| American History Stories, Volume III|
|by Mara L. Pratt|
|Anecdotes from the time Washington became president through the War of 1812, the rise of Andrew Jackson, and the sectional differences leading to the Civil War. Numerous black and white illustrations complement the text. Ages 8-12 |
A STORY OF SACKETT'S HARBOR
"It is useless," said the British officers stationed in
Canada, "to attempt to march across the frontier to
attack the Americans. But there are the
lakes—their waters are open to us as well as to
them. We will sail down upon them if we cannot march
down upon them."
But you may be sure the Yankees' eyes were
open—Yankees are not often caught napping,
especially in war time. "The lakes must be fortified,"
said they. "The British will be sailing down upon us if
we leave the great water course free to them."
But it was no easy thing to reach these frontiers in
these early days. There were no railroads, not even
roads through this section of the country. The same
wildness, the same density of forests that prevented
the march of the British down upon the American towns,
made it a discouraging if not an impossible task to
carry to the
 lakes the necessary guns and ammunition. More than
that, the sailors themselves looked with scorn upon the
ship life on land, as they called it. "We, who have
sailed the Atlantic, do not propose to end our lives in
those fish ponds," said they.
But after much hard work on the part of the government,
much arguing and explaining, together with promise of
larger pay to those seamen, who for their dear
country's sake would thus martyr themselves, sailors
were gathered together for the lake expeditions. They
were a jolly crew, these sailors—a reckless,
noisy crew. Sledges dashing up through the Maine, New
Hampshire and Vermont woods, filled with these noisy,
rollicking fellows, decked out in their red, white and
blue, filling the woods with their shouts and songs
were common sights in those days.
It was May, 1814, and the new frigate "Superior" lay in
her dock at Sackett's Harbor. She was a trim little
vessel; her builders were proud of her; her captain
loved her; and the crew, ever the crew, eager to see her
sail out over the sparkling waters of the lake.
But her stores, her cannon, her guns, her
cordage—all these were to be brought from Oswego
Falls some fifty miles away. Now it would be easy
enough to bring them up the Oswego River, but there
were English vessels blockading the harbor—and to
run an English blockade was not an easy thing to do,
you may be sure.
 But the stores must be brought. That was a fact. That
it would be no easy matter was another fact equally
But Yankees can always find a way if there is a way to
be found; so finally, a captain, one who had grown up
and grown old on and about the lakes, and so knew every
inch of the way, was found who agreed to do the best he
could, though even he hardly dared hope to reach the
He set out with the stores and cannon. By dint of
sailing the clear waters by night, and lying hidden up
the creeks by day, the wise and wary old captain
succeeded in getting within sixteen miles of Sackett's
Harbor, where the English vessels lay in blockade.
But the hardest was not to come. How were those
cannon, the stores, most of all, that enormous cable
weighing ninety-six hundred pounds, to be taken across
the country to the dock at Sackett's Harbor? Anyone
but a "Yankee" would have given up in despair. But not
so the brave captain and his faithful men. "The cannon
we will load on to carts. They may sink in the
marshes; they may break down in the forests; but we'll
load them, we'll load them, my boys," said the captain.
"Aye, aye, sir!" replied the hearty sailors.
"But the cable; ninety-six hundred pounds of cable!"
and the captain shook his wise old head ruefully.
 The sailors looked at it too, and shook their heads.
There it lay, a great heap of coiled rope. No cart
could bear its weight; it could not be dragged; it
could not be lifted; it could not be cut.
"If it would be divided among us—cut in
pieces—there are two hundred of
"Divide it! divide it! that's just the way!" shouted
one great strong sailor. " 'Rah for Teddy! 'Rah for
Teddy! You shall have double rations for a week for
that, my lad! Come on, boys, come on!"
And seizing one end of the cable, he tugged away at it,
lifted it upon his shoulder, and facing Sackett's
Harbor, broke into a hearty sailor song. "Come on,
boys," said he. "Put your shoulder to the cable, every
man of you. Come now! Single file. Forward, march,
to Sackett's Harbor!"
The two hundred jolly tars fell in at once with the
plan and in this way the great cable reached its
destination. What fun they had! How they laughed and
shouted! How the forest rang with their sailor songs!
O, but it was heavy! Their backs ached; their
shoulders grew raw and bleeding; and towards the end of
the journey they were a weary, lame, exhausted file of
men, indeed. But they reached the town, nevertheless,
and were received with shouts of praise from the
people. The shouts rang out over the harbor; the
 up above the house-tops; bands played; men shouted; the
town was in a blaze of excitement; the sailors were
feted and feasted, praised and honored till their very
heads were turned. They were the heroes of the hour.
"What can have happened?" wondered the English squadron
outside the harbor, as the shouts came out across the
water, and the sky lighted up with the glare of the
"O, some Yankee victory," said one officer, bitterly.
"Those Yankees are a plucky set," answered his companion,
shaking his head and scowling.
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