head, another at the stern, and the third in the middle, in a horizontal line. Every tongue cried that he was firing into the wrong ship, but nothing availed; he passed round, firing into the Bon Homme Richard's head, stern, and broadside, and by one of his volleys killed several of my best men, and mortally wounded a good officer on the forecastle only. My situation was really deplorable; the Bon Homme Richard received various shot under water from the Alliance; the leak gained on the pumps, and the fire increased much on board both ships. Some officers persuaded me to strike, of whose courage and good-sense I entertain a high opinion. My treacherous master-at-arms let loose all my prisoners without my knowledge, and my prospects became gloomy indeed. I would not, however, give up the point. The enemy's main-mast began to shake, their firing decreased fast, ours rather increased, and the British colors were struck at half an hour past ten o'clock.
This prize proved to be the British ship-of-war the Serapis, a new ship of forty-four guns, built on the most approved construction, with two complete batteries, one of them of eighteen-pounders, and commanded by the brave Commodore Richard Pearson. I had yet two enemies to encounter, far more formidable than the Britons, I mean, fire and water. The
Serapis was attacked only by the first, but the Bon Homme Richard was assailed by both; there was five feet water in the hold, and though it was moderate from the explosion of so much gunpowder, yet the three pumps that remained could with difficulty only keep the water from gaining. The fire broke out in various parts of the ship, in spite of all the water that could be thrown in to quench it, and at length broke out as low as the powder magazine, and within a few inches of the powder. In that dilemma, I took out the powder upon deck, ready to be thrown overboard at the last extremity, and it was ten o'clock the next day, the 24th, before the fire was entirely extinguished. With respect to the situation of the Bon Homme Richard, the rudder was cut entirely off, the stern frame and transoms were almost entirely cut away, and the timbers by the lower deck, especially from the main-mast toward the stern, being greatly decayed with age, were mangled beyond my power of description, and a person must have been an eye witness to form a just idea of the tremendous scene of carnage, wreck, and ruin, which everywhere appeared. Humanity cannot but recoil from the prospect of such finished horror, and lament that war should be capable of producing such fatal consequences.
After the carpenters, as well as Captain Cottineau and other men of sense, had well examined and surveyed the ship (which was not finished before five in the evening), I found every person to be convinced that it was impossible to keep the Bon Homme Richard afloat so as to reach a port, if the wind should increase, it being then only a very moderate breeze. I had but little time to remove my wounded, which now became unavoidable, and which was effected in the course of the night and next morning. I was determined to keep the Bon Homme Richard afloat, and, if possible, to bring her into port. For that purpose the first lieu. tenant of the Pallas continued on board with party of men to attend the pumps, with boats in waiting ready to take them on board, in case the water should gain on them too fast. The wind augmented in the night, and the next day, the 25th, so that it was impossible to prevent the good old ship from sinking. They did not abandon her till after nine o'clock; the water was then up to the lower deck, and a little after ten I saw, with inexpressible grief, the last glimpse of the Bon Homme Richard. No lives were lost with the ship, but it was impossible to save the stores of any sort whatever. I lost even the best part of my clothes, books, and papers; and several of my officers lost all their clothes and effects.
Having thus endeavored to give a clear and simple relation of the circumstances and events that have attended the little armament under my command, I shall freely submit my conduct therein to the censure of my superiors and the impartial public. I beg leave, however, to observe that the force put under my command was far from being well composed,
and as the great majority of the actors in it have appeared bent on the pursuit of interest only, I am exceedingly sorry that they and I have been at all concerned.
Captain Cottineau engaged the Countess of Scarborough, and took her, after an hour's action, while the Bon Homme Richard engaged the Serapis. The Countess of Scarborough is an armed ship of twenty sixpounders, and was commanded by a king's officer. In the action, the Countess of Scarborough and the Serapis were at a considerable distance asunder; and the Alliance, as I am informed, fired into the Pallas and killed some men. If it should be asked why the convoy was suffered to escape, I must answer that I was myself in no condition to pursue, and that none of the rest showed any inclination; not even Mr. Ricot, who had held off at a distance to windward during the whole action, and withheld by force the pilot boat with my lieutenant and fifteen men. The Alliance, too, was in a state to pursue the fleet, not having had a single man wounded or a single shot fired at her from the Serapis, and only three that did execution from the Countess of Scarborough, at such a distance that one stuck in the side, and the other two just touched and then dropped into the water. The Alliance killed one man only on board the Serapis. As Captain de Cottineau charged himself with manning and securing the prisoners of the Countess of Scarborough, I think the escape of the Baltic fleet cannot so well be charged to his account.
I should have mentioned that the main-mast and mizzen-topmast of the Serapis fell overboard soon after the captain had come on board the Bon Homme Richard.
Jonathan Mitchel Sewall.
BORN in Salem, Mass., 1748.
Died at Portsmouth, N. H., 1808.
A CRY TO BATTLE.
[" Epilogue to Cato,” written in 1778.— Miscellaneous Poems. 1801.]
OU see mankind the same in every age;
Heroic fortitude, tyrannic rage,
Britannia's daring sins and virtues both,
Did Cæsar, drunk with power, and madly brave,
Rise then, my countrymen! for fight prepare,
WAR AND WASHINGTON.
[As Sung during the Revolution. From the Same.] VAIN
AIN Britons, boast no longer with proud indignity,
By land your conquering legions, your matchless strength at sea, Since we, your braver sons incensed, our swords have girded on, Puzza, huzza, huzza, huzza, for war and Washington.
Urged on by North and vengeance those valiant champions came,
Still deaf to mild entreaties, still blind to England's good,
Mysterious! unexampled! incomprehensible!
Your dark unfathomed councils our weakest heads defeat,
Great Heaven! is this the nation whose thundering arms were hurled,
Yet think not thirst of glory unsheaths our vengeful swords
For this, oh could our wishes your ancient rage inspire,
Fired with the great idea, our Fathers' shades would rise,
Should warlike weapons fail us, disdaining slavish fears,
Proud France should view with terror, and haughty Spain revere,
Hugh Henry Brackenridge.
BORN near Campbelton, Scotland, 1748. Died at Carlisle, Penn., 1816.
[The Battle of Bunker's Hill. A Dramatic Piece in Five Acts. 1776.)
You bold warriors, who resemble
Flames upon the distant hill;
Fighting with unequal skill.