Chapter 16




" It was out there it happened, one fine October morning in 1814," said our friend, pointing out to sea.

We had had a glorious ride that September afternoon and now drew rein on the summit of one of the round-topped hills looking down on Maddequecham Pond, and on the racing surf thundering beyond.

"That war of 1812 he continued, "was pretty much all a sea fight, and it does my heart good to recall now and then how handsomely we whipped John Bull on his own ground. There were several pretty sea-fights off our eastern coast in that war. The Constitution and Guerriere off the St. Lawrence, and the Enterprise and Boxer off Portland harbor, will at once recur to you, but here on the south side, perhaps four miles from town, as gallant an action as any of th€tn was fought, of which no mention whatever is made in the books. Cooper, even, in his’ Naval History,’ has no account of it.

"One mellow October day of that year 1814 the town was startled by the news that an American privateer brig was off the south shore with a large


The Sea Fight off Maddequecham

British frigate in pursuit, and scores of people streamed over the downs to watch the chase and possible battle. They saw not only the privateer, but a large ship, her prize, lying abreast of Maddequechain Pond, and away off to the southwest a large frigate in sight, hull down and nearly becalmed in the light breeze playing from northward. A concise account of the affair and of the events preceding it is given in the marine columns of the Boston Daily Advertiser of October 17, 1814, evidently taken from the privateer’s log-book. I quote:

‘July 4. Sailed from Cherbourg . . . Made in all fifteen captures, many of them in the British and Irish channels; burnt and scuttled most of them. Among others, September 6, captured ship Douglas, of and for Liverpool from Demerara, cargo, rum, sugar, cotton, and coffee, 420 tons, in latitude 41 1/2° longitude 45°. Kept company with the Douglas, made Nantucket 9th Inst., in company. On the 11th, Nantucket bearing N. about a quarter of a mile distant, discovered a frigate off Gay Head, which gave chase and came up with a fresh breeze, while we were becalmed. At three P.M. we got the breeze and took the Douglas in tow, the frigate then about four leagues from us. At sunset it died away calm. At seven P.M. was obliged to come to anchor, and supposing the frigate would send her boats to attempt to capture us, prepared accordingly. At eight P.M. signal was made from the prize that the boats were coming. Soon after discovered them,



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five in number, and in a few minutes they were alongside.’

"The attacking boats carried 104 men, to whom the Prince of Neufchátel could oppose but 38. A launch containing 48 men was sunk by the privateer’s first fire, and only 2 men were saved. Two boats’ crews attempted to board at the bows, but were swept away, all except the leader, the Second Lieutenant of the Endymion, who walked the whole length of the privateer amid his foes unrecognized, and jumped through the port into his own boat. Then the privateer’s men poured their fire into the boats alongside. In twenty minutes the fight was over. Three boats drifted away from the brig, every man killed. The other was captured, and of her thirty-six men eight were found to be killed, twenty wounded, and only eight unhurt. The privateer, too, had suffered. Of her thirty-eight men six were killed and twenty-one wounded. The dead were buried on shore; the wounded were brought to town, and taken to Mr. Edward Dixon’s on Cross Wharf, and to Obed Pinkham’s house on Broad Street, where our women attended them. I remember stealing in with the surgeons when they came, and watching, with eyes as big as saucers, the bullets extracted from the wounds.

"A day or two later a launch came up the harbor filled with officers in their grand uniforms, the crew pulling with man-of-war precision, sent from the En-



The Sea Fight off Maddequecham

dymion to look after her wounded people. I happened to be in the room when I heard them coming up the narrow stairs, their scabbards clanking, and fled with the women to the pantry, scared at such company. I gained courage to peep out before they departed, however, and one rolled this bullet to me across the floor, and told me to keep it as a memento of the fight. It was a sad affair for the Endymion her First Lieutenant and a master’s mate killed, the Third Lieutenant, two master’s mates, and one midshipman wounded, 83 men killed, 87 wounded, and 80 prisoners. Well might her Captain Hope complain that he had suffered as badly as though engaged with a frigate of equal calibre:

"Ordronaux, the little French Captain of the Neufchátel, seems to have been a veritable Hotspur. He declared that if he could get the men to man his brig, he would take the End ymion in the cove where she lay. No doubt he had the requisite pluck, but it would have been foolhardy, unless by surprise, for the Endymion was a forty-gun frigate with a broadside of twenty-fours, and notwithstanding her severe losses had quite men enough left to man her batteries. This old frigate, the Endymion, well deserves to be classed among the historic ships of the British Navy. Three months later, January 15, 1815, she sustained a desperate fight with the President, frigate, Commodore Decatur, off Sandy Hook. She got the worst of it, the President



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being a heavier ship, and probably would have been obliged to strike her colors but for the arrival of her consorts, when the President was captured and both ships were sent to Bermuda. Before reaching that port, however, both were dismasted in a gale, and the Endymion. came near foundering, being obliged to throw overboard all her upper-deck guns."