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   Chapter 3 No.3

Elsie's Vacation and After Events By Martha Finley Characters: 16959

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Lulu woke early the next morning and was dressed and on deck before any other of the Dolphin's passengers. Day had dawned and the eastern sky was bright with purple, orange, and gold, heralding the near approach of the sun which, just as she set her foot on the deck, suddenly showed his face above the restless waves, making a golden pathway across them.

"Oh, how beautiful!" was her involuntary exclamation. Then catching sight of her father standing with his back toward her, and apparently absorbed in gazing upon the sunrise, she hastened to his side, caught his hand in hers, and carried it to her lips with a glad, "Good-morning, you dear papa."

"Ah! good-morning, my darling," he returned, bending down to press a kiss on the bright, upturned face.

"Such a lovely morning, papa, isn't it?" she said, standing with her hand fast clasped in his, but turning her eyes again upon sea and sky. "But where are we now? Almost at Fortress Monroe?"

"Look and tell me what you see," was his smiling rejoinder, as, with a hand on each of her shoulders, he turned her about so that she caught the view from the other side of the vessel.

"O papa, is that it?" she exclaimed. "Why, we're almost there, aren't we?"

"Yes; we will reach our anchorage within a few minutes."

"Oh, are we going to stop to see the old fort, papa?" she asked eagerly.

"I think we are," was his smiling rejoinder. "But you don't expect to find in it a relic of the Revolution, do you?" he asked laughingly, pinching her cheek, then bending down to kiss again the rosy face upturned to his.

"Why yes, papa; I have been thinking there must have been a fight there. Wasn't that the case?"

"No, daughter; the fortress was not there at that time."

"Was it in the war of 1812-14, then, papa?"

"No," he returned, smiling down on her. "The building of Fortress Monroe was not begun until 1817. However, there was a small fort built on Point Comfort in 1630; also, shortly before the siege of Yorktown, Count De Grasse had some fortifications thrown up to protect his troops in landing to take part in that affair."

But just then the talk was interrupted by the coming on deck of one after another of their party and the exchange of morning greetings; then followed the interest and excitement of the approach to the fortress and anchoring in its vicinity.

Next came the call to breakfast. But naturally, and quite to Lulu's satisfaction, the talk at the table turned upon the building of the fort, its history and that of the adjacent country, particularly Hampton, two and a half miles distant.

The captain pointed it out to them all as they stood upon the deck shortly afterward.

"Which is Old Point Comfort, papa?" asked Grace.

"That sandy promontory on the extremity of which stands Fortress Monroe," he answered. "Yonder, on the opposite side, is Point Willoughhy, the two forming the mouth of the James River; and these are the Rip Raps between the two. You see that there the ocean tides and the currents of the river meet and cause a constant ripple. There is a narrow channel of deep water through the bar, but elsewhere between the capes it is shallow.

"Beyond the Rip Raps we see the spacious harbor which is called Hampton Roads. It is so large that great navies might ride there together."

"And I think some have ridden there in our wars with England?" remarked Rosie, half inquiringly.

"You are quite right," replied the captain; "that happened in both the Revolution and the last war with England.

"In October, 1775, Lord Dunmore, the British governor of Virginia,-who had, however, abdicated some months earlier by fleeing on board a man-of-war, the Fowey,-driven by his fears, and his desire for revenge, to destroy the property of the patriots, sent Captain Squires, of the British navy, with six tenders, into Hampton Creek.

"He reached there before the arrival of Colonel Woodford-who, with a hundred Culpepper men, had been sent to protect the people of Hampton-and sent armed men in boats to burn the town; protecting them by a furious cannonade from the guns of the tenders.

"But they were baffled in the carrying out of their design; being driven off by Virginia riflemen, concealed in the houses. Excellent marksmen those Virginians were, and picked off so many of the advancing foe that they compelled them to take ignominious flight to their boats and return to the vessels, which then had to withdraw beyond the reach of the rifles to await reinforcements."

"What is a tender, papa?" asked Grace, as her father paused in his narrative.

"A small vessel that attends on a larger one to convey intelligence and supply stores," he replied; then went on with his account of Dunmore's repulse.

"Woodford and his men reached Hampton about daybreak of the succeeding morning. At sunrise they saw the hostile fleet approaching; it came so near as to be within rifle shot, and Woodford bade his men fire with caution, taking sure aim. They obeyed and picked off so many from every part of the vessels that the seamen were soon seized with a great terror. The cannons were silenced,-the men who worked them being shot down,-and their commander presently ordered a retreat; but that was difficult to accomplish, for any one seen at the helm, or aloft, adjusting the sails, was sure to become a target for the sharpshooters; in consequence many of the sailors retreated to the holds of the vessels, and when their commander ordered them out on the dangerous duty, refused to obey.

"The victory for the Americans was complete; before the fleet could escape, the Hampton people, with Woodford and his soldiers, had sunk five vessels."

"And such a victory!" exclaimed Rosie, in an exultant tone.

"Yes," the captain said, smiling at her enthusiasm.

"Were the houses they fired on the very ones that are there now, papa?" asked Lulu.

"Some few of them," he replied. "Nearly all were burned by Magruder in the Civil War; among them St. John's Episcopal Church, which was built probably about 1700. Before the Revolution it bore the royal arms carved upon its steeple; but soon after the Declaration of Independence-so it is said-that steeple was struck by lightning and those badges of royalty were hurled to the ground."

"Just as the country was shaking off the yoke they represented," laughed Rosie. "A good omen, wasn't it, Brother Levis?"

"So it would seem, viewed in the light of after events," he answered with a smile.

"Papa, can't we visit Hampton?" asked Lulu eagerly.

"Yes, if you would all like to do so," was the reply, in an indulgent tone and with an inquiring glance at the older members of the party.

Everyone seemed to think it would be a pleasant little excursion, especially as the Dolphin would carry them all the way to the town; but first they must visit the fortress. They did not, however, set out thither immediately, but remained on deck a little longer gazing about and questioning the captain in regard to the points of interest.

"Papa," asked Grace, pointing in a southerly direction, "is that another fort yonder?"

"Yes," he replied, "that is Fort Wool. It is a mile distant, and with Fortress Monroe defends Hampton Roads, the Gosport navy yard, and Norfolk."

"They both have soldiers in them?" she said inquiringly.

"Yes, daughter; both contain barracks for soldiers, and Fortress Monroe has also an arsenal, a United States school of artillery, chapel, and, besides the barracks for the soldiers, storehouses and other buildings, and covers eighty acres of ground."

"And when was it finished, papa? How long did it take to build it?"

"It is not finished yet," he answered, "and has already cost nearly three million dollars. It is an irregular hexagon-that is has six sides and six angles-surrounded by a tide-water ditch eight feet deep at high water."

"I see trees and flower gardens, papa," she remarked.

"Yes," he said, "there are a good many trees, standing singly and in groves. The flower gardens belong to the officers' quarters. Now, if you will make yourselves ready for the trip, ladies, Mr. Dinsmore, and any of you younger ones who care to go," he added, smoothing Grace's golden curls with caressing hand and smiling down into her face, "we will take a nearer view."

No one felt disposed to decline the invitation and they were soon on their way to the fortress.

It did not take very long to look at all they cared to see; th

en they returned to their vessel, weighed anchor, and passed through the narrow channel of the Rip Raps into the spacious harbor of Hampton Roads.

It was a lovely day and all were on deck, enjoying the breeze and the prospect on both land and water.

"Papa," said Lulu, "you haven't told us yet what happened here in the last war with England."

"No," he said. "They attacked Hampton by both land and water, a force of two thousand five hundred men under General Beckwith landing at Old Point Comfort, and marching from there against the town, while at the same time Admiral Cockburn assailed it from the water.

"The fortification at Hampton was but slight and guarded by only four hundred and fifty militiamen. Feeling themselves too weak to repel an attack by such overwhelming odds, they retired, and the town was given up to pillage."

"Didn't they do any fighting at all, papa?" asked Lulu in a tone of regret and mortification. "I know Americans often did fight when their numbers were very much smaller than those of the enemy."

"That is quite true," he said, with a gleam of patriotic pride in his eye, "and sometimes won the victory in spite of the odds against them. That thing had happened only a few days previously at Craney Island, and the British were doubtless smarting under a sense of humiliating defeat when they proceeded to the attack of Hampton."

"How many of the British were there, Captain?" asked Evelyn Leland. "I have forgotten, though I know they far outnumbered the Americans."

"Yes," he replied, "as I have said there were about four hundred and fifty of the Americans, while Beckwith had twenty-five hundred men and was assisted by the flotilla of Admiral Cockburn, consisting of armed boats and barges, which appeared suddenly off Blackbeard's Point at the mouth of Hampton Creek, at the same time that Beckwith's troops moved stealthily forward through the woods under cover of the Mohawk's guns.

"To draw the attention of the Americans from the land force coming against them was Cockburn's object, in which he was partly successful, his flotilla being seen first by the American patrols at Mill Creek.

"They gave the alarm, arousing the camp, and a line of battle was formed. But just then some one came in haste to tell them of the large land force coming against the town from the rear, and presently in the woods and grain fields could be seen the scarlet uniforms of the British and the green ones of the French."

"Oh, how frightened the people in the town must have been!" exclaimed Grace. "I should think they'd all have run away."

"Most of them did," replied her father; "but some sick and feeble ones had to stay behind-others also in whose care they were-and trust to the supposed humanity of the British; a vain reliance it proved, at least so far as Admiral Cockburn was concerned. He gave up the town to pillage and rapine, allowing the doing of such deeds as have consigned his name to well-merited infamy.

"But to return to my story: Major Crutchfield, the American commander, resolved that he and his four hundred and fifty men would do what they could to defend the town. They were encamped on an estate called 'Little England,' a short distance southwest of Hampton, and had a heavy battery of seven guns, the largest an eighteen-pounder cannon.

"Major Crutchfield was convinced that the intention of the British was to make their principal attack in his rear, and that Cockburn's was only a feint to draw his attention from the other. So he sent Captain Servant out with his rifle company to ambush on the road by which Beckwith's troops were approaching, ordering him to attack and check the enemy. Then when Cockburn came round Blackbeard's Point and opened fire on the American camp he received so warm a welcome from Crutchfield's heavy battery that he was presently glad to escape for shelter behind the Point, and content himself with throwing an occasional shot or rocket into the American camp.

"Beckwith's troops had reached rising ground and halted for breakfast before the Americans discovered them. When that happened Sergeant Parker, with a field-piece and a few picked men, went to the assistance of Captain Servant and his rifle company, already lying in ambush.

"Parker had barely time to reach his position and plant his cannon when the British were seen rapidly advancing.

"At the head of the west branch of Hampton Creek, at the Celey road, there was a large cedar tree behind which Servant's advanced corps-Lieutenant Hope and two other men-had stationed themselves, and just as the British crossed the creek-the French column in front, led by the British sergeant major-they opened a deadly fire upon them. A number were killed, among them the sergeant major-a large, powerful man.

"This threw the British ranks into great confusion for the time, and the main body of our riflemen delivered their fire, killing the brave Lieutenant-Colonel Williams of the British army. But the others presently recovered from their panic and pushed forward, while our riflemen, being so few in number, were compelled to fall back.

"But Crutchfield had heard the firing, and hastened forward with nearly all his force, leaving Pryor and his artillerymen behind to defend the Little England estate from the attack of the barges. But while he was moving on along the lane that led from the plantation toward Celey's road and the great highway, he was suddenly assailed by an enfilading fire from the left.

"Instantly he ordered his men to wheel and charge upon the foe, who were now in the edge of the woods. His troops obeyed, behaving like veterans, and the enemy fell back; but presently rallied, and, showing themselves directly in front of the Americans, opened upon them in a storm of grape and canister from two six-pounders and some Congreve rockets.

"The Americans stood the storm for a few minutes, then fell back, broke ranks, and some of them fled in confusion.

"In the meantime Parker had been working his piece with good effect till his ammunition gave out. Lieutenant Jones, of the Hampton artillery, perceiving that to be the case, hurried to his assistance; but seeing an overwhelming force of the enemy approaching, they-Parker's men-fell back to the Yorktown Pike.

"Jones, who had one cannon with him, found that his match had gone out, and rushing to a house near by he snatched a burning brand from the fire, hurried back, and hid himself in a hollow near a spring.

"The British supposed they had captured all the cannon, or that if any were left they had been abandoned, and drawing near they presently filled the lane; then Jones rose and discharged his piece with terrible effect, many of the British were prostrated by the unexpected shot, and during the confusion that followed Jones made good his retreat, attaching a horse to his cannon, and bearing it off with him.

"He hastened to the assistance of Pryor, but on drawing near his camp saw that it had fallen into the possession of the foe.

"Pryor had retreated in safety, after spiking his guns. He and his command fought their way through the enemy's ranks with their guns, swam the west branch of Hampton Creek, and, making a circuit in the enemy's rear, fled without losing a man or a musket.

"Jones had seen it all, and spiking his gun followed Pryor's men to the same place.

"In the meantime Crutchfield had rallied his men, those who still remained with him, on the flank of Servant's riflemen, and was again fighting vigorously.

"But presently a powerful flank movement of the foe showed him that he was in danger of being out off from his line of retreat. He then withdrew in good order and escaped, though pursued for two miles by the enemy.

"That ended the battle, in which about thirty Americans and fifty of the British had fallen. Then presently followed the disgraceful scenes in Hampton of which I have already told you as having brought lasting infamy upon the name of Sir George Cockburn."

"I think he was worse than a savage!" exclaimed Lulu hotly.

"Certainly, far worse; and more brutal than some of the Indian chiefs-Brant, for instance," said Rosie, "or Tecumseh."

"I cannot see in what respect he was any better than a pirate," added Evelyn, in a quiet tone.

"Nor can I," said Captain Raymond; "so shameful were his atrocities that even the most violent of his British partisans were constrained to denounce them."

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