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Elsie's Vacation and After Events By Martha Finley Characters: 29351

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:04


Before the sun had set the Dolphin was again speeding over the water, but now on the ocean, and going northward, Philadelphia being their present destination. It had grown cloudy and by bedtime a steady rain was falling, but unaccompanied by much wind, so that no one felt any apprehension of shipwreck or other marine disaster, and all slept well.

The next morning Lulu was, as usual, one of the first to leave her berth, and having made herself neat for the day she hurried upon deck.

It had ceased raining and the clouds were breaking away.

"Oh, I'm so glad!" she exclaimed, running to meet her father, who was coming toward her, holding out his hand with an affectionate smile, "so glad it is clearing off so beautifully; aren't you, papa?"

"Yes; particularly for your sake, daughter," he replied, putting an arm about her and bending down to give her a good-morning kiss. "Did you sleep well?"

"Yes, indeed, papa, thank you; but I woke early and got up because I wanted to come on deck and look about. Where are we now? I can see land on the western side."

"Yes, that is a part of the Delaware coast," he answered. "We are nearing Cape Henlopen. By the way, do you remember what occurred near there, at the village of Lewis, in the war of 1812?"

"No, sir," she said. "Won't you please tell me about it?"

"I will; it is not a very long story. It was in March of the year 1813 that the British, after destroying such small merchant craft as they could find in Chesapeake Bay, concluded to blockade Delaware bay and river and reduce to submission the Americans living along their shores. Commodore Beresford was accordingly sent on the expedition in command of the Belvidera, Poictiers, and several smaller vessels.

"On the 16th of March he appeared before Lewis in his vessel, the Poictiers, and pointing her guns toward the town sent a note addressed to the first magistrate demanding twenty live bullocks and a proportionate quantity of hay and of vegetables for the use of his Britannic majesty's squadron. He offered to pay for them, but threatened in the event of refusal to destroy the town."

"The insolent fellow!" cried Lulu. "I hope they didn't do it, papa?"

"No; indeed, they flatly refused compliance and told him to do his worst. The people on both sides of the bay and river had heard of his approach and armed bodies of them were gathered at points where an attack might be expected. There were still among them some of the old soldiers of the revolution, and you may be sure they were ready to do their best to repel this second invasion by their old enemy. One of these was a bent old man of the name of Jonathan M'Nult. He lived in Dover, and when, on the Sabbath day, the drums beat to arms, he, along with men of every denomination to the number of nearly five hundred, quickly responded to the call, took part in the drill, and spent the whole afternoon in making ball-cartridges.

"The people of all the towns of the vicinity showed the same spirit and turned out with spades and muskets, ready to take part in the throwing up of batteries and trenches, or to fight 'for their altars and their fires'-defending wives, children, and other helpless ones. At Wilmington they built a strong fort which they named Union.

"This spirited behavior of the Americans surprised Beresford, and for three weeks he refrained from any attempt to carry out his threat.

"During that time Governor Haslet came to Lewis and summoned the militia to its defence. On his arrival he reiterated the refusal to supply the British invaders with what had been demanded.

"Beresford repeated his threats and at length, on the 6th of April, sent Captain Byron, with the Belvidera and several smaller vessels, to attack the town.

"He fired several heavy round shot into it, then sent a flag of truce, again demanding the supplies Beresford had called for.

"Colonel Davis, the officer in command of the militia, repeated the refusal; then Byron sent word that he was sorry for the misery he should inflict on the women and children by a bombardment.

"To that a verbal reply was sent: 'Colonel Davis is a gallant officer, and has taken care of the ladies.'

"Then Byron presently began a cannonade and bombardment and kept it up for twenty-two hours.

"The Americans replied in a very spirited manner from a battery on an eminence. Davis's militia worked it and succeeded in disabling the most dangerous of the enemy's gunboats and silencing its cannon.

"The British failed in their effort to inflict great damage upon the town, although they hurled into it as many as eight hundred eighteen and thirty-two pound shot, besides many shells and Congreve rockets. The heavy round shot injured some of the houses but the shells did not reach the town and the rockets passed over it. No one was killed.

"Plenty of powder was sent for the American guns from Dupont's at Wilmington, and they picked up and sent back the British balls, which they found just fitted their cannon."

"How good that was," laughed Lulu. "It reminds me of the British at Boston asking the Americans to sell them their balls which they had picked up, and the Americans answering, 'Give us powder and we'll return your balls.' But is that all of your story, papa?"

"Yes, all about the fight at Lewis, but in the afternoon of the next day the British tried to land to steal some of the live stock in the neighborhood; yet without success, as the American militia met them at the water's edge and drove them back to their ships.

"About a month later the British squadron dropped down to Newbold's ponds, seven miles below Lewis, and boats filled with their armed men were sent on shore for water; but a few of Colonel Davis's men, under the command of Major George H. Hunter, met and drove them back to their ships. So, finding he could not obtain supplies on the Delaware shore, Beresford's little squadron sailed for Bermuda."

"Good! Thank you for telling me about it, papa," said Lulu. "Are we going to stop at Lewis?"

"No, but we will pass near enough to have a distant view of the town."

"Oh, I want to see it!" she exclaimed; "and I'm sure the rest will when they hear what happened there."

"Well, daughter, there will be nothing to hinder," the captain answered pleasantly.

"How soon will we reach the point from which we can see it best, papa?" she asked.

"I think about the time we leave the breakfast table," was his reply.

"Papa, don't you miss Max?" was her next question.

"Very much," he said. "Dear boy! he is doubtless feeling quite lonely and homesick this morning. However, he will soon get over that and enjoy his studies and his sports."

"I think he'll do you credit, papa, and make us all proud of him," she said, slipping her hand into her father's and looking up lovingly into his face.

"Yes," the captain said, pressing the little hand affectionately in his, "I have no doubt he will. I think, as I am sure his sister Lulu does, that Max is a boy any father and sister might be proud of."

"Yes, indeed, papa!" she responded. "I'm glad he is my brother, and I hope to live to see him an admiral; as I'm sure you would have been if you'd stayed in the navy and we'd had a war."

"And my partial little daughter had the bestowal of such preferment and titles," he added laughingly.

Just then Rosie and Evelyn joined them, followed almost immediately by Walter and Grace, when Lulu gave them in a few hasty sentences the information her father had given her in regard to the history of Lewis, and told of their near approach to it.

Every one was interested and all hurried from the breakfast-table to the deck in time to catch a view of the place, though a rather distant one.

When it had vanished from sight, Evelyn turned to Captain Raymond, exclaiming, "O sir, will you not point out Forts Mercer and Mifflin to us when we come in sight of them?"

"With pleasure," he replied. "They are at Red Bank. Port Mercer on the New Jersey shore of the Delaware River, a few miles below Philadelphia, Fort Mifflin on the other side of the river on Great and Little Mud Islands. It was, in Revolutionary days, a strong redoubt with quite extensive outworks."

"Did our men fight the British there in the Revolutionary war, papa?" asked Grace.

"Yes; it was in the fall of 1777, soon after the battle of the Brandywine, in which, as you may remember, the Americans were defeated. They retreated to Chester that night, marched the next day toward Philadelphia, and encamped near Germantown. Howe followed and took possession of the city of Philadelphia.

"The Americans, fearing such an event, had put obstructions in the Delaware River to prevent the British ships from ascending it, and also had built these two forts with which to protect the chevaux de frise.

"The battle of the Brandywine, as you may remember, was fought on the 11th of September, and, as I have said, the British pushed on to Philadelphia and entered it in triumph on the 26th."

"Papa, what are chevaux de frise?" asked Grace.

"They are ranges of strong frames with iron-pointed wooden spikes," he answered; then went on:

"In addition to these, the Americans had erected batteries on the shores, among which was the strong redoubt called Fort Mercer, which, and also Port Mifflin on the Mud Islands, I have already mentioned. Besides all these, there were several floating batteries and armed galleys stationed in the river.

"All this troubled the British general, because he foresaw that their presence there would make it very difficult, if not impossible, to keep his army supplied with provisions; also they would be in more danger from the American forces if unsupported by their fleet.

"Earl Howe, as you will remember, was at this time in Chesapeake Bay with a number of British vessels of war. As we have just been doing, he sailed down the one bay and up into the other, but was prevented, by these fortifications of the Americans, from continuing on up the Delaware River to Philadelphia.

"Among his vessels was one called the Roebuck, commanded by a Captain Hammond. That officer offered to take upon himself the task of opening a passage for their vessels through the chevaux de frise, if Howe would send a sufficient force to reduce the fortifications at Billingsport.

"Howe was pleased with the proposition and two regiments of troops were sent from Chester to accomplish the work. They were successful, made a furious and unexpected assault upon the unfinished works, and the Americans spiked their cannon, set fire to the barracks, and fled; the English demolished the works on the river front, and Hammond, with some difficulty, made a passage way seven feet wide in the chevaux de frise, so that six of the British vessels passed through and anchored near Hog Island."

"Did they immediately attack Forts Mifflin and Mercer, papa?" asked Lulu.

"It took some little time to make the needed preparations," replied the captain. "It was on the 21st of October that Count Donop, with twelve hundred picked Hessians, crossed the Delaware at Cooper's Ferry, and marched to the attack of Fort Mercer. The Americans added eight miles to the extent of their march by taking up the bridge over a creek which they must cross, so compelling them to go four miles up the stream to find a ford.

"It was on the morning of the 22d that they made their appearance, fully armed for battle, on the edge of a wood within cannon shot of Fort Mercer.

"It was a great surprise to our men, for they had not heard of the approach of these troops. They were informed that there were twenty-five hundred of the Hessians, while of themselves there were but four hundred men in a feeble earth fort, with but fourteen pieces of cannon.

"But the brave fellows had no idea of surrendering without a struggle. There were two Rhode Island regiments, commanded by Colonel Christopher Greene. They at once made preparations for defence, and while they were thus engaged a Hessian officer rode up to the fort with a flag and a drummer, and insolently proclaimed, 'The King of England orders his rebellious subjects to lay down their arms; and they are warned that if they stand the battle, no quarter whatever will be given.'

"Colonel Greene answered him, 'We ask no quarter nor will we give any.'

"The Hessian and his drummer then rode hastily back to his commander and the Hessians at once fell to work building a battery within half cannon shot of the fort.

"At the same time the Americans continued their preparations for the coming conflict, making them with the greatest activity and eagerness, feeling that with them skill and bravery must now combat overwhelming numbers, fierceness, and discipline.

"Their outworks were unfinished but they placed great reliance upon the redoubt.

"At four o'clock in the afternoon the Hessians opened a brisk cannonade, and at a quarter before five a battalion advanced to the attack on the north side of the fort, near a morass which covered it.

"They found the works there abandoned but not destroyed, and thought that they had frightened the Americans away. So with a shout of victory, and the drummer beating a lively march, they rushed to the redoubt, where not a man was to be seen.

"But as they reached it, and were about to climb the ramparts to plant their flag there, a sudden and galling fire of musketry and grape-shot poured out upon them, from a half-masked battery on their left flank, formed by an angle of an old embankment.

"It took terrible effect and drove them back to their old intrenchments.

"At the same time another division, commanded by Dunot himself, attacked the fort on the south side, but they also were driven back, with great loss, by the continuous and heavy fire of the Americans.

"The fight was a short one but very severe. Donop had fallen, mortally wounded, at the first fire. Mingerode, his second in command, was wounded also, and in all the enemy left behind, in the hasty retreat which followed, some four hundred in killed and wounded.

"The American galleys and floating batteries in the river galled them considerably in their retreat.

"After the fight was over Manduit, the French engineer who had directed the artillery fire of the fort, was out with a detachment examining and restoring the palisades, when he heard a voice coming from among the killed and wounded of the enemy, saying, 'Whoever you are, draw me hence.'

"It was Count Donop, and Manduit had him carried first into the fort, afterward to a house close at hand, occupied by a family named Whitall, where

he died three days afterward.

"Donop was but thirty-seven. He said to Manduit, who attended him till he died, 'It is finishing a noble career early; but I die the victim of my ambition and the avarice of my sovereign.'"

"His sovereign? That was George the Third, papa?" Grace said inquiringly.

"No, Donop was a Hessian, hired out to the British king by his sovereign," replied her father.

"And avarice means love of money?"

"Yes, daughter; and it was avarice on the part of both sovereigns that led to the hiring of the Hessians; the war was waged by the king of England because the Americans refused to be taxed by him at his pleasure and without their consent. He wanted their money.

"Whitall's house, a two-story brick, built in 1748, stood close by the river," continued the captain, "and I suppose is still there; it was, in 1851, when Lossing visited the locality.

"The Whitalls were Quakers and took no part in the war. When the fort was attacked Mrs. Whitall was urged to flee to some place of safety, but declined to do so, saying, 'God's arm is strong, and will protect me; I may do good by staying.'

"She was left alone in the house, and, while the battle was raging, sat in a room in the second story busily at work at her spinning-wheel, while the shot came dashing like hail against the walls. At length one, a twelve-pound ball from a British vessel in the river, just grazed the walnut tree at the fort, which the Americans used as a flag-staff, and crashed into her house through the heavy brick wall on the north gable, then through a partition at the head of the stairs, crossed a recess, and lodged in another partition near where she was sitting.

"At that she gathered up her work and went down to the cellar.

"At the close of the battle the wounded and dying were brought into her house and she left her work to wait upon them and do all in her power to relieve their sufferings.

"She attended to all, friend and foe, with equal kindness, but scolded the Hessians for coming to America to butcher the people."

"I am sure she must have been a good woman," remarked Grace; "but, oh, I don't know how she could dare to stay in the house while those dreadful balls were flying about it."

"No doubt she felt that she was in the way of her duty," replied the captain, "and the path of duty is the safe one. She seems to have been a good Christian woman."

"Yes, indeed!" said Evelyn. "Captain, did not the British attack Fort Mifflin at the same time that the fight was in progress at Fort Mercer?"

"Yes; the firing of the first gun from the Hessian battery was the signal for the British vessels in the river to begin the assault upon the other fort on its opposite side.

"The Augusta and several smaller vessels had made their way through the passage in the chevaux de frise which Hammond had opened, and were now anchored above it, waiting for flood tide.

"The Augusta was a sixty-four gun ship; besides there were the Merlin, of eighteen guns; the Roebuck, of forty-four; two frigates, and a galley. All these came up with the purpose to attack the fort, but were kept at bay by the American galleys and floating batteries, which also did good service by flanking the enemy in their attack upon Fort Mercer.

"The British deferred their attack upon Fort Mifflin until the next morning, when, the Hessians having been driven off from Fort Mercer, the American flotilla was able to turn its attention entirely upon the British fleet, which now opened a heavy cannonade upon Fort Mifflin, attempting also to get floating batteries into the channel back of the island.

"But Lieutenant-Colonel Smith, a gallant officer in command of the fort, very vigilant and brave, thwarted all their efforts and greatly assisted the flotilla in repulsing them.

"The fire of the Americans was so fierce and incessant that the British vessels presently tried to fall down the stream to get beyond its reach. But a hot shot struck the Augusta and set her on fire. She also got aground on a mud bank near the Jersey shore and at noon blew up.

"The fight between the other British and the American vessels went on until three o'clock in the afternoon, when the Merlin took fire and blew up near the mouth of Mud Creek.

"The Roebuck then dropped down the river below the chevaux de frise, and for a short time the Americans were left in undisturbed possession of their forts.

"Howe was, however, very anxious to dislodge them, because the river was the only avenue by which provisions could be brought to his army in Philadelphia.

"On the 1st of November he took possession of Province Island, lying between Fort Mifflin and the mainland, and began throwing up works to strengthen himself and annoy the defenders of the fort.

"But they showed themselves wonderfully brave and patient. Lieutenant-Colonel Smith was as fine an officer as one could desire to see.

"The principal fortification of Fort Mifflin was in front, that being the side from which vessels coming up the river must be repelled; but on the side toward Province Island it was defended by only a wet ditch. There was a block house at each of its angles, but they were not strong, and when the Americans saw the British take possession of Province Island and begin building batteries there, they felt that unless assistance should be sent to dislodge the enemy, the fort would soon be demolished or fall into his possession."

"But couldn't Washington help them, and didn't he try to?" asked Grace.

"Washington was most desirous to do so and made every effort in his power," replied her father; "and if Gates had done his duty the fort might probably have been saved. Burgoyne's army had been defeated and captured some time before this, and there was then no other formidable enemy in that quarter; but Gates was jealous of Washington and, rather than have him successful, preferred to sacrifice the cause which he had engaged to defend.

"He had ample stores and a formidable force, and had he come promptly to the rescue might have rendered such assistance as to enable Washington to drive the British from Philadelphia and save the forts upon the Delaware.

"But, actuated by the meanest jealousy, he delayed, and would not even return Morgan's corps, which Washington had been but ill able to spare to him.

"Hamilton, sent by Washington to hasten Gates's movements in the matter, grew very indignant at the slow and reluctant compliance of Gates, and by plainly expressing his opinion induced him to send a stronger reinforcement than he had intended.

"Putnam also made trouble by detaining some of the troops forwarded by Gates to assist him in carrying out a plan of his own for attacking New York.

"Governor Clinton then advised Hamilton to issue a peremptory order to Putnam to set those troops in motion for Whitemarsh where Washington was encamped. Hamilton did so, and the troops were sent."

"Dear, dear!" sighed Lulu, "what a time poor Washington did have with Congress being so slow, and officers under him so perverse, wanting their own way instead of doing their best to help him to carry out his good and wise plans."

"Yes," her father said, with a slight twinkle of fun in his eye, "but doesn't my eldest daughter feel something like sympathy with them in their wish to carry out their own plans without much regard for those of other people?"

"I-I suppose perhaps I ought to, papa," she replied, blushing and hanging her head rather shamefacedly; "and yet," she added, lifting it again and smiling up into his eyes, "I do think if you had been the commander over me I'd have tried to follow your directions, believing you knew better than I."

She moved nearer to his side and leaned up lovingly against him as she spoke.

"Yes, dear child, I feel quite sure of it," he returned, laying his hand tenderly on her head, then smoothing her hair caressingly as he spoke.

"But you haven't finished about the second attack upon Fort Mifflin, have you, brother Levis?" queried Walter.

"No, not quite," the captain answered; then went on with his narrative:

"All through the war Washington showed himself wonderfully patient and hopeful, but it was with intense anxiety he now watched the progress of the enemy in his designs upon Fort Mifflin, unable as he himself was to succor its threatened garrison."

"But why couldn't he go and help them with his soldiers, papa?" asked Grace.

"Because, daughter, if he broke up his camp at Whitemarsh, and moved his army to the other side of the Schuylkill, he must leave stores and hospitals for the sick, within reach of the enemy; leave the British troops in possession of the fords of the river; make it difficult, if not impossible, for the troops he was expecting from the North to join him, and perhaps bring on a battle while he was too weak to hope for victory over such odds as Howe could bring against him.

"So the poor fellows in the fort had to fight it out themselves with no assistance from outside."

"Couldn't they have slipped out in the night and gone away quietly without fighting, papa?" asked Grace.

"Perhaps so," he said, with a slight smile; "but such doings as that would never have helped our country to free herself from the British yoke; and these men were too brave and patriotic to try it; they were freemen and never could be slaves; to them death was preferable to slavery. We may well be proud of the skill and courage with which Lieutenant-Colonel Smith defended his fort against the foe.

"On the 10th of November the British opened their batteries on land and water. They had five on Province Island, within five hundred yards of the fort; a large floating battery with twenty-two twenty-four pounders, which they brought up within forty yards of an angle of the fort; also six ships, two of them with forty guns each, the others with sixty-four each, all within less than nine hundred yards of the fort."

"More than three hundred guns all firing on that one little fort!" exclaimed Rosie. "It is really wonderful how our poor men could stand it."

"Yes, for six consecutive days a perfect storm of bombs and round shot poured upon them," said the captain, "and it must have required no small amount of courage to stand such a tempest."

"I hope they fired back and killed some of those wicked fellows!" exclaimed Walter, his eyes flashing.

"You may be sure they did their best to defend themselves and their fort," replied the captain. "And the British loss was great, though the exact number has never been known.

"Nearly two hundred and fifty of our men were killed or wounded. Lieutenant Treat, commanding the artillery, was killed on the first day by the bursting of a bomb. The next day quite a number of the garrison were killed or wounded, and Colonel Smith himself had a narrow escape.

"A ball passed through a chimney in the barracks,-whither he had gone intending to write a letter,-scattered the bricks, and one of them striking him on the head knocked him senseless.

"He was carried across the river to Red Bank, and Major Thayer of the Rhode Island line took command in his place.

"The first day a battery of two guns was destroyed, a block house and the laboratory were blown up, and the garrison were compelled to keep within the fort. All that night the British threw shells and the scene was a terrible one indeed, especially for the poor fellows inside the fort.

"The next morning, about sunrise, they saw thirty armed boats coming against them, and that night the heavy floating battery was brought to bear upon the fort. The next morning it opened with terrible effect, yet they endured it, and made the enemy suffer so much from their fire that they began to think seriously of giving up the contest, when one of the men in the fort deserted to them, and his tale of the weakness of the garrison inspiring the British with renewed hope of conquest they prepared for a more general and vigorous assault.

"At daylight on the 15th two men-of-war, the Iris and the Somerset, passed up the channel in front of the fort on Mud Island. Two others-the Vigilant and a hulk with three twenty-four pounders-passed through the narrow channel on the west side and were placed in a position to act in concert with the batteries of Province Island in enfilading the American works.

"At ten o'clock all was silent, and doubtless our men were awaiting the coming onslaught with intense anxiety, when a signal bugle sounded and instantly all the ships and batteries poured a storm of shot and shell from the mouths of their many guns upon the devoted little garrison."

"Oh, how dreadful!" sighed Grace. "Could they stand it, papa?"

"They endured it with astonishing courage," replied the captain, "while all day long, and far into the evening, it was kept up without cessation. The yards of the British ships hung nearly over the American battery; and there were musketeers stationed in their tops who immediately shot down every man who showed himself on the platform of the fort. Our men displayed, as I have said, wonderful bravery and endurance; there seems to have been no thought of surrender; but long before night palisades, block houses, parapet, embrasures-all were ruined.

"Early in the evening Major Thayer sent all but forty of his men to Red Bank. He and the remaining forty stayed on in the fort until midnight, then, setting fire to the remains of the barracks, they also escaped in safety to Red Bank.

"Lossing tells us that in the course of that last day more than a thousand discharges of cannon, from twelve to thirty-two pounders, were made against the works on Mud Island, and that it was one of the most gallant and obstinate defences of the war.

"Major Thayer received great credit for his share in it, and was presented with a sword by the Rhode Island Assembly as a token of their appreciation of his services there."

"Did not Captain-afterward Commodore-Talbot do himself great credit there?" asked Evelyn.

"Yes; he fought for hours with his wrist shattered by a musket ball; then was wounded in the hip and was sent to Red Bank. He was a very brave man and did much good service during the war, principally on the water, taking vessel after vessel. In the fight with one of them-the Dragon-his speaking trumpet was pierced by bullets and the skirts of his coat were shot away."

"How brave he must have been!" exclaimed Lulu with enthusiasm. "Don't you think so, papa?"

"Indeed, I do," replied the captain. "He was one of the many men of that period of whom their countrymen may be justly proud."

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