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   Chapter 15 HAULING DOWN THE FLAG OF ENGLAND.

The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England By Harry Castlemon Characters: 12602

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02


"Ah! you have come with an old flint-lock, have you?" said the sharpshooter as Enoch knelt beside him. "Do you think you can hit one of those Britishers working about that gun? Now look here: Sight your gun right there," he continued, making a mark with his thumb nail across the barrel. "Of course if they were in any reasonable distance that would throw the ball away over their heads; but we don't want to kill them so much as we want to scare them. Now try it at that."

Enoch drew up his flint-lock and one to have seen him would have thought that he meant to shoot at the cross-trees. Just then a Britisher ran forward with a cartridge in his hand to insert in the gun, but Enoch was waiting for him. The flint-lock roared, and the man stopped, dropped his cartridge to the deck and hurried aft holding his right hand as if he were very tender of it. The old sailor had made his sights just right.

"That's the way to do it," he exclaimed, stopping in his progress of driving a ball home long enough to pat Enoch on the head. "Throw the balls about their ears. That will frighten them even if it does not hurt them, and what we want is to keep them from firing that gun. Now let me see if I will have as good luck as I did before."

"That is to pay him for capturing Caleb," said Enoch. "I wish I knew where he is now. I don't want to send my bullets into the hull for fear that I will hit him."

The sailor tried it again and with just as good fortune as he had the previous time. Another Britisher caught up the cartridge and was going to put it into the gun, but he also dropped it and lay on the deck where he had stood. By this time all the sloop's men who had guns were congregated in the bow, and before they had all fired one round the gun was deserted.

"I knew we would put a stop to that," said the man who had fired the first shot. "Hold her to it, Zeke. We are gaining on her."

But Captain Moore was not yet whipped. He had three guns on a broadside which had not yet come into play, and all of a sudden his sails were let out and the schooner veered around to bring them into action. Before he had got fairly into position three flint-locks roared and two men dropped, one dead and the other seriously wounded. But the captain took up the position he wanted all the same, and the order to fire came distinctly to Enoch's ears. He thought he had never heard such a roar before as those little guns made when they were turned loose on the sloop. He thought his time had come, and held his breath expecting every instant to be his last. But the shells all flew wild. Not one of them came near the sloop. The provincials straightened up and fired three more bullets at the men who worked the guns, but the schooner was so obscured by the smoke of her cannons that they could not see what havoc they had made.

During this maneuver on the part of the pursued, the sloop had gained amazingly, and now they were within earshot of the Britishers. Thinking to avoid the further effusion of blood by prolonging the fighting Captain O'Brien called out-

"Do you surrender?"

"No!" returned Captain Moore's voice. "We will surrender when the last plank goes down."

And Captain Moore showed that he was in earnest. Almost with the words he lighted a hand-grenade which he carried in his arms, and threw it toward O'Brien. It did not come half way to the sloop but it exploded with stunning force and gave the provincials some idea of what was in store for them.

"Bring us alongside, Zeke," exclaimed Captain O'Brien, so impatient that he could not stand still. "If you can not manage her let somebody else go to the wheel."

"Bussin' on it, captain, I am doing the best I can," replied Zeke, working the wheel back and forth as if he hoped in that way to get some more speed out of her. "She will be alongside in five minutes."

But those five minutes were a long time to wait. The flint-locks were in close range now, and every time one of them spoke some body on the Britisher's side went down. It did not seem as though they had men enough to stand such a fusilade. Captain O'Brien was standing there with a rope in his hand, and when he had got it all coiled up he stepped over and took his place among the men who had flint-locks in their hands.

"Now, boys, protect me," said he. "Whenever our boat comes near enough I am going to catch the schooner and lash them fast. Enoch, go back and pick off the man at the wheel."

The boy started at once and without making any reply. He kept along close under the rail to be out of range of any one who was watching him from the schooner's deck, and when he came within sight of Zeke he was horrified to find him with his face all covered with blood.

"Oh Zeke, they have hit you," exclaimed Enoch.

"Don't I know that?" replied the wheelman, who stuck to his work as though there was nothing the matter with him. "But as long as they do not get me down I am going to stand up. Do you see that man alongside the schooner's wheel? Well he is the one that shot me."

Enoch took just one glance at the schooner and saw that the man referred to had just loaded his pistol and was now engaged in priming it. He cast frequent glances toward Zeke and grinned at him the while as if to tell him that his second shot would go to the mark; but he did not take notice of Enoch who, kneeling down behind the rail, brought his gun to bear on him. It spoke almost immediately, and the man dropped his pistol, turned part way around and sank down lifeless where he stood.

"There!" exclaimed Zeke. "That was a good shot. Now see if you can get that man at the wheel. That will leave her without any guiding hand, and before she can bring another man to helm I may be able to come up with her."

"I was sent here for that purpose," said Enoch, rolling over on his back and reaching for his powder-horn. "I am going to pick off every man they send there."

In a few minutes the gun was ready, after trying in vain to retain his hold of the spokes, the steersman went down in a heap. Of course the schooner came into the wind, and Zeke uttered a yell as she veered round broadside to the sloop; and in a moment more there was a rush of men from the deck and Enoch and Zeke were standing alone.

"Boarders away!" shout

ed Captain O'Brien, as he made the two vessels fast together. "Now, boys, show what you're are made of."

Zeke released his hold of the wheel, and caught up his club which stood beside him where he could get his hands upon it at a moment's warning; he cleared the rails of the vessels without using his hands, and Enoch lost sight of him in the fracas. Somehow, Enoch could not have told how it happened, he was close at his heels when he reached the schooner's deck, and between using his gun as a club to fell a man to the deck and making use of it as a parry to ward off a blow that somebody aimed at his head, he did not know anything more until he heard a voice exclaim in piteous accents:

"I surrender! I surrender!"

"Who is that?" shouted Captain O'Brien. "Do you all surrender? If you do, throw down your weapons."

* * *

The Capture of the Schooner.

* * *

There was a sound of dropping hand-spikes and cutlasses, and in an instant there was silence on the deck. The smoke of the hand-grenades with which the boarders had been greeted floated away after a while, and then the provincials were able to see what they had done and how great was the number of men that they had to mourn. Enoch was astounded. It did not seem possible for him to step in any direction without treading upon the body of friend or foe. The two bodies of men opposed to each other were about thirty on a side, and at least half that number were lying on the deck dead, or wounded so badly that they could not get up. He looked everywhere for Captain Moore, and finally found him with a saber-cut in his side. His first action had proved his death.

"Now the next thing is Caleb," said Enoch, starting toward the gangway to go below. "I hope that nothing has happened to him."

Enoch did not want to go on talking to himself in this way, for something told him that he might find his friend Caleb cold in death. He knew where the brig was and hurried down to it, and on the way he found half a dozen men who were wounded and the doctor and his assistant attending to their wants. It was a horrible sight, and Enoch turned away his head that he might not see it. A few steps brought him to the brig, and there was a hand stuck out to grasp his own. It was Caleb sure enough, and no signs of a wound on him. He was as jolly and full of fun as ever.

"Enoch, old boy, I knew you would not rest easy until you had got me," said Caleb. "Put it there."

"Are you not hurt a bit?" asked Enoch. He almost dreaded to ask the question for some how he seemed to think that no living boy could come out of that fight without being desperately wounded. Enoch did not stop to think of himself. He appeared to know that he was going to come out all right.

"Open the door and let me out," repeated Caleb, taking hold of the grating in front of him and shaking it with all his strength. "I have been in here long enough."

"Who has got the key?" asked Enoch. "If I can't find the key I shall have to chop the grating down."

"Do you know the boatswain?"

Enoch shook his head.

"Well, he is the one that has the key, and you will have to find him in order to get it. Say!" said Caleb, seizing his friend by the arm and pulling him up close to him. "I ought to 'start' that fellow. He was going to be awful mean to me if we had started for New York. Why don't you go and get the key?"

Enoch went but he did not know where he was going to find the boatswain. At the head of the gangway he met a Britisher coming down with his arm in a sling, and he asked him if he could show the man to him.

"Yes, I can," said the sailor. "He has gone to Davy's locker sure. I'll bet he won't start me any more. Come on and I will show him to you."

Enoch followed him to the deck and there, where the British had gathered to meet the boarders from the sloop and but a little way from his captain, lay the boatswain with an ugly thrust from a cutlass near his heart. By feeling of his pockets on the outside Enoch soon discovered his bunch of keys, and he soon had possession of them.

"You will not get a chance at that boatswain on this trip," said Enoch, as he proceeded to open the door. "He has gone where he can't hurt you nor anybody else by 'starting' him. He is killed."

He opened the door and Caleb fairly jumped into his arms. After they had embraced each other for a minute or two Caleb asked after his mother.

"Of course she felt very bad to know that you had been taken prisoner, but she did not cry," said Enoch. "I told her that when I came back to-night I should fetch you with me, and I am going to keep my promise."

"Let us go on deck and see how things look up there," said Caleb. "You had a lively time taking this boat. I never heard such a roar as these guns made."

If Caleb, when he was down below, thought things were lively, what must he have thought when he came out of the gangway and saw the number of men that had been killed and wounded during the fight! Almost the first man he saw was Captain Moore.

"How many men did you have on each side?" he asked in astonishment. "Did you shoot that old flint-lock of yours?"

"I did, but I shot to maim, not to kill. I couldn't do it. No doubt they would have used me worse than we will them, but you see they did not get the chance. There's Wheaton pulling down the flag. Let us go up and hear what he has to say."

The flag was already down and Wheaton was folding it up tenderly to carry it under his arm. Probably if it had been an American flag and the victory had been the other way, there would not have been so much attention shown it by the Britishers who pulled it down. Wheaton shook Caleb by the hand, asked him how he had fared as a prisoner in the power of the enemies of his country and said as he gathered up the flag-

"Captain O'Brien says that this is the first time this flag has ever been hauled down by a foe to England. She has made everybody strike to her, but she has struck to nobody. It would not have been pulled down now if she had treated us right. She will find before she gets through with it that a little flock of Yankees, to which her troops came so near to surrendering at Lexington, are as good as they make them. We have met them, man for man, and whipped them all."

* * *

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