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THE KNICKERBOCKER.

VOL. XV.

MAY, 1840.

No. 5.

REMINISCENCE OF THE LATE W ÅR.

"The Americans certainly exhibited a good degree of courage in several of their obstinate contests with the mother country; but in general, on land and sea, they showed little training, and less finesse. A successful ruse de guerre was a rare achievement; yet sometimes signal advantages were obtained by an emulation of the arts and small cunning of our Gallic neighbors.'

DE Roos.

In the summer of 1811, I was passenger in a ship lying at Long Hope, in the Orkney Islands, waiting for a convoy gun-brig, daily expected from Leith, in Scotland, to protect us to the Baltic sea. The detention of a week swelled our fleet to about twenty vessels, of various nations, among which were three or four Americans. Becoming impatient with the delay, seeing no prospect of a speedy deliverance, and fearing the French cruisers, which then infested the German Ocean, we had no choice but to await the arrival of the expected brig, or form a convoy of our own, sufficiently formidable to defend ourselves in case of attack. We determined on the latter; and a Yankee commander of a brig, which rejoiced in the security of fourteen wooden guns, and myself, undertook the management. We selected this brig as a look-out vessel, and a large American ship, painted entirely black, as our commodore, who was required to carry by day a large red flag at the main, and a lantern at the peak during the night.

Our next difficulty was to obtain signals, to inform the fleet from time to time of the intentions of our commodore. This caused some perplexity; but my Yankee friend and myself, after some deliberation, contrived, with three pieces of different colored bunting, and the ensign and pendant, to form seventy-five questions and answers, including a few points of the compass, in our course to Leith.

Walking one afternoon on the highlands overlooking the Pentland Frith, I met a gentleman, a passenger in one of the vessels forming our fleet, to whom I mentioned the arrangements we had entered into, and exhibited a plan of the signals. He examined them attentively, was amused with the contrivance, and remarking that he had a taste for painting, asked me if I had ever seen the signals used by the British navy. I answered in the negative, wishing him to explain what they were. We sat down, and with my pencil, on the back of a letter, I marked down, with lines and dots, used by heraldry painters, each signal as he described them, including the compass-signals. I never knew the name of this gentleman, but presume he was a British naval officer,

49

VOL. XV.

on furlough. I thought no more of these signals; but on going on board our ship, threw them into my trunk, among various loose papers.

Our fleet sailed, making a truly formidable appearance, with our black commodore and his bloody flag, the look-out brig ranging ahead, and sometimes far astern ; and our vessels, of all nations, firing almost every hour in the day, and running up and down signals, by way of amusement. In this manner we passed along the coast of Scotland, within sight of the land, and sometimes sufficiently near to discover the towns, observing, what we then considered remarkable, that no vessels were to be seen, save at a great distance, and those standing in for the shore.

Thus we continued quietly on our course, until the afternoon of the third or fourth day, when our attention was drawn to a vessel bearing down upon us.

At the time, her top-gallant sails were only visible, but soon the top-sails made their appearance, when our commodore run up the signal, · A large merchantman ahead!' Having charge of our signals, and observing that the stranger's yards were very square, and her canvass dark, I answered, 'A man-of-war!' Immediate preparations were now made for action, by our fleet coming together, hauling up courses, and taking in top-gallant sails; but not a flag was displayed, save the bloody one of our commodore. In a short time the hull loomed up, and we then discovered the vessel to be a large gun-brig, displaying the English flag; and if any doubts existed as to her character, they were soon dispelled by a heavy shot thrown directly across our bows, when we hove to, as did all the fleet, and displayed our national colors. In a few moments a boat was alongside, and the officer, mounting the side-ladder, exclaimed, •In the name of heaven, who are you ?'

We informed him of what the reader already knows, and entering our cabin, explained the plan of our operations. Being one of those jolly fellows with which the British men-of-war then abounded, he laughed heartily at the idea, helped us to finish a bottle of wine, and stated that the fishermen from all parts of the coast north of where we were then lying, had run into Aberdeen, and reported an Algerine fleet near the coast! They were certain of the fact, from the circumstance of a large black ship, carrying a bloody flag! This rumor was transmitted to Leith by telegraph, and his vessel was despatched to ascertain the cause of the alarm.

In bidding us good afternoon, he observed that he would pay a visit to our commodore, and simply request him to haul down his red flag;' adding, that we were sufficiently formidable, without it, to frighten all the Frenchmen we might meet, before our arrival at Leith. Such proved to be the fact. We continued our course, falling in with no vessels, until we reached Leith Roads, where we were announced as a large fleet of merchantmen, under convoy of a United States' gun-brig.

But the reader will naturally inquire, 'What has all this to do with the late war with Great Britain ? To which I answer, that it is merely given by way of introduction, to show how I came in possession of her signals, and the use I subsequently made of them.

In the summer of 1813, the frigale • President,' Commodore Rodgers, arrived in Boston harbor, after an unsuccessful cruise.

The war was extremely unpopular among the people, and the uncharitable portion charged his not capturing any of the enemy's ships, more to cowardice, than to the difficulty he had encountered in finding any tliing worth capturing, that was not convoyed by a force superior to his single frigate.

For the first time it occurred to me that the signals, obtained two years previously, might be of service to the commodore, in decoying some of the enemy's vessels within reach of his guns; and the thought no sooner entered my mind, than I sought them from among my papers, and put my plan into immediate execution. I drew a compass, in the centre of which was represented the President, lying at anchor in the harbor, and on the points, the thirty-two signals by which the men-of-war designated to the fleet the course to be steered during the night, to evade a pursuing euemy; below, I painted the ten numbers, represented by as many fiags, with two others, forming the affirmative and negative.

I was not personally acquainted with Commodore Rodgers, at the time, although intimate with most of his ward-room officers, by one of whom I sent the picture, with a letter addressed to him, showing how the signals were to be used, and observing, that he should obtain the number of one of the largest class of British frigates, and by hoisting it when an enemy was in sight, it would without doubt decoy her within his reach.

Meeting the officer intrusted with these despatches a few days afterward, he informed me that the commodore, soon after he had taken them into his cabin, appeared on deck, apparently highly pleased, and ordered one of his warrant officers to have some blue bunting painted black, very much to the surprise of the officers, who could not conceive for what purpose he intended it; but I was satisfied that the signals were to be made, one of them being black-and-yellow.

The · President' sailed, and I thought no more of the affair, until some weeks after, taking up a newspaper, I therein saw it stated that she had taken the British government schooner Highflyer by stratagem.

Soon after the peace, dining with Commodore Rodgers, at his house in Washington, he related to me the following circumstances, which I give nearly in his own words :

*I acknowledged the receipt of your letter,' he observed,' and was determined to have the signals made on board, and to try the experiment, none of my officers understanding for what purpose they were intended. I cruised some time without meeting an enemy, until one afternoon we fell in with a schooner, some six or eight miles to windward of us. We hoisted the British ensign, which she answered by displaying another, and at the same time a signal at her main-topgallant mast bead, which I immediately discovered was like one of those

you

had given me. From the list of English frigates, I selected the number of the Sea-Horse,' one of their largest class, and known to be on our coast, and hoisted it. She bore down at once, and coming under our stern, I ordered her to heave to, and I would send a boat on board of her.

• This order was obeyed, and I despatched a lieutenant to bring her signal-book; enjoining on him, and the crew, the strictest secrecy respecting our character. He was politely received by the captain, whose schooner proved to be the 'Highflyer.' Our lieutenant's coat attracted his attention, not being of the latest London fashion, although the crown-and-anchor was on the button ; but casting his eyes on the frigate, seeing the British ensign, and now and then the red coat of a marine appearing above the hammock-netting, his mind was apparently set at rest.

• The lieutenant informed him that he was requested to bring his signal-book on board the ‘Sea-Horse,' in order to have some alterations made, as there was a rumor that the Yankees had possession of something like the signals, and it was therefore necessary to change the numbers ! This ruse had the desired effect, and our lieutenant returned with the book, which placed me in command of the whole correspondence of the British navy. I then sent the gig for the captain, requesting him

to come on board, and bring any despatches he might have in charge.

On reaching our deck, he seemed surprised at the size of the vessel, praised her cleanliness, and the order in which everything appeared ; admired the new red-coats of the marines, and on being invited into the cabin, handed me a bundle of despatches for Admiral Warren, who, lie observed, must be within forty miles to leeward. I ordered refreshments, and in company with several of my officers, we entered into general conversation.

* I asked him what object Admiral Warren had in cruising in that neighborhood ? He said, to intercept the American privateers and merchantmen, but particularly to catch Commodore Rodgers, who he understood had command of one of the largest and fastest-sailing frigates in the American navy! I inquired of him what kind of a man this Rodgers was, and if ever he had seen him? He said no; but he had understood that he was an odd character, and devilish hard to catch. After conversing on several other subjects, I abruptly put this question to him :

Sir, do you know what vessel you are on board of ?'

Why yes, Sir,' he replied ; on board His Majesty's ship SeaHorse.'

Then, Sir, you labor under a great mistake, You are on board the United States' frigate President, and I am Commodore Rodgers, at

• The dying dolphin never assumed a greater variety of colors, than did this poor fellow's face. Sir,' said he, you are disposed to be humorous, and must be joking!' I assured him it was no joke ; and to satisfy him on that head, handed him my commission. At the same moment the band struck up. Yankee Doodle,' on our quarterdeck; on reaching which, he saw the American ensign flying, the red coats of the marines turned blue, and the crown-and-anchor button metamorphosed into the eagle.

* This affair,' observed the commodore, ‘was of immense importance to our country. We obtained in full the British signals; the operations of Admiral Warren, by the non-receipt of his despatches, were destroyed for the season; and it probably saved the frigate, for the course I was running, at the time of my falling in with the Highflyer, would have brought me into the midst of his feet during the night.' Nero-York, March, 1840.

your service!

6

ALPHONSO:

A SENTIMENTAL POEM: BY A PHILADELPHIAN.

. For it doth appear that our young men are becoming inflated with what they call sentimentalism, the which leads to a false estimate and neglect of the every-day pursuits of life. Many bave begun (in imilation, I suppose, of that puffed-up young man, GEORGE Byron,) to write poetry, and one of our youth, Bernard Barton, has acquired some reputation with the worldly.minded by so doing.' 'A diseage which it appeareth to me can only be overcome, by placing their conduct before them in its proper ridiculous light; for reasoning availeth not.'

LETTER OF THE SOCIETY OF FRIENDS,

I.

In 'these hard times' of notes and speculation,
When towns are built (on paper) in a day;
And even this, the sober German nation,
Forsakes 'the even tenor of its way,'
And borrows what it knows not how to pay;
When banks suspend, and coin of any kind
No more reflects an ever-welcome ray,

But to the keenest sighted, as to blind,
'Is like the lost Pleiad, whom no bell-man can find :

II.

When the melodious and magic sound
Which issues from a well fill'd, shaken purse,
Making the heart of youth and age rebound
Like a young infant when it hears its nurse,
Or poet when he pens his maiden verse,
Is but to us as a bewitching strain,
Heard in our childhood's years, before the curse

Of wordy lore had pressed upon the brain,
With teacher's ready rod, to soothe the hour of pain.

111.

In these dull days, then, when the sunny gold
No more may gladden with its mellow chink,
And we through weary hours may not behold
Even the silver coin; when sad we think
Of credit that unto the shades will sink,
Unless 'The Key Stone' wakens from her sleep,
Is it not well at the hard times' to wink,

For a short season, and no longer weep,
Nor think of private cares, nor woes, however deep?

IV.

Forget all these, my bored-for-money friend !
And listen to a tale of love and joy,
Simple as truth; I may not with it blend
Augkt born of hate, its beauty to destroy;
No stormy chiefs, like those which leaguered Troy,'
No rough-boned knight a-singing love-sick ditty,
No pirate rover, with his 'Sail a-hoy!'

But all shall be moet peaceable and pretty,
Befitting those who dwell in quiet Quaker city.

'T was in the mild and pleasant month of June,
When roses 'gin to open to the sun,
And wild birds, with an ever joyous tune,
And brooks that murmur praises as they run,
Tell that the earth once more to smiles is won,
That on the banks of a rock-girdled stream,
A happy band were gathered; sportive Fun

Held there his mirthful court, and he would deem,
Who heard their merry laugh, that all their milk was cream.

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