| 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 LUCKY SHOT
It was a beautiful Sabbath morning in July 1812, that the
"Oneida," an American vessel, lay in Sacketts' Harbor.
The vessel had just come into port after a long, busy
season of active warfare, and the crew, tired out, were
planning for a day of real rest.
But, in the early morning, just as the light began to
dawn, report came, "The enemy are
approaching—they have entered the
harbor—they are upon us!"
At once the alarm was spread through the little town;
and down to the shore rushed the people. There at the
entrance of the harbor lay five men-of-war.
"What will they do?" asked the frightened people.
"What can we avail against such a foe in this
little close harbor of ours!"
 Just then a little boat was lowered from the leader of
"See, a messenger comes!" called one from the "Oneida,"
who was watching from his high place.
Swiftly the little boat advanced. The captain of the
"Oneida" waited anxiously, but so quietly that every
man around him took courage.
The little boat came alongside. "The captain of the
'Oneida?' " asked the man in the boat.
"I am he," answered the captain.
"This message from the captain of the fleet now
stationed at the entrance to the harbor: 'Let the
'Oneida' surrender or the town will be destroyed.' "
But Commodore Woolsey, the brave officer who commanded
the "Oneida," knew no such word as surrender. But what
could he do? He could not escape, for there lay the
enemy just outside the entrance.
"We do not know the word surrender," said the
Commodore. At once he began giving orders for action.
The villagers threw up rough breastworks along the
shore, dragged down their own great gun and set up on
either side a cannon which, at some time, the plucky
villagers had pulled up from the sunken hulk of an old
British vessel. Commodore Woolsey, meantime, ordered
his vessel to the entrance of the harbor. Then he
placed her in
 such a way that her broadside of nine guns faced the
At eight o'clock the British man-of-war came up within
range. Out pealed the great gun from the shore; but
alas, it sent its volley only into the water and the
enemy were by no means harmed.
"Hooray! Hooray! Hooray for the Yankee gun!" shouted
the British, who had a way in this war as in the
Revolution, of having their laugh in the early part of
the contest—perhaps, because they so rarely had
it on their side in the end.
For two hours the firing went on from the shore, from
the "Oneida" and from the English vessels. In all that
time no one was harmed, neither side had gained one
"This is child's play," said a villager, impatiently,
as he loaded the great gun at which the British had
shouted in scorn.
But just then a whizz-z-z, then a thud, and a great
cannon ball from the British fleet rolled at the
"We've been playing ball with the red-coats now long
enough," cried he, lifting the ball. "Now let's see if
they can catch back again!" And so saying he rammed
the ball down the muzzle of the long gun. "Now then,
old gun!" said he, as he sent the ball whizzing out
across the water.
A boom, a whiz, a crack, and the Royal George was raked
from stem to stern, and fourteen men lay wounded upon
A silence followed. There was hurrying to and fro
along the vessel's decks—then—what do
think? —the squadron put about, and sped out of
the harbor as fast as ever it could, leaving the
villagers so dumb with consternation that minutes
passed before it occurred to them to rejoice in their
"Hooray! Hooray! Hooray!" cried they, as the British
sped away. "Hooray for the Yankee gun!"
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