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   Chapter 19 CONCLUSION.

The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England By Harry Castlemon Characters: 29901

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:02

Captain O'Brien and the rest of the leaders who took part in that fight with the schooner, had plenty to do that night. Among other things they were selecting the crew for their privateer, and they wanted to be sure that they got none but the best men. Zeke was ashore for an hour or two before he sent the cutter back, and then he did not come with it but sent Zeb Short to scull the boat. There were nine men in the party, and each one brought with him a large bundle which contained some changes of linen and his bedclothes.

"Where is the mate?" asked Enoch, as the men threw their bundles aboard and then proceeded to climb aboard themselves.

"The mate!" exclaimed Zeb Short, as if he did not catch the boy's meaning.

"Yes; Zeke told us to stay here until he came back."

"Oh. Well, Zeke is ashore helping the captain; and he told me to inform you boys that if you want to ship on board this vessel you had better go home and get some duds, for we are going to sail with the turn of the tide which takes place about four o'clock. Of course you boys are going?"

"You wager we are," said Caleb.

"Take your guns with you," continued Zeb. "We shall not want them any more. When we board the next Britisher you will have a cutlass or pike in your hands."

The boys clambered down into the boat with Zeb Short and were slowly sculled toward the shore. It looked to them as if they were in for fighting and nothing else. They did not stop to speak to the captain or any of the other men standing around but went straight for home as fast as they could go. There was one place where they were tempted to stop and exchange a few words with the inmates, and that was at James Howard's house. The boys were sitting on the porch and were talking about what they had seen at the wharf.

"There go a couple of those rebels now," said James, as Enoch and Caleb hurried by. "I hope I will be here to see them hung up."

"Enoch, I have the best notion to go back and whip him in his own dooryard," said Caleb, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk. "If you will keep the other off me, I can punish James in two whacks."

"Come on, now, and don't mind them," said Enoch, taking Caleb by the arm. "You may have some other fellows to fight some day, some that have weapons in their hands, and you can take revenge upon James in that way. Come along."

Caleb reluctantly allowed himself to be led away, and presently he was dropped at his own gate. Enoch broke into a run and entered the kitchen where his mother was busy with her usual vocations. He seized a chair, moved it up under the hooks on which his flint-lock belonged, placed it there with his bullet-pouch and powder-horn, and Mrs. Crosby looked at him with surprise.

"What's to do, Enoch?" she said at length.

"Mother, I want my bedclothes and a change of underwear to go out to sea," said Enoch. "You see--"

Here the boy began and told his story in as few words as possible, and to his joy his mother did not say one word to oppose him.

"There is one thing that does not look exactly right," he continued, "and that is I don't know what I am going to get for my trouble. I do not know that I am going to get a cent."

"That is all in the future," said his mother. "Do your duty faithfully and I will take care of myself."

Enoch said no more, but somehow he could not help wishing that he had some of his mother's pluck. When the things had been bundled up he kissed his mother good-by and went out of the house, wondering if he was ever going inside of it again. He found Caleb at his gate with his bundle on his shoulder, and in half an hour from that time they were safe on board the schooner.

"If no one has spoken for this bunk I guess I will put my things in here," said Enoch, looking around upon the men who were busy at work making up their own beds.

"There is a bunk for every man in the crew," said one. "Put your things in there and say nothing to nobody."

"All below, there!" shouted Zeke. "Come on deck, everybody."

"We are going to choose our officers the first thing we do," said Zeb Short, who proved that he was a good sailor by leaving his bunk half made up and hurrying to obey the order. "My captain is O'Brien, every time."

The men hastened aft, and there stood O'Brien with his hat off. The crew removed theirs out of respect, and the captain began a little speech to them. He repeated at greater length what he had told them ashore-that they now took their lives in their own hands and were about to go out to sea to do battle with the flag they had that day hauled down, and that if captured they could not expect but one thing, death at the yard-arm. If any of the men had time to think the matter over and wanted to back out-

"We don't," shouted Zeke, in a voice that must have been heard on shore. "There is no one in this crew that thinks of backing out."

"Zeke speaks for all of us," said Zeb Short.

"Then we will proceed to elect officers," said Captain O'Brien. "You are, most of you, sailors, and I need not tell you that it is necessary that you select good men and those whose orders you are willing to obey."

It did not take over ten minutes for the crew to select the men who were to command them. They had evidently made up their minds just whom they wanted, and each one proposed was accepted by acclamation. O'Brien was chosen captain; no one could do better than he did in the fight with the schooner, and the men were sure that he could do equally well in a contest with another vessel. Zeke was chosen first mate, Zeb Short second, and Wheaton, who did not know the first thing about a ship, was appointed captain's steward.

"What will I have to do?" asked Wheaton; whereupon all the crew broke out into a hearty laugh.

"You will have to see that I get enough to eat," said the captain. "I will wager that I do not go hungry while you are in office."

"Well, if it is all the same to you, Captain, I won't take it," said Wheaton. "Let me be a foremast hand. I shipped to fight--"

"You will have all the fighting you want to do as steward," said Captain O'Brien. "Everybody will be on deck then."

After a little more argument Wheaton was induced to take the position, and the election of officers went on. The last one that was chosen was the man who had fed Enoch while he was a prisoner in the brig; Ezra Norton was his name, and he was told to look out for the ammunition. He had served on board the schooner and knew pretty nearly where to go to find the charges for the guns. After that the crew were divided into watches, and in obedience to Zeke's order: "All you starbo'lins below!" went down to their bunks to sleep until twelve o'clock.

Just at daylight the next morning-it was Enoch's watch on deck now-there was great commotion on the schooner, for the lookout who was sitting on the cross-trees shouted down two words that sent a thrill to every heart. It did not create a hubbub or take the form of words, but it set them to scanning the horizon and exchanging whisperings with one another-

"Sail ho!"

"Where away?" shouted Zeke, who happened to be the only officer on deck.

"Straight ahead," was the answer.

"Can you make her out?"

"I can see nothing but her top-hamper, but I think she is a schooner bound for New York."

Presently the hail came down again-another ship four points off the lee bow, and headed the same way that the other one was. The captain, on being summoned, came on deck and mounted to the cross-trees with a glass in his hand. He stayed there an hour, and when he came down again the vessels were in sight.

"I will wager my hat against yours that those are two of the boats that we want," said he to Zeke. "We will soon make them show their colors whatever they are."

"Wheaton, have you your flag here?" asked Zeb Short, turning to the steward who at that moment came on deck.

"No, no; don't try that," said the captain, hastily. "We will approach her without any flag. We will not attempt to make her think we are friendly when we are not."

The two vessels continued to approach each other, and finally the stranger, thinking that the schooner had some business with her, ran up the very flag they wanted to see-the flag of England. In answer to the question, "What schooner is that?" she replied that she was the Spitfire, bound from Halifax for New York with a cargo of supplies for the British government.

"Now, Zeke, it all depends upon you," said the captain, jumping down from the rail on which he had stood while making his hail. "Crowd all the men you can into a boat and go off and take possession of that schooner. Send the officers to me and put the rest down below. Fill away in my wake when I start for Watertown. But first I must capture that other schooner."

"I will send a boat aboard of you," said the captain, seeing that the Spitfire was not decreasing her pace.

To man the boat did not take very long on the part of the schooner's crew, for every one knew just what he had to do. To seize cutlasses and pistols from the rack, buckle them on and tumble over the side was but the work of a minute, and in hardly more time than we have taken to describe it, they had boarded the Spitfire and a man was sent to her wheel. Zeke pulled down the flag and waved it over his head.

Of course her officers were full of questions when they were brought aboard the schooner, and could not understand the matter at all; but the captain did not stop to enlighten them until the other vessel was captured. He ordered them down into his cabin, and there they remained while the schooner speeded on to make a prize of the other vessel which was found to be the Storm King, bound to the same port and loaded with supplies. When the officers were all on board his vessel and prisoners in his cabin, the captain went down and explained matters to them. They did not know anything of the battle at Lexington, and when they heard it their surprise knew no bounds. They plainly saw that their cruise had ended, and with that they were obliged to be satisfied until they were turned over to the authorities at Watertown.

Captain O'Brien's bravery did not pass unrewarded. His appearance in Watertown with his prizes created a great commotion there, and he was appointed captain in the marine of the colony and sent to sea to capture some more vessels. His work in the Revolutionary War was just begun, and those who went with him from Machias stayed by him to the end. Zeke Lewis and Zeb Short were promoted to gunners, because it was necessary that they should have better educated men for first and second officers; at any rate they received thirteen dollars in their new position whereas in their old, they received only eight.

Enoch and Caleb were not forgotten. By strict attention to their duties they received promotion one after the other, one to assistant sailmaker at twelve dollars a month and the other to yeoman at nine dollars. They were on every voyage with their beloved captain. When he received command of a privateer and had the whole ocean in which to search for his prizes, the boys went with him and did their best to establish his name.

James and Emerson did not long remain in Machias. Things became too unpleasant for them, and one morning their houses were not open as usual. Of course their neighbors wanted to see what was the matter, and an investigation proved that the families had gone in the night-time to seek another haven of refuge. They brought up in New York and stayed there until the place was evacuated by the British. Then they went to England, and it is to be hoped that they could talk their sentiments there without being threatened with a beating by a Yankee.

During the course of the long and bloody struggle that followed there was much depression in the provincial ranks. Even the great heart of Washington was bowed down by sorrow, and when "famine was stalking through the camp" and his enemies were hard at work to have a "new and a better man" appointed in his place, the leader never lost sight of the "justice of her cause or the sincerity of his country." Read the following incident related by a man who was there and saw it all. It proves that General Washington, in the troubles with which he was surrounded, found that there was a stronger arm than man's to lean upon.[7]

Isaac Potts, at whose house Washington was quartered, relates that one day while the Americans were encamped at Valley Forge, he strolled up a creek that was not far from his house and heard a solemn voice. He walked quietly in the direction of it and saw Washington's horse tied to a sapling. In a thicket near by he saw his beloved chief in prayer, and his cheeks suffused with tears. Like Moses at the Bush, Isaac Potts felt that he was treading upon holy ground and withdrew unobserved. He was much agitated upon entering the room where his wife was, and he burst into tears. On inquiring the cause he informed his wife of what he had seen, and added:

"If there is any one on this earth whom the Lord will listen to, it is George Washington; and I feel a presentment that under such a commander there can be no doubt of our eventually establishing our independence, and that God in His providence has willed it so."

"Oh, who shall know the might

Of the words he uttered there?

The fate of nations that was turn'd

By the fervor of his prayer?

"But would'st thou know his name

Who wandered there alone?

Go, read in Heaven's archives

The prayer of Washington."


* * *


"He said to a friend, 'If the British march

By land or sea from the town to-night,

Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch

Of the Old North Tower as a signal light-

One if by land, two if by sea,

And I on the opposite shore will be

Ready to ride and spread the alarm

Through every Middlesex village and farm

For the country folk to be up and to arm.'"

[2] Lossing says: "The British lost 65 killed, 18 wounded, and 28 made prisoners; in all 273. The Americans lost 59 killed, 39 wounded, and 5 missing; in all 103.

[3] Bannocks are something like the present "hoecakes" of the South-merely flat cakes of Indian meal or rye, wet with water and baked over the hot coals on the hearth.

[4] Marbles.

[5] The constables were not in the habit of knocking at a private house. They heralded their approach by the command: "Open in the name of the King!" and then went in and did their business.

[6] The brig is a small, dark apartment on board a vessel in which culprits are confined.

[7] Condensed from Lossing's Field Book.

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