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that season, unless the object of it was now accomplished. He knew that his gallant little crew were as true to him as the needle, by which he directed his Ketch to Tripoli, was to the pole. Wherever he would lead, he knew they would follow. Having a Maltese pilot on board the Ketch, he ordered him to answer the hail from the frigate in the Tripolitan tongue; and, if they were ordered to come to an anchor, to answer, that they had lost their anchors upon the coast in a gale of wind, and that a comIliance with the order was impossible. He addressed his gallant officers and men in the most animated and impassioned style—pointed out to them the glory of the achievement, which would redound to themselves, and the lasting benefit it would secure to their country—that it would hasten the redemption of their brother seamen from horrible bondage, and give to the name of Americans an exalted rank even amongst Mahometans. Every heart on board swelled with enthusiasm, and responded to the patriotic sentiments of their beloved commander, by wishing to be led immediately into the contest. Every man was completely armed—not only with the most deadly weapons, but with the most dauntless courage. The reader may form some faint conceptions of the tremendous hazard of this engagement, by learning that the Philadelphia was moored near the Bashaw's extensive and powerful batteries, and equally near to what he deemed his impregnable castle. One of her full broadsides of twenty-six guns point
ed directly into the harbour, and were all mounted and loaded with double-headed shot. Two of the Tripolitan's largest corsairs were anchored within two cables' length of her starboard quarter, while a great number of heavy gun-boats were stationed about the same distance from her starboard bow. As the Bashaw had reasons daily to expect an attack from Com. Preble's squadron, the Tripolitan commander of the Philadelphia had augmented her crew to nearly a thousand Turks. In addition to all these formidable, yea, appalling considerations, Decatur and his noble crew knew full well, that after having entered into this dreadfully unequal combat, there was no escape. It was a “forlorn hope”— it was victory, slavery, or death—death perhaps by the hands of the Turks—perhaps by the explosion of the Intrepid.
As soon as darkness had concealed the Ketch from the view of the Tripolitans, Decatur bore slowly into the harbour, and approached the numerous magazines of death which were prepared to repel or destroy any assailant that should approach. The light breeze he had when he entered the harbour, died away, and a dead calm succeeded. At 11 o'clock, he had approached within two hundred yards of the Philadelphia. An unbroken silence for the three preceding hours had prevailed; reminding the poetical reader of the expressive couplet—
“A fearful silence now invades the ear,
And in that silence all a tempest fear.”
At this portentous moment, the hoarse and dissonant voice of a Turk hailed the Intrepid and ordered her to come to anchor. The faithful Maltese pilot answered as previously directed, and the sentine! supposed “all was well.” The Ketch gradually approached the frigate; and when within about fifty yards of her, Decatur ordered the Intrepid’s small boat to take a rope and make it fast to the forechains of the frigate, and the men to return immediately on board the Ketch. This done, some of the crew, with the rope, began to warp the Ketch along-side the Philadelphia. The imperious Turks at this time began to imagine that “all was not well.” The Ketch was suddenly brought into contact with the frigate—Decatur, full armed, darted like lightning upon her deck, and was immediately followed by Midshipman Morris. For a full minute
they were the only Americans on board, contending
with hundreds of Turks. Lieut. Lawrence and Midshipman Macdonough, as soon as possible, followed their commander, and were themselves followed by the whole of the little crew of the Intrepid. A scene followed which beggars description. The consternation of the Turks, increased the wild confusion which the unexpected assault occasioned. They rushed upon deck from every other part of the frigate, and instead of aiding, obstructed each other in defending her. Decatur and his crew formed a front equal to that of the Turks, and then impetuous. ly rushed upon them. It was the business of the Americans to slay, and of the Turks to die. It was
impossible to ascertain the number slain ; but it was estimated from twenty to thirty. As soon as any Turk was wounded, he immediately jumped overboard, choosing a voluntary death, rather than the disgrace of losing blood by the hand of a “Christian dog,” as the Mahometans universally call all Christians. Those who were not slain, or who had leaped overboard, excepting one, escaped in a boat to the shore. Decatur now found himself in complete possession of the Philadelphia, and commanded upon the same deck where his gallant father had commanded before him. But in life, he was in the midst of death. He could not move the frigate, for there was no wind—he could not tow her out of the harbour, for he had not sufficient strength. The Bashaw's troops commenced a tremendous fire from their batteries and the castle, upon the frigate. The gun-boats were arranged in the harbour; and the two corsairs near her were pouring their fire into her starboard quarter. Decatur and his gallant companions remained in the frigate, cool and collected, fully convinced that that was the only place where they could defend themselves. Finding it totally in possible to withstand, for any length of time, such a tremendous cannonade as was now bearing upon him, he resolved to set the frigate on fire in every one of her most combustible parts, and run the hazard of escaping with his officers and seamen, in the little Intrepid, which still lay along side of her. It was a moment, pregnant with the most awful, or the most
happy consequences to these gallant heroes. After the conflagration commenced, Decatur and his associates entered the Ketch, as it increased, and for some time were in imminent danger of being blown up with her. As if heaven smiled upon the conclusion of this enterprise, as it seemed to frown upon its beginning, a favourable breeze at this moment arose, which blew the Intrepid directly out of the reach of the enemy’s cannon, and enabled Decatur, his officers, and seamen, to behold, at a secure distance, the furious flames and rolling columns of smoke, which issued from the Philadelphia. As the flames heated the loaded cannon in the frigate, they were discharged, one after the other—those pointing into the harbour, without any injury, and those pointing into the city of Tripoli, to the great damage and consternation of the barbarous wretches who had loaded them to destroy our countrymen.
It is wholly impossible for these unaccustomed to scenes like this, to form a conception of the feelings of Decatur and his comrades upon this occasion. Their safe retreat was next to a resurrection from the dead. Not an American was slain in the desperate rencontre, and but four were wounded. Commodore Preble might well exclaim to Lieut. Decatur upon joining his squadron, as an ancient Baron to his favourite Knight—
“Welcome to my arms; thou art twice a conqueror,
Equally impossible is it to imagine the feelings of Capt. Bainbridge and his companions in bondage