CHASSEUR AND ST LAWRENCE By Barry Warburton CH 1 – The Plan......................................................................................................... 3 Ch 2 - The Storm .................................................................................................... 18 Ch 3 – The Chesapeake ........................................................................................ 36 Ch 4 – A Yankee in Barbados.......................................................................... 52 Ch 5 - Durham ........................................................................................................... 65 Ch 6 – Gordon in Barbados............................................................................... 86 Ch 7 – Chasseur off St Vincent................................................................. 114 Ch 8 - St Lawrence and the Carthaginian ........................................... 132 CH 9 - Martinique................................................................................................ 151 Ch 10 - James and slavery............................................................................. 175 Ch 11 – Chasseur and Barossa ..................................................................... 189 Ch 12 – Corruna and Convoy .......................................................................... 206 Ch 13 - Chasseur and the convoy .............................................................. 221 Ch 14 - James up the St Marys ................................................................... 236 CH 15 – James’ secret mission ................................................................... 253 Ch 16 – Mary and Susannah – water and crawfish .......................... 273 Ch 17 – Chasseur and St Lawrence............................................................ 288 Ch 18 – Aftermath – St Lawrence .............................................................. 307 Ch 19 – Aftermath – Chasseur ..................................................................... 314 CH 1 – The Plan Far in the back of McGrady’s tavern, two blocks from the forts along the Staten Island waterfront, four men were huddled around a table the night before Christmas Eve 1814. It’s windy and cold outside. The fug in the tavern from the fireplace, lanterns, sweat and tobacco muffled their quiet conversation. Two of the men are seaman - mahogany skin, tousled hair, lean build and thick, calloused hands – the other two are landsmen – neatly coiffed hair, soft, manicured fingers, linen breeches and silk waistcoats. One of the landsmen is thin and nervous, the other portly, slow and ponderous. The portly gentleman wipes his hands on a napkin and says: “They’re waiting for you Tom - they have spies everywhere – they know your repairs, they know your armament, they know your provisions, they know you’ve changed Chasseur from a schooner to a brig - they know everything. They mean to stop you. Your last escapade, my friend, made them extremely angry. It is impolitic to embarrass our friends in the Royal Navy.” George Stevenson flashed a quick grin at his impetuous friend. “Two English frigates and a sloop of war wait off Sandy Hook for you, Tom – with specific orders to keep Chasseur in New York – to take her or destroy her.” Chasseur was a clipper built in Baltimore to meet the eye of Thomas Kemp. She was sailed by the impossible, adventurous Tom Boyle and George Stevenson was Chasseur’s prize agent. Prosperous and shrewd, Stevenson’s success was based on a careful estimation of the odds for and against any enterprise. A judicious investment in sources of intelligence was essential. His sources told him negotiations between England and America were moving rapidly. Peace was only months, perhaps weeks away. This would be Chasseur’s last voyage of the war and he was not entirely sure the outcome was worth the risk. “Capt. Boyle,” said Dennis Smith, the thin, nervous landsman at the table, “As Chasseur’s majority partner, I speak for the syndicate - Chasseur must sail and she must not tangle with any Royal Navy ships. Financially, there are no other options – regardless of the grand stratagems of the fools in Washington or the efforts of the Royal Navy – we must recoup our investment. All the profit from the last voyage went to repair the damage incurred – a new foremast being the primary expense – a frigate left you a 24 pound calling card, I believe – and to replenish your shot, powder, provisions. If you do not have a successful cruise with a profitable return this time – on the order of 120 percent by my calculation – we face ruin.” Captain Tom Boyle leaned forward and poured another glass of Madeira. “Well, gentlemen, it seems we are at an impasse! George, your – ahem - sources tell you the odds are overwhelming against escape from New York – is that right?” Stevenson nodded. “And you, Mr. Smith, hold that Chasseur must sail in the face of these overwhelming odds or go bankrupt – is that right?” Smith nodded. “Thus, to preserve our financial position, we need a successful and profitable voyage. One with rich prizes and minimal damage to Chasseur – therefore, no yardarm to yardarm fights with British cruisers – am I correct?” Smith and Stevenson both nodded slowly. “And if I can’t resolve this impasse – Boyle took a sip of the sweet, hot wine – you will find yourselves a captain that will risk it – is that right?” Smith nodded, Stevenson moodily stared at his glass on the table. Boyle slowly leaned back in his chair and thought of his wife, Polly, and their four daughters in Baltimore. He thought of the long years spent working as a cooper after Jefferson’s embargo beached America’s merchant fleet. He thought of the ships of the tiny ineffective blockaded regular US Navy stuck in ports up and down the coast. And he thought of the arrogance of the British, impressing and even killing Americans within sight of American ports. If America was to reap any benefit from this ridiculous war, it would be up to privateers like him. He could stay home and face financial ruin or go to sea and face violent death or – worse - a lengthy stay in Dartmoor prison. Not a pretty picture, he admitted, but the returns were certainly attractive – and didn’t the damned British need another bloody nose! The British brazenly cruised off Sandy Hook – waiting to take Chasseur – or any other American ship - before she could escape and wreak more havoc amongst the British merchant fleet. Their spies – New Englanders mostly – watched the privateers every move. Yet….the war wasn’t over and Chasseur could make Boyle and her owners a good return even after all the expensive repairs and changes. All they had to do was avoid the British ships hovering off Sandy Hook and the bulldogs they had herding the fat convoys. Boyle smiled and took anther sip of wine – the odds were definitely in his favor. Chasseur was a big, fast, heavily armed Baltimore Clipper that could out-sail anything the British had on convoy duty. Properly handled, she could take on or outrun any single Royal Navy cruiser. Only HMS Rattler – a known flyer – had been anywhere close in a ship to ship match. So confident was Boyle of his ship, her crew and his ability to sail her that during his last cruise he audaciously and single-handedly declared the entire British Isles under blockade! He had the pronouncement nailed to the door of Lloyds coffee house in London! Yes, the British Navy would love to make an example of him. Tom listened to Smith and Stevenson argue the probabilities of a successful voyage. He considered them himself, slowly swirling his wine around the bottom of his glass. The wind outside the tavern moaned and snow rattled against the windows. Suddenly, he thought of Chasseur flying to windward on a warm breeze in a warm blue ocean – the curve of her sails, the bend of her spars, the feel of her tiller and the joy of tormenting the English lion. He made his decision. “John, how fast can we complete our provisioning?” John Dieter was Chasseurs first officer and was the other seaman at the table. “We’ve got most our powder and shot - food and water for about three weeks. We should load three more weeks worth to be sure. Main boom needs replacing, we noticed a crack this morning, it’ll be nothing but trouble later – maybe four days to get it all done Tom.” “Weather’s turned already John, we’ll leave tomorrow. Load spare spars aboard if you can get ‘em. We’ll provision food, powder and shot from the prizes we take on the way. We’ll water ashore.” Boyles mind was working fast now, weighing options, already visualizing Chasseur slipping out of New York in the chaos, dark and gloom of a winter storm and sailing South. “George, Dennis – we sail tomorrow night – there’s a Nor’wester brewing that will blow the British far offshore. It’s Christmas Eve so they’ll be wishing they were safe ashore with their loved ones or they’ll be in a drunken stupor. We’ll slip out in the dark; stay up on the coast, then sail fast into the offing – like we did in the old Comet last year. We’ll dodge the Royal Navy and be south quick as we can. I believe the British are campaigning against Mobile and New Orleans this winter – to line their damned pockets before the war ends no doubt. “ “Cockburn’s on his way to Georgia, Tom, the main fleet’s gone to Jamaica and will sail for Mobile in a week or so”. Stevenson said. Smith glanced at him, amazed by the older man’s knowledge and confidence and even more mystified how he knew more than the “official” sources in the United States government. “And where did you get that information George?” chuckled Dennis. George and Tom both shot a stern look at the banker. “Oh….um...never mind.” said Smith. “Jamaica eh? Their supply convoys will come by way of Barbados and then return to England thru the Florida Straits, north of Cuba. We’ll follow the supply line from Barbados north to the straits. We’ll bring home enough riches to fill your counting house Dennis, enough ships for you to start your own freight line, George, a pianoforte for my Polly and fine silk skirts for the girls. And maybe Johnny will finally meet a bonny island lassy to bring home to mother! ” “John, take young Vanderbilt’s ferry up to Manhattan and bring Chasseur down the river to Staten Island tonight. Send my boat crew to meet me here tomorrow night. Make sure they’re well armed. We’ll meet you off the island late tomorrow night and depart immediately on the tide.” “What business do you have with your boat crew Tom?” asked Stevenson. “I need to find Shelby Cochrane, George – I won’t sail without him.” Tom paced up and down the pier outside a shabby tavern. His boat crew, dressed in oilskins and sou'westers, huddled under the overhanging roof of the tavern, wishing they could step inside for a tot before heading offshore. Armed to the teeth beneath the heavy foul weather gear, they fingered their pistols and truncheons and looked at each other apprehensively. Lamplight from the tavern fell in pools on the muddy street. Tom wondered if Cochrane would keep their appointment. Shelby Cochrane wheezed and blew like a wounded whale as he ran down the cobblestone street toward the waterfront as fast as his bowlegs could carry him - shirt tales flying. He was a big man, far past the bloom of youth, and not used to skedaddling for his life. Several consecutive nights of rum soaked abandon had done nothing for his overblown constitution. Normally, he would turn and face his pursuers, considering odds of 6 or 7 to one fairly even, perhaps a bit unfair for the poor sods that chose to take him on, but close enough to make the outcome interesting. That he had to run for his life from a sprig of a redheaded Irish girl, struck him as monstrously funny. That, and the rum coursing through his veins, had him stumbling as much as running - hallooing, yoo-hooing, gulping and whooping into the night. Earlier that day, when a young boy found him on the street and passed a note into his hands – meet me tonight at O’Brien’s, 10PM sharp, signed T.B. – Cochrane had no intention of doing any such thing. The last thing he needed was to go on another suicidal privateering cruise with wild Tommy Boyle. Now, however, things were looking a little less certain. This girl behind him, and the girl he’d had to unceremoniously toss on the floor – oh she were a looker - what were their names again? Yes, things were nowhere near so certain. Behind him the flash and bang of a heavy British Navy pistol - his pistol - and the sound of the ball whizzing past his right ear like a huge angry horse fly sent him sprawling face first into the street. Dust exploded from the wall of the building as the ball buried itself in the brick. One of those girls, Rose Donegal, stopped and squinted through the dark and the gun smoke, trying to determine if she’d shot the licentious, drunken, lying cur dead. Shelby scrambled to his feet and took off down the street, head low, running fast. Tom stopped pacing at the sound of the shot and pulled his own pistol from beneath his oilskins. Up the street from the pier, through the gloom he spied a running crouched figure, zigzagging down the street. “Here he is lads - quick into the boat - we'll need to pull hearty for Chasseur before this is over no doubt.” To the running figure, he shouted in his best quarterdeck voice: “Mr. Cochrane – We find you well I hope!” Shelby veered toward the familiar voice. He spied Tom’s tarpaulined figure, slowed, walked, stood straight and stopped - breathing hard, squinting cockeyed at the blurry figure in front of him - an arms length from his Captain Boyle. It would never do to let the captain see him running for his life from some female like a moonstruck younker. Shelby composed himself and spoke calmly and quietly with a Scottish brogue slurred with drink. “If you be expecting me to ship out again, you’re sadly mistaken Tom. I’ve come to turn down your generous offer. I owe you at least that. Y’see, I’ve no need to face cruel weather, howling British broadsides, bloody broken heads and mid-watches on short rations. I’ve no need to sleep in a wet hammock for weeks on end. None of your watered down grog for me, my boy, no, no sir - I’ll have none of it. I thankee for the generous payoff after our last trip - but, now its time for me to take up a sweet peaceful life - ashore. I’ve found me a girl, y’see…” Rose fumbled with the ball, horn and rammer to reload the heavy gun. It was ready to fire again. She turned her head, pointed the pistol in the general direction, closed her eyes and pulled the trigger. The heavy pistol bucked in her hands and knocked her down. She fell into the gutter on one side of the street while the pistol went clattering to the other side. This time the ball buzzed well behind Cochrane – and plunked, sizzling into the water. “You drunken blackguard - Go back to the sea you broken down swab - get out of here, and take your rum, your grog and your GIRLS with you – GO, GET OUT OF HERE!” Rose pulled herself to her feet and went in search of the pistol. Shelby glanced back up the street at the drifting gun smoke and the furious, bedraggled girl. Boyle stood motionless, waiting. “There's sixteen shares in it for you Shelby, as always…..She’s a beauty, by the way, this girl of yours…. Is that her? I certainly understand your desire to stay ashore and I wish you the best of luck. You must introduce us one day.” Boyle turned toward the boat. Cochrane saw Rose pick up the pistol and begin to prime it for a third shot, all the while striding down the road, muttering under her breath how she would castrate the miserable drunken son of a whore that would lay with another woman in her bed - in her own bed in her own house of all things. She meant to kill him, Shelby was sure of it. “Well, now Tom – I suppose one more trip wont kill me, and me and the missus can sure use the money, God knows! But, if we don’t move off smart-like mate, we're likely to be most cruelly hurt in the next few minutes. I fear she means to commit manslaughter this night and I’d hate to see you get hurt, Tom – famous privateer like you. Come on now, don’t delay, not a moment to lose - off we go, lets go now!” cried Shelby as he pushed past Tom and tumbled into the waiting long boat. The chuckling crew immediately started rowing hard to the ship. They were half way to the waiting schooner before one final blast from the pistol, a brilliant flash on the pier amid fading curses signaled their relative safety. “Merry Christmas to you Tom Boyle” “And Merry Christmas to you Shelby Cochrane.” Chasseur, was anchored in the river – her crew and as many provisions as John Deiter could scrounge already aboard. The dirty weather – a cold and vicious gale from the northwest - was perfect for a successful departure from New York. It would be impossible for the British to keep a sharp lookout and the fury of the storm would drive them far offshore. Tom took in the brig’s beauty – the speed promised by the lofty raked whip-like masts, the power promised by the heavy, absurdly long bowsprit and the lethality behind the closed ports. Chasseur was two years old, built of Pennsylvania oak in Thomas Kemps shipyard in Fells Point, Maryland. Originally rigged as a schooner, Tom had rigged her as a brig in order to keep her flashing windward ability and provide some additional speed downwind with the big square sails. Also, every British merchant and warship sailing the ocean was on the look out for big black American schooners. An American brig would be a surprise. Chasseur was beautiful, fast, handy and able to out sail anything on the ocean. She was demanding, wet, fragile and at times - depending on her ballast and sail combination - crank. Towering canvas, ridiculous reed thin topmasts and a fine, sensitive hull made her fast and weatherly, balanced on a razors edge. Many Clipper skippers, forced to carry on in a blow, had been known to drive their ships under. The Baltimore Clipper was a distinctly American creation, and it was their American captains and crews made them fly. Shelby Cochrane was the best sailorman in the world when it came to Baltimore Clippers. Without Shelby, there was a real risk that either weather or her enemies might overwhelm Chasseur. This special ability to get the most out of Chasseur made him indispensable. Between them, Tom Boyle, Shelby Cochrane, John Dieter and the crack crew that sailed with them made Chasseur the most feared privateer in the Atlantic. Undeniably a great schooner-man, Cochrane was also a drunken scoundrel and rogue. After being paid off from a cruise, he would disappear into the dark, back alleys and hard places of whatever waterfront he found himself in - cursing the sea, cursing the clipper ships and the insane fools that drove them - vowing never to return. No matter how much Shelby might wish to stay comfortable, dry and safe ashore, his financial, physical and romantic situation would always drive him back to the clippers. The boat bumped alongside and Tom lightly hoisted himself aboard. John Dieter greeted Tom at the rail. “All’s well, John, lets take her out.” “Aye Aye Sir” “Put Mr Cochrane down as sailing master - sixteen shares - Shelby, welcome aboard and you've got first watch in the morning - I suggest you get some rest.” “Right-O, Tom - evening John, nice to see you again – I’ll just be turning in now – My usual berth I presume?” Dieter conned the low, black and yellow privateer past Sandy Hook and into the dark, howling wastes of the Atlantic Ocean. Ch 2 - The Storm Shelby woke with a roaring headache; the sour, metallic taste of cheap rum in his mouth; and the unholy screaming, shuddering, plunging cacophony of a clipper pressed hard in his ears. He rolled out of his hammock, noted his sea bag hanging from the overhead beam – how did that get there? - put on his oilskins, splashed water on his face at the scuttlebutt and lurched through the darkness past snoring, swinging, stinking bundles to the main companionway. He came up the steps, took a deep breath and slid the hatch forward. He jumped through the opening, slammed and dogged the hatch shut behind him. Standing on the open deck of the privateer, swaying with the motion, Shelby sniffed and took in the wind-blasted grey and white seascape. Tom Boyle sat in a chair lashed to ring bolts in the deck to windward. A tarpaulin cap jammed down over his curly black hair and fire dancing behind the fatigue in his blue eyes. “Why is it we always leave when its blowing like the devil!” snorted Shelby, already knowing the answer. “Knocks the Royal Navy offshore!” yelled Boyle. “Well, this wind’ll blow em to ever-lovin Spain.” “Keep her going South-South East as fast as she’ll take it, Shelby. It’ll be a wet ride till we get outside the stream with this Norther. South-Southeast – right?” “And where else would we go – South-South East it is Tom – and a joy it’ll be no doubt.” Boyle opened the hatch and disappeared down the companionway. He slammed the hatch shut behind him, the noise swallowed by the howling wind. Must have been a tough night Shelby thought to himself – only a storm jib flying off the sprit and check stays are rigged, double-reefed fore and main topsails, no mainsail at all and double-reefed foresail. Still, our Tom is certainly cracking on – the ship is flying a prodigious amount of sail for this hurricane. Shelby nods to the two hands on the tiller braces. He placed a giant hand on the port brace just to get a feel for the ship – how she handled the seas and wind. She bucks and plunges like a mad horse, vibrating like a tuning fork. She’s sailing fast, but Christ we’re driving her hard. Hell of a way to treat a lady. So far, she is standing up to it. Torn clouds, spindrift, smoky spray fill the air – it is hard to breathe. There was no dawn, no single moment announcing the new day, just a gradual lightening all about until full daylight arrived unheralded. The privateer runs South, driven by her double-reefed fore and main sails and storm jib before the tremendous wind – not a scrap of topgallant and any other flying sails would be suicide – she certainly cant stand more jib - she is still running hard and fast. The flying jib boom, fore topgallant mast and main yard have all been wrestled to the main deck and lashed across the main hatch next to the boat. It has been a brutal night reducing sail and securing gear as the wind and sea screamed and tore at the ship. Tied to lifelines, the watch wears grey-black slickers and wool trousers - numb with cold – they huddle behind the weather bulkhead, between the bowsed guns, with their heads down rocking to the motion of the ship. The two helmsmen strain at the tiller braces, relieved every two hours, it is all they can stand. The ocean has no apparent order, long open rollers from the Northeast combine with a vicious cross sea from the Southeast while the current of the Gulf Stream fights the wind, elemental water rising up to contest the very air itself, blowing hard and fast from the North – all is chaos. Holes open in the sea and Chasseur sinks into them slewing wildly. Huge pyramids of water lift above her decks, topple and crash along her length. Breaking waves come from ahead, behind and aside to smother the ship below tons of green and white water. Chasseur struggles to lift out of the waves as they pass. First her stern points skyward, then her bow until it seems she must topple over backward. She pitches shuddering over the top and slides down into the trough. She stops short in the trough at the bottom of her slide, another huge mound of water rising astern. She’ll never lift - yet she does – she accelerates along the face of the next wave, it passes under her and she impossibly lifts to the sky again. Writhing atop a frothy, watery haystack, twenty feet of her coppery bottom is clear of the clutching water. The wave breaks, hisses, roars and foams alongside and into her waist – dowsing the men on deck with freezing spume. The foam gurgles past and leaves her stranded on the back side of another wave. This time, the trough is a hole in the water and she slides violently into it, corkscrews and groans, and is smashed by the next wave. Yet, she shakes, her stern rises crazily again, and she takes another plunge into the foam to slam into or get slammed by wave after wave. Lift, slide, stop, roar, drop, crash, roll - again and again and again – she runs South, always south. Shelby sits in Toms chair, and feels the ship move - no coffee, no hot food - it’s too rough to light fires - the deck constantly awash, the wind howling, roaring. This is bad, very bad, but at least Rosie aint aiming a gun at his head. Even in all the chaos he smiles, soon, we’ll be sailing the crystal blue water and warm trade winds of the Caribbean. William Christie – one of Chasseurs prize masters - sits in the aft-most windward corner of the deck sheltered from the wind, rain and spray. Shelby watches him duck the spray and ride the stern up on a huge wave. Cochrane can feel the tug of the rudder thru the chair as the helmsmen struggle to keep her from broaching. The cold air, excitement, rain and adrenaline vanquish any lingering effects of hangover. Shelby’s thoughts are sharp, quick and vivid – he is alive and at home. Gradually, with the light comes more wind and Cochrane orders the crew to reduce sail further – down to only a double reefed foresail and a storm jib – not a shred of canvas on the mainmast. The noise, thunder and motion when the crew hand the mainsail bring Tom back on deck. Chasseur is going insanely fast, running downwind, wet and blind. Shelby cups his mouth to Tom’ ear and shouts over the roar of the storm “We are pushing her as hard as we dare, Tom. I’d rather we were running under bare poles – God help me!” “Keep pushing” – yelled Tom – “we’re not far enough out yet for my liking. We have to drive her Shelby – drive her hard.” Suddenly, there was an eerie silence when the banging, crashing, and moaning stopped – the constant roar just a background. A towering roller of blue-black water built up over the stern. Strangely, they could see through the top portion of the wave – a lovely, beautiful blue gold white as the wave crested, broke, and toppled onto Chasseurs exposed stern. Tons of water drove her stern down and slewed it violently to starboard. Shelby ducked, yelled and gulped seawater. The grey-green wave swept down the deck – unshipped the main boom from its gallows and rolled it over the starboard rail. The huge boom – as big around as a man’s waist – laid across the ship – floating alongside and threatening to smash the ships bulwarks to kindling as she lay broadside to the killer seas. The crew was washed to the end of their lifelines by the surging water. Twenty year old John McKonkey – an experienced seaman on his first privateering cruise - unhooked from the line and rushed down to leeward to try to secure the boom. Shelby yelled a warning as another huge wave washed over Chasseur’s waist. McKonkey raised an arm over his head to ward off the wall of water. It swept him overboard in a moment. McKonkey’s cousin - William Christie - it was William who begged Tom to give John a place aboard Chasseur - made a dash for the side as McKonkey washed past. McKonkey’s mouth was open in a perfect round circle, but there was no sound. Christie leapt to grab him by the hair before he was lost in the maelstrom. Shelby slid across the deck and knocked Christie back from the rail, held him down, grabbed his slicker with a huge hand and dragged him up and aft out of the wash. Christie lay to windward in a scupper, sobbing, exhausted, pinned to the windward bulwark. McKonkey was devoured by the heartless sea, gone, and never seen again. Shelby organized four seamen with a tackle to hoist the badly sprung boom aboard and lash it to the deck. Split down the middle, it is useless. With grey pony tail and hands and fingers as hard as oak, Jacob Burk, the ships carpenter, is summoned to view the damaged spar and determine its fate. Twenty minutes later, after running his eye along the spar, licking and pursing his lips, peering cockeyed at the damaged boom, damning the slack jawed fools that put such a poor spar aboard such a perfect ship, Burk reported to Boyle: “Aye, she can be fished sure, but not in weather such as this, we’ll need a stable deck to do it eh? Cant let the damned thing roll over t’side again now can we? And such a terrible, terrible spar for such a beautiful ship as this. Would it have killed the good Mr Smith to have spent a bit of money and got a decent replacement when we was in New York. We’ll be playing with that son of a bitch the entire cruise. And which the wedges are working loose around the main mast – we’ll need to keep after them if we’re to keep the stick in the hooker. Er – sir. Like most of his crew, Burk was more merchantman than man-o-war when it came to the fine points of military discipline. Most of them figured Chasseur was a privateer after all – if we wanted the bleedin’ Navy we’d of joined the bleedin’ Navy. After his report, Burk turned away muttering about the need to sound the well and make sure the damned barky aint sinking for Christs sake. Tom grabbed him and yelled in his ear over the howl of the wild wind - “We’ll need to repair the boom as soon as possible Mr. Burk. If the dawn comes with easier weather and a British frigate to windward, we wont stand a chance without it.” Burk nodded and lurched below to gather the materials he would need for the repair. They keep Chasseur moving as fast as possible at all costs – everything depended on speed regardless of the weather. Together, the officers and crew turned Chasseur south again and got her running – jib sheeted tight, foresail blown all to kingdom come. Like a drunken bosun she put her head down, staggered and rolled from wave to wave still flying down wind. Boyle stood on deck as the storm raged and Chasseur crashed on through the long grey day – through Cochrane’s watch, through Dieters watch and into another long black night. It was miserably cold – To the helmsman Boyle said: “Keep the wind on your starboard quarter, we’re steering to the wind now – It’ll be a wild ride yet before its done boys.” The night fell and the crew endured another cold meal. Tom dozed in his cabin as Chasseur drove on in the dark. Cochrane is down below and Dieter has the deck. It is impossible to rest, but at least below decks the men are somewhat dry. Boyle stirs and comes fully awake as another menacing silence surrounds the ship. He opens his eyes – the ship is at the top of a huge pyramid of water. The privateer is tossed into the maw of a huge, ragged hole in the ocean. The sea simply falls away from her. Chasseur takes a breathtaking drop down a twenty-foot wall of water. She accelerates all the way down, and smashes into the trough. She comes to a sickening, shuddering halt, shakes, vibrates low and deep and shoots forward again, tossed forward by the following wave. Her shrouds and masts groan, stretch, strain – she is nearly dismasted. The wicked motion tosses bodies forward and then almost immediately rolls them aft. Green water sweeps the deck. CRACK - The sprit sail yard hanging from the bowsprit snaps and dangles for a moment from the sprit. With an insane twanging of shrouds and stays, it falls in the ocean and floats past the racing hull. The watch race to clear away the wreckage in the darkness and rig new stays to prevent the bowsprit going after the yard. At one moment they ride the bowsprit neck deep in icy Atlantic fury and another moment they soar thirty feet above the maelstrom. Finally, the new lines are rigged, the bowsprit secured and the crew back in their places along the weather rail. It is another brutal, wicked night. Tom, still awake after 72 hours of stress, toil and torment waits to feel the wind ease, feel Chasseur slow, relax. Slowly, at first, more imagined than felt, then more and more apparent, the wind eases. Finally, with the dawn of a new day, the gale blows itself out. Their third day out of New York was raw and cold – but quiet and smooth. The brig is a horrific, disordered mess. Salt encrusts everything: decks, rigging, guns, and equipment. The main boom lays lashed along the starboard side of the deck waiting for repair. The sprit sail yard is gone and temporary shrouds secure the bowsprit. The split in the foresail didn’t look as bad in the daylight as it had last night, but the fore gaff is gone entirely. The sail can be repaired, but it will take time, and they will have to fashion a new gaff. Happily, no frigates are on the horizon. There were no ships at all. All around Chasseur was a clear hard grey horizon – the cold grey ocean split from the hard grey sky. Boyle paces the aft deck, his face stern and hard; the smoldering fire in his eyes crackling in the morning breeze left over from the gale. He is exhausted, cold and stiff. The crew move as zombies, barely thinking, barely reacting. The ship is still together and far out in the Atlantic. She is far away from the approaches to the harbors that attract Royal Navy patrols. They have escaped the blockade and survived the storm. Cochrane and Dieter come on deck attracted by the easing motion and lowering pitch of the wind. “Good Day Shelby, John. I believe we’ve got some small damage to repair. Mr. Burk, Mr. Burk there” - Boyle calls the gruff old carpenter – “you may gather a crew and start repairing the main boom, the sprit and I believe the fore gaff and foresail as well. I can give you until tomorrow evening to get the boom fished and the jib boom replaced. The fore gaff should take no more than a day or so. We’ll need to repair the foresail as soon as possible. How are the mainmast wedges?” “We’ve kept em tight captain, hammered night and day, but I’ll need to take a good look at the mast itself – see if its sprung at all” “Very well - John, feed the men first, then, get the idlers up and helping with repairs. At noon, we shall exercise the great guns until nightfall.” Cochrane and Dieter looked at each other. Quietly, Tom says; “Work them hard. They’ve lost a shipmate and been knocked about cruelly with nothing to show for it. There’s nothing like sailing fast and firing off great guns to lift a sailor’s spirits.” “Shelby, soon as you can take a sight and lets see where away we’ve been blown. By my reckoning it must be several hundred miles south east of New York at any rate. Lets be sure we don’t blow into Bermuda by mistake!” “Aye sir”, said Burk, “and which the barky has 4 feet of water in the hold and a quick turn at the pumps will have her dry I’m sure. My mates and I will get the repairs complete and providing the mainmast is in good shape you can get some sail on this flyer and make all the smoke and thunder you want.” “Tom hasn’t lost any of his drive, has he John my son”, said Burk as they moved off to rouse the crew and the cook. “’Tis another pleasure cruise with Wild Tommy Boyle - sailing through hell’s own weather, enough to drive any sane man to despair, washing mere boys overboard, followed by back breaking work and then we complete the perfect day by firing off whacking great cannons.” Dieter said: “I suppose if you were the captain Burk, we’d just wallow along here in the middle of nowhere, with no prizes and no pay until someone happens by to tell us the war’s over and give us a tow home.” “Well, John Dieter, if ‘twer up to me, I’d never put to sea in anything under a 74, ‘specially if the entire Royal Navy were chasing me.” Cochrane said, “This is my last cruise, I’ll not be coming out here to sail this man-killing contraption and help Tommy Boyle snap up fat British merchant men any longer – enough is enough.” Dieter interrupted him – “Cochrane - you say that every trip and yet every trip I find you are my shipmate - again....I caught you steering the barky yesterday – a smile as big as the wind on your face, singin at the top of your damn fool lungs. What was that song you was singin’ by the way? Red is the Rose was it?” Boyle watched the three of them go below and smiled. Below decks, gunner George Roberts brought steaming bowls of stew to his messmates. The stew was a wondrous gumbo prepared by the cook - Zachary DeBois of Louisiana. Boyle lured DeBois away from Captain Matell of the privateer Atlas two years before. Debois’ gumbo never disappointed. It was the first hot food he could prepare due to the violent rocking of the ship. For men who had spent three days sick, cold, terrified and exhausted the hot food lifted spirits admirably. Usually, the cook aboard a privateer was an old amputee with a leg or an arm missing from some long ago heroic battle – to hear him tell it. As a result, this derelict usually was one of the most knowledgeable seamen aboard. Not on Chasseur. DeBois didn’t know gammoning from marlinspike and couldn’t be taught. At sea, his two concerns were to regularly amaze the Chasseur’s officers and crew with superb Louisiana Creole creations and to return safely home to a handsome payout. George Roberts was a free black man from Baltimore who learned his trade as apprentice aboard the privateer Sarah Ann earlier in the war. Some said he was gunner aboard the USS Constitution herself. His proficiency with a 12 pounder was legendary. Most of the men in Roberts’ mess were old Chasseur veterans, some had sailed with Boyle on the old Comet and some were fresh. All were prime seaman, but, nonetheless, Dieter paired newcomers with old hands in the same mess to bring them along as fast as possible. “I’d heard he were a driver, but I aint never seen anything like this afore.” Said a young topman.- “D’ye think we’ll repair and run into Ocrackoke afore we carry somethin’ else away?” William Christie replied – “Not a chance, Tommy Boyle will drive you and your ship to Hell, but I’d not sail with another captain for all the prize money in the Indies. He always comes back, and he always comes back with prizes. He’s best there is.” “I heard he kilt a man on Comet” “Nah, that’s a tale – George was there – what was the drift of it George – did Tommy Boyle kill a man on the old Comet?” “Well, he didn’t kill him – he knocked him about though. He had to bruise the captain of marines something terrible – not that he didn’t have it coming mind you. But no, he aint kilt no one that I know of. Cap’n Boyle drives you hard but treats you fair. So long as he keeps the prizes coming and the cruisers to leeward, I’ll sail with him anywhere.” William Christie slowly sat on the deck and braced himself against the hull balancing his gumbo on his lap thinking of his cousin John McConkey. Roberts watched him and said “William Christie, you’ve taken a harsh knock – your cousin – young McKonkey, being lost and all – he was a good ’un. I know’d him as a child growing up in Baltimore – his poor Ma.” Christie looked deep into his gumbo before replying: “Our John was going to be aboard the first prize I took home. I made a promise to his Mam to watch out for him. You never know when it’ll happen do you – could be me tomorrow, could be you, couldn’t it? – could be the British, could be a storm, could be a fall from aloft, could be goddamn anything – but we all know that when we sign on don’t we? Always have. No sense dwelling on it – t’wont bring him back. At least he’ll never see the inside of Dartmoor prison.” “Well, it wont replace your cousin, but when it comes time to divide up shares at the end of the cruise, God willing, we’re all likely to pocket a pretty penny and Tom Boyle will make sure his Mam will see her share of it. Captain Tom always takes care of the families of us’n aboard his ships. Some of us last cruise made 10 times normal wages with all the prize money – so it may be hard now mates, but rich it will turn, and if you take to Fiddlers Green, Tommy will make sure your loved ones are cared for – of that you can be certain!” Tom set the crew to work repairing damage – under Burks direction, Cochrane and Dieter’s men began fishing the main boom and replaced the jib boom – the crew were tired, the ship was rolling, some were sick, some were scared, some wanted to head for the nearest port, but Boyle kept them at it. Jacob Burk made his report: “Sprit sail yard is replaced Captain, fore gaff’s replaced and the ship is ready to crack on like the riches of all heaven were in the offing – or the demons of all hell were about to rake her. We’ll have the main boom back where it belongs afore dark. The main mast is sprung a little, but I believe it’ll serve.” Blue sky appeared above the scudding, torn and tattered grey and white clouds. Chasseur drove southeast in the easing gale. She jibed fast and often running dead down wind – first port tack, then starboard – setting and dousing topgallants, royals, courses, studding sails, and even the ridiculous ringtail. As the sun set, wreathed in pink gun smoke, Chasseur busily, noisily and happily set to work blasting floating barrels to smithereens from both batteries. To the north – not so close as to hear Chasseur’s cacophony nor so close that a sharp-eyed lookout on Chasseur would spot her stumpy masts – her topmasts being struck below - a slender schooner welcomed the fair weather after three days riding out the storm. HMS St Lawrence, James Edward Gordon commanding, spread her wings to the same lovely breeze and set a course for the Chesapeake. Ch 3 – The Chesapeake Lieutenant James Gordon – nephew of the famous Sir James Alexander Gordon of HMS Seahorse - uncompromising Anglican and Methodist, Royal Navy lieutenant and commander of His Majesties Schooner St Lawrence – watched Henry Olson, his sailing master, con the ship thru Marlborough Heads and into Chesapeake Bay. Just inside the bay were the Dragon 74; two frigates - the ancient Regulus (44) – now a troopship, the Brune (38), his uncle’s old Seahorse (38) - and assorted other schooners, sloops and troopships of Captain Barrie’s Chesapeake Bay squadron. Olson skillfully brought St Lawrence to the wind within pistol shot of Dragon, dropped the foresail – all the canvas that remained set – and anchored. It was a pretty job, well executed. “Excellently done Mr Olson – I thank you – Captain Barrie is sure to be most impressed.” Gordon was a handsome, fastidious man – the 25 year old son of a well to do watchmaker. He wore an immaculate uniform, neatly trimmed hair and large side whiskers in the latest London fashion. He had served in the Royal Navy since 1804 at the age of 15, and been passed for lieutenant in 1811. He was only two months in command of St Lawrence, his first command – a gift from his famous uncle. He spent the previous two years patrolling the sounds and waters of North Carolina and Georgia as third in HMS Lacedaemonian and St Lawrence was his passport to post rank. His experience in the waters of Ocracoke and Cumberland sounds would be invaluable in the coming campaign. James was a rigid and devout Anglican who spent much of a cruise proselytizing to crew and officers of whatever ship he was on. A bit of a prig, he held strong opinions about popery, Protestantism, and the new radical Methodism. He was a gentleman, not completely incompetent, and owed much of his career thus far to the patronage of his uncle Sir James. Gordon took to his gig and made his way to HMS Dragon. He bore dispatches from Vice Admiral Cockburn for Captain Barrie that informed Barrie that he – Cockburn – was forced by the goddam horrific weather to run off for Bermuda and would be two weeks working his way back up to their rendezvous at Cumberland Island. In the meantime, he – Barrie – was to depart the cursed, cold, raw Chesapeake and make his way to Cumberland Island to mount diversionary raids in and around the American city of Savannah. Gordon knew the dispatches said this, remembered old Cockburn spluttering about the weather and the utter futility of beating into such a tempest, the puking Colonial Marines aboard the flag ship; remembered the vicious old admirals words to him as he set out to beat directly into that same fury in his cockleshell schooner – “Don’t lose my clipper Gordon. By Gawd, she is the only thing can make westing in this dirty weather. I say - Damn Jonathans can build schooners – damn them! When we’ve finally put these American buggers in their place I’ll purchase her out of the service for my own use – lovely for beating up the Solent on a beautiful summer day – eh! Be sure you aren’t surprised by any of their infernal privateers and pirates goddamn it, and deliver these dispatches to Captain Barrie. Don’t lose my yacht to a Cartagenean privateer Gordon, or it will not go well for you.” “We’ve damn well picked the Chesapeake clean Gordon! ‘Tis time to find some more prizes. After you’ve met Captain Barrie, report to Admiral Durham in Barbados. Deliver the second set of dispatches to him. Then - and I’ve written it down for you - report back to me at Cumberland. I shall expect you back no later than mid February Gordon – do not let that old curmudgeon Durham detain you in Barbados any longer than necessary. And Gordon – if you DO happen to come upon one of those accursed privateers the Americans are so proud of – do make sure you snap the bastard up – gain me another one of those clippers Gordon and I’ll see you make post – but lose my ship to a pirate sir, and it’ll be the end of you – Now, get out! God Damn this insufferable hurricane!” Three days fighting the same tempest that beset Chasseur followed by three days of excellent weather – during which Gordon was able to complete a letter each to his parents, his sister Hermione, plus make a passionate argument in favor of evangelism to save Ireland intended for publication by the Protestant Alliance – three days brought Gordon and the St Lawrence to the mouth of the Chesapeake and his rendezvous with Barrie. He climbed the steep sides of the Dragon and gazed about in wonder. The ship was absolutely crammed with ebony bodies. 120 escaped slaves – black as coal and dressed in nondescript woolen rags - huddled in small groups everywhere except the sacred quarterdeck. For a Kings ship, this was absolute pandemonium. A harassed young midshipman led Gordon aft to the great cabin. Captain Barrie sat surrounded by paperwork in the clutter of his cabin. The whole ship was in a state of semi-organized chaos, hardly the taut ship of war Gordon expected to find. “Brought rations have you young Gordon? Ha, Ha, No, I expect not, Not in Cockburns yacht eh? We’ve been on short rations for a month now. Have to fight for every scrap of cheese or bread. Whenever, we show up the Americans hide all the provender. No wine to be found at all – can’t buy it and can’t take it either – ‘pears it don’t exist! Plenty of awful beer though! And now with these wretched blacks aboard – we’ve got even more mouths to feed. One gave birth yesterday – Christ – the ships a damned nursery Gordon, a damned nursery! What ‘dye have there Gordon – orders from our dear Admiral Cockburn? Pass them here son, pass them here.” Gordon handed the dispatch to Barrie and watched him break the seal. Robert Barrie was a large compassionate man, blond hair and blue eyes. A fearless seaman, and talented tactician, he did his duty - never any question of that - but inside, he harbored doubts about the effectiveness of British strategy in the Chesapeake. His marines, sailors and troops were hungry, tired and bored. There was no sign of slackening resistance and with each hit and run raid, with more pointless bloodshed and destruction, his little command became more isolated and more vulnerable. Barrie couldn’t wait to leave the Chesapeake to the Americans and get out to the open sea again. He read the dispatch thru his reading glasses, paused and read it again. “Well Gordon, looks as though you are to run down to Barbados to confer with our Admiral Durham. Excellent – I wish you a bon voyage – my regards to the Admiral. But first, you must have dinner with me tonight. Are you provisioned boy? Ready to sail? “Yes sir, we’ve food and water for the trip, powder and shot for anything we may encounter. And thank you sir, I’d be happy to attend your table this evening.” “Excellent – 6 bells then – “ James nodded to the marine sentry standing in the companionway and knocked on the door of the great cabin as the last of the six bells rang into the evening. He was ushered into the cabin by Barrie’s steward. Several of his old comrades from the summer campaign in the Chesapeake were already there; along with some of Dragons own officers, plus Captain Gordon of HMS Seahorse and Captain Badcock of HMS Brune. Compared with the simple fare aboard St Lawrence the dinner was a marvel - even extravagant. It was hard to fathom how Barrie and his staff found the supplies in the middle of an overcrowded ship on short rations. Beef, lamb, oysters, carrots, potatoes, bread, butter and coffee filled the table. After the dinner the conversation turned to the war. Major Dunmire of the Royal Marines – a trim, hard man able to quick march 20 miles in a day and squeeze off three shots a minute from a muzzle loading musket – and expected nothing less from his men – looked around the table after drinking toasts to the King, the ship and confusion to the Americans. “Now that Boneys gone, all we need is a couple regiments of Wellingtons Peninsula veterans and we’ll clean up this mess once and for all. March to Washington and burn it again, by God – teach the damn Yankees a thing or so….damme – burn and pillage – that’s all they understand!” Captain Barrie eyed his marine commander over a glass of whiskey; “We’ve burned, pillaged and terrorized this last two years Major – burnt Washington City – destroyed the Yankee army – sent ‘em running thru the brush – bottled his capital ships up mosquito infested creeks or burned them to ash, ran em aground – destroyed any ship we could come up with – they’ve got no navy and yet, here we sit, short of rations, full of refugees – with our troops picked off or deserting daily. The damn shopkeepers back home are howling over lost trade. American privateers have strangled ship traffic along our own coast – even in the Irish Sea for Godsakes! Bonaparte in 20 years of war never did that! No…I think we have got ourselves in a bit of a fix here – damned if we do and damned if we don’t – But ‘tis true a bold stroke is needed Major, a bold stroke – one big, brilliant victory – no more of your hit and run raids – no more of your harassment - that’s the only thing will hasten along the negotiations and bring a conclusion to our advantage – one big victory.” “Sir – said a young midshipman from the end of the table – “I understand we are to move south and continue hit and run raids with Admiral Cockburn – but Admiral Cochrane is in Jamaica ain’t he? How will we achieve your big victory Sir, if the fleet is in Jamaica and Bermuda?” “Well, young master O’Brien, if you can swear yourself to secrecy, I’ll let you in on the Admirals plans – he specifically asked that you be advised” – Barrie grinned and there were chuckles all around the table – O’Brien was known for his impetuous questions and Barrie was known for answering them – “Admiral Cochrane is preparing a force to move against the American Southern ports – Mobile first, followed by New Orleans – our big victory, gentlemen. If we take these two ports, this will limit the enemy’s ability to transport supplies and goods from the interior to the coast. Plus, we enlist the help of the Indians in that part of the country to come over to our side and put a limit on the American rebellion. Finally, we will incite the black slave population to revolt against their American masters in the Southern States and throw the American experiment into disarray – how can there be freedom for all men if you hold slaves? This single issue could very well tear the American colonies apart. Our part in this campaign is to conduct diversionary raids against Savannah and environs. We are also to agitate the border between Florida and Georgia to help the Dons protect their precious, swampy colony and to draw more of the American strength away from the main thrust against New Orleans – we will attract escaped slaves, Indians looking for freedom – any factions that wish to see the end of America. These forces will be coordinated with our main thrust into Mobile and New Orleans for victory.” “Admiral Cochrane will have those peninsula veterans Major, and intends to march them through New Orleans before spring.” Dunmire nodded murmuring “here here..’bout time”. “New Orleans is a rich prize gentleman – the campaign promises to be militarily decisive and profitable to boot. All of you - except Mister Gordon in St Lawrence - will follow me to Cumberland Island in two days time to carry out our diversion.” “Lt Gordon and his flash schooner are to run dispatches to Barbados and thence back to Cumberland to join us for the fun.” Around the table the officers struck their wine glasses with their spoons in a tinkling applause. “Here here – ‘bout time – give em a good drubbing this time – rich prizes in New Orleans, lucky buggers” Gordon looked around the table and took in the rheumy, dark-ringed, sad, tired eyes of the assembled officers. Even the youngest midshipman looked 10 years past his age. Constant danger, constant action, poor rations, horrible weather and crowded, chaotic conditions aboard the ships were taking their toll on the world’s finest navy. Barrie was doing his best to motivate them for one last campaign, to brave the wild American coast one more time for King and country. Gordon wondered if they would be fighting Americans, Indians, Spanish – or all three. For sure, there would be both uniformed troops and irregulars. Gordon had seen enough of this type of warfare in the past three years to know the shots would come thick and fast from the direction and people they least expected. Good men – some sitting in this cabin tonight - would die horribly. Gordon thought of Cochrane and Cockburn and the two Admirals lust for prizes and wondered where it would all end. At the thought of more “hit and run” raids against irregular forces, Gordon stared deeply into his glass of sherry - despondent. As the evening ended, Barrie wished his captains and officers a good evening. As the small group of officers stood smoking and talking quietly on Dragon’s quarterdeck, waiting for the boats to take them back to their respective ships, Sir James Alexander Gordon caught his eye. He said “Ah – Lieutenant Gordon - a word before you go if you please.” Sir James stumped over to his protégé, his wooden leg thumping the quarterdeck. “You don’t agree with the conduct of the war nephew? “Sir, I…” protested Gordon “Your face is an open book, Lieutenant - listen to me closely James – this is the last campaign of the war – if we are victorious, England will be immeasurably richer – we will control all of the land west of the Mississippi and probably Florida as well – we will hold the Americans to their original colonies. It is true we’re stretched thin, we’ve suffered and we don’t have enough troops, rations or ammunition. But, we shall prevail Lieutenant - we have no choice.” The Captain took a long drag from a cigar and tossed it over the side. “This land is too big for us to control and the Americans are not strong enough to force us to leave. Their privateers wander the seas and burn our merchant ships while we burn their towns, farms and churches. It’s a stupid bloody stalemate imposed on us by greedy, vain, ignorant politicians. However, action is our only path of advancement James, and prize money our only hope of financial reward. We will see it through - to the bitter end - and in the process, hopefully become rich and respected men of distinction” Captain Gordon smiled a slow, sad smile. “Now, listen closely – Admiral Cockburn has taken a shine to you my boy – he mentioned you specifically in his message. You are to carry dispatches to Admiral Durham, but Cockburn has allowed me the luxury to mold your career as I see fit in the course of those orders. We have just received word from our spies in New York that a Yankee privateer scourge is loose again. The Chasseur, Captain Thomas Boyle, has escaped New York and is loose upon the sea lanes again. He is, as you know, a powerful adversary. There are stories about him escaping five British warships! I don’t know how much stock I put in those stories, but apparently, he gave the New York squadron – including Endymion - the slip during the recent gales. The whole town of Baltimore is holding its breath waiting for his first prize to arrive. His privateer brig - Chasseur – is a wickedly fast ship, James, wickedly fast. The only ship in His Majesties Navy that has a ghost of a chance to catch him is your St Lawrence. So deliver your dispatches to Barbados, rendezvous with us off Cumberland Island in February and hunt down and take or destroy this Boyle and his Chasseur. That should be enough opportunity for glory for one young Lieutenant eh? You must leave immediately James and breathe not a word about Chasseur until you are well offshore. Yankee spies are everywhere. Now, off with you my boy – good sailing and happy hunting.” James Gordon nodded to his mentor, thanked him for the exquisite dinner under hard circumstances, spun on his heel and left. His uncle stared at the quiet, black waters of Chesapeake Bay – at Gordon’s pretty little schooner – worried for his protégé and their mission. “Get under weigh if you please Mr Olson” snapped James as he clambered back aboard the St Lawrence. Barrie’s analysis of the war and the other officer’s reaction during dinner were infuriating – and uncle James followed right along! Was that any way for a peer of the realm and a bona fide naval hero to believe? Was the point to simply survive and get rich? Or was there some other larger purpose to the bloodshed, discomfort and despair. Woman and children killed, wounded and terrorized for what purpose? What of this privateer – this damned Chasseur – and her Captain Boyle? The Americans must have a four day lead over St Lawrence – in a faster ship! How would he possibly catch them – and where did uncle James think Chasseur had gone? To Brazil? To Cartagena? To India perhaps? There was no way to know where the American had gone. Chasing Chasseur was a fools errand. Gordon wanted nothing more than to put the Chesapeake behind him and get to sea – this was a stupid war run by idiots. He stood staring over the schooners taffrail while his crew made ready to sail. God help me, he thought. Henry Olson had never seen his young lieutenant quite so distraught. Usually, James Gordon was a bit distracted, a bit lost in his own world perhaps, philosophical even, but never morose. Olson was surprised at his order for an immediate departure – usually Olson could anticipate his orders and have the ship ready – this time, surprised, there was much bustling to and fro. The wind and tide were right for departure, but usually, even a schooner used as a courier would wait till daylight. Olson sighed and watched the crew stumble in the dark to get the ship moving. Gordon was as good an officer as they came in the Royal Navy. St Lawrence was rebuilt from a wreck when Cockburn gave Gordon command of her – she had run aground in front of the American guns and been abandoned at Severn Creek. She had very nearly been destroyed. Luckily Barrie had come up with Dragon and chased the Americans off before they could destroy the schooner. James led the boarding party that recovered her and directed the effort to tow her to safety. James also supervised her reconstruction after the battle and was intimately familiar with her every timber. Olson watched the mainsail and jib sheet home and felt the schooner accelerate and heel to the gentle breeze. Slowly, quietly she ghosted from below the Dragon and made for the entrance of Chesapeake Bay and beyond – to Barbados. In a small backwater inlet less than a quarter mile from the anchored English ships, a cloaked figure stood in the stern sheets of a long boat and closed his telescope. The English were making preparations for sea and would surely be gone before the week was out. They were abandoning the Chesapeake just as he suspected they would. As he watched, a schooner detached itself from the gloom at the side of the nearest 74 and slipped past her on the quiet breeze toward the entrance to the bay. George Stevenson was certain the schooner was the old American privateer Atlas – the British called her St Lawerence now - he had seen the ship arrive that afternoon. He had also watched the British rebuild her at the head of the bay after she was nearly destroyed by Joshua Barney’s gunboats at Severn Creek last year. The British were leaving, but for where? Were they going to join the other ships in Georgia or Jamaica or neither? He directed the boatman to pull to shore. He wondered where Tom was and hoped he was offshore and far away from the Royal Navy. Ch 4 – A Yankee in Barbados George Stevenson was right to feel misgivings about the location of his impetuous friend. For at that moment, twenty miles southeast of Barbados, Tom Boyle was actually uncomfortably close to a pair of Royal Navy brigs. The brigs were cruising in tandem east of the island reaching across the strong trade winds with a half mile between them. Chasseur’s lookout spotted the pair in the dawn as she swooped in from the open sea. News of the two brigs spread rapidly in the early morning among the crew and only the idlest or the drowsy ones resting after midwatch were unaware. The tap-tap-de- tap of the drum brought Chasseurs crew to quarters. “Lets get some canvas on her John – Tops’ls and stuns’ls aloft please” Didier repeated the order to his topmen and magically the sails sprung from the gaffs and foreyard. “Steer for the gap between the two of them if you please Shelby – we will sail between and give their knuckles a hard rap as we pass.” The two brigs held their course – main courses clewed up, ready for battle – nothing amiss from the Admiralties Fighting Directions. Chasseur flew before the strong, steady trade wind. Midshipman Loring cast the log – cried “14 knots if you please sir…” “Come higher a touch Shelby; let’s pass near the bow of the most windward brute.” Shelby leaned into the tiller and felt Chasseur push back and accelerate. Her rigging hummed, her wake expanded astern, a rollicking wave rose off her quarter – “16 knots...16 knots now sir, and I can barely hold the log sir!” exclaimed Mr Loring. The British brigs each let loose a ragged broadside but the speed of the American privateer and the big, rolling sea were too much. The shots fell harmlessly astern or plunged sharply into the broad back of an Atlantic roller. “Wait for George – Wait – Wait for George, then fire when ready!” George Roberts glared down his long 12 pounder – Smasher - gauged the speed and roll of the clipper, estimated the effect of the wind and then, just at the top of the roll, in that sublime moment before she started to roll down again, stepped aside and pulled the lanyard. The ugly little black gun jumped back, gushing white smoke whipped away immediately by the eager wind. Before the shot fell, the next gun fired, then the next and the next. All 7 guns fired at the top of the swell with Chasseur rolling away from the brig. Five of the shots hit their mark. Dust and the white flash of splinters flew from the two shots in the hull. Dark, immediate rips in the foresail marked the passage of the other three. Two splashes neatly bracketed the plunging brig and completed the accounting. Chasseur continued her charge. Shelby leaned further into the tiller and brought Chasseur’s head up another few degrees. Her speed astonished the British officers. She ran fast and hard to leeward on the opposite tack from the wounded brig. The British didn’t fire a shot, the big swell had their larboard guns aimed into the ocean. Chasseur flew past before either brig could react. Shelby steered the privateer further off the wind now, letting her head pay off. The two brigs wore around to follow. “Put her back on course for Barbados Shelby – John, lets scandalize the main and get in those stuns’ls and tops’ls. We want to keep our friends back there in the chase for a bit. Keep them occupied, give them something to aspire to.” “Zachary, Zachary DeBois – have we any of your delightful coffee – what a marvelous day indeed. Send the men to breakfast John. You and Shelby join me for a cup of morning joy. Bring me my chair!” Cochrane, Dieter and the topmen eased the flying clipper – set her almost directly before the wind with a reasonable set of sail. The outrageous tops’ls and dangerous stuns’ls disappeared. The two tubby men-of-war sulkily trailed behind them. Chasseur settled into her usual morning routine. Now and again, the British took a shot at the clipper, trying to wing her, slow her down but inevitably they fail. She is past them and safely out of range. Tom sat in his chair, enjoying his coffee. Trade wind sailing in Chasseur was exhilarating all by itself. To tweak the noses of English warships just added immeasurably to the enjoyment. The crew went about their duties quietly, calmly - confident in their captain and their ship. Shelby stood right aft eyeing the British ships; the regular watch at the helm. One of the men-of-war yaws and a row of cannon belch smoke, flame and shot in the general direction of the privateer. None of the projectiles comes within 20 yards. The lumbering warship can never make up the distance lost during the maneuver. Boyle must deliberately slow enough just to keep them in sight. “Shall we lead them all the way in to Bridgetown then, Tom?” “We’ll keep them spouting smoke and thunder until we get close, then we’ll run away from them. By the time they get to Barbados we’ll have the place in an uproar. We’ll stay in the area as long as we can, looking for the supply convoy or news of it.” A boom behind them and a cloud of smoke blown raggedly away from the bows of the second brig – moments later, a soundless splash forty yards to port and thirty yards astern punctuates their conversation. “Do you remember when we tangled with those three Britishers and that Portugee frigate off Pernambocu Tom. By God, I thought you were mad. “Leave my charges alone” he says – “Damn you” says our Tommy – “I’ll take em if I please! Go ahead and stop me!” Shelby chuckled at the recollection. “Yes and 12 hours later we are all four so cut up none of us can set a scrap of sail. Out sweeps for us and the Portugee, while back to the harbor drift the prizes. We only took one out of the four of them. Damn shame really – we would have made a nice haul if the Portugee had let us have ‘em. I learned much from that little exercise, Shelby. One does not make a profit by slugging it out with the navy – any navy. Speed, agility and guile are the key to safety and profits - and far more fun!” “I agree with you about the importance of speed. However, in our present circumstances, chased by two gun brigs straight into the biggest, most important and heavily defended British base in the Caribbean, we may need more of your luck and guile than silver heels.” “Shelby, we have them just where we want them, in fact, we have them surrounded! I may ask for the Governors surrender.” “We may have them surrounded, but I daresay these two fellows behind us will take some convincing.” Before Tom could reply came the shout “Land Ho! Land Ho! Fine on the starboard bow!” followed almost immediately by “Sail Ho, Sail Ho right up against the shore – she’s a schooner sir!” Tom and his officers moved to the starboard rail to see the schooner’s two small white triangles against the hazy green island low on the horizon. The schooner was a tempting prize; Chasseur’s main boom was still suspect after the beating it took during the wild run from New York. They could run down, take out a spare spar at least, perhaps take the schooner and be away before the British could intervene. With some luck, with some speed, with some guile, Tom believed she could be theirs. “Let’s run past that schooner gentleman, then, double back and see if he may be worth taking. We should be just outside Bridgetown at that point - Admiral Durham will take some interest in our activities, I should think.” Admiral Durham was indeed interested in their activities. American privateers choked off commerce among the islands. They were worse than the French. They were everywhere. Durham was a large man, one of Nelson’s band of brothers. He commanded HMS Defiance at Trafalgar and had the scars to prove it. His dark hair gone grey, he was brave, tough and smart. Durham stood now in the observation tower of the battery on the hill at the mouth of the bay. News that Chasseur was offshore had ruined his brunch with the governor. Here is the bastard, running damn near into the harbor leading those two ninnies Watson in HMS Maria and whats-his-name - Oh yes - Clark in HMS Musquito. Goddam it, get inshore one of you - split, split you damn fools, cut him off…Oh Dammit – these idiots had no idea – oh, to be a fighting captain again! Chasseur edged toward the shore, steadily stretching away from the brigs. The little schooner, Chasseur’s prey, was now far to windward. Aboard Chasseur, Tom said: “Let’s come up now Shelby…come up hard and we’ll pass inshore of those people.” Pass inshore in the face of two brigs and the entire friggin English Navy – you have lost your mind Tom! But, Shelby also knew it was the right thing to do. The two brigs were far downwind of the schooner. Tom would use Chasseur’s speed and amazing ability to sail upwind to out sail the brigs back to the schooner. The brilliant trap sprung – Chasseur smoothly carved toward the shore. On the hill, Admiral Durham took it all in and immediately saw Tom’s plan. His initial rage passed, replaced by grudging admiration. The unfolding drama below was classic naval warfare. Whoever the American was, he was very, very good. “Signal Barossa – tell McCulloch to clear the harbor as soon as possible and chase off this brigand – no wait, I shall sail with him – its about time I spent some time afloat again.” Durham turned in disgust and stalked down the lane to the bay. Chasseur smoothly came up close to the wind – impossibly close. Jibs sheeted tight as boards, foresail and mainsail tight. The sheets of the sails tight as iron, water droplets squeezed from the fibers. She ran closer and closer to shore – the nearest brig turned with her but hopelessly behind. Chasseur was to windward of the brig when it was time to tack. Bring her about Shelby, trim smartly John – we don’t want to fall into stays just now. Chasseur tacked smartly, came about on the port tack and continued to climb upwind to the fleeing schooner. There’s no sense running my pretty – thought Tom. We shall snap you up in a minute or two. Be ready with a bow gun George – put it just forward of his sprit – Ready – Fire! Smasher leapt back and the black smudge of the ball arced away from Chasseur’s side. A hole appeared in the jib of the schooner. George looked back at Boyle and shrugged sheepishly. The schooner flew into the wind, dropped her sails and stopped. Shelby brought Chasseur alongside the schooner. Grappling hooks tossed to her deck secured the schooner alongside. The crew and captain abandoned her, scrambling over the side opposite the privateer and pulled hard for shore in their longboat terrified by the near miss cannon shot and the growling, yelling privateers. We’re looking for spars, valuables, rum, molasses anything we can use gentlemen Mr Christie run down into the hold, see what we’ve got She’s carrying some nice spars down here Tom – we may be able to fashion a new boom from them. Clap on there, hoist them over. Quickly now, mates, them brigs wont wait for us! Chasseur exploded into bustle and commotion. Tom stood aft and let his crew and officers function while he kept an eye on the approaching brigs. The closest one was struggling to sail into the wind. She would have to tack again before closing with Chasseur. The other was far out in the bay and still far to leeward. Lets take her in tow John – see if we can outsail those people even with a schooner behind us. Two spars, a chest, four casks of rum and three casks of molasses were safely transferred from the schooner into Chasseurs hold. Shelby and crew rigged a tackle and hawser from the gaff to hoist the goods aboard Chasseur quickly. Another crew stowed them in the hold. Meanwhile, another gang rigged a hawser from the bits right aft to the cat head of the schooner. As soon as their mates were back aboard, Chasseur got under weigh and paid out the tow cable. Shelby stayed aboard the schooner to steer and make sure she tracked docilely behind the privateer. Boyle himself steered the clipper upwind. She was sluggish with the additional drag of the schooner. Gently he edged her into the wind until the tack of the fore topgallant just started to shiver, then brought her back again. Her stern settled lower in the water as the schooner dragged her down. Shelby did a fine job keeping the schooner following straight, no pulling or wallowing, but still, she just wasn’t up to speed. The schooner wanted to fall off terribly to leeward and Boyle cursed her for a villainous cow as Chasseur sagged down with her. Boyle struggled to hold Chasseur’s head up and keep her moving smartly to windward, but the drag of the schooner was too much for the nimble clipper. After a fifteen minute struggle, he gave it up as a bad bargain. The brigs were almost within range again. A puff of smoke from the closest one and a splash back near the schooner illustrated the point. Chasseur hove into the wind and a gang of seaman pulled the schooner alongside. Shelby leapt aboard Chasseur and one of the gunners tossed a slow match into a pile of packing stacked in the open hold. They cast off the schooner and watched her drift to leeward. Before the brigs could reach her, she was well alight, smoke rolling down to leeward. HMS Barossa, Capt McCullough commanding, stood out from Bridgetown harbor with the broad pennant of Admiral Durham set and flying. She was a new frigate, having spent her first assignment in the Chesapeake chasing American rabble up and down the big bay. Durham let McCulloch and his crew work the big frigate smoothly and smartly, professionally. Inside he was seething. The smoke from the doomed schooner billowed down past his struggling brigs, easily spotted from the town. He’d have hell to pay when the merchants of the town found out that an American privateer had snatched one of their schooners from under the nose of the Royal Navy. Not just the Royal Navy – the headquarters of the Royal Navy in the Caribbean. He slammed his palm against the rail. Captain McCulloch gave him a quick glance and left him alone on the windward side of the quarterdeck. Aboard Chasseur, Boyle saw the frigate come from behind the headland. I think we have worn our welcome thin here gentlemen. Lets get some sail up and run these fellows out to sea. We’ve done enough to wound His Majesty today I’d wager. Shelby, John, we’ll run out into the offing until nightfall, then double back on the island. I dare say we should have some happy hunting in this area for the next week or so. They edged Chasseur back up into the wind, and stowed the purloined cargo from the schooner. Mr Burk shuffled over to look at the spars and see if anything could be made of such trifling, bogged, termite ridden, British rot. And didn’t the main boom look like it would snap at any minute, with the whole of His Majesties Navy hot on their tail to boot. Ch 5 - Durham Durham signaled the two brigs to take station one to windward and one to leeward of the frigate. The three ships would advance in a line fifteen miles across. We’ll capture this American brigand. By God didn’t he know how to bring a measly privateer to heel? Those two bumbling incompetent muddleheaded nincompoops could stay on station until the wormy bottoms fell out of those two villainous tubs as far as he was concerned. And didn’t he know a thing or two about rotten ships after sinking in the old Royal George off Spithead? McCulloch and his crew set to work to run down the fleeing clipper. Careful trim and all sail she could stand – move easy lest the crusty old admiral let loose a broadside in your direction. Durham promised a lashing to the lookout that lost sight of the chase and a guinea to the first to board her though he was not serious about the lashing and they all knew it. Inside he seethed even as the heavy frigate imperceptibly gained on Chasseur. Gradually, being at sea again mellowed the old Admiral. He was glad to be back aboard even for a short chase; glad to escape the confines and boors of the fleet office. Admiral Durham was above all things a professional naval officer and professional naval officers belonged at sea, not stuck behind a desk in an ornate office, nursemaid to local merchants, farmers and politicians. Christ, how they stressed him – and the politics of these provincial bumpkins! He had half a mind to let the Americans have their way with the fools. Between a distant, pig headed admiralty and braying, bullying islanders there was no rest. The Admiralty had sent him to the Indies specifically to sweep the American privateers from the sea. Of course, they did not provide the one thing that would make that mission possible – A Baltimore Clipper of his own. Impertinent American rabble never went yardarm to yardarm – they simply sailed away. Not like chasing damned French privateers at all. A Frenchman might try to out sail you, but his ship was usually old, foul and decrepit. Years of hard living, neglect and sailing in the tropics took their toll. A French privateer would typically break something if she tried to out sail you – or was so slow she was easy prey for a fleet frigate. The Americans were different – fearless, ferocious and in virtually new ships, they were a real threat to British interests in the Caribbean. One year after Durham’s appointment and he was nowhere near sweeping them from the sea. Now, here was yet another one of the bastards on his doorstep, taking a prize within site of the town, while he spluttered and raged. Initially, Barossa gained on the American, but now, the Chasseur, absurd contraption that she was, seemed to be gaining on Barossa. Yes, there could be no doubt; the American was lifting to windward of Barossa, sailing slightly higher and faster. Slowly, the angle between the ships was growing and the range was getting longer. He’s playing me for a fool, the villain! He’s drawing me to sea and means to double back tonight while I plunge blindly onward. You are a cunning bastard aren’t you my American nephew? Durham watched the American deliberately sail inefficiently – barely perceptible even to the most experienced observer - the slight shiver of the jib, the slight billow of the main sail, and the odd set of the foretopsail. That insanely rigged ship was sailing faster and closer to the wind, yet she was purposely giving away some speed to keep Barossa in the hunt. “He’s luring us offshore Captain McCulloch – I daresay he thinks we’ll fall for it too!” “Yessir, I was just thinking the same thing. His jib is wrong, the foretops’l ain’t drawing properly and the set of the mainsail is a scandal. Yet she lifts away from us ever so slightly. Just when you think you have one of these rascals, they set a ridiculous amount of sail and leave you behind. I’ve caught American privateers in a blow chasing them downwind before, but upwind in the trades, or on a reach, they leave us behind. It’s their ships sir - absolute marvels to windward.” Durham encouraged his captains to discuss the technical side of their profession with him as openly as possible. McCulloch’s open admiration of the sailing qualities of the clipper were taken for what they were – the honest evaluation of a professional officer. Durham and McCulloch were true disciples of Nelson in that regard. They were keen students of naval architecture and tactics. In spite of themselves, they admired the skill of the Americans. Barossa powered ahead into the big swell, the clipper staying barely visible from the deck. The setting sun cast the scene in a golden light as the two ships raced out to sea. Orange-pink spray creamed from each bow, the sails casting shadows to windward. “We’ll let him think we’ve taken the bait, Captain, then, when night falls, we’ll wear ship and remain to windward of Bridgetown. We’ll need to set a pretty little trap for our clever friend over there if we are ever to send him to Dartmoor.” Durham paced the weather deck immersed in thought. They needed to trap this clever scourge. Without a clipper of their own, they would never out sail him. We need to find his Achilles heel and bring him down. He’s impetuous, I’ll give him that! To lure a frigate six times his size out to sea – with nary a care in the world – when he doubles back to Barbados - Durham was certain the privateer would circle behind them and appear off Bridgetown later that night – after all, its what Durham himself would do were he captain of the privateer - we shall be to windward of him. Durham reviewed the possibilities repeatedly in his mind – seeing the relative positions of the four ships in numerous scenarios and anticipating the Americans reaction. Just one shot from one of Barossa’s 18 pounders in a mast and that little cockleshell clipper will be as good as taken. So, how to trap such a confident, skillful captain – Durham smiled in spite of himself and thanked the American for getting him back on a quarterdeck. But, I’ll hang him when I catch him – damme if I wont. Suddenly Durham stopped and stamped his foot – its time to set this plan in motion. Captain McCulloch, the helmsman and Barossa’s first lieutenant all saw the gesture and wondered what had gotten into the old bastard now? Durham approached McCulloch. Captain, we make a course for Bridgetown now. We’ll not catch that water beetle skipping across the ocean in your fine frigate this night. No, we’ll sail to our own tune tonight and sweep him up in the morning. He’ll expect us to go back to Bridgetown, and he will double back and appear there tomorrow. Well, we are going to be the ones to double back – as soon as he is out of sight, we will sail hard to windward with our starboard tacks aboard. Then, in the morning, we will come sweeping in from the sea and we will sweep him up in our net. Wear ship McCulloch, wear ship and set a course for Bridgetown.” Wear ship Admiral? Head for Bridgetown? That’s right Captain, but only until our friend there is out of sight, then we work as hard as ever we can to windward! Aye Aye Sir – wear ship to Bridgetown. The glittering Barossa started her turn away from the wind and across the big Atlantic swell. Her copper bottom showed as she heeled and turned. The remaining light of the day had the clear crystalline radiance that only comes on land after a heavy rain but is always present in the trade winds at sea. The heavy, beautiful, royal blue swell rolled her and followed her down until she settled on her new course back to Barbados. Chasseur carried on into the darkening distance. Durham stood at the taffrail and watched his prey recede into the distance. As he watched, he saw a motion at the flag halyard aft of the main sail. A pennant was run up the halyard and broke out at the peak. “You - midshipman – young man – bring me a telescope – bring me a glass wont you? There’s a good lad.” Durham brought the brass tube up to his right eye and sighted the clipper. He turned the eyepiece to focus on the fleeing ship. To the midshipman eyeing the lofty fleet Admiral it looked like someone had physically assaulted him. He grunted, frowned, wiped his eye, looked thru the telescope again, grunted again – his brow actually darkened - then he slapped the tube shut, handed the telescope to the midshipman and stomped below without another word. Midshipman Farley took the tube, opened it up and sighted on the American. There flying proudly from the peak of the Americans’ mainsail just below the Yankee stars and stripes, was a huge St George’s ensign - big enough for HMS Victory certainly - ridiculously large for such a small craft. But - something else is wrong surely – yes, yes, it’s upside down – upside down and now dipping to the water and back up to the peak – down to the water and back up to the peak. Farley gasped and dropped the telescope, immediately retrieving it from the pitching deck. What is it Farley – said Captain McCulloch Have a look sir – the American he’s…he’s…he’s He’s what Farley – let me have a look. McCulloch gazed thru the telescope at Chasseur, now barely visible from the taffrail - and swore – Well, I’ll be damned – the cheeky bugger. By midnight, Durham had the two brigs and Barossa in a line stretching from North to South far to the East of Barbados out in the deep Atlantic Ocean. It had been a hard six hours sailing against the wind and into the offing. Now, they were biding their time, barely in sight of each other with the best lookouts aloft looking for the elusive privateer. Just before dawn all three ships beat to quarters and within minutes their crews were standing to their guns. Barbados bore several leagues to the Northwest now and the weather was a perfect combination of sun, clouds and trade wind. Around all three ships the sea was empty as a brilliant sun carved its way out of the eastern horizon. Durham was certain the privateer would circle back into the empty ocean and make another run at Barbados. The brigand cant have cut inside them in the middle of the night, and already be off Barbados could he? Yet, Durham knew it was a distinct possibility. Alright Capt McCullough – lets sweep back to Bridgetown and see what we catch shall we? I suspect our quarry will appear somewhere over the lee bow, toward the island. I should like to trap him ‘twixt land, wind and ourselves if at all possible. McCullough had the appropriate signals made and the three warships made their way in from the sea, sweeping everything before them. Durham was just sitting down to a breakfast of eggs, sausage, toast and coffee in McCullough’s cabin when he heard the lookout shout “Sail-ho, Sail one point on the starboard bow – a brig sir!” and moments later a flushed midshipman was ushered into the cabin by a grizzled marine sentry. Captain McCulloughs compliments sir, and we’ve sighted the brig sir, she’s directly ahead of us to leeward sir and sprouting all sorts of sails sir!” Durham smiled in spite of himself, “Yes, boy, she can certainly sprout all sorts of sails.” Chasseur blossomed with sails when viewed from the decks of the three warships. Durham could see courses, topsails, topgallants, royals, staysails, stunsails all sprouting from her lofty masts. She was not within gunshot, and her course took her to the Southwest and away from Barbados crossing in front of the three warships. You can stay on that tack my friend, thought Durham. Barossa was significantly faster than either of the two brigs, but even she could not keep up with the flying privateer. By early afternoon, Chasseur was gone over the Southwest horizon. Wearily, Durham signaled the little fleet to return to Bridgetown. “He’s gone for now,” thought Durham, “but he’ll be back.” Early the next morning, Admiral Sir Philip Charles Calderwood Henderson Durham, KCB faced a rambunctious and bad-tempered group of Barbados merchants and planters gathered in his anteroom. His harried secretary warned him of the crowd just before he entered the room. The privateer hovering off shore kept all the coasting schooners in port. The prudent ship owner and merchant would keep even his large armed ocean going ships in port – even without Durhams edict to sail only in convoy. Hopefully, the London convoy would not arrive from the Continent to have stragglers snapped up just off the harbor mouth while the incompetent navy sat around on their collective asses. The merchants had all seen Barossa chase off the privateer and return empty handed last night. If he could out maneuver one of the best frigates and admirals in the Royal Navy, what would happen to trade among the islands? Moreover, he was not the only one – the Caribbean crawled with American privateers. Lloyds had raised insurance fifteen fold since hostilities started with the Americans. Shipping and trade were choked. The colony faced shortages and financial hardship. The Americans were far worse than the French had ever been. The merchants demanded that the bleeding Navy help them and start by sinking that blighter. Admiral Durham, resplendent in a full dress uniform - his Trafalgar medal prominent – cleared his throat, ahem-ed twice more, rapped his walking stick on the floor and finally shouted GENTLEMEN in his best quarterdeck topsail voice to quell the hubbub in the room. “Gentlemen,” he repeated, “The Royal Navy is making every effort to capture, sink or kill that bandit currently running off and on the coast of this colony – make no mistake we will succeed. In fact, we will put in motion a plan this morning that will bring success. We shall parade this ruffian and his infamous crew thru the streets of Bridgetown before we send them in chains to Dartmoor. Please, be patient, go home, look to your ships, business and families and let us get on with our plan. Now, I am a very busy man and must get on with our preparations – if you will excuse me.” Durham pushed through the crowd and entered the sanctuary of his office. But the planters were not to be so easily dismissed. A group of them followed Durham into his office. At their head was Edward Cumberbatch, one of the most prominent planters on Barbados. He and his brother owned slaves, buildings, ships and huge sugar plantations on the island which they ruled with an iron fist. Cumberbatch’s florid face and huge bulk filled the office. “Admiral – we demand to know what the Navy is going to do about this outrage. I tell you, we don’t allow this sort of thing on the plantation. Any inkling of a slave revolt is put down – put down immediately – and forcefully. You have more than enough force to run this rabble off – run them off now! End this outrage Admiral! What are you going to do Admiral? What are you waiting for?” “Good Day Edward, I’m glad you’re here. As a matter of fact I do have a plan and I am more than happy to share it with you. But first, please, would you like some coffee, tea, a slice of fruit perhaps.” “Don’t try to come all easy with me Admiral Durham. There is a menace to this island and I hope you know how to deal with it.” “Mr Cumberbatch, I intend to entice that privateer out there to come and take some bait, and when he does, I’ll slam the trap shut. Once I have him in irons, and have captured his ship, I intend to send out every man-o-war I have available to cruise the islands from Grenada to Martinique. I will sweep the seas clear of all the others like him. You planters can help me Edward if you was to find me a clipper, a ship as fast and weatherly as anything the Americans have – with a ship like that, we would be rid of our privateer problem in weeks. Durham leaned back in his chair and continued expansively: “But of course, the planters on this island don’t have anything like an American clipper do they Edward? So, its no sense me asking for your help. But wait, you have other vessels don’t you? Of course you do - Edward, I need your immediate help today – I’m glad you’re here – thank you for coming - I need one of your ships and her crew – and not one of your rum launches either Edward – I need your best ship and crew!” “I beg your pardon sir! One of my ships? And for what, so you can let that pirate rabble out there burn her to the waterline! I’ll be damned if I’ll let you have one of my ships Admiral.” “Well sir, if you wont loan me one of your ships, I shall have to condemn her and seize her for the Kings business. If you loan her to me willingly Edward, you will be handsomely rewarded. If I have to condemn her, you wont get a farthing.” Cumberbatch stared at Durham: “You wouldn’t dare” “Why wouldn’t I, Edward.” Cumberbatch stared at the Admiral, each eyeing the other with a dislike bordering on hatred. “Well, if you put it that way Admiral, you’ll have one of my best coasters – a very nice taut pink – manned with some of my best slaves – ready to sail in the morning. And if you lose her Admiral, if she does not return in as good a shape as she is this very day – I will immediately draft a charge to the Admiralty. Good Day to you Admiral.” “Nice to do business with you Edward.” Durham sighed and looked out the window at the city, island and sea beyond. Topsails glinted far out in the offing – that damned privateer was back again, hovering. If only they could capture one of those clippers. If only he could capture that clipper. He would turn it against the Americans – use her as his own private pirate hunter. The Eliza was something less than the best ship Edward Cumberbatch could spare for Durham’s trap. And her crew was something less than the best crew he had available. Nevertheless, she sailed early the next morning with Chasseur’s topsails still just visible from the headland. Crewed by slaves, she sailed along the coast running downwind and away from the Yankee privateer as fast as ever she could. Durham reasoned the American could not resist taking another prize in sight of the town. He knew Boyle would run down at least to investigate. Durham sent McCulloch and Barossa to the Southwest, just out of sight of the island, but with her boats out to spot signals. The two guard brigs were likewise stationed just in sight of the island. Durham hoped the Eliza could run long enough to lure Chasseur downwind past Barossa. When Chasseur closed for the kill, the brigs would signal Barossa’s boats who would signal Barossa, who would then come in from her offshore station. Barossa would arrive behind Chasseur, to seaward and windward with all the cards in her favor. This time Chasseur would be trapped between Barossa, the island, and the brigs. Eliza set all plain sail as well as ever a slave crew could and lumbered down the coast. Aboard Chasseur the off watch crew gathered to discuss the situation. The possible prize - a fat, tempting ship to be sure – was easy prey for the privateer. So far, this cruise had not been the profitable venture they had imagined. Now, perhaps things would change. The two brigs were easily avoided, but the Barossa was another matter entirely. “Where away is the frigate?” called Boyle to the lookout. “Gone sir, cant see her at all. The only warships in Bridgetown are the Admirals flagship and two other 74’s with their topmasts struck. No activity that I can see. Ships drawing down the coast sir, she sails high in the water, looks lightly loaded. Them gun brigs are just off shore in the offing sir – coming this way.” I don’t like this much Shelby, but we’ve got a fresh prize below us and no sign of pursuit. Let’s get some sail on her and fly down and snatch her up before they awake over there. Aye Tom, if we’re quick about it, we can scuttle down there, take the devil and be back up to windward in time for tea. All we have to do is avoid those two floating turd brigs. Let’s go you lot, you heard the captain, up sail and heave ho. The wind was freshening, a lovely strong trade wind off the ocean. But the high thin clouds and milky sun promised some much angrier wind later on. Chasseur turned to cut off the Eliza. Round she came in the morning sunshine, a white wave growing at her bow, her bottom and black sides shining as she heeled to the trades. A sky full of sails was set above on her slender spars. As she gathered speed, Boyle kept a sharp eye for the thick topmasts of the frigate. Where have you hidden her Durham? A single gun was all it took to halt the Eliza. She rounded up into the wind, let fly all sheets and halyards, and became absolute pandemonium with lines, and sails all lying in disarray across the deck. Shelby Cochrane boarded her with a boat crew while the Eliza’s crew cowered forward. Cochrane knocked the dogs off the hatch and peered down below. Pah! – Cried Shelby – ‘nothing but ballast stones! She’s empty by God! Tom, Tom – we’ve been confounded - the buggers have set her up as a decoy! Set her alight Shelby – we’ll at least deny our friends her use – set her afire and get back aboard as soon as possible – the frigate must be nearby and hot after us. What of the crew? Set em adrift in the boat “Deck there – signals sir, the Admirals flagship is signaling – the brigs are flying all manner of bunting too. Oh, Say – Deck there - Sail ho, Sail ho – Deck there – it’s the frigate, she’s to seaward and just to windward – She’s comin’ on fast sir!” In the purplish distance to the southwest, a mountain of sails announced the location of Barossa – upwind, seaward and steering directly for them. Stay offshore from her Mr Bolton said Captain McCulloch to his first lieutenant. We don’t want them escaping past us to sea – we would like to pin them against the island if at all possible. Shelby started to pile tinder up around the mainmast on the Eliza and struck a slow match. The poor slaves near the focsle started to blubber and moan. Stop your caterwauling – I’ll set you free – Jones – herd those poor beggars into the long boat. Jones made a start in the slaves direction, but they were already scattering, clambering over the side of the Eliza into her own long boat already floating alongside. Shelby waited until his crew and the slaves were safely in the boats before he tossed the match. Soon, the Eliza was blazing. Shelby dropped into the boat and the crew pulled hard for the Chasseur. Right alongside them, the slaves did the same. “Hey, hey now – what are you about there – get ashore ya gamey bastards – you’ll not be coming aboard our ship!!” Chasseur was already standing down wind, picking up speed, ready to recover her boat. Cochrane hooked on to the main chains – the slaves hooked on to the fore chains. Shear off now – go away – leggo the ship! As Chasseur gathered her wind, her boat crew safely made the deck – helped by their mates – but the slaves were in danger of being swamped by the bow wave and flung under the clippers forefoot. They would either have to bring them aboard or watch them drown. Desperately the slaves held to the chains. Bring that rabble aboard Mr Dieter – shouted Boyle – Bring them aboard, cast off their miserable wherry and let’s escape this brute behind us! Dieter and his crew bodily hoisted the desperate black men from the boat onto Chasseur. Boyle said: Head to sea Mr Dieter if you please, we shall try to weather those people and lead him another merry chase. Chasseur headed higher into the wind and offshore with the aim of crossing Barossa’s bow as she came charging down fast. It would be a near run thing if it could be done at all. With her fore stay sail, fore course, fore topgallants mains’l and all jibs set, Chasseur’s jib boom bowed like whalebone and her slender masts strained as they attempted to get above and around the charging frigate. Mind your luff John, mind your luff – growled Boyle. We’ve got to keep her tight on the bowline to get past this rascal. We may take a bad knock as we go past her – beat to quarters and let’s answer her if we can. The drum sounded and the crew moved to their stations. Suddenly, with a sound like a gun shot, the main boom above Boyle’s head cracked and split down the spar from the repair accomplished in the Atlantic to the very end of the boom in a great lateral fissure. Without the support of the boom, the mainsail sagged, flapped, and drooped like a great wet towel to leeward. Down Helm, Down helm – run off with her now, take her downwind John – downwind now – Great Jesus what happened? “Preventer stays” roared Shelby, “Rig some preventer stays to the main mast – without that mainsheet, we could lose the whole rig.” Boyle moved to the tiller and helped Dieter haul Chasseur’s bow down wind, away from the frigate. They eased the mainsheet and let the clipper run. She’ll never stand any upwind canvas at all Captain, not with that great crack in the spar. We’ll have to run off afore the wind and hope to blazes we can out run him - that’s all we’ve got. At least we’re running offshore, rather than back into the island. There was no time to repair the offending spar. One of the Royal Navy’s newest, fastest frigates was upwind and fast after them. Their only hope lay in running hard and fast downwind away from Barbados into the Caribbean Sea. Chasseur set all possible sail – apart from the impossible stuns’ls, and the wounded mainsail - and ran off like a fox with the hound Barossa in hot pursuit. The plume from the burning Eliza was a black smudge against the receding island. Ch 6 – Gordon in Barbados The same afternoon Captain McCulloch and Barossa went haring off over the horizon in chase of that infernal privateer, Lieutenant Clark of his majesties Brig Mosquito was taking no chances. The masthead lookout had just spied a sharp, pilot type schooner in the offing, running down fast toward the island. ‘Here we go again’, thought Clark. After the last affair, Clark did not relish the opportunity of explaining his performance again to the Admiral. That interview with Durham was something he hoped to never experience again. Not that the old sea horse was abusive, or threatening – it’s just that one would rather not disappoint one of Nelsons band of brothers. Clark steered for the stranger, hoisted the Union Jack and made the recognition signal. A Union Jack and appropriate response were returned from the little schooner. “Fire a shot across her bows” growled Clark. There would be absolutely no mistakes today. “Make her heave to.” The little gun rocked back jetting fire, smoke and thunder toward the little schooner. The ball passed miles ahead of her bow, the gunner knowing a Kings ship when he saw one. Immediately, the schooner came expertly to the wind, crossed her jibs and lay to the boisterous swell as calmly as a seabird – pretty as a picture. Clark noticed how her masts were a little less lofty and her appearance a little more man-o-war than the rascal that had surprised them a few days ago. Maybe this was a Kings ship after all. He brought Mosquito alongside the stranger. “What ship is that and where are you bound?” He roared across to the other skipper. “HMS St Lawrence – Lieutenant Gordon commanding – bound for Bridgetown with dispatches for Admiral Durham. We made the signal, why are you stopping us? Why’d you take a shot at us?” “My apologies – Lieutenant Lucas Clark – HMS Mosquito – We’ve had some trouble with privateers and pirates lately. We can’t be too careful these days. You may carry on.” Under his breath Clark muttered, “Infernal Yankee contraption”. St Lawrence spun on her heel as the crew let her pay off and let the jibs run. The crew trimmed sail for the run into Bridgetown where she anchored within easy rowing distance of the shore, still as pretty as a picture. James delivered Cockburn’s and Barrie’s dispatches to Durham as soon as St Lawrence was secure to the bottom and everything laid out man-war fashion. As his boat crew rowed ashore, he unconsciously checked the set of the rigging, the square of the yards, the ensign, the paint, the overall look of his first command. In the last month they had done some hard sailing in brutal weather, yet, she still looked and sailed taut and trim. She was everything a sailorman could want in his ship. The spars were sensibly matched to the ship, not the outrageous tall fishpoles of the Yankee privateers. She had a couple more guns than a privateer and he’d raised her bulwarks by 6 inches. After all, she was meant to fight, not steal for a living. Yes, James thought as he was rowed ashore – that is a taut ship. Admiral Durham did not pay much attention to the young sprig that brought in the dispatches – the not very enlightening, mostly conjecture and posturing, wastes of time and paper really - dispatches. Old Cockburn going on and on and on about his upcoming “diversion” on the Florida/Georgia border and how it would support Cochrane’s New Orleans offensive. Blather and twaddle, all of it. They were after prize money before the war ended, that was the game. Durham didn’t care much one way or the other. Gordon stood stock still for twenty minutes in the Admirals chambers before Durham looked up and noticed he was still in the room. “Oh, oh, well, are you still here young man?” he said. “Yessir, I well, I didn’t know if you had any further orders for me? Admiral Cockburn said I was to wait until you had some dispatches and deliver them as necessary.” “Oh, yes, he did, did he? Well, hmm,” Durham pulled his reading glasses off the bridge of his nose and strolled from his desk to the window overlooking the anchorage. “Sorry lieutenant, I haven’t any dispatches immediately, we’ve been somewhat preoccupied of late…Damned privateers are everywhere. However, I will have my steward get all of the documents together over the next day or so and deliver them to your ship for transport. What did you say the name of your ship was?” “St Lawrence sir, she’s a…” “Yankee clipper…Yes, I see her anchored there. Taken in the Chesapeake was she?” “Actually, we took her in North Carolina sir, in the outer islands.” “I see; how does she sail?” “An absolute dream sir, we’ve made some modifications to her from the typical American set up, but I think they’re an improvement. She is still a marvel to windward.” Durham gazed thoughtfully at the little ship sitting smartly in the bay below. He knew she was Cockburns personal dispatch packet, knew he could not take her for his own purpose. He also remembered warm days, years ago now, on the water, wind, sea and sails… “Lieutenant, I’ll want you here at 9:00 AM sharp tomorrow morning. You and I are going sailing!” James was stunned for a moment, then delighted – “Outstanding Sir, the crew and I shall be most grateful to take you aboard – any destination in particular?” “No, my boy, I just want to see for meself what makes these damn clippers fly.” James left Durham’s office and returned to St Lawrence to make sure his ship was as sharp as any first rate for the Admirals visit. Olson’s face blanched when James told him to prepare for Durham – and we shall go sailing too by the way – tomorrow morning. Wasn’t that just the way of it, thought Olson – just when you get a ship turned out nice, some self important officer comes along and wants to use it as his personal barge. He’ll probably bring ladies along as well. Bollocks! He turned and strode down the deck yelling “Look alive, there – we’ve got work to do mates! Look, now here’s what I want done….” St Lawrence exploded into activity as James leaned over the side and took in the beautiful town and its surrounding jungles, fields, beaches and hills. He was in high spirits, high spirits indeed. And his spirits continued high as he welcomed Admiral Durham aboard the following day in a bright crystal clean Caribbean morning. The trade winds were starting their daily advance and a blue sky was crossed by squadrons of flimsy white balls of cloud. Durham wore a short grey non- dress overcoat, wool sailor pants and a slouch hat pulled low over his head. He meant to participate in this day, not just stride the quarterdeck like some tinpot major domo. “Alright Lieutenant, whenever you are ready, we may get under weigh. No special destination – Lets just head out and see if we can catch one of our brigs napping – shall we? It’s a perfect day for a sail, just perfect!” “Aye Aye sir – Mr Olson, up anchor and set all sail as soon as you’re able.” The deck gang hove her cable up short, while topmen made the foresail, jibs, jib topsl and main all magically fill from her masts with muffled thunder. In a perfect maneuver the anchor was aweigh just as she took the wind in her teeth and gathered way. The anchor was made fast to the cathead as she heeled to the breeze and started to cut through the crystal clear water. “That was nicely done, Mr. Olson – Thank you. Now, if you would, the Admiral would like us to take him to see HMS Maria – that’s her to windward, just there – will you make an intercept course and set sail accordingly.” Olson nudged St Lawrence into the wind and the crew trimmed the sails before James was done with the order. The schooner curved smoothly to windward in pursuit of the brig. Now feeling the Atlantic, she playfully threw some spray up the weather rail and slopped it onto the deck. Picking up speed, she started to rock and roll to the swell. Soon everything forward of the foremast was drenched in spray. The foresail itself wet to the first reef. Durham clung to the windward main chains and took everything in with a professional’s eye. Yes, these young fellows know what they are about. This baby face Lieutenant has this ship running like a fine watch – mostly by staying out of the way of his master and crew. The crew obviously loves this ship – Durham watched a muscled bosun gaze up at the jibs, then turn and direct some of his mates to adjust the trim of the foresail until he was satisfied. No orders given, none were needed, just good sailors getting the most from their ship. Yes, this ship was a marvel with a crack crew. Durham moved across the deck to where Olson and James were standing to windward of the helmsman. “Do you mind?” he asked gesturing at the tiller. Surprised, James could only nod – “No sir, go right ahead sir, please be my guest.” Durham took the massive wooden bar in his hands. It was smooth and oiled from hundreds of hours of being handled by St Lawrence helmsman. He gave it a small tug, then a small push to gage how the ship would respond. Grunting with satisfaction, he braced himself to windward of the tiller and conned the ship to the set of her sails. For Admiral Durham, for a time, there was no one else aboard St Lawrence as she ate up the miles to windward. As soon as they connected at the tiller, Durham was completely at one with the ship, the sea and the wind. Each move to haul the tiller up, to tame the ship beneath his feet, to keep her flying was done unconsciously and automatically. At first, he cursed himself for being a bit coarse with the helm, tending to overcorrect, but after a few minutes, he hardly moved the tiller at all and St Lawrence bounded over the ocean – both ship and sailor completely in their element. His thoughts were immediately manifest and the ship moved as he desired. Immaterial thought magically produced material action. Durham saw a change in wind direction ahead via a different colored patch of water and turned the ship to catch it. The perfect match of rational thought, instinctive action and marvelous machine brought a smile to his weathered face, a smile that came from very deep in the old sailors soul. St Lawrence rose to each sea and shouldered her way onward with a shhhmoooosh of flying water. She set a ridiculous amount of sail – an absolute heap of canvas – and closed fast with the brig. Durham brought her close up behind Maria, and nearly plunged her bowsprit through the brigs stern windows. From the quarterdeck of the brig, Lieutenant Watson angrily demanded to know what do you think you are about you damned fool, I’ve a mind to fire into you! Watson was astounded when St Lawrence came off the wind slightly, accelerated like a race horse and flew past him. The noise she made was astounding – a low roar like a river, with a higher hum of rigging and sails, some tinkling of rattling hardware, and the voices of her crew noting how slow the old brig looked from over here and wouldn’t it be a terrible shame to have to serve on such a scow. At the helm, a large silver haired man waved a huge floppy slouch hat and yelled something that was immediately blown away by the wind. The man looked amazingly like Admiral Durham! And it sounded like he yelled “YOOOOOHOOOOOO!!!!”, but Watson couldn’t be sure. James, Olson and the crew of the St Lawrence were sure though. Admiral Durham was a sailorman! No ordinary Admiral this. When he put them through a series of tacks and then a series of quick jibes the whole lot of them were ready to yell and caper about. Even the ship seemed to enjoy the day out simply skylarking. Finally, Durham turned her bow for the gentle green hills of Barbados and relinquished the tiller to the watch. “Well, now, Gordon, I suspect she will do a bit better with perhaps some more weight aft – eh, whaddya say to that man?” “Yessir, that is true, tho I must say that you can get too much weight aft in her as well sir. It’s the shape of her hull, very wide and somewhat shallow forward, very deep and narrow aft. In fact she is about 3 feet deeper at her rudder, than at her stem.” “She is a delight to sail – I suspect her wide shoulder and fine entry allows her to stand up to such a press of sail, yet allows her to carve through the sea. She is certainly fast!” “Yessir. The only thing might outsail her is an American clipper. They carry more sail than we do. Too much really - they lose some of their ships when they sail ‘em under – usually when one of our crack frigates chases ‘em. They run where we fight. So we cut down the scandalous masts and add some proper, stout rigging, eliminate the flying jib boom all together. We are quick and heavily armed for our size – Sir James Gordon thought we might run down and capture a certain American – The Chasseur, with her skipper Thomas Boyle - that escaped from New York a few days before we sailed from the Chesapeake, sadly, it seems we missed him.” Durham growled, “Chasseur you say! Yes, you did miss him – he was here not two days ago. God bless me - That’s it! – yes – that’s definitely it! Your uncle Sir James is no fool!” He was silent for a moment - then: “Gordon, you are going to help me sweep Boyle and his Chasseur from the seas! We’ll be hearing no more about the slippery privateer Chasseur when we are done with him! I have some instructions to prepare for you, my steward will deliver them this afternoon. Be sure to water and provision this afternoon and be on your way tomorrow wont you. By God what a schooner – see how she schoons – Hahaha – we’ll catch that rascal yet!!” he cried as St Lawrence caught a gust of wind rounding South Point and heeled to it, white water creaming against the blue. Olson brought St Lawrence to a flawless anchor in the bay. Durham called for his boat. “Complete your provisioning this afternoon Gordon and then you and your men take some liberty ashore. You’ll find Bridgetown not without its certain charms. Head for the massive great statue of Nelson in the town square, that’s where you’ll find what every young sailorman needs!” Durham flashed him a huge wink, waved his hand in salute and leaped into the waiting boat. James was in a hurry. It had been 6 months since he had spent any time ashore, let alone on a beautiful tropical island that promised all manner of opportunities to explore Gods creation. St Lawrence was in the capable hands of Olson and his crew – they would be fully provisioned with water and food within a couple of hours. There would be plenty of liberty for all tonight. As he strode up the street away from the boat landing and entered the town he was brought up short by horrific yelling coming from inside a large shed. James peered into the open door. Inside were piled sacks of sugar, barrel after barrel of molasses and huge hogsheads of rum. Produce was piled to the rafters. Inside the warehouse, James could see a tall white overseer in a long overcoat with a wide brim hat, berating a trio of nearly naked rail-thin African slaves man-handling a huge barrel of molasses. Suddenly, one of the men slipped and fell. The second leapt away from the barrel. The third vainly tried to keep the barrel from running him down. A piercing scream punctuated his failure. The barrel crushed his legs and pinned him beneath it. Swirling dust from the accident gave the scene a ghoulish yellow patina. All James could see of the victim was his shocked face above the curve of the barrel. Apoplectic, the overseer stamped his boots and snapped the whip. There was a groan, his mates shifted the barrel off his legs and the dazed man rolled away. Both his legs were badly bruised, but not broken and with some help from the other two, he was able to gingerly stand, then hobble. The overseer yelled something James couldn’t understand, cracked his whip over their heads and the three men began again to push the barrel back up the incline into the barn. James turned away, his enthusiasm checked somewhat by the brutal scene. It may have been his imagination, but he was certain that one of the slaves had restrained one of his mates from going after the overseer. That would have been suicide, surely. He shook his head and hurried off again toward the center of town until he came to a huge bronze statue of Lord Nelson staring out to sea from his perch smack in the middle of the square. “It was erected two years ago with huge fanfare by the local planters. ‘Tis quite extravagant really, bigger than anything London’s done for our Nel’ yet. A right patriotic lot they are – true blue Tories every one of them. And, when we couldn’t run off a single Jonathan privateer, they were absolutely beside themselves that we couldn’t capture him and parade him through the streets of Bridgetown. Nelson would have done this…Nelson would have done that…If only our Nel’ were alive…If I was Captain…real big help they were. That ship – it was much the same as yours James – ran us a merry chase. She could sail as high on a bowline as any ship I’ve ever seen. It was incredible. We couldn’t catch her, not a chance, not in these foul old tubs. Cant catch any of these damn Americans – all we do is chase them off – we never catch them.” James was sitting in a small tavern just off the square with Lucas Clark, captain of HMS Mosquito. The tavern was in the ground floor of a long two story building along the pier and was open to the sea breeze. “Apparently, that privateer was the same one that escaped New York a couple of weeks ago. Chasseur is her name, Captain Thomas Boyle her commander – a wily Irishman I gather. They say she is big and powerful and Boyle is the one that posted a notice on Lloyds coffee house last year – a real scallywag that one. What did you do?” “Old Admiral Durham had just the thing – he seizes one of the planters’ ships, sets it out as a decoy with a slave crew, and traps the rascal into sailing into the jaws of the Barossa – as crack a frigate as there is. I saw the brig’s mainsail carry away as she was fleeing – I suppose McCulloch has caught and burned her by now.” “I’ve seen those American ships in the Chesapeake – just like St Lawrence. They can sail a fury alright, beautiful things they are. Perfect sailing machines - speaking of beautiful brother, this is a beautiful island you have here – but the slavery detracts, surely? ” “Yes, it is beautiful – and you are right, the slavery is an ugly, ugly thing to be sure. The whole enterprise is built on slavery. Slaves to take care of the household, slaves to build the buildings, slaves to harvest the sugar cane, slaves to process the cane, slaves to cook, clean and wipe your arse. The rumor is that the slaves won’t take it much longer. They’re all afraid some sort of revolt is brewing. Seems most of the slaves are either Methodist or Moravian and don’t think slavery is part of Lord Jesus Gods plan! Can you imagine it - Christian slaves on Barbados clamoring for their freedom! They’re Christian as you are James – yet still slaves! Oh yes, Mr. Wilberforce has worked his magic here. Oh, you should hear ‘em sing on Sunday morning – gorgeous it is. But there are others that are more umm, African. Others that would just as soon cut throats as sing hymns, others that are ready to go on a rampage. The army here is always on some alert or other. But get this brother – the army here is all black fellas with white officers! Black troops who don’t fall ill to the fever. Here is the truth of it - we are here to protect those rich fat plantation owners from their own slaves if the West Indian regiment decides to throw their lot in with the slaves. We make sure the Army stays happy and fed, the planters have a quick escape off the island if the army turns and the sugar goes to London - not New York, Madrid or Paris. Pah, they’re all pirates, as far as I’m concerned.” “In America we were freeing slaves.” Gordon said. “Freeing them and enlisting them in our army. You should have seen Barrie in the Chesapeake – ship full of black fellas, runaway slaves – and their families! There are at least 1500 of them with Cockburn in Georgia right now. Colonial Marines they’re called. Cockburn plans to set the American South alight with a slave rebellion that we instigate and arm! He plans to enlist all the slaves in Southern America into some sort of home grown army staffed by Englishman. He plans to destroy all the cotton and rice plantations in the South. Put the fear of God into the Americans and halt any expansion they might try to the west and into Florida. The Dons in Spanish Florida are our Allies now for Gods sake. So, we fight to break the shackles on the slaves of our enemy, while we fight to keep the shackles on our own slaves and we recruit slaves to enforce our way with all the other slaves. You know Lucas, it’s pitiful, just pitiful.” “Yes it is pitiful brother and it has always been pitiful. That is why we fight for each other mate and nothing else! Take your beer and let’s sit out in the last rays of the setting sun and contemplate better things – like your ship for instance – these flowers ….or …..hmmmm…..Her!” Clark nodded toward a young black woman walking across the square. She moved like no one James had ever seen before, like a cat. She moved with absolute magnificent unconscious grace. James was mesmerized in spite of himself. Her skin was flawless coffee. Her jet black hair was silky and straight, her eyes tremendous deep black discs. She wore a simple cotton dress and was easily the most beautiful and exotic creature he had ever seen. He hoped he hadn’t made any embarrassing noises out loud. She walked past the two officers, so close they could smell her perfume. Clark sighed – “Her husband and she are free blacks - he owned this place but he took the fever and died a year ago. Poor thing has been running it all alone since then. Apparently, she was born to a slave mother after a bit of a, shall we say, rendezvous with the owner. He couldn’t bear the thought of a daughter of his being slave – even an illegitimate daughter – and her mother was ready to shout the thing across the island, so he set her up as a free woman. Since her husband died, she’s become a devout Methodist – a group of slaves worships at her house every Sunday. She is the most beautiful thing on this island and she is completely out of bounds. Pity that.” Clark paused, senselessly watched the girl, shook himself and said “And with that, my friend, I must leave you. I must return to my ship and prepare her to relieve HMS Maria tomorrow. Miles of ocean to patrol tomorrow you know. We must protect sugar, molasses and rum from the damned Yankee pirates – so the damned Barbadian pirates can make their fortune. And, prepare for their evacuation too. So long James – you take care of yourself.” Clark shook his hand and left the tavern whistling softly and weaving slightly. James stayed behind to savor the sights and sounds of the shore. He wasn’t quite ready to go back to St Lawrence just yet. Perhaps he could get a word in with the owner of the tavern. She’s a Methodist Clark said. He saw some of his crew spy the tavern and come toward it until they saw their captain sitting outside. They checked their movement and instinctively tacked in succession as square as the Channel Fleet around Nelson’s statue and settled into a tavern on the opposite side of the square. James drained his beer and took one last look at the square and the sea in the twilight. From within the tavern came the tantalizing smells of coffee, molasses and tobacco, mixed with it was the smell of flowers and the sea. James went into the gloom inside and saw her standing by the fireplace at the far end of the room. She moved toward him and James was thunderstruck. He quickly turned his gaze away from her incredible eyes, her intimidating beauty. The tavern whirled and a roar filled his head. There was a pot of tea on the counter – he reached for the counter, poured himself a cup and sat alone at a small table facing the bay again. He didn’t really know what he would do next; the whole situation was so improbable, so ridiculous. How could one glance make him all knock-kneed and foolish? What were these carnal thoughts he was having? This is insane – she is a Methodist for Gods sake! He looked out at the bay, at St Lawrence anchored taut and square in the fading sunlight. Slowly, the world returned to normal. Quietly he drank the tea and wondered at what an idiot he was. He was moonstruck over an island girl – a widowed island girl at that – a Methodist and a half-caste to boot! It was crazy. “Would you like more tea?” said a smooth, low voice behind him. James turned. She was standing behind him, not looking at him, but watching the light play on the ocean, watching the sun set, studying his ship. She was gorgeous. “No, thank you, I really should be going…” His mind was screaming - Run, James, Run! “Is that your ship – the small sharp one?” She lifted her chin in the direction of St Lawrence. “Yes, yes it is.” “Is it fast?” “Yes, she’s fast.” “You love that ship, yes?” James blushed at the word and the idea. Her voice was sing song up and down – almost like she were singing the words, not just saying them, as though the words created the world instead of describing it, as though there was no world without her voice. “No I don’t love her, she’s just a ship after all – She takes care of me, and I take care of her.” “Well, English man, it must take very good care of you for you to look at it like you do.” She stood close to his table, pushed some loose strands of hair from her face. A slight smile pulled at her lips and she looked at James with smoky black eyes. “If a man looked at me that way, I would say it was love!” James choked - God she was beautiful. She moved away to serve a rowdy group of naval officers at an adjacent table. James looked down into his cup. Love? Yes…I imagine it is something like love. But what might she know about love while pouring rum and ale for these fine fellows? James looked about the room at the motley collection there, mostly low level naval and army officers, most of them drunk – all of them lost – all in need of salvation. Suddenly, a commotion - a grey haired naval lieutenant put his arms around the girl and tried to pull her into his lap. A number of other men at the table and around the room lustily cheered him on as she struggled against him. A huge shape detached itself from the shadows along the wall. “Belay that - Take your hands off her!” shouted James as he rose and took two steps toward the table. The old lieutenant, balding, grey and about 30 pounds heavier and 20 years older than James slowly stood up, pushed the girl away and snarled – “Are you telling me what to do....boy?” The word boy long, drawn out and menacing. He reached for the dirk in his belt and turned towards James. “I have twenty years on you mate, what do you mean telling me to belay?” With a sickening crunch the lieutenants eyes rolled back in his head and he slowly crumpled to the stone floor. Surprised, James lifted his gaze from the prostrate form, a thin trickle of blood starting from the back of the head, into the black eyes of the most enormous human being he had ever seen. The giant stood with a truncheon in one huge hand - tapping it almost gently against the palm of his other hand watching James with no expression on his huge face – no expression at all. All about them, men laughed and shouted. “That's enough Abraham - this man wont hurt me, will you lieutenant?” said the girl. The associates of the downed lieutenant made rude comments, splashed him with water, wrapped his head in a dirty rag and sat him in a chair - groggy and barely conscious. “Abraham is my guard and my half-brother. My husband and I bought him from his owner and gave him his freedom. He makes sure no harm comes my way.” “He’s very effective.” Around the room men started to murmur about the bloody great black bastard that had felled Lieutenant Rockstead – how was it that a Kings officer could be knocked senseless and nothing be done about it. Does she own him – ain’t he a slave - and what about Dandy-boy lieutenant there rushing to defend a half breed tavern mistress? What of that then, eh? I’m afraid you must leave now Lieutenant – some in here think you have spoiled their fun. Abraham, will you stroll among our guests and make sure they all behave. Maybe I will see you tomorrow Lieutenant – or perhaps you will come to our church on Sunday and worship with us? “Are you sure you will be alright? What of these animals in here? Are you safe? Does this happen often? Shall I call the patrol?” She smiled “No Lieutenant, I am fine. I have Abraham. And this is my café - I keep it clean and honest – not like those other places across the square. I can’t afford to bring the patrol every time somebody tries to get me on their lap! I’d have no customers! I am a strong Methodist woman and free as you. I serve these men to save their souls and my own - I serve them to make money to support myself, to support my church, to support my people – to stay free. I serve them because the Lord tells me to love and serve my fellow humans to honor God and Jesus. You love a boat Lieutenant, maybe a girl too - but maybe you don’t really know about true love – what do you know about God’s love English-man?” Her fire, passion and quick talk surprised him. Could she be more devout, more dedicated to the Lord than he was? She served the dregs of the Caribbean in this bar because God told her too? She seemed so certain of Gods message for her. What was Gods message for him? Did God want him to participate in this war – for what - to protect slavery or end slavery - or simply to collect as much booty as possible? Did he love his ship and the war more than he loved God? Could he even hear God anymore? She stood waiting for his answer – smiling and radiant! She was exotic, her smell, the curve of her lips, her eyes – oh those eyes – raven black hair – her color. How could he approach and board such a beautiful being? How could he think such thoughts? How could he not? Was he no better than the others in this mob of desperate lonely men? “Come to my church tomorrow, come and help us pray to Lord Jesus Christ. It will do you some good Mr English. Give you something to love other than that boat – or whatever else you think you might love.” She nodded her head toward the bay and his ship and looked deep into his eyes – he had no secrets from her now – she knew everything. In that single moment they connected forever. Their eyes locked, something primeval was communicated and the world stopped spinning. It broke James heart. Is my faith so weak, so lost, that it is invisible to her? Does she not know that I am devout too? Why is it not obvious? Do my desires make my faith invisible? Holding her gaze, softly, he said “I’m so sorry, madam, I sail early tomorrow - and you are right, it is time for me to get back to my ship.” He broke her gaze, looked for his hat. “This should cover what my friend and I owe for this evening” - he placed his money pouch on the table – it was all the money he had and far more than the bill. He said: “Good bye…Miss, um, miss...I don’t even know your name.” “Its Ann Gill – but they call me Sarah.” Alright Miss Ann Gill – ah, Sarah – I bid you adieu.” James took her small, soft hand in his, lifted it slightly toward his face – oh heavenly scent – released it, turned and walked away without another glance - before the Devil arrives and I greet him with open arms he thought. She smiled, held the pouch and watched the strange, sad lieutenant hurry away. James walked along Broad Street to clear his mind before returning to the St Lawrence. His short encounter with Sarah Gill at the tavern had unsettled him. It had been a weird, heady mix of alcohol, violence, religion and desire. Rum, perfume, chocolate skin, black eyes, and Jesus all took turns spinning his thoughts. Was it a real attraction, or just his imagination – the product of months of hard dangerous service afloat and ashore? He imagined making a low bow and kissing her hand, “Madam, you are the treasure of Barbados, as beautiful as a sunrise, as pure as spring water, I am forever yours.” and whisking her off to bed. That would have been the perfect thing to say….and a monstrous thing to do. You’re no different than the rest of those rascals – hypocrite! She was gorgeous, powerless, yet powerful at the same time - provocative. I will remember you for quite some time my dear – such an innocent amongst such darkness – so beautiful. He wandered past another group of slaves shackled together unloading barrels from a huge cart. The draft horses stood quietly while an overseer with a wicked whip kept the men moving. This time he was certain, one of the slaves restrained another to keep him from attacking the overseer from behind. And in the shadows, in an alley near the cart, James was sure he saw several blacks watching the scene and waiting. Barbados was a racial powder keg, waiting to explode. They are black and slaves, wretched. We police them with black troops, not exactly slaves, not exactly British troops, yet upholding British law – with the bayonet if need be – against other blacks. Yet she is black too - free, independent, intelligent, and fearless. Was it her beauty that was so confounding – or something more sinister? Are the chains of the slaves my chains too? Where does God fall in all of this? James made his way to the boat landing and paid a waterman to return him to St Lawrence. He wanted to quietly return to the ship and let his men have their fun ashore. He could hear some of them singing in the square even now. It was better to come aboard without fuss, fanfare or ceremony tonight. Tonight, for some reason, he didn’t feel much like a Kings officer. On the water, in the dark, he wondered where and how he’d lost his way. Far offshore, Captain McCullough of the Barossa swore violently. For the second time in three days he had lost sight of Chasseur. Reluctantly, Barossa turned for the long upwind slog back to Barbados. Ch 7 – Chasseur off St Vincent It had been a close run thing, a very close run thing indeed. Shelby, John Dieter and their men managed to bring in the shattered main boom, stabilize the rig with check stays and lower the mainsail while the rest of the crew hoisted stunsails, royals and topgallants to try to outrun Barossa. Gradually, they lifted up higher and higher and curved just out of gun range from the charging frigate. Shelby and Burk managed to fish the main boom well enough that they could hoist a full main sail again in the dying breeze. Barossa held close to them all the next day but eventually, Chasseur ran her under the horizon at sunset. With her mountain of sail and trim hull, Chasseur simply ran away from the heavier Barossa. The wind went extremely light and they tacked to the Southwest to run down to St Vincent. That evening, Tom Boyle and Shelby Cochrane sat on the carriages of one of the carronades on the quarterdeck enjoying a mutton stew from the pot of Zachary DeBois. That was too close Tom, too close by half. Old Admiral Durham almost had us with that ruse. I’ll thankee not to put me in that position again. I don’t fancy seeing the inside of Dartmoor Prison! Yes Admiral Durham is certainly a sly old fox – but still and all, if we hadn’t lost our mainsail and boom at such a critical moment, we could have weathered Barossa and been back up to windward of them. The thing is, Barbados is up in arms now and ready for anything, I suspect Durham will have the entire fleet out looking for us – I hope the excitement hasn’t spread to St Vincent and Bequia – I hope to find better hunting and information there. The London convoy hasn’t passed us yet and they will come by way of Barbados. We need to remain in the area until we find the convoy. Then, there will be plenty of work for everyone. Tom, the crew is starting to get a bit crank, friend. They’ve been through hells own storm, been chased and nearly caught twice by the Royal Navy and all they have to show for it are a couple casks of rum and some molasses. And the slaves we’ve taken aboard are causing no end of talk. Will the slaves share in any prize money? Are they part of the crew? Are they prizes themselves? Are we liable for importing slaves if we take them back to the United States? With all the talk about the slaves, I’m afraid if we don’t get some prizes soon, some on this crew may get quite ugly. The next morning they found a small island schooner lying to windward. Dieter set all sail and set up to chase her down. The wind being exceedingly light, the schooner could play the zephyrs and cats paws to keep out of Chasseur’s range. Finally, in exasperation, Tom ordered the crew to the sweeps, six large oars manned by five men each on both sides of the ship and rowed Chasseur for the chase. After four hours of rowing, changing crews, whistling for wind, and scratching the backstay, nothing worked and the chase disappeared in the gloom of the night. During the night, squalls and storms swept across the ocean between St Vincent and Barbados. Chasseur was caught by the first of them with all plain sail still set. At midnight, there had been almost no wind at all, but by 1 am they were reefing and taking in sail in the middle of dark wet squalls. At 2 AM, Jacob Burk reported unwelcome news to Tom: “Which the mainmast is badly sprung sir, worse than ever, just by the deck there, probably happened when the wedges worked loose our first days out and been getting worse since. We’ll need to set up the rigging in the morning to support the thing and start fishing immediately. I hope we can finish woolding it by evening. We are damn lucky not to have lost the entire kit and boodle.” “Will that be a final fix Mr Burk, will your fishing this time last the voyage.” “I’m afraid not sir. We’ll need some proper timber, some time and a quiet ship to properly do the thing. And of course the main boom is still just jury rigged. We’ve used all the spare timbers to fish and re-fish the boom and mast. Now we’re down to using stunsail booms and anchor stocks. Its not good Tom, I think we should find a quiet cove to hide and refit for a couple of days.” “Alright Jacob – you’ve convinced me – Tom had already decided to lay up in a cove before he knew the mast was sprung – now the decision was easy. We should make for Martinique, the island is French again and neutral in our current battle with the English. We should be able to wood, water and repair while we’re there and perhaps get some news of the London convoy. Mr. Dieter, as soon as Mr Burk gets the main mast adequately fished, we will set course up the lee side of the islands to Martinique.” Jacob Burk fished the main mast with a barely adequate, in his own mind, repair. He didn’t expect it would last outside three days the way Boyle drove the ship to the edge of Hades. But, fished it was and he gave his blessing to continue chasing infernal Britishers with no apparent reward and no concern for the ship. Just as he completed the woolding on this latest ugly repair, the masthead lookout gave the dreaded (at least by Burk) cry of “Sail Ho, deck there sail on the leeward bow” and they went cracking on again after some worthless British schooner. “She’s gone to ground under that battery on the hill Tom.” Telescopes were out among the officers as they spied the schooner under what appeared to be a battery of four pounders on the island of St Vincent. “We’ll out the boats and cut the devil out of there. Mr Christie, take both boats and thirty picked men. Set one boat to the bow and the other to the stern and fetch that pretty little schooner over to us. We’ll be here and ready to pick you up if needed.” Quickly, the boats were hoisted out from the normal stowed location amidships and splashed into the water. Soon eager seamen were thrusting the boats toward the schooner in a giddy race to see who could be first to board her. The crew of the schooner, mulattoes all and in no mood to defend her, quickly struck the flag and surrendered to the cheerful privateers who set sail and worked her out of the little bay to rendezvous with Chasseur. The battery never fired a shot. The schooner was the Eclipse of St Vincent bound from St Vincent to Grenada with a small cargo of candles and Irish linen. Tom thought of Polly and the girls in Baltimore and how much they would love to have anything even remotely as fine as those linens. He felt his mood start to blacken, felt the thunder start to build. Polly called it his black dog – his inexplicable sometimes ferociously despondent moods. One was building now, triggered by his broken ship, the lack of prizes, the merciless Royal Navy and simply, his time away from home. “Take out the cargo and crew and lock them down below in the hold. Then sink this broken down wreck.” Shelby looked sharp at Tom but held his tongue. He saw the clouds gather in Toms eyes and knew when these foul moods came across his captain it was best to let them pass – but, like a storm at sea, they had all best batten down and prepare. The master of the schooner sighed and turned away to be locked below as they opened the sea cocks and the Eclipse gurgled to the bottom. Chasseur stood away to the North on her way to Martinique. The next day did nothing to relieve the blackness haunting Tom Boyle. Chasseur was still wounded, the Royal Navy might be around any headland, and there were still no prizes. They spotted a small island sloop running to leeward through the Bequia Keys just south of St Lucia and gave chase. Early in the afternoon they overhauled the abandoned sloop, her crew pulling hard for Bequia in their long boat. She was named the Mary and carried nothing but ballast. Tom ordered her sunk as well. The sprung mast and boom had left him feeling helpless and powerless. His beautiful ship was no longer the powerful tool of war she had been when they left New York. He drove her too hard and now she returned the favor. He felt guilty that she hadn’t stood up to his abuse. Perhaps he shouldn’t have driven her so hard in the Atlantic, perhaps he was a rum driver and ship killer after all. The lack of prizes left him edgy and restless. If they didn’t take at least one good prize this trip, it would all be for naught. All the hardship, the cold, the danger would be for nothing. The damage to Chasseur and young John McConkey washed overboard would be for nothing. The irish linens reminded him of just how much he valued those he left standing on the dock every time he sailed. Those women were counting on him to provide for them, and he would be damned if some British fleet Admiral and his arrogant navy were going to deprive them of a decent living – or fine Irish linen. Tom called his officers together for a conference. “There is nothing for us here. Durham has spread the alarm and they are all sitting on their haunches in port laughing at us chasing around after broken down sloops, launches and schooners. Set a course for Martinique, but I want to give St Lucia a wide berth. I’m afraid there may be one of Durhams frigates or brigs hiding there and we are in no shape to survive a brisk chase. Sail Northwest tonight, then we’ll tack and come back Northeast to run up the coast of Martinique.” Six muscular ebony men sit on Chasseur’s foredeck. Peter, his two brothers and their three sons expertly work at splicing replacement rigging. They work fast and efficiently producing man-o-war type splices and knots and keeping Chasseur’s bosun supplied with new rigging to set in place. The privateer is to leeward of St Lucia in a soft breeze on flat water and her crew is abuzz with the news that they will be stopping in Martinique. Martinique had been British until the winter, when, as part of the Treaty of Paris that sent Napoleon to Elbe; the British gave it back to the French king. Peter didn’t know any of this. All he knew was that Martinique was a slave colony much like Barbados. Peter considered Martinique as he tucked the ends of his last splice. He had been here many times with his master’s ship, he knew the island and he knew he didn’t want to stay there. While beautiful, Martinique was hell on earth for slaves. The French planters of Martinique turned the colony over to the British early in the war to prevent the emancipation of their slaves by a newly liberal French Directorate. Once set free by the Directorate, Napoleon made sure slavery would remain entrenched on Martinique when he rescinded emancipation in the empire. The chaos that ensued was catastrophic and led to the disaster on Santo Domingue. Now, with the Bourbons back in control, no one knew for sure what the future of slavery on Martinique was. The only certainty seemed to be that there would be blood and violence. Chasseur slipped through the absolutely transparent quiet crystal water. Just aft of the little group of slaves was a small knot of seaman and gunners. They were talking over the actions of the past few days and how they had all stood together behind Tom Boyle facing the frigates guns. Amazing the ship didn’t take a pounding, as small as she is and as powerful as that damn frigate was. Frigate, that was a damn seventy four mate – she chucked cannon balls at us for days. I don’t recall seeing you on the quarterdeck with Captain Boyle John, where were you hiding anyway? The Captain himself sent me down to check on the cable tier to see if there were any damage to it. You know how hard it is to get down there. By the time I got back on deck, we’d run the damn frigate hull down – our Tom didn’t need my assistance any more. Aye, and when the boom split, we were all there knotting and splicing and reeving and fishing. I never did think the ship would stand so much sail with a busted main boom and jury rigged check stays. After that, I just lay on deck behind number four gun praying to God to save my soul. Aye mate, we were all looking after our souls –‘cept our Captain of course – maybe he aint got a soul to look after? A small moment of silence is broken by one of the seamen saying: What do you make of them slaves then, what do you suppose we’re gonna do with em? What do think the captain will do with em. We aint made much in the way of prizes this trip, that’s for sure. We could sell them in Martinique – probably fetch a good price – they’d be our prizes right? Like calico, coffee or rum? We could keep em with us, they’re right good sailors I think – good hands, do what you say. I tell you mate, living aboard Chasseur would be paradise compared to living in a slave hovel ashore getting whipped every other day. I dunno, I think Tom might keep em aboard for crew – we do get any prizes we’ll need all the prize crews we can to get em home again. We could keep em aboard, sail em hard and then sell em in the United States. There’s a big market for slaves in Charleston or New Orleans. Slave trades been outlawed since ’08. We’d be up for all manner of trouble if we tried to sell them fellas. But they are our rightful prizes aren’t they? We aint trying to run slaves, we’re trying to dispose of captured property. I don’t think that’s a go. I think the authorities would confiscate the lot of em and sell em off themselves. Well, it looks like keeping em is the best thing then. We can use the crew and when we come near home again, we’ll put em in a boat and fare thee well. None’s the wiser. They make their way to shore and make their own way, while we come in to Baltimore all nice and legal – sweet as you please. We did that once before in the old Atlas. I tell you he’d best not turn them over to the authorities on Martinique. That’s what he better not do. Then we’re out the hands AND the prize money. Peter could overhear the conversation and mostly understood what the men were saying. He had been running the same ideas in his mind as well. Should he run at Martinique? They would be captured, punished and likely executed as examples. They could hope the Yankee captain – Boyle they called him – would keep them aboard and provide for a means to get ashore quietly. It wasn’t much to go on for hope, but it was all they had. Peter motioned to the grey haired black man called George – he wished to talk to the Captain. Aye Captain, his name is Peter and he says Barbados is ready to explode just like Santo Domingue did back in ’94. Said some African king is on the island, planning an uprising. Name of Bussa or something like that. Peter says he heard about Santo Domnigue from other slaves brought to the plantation and he don’t want no part of that. They all six have family back on Barbados, but there is no way for them to get them off. He says the slaves are stock piling weapons and making plans – soon, its going to get ugly on Barbados sir. He also says, if you keep them aboard, they will be good hands, ready to take their turn sir, able to hand, reef and steer with the best of us. They’ll even take part in any action we may have with the British sir. They want to stay on Chasseur and be let off someplace safe – they don’t really care where. A sharp gust rolled Chasseur’s shoulder into the warm water and sent a flare of fine spray up from her bow. Tom looked across to the green peaks of St Lucia and considered the options with six slaves. Anywhere he touches, he may be asked for proof that the six are free blacks. He’ll need a certificate and a seal for each one if he lets them ashore. He could just drop them off in Martinique; just turn the other way while they escape. No, if the French found they came from an American ship there would be hell to pay. He could keep them, but helping runaway slaves escape off an island by ship was punishable by death. If the British did catch him sometime in the future, and he had six runaway slaves aboard, they would hang him for sure. They might anyway for a pirate. Tom shook his head and watched the peaceful island slip slowly past. Tom wished he could talk to Polly. Sometimes, he missed his wife terribly during his voyages. She always saw things as they were with no sweet rotten romantic distractions, just the pure hard headed reality of the matter. She was born to a respectable Baltimore family but, her father had died of fever the year before and her family had come upon difficult times. Tom was a poor second mate sailing for John Carrere running rum and molasses from the islands for leather, pots and pans from Maryland when they met. Tom smiled at the memory – she had been such a slim, skinny little thing who seemed to know what he was thinking before he knew it himself. She had brown hair, big brown eyes and a sarcastic wit. After they met, Tom was sure she hated him, but, he courted her successfully and within three months of meeting they were married. Tom was soon a recognized skipper making regular trading voyages to the West Indies for sugar, molasses, coffee and rum and they were starting to prosper when Jefferson imposed his embargo and put them all on the beach. With four daughters and another on the way, he couldn’t afford to wait for the ports to open again, so he went to work in one of Dennis Smith’s cooperages. Of course, when Thomas Kemp built his first clipper, Tom had been one of the first to go down to the harbor to see her warp to her pier. What a gorgeous thing she was. And when John Carrere offered him a position as mate aboard Kemps third clipper to do a bit of smuggling past the embargo how could he refuse? Meanwhile, he and Polly moved to a larger house farther up the hill from the harbor – with a wonderful view of the anchorage – it was a constant struggle, but they were making something of their lives. They had developed the rarest of things in a marriage – a partnership between friends and equals. Tom needed Polly’s level headed pragmatism now. What would she say about the six Africans they had taken aboard? What would she say about the damage sustained during the hard run from New York and the Barossa and what would she say about the lack of prizes so far this trip. Tom smiled to himself, he knew exactly what she would say about each of those things and could hear her voice in his head. Thank you Polly, Thank you very much. At midnight, Chasseur tacked for Martinique in squally weather. Chasseur came gliding to anchor in the broad road stead of St Pierre, the capital of French Martinique late in the afternoon of January 14, 1815. She was nearly a month out of New York. The town sat at the foot of a cliff on a slope above a black sand beach. Mount Pelee loomed above the town, with its gray black cinder cone and jungle. The sun was just reaching the horizon with a brilliant blue sky overhead as they came into the harbor. Deliberately she fired a 17 gun salute to the fort. The French fort above the town replied gun for gun. The sea was deep right up to the shore at St Pierre and Chasseur came close to pick up a mooring. A local waterman helped them fasten another chain from her stern to a huge anchor bolt ashore. The anchorage was open to the west, but with the mooring and the chain, she was secure. The white Fleur-de-Lis of the Bourbons flew from the top of the fort and another from the government house in the center of town. Two fat English merchantmen were also anchored and chained to the waterfront. Since Matinique was officially French now and neutral in the war between England and the United States the ships were safe from any action Chasseur might take. And the reverse was also true; Chasseur was safe from any action a wandering British warship might take against her. Tom gathered the ships papers, put on his best shore- going jacket and trousers and shaved in his cramped little cabin right aft. He came back on deck in the first clear light of evening, jumped into his longboat and had the crew pull ashore. Chasseur desperately needed a new boom and materials to fish the main mast. They also needed to work on the mainsail and the crew (and Tom) desperately needed a diversion. He presented his papers to the fat, sweating Frenchman sitting in the customs house. “Pardon, monsieur – are you the capitaine of the black ship just arrive?” asked an impeccably dressed servant, black as coal with a ridiculous white wig perched on his head. “Yes, yes I am.” said Tom. “The governeur asks that you attend him at breakfast tomorrow morning.” he handed Tom an embossed invitation, bowed and disappeared. “The governor? What have I done?” thought Tom. That night came on very wet and squally as huge thunder storms rolled off the slopes of Pelee. Chasseur’s anchor watch was startled by the intense lightening. But after the storm had cleared they were even more startled by the bright flashes far over the western horizon. A minute later the low rolling boom of gunfire echoed across to them like forgotten thunder. Tom joined them in the heads of the ship and watched as the flashes continued, intensified, then died away, followed slowly by the muttering low booms and growls of the guns. Well, boys, someone got the better of that exchange I can tell you! And they were quick about it! Boyle strode aft and went below, satisfied that his ship and crew were secure for the night. Whoever was fighting out there over the horizon had bigger problems than he did this night. Ch 8 - St Lawrence and the Carthaginian HMS St Lawrence, the barely recognizable HMS St Lawrence, ghosted along west of St Lucia, close behind but far to leeward of Chasseur, with nothing in sight, nothing at all. The island was visible on their right hand and the glorious sea on their left and that was all. Olson approached James on the windward side of the deck and looked around in misery. To Olson, St Lawrence was a repugnant wreck – a floating ruin. “Might we repaint her now sir, may we make her look a proper navy ship again?” “Not yet Olson – Admiral Durham was sure we would run into that infernal privateer Chasseur and he was most insistent that we employ his ruse.” “But sir, suppose we run into one of His Majesties frigates or gun brigs on our way to Cumberland. I shall never be able to show my face again. The ship is a fright sir, an absolute fright!” “Sorry Mr Olson, we will carry on painted this god awful yellowish-green and we shall be happy to do it. Admiral Durham himself thought up the idea. Do you understand?” “Yes, yes I do sir. But perhaps we might at least set the rigging right again. I’ve sailed with things a complete disaster before, but this is outrageous. We’ve got six, no ten shrouds showing Irish pennants, and the halyards are led completely off kilter, the braces a disgrace.” “No Mr Olson – we will carry on in this frightful, cock-a-bill way until we reach Cumberland Island and Admiral Cockburn. You never know, we may just tumble to a prize. Both Admiral Durham and Sir James Gordon – my uncle as I’m sure you are aware – have set us out to catch a certain Yankee privateer – The infamous Chasseur – and, God willing, catch her we shall.” “Aye, aye sir.” said Olson, stolidly saluting, turning and sulkily marching forward. The cause of all this discontent was the absurd plan Durham had ordered prior to their departure from Barbados. “Paint your pretty ship a dull yellow color like an island trading schooner and sail her to attract that devil Boyle, Gordon. Sail your greyhound like a scow. Lure him in close – within musket shot – then hoist your colors quick and drop your ports. Give him a broadside and wear across his stern and rake him. Then, come up hard on his wreck and away borders. You’ll soon have you a prize lieutenant – a rich prize – the infernal privateer Chasseur! No need to thank me, I give her to you freely.” James smiled at the recollection; Durham was full of energy as he explained his plan - almost hopping from one foot to the other. There were no written orders to paint your ship so and so, sail large, drop your ports and the rest of it. The old Admiral had learned leadership from Lord Nelson and he used Nelsons tactic of suggestion and comradeship on the young lieutenant. Gordon felt like he had been let in on a huge and hugely funny secret - a great game. Durham visited them in person the morning they sailed coming out on the lighter that delivered the paint. This was a great idea and Durham had to pass it along personally. St Lawrence sailed past St Vincent and the Grenadines – their primary duty was still to deliver dispatches in a timely manner, so they couldn’t poke into every nook and cranny along the lee side of the islands – there were several ships in and around Bequia, there usually were, but they were probably British ships and even if they went in, there was nothing they could do there - aside from give away their secret to the ever present waterfront spies. They continued up the coast, the spectacular coast, and kept a man of war’s routine even though the ship looked like a Jamaican sugar barge. James planned to run large up the lee side of the islands – looking sharp around Martinique and Guadeloupe but carrying on past Antigua and the Virgin Islands. There was no sense loitering – if they didn’t find Chasseur below or in the Virgin Islands they weren’t going to find her. St Thomas was a well known haunt of the nefarious and lawless; it was likely she had gone there when Durham finally chased her away from Barbados. The Virgin Islands were also directly on the way to Cumberland Island and his rendezvous with Cockburn’s fleet. There was no risk in his strategy, thought James. Cockburn couldn’t accuse him of doing Durham’s dirty work and Durham couldn’t charge him with ignoring his orders. The sailing was beautiful along the coast of the almost completely deserted island. Warm breezes scented by the land, a flat blue disc of a sea and St Lawrence with all plain sail up and drawing was a blissful experience. James wished he had someone to share it with. St Lawrence was really just a temporary stepping stone to greater things for him. He was expected to carry out his Admirals wishes – or the wishes of all his admirals, and all his captains too – on his way to promotion to commander and perhaps his own brig. But none of the St Lawrence’s had any real connection with James Edward Gordon. He was here today and gone tomorrow as far as they were concerned. Gordon was a bit of a bishop, but pretty harmless for all that. St Lawrence’s crew were good English sailors, professionals all, except for that idiot Canadice – a rum sea lawyer if there ever was one – but the rest were good men who knew the score. Gordon would command this ship for a few months on the North America station, then be promoted or moved to another assignment closer – or farther – from his patrons depending on how the wind blew. James Gordon was one of the new breed of educated officers true, but the rules of patronage were still prevalent. He was in line to be post some day, no mistake about it. So long as he didn’t do something foolish and try to be Nelson and get them all killed. For an officer he seemed alright if perhaps a bit prudish and standoffish. They still sniggered when they remembered him leaving the tavern on Barbados, scared out of his wits by the beautiful mulatto who owned the place. So, as it stood, there was no reason for any of the crew to get to know him very well before he moved off. And even old Olson was only a sailing master, not a proper officer – James was the only gentleman aboard. Sometimes, he was desperately lonely. He took a couple of last turns around what passed for a quarterdeck on St Lawrence. What was this Yankee privateer, this Chasseur like? She certainly gave Admiral Durham fits off Barbados. He said a quick prayer asking God for guidance and help. They’d spoke HMS Barrossa as she made her way back up to Barbados – McCullough warned him that Chasseur was a big powerful American privateer and somewhere in the waters ahead of him. God knows the sea was crawling with big powerful American privateers. They seemed to slip the blockade at will for Godsakes. He went below after giving Olson orders to keep on the same course and keep a weather eye out for a big Yankee brig. As he went below, the entire watch on deck breathed a sigh of relief – James’s very presence was sometimes foreboding, official, heavy. He had just put his head down on the tiny bunk in his miniscule cabin when he heard the lookout sing out – “Deck there, A Sail, Sail Ho – hull down to windward!” He waited until a ships boy – there were no midshipman aboard St Lawrence – came to the door, knocked timidly and announced – a ship sir, a ship to windward as pretty as you please sir and Mr Olson believes it may be your privateer sir. Indeed there was a ship to windward and a pretty one she was at that. The stranger flew an immense amount of sail and was obviously intent on intercepting them. “Mr Olson – make sail if you please, no stuns’ls lets just act like an undermanned island schooner and see how our friend reacts.” Slowly the ship – by now, she was close enough they could see she was a big schooner – overhauled them. At sunset James put St Lawerence squarely before the wind and made as if to run into Martinique. Soon they were crossing the channel between the islands where the sea got rougher and the wind blew harder. St Lawerence was making heavy weather of it and they very sensibly put a reef in her main and took in all the flying sails down to the jib. Their nemesis kept all sail flying, cracking on. Aboard St Lawrence the crew beat to quarters and took their familiar stations beside guns or in the tops. Olson told them to keep down and stay behind the bulwarks until given the order. As the wind increased, James slowly reduced sail on St Lawrence and slowed the ship letting the enemy come closer. It was a close game, played between experts. James and Olson reduced sail based on the conditions, but not so much as to excite attention from the stranger and perhaps alert them to St Lawrence being a Kings ship. The tropical night came down on the two ships racing toward Martinique. They could just make out their pursuer in the gloom by the white flash of rising moon on her sails and the broad white streak foaming down her side and into her wake. She was large for a schooner, quite a bit larger than St Lawrence and very fast. Even at this distance they could see that her decks were crowded with dark figures, pistols, cutlasses and pikes flashing in the moonlight. A man stood right in the fore rigging with his feet on the chains and his back against the shrouds holding a speaking trumpet, its brass glinting in the moonlight. Aboard St Lawrence all was silent as she creamed along in the dark. James had the crew lay down on deck and the men in the tops kept themselves under cloaks to keep from being spotted. The ships were within 50 yards of each other. Not a word was spoken, not an oath, not a clash of steel as the two ships raced in the dark, straining to sail as fast as they could, the only sounds the wind and the water roaring between them. Suddenly they were very, very close - directly alongside – the schooner put up her helm and closed quickly on St Lawrence intent on crashing into her to board. White water and waves creamed along her side as she rose and fell not 10 yards from St Lawrence. God help me, prayed James. Then “Run up the colors Jensen. We are His Majesties Ship St Lawerence – Bear away from me and heave to immediately or I shall fire into you!” Was that a soft moan of dismay from the other ship? There is no answer to the hail but the schooner began to edge slowly away. “I said we are HMS St Lawrence on the Kings business – heave to or I shall fire!” yelled James. “Follow him up Mr Olson – we shall push the devil up, right up into the wind.” Then, “Identify yourselves and heave to or I shall fire sir!” An oath from the other ship – “Merde, L’Anglais” – and she violently turned away from St Lawrence. Olson expertly followed the maneuver and his crew quickly trimmed the sails to match the new course. St Lawrence didn’t lose a yard to the stranger whose decks were still crowded with armed men, now more nervous and agitated than threatening. “That was French sir, she’s not American! She’s flying no colors – she must be a pirate!” Low mumbling conversations start amid St Lawrence’s crew. Pirates? That’s a pirate under our guns? Bleeding cutthroat bastards – got that right mate – no mercy for them what sails under the black flag – what we waiting for. Here and there along the deck, heads popped up above the bulwarks to get a look at the ship alongside. “Silence, Silence fore and aft!” cried Olson. A single shot came from amongst the figures crowded together on the focs’l of the big schooner. A bright flash and a bang and James heard the buzz of the round as it flew past his head. For a split second there was a confused silence, as when a mistake is committed at a formal occasion, an embarrassed cough would not have been out of place, but suddenly St Lawrence erupted in smoke, flame and fire. Afterwards, nobody could remember giving the order to fire, but fire she did, great guns, muskets and even pistols with awful effect. The schooners decks were soon cleared by the fountain of grapeshot and small arms fire exploding from St Lawrence. The entire crew seemed to have been leveled with the deck. Only the dead, the dying and those hiding behind the guns and masts were left above decks while the rest of her crew ran below. Some of the wounded pitifully crawled toward the safety of the open hatches. St Lawrence’s crew were yelling now, most not conscious of it. Their noise mixed with the cries, yells, oaths and screams from the schooner tore open the night. She flew head to the wind and came to a halt in the big black seas, pitching and rolling violently. St Lawrence came to the wind as well, still firing as though the devil himself were just across the water. “Stop firing mon dieu, mon dieu, you are murdering us, stop firing, we are hove to, please – arête, arête – for Gods sake!” “Cease fire, hold your fire – Put down that musket – stand down there. One final desultory musket shot and the only sounds are the groans and screams from the schooner, plus the creak, slap and splash of two schooners and the sea. The entire engagement lasted less than 10 minutes. “Prepare borders Mr Olson, lay me alongside that brute.” said James. St Lawrence came alongside the shattered starboard side of the schooner and Olson and his men lashed the two ships together. They lay head to head thumping and grinding together fearfully in the choppy swell. James and twenty armed men leapt across the gap between the two ships. Two or three of the men and then James himself slipped in the pools of blood on the horrible deck of the schooner. James sent two men to guard the cabins in the stern of the ship. “The rest of you men sweep forward and secure the ship. Lock the survivors in the focs’l for now.” “Don’t shoot, we’ve struck for godsakes, don’t fire, don’t murder us, for chrissakes, we’ve struck!” The surviving crew of the schooner slowly stood up or came from behind whatever shelter they had managed to find and were roughly pushed forward by the boarding party. There didn’t seem to be anyone in command. Most of the crew simply stared dazedly at the devastated deck of their ship as though they were waking from a nightmare. St Lawrence had reduced the deck of the ship to a shambles. James took one of them by the shoulder – “Where is your captain?” The man led him toward the forward chains and started to paw through the mounds of debris on the deck – blocks, torn hammocks, abandoned weapons, tubs of water and sand, cartridge pouches, clothing, rags and sails. He pointed at a pulverized figure laying in a black pool of blood in the moonlight. A speaking trumpet lay near by. “You blasted him off the chains.” “Are there any officers left alive aboard?” “I believe I am the only officer left aboard sir, Said a young man in heavily accented English.” He was no more than 17 years old, with the long queue of a seaman and had not a mark on him, though his face was begrimed, his shirt was shredded and his arms were bloody to the elbows. “I am the third mate of this ship - La Passion – we have no surgeon – there are some twenty severely wounded men here and I fear we will lose many of them before the night is out. Why did you fire into us Capitain? Why do you disguise yourself as an island trader? What treachery is this Captain? Where were your colors?” Tears rolled down his cheeks and he could barely control his fury. “You fired into us Monsieur – we simply returned the favor! Take care I don’t clap you in irons for a pirate! There are papers covering this vessel I presume?” spat James. The mate took a deep breath and looked around the shattered decks again – “Aye, they are in the masters cabin – this way.” “I certainly hope all is in order mon ami, or we will take you and your men to be tried and hung as pirates.” “Mr Gordon, Mr Gordon, Captain Sir!” – it was Olson hailing from the St Lawrence quarterdeck – “Sir, we need to cast off St Lawrence directly before we smash both of ‘em to kindling.” James moved away from the French mate to speak directly across the small gap between the ships. “Alright Mr Olson – come take command of the boarding party. Then we shall cast off – St Lawrence will stand by until daylight, then we’ll transfer crew as needed and get back under weigh. And send over the cook, his medico implements and any assistants he may need – we have twenty or more wounded aboard.” James returned to the mate – Daniel L’Anglois was his name – and made his way to La Passion’s tiny captain’s cabin. He soon found the waterproof oilskin pouch containing the ships papers. He took it and the logbook and made his way back to St Lawrence. He took L’Anglois along in case he needed further explanation. Henry Olson spent a long and anxious night with his chosen seaman knotting, splicing and cleaning up the debris from the fight. There were eight dead and twenty wounded on the schooner. They arranged the dead along the leeward side of the gun deck awaiting the morning. St Lawrence had no proper surgeon, so her cook was pressed into intoxicated service to stitch, carve and clean as best he could. Rum was used in equal amounts as anesthetic, antiseptic and to fortify the cook’s courage. Luckily, La Passion hadn’t fired any cannon – she had only fired the one shot at all – or the casualty list aboard St Lawrence would have been just as terrible. The wounded were brought down into the after part of the hold – the rest of the crew were still locked in the focs’l. The cook did his best by the light of a smoky, swaying whale oil lamp. If they weren’t groaning, they were screaming and the hideous din kept anyone from resting. When Olson dropped into the hold to see what the devil was causing the infernal noise, he stopped and stared open mouthed. The weak light from the oil lamp illuminated a score of bodies scattered around two planks laid across two barrels that served as an operating table. A bucket next to the table held three severed arms. “We divided them into three lots sir.” the cook’s breath smelled powerfully of rum. “One lot is those which only Jesus can help, one lot is those needing carving up like, and the last lot just needs some water and bandages. We’re done with any cutting and butchering now, all that’s left is bandaging and swabbing.” Roughly Olson said – “Get this space cleaned up Mr Hawley as soon as you’re done.” Olson turned from the macabre scene in front of him and peered forward in the schooners hold. “Pierce, bring that lantern over here man, lets see what sort of goods our friends have managed to accumulate.” Olson whistled low when he saw the cargo stowed in the forward part of La Passion’s hold: casks of molasses and bags of coffee and sugar were barely illuminated by the lamp. In the gloom it looked like the booty went into the hold forever. Far forward, tarpaulins covered more cargo. “There’s a strongbox just here sir, which we aint got no keys for it. Thought maybe you might have some keys from back aft sir.” “Pierce, you are a sharp and fair hand – excellent work - there are some keys in the captains stateroom – hanging from a peg above the desk – go get them and return here.” Pierce fairly ran through the passageway between the hold and the stateroom – soon enough, he returned with the enormous key ring and three huge brassy keys. Olson slid a key into the lock on the box and turned it. The lock fell open. Slowly he opened the strong box. He gave a low curse when he saw the contents. Pierce was fairly staggered by the sight of a strong box full of freshly minted Spanish doubloons and pieces of eight. “Take this box back to the masters cabin.” said Olson as he locked the box again. “We’ll leave it there under guard until we sort out what to do about this ship. Did you find any other strong boxes?” “No sir, just the one box, but it’s a powerful amount of gold isn’t it sir? Since shes prize to good old St Lawrence, that means we gets a share of the gold, aint that right sir?” Olson looked at the box. “Yes, Pierce, she is a prize to us and provided the Admiralty Court sees fit, we will be awarded prize money for her capture.” Outwardly, Olson was the model of professionalism and duty. But inside, he could barely contain himself. The cargo and the ship herself must be worth somewhere around one hundred thousand pounds! A master mate’s share of that must amount to a pretty penny. In any event, Henry Olson will have no wants for the next year or two with this prize! Olson decided to search the cargo for more strong boxes. After all, there were three keys on the key ring. Slowly he moved forward among the crates, barrels, bags and casks. At the forward end of the hold, just aft of the cable tier a small area of the hold four feet high, extending across the eight foot wide bulkhead and extending five feet deep created a sort of box or shelf. A tarpaulin was draped over the box. Olson pulled the tarpaulin off the shelf and lifted his lantern. Startled, he yelled and jumped back as he looked into a pair of the blackest most bloodshot eyes he had ever seen. CH 9 - Martinique Pierre Rene Marie Vaugiraud was the new royalist governor of French Martinique. Tall, aging, spare and sick Vaugiraud arrived only the month before to hoist the Fleur- de-Lis over the island after years of British control during Napoleon’s reign. Vaugiraud was a hero of the Royal French Navy – he’d commanded the 120 gun Ville de Paris during the last war fought by French Kings. He’d been victorious at the Battle of the Chesapeake and sealed Cornwallis’s fate. After that triumph, he’d been defeated at the Battle of the Saintes - forced to strike after fighting for hours surrounded by British men-of-war in smoke, blood and fire. Finally, with nobody left alive or unwounded on Ville de Paris upper deck, seriously wounded himself, he’d cut the beloved ensign down. It was a nightmare he would never forget. In many ways Vaugiraud had died on that quarterdeck. After the war, he escaped the terror of the French Revolution, sailed to England and spent the intervening years actively opposing Napoleon. He was committed to erasing Bonaparte’s influence on his beloved Royal France and her colonies. Martinique was unstable, explosive, teetering between anarchy and order. Napoleonic Loyalists, Bourbon Royalists, British spies and adventurers, rich landowners, disheveled French privateers, outright pirates and thousands of abused slaves created a volatile mix likely to explode at any moment over any incident no matter how small. Vaugiraud had to be ruthless, cunning and careful. The next morning Tom strode up the hill to the gates of the governor’s house and was ushered through the house to an expansive veranda overlooking the bay by the same perfectly attired servant that met him at the customs house the evening before. The view from the breakfast table was breath taking. Far below sat Chasseur and the two British merchant ships, far out in the offing, in the Caribbean, there were two sails moving north in concert. Tom wondered if the two were the protagonists from the night before – a prize and her captor perhaps. The morning sky was a huge bowl of powder blue, shot through with soft dawn orange and the ocean a flat plate of indigo. “Captain Boyle – welcome to my house. I hope everything is well with your ship.” said Vaugiraud bowing slightly from the waist. Vaugiraud was an experienced naval commander; he knew very well that all was not right with Chasseur. “Please sir, sit and join me for breakfast.” Tom looked hungrily at the food spread on the table. Pastries, mangoes, limes, oranges, bread, juice, water and coffee were in abundance. After a month at sea, living on salt beef and pork maneuvered into spicy stew and gumbo from Chasseur’s tiny galley – the fresh bread and fruit were spectacular. He took his seat and filled a plate. The two men traded pleasantries and comments about the house, the view, the weather, and pilotage around the islands as they consumed their breakfast. Vaugiraud was particularly proud of the St Pierre theatre and the current effort at refurbishment. The servants cleared away the debris and left them to a pot of coffee, the heat starting to rise from the streets below. “Captain, in order to maintain order and discipline in the colony I must inform you of the rules under which you and your crew may remain in St Pierre and Martinique.” Vaugiraud said smoothly in a soft growl. “I admire you Americans, Captain Boyle. I admire how you seem to have managed to govern yourselves without the descent into dictatorship or anarchy that my country so recently experienced. I admire your courage in bearding the English lion in your current contest. I admire your innovation and skill in ship building, trade and industry. But too often, monsieur, Americans are ruffians and democrats who cry liberty and freedom while letting their baser passions and instincts take them where they will at the moment. At their worst, you Americans can be little more disciplined than a pack of mad dogs. Many are the well ordered, profitable colonies that have been infected by contact with your American experiment. I cannot allow the primitive, unrefined, native enthusiasms of your country or its republican attitudes to infect the Kings colony. We have had enough of liberty, equality and brotherhood monsieur, and I shall use whatever force is necessary to maintain order.” The old man was tired, but had impressive reserves of inner strength. At first kindly and aristocratic, now he was officially acting as the representative of his king and sovereign and he assumed the unmistakable air of authority. Tom nodded, said nothing and waited for Vaugiraud to continue. He wondered if the old Admiral had the resources necessary to enforce his rules. Slowly and gravely, with great moment and import, he laid out the law for the young American captain. “Captain, you and your crew will adhere to the following – I will provide a written copy when you leave this residence. You must depart within 72 hours of noon today – that is before noon on Wednesday. You may not return for six weeks. After leaving St Pierre, you may not touch at any other port on His Majesties colony of Martinique. No more than one third of your crew may come ashore at any one time. You have black men aboard” – Vaugiraud paused and stared at Tom, it was a statement not a question – “they will stay aboard. Under no circumstances are they to come ashore. When your men are ashore, they will behave in a civilized, polite and respectful manner. There shall be none of your wild antics and capers so common among American sailors – especially you American privateers. As there are two English vessels in port, plus those flying other flags and their crews may be ashore at the same time as your men, I shall post extra patrols in the town monsieur, to ensure that all remains calm. If there are any infractions, any disturbances at all Captain, you will be forced to leave the anchorage immediately – the fort will fire upon you if you do not monsieur. We will not tolerate any republican nonsense in this colony. Have I made myself clear Captain?” “Well, monsieur” – Tom’s ire rose at the imperious nature of the crusty old man – nobody talked to Tom Boyle in that tone! Nobody! - “I promise my crew will not wreak havoc or disturb the peace in your port. They will, however, defend themselves. If they are provoked, you can be sure that they will respond vigorously. I am hopeful Chasseur will have a peaceful stay within your protection, monsieur. I pray that we do not end up looking at each other down the barrel of a gun for it if comes to that, you will find us a wild rabble indeed.” The two men looked deep into each others eyes. Each concluded the other was entirely serious. “And now sir, as no doubt you have noticed, my ship is in need of some repair and re-supply. We have been hard pressed by the Royal Navy over the past couple of days and have grievously wounded our main boom, mainmast, and rigging. If you could provide cordage and spars for us, plus water, I would be eternally grateful.” “You ask a great deal Captain – I can only give you assistance to safely sail away from here. Spars, sails, provisions and cordage – I cannot risk my neutrality by providing guns or ammunition or any war making material. How do you propose to purchase these materials?” “I can provide a letter of credit drawn on the Mechanics Bank in Baltimore in my name. It is for specie and not notes, so there are no worries about the payment.” “Very well, Captain, you may purchase the supplies you need to make your ship ready for sea and that is all. You may find a chandlery with timber and sailcloth at the bottom of the street in Place Bertin. There you may also arrange for fresh water. You may re-supply with food stuff, bread, fruit and rum. But under no circumstances are you to purchase or attempt to purchase arms or ammunition.” “Thank you sir, I agree to abide by your rules and look forward to an uneventful stay in your beautiful city.” “Welcome Captain – I am at your service – and I too, hope your stay is uneventful. May I suggest you visit our belle theatre – we are very proud of it. It is the envy of the West Indies.” The first 48 hours of Chasseur’s stay in St Pierre were very eventful indeed. One third of the crew was always ashore – some 30 hands – while the rest were kept busy splicing rigging, repairing sails, fishing the main mast and manufacturing a new boom from the big finished timber floated out from the town on the tide. All aboard was hubbub and clamor during the day and into the night as the work progressed. Jacob Burk shuffled throughout the ship making sure the repairs went smoothly and according to his exacting standards. Chasseur was crewed with some of the best watermen to be found in Maryland, if there was anything they knew it was how to repair and build ships. But Burk thought of Chasseur as his own personal yacht and made sure she was repaired beautifully, not simply adequately. For Burk, Chasseur was a work of art, the highest achievement of mankind. Nothing could be invented, built or even thought that would outshine a Baltimore clipper. Every spar, every splinter, every hole, every scar, every ding was carefully, expertly fished, ground, spliced, scarfed, sanded and painted back to its original condition. “We’ll not have her looking like that floating disaster yonder!” said Burk waving his awl toward a scandalously hogged and fouled island schooner. “Disgrace, a total disgrace” he growled, dismayed. There were several of Burk’s’ disgraces in St Pierre. Black and low, brigs and schooner mostly, they were desperate French privateers cast ashore by Napoleons abdication. They could turn to piracy, run slaves from Africa, smuggle various sundry goods or find a revolution to join. Anyone with a printing press and a dream of independence could issue a letter of marque to any one of them and create a semi-legal privateer free to plunder the main. Three of the schooners in St Pierre flew the flag of rebel Cartagena, part of the notorious Louis Aury’s flying squadron of ragged privateers sailing for Simon Bolivar - La Liberator himself. Finally, most of the repairs on Chasseur were complete, the stores replenished and fifteen days of water loaded aboard. The last third of the crew were ashore and not detailed to return for another 12 hours. The last of the repairs wouldn’t be complete for several hours and there was nothing more for the officers to do. John Dieter and Jacob Burk decided to stay aboard and make sure the last of the knotting, splicing, patching, and woolding was completed to their satisfaction. Tom and Shelby decided to spend a few hours ashore after the last days of tension and activity. In particular there was an establishment on Monte-au-Ceil street where they were always welcome that ran a delicious and permanent game of Vingt-et-Un. Monsieur Marcel Dumont welcomed his old friends as they stepped through the door into the dark, dank interior of the building. Tom and Shelby had been favorite customers of Dumont in times gone by, before the current unpleasantness. Dumont ran a discreet gambling establishment half way up the hill from the waterfront – a hefty hike for the prodigious Cochrane who was blowing and wheezing by the time they came through the door. Dumont’s wife kept the books – that was her near the staircase giving everyone the evil eye - and they hired a stable of cutthroats and thugs to keep the peace. The place was a gathering of thieves where information was the most valuable commodity. The stone lintel over the door was so low, Shelby had to double over to enter. The house itself was precariously perched on the side of the hill. Painted yellow outside, and a dirty whitewash inside, there wasn’t a straight line in it. Dumont steered them to a big, oaken table in the corner at the back of the room. Three men sat at the table playing vingt-et-un with Spanish piasters, Dutch guilders, British crowns and French Napoleons. A pretty young mulatto girl delivered glasses of rum at the tiniest motion from Dumont. Tom walked around the table and took a chair with his back to the wall. Shelby sat across from him. Dumont introduced them to the trio at the table and took his own seat while the girl poured a fresh rum drink to each man at the table. Gentlemen – may I present the famous American privateer Thomas Boyle and his sailing master Shelby Cochrane. They have just arrived from Barbados after harassing Admiral Durham and his fast frigate Barossa. You may have seen them repairing their beautiful ship – the Chasseur – in the bay. Thomas, Shelby, these men are privateers in the service of Cartagena – may I present Jacques LaTour, Robert Ordineaux, and Louis-Michel Aury. They have just arrived from the North, where they were inspecting King Ferdinand’s establishments in Cuba – I’m sure the King would give them a warm reception if he could! Gentleman – drink a toast with me - To Liberty! The three French privateers had been drinking and gambling all afternoon. There were piles of coins in front of each of them. In one motion they drained their glasses of rum – Au Liberte! All three had the tan and sinewy strength of the professional mariner. LaTour and Ordineaux were dressed in threadbare cotton duck seaman’s shirt and trousers, while Aury wore a patched and faded blue uniform coat of indeterminate origin with a black scarf around his neck. LaTour bore a wicked scar across his right cheek and Ordineaux was missing three fingers from his right hand. All three wore their dark hair long, dirty and parted in the middle. They were hard men living a hard life. After the toast - an awkward silence as all six men took stock of each other. Dumont broke the spell – “You are very successful Thomas, yes? – I hear your name and stories from all my English visitors. Wherever you go the merchants hide their ships and cry to the English navy until you are gone. You must be doing very, very well for yourself mon ami, non?” Tom nodded - “We are doing well enough Marcel. There is enough to pay for the ship and her crew, and no more. Powder, shot, cannon cost a small fortune! Your neighbors here in St Pierre are very proud of their timber and supplies. We haven’t taken a single valuable prize this voyage and we had some expensive repairs here in St Pierre. I’m afraid we are in for some pain and despair at home if we don’t take some prizes soon! But, we can always risk a a pocketful of guilders on your tables, Marcel! Perhaps, we will have better luck with the cards than with the English.” Cards fluttered across the table and coins clinked as bets were placed. The low murmur of conversation surrounded them. “Ah, my friend, you have scared the English away. The only English we have seen in the past week are those two little brigs in the bay. They arrived three days ago. They are traveling together and will wait for a British warship before they travel any further – especially with four privateers in port! They will sit under the guns of the fort until the four of you are gone make no mistake. But four, no five weeks ago, Mon Dieu, there were L’Anglais ships across the horizon – all going north.” “To New Orleans – they assembled in Jamaica and went to New Orleans.” said Aury. His English was surprisingly good. “There is a huge English fleet off New Orleans now. The coast is swarming with English from Pensacola all the way to Barataria. By now, Monsieur, surely New Orleans has fallen and been thoroughly pillaged and burned by drunken, vicious English scum. Imagine the same troops that sacked Vittoria loose in New Orleans – and without Wellington to stop them. I weep for New Orleans, gentlemen – for surely she is gone and in flames. I would not be surprised if all of Florida has fallen to the British as well.” “Did you say, Monsieur, that New Orleans has already fallen – or that the British fleet was off New Orleans.” “I do not know that the city has fallen yet – but it can only be a matter of days. They landed first at Mobile and were defeated – but I believe that was just a diversion. The real invasion was carried out south of New Orleans. Oddly, the Americans sacked Barataria and chased Lafitte into the swamps before the English came ashore. It is a very – shall we say – fluid situation in the north now.” The British were further along than Tom thought. They had moved with uncharacteristic speed. No doubt the peace negotiations were moving along quickly and Admiral Cochrane and General Packenham wanted to snap up the goods in New Orleans before the treaty was signed. Tom worried that New Orleans had already fallen and the British Navy had choked off all the shipping through the Straits of Florida. Chasseur needed to take rich prizes soon if she was going to return a profit to Smith and Stevenson – and keep his crew sharp and active. If New Orleans had already fallen, there would be warships everywhere in the straits – some coming back to Jamaica, some heading east for Florida, some heading back to England. If she still held, the warships would still be concentrated around the river leaving the straits open. The London convoy would be passing thru the islands with only a small escort. If they could find the convoy and if New Orleans held, there might yet be riches for them. If New Orleans was gone, he might run head on into the entire English fleet. Tom thought of how vindictive Dennis Smith could be to those who owed him money and squirmed inside. Christ he hated to owe anyone and he owed Dennis thousands. He needed desperately to take a big prize – to take home chest after chest of British specie, coffee, molasses, sugar, teak – to lead a half dozen prizes up the Chesapeake – then to buy his own ship and start his own trading house. His only option was to get in with the London fleet on its way to Jamaica and New Orleans and try to cut out some rich English prizes from the fleet – while avoiding the escort. “Marcel – the last time you saw English ships was four or five weeks ago? So the London convoy has yet to pass Martinique?” “That is correct Thomas; the London convoy has not come through the Windward Islands yet.” Aury snapped his fingers and leaned toward Tom. “I know you now monsieur – you are Thomas Boyle – Wild Tom Boyle call you. I met you in Baltimore in 1812. You fought La Libre - Portugese frigate - to a standstill off Pernambocu last year - yes?” “Not just a Portugee frigate but a whole damn fleet!” cried Shelby. “Forty gun frigate and three British letters of margue armed to the teeth. We was outgunned 100 guns to our 14. But the old Comet - stout little ship that Comet – took ‘em all on and not only fought ‘em to a standstill, but destroyed two of ‘em, took the biggest one and chased that Portugee back into Pernambocu after killing her captain and wounding her mate. At night yet, mate – in the pitch dark! Terrifying it was, absolutely terrifying.” “That’s quite a tale Captain, no wonder they call you Wild Tom.” “It may have been a little reckless – I didn’t think that Portugee was a man-o-war at first and once alongside, well, there was nothing for it but to carry on as best we could. And she was a brig, not a frigate.” “If even half of the story is true, it is impressive, very impressive indeed. We could use a man of your experience and intrepid nature Captain Boyle. As Commodore of the revolutionary navy of Nuevo Grenada and protector of Cartagena I can provide you with a letter of marque and the opportunity to prey upon Spanish ships as well as British.” Commodore is it? Thought Tom. “Well…Commodore” – he certainly didn’t have the spit and polish look of a commodore – “that is quite an offer. I sail under the Yankee flag for a syndicate in Baltimore. How is it that I could sail under the flag of Cartagena?” “The revolutionary congress of Nuevo Grenada and Cartagena would provide you a letter of marque and reprisal captain. This will give you the freedom to attack any ship bearing Spanish goods or goods bound for Spain. It is our intent to cut Spain off from her supplies here in the New World and starve her into granting our freedom. Of course, for those involved in this endeavor, the risks are great, but so are the rewards. The revolutionary government issues a letter of marque and you are free to sail for the freedom and glory of Cartagena. We sail for freedom captain, the chance to win the freedom of a country is compensation enough is it not? But should you need further incentive, imagine getting your hands on a Spanish treasure ship captain – Spanish gold for the taking.” Before Tom could answer Shelby broke in. “That’s quite a proposition monsewer – But, suppose your revolutionary congress disappears into the jungle - there is no revolutionary government anymore. Then, your letter of marque isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. You go a-privateering across the main thinking all is legal like – and come upon some Spanish or British frigate which they say you’re a pirate and who would stand for you? The government of Cartagena – Bah - it don’t exist. You’ll be hung by the neck before the day is out!” “I hear tell Cartagena is tottering and on her last legs. You patriots have taken to fighting amongst yourselves, food is scarce, and a Royal fleet is gathering in Cadiz to put an end to the revolution. It may have already sailed. Anarchy and terror are said to be abroad in Cartagena – worse than the French Terror in Paris. Bolivar is ready to abandon the city to the rabble – even he cant lead such a crowd.” Shelby leaned forward – “it is said there are one hundred dead a day left lying in the streets – that is what they are saying about Cartagena and your glorious revolution.” Grimly Tom thought of the teeming city of Cartagena with hundreds of people dying every day ruled by mobs and violence while the erstwhile patriots fought each other. And a Royal Spanish fleet on the way to boot! It would be best to give Cartagena, her patriots and the Spanish a wide berth. Shelby continued - “I’ve heard tell your letters of marque are worthless. They say that Cartagena privateers are really nothing more than pirates, brigands and freebooters. No offense, but I don’t think joining your South American revolution would be a wise move Commodore.” Ourdineaux and Latour shifted in their seats, obviously handing weapons. Aury snapped a look at them. For the moment at least, he still had them under control. Aury had been drinking and losing heavily most of the day and his eyes blazed with sodden aggression. “It is true, Mr Cochrane, the revolution has its difficulties, it has turned somewhat - grim. But, we fight for an immortal principle, we fight for freedom and liberty. We fight regardless of the odds or our own selfish ideas of success and failure. It is our God given right to live as free men and we must fight for it! Surely, Americans understand that! We fight to carry on the initiative of your own glorious revolution.” “But, we Sud Americanos are not the same as you in the United States – we have been under the heel of a brutal monarch for so long, we cannot simply cast off his yoke and caper about as free beings – no, the people need direction and a sure hand at the helm. They need a man such as your Washington, or a Bonaparte, a man of iron will and guile. As soon as such a man of destiny appears and has the resources he needs, South America will fall under his spell and a new day will dawn. All it will take is a General Supremo to lead us to victory over the remnants of the Ancien Regime. Bolivar – hasn’t the stomach for this fight – he fights only the Spanish and doesn’t see the enemy within – the traitors and cowards in our midst.” “You Americans chase the English – the most powerful monarch alive - even unto his very own shores. But you always come back to a refuge – Baltimore, Charleston, Savannah – no one there calls you pirate, they call you heroes. But we in Sud America are hounded and hunted and burned out of our own refuges and ports – not by that whore’s son of a Spanish monarch that can barely afford a royal barge, let alone a fleet. Not by that aristocratic moron that knows nothing of naval matters – no, we are defeated by each other and ourselves. Our own people condemn us as pirates and betray us at every turn. We dare not trust each other – these traitors, these scoundrels betray us for their own advancement. Cowards! They even betray us with the United States! Everywhere we go, these traitors have given us the stench of piracy.” “Two years ago, my schooner was in Savannah. We were set upon by a mob of screaming Americans. 12 of my men were killed and my ship was burned. They said we were filthy French banditti! I presented my ship’s papers to them – all was in order – but the law of the sea meant nothing to those savages. We were treated no better than dogs, common curs – by Americans! I and five of my men barely escaped with our lives by swimming to safety and sailing to Baltimore.” Aury continued – “We are fighting for the same thing my friends – we are fighting for liberty and freedom! Morally, you and I have the same ammunition do we not? We represent a revolutionary government, just as you did in your war for independence and as you do now. Yet we are ferocious putrid pirates and you are glorious defenders of freedom? Bah! If only the United States would help us, if only we would all unite, we may all be rid of these Europeans.” He spat out the word European as though it were poison. Aury sank back into his chair and moodily flipped a card. “Perhaps, its true men only fight for riches. Perhaps in the end it doesn’t matter who prevails, perhaps we are all only interested in gold. But I prefer to think the best, to think that we are fighting for a noble cause and an immortal future. If we are pirates, then my friends, so are you.” “Pirates! Pirates is it?” Shelby started to rise, his hand on his dirk. “Hold Mr Cochrane – Belay that!” slowly Shelby took his seat at Tom’s low growl. “Commodore Aury – yet there is a difference between us. Americans don’t fight to put another man on another throne – we fight for individual freedom – not the freedom to replace current shackles with new shackles. England violated our God given rights – their navy kidnapped thousands of our innocent seaman; seized hundreds of innocent merchant ships even to within our national waters; and throttled our trade with illegal, mock and pretended blockades. These are individual, personal affairs, not the affairs of government! We fight to restore those rights.” “Our own government is weak and inefficient - by design! Our capital has been burnt, our regular navy bottled up, the Chesapeake terrorized, New Orleans threatened and perhaps lost, the grand schemes to invade Canada have come to naught, our western expansion halted. Our government has succeeded at nothing in this war. The United States must resort to privateers to win this war – and the greater the profit to a privateer – the greater the violence done to British trade and the quicker the peace.” “American privateers - crewed by expert and fearless seaman I might add – roam the seas and choke off England’s life blood – her trade. We hit her where she’s most vulnerable – in her shops and her counting houses. No government or Supreme Commander or Commodore directs us, gives us our orders or approves our voyages or decisions. We are free to wage war as each captain sees fit within the law of the sea and the law of the United States. We are duly authorized and pledge our good conduct. We must never be mistaken for pirates – ever! And though each privateer expects to make a profit - indeed would not go to sea without the reasonable chance of a tremendous profit - we do not fight simply for gold – nor do we fight for power – we fight to be left alone.” “Your revolution has been corrupted; seduced by power. You seek to replace a monarch with a dictator – to seize and wield power rather than restrain it. Your revolution devours itself as you betray each other trying to become more powerful than your brothers. And with such a revolution, such corruption, the temptation is to deal in contraband, slaves, piracy – anything to accumulate the wealth necessary to direct the revolution in your favor – to become a rich and powerful man – perhaps La Liberator himself.” “Let me ask you Commodore, how many piasters might you have stowed away in your vault in Cartagena?” Aury looked at him sharp and Tom worried that he may have gone too far with the volatile Frenchman. “Oh Ho! Well done my friend, well done – I have beaucoup piasters safely stowed in a vault in Cartagena. And not one piaster will go to those lunatics slaughtering each other in the city in the name of freedom and liberty. Ha Ha! - I like you captain – I like that we are able to meet here in St Pierre and discuss such things freely – without consequence.” – and he shot a look at Dumont that could kill. “I have enjoyed our little discussion immensely Captain – you Americans always fascinate me. I agree, we Sud Americans fight for power, but I fail to see what else there might be to fight for. I will leave it at that.” “My regards Captain - thank you for an entertaining evening – if you will excuse us, we must return to our ships and prepare to sail. Until the next time Captain Boyle – if you do not find your convoy - remember, my offer stands – come sail for Cartagena and make men free – or perhaps make your fortune. May you find your English convoy and may the bulldogs be slow and rotten.” Aury gave Tom a salute, bowed, turned and strolled extravagantly out into the warm, frothy night. Ch 10 - James and slavery “SLAVES!!?? They have slaves aboard?” James Gordon yelled across the distance between the St Lawrence and La Passion as they made their way North in concert. “How many slaves Mr Olson?” “There are twenty-five of the poor bastards, er, poor souls crammed into a space no bigger than a cupboard just aft of the cable tier in the hold sir. I don’t know what they’re condition is, we’ve left them in there for the moment.” It was early morning, the sun rising golden, misty and wet from behind the mountains of Martinique. The rigging on La Passion was sufficiently repaired to allow some sail to be set and both ships were now reaching under easy sail to the North. James had interrogated L’Anglois during the night and looked over the papers from the masters cabin. There was a letter of marque from the Revolutionary Congress of Nuevo Grenada signed by one Commodore Aury and a logbook listing the six ships they had taken as prize. It appeared La Passion was a legitimate privateer with every right to hold condemned cargo from her legal enemies - but did that cargo include slaves? “L’Anglois, bring me L’Anglois – bring me the mate of this piratical wreck. Would you like to explain why there are twenty-five human beings chained up in the fore hold of your vessel?” snapped James. “They are legal prize to La Passion. Our commission is to cruise against Spanish vessels. We came across a Spanish slave ship bound for Santiago de Cuba just off the coast of Puerto Rico. We took the ship, took off all the cargo and ransomed the ship and crew. It is all in the log book sir, in the masters cabin. We intended to drop our cargo in Barataria with Lafitte for condemnation, but the British fleet is there. We felt it best to have our cargo condemned in a neutral port and Martinique was the most promising. We were to rendezvous with Commodore Aury in St Pierre, offload our cargo and receive further instructions.” “How many slaves did you originally take aboard?” “I believe we took fifty or so out of the prize.” “There are only 25 on your ship, in your hold. Where are the rest?” “Ils sont mort.” “Dear God, Boatswain, Mr Sweeney, set me alongside the prize – I want to go aboard. And you Monsieur are coming with me!” When Olson led him to the crate in the forward part of the hold and pulled back the tarpaulin, James gagged and stepped backward. The top and side of the crate – it was more a cage – consisted of thick wooden walls with two foot square openings spaced a foot apart. The openings were filled with hatches made of iron bars, locked with pad locks. With the tarpaulin removed, the smell was overpowering. Inside the cage, eighteen black men and seven black women lay one on top of another in debauchery and despair. They were all completely naked and their excrement ran through the bottom of the cage and into the bilge. They were emaciated and faint from hunger and dehydration. Trays, apparently to serve the captives their daily ration of rice, stood empty on top of the cage. “Mr Olson, we have to get these people out of this…this…contraption. Do you have the keys?” “Yessir, I believe I do.” Olson handed the large key ring from the lanyard around his neck and passed it to James. “Sir, before we let them loose, I believe it prudent to have our marines down here armed and ready – just in case sir.” The marines were deployed behind them with muskets and bayonets at the ready; James unlocked and opened the first hatch on the top of the cage. He unlocked and opened the second hatch and reached down to help the first person out of the cage. Slowly, shaking uncontrollably, covered in filth the captives climbed out of the cage with James’s help and slithered over the side to stand or collapse on the floor of the hold. It’s as though they were made of liquid. They were chained together in pairs and must exit the cage together. “Olson, find the keys to these leg irons – they’re probably in the masters cabin. You men, you and you – take these wretches and move them outside to the spar deck. Put them on the windward side and get them some rice and water. Find the pursers slops and get them some clothing for Godsakes. The rest of you come with me.” Two of the marines stacked their weapons and moved to carry out James’s orders to move the slaves to the sunlight. Never had their young Lieutenant given orders so crisply and quickly. They looked at each other and raised their eyebrows. James ran up the companionway to the upper deck in a fury and roared for L’Anglois. What sort of monster would confine people in such horrible conditions? L’Anglois acted as though everything were normal, as though they did this sort of thing every day, as though the people in the cage were nothing more than pigs or goats. “I’d treat even pigs and goats better than this!” thought James. “L’Anglois – go into the focs’l and bring out the five top ranking members left of your crew – carpenter, sailmaker, gunner, boatswain – bring them out here to me – and if there is any trouble L’Anglois, my men are prepared to shoot you down like rabbits.” Marines trained a swivel gun loaded with grape shot on the focs’l hatch. Sullenly, L’Anglois disappears into the focs’l. Two minutes later, he and four other men appear. The focs’l is locked behind again behind them. “Now go down below.” “Clap these shackles on these five and toss them in that cage. They can stay in there until we reach Cumberland Island. Use whatever force is necessary gentlemen.” James left the grinning marines with the protesting prisoners and returned to the deck. Soon curses, crunches, grunts and sobs indicated that the marines took his orders to heart. “Mr Smith – push those eight bodies overboard. There will be no memorial on this ship for slavers and pirates.” St Lawrence arrived in the sound of the St Mary’s river between Cumberland Island and the small town of St Mary’s, Georgia seven days later. They transferred the slaves to specially built quarters in the hold on St Lawrence and kept the crew of La Passion locked in the focs’l or the slave cage. James never went back aboard La Passion to interrogate L’Anglois or any of the other privateers locked there. Henry Olson acted as prizemaster aboard La Passion and both ship maintained contact and traveled in consort from Martinique to Cumberland. When they arrived in the small bay formed by a bend in the river and Cumberland Island they were greeted by the masts of thirty ships – Barrie’s squadron from the Chesapeake had arrived along with Admiral Cockburn’s squadron. The Admiral set up headquarters in magnificent Dungeness House – General Nathaniel Greene’s plantation mansion on Cumberland Island - now managed by his youngest daughter Louisa since the death of her mother, Caty, September past. Dungeness was a huge house of four floors made of a concrete of lime and shell from a huge ancient oyster midden. It was surrounded by twelve acres of tropical gardens being happily destroyed by British and Colonial troops busy preparing a parade ground, fortifications, prisoner stockade, latrines and bivouac for the four or five thousand troops Cockburn hoped to command. The previous week the Colonial troops took St Mary’s in a short, violent engagement with American militia. Now, as St Lawrence and La Passion anchored in the bay, the plundering of St Marys and surrounding plantations continued with zeal and abandon. After the two ships were safely anchored, James signaled for assistance from the flagship – Cockburn’s HMS Albion. A troop of marines was sent over from the island to take possession of the La Passion and release Olsons tired prize crew from their duties. The privateers were placed in a rude log stockade located on the grounds of the mansion, made from the trees of the orange orchard – now destroyed. James observed the signals flying from the flagship and the myriad boats and barges plying the bay between the ships in the fleet, the island and the town. He trained his glass on the small town and could see that the particular brand of warfare favored by Admiral Cockburn in the Chesapeake was being visited on St Marys as well. A large Indiaman – “Empress of Harcourt” – was tied to the large wharf along the waterfront, the prize of an American privateer, now retaken by the British. The streets of the town were piled high with furniture, clothes, casks and barrels brought out of the houses, warehouses and shops. Drunken colonial troops wander the streets or lay in a stupor. Officers stood in small groups of brilliant red or blue eyeing the booty on the street, ordering it brought to the wharf where it was either loaded into barges and ferried to the island, or loaded into the Empress. Red uniforms were everywhere around the town, and there was no sign of any of the inhabitants or any American troops. Some Royal marines are in the small fort down the river from the town, inspecting the spiked guns the Americans left behind after their retreat. A single shot rang out from the woods behind the town. Apparently not all the Americans are gone. A sergeant ordered a column of black Colonials into the woods to search for the cowardly rascal that dared take a shot at His Majesties troops as they looted the town. They returned empty-handed. James shut his telescope. The next day, James made his way to Dungeness for an interview with Admiral Cockburn. The admiral requested a personal report from the young Lieutenant after reading his official written dispatch and reviewing the ships papers. James looked forward to explaining the details of the combat and the capture for him and hearing his praise. “Well, Lieutenant - Your ship looks a fright sir – like an old island scow – certainly not the trim vessel I gave you some months ago! Perhaps you can tell me exactly what in the name of God you were thinking bringing that privateer here as a prize! Do you think that schooner is your legal prize sir?” James was taken aback by the Admirals tone – belligerent and accusing when he expected perhaps not exactly hosannas but a well done would not have been too extravagant. James stood across a huge and beautiful oak desk from the slim, elegant, grey-headed Admiral and gazed unseeing at the unfinished wall – was that an oyster shell sticking out of the wall - just over his head – and away from his hard blue eyes. “Yessir, er, um, sir? Well, sir, I employed a ruse recommended to me by Admiral Durham in Barbados. His notion was to make St Lawrence look the part of an island runner and sail her loose and lazy to attract privateers. Admiral Durham was looking for a certain Yankee privateer and captain – the Chasseur, Captain Boyle - that had the islands in an uproar sir and thought we might help him do something about it - God willing. He is the same privateer Captain Sir James Gordon warned me about sir, and a real menace. So, we painted St Lawrence yellow and sailed her slack and gained the attention of the privateer you see anchored beside us in the bay there. She came up on us in the night, thought we were a running island schooner and soon found out different when we lowered our ports and poured in a tremendous fire. Its in my report sir. At first we thought she was the Chasseur – but then we heard them swear in French. They fired at us first, sir. She is loaded with molasses and sugar, a box of specie worth at least fifty thousand pounds and twenty five slaves locked up in abysmal conditions sir. The crew is guilty of slave trading sir and perhaps piracy.” “You seem to have no idea Lieutenant of the difficult, nay, impossible position you have put this command. That “pirate” as you call him is a perfectly legal privateer, sailing under the authority of the revolutionary congress of Nuevo Grenada – Cockburn waved La Passions letter of marque in the air. You had no right to fire into her and no right to take her. She and her cargo are not contraband to you Lieutenant, they are not legal prize, they cannot be condemned. She does carry slaves, and the slave trade has been outlawed by His Majesty – by British subjects in British ships Lieutenant – not Spanish ships, not French ships, not Portugee ships and certainly not Cartheginian privateers! This is an illegal seizure Lieutenant and I have no choice but to return her to her remaining crew. The bastard will probably ask for some sort of remuneration for His Majesties Navy causing the deaths of eight of his shipmates!” “But sir - the slaves sir. At least let them go free. We cannot in good conscience give them back to those monsters to be put back in those cages and transported to God knows where! Surely sir! For the love of God.” “Lieutenant, while it is true that one of my aims on this ridiculous, wilderness coast is to encourage a slave revolt among the plantations, and it is true that my Colonial troops are all free black men from the Chesapeake and it is also true that we have established an encampment here with two thousand escaped and free slaves – I cannot free the twenty five slaves you have brought on La Passion. Those slaves are owned by people who are not currently at war with His Majesty and so therefore are out of our reach. Those slaves – your slaves Gordon – did not arrive here voluntarily – you brought them here ILLEGALLY!” Cockburn thumbed through the cargo manifest. “They are owned by one Carlos Montoya of Santiago De Cuba. Were we to keep or free your slaves, Senor Montoya would file a claim in British Admiralty court for their restitution or reward…along with the owners of La Passion - and you and I will be liable Lieutenant. They are worth perhaps one hundred pound each on the market – have you twenty-five hundred pound Lieutenant? No, neither do I.” James made one last effort. “But surely sir, you see the hypocrisy here – part of our mission on this coast is to free slaves, part of our duty to God is to free slaves – the Royal Navy prides itself on being a refuge for escaped slaves – yet, because these slaves are owned by someone other than Americans and were set free rather than escaping on their own they must remain captive? Don’t you always say the deck of His Majesties ships are the same as British soil – as soon as the slaves set foot on St Lawrence, they ceased being slaves. Surely, we can set them free on that basis sir?” Cockburn eyed the young man, then said coldly: “Lieutenant – you forget your place sir! We are not here to free American slaves – we are not here to do Gods work, whatever that may be! We are here to throttle American ambition. We are here to prevent the Americans from taking Florida and expanding westward. That is the purpose of this campaign – to prevent Jonathan from becoming a new power in the world. You see young man, American unity balances lightly on the question of slavery. The South depends on slavery, and fears the consequences of abolition. The idea of thousands of slaves suddenly set free terrifies these farmers. The North abhors slavery but has no compunction about using the south’s cheap produce to supply their manufacturies and threaten British mercantile interests. It is advantageous for us to use their slave population to tear apart Jonathans southern plantations and at the same time exploit the schism between the North and the South over slavery to tear apart the entire United States. While slavery is an abomination that shall ultimately be abolished – we are not engaged in this operation purely to free slaves Lieutenant – I will leave that to your Methodists – we are about winning the war and protecting His Majesties interests.” James was stunned by Cockburns rebuke and his brutally honest appraisal of British strategy. The seemingly senseless looting by black troops of St Marys and the surrounding area was part of his grand strategy. He was deliberately trying to destroy the American south by agitating a slave rebellion. Britain would provide the guns, money and training and the escaped slaves would do the rest. James shuddered to think of the region engulfed in the sort of awful guerrilla warfare that occurred on Santo Domingo during its slave revolt. Thirteen years of shifting allegiances, violence, mayhem and blockade produced an independent, but bankrupt Haiti. It was impossible to predict how a similar conflict in North America would terminate. “Lieutenant – you will return La Passion and her cargo to her crew and tell them she is free to continue.” “Aye sir” “And Mr Gordon – I shall be sending nine barges up the St Marys the day after tomorrow on a small expedition – you shall fill a barge with your seaman and marines and accompany them – Good luck Lieutenant.” “Yes sir, thank you sir.” “And one other thing Gordon – There is news that His Majesties forces in front of New Orleans have suffered a set back and have been forced to concentrate before Mobile. There are also rumors that a peace treaty has been signed between Britain and the United States – though I have yet to see an official dispatch. We don’t have much time Lieutenant, it appears we will not be allowed to force Jonathan to surrender; therefore, we must limit his future options and sow hate and discord among the rubes. Now off with you!” Ch 11 – Chasseur and Barossa An immense, immaculate, indifferent sea blown apart by a heavy wind generated on the deserts of Africa lay beneath a bone dry sun. Two ships race with the wind, dancing up and down on the massive waves. Sometimes a puff of white smoke jets from one and the report of a cannon echoes across the eternal waves. Tom Boyle leaned against Chasseur’s shattered taffrail – shattered because they had cut it apart like fiends chopping kindling for gods sake to move the two best and most accurate twelve pounders on the ship, (Smasher and Bealzebub) aft, bolt them to the transom and start tossing cannon balls at the god-damned British frigate chasing them - and blew a smoke ring of tobacco from his cigar. He watched it float forward over the starboard aft-most cannon just as another splash dowsed the entire crew on the aft deck of the fleeing privateer. The boom of Barossa’s bow chaser followed close behind the splash. Chasseur spent four days working her way back up to windward after leaving the shelter of St Pierre. Since the London convoy had yet to pass Martinique, that could only mean they were not yet in the Caribbean. Chasseur was back in her usual cruising ground South East and to windward of Barbados when they sighted what may have been the topsails of the convoy, but later that night a British frigate appeared to windward of them in the darkness. When the dawn came, the frigate was hull up under a full press of sail chasing them. She was HMS Barossa kept at sea by Admiral Durham to ensure no privateer interfered with the convoy when it touched at Barbados on its way to Jamaica and points beyond. Barossa was becoming very familiar to those aboard Chasseur, as was Chasseur becoming very familiar to Capt McCullough and crew on Barossa. “Shelby, what do you make of our friends fore topsail – I daresay its new. Remember our last encounter, it was quite yellow with a great black streak down the middle where it had chafed the mast. I believe that new sail is why we cant seem to outrun them this time. With her old sail, we could double Barossa to windward quite easily.” Cochrane looked back from the tiller at his captain nonchalantly puffing on a pipe as though sailing on a summer’s evening on the bay and as though this bloody great British frigate warn’t even close, let alone within spitting distance – Nothing bothers Wild Tom – ‘Tis just another day on the bay he says. No matter how bad it gets, no matter how grim it looks – ‘tis just another day on the bay. “Aye, Tom, I smoked that one too. I suspect he has more than a new forecourse – I think our dear Admiral has supplied his new frigate with all manner of new kit to try and bring us in.” said Shelby. If Tom Boyle was going to be fearless, then by God so would Shelby Cochrane. “He sets it a bit flat for my taste, I’d ease it some and get some more belly into it.” Tom said – “We have this heavy wind today compared to the light airs during our other encounters – it should be no surprise that Barossa should gain some on us even under all plain sail. I believe the wind will lie down later in the day however, and we will show him our heels again.” John Dieter sighted down the barrel of Beelzebub, gauged the moment, pulled the lanyard and jumped back as the gun ran up against its tackle in response. CRACK! Tom turned to see the ball splash harmlessly into a wave 200 hundred yards astern. “It was on target John, if that damned wave hadn’t rose up in your way I’m positive you would have taken out her foremast and ended this nonsense. Too bad we ain’t in smooth water and light air, I’m sure you’d have set his ears back then.” Immediately another CRACK and jet of smoke from Smasher on the port side – the ball arcing away far over the top of Barossa – she having sunk into a twenty foot trough and Chasseur’s stern slewing upward ten feet just as the cannon was fired. “George, is that how you shot aboard Constitiution? Godsake man that was nowhere near.” said Boyle. Everyone on Chasseurs quarterdeck knew Tom Boyle was playing with George Roberts. Roberts was the best gunner on the water whether the US navy, the Royal Navy, American privateers or pirates. If he couldn’t hit the target, it couldn’t be hit. But if Boyle called him out, George was sure to shoot until he was dragged away from the gun with bloody fingers - he’d take no food, no water and no sleep until he hit the target. For George, gunnery was personal. The six slave crew from the Eliza – Cumberbatch’s pink Chasseur burned so long ago off Barbados - were confined forward of the foremast, but not restrained. Dressed in rags, they were terrified the English frigate would catch the privateer and take them back to certain punishment in Barbados. Peter, tall and muscular with a disfiguring slave brand in each cheek was a first class seaman – he had been master of the Eliza and sailed her up and down the Barbadan coast for his master. His five compatriots, though not as good sailors as Peter, also knew their way around a ship. All six had turned to with a will almost as soon as they were hauled aboard – and now they wanted Chasseur to escape as much as her own crew did and they were willing to help her do it. Peter set them to knotting and splicing some of the broken and frayed lines aboard Chasseur. All six helped when it was time to apply muscle to the braces and when they smiled at one another as Chasseur started to fly and make her way across the big seas faster than any of them had ever been before – they were instantly adopted by Chasseur’s crew. None of them had ever been under fire however, and now with cannon balls splashing close to the ship they disappeared into the cable tier. The wind was strong and steady out of the East South East, blowing both ships toward Martinique. Huge rollers came with the wind all the way from Africa and with nothing to impede them on their way to the islands; the waves picked the frigate up and shoved her around cruelly. Chasseur was in constant danger of being completely overwhelmed by the creaming blue water astern. Helmsman on both ships struggled to keep the overpowered vessels alive, and it was a near thing, driven by each captains desire to prevail. Sometimes, all they could see of Barossa was her topmasts, close to be sure, but the ship herself hidden two or three waves back. And sometimes all they could see of Barossa was her underbelly as she tipped drunkenly atop a tower of blue water above their heads. Gunnery was next to impossible in these conditions, but that didn’t stop Captain McCulloch from putting fifty guineas bounty on the man could dismast that wispy little pirate. But now they were getting close to Martinique – on the lee side of the island Chasseur would disappear – either she would sail away in the light wind, or hide in the neutral water of the French colony. Barossa would be forced to beat back upwind empty-handed to protect Barbados. For Barossa, it was now or never. “That makes fifty two shots they’ve taken and not one hit so far!” said Tom. “Tom I wish you would please not be risking the poor dear bark with talk like that, just one of those balls could take out a mast and we’d be done - off to Dartmoor for sure. Please, pay a mind…Sir” Only Shelby could speak thus to Boyle about his superstitions and how the captain was always foolishly tempting fate like that and why he was still afloat no one knew. But up and down the deck seaman grabbed their ears, scratched the stays, crossed themselves, stepped lightly and did other odd absolutions to keep the captains recklessness from harming their ship. Tom laughed and plugged lit another cigar off the stump of the old one. Two more splashes and two more booms from the towering ship aft. These last two splashes were more abeam than abaft. “He is catching us up, there is no denying it. I would have thought the wind would lay down this far into it, and let us fly away, but apparently we are not to be favored, so we will have to take matters into our own hands.” “Jesus wept - and I wonder why we haven’t been so favored, your lordship. What with you tempting all the fates in the watery universe – Neptunes certainly laughing I’ll grant you that!” muttered Cochrane under his breath. “You say something?” Said John Dieter “Pray the wind drops John, pray the wind drops.” “We’ll have to lighten ship to escape our dear Captain back there boys. We’ll have to cast some guns overboard – Smasher and Beelzebub will stay aft – but we’ll heave the eight foremost guns overboard. He’s within our range now and I think as soon as Mr Roberts pays attention, Captain Redcoat shall feel the sting in this little girls arse - eh George? We’ll have to start our water as well – we can water again in Martinique after we run him off. Off to it gentlemen, start our water and chuck those heavy guns over. That will trim us further aft for more speed. Shelby, when we are done with this exercise, I want you conning the ship and John on the cannon. It’s time for us to escape this brute.” “What about the balls and powder sir, should we get rid of them too?” “No we’ll need them for the two chasers and the other guns – and we’ll need them for the new cannons we’ll have to take after we’ve thrown these overboard!” Gangs of men started to run the pumps to jettison all the fresh water over board and two more gangs – one starboard and one port - cast off each gun and pushed it into the ocean. Her decks were crowded with busy, sweating, nervous seamen. Chasseur lightened noticeably and gained speed. “Do you know what Barossa means Captain Boyle?” “No Mr Cochrane, I do not believe I am familiar with the moniker Barossa – some Greek tragedy the damn English are in love with, or perhaps some Greek god they made up – or perhaps, just perhaps, it means very large dangerous frigate in Italian?” “No sir, none of those” - Shelby grunted as he horsed the tiller over to keep Chasseur from broaching – “the battle of Barossa was a skirmish fought in Spain against Napoleon, where a single British regiment – no more than 3500 men, valiantly fought off a French attack of seven or eight thousand and even captured their Imperial Eagle. It happened in Spain in 1811. The Spanish were allies of the British then, and just watched the whole thing happen – never helped at all – can you imagine? Could have helped this outnumbered regiment - but didn’t. A British Sergeant- major – Patrick Masterson – a good Scotsman by the way - captured the imperial eagle of the French regiment and is supposed to have cried - 'Bejabbers, boys, I've got the cuckoo!' Imagine that, in the middle of a pitched and desperate battle he said 'Bejabbers, boys, I've got the cuckoo!” Tom smiled and looked back at the plunging frigate - “Yes Mr Cochrane - and what was the result of this great victory.” “Nothing……the Spanish reinforced Cadiz like they were always going to do, and the English were left with Gibraltar which they will always have – the end result was nothing. Except that Sergeant Masterson was made a captain and the regiment kept its cuckoo. I happen to know Sergeant Masterson personally Tom” “You do?” “Yessir, I do and he said no such thing.” “Well, then, what exactly did he say.” Two more shots from Barossa’s chasers plow into the water alongside Chasseur and throw more spray on the quarterdeck. “Christ!” said Shelby, ducking. “He didn’t say nothing – a French grenadier, big bastard with a mustache, had hold of the standard. He swings it at Patrick’s head, our Pat dodges the blow, cuts inside Monsieur and sabers him good – split him right open and none too pretty it was either – he caught the eagle as the dying grenadier dropped it. They thought they was all gonna die – but the French ran when they saw the rooster in the hands of a massive, great Scotsman with a bloody saber. The French should have pushed it – they’d have won and got their trinket back. But they didn’t and now it’s some bloody great British victory - as usual, won by a Scot.” “They named yon frigate after it –“ “Yessir, but it was just a skirmish.” CRAACK – another two balls shoot out from Barossa – tear over the quarterdeck and splash into the sea beyond, making the entire crew duck. “Well shot sir, well shot. He’s got a good ‘un on his starboard chaser, there’s no doubt about that!” Both ships lift to waves precisely at the same time and for a long moment hang over the following trough. Chasseur’s freshly charged guns were just being run out again. Dieter and George Roberts both sight down their guns at the same time and come to the same decision at the same moment. Stepping back, they pull the two lanyards together. The cannons bark simultaneously and the two balls go out together. On Barossa they are still reloading the guns. A huge great clang and a flash - one ball hits Barossa’s starboard forward chaser and sends shards of metal everywhere. The entire gun crew is stunned, some sit down, some hold their ears, and others are thrown flat. Midshipman Greves, 17 years old, yelps once as a piece of iron drives into his chest and kills him instantly. A grizzled marine catches the boy and lays him gently down in the scupper – a jet of hot blood from his chest covers the Marine’s hands and spills onto the deck. The rest of the gun crew, dazed by the sound and light from the shot, don’t realize the gun is now free – the starboard tackle has parted and the gun swings around on the port tackle before it too, parts with the sound of a pistol shot. The gun is loose and rolls dangerously across the focs’l and crashes into the chaser on the port side. The second shot severs the foremast shrouds at the port chain plate, passes through the rail and shoots wood and metal splinters aft – it continues across the main deck and bounces off the mizzen mast. One of the goats is decapitated and bleeds promiscuously. Shrouds snap and whip while the foremast leans, bends and flexes dangerously. McCulloch immediately orders the frigate to turn to starboard to reduce the pressure on the damaged rigging at the bow. Two men stagger aft, down to the orlop to see the surgeon – dazed and bloody from flying debris. “Sink that bastard” – cries McCulloch – “as we turn - fire as you bear.” The big 18 pounders on the main gun deck have been loaded and ready for two days waiting for just this opportunity. They have to hit the flying schooner now and carry something away, or she’ll be gone. All is chaos forward aboard Barossa as she turns; ten men are trying to get control of the renegade bow chaser rolling dangerously across the ship. Another ten men are already splicing and knotting to stabilize the foremast. There is grim determination on the gun deck. Each gun captain leans out his gun port trying to gage when the privateer will be in range. Barossa turns slowly to prevent overloading her wounded rigging. The damned schooner is getting away, but she’s not gone yet. They’ve hurt our home and our ship – and we’ll not be trifled with like that mate, not by no pirate. Barossa curves down into the trough of a huge indigo wave and through a miraculous convergence of wind, water and light, there is Chasseur high atop the crest, slowly dropping down the back of the wave. Chasseur will be dropping, while Barossa will be rising, firing and corkscrewing across a watery valley. Slowly Barossa turns, and first one, then the next…and then the next of her great guns bear on Chasseur’s stern. Each gun is deliberately laid and fired. This is not one of your immediate, crashing, thunderous broadsides. This is measured, calm, efficient, deadly work – for the Chasseur it takes forever. Barossa carries fourteen almost new eighteen pound great guns along each side of her gun deck. They are powerful, accurate and served by experts. The first gun fires and the ball pierces Chasseurs big forecourse just to starboard of the mast. The second gun fires and pierces the forecourse on the port side. The third gun fires and one of the main topmast shrouds parts with a wild twang, while two big lignum vitae blocks fall to the main deck. The fourth gun fires and the main topsail has a new hole. Ten left thinks Tom. Christ, they are certainly taking their time! They’re going for the rigging, trying to wing us. They just might do it too! The fifth and sixth guns fire together and both balls pass through the rigging slicing everything in their path. Incredibly, they hit nothing vital. The seventh gun fires and the ball holes the flying jib. The smoke from the frigates guns drifts down between the two ships. Boom, Boom, Boom, the frigates guns go off like clockwork. Tom stands on the quarterdeck and watches each of the frigates guns fire in succession. It’s like watching a military salute, except the guns are all aimed at him personally. With professional detachment, he observes the action - it must be difficult for them to see us now with the smoke. They’re firing at about fifteen second intervals. They could have used chain shot with effect if they were closer. The rest of Chasseur’s crew scatters to hide as far forward and as deep in the ship as they can get. They knew the impact a frigate would have when raking a privateer and they want no part of it. Chasseur’s deck is abandoned except for anybody that might have found a place hiding behind something massive and metallic. The rest slip down below. They all wait, tense and apprehensive cringing at every shot, straining to see the damage. At first, there were derisive comments and rude gestures. Now, they are deep in their own thoughts wishing to God for the cannonade to end. Forward someone is praying and one of the slaves is singing a long, slow, mournful song deep in the cable tier. The distance between the two ships increases rapidly. It is damned hard to hit a moving target while you are moving in relation to it, but Christ, these English gunners are very good – are they not done yet? Very good indeed Tom thought, as another ball tears overhead. More lines cut loose – a preventer brace gone there and ratlines shot completely apart on the main mast. Another shot and a huge crash down below and Chasseur jumps, slews to starboard, straitens and carries on - the crew look at each other and wonder just what in hell got smashed down below. Aboard Barossa, the gun captain of gun number nine curses and whips his crew into action to reload, damn you, reload. We may yet get another shot. He wastes no time going after rigging like a damn Frenchman – “Hit the rudder on that bonny lass, and she’ll be ours with some marines and a row boat. Reload lads – be quick! There’s prize money to be made – make no mistake!” Shelby is on Chasseur’s helm, crouched low beside the tiller and reports that she still answers – the ball hasn’t taken out the rudder – but God only knew what those wicked bastards were going to hit next and there is probably a hole the size of Charleston ‘tween wind and water! Another shot passes through the rigging and punches a hole in the already tattered mainsail. Two more shots splash alongside, close enough to throw gallons of Atantic ocean across the deck. Barossa’s last two guns are yet to go off, and Chasseur is at their maximum range. Barossa continues her turn – she is almost on the crest of the wave and Chasseur is deep in the trough. Tom can see her captain on the quarterdeck with a telescope to his eye. The frigate rolls toward them – any second now. Smoke jets from the side of the frigate. The guns go off together and the balls slice toward the schooner. The first one whips down the side of the ship no more than 6 inches wide of the mark and perfectly parallel to her side not two feet off the water. Tom sees it as it sizzles alongside and plunges into the back of the wave 30 feet ahead. Tom hears the second shot - a low, moaning, drawn out buzz. High abaft the mainsheet and above Toms head, the main gaff is neatly sliced in two, the outboard end sagging down under the weight of the sail. The ragged, worthless, shot to pieces mainsail rips vertically from the leach down to the boom! Barossa completes her turn, hardens up on the wind on starboard tack still caring for her wounded port chain plate and rolls over the crest of the wave. The privateer is out of range. Through his telescope McCulloch sees Chasseur emerge from the gun smoke with half her mainsail blown to ribbons and hopes they have done enough damage to slow or stop her. Chasseur’s forecourse has three or four holes, half the main is gone, the jibs are holed and there are numerous lines hanging in the water but she has hardly slowed at all. As he watches, he sees two puffs of smoke fly from her stern chasers – absurdly out of range, only a stupid gesture surely – the balls fall far short – regardless, damn that Yankee bastard. I think the infernal villain actually waved at me! Yates, his first lieutenant reports “Winds is easing sir, and the chase has cleared his wreckage and is setting stuns’ls.” Yes, thank you Yates, God Damn that Yankee bastard. Ch 12 – Corruna and Convoy George Robinson pulls the lanyard and steps out of the way of the squat black cannon as it jumps back on its tackle. He watches as the ball flies straight and true, just as he’d aimed it, scant feet ahead of the Corunna’s forestay. Smiling, he thought of the huge ripping sound the ball would make to those manning the ship. Amidships, Chasseurs crew was either at their guns or gathered into William Christie’s boarding party. Christie, over six foot tall with shaggy blond hair and blue eyes, looked every inch the Viking warrior. In a fight, Christie was terrifying and he seemed to get even bigger when the cutlasses and pistols were in play. If it became necessary to board in anger, Christie would make sure of the outcome. Tom picked up his speaking trumpet to shout his demand that the Corunna strike and heave to. “Looks like George has already communicated your wishes Tom.” said Shelby as the Corunna rounded up directly in front of Chasseur and stopped dead in the water before Tom had yelled the first syllable of “Strike and heave to you ninny – cant you see you have no escape and no help”. But the Corunna came to the wind nice as you please with no undo shouting or bother. They were no more than three miles off the south coast of Saint Lucia under a brilliant blue sky with no other ship in sight. Chasseur came to the wind too and all became controlled bedlam as they hoisted the two boats over the side and the prize crew made ready to row through the lumpy seas to take possession. Suddenly, the Corunna fell off, the red ensign snapped from the jack at her stern, her sails filled and she was under weigh again, leaving Chasseur drifting with boats and men in the water and her head to the wind. From the taffrail the Corunna’s master shook his fist and damned the low black brig left wallowing in his wake. “Damned insolent Jonathan pirate – You’ll not take this ship and put me in arrears with the company! Oh no sir! The company will have my hide should I let you take the Corunna!” Shelby Cochrane spat over the side and cursed. “I hate it when they think they can run away – such a damned waste of time.” Shelby pushed the tiller over and Chasseur started to get under weigh as her canvas bellied to the wind. Still, thought Cochrane, smiling, I enjoy the chase almost as much as the catch. “Look alive there, get the boats in before we leave em behind.” Spray started to splash from Chasseurs head and the boats were dragged through the water as the drenched seaman made fast the falls and they were hoisted aboard laughing, coughing and slapping each other on the back from the increasing maelstrom along Chasseurs side. Once both boats were safely aboard, the sails were trimmed while Shelby fashioned an intercepting course. Chasseur’s crew were laughing and calling out rudely to the Corunna as they closed the distance. Corunna was a big ship, heavily loaded, a grand prize. They were in great good humor and the Corunna was making this great sport. “George – if you will do the honors again for me please.” said Tom. Robinson sighted down his gun, adjusted the elevation, waited for the right moment and pulled the lanyard. The ball left a black streak in the blue sky as it screamed between the main and foremast of the Corunna no more then 6 feet over the deck parting braces and stays as it tore the air to splash a hundred yards beyond the ship and sink into oblivion. Again the Corunna flew into the wind and came to a halt. This time, Corunna dropped her boats and her ten man crew clambered into them and pulled hard for the nearest land. They stepped the masts, set the sails and heeling hard to the breeze, surfed away. A string of terrible oaths followed them as the master of the Corunna stood in the main chains shaking his fist, kicking the air, waving his hat spitting and shouting with his grey hair blowing in the wind. They were only one-half mile from the coast of St Lucia now and in danger of drifting aground on the rocky coast. Shelby brought Chasseur to a halt within 20 feet of the abandoned Corunna, both ships nodding to the playful ocean. The master of the Corunna continued cursing his crew for cowardly, craven, blackguards – the pusillanimous, spineless, gutless, farmer’s wives who took off and left him to fight off vile, dirty, piratical, villainous Americans – Americans of all things – and privateers to boot – alone – the shame, horror and despair. Tom came aboard with the eight man prize crew. Two of the crew coaxed the master – Ethan Dempster was his name – to sit on a barrel they set up as a temporary seat. Other boarders opened the main hatch – Dempster starting to curse them now – Oh and just take whatever you want, you hard run criminals, pirates you are every damn one of you. I’ll see you hang, just wait until a Kings ship catches you thieves – Dartmoor will be too good for you then, Gods my witness! Shut him up Mr Sinclair – I’ve had quite enough. Sinclair – one of Chasseur’s bosuns and prize masters - took a belaying pin and stood menacingly behind the old master as the crew set to work readying the Corunna. Tom continued into the hold to inspect her cargo. There were many articles of hardware and manufacture from London and she was ballasted with coal. He found the master’s cabin and the ships log and cargo manifest. Yes, it showed the hardware – pumps, farm implements, tools, furniture - but it listed something else as well – Corunna carried eight brand new brass nine pound carronades fresh from the foundry in Liverpool. She was on her way to deliver them to Grenada. Corunna had left the London convoy at Barbados to risk the short passage from Barbados to Grenada alone and make up for lost time. Dempster must have had a heavy penalty for arriving late. He paid a heavier price for his impatience. On Chasseur, Shelby saw Tom come bounding up the companionway from the masters cabin and motion him over to speak between the two ships. “She’s got nine pound carronades aboard Shelby – We can take them out of her and use them ourselves. We don’t have nine pound shot, but we’ll use a double load of six pound and four pound. That should work for us. Get some tackles rigged and we’ll hoist them out before we send Mr Sinclair and crew on their way to Charleston.” All was controlled bedlam again as tackles were rigged and privateers swarmed over the Corunna and into her hold. The cannon – new, beautiful, gleaming cannon – were swung aboard Chasseur and made fast. Further forward in the hold they found the carriages and as Mr Sinclair and his eight prize crew were shaping a course for Charleston, the new cannon were set up on Chasseur’s gun deck. The effect on the crew was magical – guaranteed prize money and not a small amount either. The Corunna was certain to fetch several hundred thousand dollars, and an able seaman’s share was figured to be at least three thousand dollars, almost a Kings ransom. Sinclair was a good one too, you can bet he wont fall to the blockade and will get her home safe. I hope young Sinclair doesn’t kill Master Dempster before they get to Charleston. Dempster was lashed to a ringbolt right forward with a piece of gun cotton tied around his mouth. Several hours of that, plus a good drenching sea every now and again and he was happy to be confined to a berth in the forecastle. Tom Boyle, Shelby Cochrane and John Dieter stood right forward in the bows of Chasseur with telescopes fully extended swaying easily with the motion of the plunging privateer. The crew found numerous chores and routines to take them close to the three officers and overhear their conversation and pass on the latest information to their mates. Along Chasseur’s port side, the entire horizon was filled with topsails from midships to right forward. “I count one hundred and ten sail, all British, with perhaps five men-of-war escorts. Looks like we’ve found the London convoy boys, and we are the fox in the henhouse.” “Cochrane says there are five or six brigs or frigates acting as escort. We’ll have to lose them first before we can get at them prizes.” Indeed there were one hundred and ten ships to leeward of Chasseur, and Shelby was correct, they were escorted by two brigs of war, a seventy-four gun ship of the line and three frigates – the brig and one frigate chasing the slower vessels at the rear of the convoy to keep them as close as possible to the formation like worried sheep dogs. They were ninety or so miles east of Grenada and two days since taking Corunna. The frigate detached herself from her station on the convoy and ran up in chase of Chasseur. “Run up the Yankee flag, John. Lets dance a bit with mister John Bull.” Chasseur easily weathered the frigate and sailed just out of reach of her chasers. “Ah, there she goes, back to her flock.” said Tom as the frigate sheared away to return to the convoy. “Experienced captains we have here gentlemen, they wont be easily led away from their charges.” Tom’s preferred tactic to cut out a prize from a convoy was to run to the front of the convoy and dart in amongst the fastest of the Indiamen, cut one out and crack on like thunder before a man of war could put in an appearance. The standard British convoy was formed with a 74 gun battleship at the head of the convoy with all the merchants following. It was important for the fleet to match the speed of its slowest members to keep from falling apart. In some instances, the frigates would find it necessary to clap on to a slow sailing scow of an Indiaman and tow her back into position. After observing the rear of the convoy for a couple of hours, Chasseur set all sail to run to the head of the formation. Shelby looked at the convoy with the gun-brigs and frigate sweeping back and forth across the rear and flanks of the formation. From this distance, without the aid of the telescope, all he could see were small white patches barely moving on the horizon. He scratched and scowled and looked over his shoulder directly into the wind. There was no sign of a change in the weather, the same sunshine and trade winds were well established and would blow for weeks on end. To leeward, there was no land until you reached Panama. The British could run, but there was nowhere to hide. Shelby could see it clearly – they would race ahead of the convoy, leave the men of war far behind in the rear and take the fleetest of the ships before they could come to their aid – there was plenty of room and plenty of wind. “Lets get some sail on her, Shelby and see what we can cut out from the front of the convoy.” Chasseur’s crew was mightily cheered to hear this news and it flashed along the decks faster than thought. With 80 men aboard and 10 men per prize – they could take 5 prizes and still have enough men to work Chasseur home. Plus the Corunna taken two days before – the men were working hard to figure their fortune. Chasseur blossomed with sail as they cracked on to get ahead of the convoy. Beautiful studding sails were set off the marvelous stuns’l yards. Magnificent staysails appeared above the jib. The beautiful fore and main topsails were set and sheeted home. The new mainsail set a brilliant white against the blue ocean, white clouds and the other older, yellowish sails. As they reached across the wind they trimmed the great sails such that they twisted up the mast with the topgallants pleasingly twisted away from the center of the ship – every sail taught and drawing like a harpooned whale. Chasseur was beautiful bowling across the ocean with her decks frequently awash. Tom stood with his hands on the windward main shrouds feeling his ship talk to him. Bring some men aft and to windward Shelby, that should take some of the gripe out of her. And John, lets rig some preventer stays, I believe that will allow us to set the royals, main topgallant staysail and flying jib. Tom Boyle loved sailing Chasseur fast and there were few who were better at than he. To get the brig tearing along required a steady hand on the helm and Shelby Cochrane was the best there was at steering a clipper at speed. John Dieter made damn sure every line and every sail were properly set or stowed – on a Baltimore clipper at speed, with everything demanded of her, their sense of seamanship was paramount. Even a minor mistake could instantly magnify into a major disaster and they – from master to lowest cabin boy - were determined not to let that happen. Everyone knew the fate of the Fox, privateer from Baltimore running from a British frigate off Puerto Rico. She was in sight of the frigate one moment, when a sudden squall hid her from view. When the squall cleared, the clipper was gone without a trace – along with her entire crew. The last two sails were set and trimmed and Chasseur exploded through the seas. There was not much of a swell, just a three or four foot chop, really no swell at all, good flat conditions for her to let out her long legs. When running from Barossa, they were the prey sailing in fear. Now, running down the convoy, they were the hawk, chasing the quarry – going for the kill. The crew gathered in small knots here and there along the deck, ducking the spray and looking at the convoy stringing across the horizon on their port side. They could easily see the merchant ships and pick out the men of war. As Chasseur swept past, a gun brig came to understand the danger of the situation and stood out to stay between Chasseur and the convoy. Too late, Captain, too late, thought Tom as he watched sails sprout from the brig. Staysails and studding sails flashed from her masts. She seemed to settle to her new canvas and start to move smartly when her fore topmast canted over drunkenly and fell into the ocean beside her to the cheers and jeers of Chasseur’s crew. Chasseur came to the head of the convoy led by a majestic 74 gun ship of the line – in fact she was HMS Majestic. Signals flew from the Majestic’s halyards and the convoy was doing a creditable job of huddling together. They reminded Tom of nothing so much as a flock of frightened ducklings huddling under their mother for protection. A frigate worked her way across the convoy and stood between Chasseur and her prey. Checked at the head of the convoy, Chasseur turned away and worked to windward along its flank again. Eventually, the British ships all passed on their way and Chasseur was at the rear of the convoy again. Another frigate stood out from the formation and gave chase under a cloud of sail, her guns run out and signals flying, but they easily evaded her close hauled on the larboard tack. But the frigate did her job very well indeed – she chased Chasseur all afternoon and Chasseur lost contact with the convoy in the gloom. That night, they sailed west and then northwest to intercept the convoy again and at daybreak were rewarded with a view of the British to the North with a lone ship standing to the south southwest. Immediately Chasseur made for the straggler. “Hoist the Yankee flag and give him a gun.” “She’s struck sir.” The ship civilly hove to, none of your shenanigans or heroics, and waited for Chasseur’s crew to take possession. The ensign fluttered down from the head of the main mast and she lay quietly with her jibs crossed. She was the Adventure of London with four guns and fourteen men bound to Havanna with ballast and iron work under command of a Captain Crocker – an elderly gentleman who wanted nothing more than to return home safely. Soon the prize crew under Mr. Allen, picked and organized before they left Baltimore, had been deposited aboard to take possession with orders to make for Charleston or any port north of there. As soon as Adventure was safely under the control of the prize crew and gathering weigh, Chasseur landed her boats on the run, the crews laughing and dripping in the warm water and sunshine. “Convoy’s bound for Jamaica and Havana Tom; I got it from the mate.” said Shelby. “Steer North Gentleman and we’ll see if we cant snap up another prize.” That evening, they came upon the convoy again now stretched across the northern horizon. Tom clambered up to Chasseur’s main top to get a better look. The ships were spread in a long clump of masts and sails extending east into the gloom of the coming night. Tom watched as slowly, with the setting sun and the rising darkness, first their hulls then their sails disappeared. Chasseur sailed fast north northwest that night to reach ahead of the convoy. The next day, as the sun came back up over the Eastern horizon, Tom climbed again into the main top to observe the convoy. There was nothing to see, the horizon was empty as far as he could see. Ch 13 - Chasseur and the convoy Tom ordered Chasseur to sail North and keep a sharp eye to windward to find the convoy again. By early morning, they sighted the topsails of the British still standing to the north across the cobalt sea. Chasseur ran down on the convoy quickly in the bright morning light and fresh breeze with all sail set. She was a glorious sight with her royals and stunsails set, flying jib taught and drawing hard. Shelby was at the helm. Tom and John Dieter were in the maintop and had their glasses trained on the British formation. “There Tom, about a third of the way back and to windward, six ships and two brigs are steering further north, separating from the rest.” “Yes, they’re breaking off and running to the north. The entire convoy is between us and them at the moment. We’ll cross behind the convoy and give those runners chase. Perhaps one of them will wander away and we’ll have another easy prize!” Even with Corrunna and Adventure as prizes, there could be no certainty they would arrive safely in an American port – they could easily be retaken by a British cruiser. Chasseur had to continue taking prizes until her men and her ammunition were exhausted. The speeding privateer ran down the windward flank of the convoy and swept around the rear of the formation with its frigates and brigs fussing after the dull sailors – one of the frigates towing an Indiaman to bring her back up to the protection of the many. Chasseur passed beyond the convoy and wore to chase the eight running ships now distinctly separated from the convoy. The ships sailed in good order, with at least one of them a man of war brig making signals and preparations to receive the rapidly gaining Chasseur. The remainder of the convoy and their escorts continued to the Northwest. At half past three in the afternoon, Tom ordered the Yankee flag hoisted and from a range of several hundred yards, George Roberts flashed a shot over the windward Indiaman that was immediately returned by the stern chasers of all eight ships. Waterspouts the height of her main yard sprouted around Chasseur. The sharp, black American brig ran by the weather quarter of the little group and fired a broadside at extreme range. Chasseur quickly crossed and wore in front of the ships, which fired away at her with their bow guns. Chasseur hauled off to windward to make another run at the convoy from astern. Tom ran the privateer down fast to try to force one of the ships to sheer off from her consorts and provide an opening for Chasseur to cut her out from their protection. Another long, fast, deadly, beautiful curving course as Chasseur came up abeam the most windward ship – the St Cloud of London. But the master of the St Cloud had other ideas. There was no way to escape the Yankee pirate, but there might be a way to slow the blazing clipper down. Maybe slow her down enough to allow HMS Ranger – their Royal Navy escort – time to close with her and pound the brigand to rubble. Chasseur closed on the ship, who continued to run down wind and edge ever closer to her neighbor. The eight ships were in a ragged V formation, with Ranger in the center and ahead. Chasseur, came alongside like a runaway horse when the St Cloud suddenly let all sheets fly and the clunky Indiaman stopped in mid ocean. Chasseur flashed past before she could fire a round and was immediately subjected to a withering dose of close range chain shot from the Ranger and several of her charges. The chain made a terrific whirring noise as it whipped across the ocean and whirled through Chasseurs rigging. “Stand back, stand away there – watch out forward.” Shelby yelled as Chasseur’s main topgallant mast went tumbling down along with the topgallant sail, royal and stunsails. Chasseur’s waist was a wreck as blocks, tackle, spars and canvas draped themselves over the gun crews. Chasseur slowed and stood away to windward to escape the convoy and repair her damage. The Ranger held close to her flock and directed them away from the staggered privateer. Quickly, Burk and his carpenters, more than adequately assisted by Peter and his six black mates – they were regular members of the crew now, valued for their knowledge and hard work - cleared the wreckage and set Chasseur back on an intercept course. Even without a main topgallant mast, Chasseur could easily outsail even the brightest sailor in the formation. The splintered spars and sliced rigging cleared from the deck, Chasseur returned to the chase. This time, Tom made a run to the leeward side of the formation. Ranger prowled back and forth across the sterns of the seven merchant ships who remained in line abreast formation. Chasseur swiftly ran below the leeward most ship – the Alexis of London – and maneuvered to keep the Alexis between herself – Chasseur - and the Ranger. Chasseur’s crew trimmed her sails to match the speed of the Indiaman. They would not go flying past this time. Roberts fired a shot at the Alexis and the flash of splinters told them the shot had hit home. There would be no warning shot now. The British ensign came down but Alexis kept her place in the formation and refused to heave to. “Heave to or I’ll fire a broadside into you!” Chasseur ran up close, but was forced to shear off quickly to avoid a raking fire from the Ranger – and took a hard turn to port downwind of her victim. Ranger followed, firing from her bow guns. The line of merchant ships continued plodding north. The low black privateer led Ranger away, then spun on her heel, tacked and swept past spouting fire from all her ports. The British warship returned the favor, both ships wreathed in smoke. A moment later, Chasseur was alongside the prize as Ranger jibed downwind. “He would have done better to tack with us there, Tom, he would have come out on our stern with a clean shot. Instead, he jibed away from us down wind – he’s a long way off now!” “Lucky for us he didn’t Shelby! Lets get a crew on that prize and we’ll spin him around again! We don’t have much time mates, get aboard and take her, then run off South as fast as ever you can – head directly away from the convoy and give our friend something to fret about! Go, go now! Away the boat!” William Christie hurried his prize crew to get aboard as fast as possible, to take possession of the villainous tub, before Ranger could complete her maneuver and work her way back to them. Chasseur dropped the boat and her crew and circled to leeward to place herself between the Ranger and the prize and give the prize crew time to board and take her. Hopefully, Ranger would chase after Chasseur and let the prize go – and if she did come after Chasseur, the odds were great that the privateer could take another prize from the little convoy before Ranger could close with her. William Christie and the prize crew pulled hard for the ship. They could hear shouts and orders being given aboard Alexis. Soon axes, hatchets and even wicked cutlasses flashed aboard the ship as Alexis’s crew chopped furiously at any standing or running rigging within reach. Chasseur’s crew lined her weather rail, cheering on the boat crew to pull, pull hard for the Alexis before some real damage was done and Chasseur lost the prize. To leeward, HMS Ranger and the rest of the convoy completed a complicated maneuver to jibe together and work back upwind to rescue the Alexis. The little fleet must stay together if ever they are to keep the swift privateer from snapping up another prize and they came on in a little clump. He knows his job that commander, said Tom eyeing the convoy. He ran down and brought all of his charges back to chase us off and protect each other – nicely done, sir, nicely done indeed. More cheers for the boat crews as they came up over the Alexis’s bulwarks. Twenty Chasseurs swarmed over the Alexis crew, subdued them with some commotion but without bloodshed and shoved them into the forecastle. William made a quick survey of the damage done to the rigging of the Alexis and concluded they were at least three hours from being able to set even a miserable amount of sail. The brig was slowly drifting down wind with all her canvas flapping and thundering. Meanwhile Ranger and the rest of the fleet was closing fast. Chasseur, ignored by the convoy, stood to windward of her prize. If William tarried even ten minutes, the rest of the convoy would have them surrounded and Chasseur would be powerless to help. Back to the boats, everyone, back to the boats, and pull hard for Chasseur! The prize crew leapt into the boats, set sails and rocketed back to the Chasseur sailing and rowing. Shelby saw them swarm into the boat and turned Chasseur down to recover them. Chasseur fired a raking broadside at Ranger while hoisting her boat aboard. The last shot very nearly deafened William as it went off next to his head with the boat close aboard. Chasseur set all sail to run fast to windward and left the Alexis wallowing in the swell. Christie and his crew were just aboard and the Ranger was still working to windward with a bone in her teeth. She came straight at Chasseur like smoke and oakum. The privateer skipped away to windward while the Ranger doggedly kept after her. Shelby steadily applied the tiller to nudge Chasseur up higher and higher into the wind, but not so high as to cause Ranger give up the chase. Shelby looked back over his shoulder at the pursuing brig with her ridiculously short rig and laughed. “It’s impossible for her to catch us and look, look there a shot from a bow chaser – that will slow him down even further.” Chasseur kept just out of reach of the shot from the dipping and plunging brig as both ships dove into the frothy green swells. Tom and Dieter stood at the taffrail with telescopes eyeing the officers of the brig who were in turn looking back at them from the bow. They laughed together when one of the officers – perhaps the captain, there was an epaulette – bent to the starboard chaser, pulled the lanyard and sent a shot harmlessly into the sea. “I believe he has stamped on his hat.” “I think he may have run the gun carriage over his foot.” “At any rate, that is a pretty dance for one of his Majesties officers – a pretty dance indeed.” A few minutes more gentlemen and I believe we may tack and set stunsails and run back down to our prize. Our friend there seems to have taken our bait. But, to a chorus of “Dammit” and “there he goes the rogue” “gold lined fool” – Ranger rolled heavily to starboard and ran back to her charges with signal flags flying. Soon they resumed their line abreast formation – matching the slow speed of the damaged Alexis - with Ranger reaching back and forth again across the sterns of the merchants. After another hour of cat and mouse, with the lower limb of the sun almost touching the western horizon and Alexis’s rigging repaired, all eight ships continued on their northerly course – slowed, but not scattered and still supporting each other – these were experienced captains and crews, make no mistake. As the sun set over another brilliant blue day at sea Chasseur hovered just out of gunshot to windward her crew swarming the main mast to fit a new topgallant mast and rigging. Finally, with the sun well below the horizon and darkness spreading across the vasty ocean, Chasseur curved elegantly around the Ranger, who stayed just inside the privateers turn, and completed a neat circumnavigation of the wallowing little formation. William Christie, John Dieter and Tom Boyle leaned against Chasseur’s taffrail, smoking cigars, nibbling dried cod and bread and sipping a ration of grog. “New topgallant is swayed up and rigged Tom, we can set royals and upper staysails at any time now.” “That Master of the Alexis was a rum one Tom – a Yankee from Connecticut.” “From Connecticut you say? Skipper of a British brig bound for Jamaica? And set his crew to demolish the ship to keep her out of our hands? I knew those New England Yankees couldn’t be trusted. I’ve heard rumors that they may even secede and make a separate peace with England! But, to actively sail for the enemy – that smacks of treason to me. Did he handle you badly at all?” “He was a bit of a ringer to get into the forecastle, but three of us proved too much for him. When we first boarded nobody would identify themselves as captain. Of course, I didn’t much care who was captain, but it is the proper and correct thing to do to make your respects and ask after the welfare of the crew. Well, we went below to the masters cabin, and found as nice a pair of pistols as I’ve ever seen. Beautiful British made dueling pistols they were. Anyway, when we threatened to drop them overboard, the master identifies himself right smart like and lets us know those pistols are his private property and if they are not returned to him when all is said and done we would be up before an Admiralty court for piracy. He was a thorough rogue Tom – cursing Baltimore and telling us we were nothing but pirates and Jacobins. We clapped on to him then, and tossed him into the focs’l head first. He was quiet after that.” Tom nodded and looked out at Chasseurs wake – her beautiful phosphorescent wake – as it stretched far behind the ship. He couldn’t understand how some Americans could support and even sail for the British. The rumors about secession had seemed surreal, impossible. Was New England looking to rejoin Britain? Or were they just so jealous of their mercantile contacts with the English that they were willing to sacrifice liberty for mere material gain. Tom shook his head – farmers and shopkeepers, that’s all they were – farmers and shopkeepers. Farther forward George Roberts and his mess settled down to a well deserved meal of gumbo and grog. One of Christies prize crew spoke about their time on the Alexis – “Axes and cutlasses, they used axes and cutlasses to chop at shrouds, braces, stays, ratlines, sheets anything they could. Luckily there were only eight of them and we were able to put a quick stop to it. If only we had a bit more time, we could have got her repaired and away – she’s a rich prize I’ll tell you that boys – and I’ll wager the others are just as rich!” “Well mates, we aint had but a day or so of good luck since we started this little adventure” said George Roberts soberly. “I’m thinking that the barky has been bewitched somehow on this trip. We may have caught a tartar with this little fleet. They stay together nice and square and aint afraid to shoot at us from all directions. We’re lucky all we lost today was our topgallant mast – it could have gone very badly for Mr Christie and you lot if that man of war and her little fleet were a bit faster through stays. You all could just as easy be sitting in her bilge now as sitting here all warm and happy. I think Captain Tom thinks so as well – usually darkness doesn’t stop our Captain from driving in amongst odds of five or even eight to one. But he’s laying off this lot tonight – I heard him tell Mr Dieter we would just lay off and watch them real sharp all night to see if one pulls away. I think Captain Tom has had enough of this bunch.” Tom and Shelby walked forward, swung into the fore chains and looked intently at the greenish white sails of the convoy lit by the light of the rising moon. “That man of war was well handled Tom – and the Indiamen certainly knew how to prevent their capture and supported each other admirably. That group is a tough nut all right – if we cant separate one them from the others, we’ll never take a prize.” “Lets see what brother John Bull does tonight, Shelby, perhaps one of his flock will stray for us to snare, but if not, we’ll fly away back west to the main convoy and see if there are any to be taken in its wake. We’ve not taken the prizes I’d hoped for this trip, I doubt we’ve turned a profit thus far. I’m afraid if it doesn’t turn soon, we’ll have spent months at sea for naught.” “Are you telling me my sixteen shares may not be the fortune you promised me back in New York Captain Boyle?” Tom smiled – “Yes, Mr Cochrane, I am telling you that currently your sixteen shares don’t amount to more than a pile of shavings and unless we happen upon a very rich prize in the next days and weeks – provided the war isn’t over - I may have to talk Polly into letting you use our spare room as you will no doubt be completely destitute within hours of stepping ashore.” “Thomas – you know Polly Boyle has never needed you to talk her into welcoming me into her home – she loves me like a brother Tom, she really does. The question Tommy-boy is, what do you intend to do if this voyage turns out to be less than as promised? Will you quit the sea, sail for someone else or take a flyer on a ship of your own?” “I’m not sure Shelby. I’ve got all those women at home to support – four daughters and Polly – we just bought a nice new house in Fells Point on Chartres street. I owe Dennis Smith a pretty penny. I suspect, if this cruise don’t pay off, I’ll be back at sea within weeks. I hear the tea trade promises great things for a fast ship. A clipper is perfect for that trade. I’ll need a sailing master after the war Shelby – interested?” “No thank you very much Thomas - I’ll not be taking any fast trips to China in tea clippers thank you – or any other voyage either. You know a clipper is good for other less savory cargos – slaves, smuggling, piracy – Monsieur Aury will have business I’m sure. No, this is my last trip Tom. And anyway, I’ve a feeling our luck has turned and soon we’ll be sending young Mr. Christie home with a prize that will put us all in mansions and silks for the rest of our days.” Ch 14 - James up the St Marys Far to the North of Chasseur and her prey, James Gordon prayed for divine help as the heavy barge ahead of them grounded again in the mud of the St Mary’s river. One hundred and eighty-six men and boys in eleven barges, gigs and launches under the command of Captains Phillot of HMS Primrose and Captain Bartholomew of HMS Erebus were slowly winding their way up the river, negotiating the shallows and snags and catching their sweeps in the lush vegetation on either bank. The force was on its way to a grist mill several miles up the river. Cockburn’s orders were to seize any contraband from the community around the mill, then burn it all to the ground. St Lawrence provided one gig and twenty seaman and marines to the expedition. It was cold, grey and wintry and the marines wore their heavy scarlet tunics and brought a full kit of equipment with them – musket, ammunition, bayonet, two days rations and water. Phillot and Bartholomew were curious choices to lead the expedition. Phillot was involved in an embarrassing if not tragic incident in which the ship he commanded had fired on another British vessel – the fight lasting though the night before dawn brought a positive identification of the supposed foe. Bartholomew started his Royal Navy service as a pressed seaman before the mast, but had risen through pluck and courage, some said stubborn defiance – to the rank of commander. The same stubbornness was now a roadblock to further advancement. Obviously, thought James, old Cockburn is giving his difficult protégés one last opportunity to make good on a harrowing if not downright dangerous adventure. Both Phillot and Bartholomew were keen however, to take the opportunity and advance their careers. As the force advanced up the river, there was no sound except for the gurgling of the water over the stumps and snags. It seemed as if the very birds and beasts of the forest were holding their breath, anticipating the violence to come. James sat in the sternsheets of the gig descending into a black funk. La Passion sailed that morning, her topsails disappearing over the horizon taking any chance of prize money with them. Sullenly, the English marines who stood watch over the ship and crew since St Lawrence brought her in took to their boat and left the ship in the command of L’Anglois. James remembered hearing the screams and yells as the French crew forced the twenty-five Africans back into the cage in the hold. Three of the slaves made an attempt to escape but were tackled and brutally beaten and whipped. One slave did escape and leapt overboard. The poor wretch drowned before St Lawrence’s boat could reach her. St Lawrence’s crew was stunned at the turn of events. In forty-eight hours they had gone from sure prize money to less than nothing. They woodenly watched the brutal scene aboard La Passion from St Lawrence’s rail. The schooner’s crew was generally a hard lot, typical of the Royal Navy and their reaction to the scene was varied, if muted. Similar scenes played out in the poor boroughs of England every day whenever his lordship decided the tenants should be evicted. Some of the sailors spat and turned away, while others shook their heads in shock and disgust, while still others made light of the captives wild attempts to flee. Now, they were forcing their way up an American river, to burn, pillage and loot an American settlement in a war that was all but over. James’s only consolation was the thought that the pending peace treaty would finally end the insanity, violence and destruction. Quietly, James said “Put your backs into it men, lets not fall behind the Admiral there.” The silence on the river was starting to disturb his men and he could see some of them nervously looking around at the heavily wooded banks. “Bishop Gordon’s calling old Phillot an Admiral – that’s like the pot calling the kettle black aint it mates.” The boat crew giggled at the whispered insult. James didn’t hear the joke but was gratified to see his humor at the expense of Phillot’s haughty demeanor settle their nerves and bring wry smiles to their faces – Admiral Phillot indeed. It was a long hard pull to the landing by the mill and they could all feel American eyes watching them. The St Marys river formed the boundary between American Georgia on the North bank and Spanish Florida on the South bank. Away from the sound and bay, it was a rough and rude frontier. Hidden amongst the thick woods were renegade Indians, American settlers, decrepit Spanish dons, and run-away slaves. Captain Phillot assumed there would be no threat coming from the Spanish shore, James Gordon was not so sure. Phillot led the procession in his barge – standing imperiously in the bows, Captain Bartholomew brought up the rear of the string of boats – his medals gleaming. The force was made up of black colonial troops and regular royal navy marines. During the attack on St Mary’s the white officers in command of the colonials had been hard pressed to prevent them from killing all the American prisoners. The colonials were anxious for another opportunity to kill Americans. James had seen enough of this type of warfare to know what the Americans could do. His eight sailors were dressed in the usual duck and denim. But his twelve marines sat in the gig in ridiculous brilliant red uniforms in the middle of the shallow, slow moving river. James could think of nothing so ignorant as giving expert American rifleman perfect targets. He shuddered to think how they looked to an American sighting down his long rifle. He looked at his marines and sailors in the little boat. He took in their tanned skin and long tarred queues of hair, their brass buckles, white straps, their shakos, leather cartridge boxes and polished muskets. They had been through a lot together, from the Chesapeake to Barbados and back to this god forsaken wilderness. “Take off your tunics men – lash them and your blankets to the gunwale for additional cover. Get as low in the boat as you can – stay down behind the gunwale at all costs.” James would be damned if he lost any men because Cockburn, Phillot and Bartholomew were idiots. Slowly, the little armada continued its journey up the slow, brown river. Suddenly, a shot fired from the south bank of the river shatters the silence. One of the lieutenants with the colonials is thrown to one side as the bullet slams into his shoulder. He sprawls across the thwarts of the boat, screaming in pain. A soft cloud of blue smoke drifts in the trees in the approximate location of the gunman. A volley of return fire from the colonials has no effect, except to rip apart the vegetation – dropping leaves and small branches into the river and onto the ground. Silence descends on them again as they continue up the river and attend to the wounded lieutenant. Twice more single shots ring out from the heavy woods along the river. These shots miss their mark and hiss into the water next to the lead barge. Some of the marines in Phillots barge laugh and jeer at the poor marksmanship. Phillot himself seems to share their opinion and stands even taller in the bow of the boat. Captain Bartholomew yells at James – “Get your men up out of the boat Lieutenant, get em up and put their tunics on, act as proper British sailors and marines. They have naught to fear from Nathan – its hard to shoot straight while running away – Ha ha!” As Bartholomew’s last Ha echoes back from the forest, and as the boats negotiate a tight turn in the river, the entire southern bank – the Spanish side of the river – erupts in flame and smoke. They are four miles from the landing and the orange glow of the setting sun illuminates the boats in beautiful, sharp relief – smoke drifts over them from the bank. Twenty five rifles are discharged together at the string of boats, the riflemen immediately hide behind a tree or log to reload and protect themselves from any return fire. The first two boats carry small swivel cannon mounted on their bows and these two cannon now are discharged toward the bank. More rifle fire comes from the American – the North - side of the river. The first boat is starting to drift back down the river, out of control. Powder smoke drifts above the river as the marines try to answer from the boats. Both banks are now enveloped in heavy smoke and hot muzzle flashes. Phillott bellows orders, flashes his sword, and directs them to close up and row like the devil up river. They must escape the ambush and push through to the landing. Bartholomew’s boat is now drifting back down the river as her marines shoot indiscriminately into the river banks. James orders his sailors to row alongside one of the other launches for mutual support. Phillott’s barge is overtaken by the next barge in line, its colonial crew rowing like mad. More crashes and shots from the Spanish side of the river, the riflemen are completely invisible. The noise is continuous and incredible with the deep bark of the swivel guns sounding below the crash of the muskets and rifles and the crisp zip of bullets. James watches the lead barge, moving fast up the river, crash headlong into a submerged log. Two marines standing in her are thrown overboard, but quickly recovered. The Americans have felled huge trees into the river, completely blocking it. The fire from the banks now increases, fifty rifles firing at them continuously. Phillott is shot in the leg and takes a bullet in his thigh – in a short time; he loses a remarkable amount of blood and is barely conscious. Bartholomew comes to the head of the flotilla to take command and is shot in the head – the wound a deep gouge across the back of his skull. When he feels for the wound another ball takes off his middle finger and thumb and knocks him down bodily into the bottom of the boat, bleeding freely. Lieutenant Fraser of the Colonial Marines stands in an attempt to take command and is immediately shot down with a bullet in the shoulder. “They’re shooting the officers – they’re shooting the officers – stay down for Gods Sake, stay down!” Shouts James. “Take off your tunics and hats – get rid of any sign of rank!” All the boats are now drifting helplessly down stream. As soon as anyone raises a head above one of the gunwales, a shot rings out. The Americans are jeering at them from the shore. Single shots slap into the water or the side of a boat, punctuated with catcalls, insults and threats to whip, skin and hang every African and every slave-loving Englishman stupid enough to be captured. Finally, the sun descends below the horizon, dusk passes and night rules the river. The barges lodge against a large snag in the middle of the river. The crews lash them together for protection. There is no moon and the banks are almost invisible from the small raft of boats. The wounded bleed, cry, moan, curse and call for help. The bodies of the dead stiffen in the bottom of the boats. Phillott is gravely wounded, but still conscious. “Lieutenant Gordon – make a count of the dead and wounded.” James whispers the word and slowly the count is whispered back to him. “Fourteen dead and twenty five wounded sir.” - and lucky we are that’s all we’ve lost - the last under his breath. Phillott passes a hand over his face and groans. Alright Lieutenant, we’ll hold here until dawn. There is no use our trying to float down the river in the dark with these black-hearted cowards shooting us all the way back to Cumberland. Set a watch Mr Gordon, silence in the boats and keep concealed. Bartholomew is also conscious – a dirty rag wrapped around his wounds. He crawls across the boats to confer with Phillott. “We’ll attend to the wounded tonight, and shove off for Cumberland in the morning as soon as we can see the snags in the river. David – I will need you to lead us down the river, I’m afraid I am too badly hurt to pull it off. Phillott gives Bartholomew one last instruction before falling unconscious – Keep the Colonials under a tight rein David – we are in a tight spot and they may break.” Finally, all the wounded are as comfortable as it’s possible to make them with little medicine and no surgeon. The little force settles down in the bleak, haunted night to wait for the dawn. Captain Bartholomew orders James to take command of one of the barges filled with Colonial Marines. Her Royal Navy lieutenant lays dead in the bottom of the boat his face an unnatural ivory in the night. Her Marine Captain writhes in the stern with a bullet in his pelvis. Two more Colonial marines lie dead uncovered and grinning demonically in death. The Colonials lay stacked in the bottom of the boat, fingering their weapons, fully awake and clearly nervous. “Cover these men up,” James orders, pointing to the dead. “Cover them with blankets.” He is not a little unnerved at the thought of spending the night marooned in the river with dead men. A royal Marine sergeant is the only surviving officer in the boat. He says: “They wont be taken prisoner Lieutenant, they wont go back to the plantations or be slaves again. They have their freedom and they are going to die for it. All the same, they aren’t really regulars at all, and the action has them pretty stirred up. Most of them don’t even have shoes sir. And those bastards – excuse the language sir – yelling all manner of obscenities about how they will skin, roast, whip, burn or hang the black fellas – well, these troops know they will do it. We’ll need to watch them close for signs of panic sir.” “Alright Sergeant, we’ll keep them down and quiet. Get some rest now, I’ll take the first watch. Would you join me for a prayer of thanksgiving Sergeant?” “Thanksgiving sir?” “Yes, pray to God Sergeant, to thank Him for surviving this day.” Aye, Aye sir. In the middle of the night, the American militia repeat the jeers and catcalls from the afternoon. It is too dark for them to see the English sailors and marines, all they can see is the vague, dim outline of the boats, but that doesn’t stop them from shouting out in the dark. “I make dat son bitch shut up!” – one of the colonials edges up to the gunwale, shoulders his weapon and fires blindly at a clump of bushes along the river. Immediately, the entire bank is a sheet of flame and noise. James is blinded by the flashes. Bullets buzz past the clump of boats, hit the water or bury themselves in the sides of the boats. The marine grunts and falls dead in the bottom of the boat a bullet in his brain. “Keep silent in the boats, keep down, no shooting you ignorant rabble. They cant see us unless you shoot first and give away our position. Stay down now.” Finally, after a few hours of such entertainment and three more outbursts of rifle fire, the Americans drift away and wait for the morning. James awakes stiff and cold with the legs of one marine under him and his head pillowed on the chest of another. Slowly they untangle themselves, drink water from the passed cup, check their weapons and keep their heads down. Hardtack is passed from man to man for breakfast. There is no sound from either bank. A wet mist hangs low over the river and its banks. Bartholomew gives the order to start down the river. Slowly, quietly the first boat undoes its lash and pushes off down stream. At first, each boat drifts with the slow current, but eventually, the order comes to out oars and start rowing. Soon, the flotilla is moving rapidly down river with the current as the sun comes over the horizon and dissipates the fog. The Americans are gone. The boats bypass St Marys and go directly to the wharf off Cumberland Island and Cockburns headquarters. The survivors stagger ashore, handing the wounded and dead to their shocked comrades standing on the big wharf. The bloody boats are tied to the wharf and American prisoners are made to clean up the blood and gore. The wounded are deposited in a makeshift hospital on the first floor of the tabby mansion - Cockburn’s fortified headquarters. “A fiasco Lieutenant, that’s what it was, a damned fiasco.” Cockburn is beside himself with fury after getting his report from Captains Phillot and Bartholomew. “Troops hiding in the bottom of barges, officers cowering behind gunwales instead of standing and leading – it’s a disgrace Lieutenant, a damned disgrace and insulting to His Majesties Navy and Nelson’s sainted memory! Royal Marines sent packing by a mob sir, no more than a mob.” James knew enough to keep silent during Cockburn’s tirade. “First, New Orleans, now this – we have been checked sir, checked indeed. The Americans will take over the entire continent if we let ‘em! We must not allow that to happen. I will not allow that to happen.” Cockburn slammed his fist on the table. “It is imperative that Jonathan know and respect the power of Great Britain!” “You sir, have been involved in two actions in the last weeks that have been less than glorious - First La Passion and her illegal seizure, and now this. I shall give you another chance Lieutenant – another chance to make your name and your career. Sir James Alexander Gordon may be your uncle sir, but I am your commander.” “Take your Yankee schooner and deliver a squad of Royal Marines to a point of rendezvous on a river in Western Florida – near Spanish Pensacola. They are to rendezvous with Colonel Nicholls to assist in building a fort, arrange delivery of weapons and train the Indians and Negroes in the area. Their commander is Captain MacDonald. Sergeant Leigh is their gunnery sergeant. You will find them billeted here on the grounds of this mansion. You will deliver them, plus any dispatches and mail from this station to Admiral Cochrane off Mobile Bay. You will leave on the tide two days hence. Do you understand?” “Yes sir.” “Their mission is highly confidential, you will speak of it to no one, you will not note it in your log, there will be no official notice of this mission at all. They are supercargo and nothing more. Is that clear sir?” James nodded. “One of the dispatches you are to deliver to Admiral Cochrane pertains to the peace treaty. Apparently it has been signed by the negotiators and the Prince Regent and just awaits signature by Mr. Madison for ratification. You will deliver this dispatch to him, but for all intents and purposes we are still at war with these people – is that understood?” Aye, Aye sir. “You are to deliver these men regardless of any other news you receive pertaining to peace Lieutenant – their mission has nothing to do with the peace treaty. Is that clear sir?” James nodded again. “Finally, Gordon, if you truly wish to rescue your good name - don’t forget to hunt for American privateers per Admiral Durhams suggestion. This Chasseur of yours – she is one of those pirate banditti from Baltimore. She is all they talk about in Baltimore – as though her captain…whats his name?” “Boyle sir, Thomas Boyle – an Irishman I believe.” “Just so…the Americans talk as if this Boyle were some sort of Nelson or Howe. She is a big powerful privateer Gordon – a sister to your St Lawrence – and Boyle is a crafty devil. It would go very well with you sir, if you was to return here having successfully delivered Captain McDonald and his men to Florida with Chasseur in tow and her skippers head hanging from your bowsprit. It would go very well for you indeed. God how I should love to get my hands on another flash schooner before peace breaks out.” CH 15 – James’ secret mission James shouldered his way past the constant stream of officers, servants and civilians streaming in and out of Cockburn’s headquarters – a four story tabby plantation mansion known locally as Dungeness - in search of MacDonald and Leigh. His interview with Cockburn had left him angry, embarrassed and irritated. He’d spent a restless night on St Lawrence wrestling with his thoughts; “I was looking after my men – we couldn’t have gone up that river standing tall in the bows of the boats – the Americans would have killed all of us. We were lucky to escape – Admiral Cockburn has no idea what the conditions are like upriver.” He prayed for guidance and finally drifted to sleep. Now, this morning, he wondered about this mission that McDonald and his men were on. Florida was Spanish territory, not British or American. What would the Spanish think of a squad of Royal Marines landing on their territory to train Indians and Negroes? He knew what the Americans would think of it. Did Cockburn have the backing of the British government for this mission – or was he acting on his own? What if the Americans caught them? James was not confident he knew the truth about any of these questions, and he prayed to God that Captain McDonald would have some answers. The north side of the mansion opened onto a large, elaborate portico with magnificent granite steps. Six large columns extended the full height of the four floors across the front of the house. There was another, smaller portico across the back of the house overlooking the bay. Each floor was split by a long central hallway that ran north and south with a grand staircase at either end. The first floor served as the field hospital. Admiral Cockburn and staff took the second floor for their headquarters and the inhabitants of the house – apparently all women as all the men fled at the British approach - were confined to the third and fourth floors. James walked to the end of the hall on the first floor, with the sounds of the hospital to each side of him, gazed out over Cumberland Sound and Cockburn’s fleet. Several hundred Colonial Marines toiled here in the hot sun, building a ten foot high earthwork between the mansion and the shore to protect it from any attack that may come from the waters and mainland. The American cannon taken from the battery at St Marys were situated in embrasures in the earthwork so as to sweep the approaches to the mansion. James was certain this activity was no more than busy work, as the Americans plainly could not mount any offensive action across the Sound filled with Royal Navy ships. James turned and walked back through the house to the other end of the hall and stepped through the ornate front door onto the portico and looked out over the grounds of the mansion and the incessant activity of the British command. In front of the mansion, along either side of the long main drive, a parade ground three-hundred and fifty yards wide, by one thousand yards long was cleared of all vegetation. Long rows of white tents were arrayed around the perimeter of the parade ground and served as quarters for the marines. The colonial troops were bivouacked in similar tents at the far end of the clearing. The parade ground was in constant use as companies of newly formed Colonials bungled their way through regulation drill commanded by bug-eyed, red-faced Royal Marine sergeants. There were not enough weapons and uniforms for all the blacks that had flocked to Cumberland to join the British forces. Most of the weapons were shared, and the uniforms, though scarlet, were a rag tag assortment of slops scrounged from the ships. Most of the new troops had no shoes and many drilled with wooden muskets. The British troops first occupied Dungeness in the night and completely surprised the lady of the house – Mrs Louisa Shaw Miller - who had no warning the British were so close - no warning at all. She was hosting a birthday party for one of the local debutantes and fifteen young ladies were at Dungeness absorbing southern female culture for several weeks. When a sergeant of the Royal Marines opened the door attracted by the hubbub of young voices, the ladies shrieked and crowded into a corner of the room, and the marine stood stock still too addled to move. Admiral Cockburn, just outside in the main hall, entered, introduced himself with a courtly bow, assured them of every protection and introduced his staff officers resplendent in their blue and red uniforms. Soon the ladies quit cowering in the corner, refreshments were provided and a general and agreeable conversation began. The families of the debutantes immediately appealed to Admiral Cockburn for the release of their treasures, but were completely rebuffed when the ladies themselves decided it was their patriotic duty to remain at Dungeness for the intended duration of their stay in spite of the English marauders. Admiral Cockburn strictly limited travel to prevent spying and treachery and Mrs Miller, her family, the girls and their chaperones were quarantined to the top two floors of the mansion. Cockburn was nothing if not chivalrous and notifications were duly sent to all families involved pledging that His Majesties forces on Cumberland Island guaranteed the safety, dignity and honor of his charges. Cockburn produced an extravagant dinner every evening which became the prized social event of the day. Following an agreeable evening spent in the drawing room, he and his staff gallantly departed the mansion (except for the first floor hospital) at night to allow the inhabitants their privacy. In this way, he hoped to maintain a lid of decorum over a situation that, if not managed properly, could easily have an adverse impact on the cohesion and fighting ability of his command as well as an inflammatory effect on the local populace. One of the marine orderlies told James where to find McDonald – his tent was number thirty one located about two hundred yards from the house – but you wont find him there at the moment – he is probably escorting some of the ladies at the stables, admiring the horses. James made for the stables to look for the missing marine. In the stables, a groom told him that he – and a score of other officers – had escorted four of the plantation ladies toward the wharf – yes, there is the gaggle, er, group of them there sir – just moving past the end of the earthwork. James sighed and leaned against the rail fence of the paddock. Where were these dandies when he and the Colonials were getting picked apart by the Americans in the boats up the river? He made his way back to the mansion to make arrangements with the quartermaster to have St Lawrence watered prior to her departure. He heard voices coming from the direction of the adjutant’s office – in a study off the main living room on the second floor. “You are destroying one of the great houses of Georgia, Captain” said a female voice – thick with the drawl of the American south. James walked in to see a beautiful young woman, dressed scandalously in the dark pants, boots, white shirt and riding jacket of a young man. Her black hair fell loose about her shoulders and James guessed her to be no more than twenty-eight years old. “I hope you saw these grounds before your Admiral turned them into a military encampment Captain. Dear old Aunt Caty – God rest her soul – cultivated twelve acres of the most beautiful tropical gardens here. Oranges, olives, orchids, mimosa trees and palms, live oak and palmetto, madrone, crepe myrtle. It was a paradise. I trust that His Majesties government will make full restitution to Miss Louisa for all the damage that has been done to this historic residence. I suggest he start by replacing her five hundred orange trees!” The hapless captain threw up his hands as she whirled away and plowed straight into a surprised and shocked James Gordon. He had never seen a woman act in such a forthright manner – she spoke as though one of the owners! She looked up at James with a challenge – her eyes were a startling blue – but stepped back and made her apologies. “The fault is mine ma’am – I should not have been gawking like a school boy. You seem quite upset with our activities here and as an officer of His Majesties Navy I assure you every effort will be made to put them right.” She very nearly laughed out loud at him, hid her smirk behind the back of her hand, excused herself with “Will you now Lieutenant?” and left the room. James looked at the bemused adjutant behind his desk and his huge mounds of paper – “Who in the world was that?” “That is Miss Abigail Porter of Savannah – she sees me every day to let me know “Miss Louisa”” – drawn out in imitation of Abigail Porter’s drawl – “expects His Majesty to return her estate to its previous grandeur. While there is nothing I can do for her, I don’t discourage her, because her visits are so – well - bracing.” “She is attractive, I’ll give her that, but she acts so – so – forward, so independent – so American!” Henry turned from the adjutant and made his way down the stairs to the first floor and peered into the hospital to see if there was anything he might do for the poor afflicted creatures inside. Besides the various wounded from the fighting around St Marys and the disaster up the river, there were also the usual fevers, burns, contusions and lacerations that occurred in any military camp. Inside, several young ladies were tending to various broken bodies and across the room, at the very far end, sat Abigail Porter, the same Abigail Porter from the adjutant’s office, sponging the forehead of a wounded marine sergeant. James made his way across the ward and stood behind her until she completed her ministrations. “Excuse me, Miss Porter, please allow me to introduce myself properly – said James bowing slightly I am Lieutenant James Edward Gordon Ma’am, Royal Navy at your service.” “Good Day Lieutenant - How do you know my name – oh yes, Adjutant Young must have told you, he and I meet every day – pleased to meet you Lieutenant – I am Miss Mary Abigail Porter – you can call me Abby - pleased to make your acquaintance.” “Captain Young tells me you come to see him to complain of our treatment of this estate – are you a member of the family?” Abby said “No Lieutenant, my father is an esteemed physician in Savannah – we are old friends of the Greene family. My father was Miss Caty’s personal doctor and cared for her until she passed last September. I came down from Savannah with my father and stayed to help Miss Louisa manage the plantation following her mother’s demise. Aunt Caty – Catherine Littlefield Greene – was the wife of General Nathaniel Greene – the famous General from our last war. Louisa is the youngest daughter of Caty and the General and Dungeness is their home. Unfortunately, the General died before he could see the plantation, but Aunt Caty built the house and planted the gardens, and now Louisa is the mistress. Louisa’s husband – Phineas Miller – is in Savannah – serving with the militia.” “Dungeness is, or was, one of the most beautiful places in Georgia and Miss Louisa is heart broken at what you British have done. She is a most amazing horticulturist – as was her mother – and seeing her gardens destroyed has been very difficult for her.” “Dungeness has become a parade ground, a fort and a prison – a military facility, Lieutenant. Regardless of Admiral Cockburn’s charms, he holds captive in his fort a group of helpless women confined to the upper two floors like common criminals…are they criminals Lieutenant or does Admiral Cockburn need American ladies for the entertainment of his officers – to improve their morale perhaps?” “I assure you ma’am, Admiral Cockburn holds you only as a military necessity and nothing more. You are being treated fairly and with discretion I trust.” said James, thinking about the gaggle of officers accompanying the four giggling girls to the wharf that morning. “While there can be no doubt of the charming effect the ladies have on our morale, I would say some of the young ladies rather enjoy their – captivity.” “Yes Lieutenant, some of our charges do indeed enjoy the opportunity to cavort with handsome young men in uniform – it is a universal magnetic attraction and they cannot help themselves. However, I intend to make sure all remains beyond question and our ladies return to their families with their reputations in tact.” “A difficult job I see.” They were next to another young broken body. “How is he doing Ann?” – young Ann Couper, brunette and beautiful, sat stroking the pale forehead of a marine Lieutenant with a shattered shoulder. “The surgeon says he may never regain full use of his arm, but there is no sign of infection or gangrene and the ball passed completely through his shoulder without hitting or shattering any bones – he said it’s a miracle, Abby, Praise God.” “If Lieutenant Fraser experiences any numbness or cold in his arm or you notice any strange colors about his arm or extending up his shoulder you call the surgeon immediately.” said Abby. “I will Abby – and I will keep praying too – I’ve been praying constantly for two days!” “Praise God indeed.” said James. “Lieutenant Fraser is lucky to have such a kind and compassionate nurse.” “How are you John?” said James. Fraser grimaced – “Much better James – how did your boat fare?” “None lost or wounded thank God. St Lawrence still has her full complement of marines and seaman.” James looked at Abby and explained: “I was with him when he was wounded, up the St Marys River two days ago. He commanded one of the barges; I was in command of one of the boats. I must tell you we were rather roughly handled by you Americans.” Abby looked at him for a long moment and said: “You were part of that plundering expedition up the St Mary’s Lieutenant Gordon? That shameful little affair was nothing more than a foray to steal more booty and loot from poor old Mr. Clarks’ mill. You are lucky you weren’t massacred – the people that live up there know warfare, Lieutenant – they fight Indians, Spanish, smugglers, British, escaped slaves, and each other all the time. It is a frontier Lieutenant – a wild and forbidding place – they know how to fight and they know how to kill. But, you’re not a Royal Marine Lieutenant, what was a Royal Navy Lieutenant doing up there?” “I am commander of HMS St Lawrence – one of your Baltimore clippers taken into his majesties service – Admiral Cockburn ordered me and twenty of my men to join the expedition up the river. We do not ask the Admiral why he orders us – we just go. Luckily, we returned without a scratch.” They moved out of the hospital and made their way to the portico and its open ended view of the sound. “That’s her, the small schooner with the raked masts – that’s HMS St Lawrence.” “Shes American built alright – but, you’ve done something to her bulwarks, and her masts look short, truncated – not so lofty as an American clipper.” James was taken aback by her knowledge of ships and the clippers in particular. “You Americans called her the Atlas.” “Of course, she’s the Atlas taken in the Ocracoke in 1813 – Captain David Maffitt! I saw her in Savannah early that year and had a wonderful conversation with Captain Maffitt. The adventures of our privateers are constantly in the papers Lieutenant – their exploits and derring-do are famous – or infamous if you happen to be British.” Abby stifled a small giggle. Gordon looked at her and said: “You are not what you seem Miss Porter – you know medicine, you can spot an American built ship, you seem to have a grasp of politics and strategy uncommon for your gender. And – forgive me – you are not married – that is certainly unusual for an American woman of the South is it not?” She laughed – “I’m not likely to be married soon, Lieutenant Gordon.” “Aside from being a prominent surgeon, my father also holds a professorship at Franklin College. Our house always had people of distinction, people of letters, travelers, ship captains visiting to discuss current topics of politics, science, religion. My father sent me to school in Philadelphia and I stayed in the house of a particular friend of his – Dr Caspar Wistar – and was exposed to the science and reason present in that good doctors house – Thomas Jefferson was one of his good friends and frequent visitors. It was a marvelous education. As a result, I am not well suited to assume the life of a plantation mistress – it is a surprisingly difficult chore – managing household affairs, ensuring the gardens produce enough food for the household, bearing, educating and raising the children, the necessary isolation from the more lively aspects of society, managing the household slaves – their health, well-being, care. I have inherited a significant share of another plantation from my mothers side of the family. I don’t manage that plantation, but I do profit from it. It has given me a certain amount of freedom Lieutenant to do as I wish.” “Might I ask you your religion Miss Porter.” “I am a Quaker, Lieutenant – my family comes from a long line of Quakers in Pennsylvania – it is our connection with General Greene’s family – we abhor the war and are committed to doing all we can to mitigate its effects.” “You abhor the war, but the exploits of your privateers are entertaining?” “I am Quaker, but I am also American. You English have been waging war against America for twenty years – impressing our sailors, seizing our ships and cargos, closing ports to our goods. We had no choice but to go to war with you and our privateer’s success at bearding the vaunted British lion I find very heartening. War is a sin against God, but if you must fight a war, then privateering is the most humane form of warfare.” “War is a sin - I see. Don’t Quakers also abhor slavery?” Abby was silent for a long time, looking out over the bay: “Slavery is an especially difficult question in the South lieutenant; First, God commands its abolition – but not all my neighbors would agree. Second, how do we accomplish abolition given the resistance to it and the practical and very real difficulties that attend it? While abolition is our moral duty – what are we to do with hundreds of thousands of suddenly free slaves? How do we ensure their well-being and prevent chaos, anarchy and revolution? How do we ensure the economic vitality of the South without slavery? Finally, a particularly American problem - is it the responsibility of the federal government to decide for the several states how to regulate or abolish slavery? Or is it up to the states themselves? I fear slavery will come to destroy the United States Lieutenant – we cannot allow it to continue, yet we cannot afford to abolish it. And perhaps worst of all, if the power of abolition is taken by the federal government that power may enslave us all in the end. Slavery and its impact will be on Americas head forever.” “Your Admiral Cockburn wishes to use slavery to destroy America. But he doesn’t know the lengths people will go to resist abolition. He doesn’t know the depths that the tentacles of slavery extend into the South. Your experience up the river is just a small taste of the savagery that may be visited on this country in the future. My point Lieutenant is that abolition is certainly the desired end state, but America must be very careful that our path to that end does not create a greater monster. Slavery is truly an awful American tragedy.” They were both quiet now, watching the blacks build the English fortification, trampling more of the gardens. “And what is next for you Lieutenant Gordon? Will you be lucky enough to stay at Dungeness until peace is officially declared?” “No, Miss Porter, I am to take St Lawrence tomorrow to meet the New Orleans fleet – to deliver dispatches and transport various officers, not much glory or glamour I’m afraid. I am also to continue hunting for your infamous privateers – and one in particular – the Chasseur, Captain Boyle of Baltimore.” “There are some incredible stories being told about Captain Boyle and Chasseur Lieutenant – he seems very shrewd. Surely St Lawrence is no match for him on her own?” “We are pretty crafty too Miss Porter – God willing Captain Boyle will not find us wanting.” “I suppose Captain Boyle is probably praying to God also - and if peace is declared before you find him?” “Unless we receive a declaration from my government that your Mr Madison has signed the peace treaty – the war is not over – we shall fight.” Abby sighed – “That’s all you gentlemen do – fight.” Then, tiring of the discussion she said: “I must return to Miss Louisa, Lieutenant – Goodbye James - take care and good luck - remember – war has no glory to God.” And she was gone. James trotted down the stairs and made one last effort to find MacDonald. He was reeling from his encounter with Miss Abigail Porter. He had never encountered such ideas, such talk, and such dress in a woman before. She seemed to think she could expound on any subject, any subject at all just as forthrightly as a man. And what ideas she had! Dazzling! Slavery as some sort of great tragedy – why couldn’t they just abolish it and be done with it - Britain had – at least on the home island. What about Barbados? That is what happens when women think too much for themselves. James thought Abby Porter’s ideas, dress and eccentricity indicated just how debauched America’s democratic society had become. At last he found MacDonald in his tent readying his effects for tomorrows voyage. McDonald was a big man, six feet if an inch, with black hair and a wicked scar across his cheek and chin, in his mid-thirties, a professional warrior. “You are the captain I am to deliver to a river near Pensacola I believe? I am Lieutenant Gordon of HMS St Lawrence. Did you enjoy escorting the young ladies today? Perhaps you may give a thought to our trip tomorrow. Have you been to this river before – are there pilots, channels, sailing directions?” “First, Lieutenant, I was not escorting ladies – I was meeting with Admiral Cockburn for last minute orders. No, there are no aids for your navigation – it is a wild untamed coast. I have been in and out of there several times over the past two years. You will need to anchor off about two miles and we will take your boat in. Then, you can bring the boat back out and leave us. That’s all you need to know Lieutenant.” “Just drop you off?” “Yes, we will be provided with munitions and supplies from the New Orleans fleet. My men and I are experts in the art of guerrilla warfare Lieutenant – that warfare waged by the partisans of Spain against Bonaparte – we were attached to the partisans during the war and learned from them. It is deadly, ruthless and effective. We need absolute secrecy as to our orders and plans. If the Americans ever discovered an official British program of infiltration and agitation of Indians and slaves along their southern border, all hell would break loose. They would likely invade and simply annex Florida and our government would be forced to deny the entire affair. It is imperative that our mission remain secret.” “But the war is over – isn’t it?” “Not for us Lieutenant – its just beginning.” “Well, sir, we leave with the tide at four AM – I suggest you spend the night aboard. I’ll send a boat and crew to take you off.” With that James strode out of the tent and down to the dock. Along the way a group of twenty escaped slaves were being processed in at the head of the parade ground. As word of the peace spread, more and more slaves were running from the plantations and joining the ranks on Cumberland Island. Cockburn had not discouraged them at all – on the contrary, he seemed to be assisting their escape. Hundreds of slaves had escaped since rumors of peace started to fly. James couldn’t escape the irony of the twenty five slaves on La Passion. James thought of the miserable attack up the river – and now this secret mission to destabilize Florida. Cockburn seemed to be waging his own war regardless of the official peace. James wondered if Cockburn would ever stop fighting – peace treaty or no. Ch 16 – Mary and Susannah – water and crawfish Chasseur was an impressive sight running fast downwind with all sail set. To the eye of any seasoned sailorman it would be obvious she was carrying slightly more canvas than was prudent, throwing great white waves off her shoulders, straining every stitch of canvas and every foot of rope – she was more than in a hurry, she was driven. Chasseur was racing and racing was almost as important as chasing and taking prizes. Chasseurs crew were busy trimming and hauling, steering just so and minding their luff, sailing their ship over the moderate Easterly swell. They lost contact with the little convoy two days before after charging off to investigate an unidentified ship to leeward. They came up quickly on that chase – a sharp pilot boat vessel - who proved to be yet another Carthegnian privateer – this one the Pride sailing for the Lafittes out of Barataria. The Caribbean was crawling with privateers – American, Carthegnan, English, Spanish. Pride’s papers were in order – with a letter of marque signed by Aury himself - but Tom was suspicious of her nonetheless – he was sure they were pirates – or would be given half a chance. With her boat back aboard, Chasseur got under weigh and stood to the west to try to make contact with the main British convoy again. They came too far to leeward chasing the Pride to be able to work back up to the eight ship convoy they had been trailing – the eight ship convoy, the nut that couldn’t be cracked. “That pirate is following us Tom – cheeky bugger - shes set her stuns’ls and is trying her speed against us – tailing us to pick up any Spanish ships we release I suppose.” “Well, Shelby, we cant let them do that can we. Set all working sail and lets see if we cant sink them by this evening. Lets only have British prizes on the horizon by morning.” “Which there you go putting the jinx on any chance of that happening.” thought Shelby. Chasseurs crew set to work setting her studding sails, topgallants, royals and staysails and trimming the immense amount of sail just so. They would not be out sailed by any crew on the ocean, let alone some ramshackle French pirate. Soon the two clippers were running fast to the west through the swell about a mile apart, Chasseur slightly to leeward with all her big square sails set. Both ships had as much sail as they could stand and were throwing great white gouts of spray. Chasseur set her flying jib on the whip thin jib boom – alternately dunking and hoisting the topman sent to extend the spar and set the sail. Her yards were bent like whalebone, all her sails drawing hard. Jibs, staysails and stunsails, and – as Shelby bore up a few degrees - Chasseur began to put distance between herself and the Pride. First one mile, then two and finally, only Pride’s topsails were visible. During the contest, Chasseur’s crew casually went about their chores, hardly casting a glance at the black schooner to starboard, never paying deliberate attention to the pirate, but they never had her out of their sight either. The two ships raced on through the night and by the dawn, the pink, gauzy dawn, Chasseur could still see the topsails of the Pride far to the East from the masthead. But, by mid-morning – at the turn of the watch, the Pride was completely out of sight astern. Chasseur’s crew was a study in nonchalance as they leaned against the rails or heaved and hauled on this line or that to hopefully coax an extra half knot out of the brig. There was no concern that Chasseur might not beat the pirate, it was a foregone conclusion. The only mystery was why the French devil tried to beat them in the first place. After he sank below the horizon they nodded their heads and continued about their business as if nothing had happened. Of course, Chasseur had beaten the Pride – there was never any question. Peter, black as night, sang down from aloft that the Pride – that derelict schooner - was out of sight to windward, but there was a ketch running fast far to leeward. Soon Chasseur was closing with the ketch – which flew a British flag and seemed armed. They fired a quick volley of musketry at her – mostly shot high and wide to prevent damage, more a warning than a threat - whence she immediately struck her British ensign. She was the Martin – bound from Jamaica to Aruba in ballast. Chasseur came alongside and took out some provisions – salt pork and beef, a cask of rum – took her crew off and burnt her where she lay – the hulk aflame and smoky drifting west on the tradewind. Soon, Chasseur was off again and making her way west – let the Pride have that prize. Over the next two days Chasseur stopped, boarded and discharged several small island schooners all flying Spanish colors and all bound for various Spanish ports, there was no sign of the British convoy. “They must have run into Jamaica already Tom, I believe we missed them. It looks like I may be staying at your new house after all!” “There will be another convoy, Shelby. All the English shipping between Jamaica and New Orleans has to pass thru the channel between Cuba and the Yucatan – off Cape San Antonio – and all the shipping between New Orleans and Britain has to pass along the North coast of Cuba and will be visible from the cape. We will go there and see if we don’t pick up a straggler or two on their way home. We may even find the main New Orleans convoy homeward bound.” Forward, Chasseur’s crew were discussing the same situation and betting on the outcome. The cruise had netted each of them less than what they had expected from a Tom Boyle cruise – and it was not enough to risk the knocks on the head or the doom of Dartmoor prison. And that estimate was based on all their prizes arriving safely back in an American port – by no means a certain thing. They would have to come upon a rich prize soon or all would be for nothing. Some of the crew were beginning to suspect the luck of the Irish had left Chasseur and Tom Boyle and were even muttering about it. The following morning sails – large sails belonging to a large ship – were sighted from the masthead to the northeast. They were greeted with a great deal of ear pulling, stay scratching and by-your leaves. Tom ordered an extra ration of grog for the men before setting all sail in chase in the light, very light conditions. Swiftly Chasseur pulled alongside the ship – she was flying the British ensign and showed a signal flag from the foremast as though there were help in the offing, but, when Tom hailed her, the British ensign fluttered down without a shot being fired. “And it’s about time one of these ship masters does a civilized job of surrender.” thought Shelby as he conned Chasseur beside the ship. The ship being the Mary and Susanna from London bound for St Anns Jamaica. Mr Coffin – another of Toms handpicked Baltimore prize masters – took control of the prize, they brought all of her crew and officers aboard Chasseur. Both ships sailed in company away from Jamaica to the northwest. Mr Coffin took a quick survey of the contents of the Mary and Susanna and excitedly reported that she was stuffed, absolutely stuffed overflowing with sundries and dry goods bound for the planters around St Anns. She was worth at least two hundred and fifty thousand dollars figured Mr Coffin. Tom ordered the two ships to remain in company through the night, when they would commence taking the cargo out of the prize and stowing it aboard the Chasseur. At least he would be sure the cargo of this prize would make it back to Baltimore. For three days Chasseur and her prize lay together drifting to the west as the crew worked to take everything of value out of the Mary and Susanna and stow it away in Chasseur. Soon, there was not much room to move aboard Chasseur with the thirty one prisoners from the prize, plus all of her goods. Tom sent Sam Coffin on his way and they parted company with the Mary and Susanna with a promise to meet in Baltimore in a month’s time. That night, Tom and his officers ate around a makeshift table set up on the quarterdeck with Chasseur sailing fast to the South-South West. The four officers from the Mary and Susanna joined them. There wasn’t really room to berth any of the men as their station aboard ship merited, but Zachary DeBois’ Creole creations compensated admirably. The men ate a rousing and spicy chicken dish followed by a colossal bread pudding with rum sauce washed down with good wine and beer. Soon, all the men around the table were toasting and singing songs as Chasseur slipped through the velvet night. “Well, Captain Boyle, and what are your plans for us I must ask.” “Captain Ridley – we intend to make the grand Cayman Island tomorrow, we are under easy sail at the moment to slow our speed and arrive early in the morning – the island is deuced hard to see at night and has wrecked many a poor captain. But we will approach Grand Cayman tomorrow morning and set you ashore. We will leave you and four barrels of provisions that you may not starve until a kings ship comes along and takes you off. I suspect you will not find your fate uncomfortable.” “Marooned is it? Well, I daresay if we are marooned with a tub of this bread pudding and a cask of rum we shall be more than happy to put up with the inconvenience. You know Captain that the war is over do you not?” “I have heard no official notification sir, nor seen it mentioned in any paper on any of our prizes. Until I see the official word, I am afraid I must assume the war continues.” “Very well Captain, but I hate to see sailormen die for naught. You are a good man Captain, brave, smart and a humanitarian. You haven’t mistreated my men and will set us up nice and sharp on the Cayman. I should hate to read about you in the gazette was you to get involved with one of His Majesties cruisers eager to add your name to their list of conquests. Take care of yourself Captain Boyle - to your health sir.” “Thank you Captain Ridley – to your health as well.” Two days later, after setting her captives ashore on Grand Cayman Island, Chasseur – with a fresh coat of black and yellow paint and new slush on her masts – hove in with Cape Corentos off the western tip of Cuba and sent two boats ashore to bring out two casks of sweet water. The coast in the area was beautiful beyond compare with perfectly clear water, white sand beaches stretching away on both hands and palm trees swaying and rustling in the trade winds. A small brook just inside the Cape provided plenty of fresh water with an easy slope – it was no matter to simply fill the cask and roll them down to the beach. The boats work was interrupted when a schooner was spotted running to the southeast. In a trice, Chasseur took in her boats and ran off to chase down the schooner, both ships working into the trade winds. The schooner soon hove to with Chasseur within musket shot and William Christie was sent aboard. She was Spanish, from Campeche bound for Santiago De Cuba with indigo logs. Seven serons of Indigo were taken from her and loaded into Chasseur’s bulging hold as they were shipped under an English account. Following this successful chase, Chasseur and her grinning crew made for Cape San Antonio again where she anchored in fine sand in five fathoms far up the bay. The two boats were sent ashore again for water and whatever provisions could be found. Some of the men dove into the crystalline water and marveled at the sea life below the ship. Sand shark, stingrays and hundreds of tiny fluorescent fish, danced around the red, green, blue and black coral heads between Chasseur and the shore. Meanwhile, the foragers, led by Zachary DeBois, found a congregation of the most succulent, moist and absolutely huge crawfish to be found on this coast. Tom released the crew to spend the night ashore cooking and eating the treasure aside a huge bonfire. The men had been cooped up in Chasseur’s cramped quarters since Martinique and some time ashore, stretching and belching next to a fire on the beach was welcome diversion. Tom, Shelby and John remained aboard with two or three others as anchor watch. They were anchored deep enough in the bay, and the headland of the cape extended far enough around them that there was no fear of a roving British man of war seeing the fire and coming to investigate. Aside from crawfish, the foragers found pineapples, oranges, and bananas and sweet fresh water. Soon almost the entire crew were snoring peacefully under the rattling palm trees. “Do you really suppose the war is over Tom?” John, Shelby and Tom sat with their feet up on a carronade, smoking cigars and sipping rum. “It very well could be John – the rumors were flying when we left New York. But we wont return until we see an official American announcement that its over. We cant be run by rumor.” “Suppose the war is over and we take another Englishman – would that not be piracy?” “The treaty is bound to have some sort of consideration for those of us who are at sea – I don’t think we have to worry overmuch. We have to make sure we stay watchful and don’t let down our guard around the English – they won’t let something like a war declaration keep them from blowing you and I to Kingdom Come!” “What do you suppose will happen to Old Chasseur after the war Tom?” “I think the syndicate intends to send her flying to China on a tea run.” “Will you be her skipper?” “Well, maybe – or maybe not – It depends on my finances after this cruise and who offers me the best situation. I had hoped to buy my own ship one day, but alas, it doesn’t appear that will be happening for a little while anyway. Dennis Smith has his talons in me still – I owe him a pretty penny I can tell you.” Tom was in fact in debt to his eyeteeth with Mr Smith. As the father of four daughters and a sea captain, Tom tried to make up for his absence by showering them with extravagance – extravagance they couldn’t afford. The house on Chartres Street, the clothes, the parties, the horses and carriages, the schools, tutors and servants were all luxuries that Polly constantly warned him about. He couldn’t help himself though, whenever he was ashore with a large amount of money after a successful cruise he spent more than all of it on his girls. Soon enough, he was forced to return to sea, usually for Mr Smith, to generate more money and keep his family afloat. The next morning, Chasseur silently left the bay under easy sail on a gentle trade wind. They quickly rounded Cape San Antonio and rode the Florida current swiftly east along the north coast of Cuba. Before long, they spotted three large sail to the north – then twelve – then twenty – finally over one-hundred sail were visible from the masthead spread out across the azure sea from northwest right round to northeast. It was part of the New Orleans fleet heading home to Britain. “Lets run ahead of them Shelby, and we’ll tack across their bow and live north of them – I don’t like being between a man of war and the shore.” “Aye sir and all sail she can stand it is.” Once again, sails blossomed from Chasseurs yards as they set all the canvas she would carry and quickly ran up the flank of the convoy. It was in excellent order with no stragglers and well protected by at least three frigates and four gun brigs – a seventy four at the head of the formation. Chasseur stayed just out of gun range of the convoy over the next two days alternately being chased by the lead battleship or one of the frigates. The warships wouldn’t be lured away from their charges, but neither could they get at the pesky American brig. One of the frigates tried firing her bow chasers at extreme range which just brought hoots of derision from the Americans. As soon as the frigate tacked back to rejoin the convoy, Chasseur resumed her maddening shadow dance with the fleet. Tom wished for another American privateer to happen on the scene – then they could work in consort – one to lure away the warship and the second to cut out a fat Indiaman. At noon on the third day, a few miles North of Havanna, it seemed his prayer might be answered. There, running fast down the Florida straits with the wind at her back was a long, low, sharp built pilot type schooner, yellow and flying every stitch she could carry. Chasseur broke away from the convoy and bore up for the stranger – who in turn hauled more to the North. That was strange behavior for a fellow American. Tom had the Yankee flag run up and went in chase of the yellow schooner. Aboard HMS St Lawrence, James Gordon watched the black brig haul her wind and veer away from the convoy to come in chase of his schooner – the American flag whipping from her gaff. The only chance he had to avoid a meeting with her was to haul up into the wind – the convoy was invisible from St Lawrence – into the very fresh South East trade wind – and try to run around her to the North – she was fast though - Good Lord she’s fast. “Set the flying jib Mr Olson – we’ll need every scrap to outrun our black friend there.” “Aye Aye sir.” With her new jib sheeted home, and the stunsl’s safely stowed, heeling to the brisk wind, St Lawrence curved northwards with her topmasts and bowsprit straining - away from the charging black brig. Suddenly, with a loud crack and a splash, accompanied by the rending of fabric and the pistol shot snap of rigging St Lawrence lost her fore top mast clean over her port side. Ch 17 – Chasseur and St Lawrence “They’ve got that mess cleared away smartly Tom, I think we have a Royal Navy ship under our guns here.” “Aye, she’s not painted like a Kings ship, but they sure handle her like Royal Navy. She’s a runner making for Havanna or the fleet with dispatches no doubt. Not much armament on her by the looks of things. Only three ports on this side that I can see. A quick volley of musketry will soon have that ensign down I should think.” Chasseur was three miles aft of St Lawrence and gaining fast. Henry Olson and his crew aboard St Lawrence quickly cut the wreckage of the foretopmast away and let it slip astern. The American brig was charging after them and fired a gun to leeward in an attempt to have them heave to. After cutting away the spar, Henry took time to study the brig behind them through his telescope – large square sails, lofty spars, black with a yellow band, an audaciously large Yankee ensign – he was sure of it – the ship behind them was Chasseur – he snapped shut the telescope and stepped over to James Gordon. “She’s the Chasseur Lieutenant, there’s no doubt in my mind. See her foretopsail and that flying jib – we chased her once in the old Seahorse – last year off the capes it was – she showed us a clean pair of heels. But I’ll never forget that jib – how it bows out and seems to take the bowsprit with it – see how it bends up and away? And her colors – black with a yellow stripe like one of our ships – but mostly I remember that absurd ensign – look how huge it is – how it streams out – it’s ridiculous. Leave it to an Irishman to bugger up an ensign. That’s him Lieutenant Gordon – that’s Captain Thomas Boyle and Chasseur!” James stomach tied itself into knots. Chasseur at last! Christ she was big and fast – and coming on like a locomotive! Look at that bow wave, the jibs straining – but - strange – she doesn’t have any guns run out and her crew don’t seem to be at quarters. “Henry, do they look to be at quarters to you? Or are they just lollygagging around deck waiting for us to strike?” “I see a few of em with muskets at the ready sir, but none of her great guns are run out and none of them seem manned. No sir, shes not at quarters – probably thinks we’re an easy prize - god rot him.” “We’ve got him then Henry – got him just like old Durham said we would – get the ship to quarters Mr Olson, but keep everyone down behind the bulwarks – no drums, no shouted orders and don’t run out any guns, no ensign. We don’t want to alarm Captain Boyle with a lot of commotion. We want to draw him close, then let him have it.” “Captain McDonald,” – McDonald was standing by the taffrail eyeing the approaching American – “get your men armed sir, and have them lie down on the deck below that bulwark on the port side of the ship. When he comes alongside, I’ll give the order and you and your men pour a fire into them.” McDonald brought a squad of twenty Royal Marines with him when he boarded St Lawrence at St Marys. Experts at guerilla warfare, they were not the spit and polish marines James had come to expect from the Royal Marines, no, these men were hard and professional warriors all. McDonald passed the orders to his Sergeant and the marines quickly took positions between the guns. Gunner George Roberts stood by his twelve pounder aboard Chasseur and watched the chase clean up her wreckage and trim her sails to point as high into the wind as ever she could. He gathered his gun crew and quietly told them to be ready for anything – they weren’t at quarters, and Boyle was not going to call them to quarters, but something about this chase didn’t feel right to George and he wanted to be as prepared as possible. The other gunners aboard Chasseur naturally followed the old black gunner and soon Chasseur’s crew were as close to quarters as they could get without being called – ammunition laid out, guns ready to run out, stands of loaded muskets at hand, and everyone within a pace or two of their stations. Chasseur continued plunging after the fleeing St Lawrence. St Lawrence was high into the wind now, creaming along with the trades full in her press of sail and her lee scuppers awash more often than not. She was heeled significantly to port and her gunners had a hard time gaining adequate elevation on their guns or even keeping their feet on the slanting deck. James watched with concern and yet even admiration as the big, beautiful brig edged closer and closer. Details became sharper and focused as she approached. He noted her cutwater, her dolphin striker and absurd bowsprit bowing recklessly to leeward, her crew dressed in various colors and regalia more suited to a pirate than a ship of war and moving deliberately about her deck. Chasseur lifted on a swell and suddenly, with a burst of speed, spray flying from her bows, wind whining in her rigging, her black and yellow sides high above them, she was alongside. James ran the ensign up the main gaff himself yelling “FIRE” as he did. St Lawrence dropped the seven ports on her port side, ran out her guns and fired them all together in one great crashing report. The marines stood and fired into the clipper alongside, barely bothering to aim. A cloud of acrid smoke rolled over Chasseur. Carpenter Jacob Burk was just climbing out of Chasseur’s long boat stowed amidships when she came up with St Lawrence. He and Alexander White - his mate - were working to prepare the boat for the boarding party that was sure to be sent over to the prize in a couple of minutes. Jacob stepped out of the boat, put his foot over the gunwale and reached for the deck when a hot wind and a great thumping shock sent him tumbling back into the boat amid the sounds of gunfire and curses. Laying across the thwarts in the bottom of the boat, he looked up through Chasseurs rigging – marvelous staysails on this ship, great masts and yards too – at the blue, blue sky and puffy white clouds. Slowly, with a great ringing in his head, he looked around and saw the gunwale with a great bloody hole blasted through it and a bloody rag – oh, no that was young Alexander laying in the bottom of the boat – Christ he looks dead. Sadly, Burk looked once more at the blasted gunwale, the bloody rag that was Alexander – took in his own legless body, all that blood and died. A great grinding groan escaped from Chasseur after the first crashing broadside and boom of musketry from St Lawrence. Chasseur was running significantly faster than St Lawrence and quickly forereached the British schooner and shot past her. James put St Lawrence’ helm up with the intent of crossing Chasseur’s stern. Aboard Chasseur, a cannon ball had splashed poor John Carpenter across the quarterdeck after plucking him from the tiller. A huge red splash across the deck marked his passing and his corpse was tossed into the port aft carronade. Two of the gunners there were knocked down and sat stunned against the bulwark. Vomit and blood mixed and ran across the quarterdeck. Black Peter – the slave leader taken from Barbados – flew to the tiller to keep it from swinging away. He brought Chasseur’s head back down and fought to keep her running true. Suddenly, he too was knocked into the leeward scupper stunned and in pain. He tried to stand, but one of his legs was smashed, bloody and useless. Chasseur started to swing out of control again. Shelby and Tom both jumped to the tiller and brought Chasseur’s bow down hard to match the St Lawrence – both ships turning violently to port and criss-crossing each other. Chasseur’s crew was at their stations now with all her guns loaded and run out. Chasseur came up fast alongside St Lawrence and fired a crushing broadside into her from no more than thirty feet. Henry Olson was at his station amidships on St Lawrence directing the fire of her guns. After their first explosive broadside and attendant blast of musketry, he was sure he would see Chasseur bear off and run away. Instead, she flew past below them. He felt St Lawrence turn down wind to cross Chasseur’s stern and immediately ran along the starboard side guns to make sure their crews were ready to rake her. Through the smoke he was amazed to see not Chasseur’s unprotected stern, but her open broadside. Soon she was wreathed in smoke and St Lawrence staggered under an immense pounding. Henry meant to shout at his crews to fire, but instead a hot, fierce pain filled his entire being. He tried to take a step, but found he was sitting with his back against the main mast. He looked down at his chest and the bloody, froth bubbling from the holes there. The sounds of the battle faded, the light of the day dimmed and he was gone. Both ships now went straight down wind with a long plume of white gun smoke spreading before them. The noise was deafening with muskets, shouts, cries, cannon all adding their voices to the din. John Dieter was everywhere, capering from one gun to another shouting encouragement, sighting a gun here, firing a musket there always yelling at the top of his voice – completely mad. Tom and Shelby were still on the helm of Chasseur and slowly, together they edged her up into the wind – forcing St Lawrence to follow the maneuver. The fire between the two ships was immense and constant, round shot and grape spraying both ships. Lines and blocks fell, sails shredded, splinters flew, men swore, were hit and died, screaming. Soon, St Lawrence was pinned between the wind and the American brig. She heeled toward the American, who fired down onto her decks. Chasseur heeled away from the Englishman who could only fire at bulwarks already pocked with hundreds of balls of grape shot. Insanely, the deadly fire continued. Chasseur’s gunners furiously loaded and fired her twelve pound long guns and her nine pound carronades – Dieter still yelling and rushing along the line of guns. William Christie gathered his boarding party in Chasseur’s bow – Tom yelled his name, pointed at the St Lawrence and nodded his head. Savagely, Tom and Shelby put Chasseur’s helm down further and she caromed into St Lawrence’ starboard side. Tom and Shelby strained to hold the brig against the bucking schooner, pushing both ships into the wind. Aboard St Lawrence, Captain McDonald immediately saw the danger, saw the gathered American seaman waving cutlasses, pikes and muskets and knew they meant to board. He grabbed Sergeant Leigh and pointed them out. Leigh ran the length of the ship ducking the intense fire, and gathered his marines at the forecastle to fight off the American boarders. The marines formed a ragged line across the forecastle with muskets lowered awaiting the wave of Americans to appear over the bulwarks. George Roberts ran out his gun, loaded with a bag of grape and a round shot for good measure, sighted along the barrel and gasped at the line of marines forming on St Lawrence’s deck directly in his sights. They were only twenty feet away. He pulled the lanyard and jumped back from the leaping, smoking, hot gun. William took a prodigious leap across the gap between Chasseur to St Lawrence and took two steps into the mayhem that was her foredeck. Bodies and parts of bodies were strewn everywhere. Blood pooled and ran in rivulets into the scuppers and overboard. Humps and piles of rags marked what was left of several Royal Marines. A gun was rocked back on its tackle, its crew laying around it like ten pins. There didn’t seem to be anyone left alive forward of the foremast. Roberts’s grape shot swept St Lawrence’s foredeck hideously clear. Tom and Shelby couldn’t hold Chasseur in position any longer and she rolled away from the British schooner – the gap between them extending to several yards. William Christie stood alone on St Lawrence’s foredeck. Suddenly from Chasseur, cheers and shouts – a most glorious noise – the shooting slowed, stopped - Christie looked aft through the thinning gunsmoke and saw St Lawrence’s ensign draped around the shoulders of a large Royal Marine officer, his saber drooping to the deck. A Royal Navy Lieutenant stared around him shocked at the perfect wreck his ship had become. Incredulously, James turned to McDonald – “You struck our colors – you surrendered my ship – you have no right – we should fight on – we are far from finished here! - I am commander of this ship! What are you about sir, you have ruined me!” McDonald took the ensign and coolly passed it to a seaman – one of the gunners – standing nearby. “You were beaten Lieutenant – continuing to fight would have jeopardized my mission and killed a score more of your men. If you or I had been killed or wounded, the enemy would have found my orders and dispatches and all our planning would be for nought. I struck Lieutenant, because we were beaten, and to protect my mission. Now, I suggest you let Jonathan there take your vessel and convince him to release it as a cartel under a flag of truce to move the wounded to Havanna. There, I can arrange transportation for my remaining men to Florida. I do not need to remind you Lieutenant of the need for secrecy and discretion while discussing the terms of your surrender.” Without another word, McDonald turned and ran below. James stood stock still, shocked to his core over the carnage around them and what McDonald had engineered. He had surrendered a Kings ship – under James’ command - in the midst of deadly combat with an enemy in order to protect a secret mission that was outside the authority of His Majesty. James was certain McDonald was nothing but a renegade, but how was he to proceed? He couldn’t denounce McDonald and his mission. He couldn’t raise the ensign again and start the fight all over – he head was swimming, and he felt sick to his stomach. Shouts from Chasseur, groans of wounded sailors and marines and a huge blond American standing before him demanding his surrender soon snapped James back to the present – the awful present. He handed his sword to the American, who stuck it through his belt. “I am now in command of this vessel sir, in the name of the private American warship Chasseur and the Congress of the United States.” James sat heavily on a gun carriage and put his head in his hands. McDonald came from below, and started tossing weighted bags of orders and dispatches overboard. Tom ordered the remaining boat lowered and pulled for St Lawrence, both ships slowly drifting east with the current against the fresh south east trades. Ten Chasseurs accompanied him to the St Lawrence to join Mr. Christie. “Belay that!” he shouted at Captain McDonald – “Belay that sir, or you will answer.” Tom pointed a pistol straight at Captain McDonald’s head. Slowly the marine raised his hands and put down the bags of dispatches. “Alright, alright, you have my word.” “Take a position right aft sir, against the taffrail and do not move from there until I give you permission. Who is the captain of this vessel – who is her commander?” “I believe this young man is sir” – Christie put his hand on James’ shoulder. “And this here is his sword.” James looked up and into the eyes of Thomas Boyle. Shaking slightly, he stood and offered his hand. “Gordon – Lieutenant James Edward Gordon at your service sir. You must be the infamous Captain Boyle – at last we meet. I am your prisoner it seems. Would you be so kind Captain, as to lend support to us to treat our wounded, bury our dead and ensure the safety of ourselves and our property?” “Of course, Captain, you have my word. I shall send more men aboard immediately. Can I trust your men to help work this ship Lieutenant Gordon, without any attempts to retake her?” He glanced meaningfully at Captain McDonald standing by the taffrail. “You have my word Captain Boyle. I and my men give our parole. We remain at your disposal until such time as you release us.” “Very Good, thankyou sir. Mr Christie, attend to the dead and wounded first, clean the carnage as best you can and try to stabilize her as much as possible, keep the pumps going if necessary, toss all the guns overboard. Keep that man” – he pointed at McDonald – “confined to quarters. Chasseur will stand by you tonight and we will assess our situation again in the morning.” “Aye Aye Sir.” Christie nodded and two Chasseur’s pushed McDonald below. “Lieutenant Gordon – I believe this belongs to you.” Tom handed the sword back to James. “Thank you sir, it was a gift from my uncle.” “Lieutenant – you will accompany me back to Chasseur – Mr. Christie - stand by for the night and we will commence repairs in the morning. The sun was just touching the horizon now, the darkness fast approaching from the East, everything starting to dissolve in the purple gloom of twilight. At midnight, the main top mast, then, the entire mainmast went by the board. St Lawrence was now a complete wreck with only a stump of a foremast still standing. The morning sun made a complete survey of St Lawrence possible. Christie and Shelby crawled over the ship, determining how best to jury rig spars to allow them to set a trace of sail, discussing the technical details with the British bosun and his surviving mate. Soon it was apparent that St Lawrence was so shattered by the fight, in such a perilous state, that they would never repair her adequately to safely make any port in the United States. Viewed from Chasseur, James was shocked at the devastation aboard St Lawrence. She truly was a wreck. He remembered all the glorious days sailing her – the day off Barbados with Admiral Durham – days spent in the trade winds reeling off miles with no effort, no effort at all. Cheekily out-sailing any of the hard pressed British ships he came up with; Henry Olson’s magic way with her. Despondently, James thought – “What a terrific loss, what a colossal tragedy. God forgive me.” “I’ll have to let you run for Havana under parole Lieutenant Gordon – do you think you can manage that with your remaining crew.” “I believe we can sir, yes.” Tom was concerned with the young lieutenant. He had suffered a minor wound to one arm – it was bandaged, no need for a sling - but his mental acuity was wounded as well. Lieutenant Gordon was traumatized at the loss of his ship, and he needed to pull himself together to get that ship and her crew safely to Havana. “I ask that you give your parole as a British officer, that neither you nor your crew will take arms against the United States again until properly exchanged.” “Yes sir, upon my most sacred honour as an English officer and gentleman, I give you my parole – however, I cannot vouch for the legality of this arrangement in the eyes of my government.” Tom smiled, these English were all the same. “Lieutenant – your personal honour is enough for me. You are free to go sir – if I were you, I should sway up a jury main mast as soon as ever I could and try to get some canvas up. You’ve got thirty five miles to cover and the weather looks to be closing on us. The current is against you now, mind – and soon the wind will be as well. You’ve got plenty of water and food, we’ve sent over two bales of purser’s slops for the wounded. Mr. Rapp – one of my best prizmasters – will accompany you to Havana – do not hesitate to consult with him. Good Bye Lieutenant – and Good luck.” James took Tom’s hand and pumped it vigorously. “Thank you sir, thank you indeed. I tell you if old Admrial Cockburn was to take you – you would not be treated half as well as you have treated me. Please sir, here is a note I have written, in case you was taken by a British cruiser – it may do you some good.” James pressed a folded piece of paper into Toms hand, stepped over the side into the waiting boat and was gone. Chasseur stayed close to St Lawrence all that night and into the next morning. “They’re getting a mainmast swayed up over there Tom – looks as though Mr Gordon may get her home after all, though I would not care to put odds on it.” “Nor I Shelby – that young man will be a long time recovering from the drubbing we gave him. Mr Dieter, how are our repairs coming by the way?” “As well as can be expected sir, Mr Burk and young Mr Alexander were both killed as you know, so we are hard pressed for proper carpentry. The main boom took another hard knock and we’ll have to fish it yet again.” “Well, we know how to do that by now, don’t we Mr Dieter, with or without Mr Burk. I don’t like the looks of this weather, let’s hand the main, and send down the royal and topgallant yards. Reef the foretopsail and carry only jib and main staysail – Mr Cochrane, you have the deck – the rest of you get some rest.” That night the dirty weather Tom predicted came upon them with a vengeance. A howling great North West wind came swinging across the Gulf of Mexico and slammed into them with rain, wind, lightening and even a magnificent waterspout. The wind and current pushed Chasseur north east fast and within three days of her fight with St Lawrence she was far up the Gulf Stream near the island of Bimini with nothing in sight. Ch 18 – Aftermath – St Lawrence The same dirty weather that drove Chasseur northeast that night drove St Lawrence northeast also. Swept by wind and rain, doggedly James kept her heading south, though her course over the ground was north, ever north in a wild rough ride. At dawn, two days later, the storm having past, they spied a brig riding easy on the swell to the north. She immediately made sail and ran down to them with her guns run out. She was Chasseur. “Well Lieutenant Gordon – I see you have made little headway to Havana.” said Tom as he boarded the still shattered schooner. “Yessir, Captain Boyle, we haven’t the sail to work upwind against a Northwest breeze and the current. But we should be alright when the Southeast trades develop again and we’ll run down and hug the coast of Cuba.” “That may work Lieutenant – if things get dire, do not forget Nassau also, you may wish to put in there.” “My parole stipulates Havana sir, and, God willing, that is where we will go.” “Very well, young man, very well. Are you in need of anything?” “No sir, we have all we require.” “Excellent, good bye again Lieutenant, and good luck.” “And to you sir.” The Southeast trades did make themselves felt again later that day and St Lawrence was able to make Southing by holding close to the shallow water of the Bahamas bank. Slowly, over the next three days, she edged south until she was within sight of the coast of Cuba. She was also in sight of the frigate HMS Seahorse, commanded by one Sir James Alexander Gordon returning from duty off New Orleans. Soon, the wreck of the St Lawrence was bobbing in the lee of the sparkling frigate and James was in his uncle’s great cabin describing the battle and its aftermath. “Where did you say you last spoke this brigand?” said Sir James with a chart on the table between them. “Just here sir, northwest of Bimini – but I must impose Sir James, I have numerous wounded who need immediate medical attention ashore, and I gave my parole to Captain Boyle, upon my honor as an English officer, to proceed to Havana and not to take up arms against the United States until properly exchanged. I would appreciate your assistance in allowing me to carry out the terms of my parole sir.” Captain McDonald was also in the cabin and seconded the motion – “I must take passage to Florida on Kings business Sir James – it will be easier for me to arrange such passage from Havana than from say, Nassau.” Sir James looked at his young nephew – he was such an earnest young man, but tired, so bloody tired. They were all tired. The war with the Americans was all but over, all that was needed was a signature on a piece of paper. Chasseur was bound to be long gone by now and even if he did find her, she was likely to bound away from his frigate like a hare to a fox. Sir James stumped – he’d lost a leg in a frigate action against the French - over to the seat across the stern windows and heavily sat down. “Alright gentleman, we will have it your way - we will proceed to Havana and put the wounded ashore and let Captain McDonald continue with his mysterious “Kings business”. However, we are not taking that hulk of yours any further. She will be scuttled where she lies. Take any personal belongings off her; we will set sail for Havana as soon as the wounded and her crew are transferred.” “James – a word please - after we call on the British envoy in Havana and reinstate your commission – you will accompany Seahorse to Bermuda where you will stand trial for the loss of St Lawrence. It is an unpleasant business, but I am sure Captain McDonald will make a statement that will ensure your acquittal – wont you Captain.” “Absolutely sir – you can count on it – the Lieutenant did all that was in his power.” “Just so, however, James – this episode is not a good mark against the Gordon name. St Lawrence and Chasseur were essentially equal vessels – all things considered, you should have prevailed. I do not expect your naval career will progress much further. You should plan accordingly.” James felt the hot blood rush to his face and he looked at Captain McDonald who was innocently perusing the chart, tracing the coast of Florida with his finger. “Yes sir, I understand completely Sir James – perhaps we might drink a toast then to the good of the Navy.” “Capital idea young man, capital – to the Navy.” St Lawrence slowly sank into the indigo waters of the Gulf Stream – her ensign waving from the stump of the jury mainmast. To James, she seemed to be grateful to finally give up her violent life. As a Yankee privateer, she roamed the Atlantic burning and pillaging merchant vessels until captured by Cockburn in a bloody action in Ocracoke inlet. Then, employed to chase American gunboats around the Chesapeake she was severely wounded at the Battle of Severn Creek and blood ran from her scuppers again. Finally, after a relatively quiet time under James’ command, she succumbed in a brutal contest with Chasseur. Yes, James thought, she is happy to settle to the bottom and disappear forever from the affairs of men. James Gordon slowly opened his eyes and looked up. Sunlight streamed in through a window and illuminated the wash basin and towels along the far wall. He rubbed his eyes and tried to think of something, anything, other than HMS St Lawrence. In Havana, he learned that the peace treaty was finally ratified and a state of war no longer existed between the United States and Great Britain. Captain McDonald and his men embarked on a sloop of war from Havana for Florida after long, furtive conversations with Captain Sir James Alexander and the British envoy in Havana. As promised, he was re-commissioned on orders of his uncle and stood trial for the loss of the St Lawrence in Bermuda. The court martial – a panel of three post captains whose ships happened to be in Bermuda at the time – quickly reached a verdict to acquit James of any culpability in the loss of the schooner. In fact, the trial itself lasted little more than an afternoon with Captain McDonald’s statement the primary evidence. Her role in transporting agent provocateurs to Florida was not mentioned and any record of it was destroyed. James was cashiered from the Navy the next day, discharged as a half pay lieutenant. Now, in a hotel near the port, James Edward Gordon waited to take passage from Bermuda to England. He had not set foot on English soil for three years while in American waters engaged in a bloody, inconclusive war - three years without seeing the rolling green hills of England - but still all he could think of was the St Lawrence. He thought of her lovely, lofty tall masts, the tremendous thrill of sailing her to windward, the feel of her under the tiller. He thought of Henry Olson and how he had loved everything about the little ship. He thought of the pride he felt gazing on his little command anchored in bays and inlets from the Chesapeake to Barbados. He thought of the people he met through St Lawrence – Henry Olson, Admiral Durham, Sarah Gill, Abby Potter. The independence St Lawrence gave him – the whiff of absolute freedom. He thought of the rigors and activities when they re-built her in the Chesapeake after she was nearly destroyed and the sadness when she finally slipped beneath the ocean. With crushing regret he realized for the hundredth time that he would never command or sail such a ship again. James took out his bible and read several passages at random. He knelt beside his bed and prayed for guidance. Then, shouldering his sea bag, his shockingly small sea bag, he left the bare room and made his way to the port and his passage home. Ch 19 – Aftermath – Chasseur Tom, John Dieter and Shelby Cochrane sat in their accustomed place – the after leeward carronade slide – eating one of DeBois’ spicy stews – an etouffe he called it – served over rice and washed down with bread, lemon and beer. Chasseur was in the middle of the indigo Gulf Stream, standing off and on between the Bahamas bank and the stream with sails sometimes aback, mending rigging and sails and keeping all as quiet as possible for the wounded. Four of the seven wounded would be maimed for life but were gradually recovering. Sadly, Peter died of his wound, his shattered leg, a week after the fight. His mates prayed his soul into heaven in the African way with drums made from scraps of timber and sailcloth and songs from their homeland. Tom spoke above the body from the Bible just to be safe and when they splashed him into his grave, the five remaining slaves wailed piteously and liked to dive in with him. The next day, they were back at work, cheerfully splicing rope and sewing sails with the rest of the crew as though nothing had happened. How go our repairs John, can we put all sail necessary on the barky? What about our boats and woodwork? “We miss Mr Burk something terrible Captain. We have a goodly amount of carpenters and shipwrights aboard, but none of them know Chasseur the way old Jacob did. Aye, we can carry all the sail we need at the moment, but she isn’t as perfect as Jacob would want her.” “Yes, those are my thoughts as well. She’s together again and perfectly functional, but she’s lacking Jacob’s artistry, his little details – ‘tis a sad thing.” “What do you make of St Lawrence gentlemen? Young Gordon nearly caught us napping didn’t he? Did you find anything a little strange about her?” “They were professional gunners on that ship, I’ll give em that. That was some of the most furious gunnery I’ve ever had the misfortune to face. It was a near thing Tom, we were lucky to get away as we did! I thought the idea was to avoid the Royal Navy?” “We’ve run into worse Shelby, surely? What about Pernambocu – or the Berwick? They were worse by far yes?” “Not over such a short time Tom. The fire from St Lawrence was intense – I don’t know they could have kept it up much longer, but that was the most anxious fifteen minutes of my young life.” “That was tremendous fire – though it seemed to slack part way through, and ours seemed to pick up. But why do you ask Captain – have you some suspicions of her? She seemed to me what she was – a Kings ship.” “Young Gordon told me they lost 6 killed and seventeen wounded, John, and three more died that night. But Mr Christie told me he counted at least fifteen killed and twenty some wounded when we so inconveniently stranded him alone aboard her. Why would Gordon lie about his casualties?” “I don’t know, but I know she shipped more than her share of marines! There were berths for a full squad and then some down below. They were all made up too – blankets, gear, seabags – the lot. I spoke with some of her crew during my survey of her – there was some dark talk of betrayal and treachery aboard. The bosun told me young Gordon didn’t strike the colors and never ordered it neither. He said that lobster Captain – McDonald, a Scot; God forgive him – cut the ensign down with his saber as soon as our George cleared the foredeck with his grape shot. Gordon had nothing to do with it, and the crew was none to happy about it either.” “They were beaten, Shelby, we were in the process of boarding them! Do you mean to tell me you thought they could win that fight?” “Win? Naw, but if you remember John, we came up close, then hove off again, leaving Mr Christie to take on the entire ship himself. I’m sure he could have held until we came back, but neither Gordon, nor his crew were quite ready to strike – and they had more than enough firepower left to make our lives miserable. The melee on deck would have been murderous. No, McDonald made the decision to strike and then did it on his own.” “I wonder what he threw overboard – what was in those dispatches that was so important for him to destroy.” “I know one dispatch he didn’t destroy was one from Admiral Cockburn to Admiral Cochrane – the peace treaty has been signed by all except our Jemmy Madison. Soon as he signs it, the war is over.” “Why that could be any day now! It could be today! Tell you what boys – as far as I’m concerned – this war is already over. We’ve a full hold, little ammunition and are damn near in soundings for the capes.” “That’s right, gentleman, that’s why we will continue to drift along the Gulf Stream avoiding contact with any British ships until we intercept an American who can verify that peace is upon us.” Two days later, that moment came. They hove to in the middle of the stream to allow a clumpy brig flying a huge American flag to run down on them. She was the Eliza Ann bound from Boston to Richmond with a copy of Niles Weekly Register containing the report that President Madison had signed the peace treaty and the war was finally over. At two thirty that afternoon, Chasseur put her helm up and joyously even cheerfully made all sail to romp home for the Chesapeake. Polly Boyle opened the front door to find George Stevenson panting, flushed with his arm raised to knock again, his hat in his hand. “Good Day George – and what brings you here this morning?” “They’re home Polly, they’re home – they’re between the Wolf Trap and Point Lookout coming on like gang busters. There are no pilots about Polly – Tom is bringing her up the bay as fast as a thoroughbred with no pilot! Come quick, I’ve got my carriage and we’ll run up to the fort to see them come on.” Polly ran inside, grabbed one of Tom’s heavy pea coats – for it was a raw spring day in Baltimore – threw it over her shoulders and went with George in his carriage at almost a gallop around the inner harbor and out to the point below Fort McHenry. George handed her his heavy brass telescope and she steadied against the window sill of the carriage. She turned the eyepiece to sharpen the focus, swept across the choppy bay, past a fleeting glimpse of a ship, then swept back to one of the most beautiful sights she had ever seen. There, coming straight at her out of a rain shower was Chasseur in all her glory. Every stitch of sail she could fly was set on her slender masts, all glistening and shining like glass as the rain lifted and the sun lit her up. A tremendous wave spread from either side of her flared bows, spray flying as high as the foresail yard. The famous bowsprit elegantly curved to the pull of the flying jib. Chasseur changed her course slightly and now Polly could see both masts and all her sails. “She’s got a new main sail George – its as white as the driven snow. She’s got quite a few patches in her other sails too – its been a hard cruise I’m afraid.” “I’m just glad she’s back Polly – I’m just glad she’s back.” Chasseur heeled to a gust, accelerated, buried her shoulder and playfully threw more water. Her black and yellow sides wet with spray glistened in the sunshine. As Polly watched, a puff of white smoke jetted from her side – seconds later the dull boom of cannon sounded across the bay. Polly watched as Chasseur fired a seventeen gun salute to the venerable old fort and its historic ensign. She jumped when the fort replied gun for gun to the black and yellow privateer. It took George and Polly longer to work their way back from the fort through the tumultuous crowd than it took Chasseur to work her way into the inner harbor and tie up at the wharf at the foot of Commerce Street. “Let me out here George, let me out – we’ll have to go the rest of the way on foot.” Polly jumped from the almost stopped carriage and strode – almost ran - quickly down the slope to the harbor. Chasseur was just tossing her mooring lines to willing hands along the wharf. She couldn’t see any of the crew for the huge and jubilant crowd. A magnificent and huge American flag flew from Chasseur’s gaff. Polly pushed closer to the ship with Stevenson at her side. Suddenly she saw him, Tom was aft by the tiller directing the placement of the gangway puffing contentedly on a cigar. The moment the gangway was in place, and before it was truly secure, Polly Boyle ran up the incline as though she were seventeen again. She ran straight past a grinning John Dieter, straight past a bowing Shelby Cochrane and straight into laughing Tom Boyles’ arms – who picked her up and twirled her around and around and around. Tom and Polly Boyle, Shelby Cochrane, John Dieter, George Stevenson and Dennis Smith gathered in the glittering sitting room of Dennis Smith’s mansion on Chartres street in Baltimore. “Congratulations on a completing your cruise Captain Boyle – as I recall, in New York last winter there was some idea that there may be some difficulty with the Royal Navy. It looks as though they were the ones with the difficulty, No?” “We had some close calls with His Majesties navy this time around Dennis – some close calls indeed. Our fight with St Lawrence was a near run thing and we only just outran Barossa.” “Saluting Fort McHenry was certainly well thought of Thomas.” – said Stevenson. “Yes, we thought it appropriate somehow.” “You are the toast of the city Thomas – even old Niles is calling you the Pride of Baltimore.” “I think he means that for Chasseur George – Chasseur is the Pride of Baltimore, I am just her captain.” “You no longer are the captain of Chasseur Thomas – George has arranged for Chasseur to fly to China on a run for tea. We are negotiating with a certain captain for that trip and are close to signing a contract with him. No, Thomas, I have another voyage in mind for a man of your experience and skills.” “Here it comes.” groaned Shelby. “Yes Mr Cochrane, here it comes as you may be so as to delicately put it. I have a ship – the Swiftsure - standing by already loaded with a cargo for Buenos Ayres. I want you Thomas and whatever crew you desire to sail that ship for me to Argentina and return. Aside from the cargo there is a certain gentleman who wishes to gain passage from Buenos Ayres to Baltimore – I have promised him that passage on Swiftsure’s return voyage.” “She’s already loaded? What is her cargo?” “Military supplies – I dare say no more.” “When do you expect her to sail?” “Three weeks at the most.” Polly’s grip on his arm tightened – she had hardly let go of him since his arrival – and he hadn’t wished her to. “Well, Dennis, I shall take your offer under consideration – Buenos Ayres eh? But for now, might we simply enjoy some of this fine wine, the company of good friends and celebrate the end of a successful cruise?” “As you wish Captain Boyle – but I would appreciate an answer within forty-eight hours.” “I give you my word Dennis, you will know my plans as soon as I know them.” Shelby Cochrane reached for the decanter of wine and poured a generous portion into a tall glass. He had better get started spending his prize money as soon as he could – he knew at least three houses to visit just off the docks in Fells Point – three weeks indeed.