Page images


And while now the great “San Philip” hung above us like a

cloud Whence the thunderbolt will fall Long and loud, Four galleons drew away From the Spanish fleet that day, And two upon the larboard and two upon the starboard lay, And the battle-thunder broke from them all.

And the sun went down, and the stars came out, far over the

summer sea, But never a moment ceased the fight of the one and the fifty

three. Ship after ship, the whole night long, their high-built galleons

came, Ship after ship, the whole night long, with her battle-thunder

and flame; Ship after ship, the whole night long, drew back with her dead

and her shame, For some were sunk, and many were shatter'd, and so could

fight us no more God of battles, was ever a battle like this in the world before? For he said: “Fight on! fight on!” Tho' his vessel was all but a wreck; And it chanced that, when half of the summer night was gone, With a grisly wound to be dressed, he had left the deck, But a bullet struck him that was dressing it suddenly dead, And himself he was wounded again, in the side and the head, And he said: “Fight on! fight on!”

And the night went down, and the sun smiled out far over the

summer sea, And the Spanish fleet, with broken sides, lay round us, all in a


But they dared not touch us again, for they feared that we still

could sting,
So they watched what the end would be.
And we had not fought them in vain,
But in perilous plight were we,
Seeing forty of our poor hundred were slain,
And half of the rest of us maim'd for life
In the crash of the cannonades and the desperate strife.

And the sick men down in the hold were most of them stark and

cold, And the pikes were all broken or bent, and the powder was all of

it spent;

And the masts and the rigging were lying over the side;
But Sir Richard cried in his English pride:
“We have fought such a fight for a day and a night
As may never be fought again!
We have won great glory, my men !
And a day less or more
At sea or ashore,
We die — does it matter when ?
Sink me the ship, Master Gunner — sink her, split her in twain !
Fall into the hands of God, not into the hands of Spain!”

And the gunner said: “Ay, ay,” but the seamen made reply:
“We have children, we have wives,
And the Lord hath spared our lives.
We will make the Spaniard promise, if we yield, to let us go;
We shall live to fight again, and to strike another blow.”
And the lion there lay dying, and they yielded to the foe.

And the stately Spanish men to their flagship bore him then, Where they laid him by the mast, old Sir Richard caught at last. And they praised him to his face with their courtly foreign grace; But he rose upon their decks, and he cried:

“I have fought for Queen and Faith, like a valiant man and

true; I have only done my duty, as a man is bound to do; With a joyful spirit, I, Sir Richard Grenville, die!” And he fell upon their decks, and he died. And they stared at the dead that had been so valiant and true, And had holden the power and glory of Spain so cheap, That he dared her with one little ship and his English few; Was he devil or man? He was devil for aught they knew, But they sank his body with honor down into the deep, And they mann'd the “Revenge” with a swarthier alien crew, And away she sail'd with her loss, and long'd for her own; When a wind from the lands they had ruin'd awoke from sleep, And the water began to heave, and the weather to moan, And or ever that evening ended a great gale blew, And a wave like the wave that is raised by an earthquake grew, Till it smote on their hulls and their sails and their masts and

their flags, And the whole sea plunged and fell on the shot-shatter'd navy

of Spain, And the little “Revenge” herself went down by the island crags, To be lost evermore in the main.



It was the 7th of October, 1777. Horatio Gates stood before his tent, gazing steadfastly upon the two armies now arrayed in order of battle. It was a clear, bracing day, mellow with the richness of autumn. The sky was cloudless, the foliage of the wood scarce tinged with purple and gold, the buckwheat in yonder fields frostened into snowy ripeness. But the tread of legions shook the ground, from every bush shot the glimmer of the rifle barrel, on every hillside blazed the sharpened bayonet. Gates was sad and thoughtful, as he watched the evolutions of the two armies. But all at once a smoke arose, a thunder shook the ground and a chorus of shouts and groans yelled along the darkened air. The play of death had begun. The two flags, this of the stars, that of the red cross, tossed amid the smoke of battle, while the sky was clouded with leaden folds, and the earth throbbed with the pulsations of a mighty heart.

Suddenly, Gates and his officers were startled. Along the height on which they stood came a rider on a black horse, rushing towards the distant battle. There was something in the appearance of this horse and his rider that struck them with surprise. Look! he draws his sword, the sharp blade quivers through the air, he points to the distant battle and lo! he is gone; gone through those clouds, while his shout echoes over the plains. Wherever the fight is thickest, there through intervals of cannon-smoke you may see riding madly forward that strange soldier, mounted on his steed black as death. Look at him, as with face red with British blood he waves his sword and shouts to his legions. Now you may see him fighting in that cannon’s glare, and the next moment he is away off yonder, leading the forlorn hope up that steep cliff. Is it not a magnificent sight, to see that strange soldier and that noble black horse dashing, like a meteor, down the long columns of battle?

Let us look for a moment into those dense war-clouds. Over this thick hedge bursts a band of American militiamen, their rude farmer-coats stained with blood, while scattering their arms by the way, they flee before that company of redcoat hirelings, who come rushing forward, their solid front of bayonets gleaming in the battle light. At this moment of their flight, a horse comes crashing over the plains. The unknown rider reins his steed back on his haunches, right in the path of a broad-shouldered militiaman. “Now, cowards! advance another step and I'll strike you to the heart !” shouts the unknown, extending a pistol in either hand. “What! are you

. Americans, men, and fly before British soldiers ? Back again, and face them once more, or I myself will ride you down !”

I This appeal was not without its effect. The militiaman turns; his comrades, as if by one impulse, follow his example. In one line, but thirty men in all, they confront thirty sharp bayonets. The British advance. “Now upon the rebels, charge !” shouts the red-coat officer. They spring forward at the same bound. Look! their bayonets almost touch the muzzles of their rifles. At this moment the voice of the unknown rider was heard: “Now let them have it! Fire!” A sound is heard, a smoke is seen, twenty Britons are down, some writhing in death, some crawling along the soil, and some speechless as stone. The remaining ten start back. “Club your rifles and charge them home!” shouts the unknown. That black horse springs forward, followed by the militiamen. Then a confused conflict, a cry for quarter, and a vision of twenty farmers grouped around the rider of the black horse, greeting him with cheers.

Thus it was all the day long. Wherever that black horse and his rider went, there followed victory. At last, towards the setting of the sun, the crisis of the conflict came. That fortress yonder, on Bemus Heights, must be won, or the American cause is lost! That cliff is too steep that death is too certain. The officers cannot persuade the men to ad

The Americans have lost the field. Even Morgan, that iron man among iron men, leans on his rifle and despairs of the field. But look yonder ! In this moment when all is dismay and horror, here, crashing on, comes the black horse and his rider. That rider bends upon his steed, his frenzied face covered with sweat and dust and blood; he lays his hand upon that bold rifleman's shoulder, and as though living fire had been poured into his veins, he seizes his rifle and starts toward the rock. And now look! now hold your breath, as that black


« PreviousContinue »