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seem to appal the very Genius of Victory herself, pointed out the path to America that so shortly has led her almost to the zenith of national greatness. The world at that time was literally girdled with floating batteries, and all seemed to be pointed at our immense commerce, and our humble navy. Nelson declared that in this little germ of naval power, he saw the future rival of Britain. Pride, and fear, and avarice, all conspired to wish and attempt an extermination of our gallant infant navy. Even at this period, although at peace with England, and fighting our worst enemy, an insolent admiral commanded the gallant and vigilant Tryon of Connecticut, and then commanding the ship Connecticut, to “ come under his lee” as a token of submission, or an acknowledgment of inferiority. He instantly cleared his ship for action, and ordered all hands to quarters. The admiral sent an officer on board to know whether the order was heard, and if so, why it was not obeyed. “It was heard,” said Capt. Tryon, “ and the reason why it was not obeyed, you readily perceive, is, that all my hands are at quarters, ready to defend this ship.” Either fear or admiration prevented a repetition of the order, and the little ship rode on the windward side of the admiral, with her peak up, and her banners waving. In the first cruise the elder Decatur made in the frigate Philadelphia, he found she did not sail so swift as he wished. As she was approaching toward her station, she was descried at a distance by Capt. Tryon bearing toward him. Owing to thick wea
ther, or some other cause, the Captain did not discover the character of his approaching visitor, and cleared ship for action. His officers and crew were elated at the prospect of a tete a tete with some Monsieur Capitaine. They were deprived of that pleasure, and enjoyed that of welcoming upon the station the noble Philadelphia frigate. After exchanging the usual civilities, Commodore Decatur asked Captain Tryon, “if his ship was a good sailer ?”—“She will sail with French Picaroons,” said Captain Tryon, “but I do not know how she would sail with the Frigate Philadelphia.”—“Are you disposed to try it?” asked the Commodore. “If you please, sir,” was the answer. The sailing-match was had; and in the specified time, the little ship Connecticut ran the Philadelphia “hull down” twice. The next day Captain Tryon and his officers partook of a splendid dinner on board the Philadelphia, when Commodore Decatur jocosely said, “I’ll exchange ships with you Captain Tryon.”—The younger Decatur at this time was serving as Midshipman in the frigate United States; and little thought he should one day destroy his father's ship in the harbour of Tripoli. Innumerable instances might be mentioned to show the veteran firmness of the American post-captains and seamen of that day. Thank heaven, the spirits of these men survive in their successors, and, in allusion to them, we may exclaim, L'Amor patrice “vires acquirit eundo.”—The love of country augments its strength as it advances.
Stephen Decatur's early education—Peculiar advantages enjoyed by him—Enters the frigate United States as Midshipman, 1798 –Promoted to Lieutenant—Cruises in the West-lndies against the French—Enters the brig Norfolk as 1st Lieutenant, 1799– Sails to the Spanish Main—Re-enters frigate United States— Barbarism of French and Spanish to American Seamen—Victories of Truxton, Little, &c.—Humiliation of the French—Peace with France—Rewards for heroism.
ALTHough Stephen Decatur came into existence on the shores of the Chesapeake, in Maryland, yet he can hardly be said to be a native of that State. The residence of his parents, for years before his birth, had been in the city of Philadelphia—and they only left it, as many distinguished citizens had done, in consequence of the possession of that important place by the British forces in the war of the revolution. Upon evacuating it, Decatur’s parents returned to their former residence there when he was but three months old.
In this noble city, which has with much propriety been called the “Athens of Columbia,” Decatur was reared, educated, and prepared for the important and splendid scenes through which he was afterwards to pass. A more eligible situation to acquire an accomplished education, and dignified deportment, and that ardent spirit of emulation which stimulates noble minds to noble deeds, can hardly be imagined than that enjoyed by young De
catur. His father held the first rank amongst experienced navigators, and his house on course would be the resort of men the most enterprising and adventurous. The reader can almost now, through the “mind's eye,” behold Stephen and James, suspending for a while their literary studies, and rapturously listening to the narrations of their father, as he occasionally returned from the bosom of the boisterous ocean to that of his tranquil family. It would naturally direct their attention to that reading which described ancient and modern achievements upon the sea. In addition to the advantages afforded by the best libraries and accomplished instructors, these aspiring youths, who may be called the Decatii, had often under their eyes, and of course under their admiration, many of the surviving veterans of the Revolution. After their “ young ideas had been taught to shoot,” and their expanded intellects began to dawn, they were amidst that body of wonderful and profound statesmen who commenced the gigantic labour of beginning the Republic under the Constitution in 1789. They beheld the majestic form of WashingtoN presiding with awful solemnity over the anxious councils of the nation. They witnessed the rewards and the honours then bestowed upon those whose wounds and scars were received in the great struggle for American Independence. They learned from time to time the encroachments made upon our commerce; and they must have heard much of that debate, than which, a more important one never occupied the deliberations of our civil fa
thers:– “Shall. The REPUBLIC HAve, or shall. she not have a Navy.” They witnessed, and participated in the rapture which pervaded all the great commercial towns, in our country, when the first keels of our armed ships were laid. Passing over numerous interesting incidents in the early education of these youths, (for they cannot yet be separated,) at the ages of fifteen and seventeen their whole views were directed towards the navy, and their studies calculated to prepare them for the duties of naval stations. At the earliest organization of the navy, their father, as previously mentioned, was appointed first to the command of a sloop of war, and soon after to that of the Philadelphia frigate. His sons, stimulated to enthusiasm by his example, soon after followed it, and followed him in the pursuit of naval fame. It is not known to me in what ship, nor under what commander, James first sailed; and he can no more be mentioned in these Sketches until his tragical death, avenged by Stephen with an heroism unexampled, must be alluded to. Commodore Barry, one of the earliest Post-Captains in the American navy, obtained for Stephen Decatur, the warrant of a Midshipman in 1798, and he immediately entered on board the frigate United States, then commanded by that accomplished, although since too much forgotten officer. It was on board this noble ship that Midshipman Decatur began to reduce the theoretical knowledge he had previously obtained of naval tactics and na