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was increased as the danger of the attempt was magnified. At this early period of his life, he seemed to have revived the spirit which pervaded the hearts of men in the “Age of Chivalry;” and to have adopted the ancient axiom, “the greater the danger the greater the glory.” But let it be remembered that Decatur sought for glory, only by the discharge of duty. Uniting the most consummate sagacity, with the most daring courage, he selected the little Ketch Intrepid, which as previously mentioned he had himself captured, in full view of the bay where the Philadelphia was moored. He was aware that if the expedition should prove successful, it would render the mortification of the insolent Bashaw doubly severe, to see a little vessel which lately belonged to his own marine force, boldly advance under the guns of his battery and castle, and destroy the largest ship that belonged to his navy. A ship too which he neither built nor honourably captured, but which became his by the irresistible laws of the elements. No sooner was it known that this expedition was to be undertaken, than the crew of Lieut. Decatur volunteered their services—ever ready to follow their beloved commander to victory or to death. Other seamen followed their example. Nor was this the most conclusive evidence of the unbounded confidence placed in his skill and courage. Lieut. tur; and for the expedition took the Brig Syren, and CHARLEs Stewart, also volunteered under Decaa few boats; and, to show still farther the high estimation in which he was holden—Lieut. JAMEs Lawrence, and CHARLEs Morris, and Thomas MAcDonough (then midshipmen) entered on board the Intrepid with Decatur. What a constellation of rising ocean-heroes were here associated! They were then all young officers, almost unknown to fame. Now their names are all identified with the naval glory of the American Republic.
improper estimate of battles—Lieutenant Decatur sails for Tripoli in the Ketch Intrepid—Baffled by adverse winds—Diminution of provisions—Reaches the harbour of Tripoli 16th Feb. 1804– Loses the assistance of the Syren and the boats—Enters the harbour with the Ketch Intrepid—Boards the Philadelphia, followed by Morris, Lawrence, Macdonough and the crew—Compels the Turks to surrender—Sets the Philadelphia frigate on fire, and secures his retreat—-Gen. Eaton and Caramalli–Consternation of Bashaw—Joy of American prisoners—Small force of Commodore Preble.
The readers of history are extremely prone to attach importance to battles upon land or upon sea in proportion to the numbers engaged in them, and to bestow a greater or less degree of applause upon the victors on the same principle. Nothing can be more fallacious. The battle of New-Orleans, in America, in point of courage and generalship, equalled that of Waterloo in Europe; and the event we are about to record, is not surpassed, if indeed it was equalled, by the victory at Copenhagen. We do not here speak of the consequences which followed to the different countries, but of the heroes who achieved the victories ; and it is fearlessly asserted, that, when every circumstance is taken into consideration, the fame of Jackson, in the one, will vie with that of Wellington, and Decatur’s, in the other, with that of Nelson.
As soon as the crews of the Ketch Intrepid and the brig Syren were made up, the utmost dispatch was used in preparing them for the expedition. The Ketch was fitted out as a fire-ship, in case it should be necessary to use her as such. The Brig and the boats accompanying her, were to aid, as circumstances rendered it necessary, and to receive the crew of the Ketch if she was driven to the necessity of being blown up. * Upon the 3d day of February, Decatur weighed anchor in the little Intrepid, accompanied by Lieut. Stewart, in the Syren, whe was also accompanied by the boats. A favourable wind would have wafted them to their destined port in less than five days; but for fifteen days, they encountered the most boisterous and tempestuous weather. Instead of encountering a barbarous enemy, they were buffeting the waves and struggling for life with a tumultuous and agitated sea. Nothing could be better calculated to repress the ardour of Decatur and his little band. His provisions were diminished and almost expended; and although not a murmur escaped from the lips of the humblest seaman, it may well be imagined what must be their reflections, when liable every hour to be swallowed up by the waves; and, if they escaped them, to be famished with hunger! Men of the stoutest hearts, who would undauntedly rush to the cannon's mouth, become even children at the prospect of famine. At length, upon the memorable 16th of February, 1804, a little before sunset, Decatur hove in sight of the bay of Tripoli, and of the frigate Philadelphia, with the Turkish Crescent proudly waving at her head. The apprehensions arising from storms and famine were suddenly banished by the prospect of a glorious victory or a glorious death. Lord Nelson, when entering into the action of Cape St. Vincent, exclaimed, “ Glorious Victory—or WESTMINster Abbey*.” Decatur might have exclaimed— “THE PHILADELPHIA FRIGATE–or A Monument IN PHILADELPHIA CITY.” It had previously been arranged between Decatur and Lieut. Stewart, that the Intrepid accompanied by the boats which had been attached to the Syren, should enter the harbour at 10 o'clock—with the utmost possible silence bear down upon the Philadelphia, and take her by boarding. But as if fate had entered its veto against the success of the expedition, the Syren, with all the boats, by a change of wind, were driven from five to ten miles from the Intrepid, leaving Decatur, with only seventy volunteers in this small Ketch. The moment of decision had come. His provisions were nearly expended, and the expedition must have been relinquished for
* To the common reader, the exclamation of Nelson may not be altogether intelligible. It has, for some centuries, been custo-, mary in England to entomb the bodies of Heroes, Statesmen, Poets, &c. in “Westminster Abbey,” as one of the highest honours that can be bestowed upon the “illustrious dead,” and to erect a monument or statue near them. The great Doct. Johnson, in the agonies of death, was consoled, when told that his body would be there deposited. The reader will find an elegant description of this ancient Cemetery in Professor Silliman's Journal, /