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American History Stories, Volume III by  Mara L. Pratt


 

 

THE CONSTITUTION AND THE GUERRIERE

ABOUT a fortnight before the unfortunate surrender of General Hull, his nephew, Captain Isaac Hull, set sail from [55] Boston Harbor, in a vessel called the Constitution. This little vessel, which afterward became so famous, carried fifty-four guns, and was manned by as brave a body of men as we have ever read about in the history of our country.

They sailed up to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where they cruised about for several days, watching for English vessels. One evening, at about six o'clock, the English frigate Guerriere was seen not far away, making signs to the American vessel to come and fight.

"We are quite as ready to come as they are to have us," said Captain Hull; and he at once ordered his men to put on full sail, and go to meet the Guerriere.

"I wonder what vessel that is," said the English Captain; "It can not be an American ship, I am sure."

"I am sure she shows the American flag," answered an officer, who was watching her through a glass.

"It can't be," said the captain; "no American vessel would dare approach us so boldly. See! she is coming as fast as she can—under full sail."

In a few minutes, however, all doubts were settled. The Constitution drew nearer, until the stars and stripes were plainly to be seen.

"What daring!" cried the English crew; and at once the Guerriere opened upon the approaching vessel a terrible volley.

Not a gun was discharged from the American vessel.

[56] Another broadside from the Guerriere! Hull's officers began to mutter among themselves. "Why may we not return the fire?" asked they.

"Not yet," answered Hull firmly. "But one man has already been killed by the British fire," said one of the crew. "Is it not time to fire, then?" said another.

"Not quite yet," returned Hull, watching the British boat, and pacing up and down the deck in great excitement.

Nearer and nearer drew the vessels, until they stood almost side by side.

"Now! fire!" commanded Hull. Bang! bang! bang! went the guns, sending such a deadly storm of fire that the Guerriere was nearly swept clear of officers and men. Rivers of blood poured over the deck in the track of the terrible fire.

Never was battle more terrible! Both ships seemed wrapped in flame and smoke; and when the smoke had cleared away, there lay the Guerriere, her masts broken, her sided torn with balls—a mere useless hulk, already sinking into the sea.

The "Constitution" now drew near, cut down the English flag, unfurled the stars and stripes in its place, took prisoner the few remaining officers and crew, and then set fire to the wreck.

Such was the battle between the Constitution and the Guerriere! a brave, daring attack on the part of Hull and [57] his men, we know—and a brave resistance on the part of the English ship. But what can compensate for such a bloody ghastly contest!


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