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CHASSEUR AND ST LAWRENCE By Barry Warburton Powered By Docstoc


      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


     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


     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


       “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


        “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


       “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


     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


        “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

     “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


        “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


     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


     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


        “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


     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


     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


     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


     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


     “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


     “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


     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


     “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


     “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


     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


     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

        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

                       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


        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


     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


     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


     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


     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


     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


     “Where away is the frigate?” called Boyle to the


     “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

                    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


     “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


     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


        “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


     “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


         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


      “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,


      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


       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 –


       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


       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


     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


        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


     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


     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


     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


     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


        “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

     “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


     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


     “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


     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


     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


     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


     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


     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


        Cards fluttered across the table and coins clinked as

bets were placed. The low murmur of conversation surrounded


        “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


        “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


        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


     “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


     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


     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


        He spat out the word European as though it were


        Aury sank back into his chair and moodily flipped a


        “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


     “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


     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


     “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


     “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


     “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

     “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


     “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


     “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


     Tom smiled and looked back at the plunging frigate -

“Yes Mr Cochrane - and what was the result of this great


     “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


     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


     “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


     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


     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


     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


     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


     Shelby brought Chasseur to a halt within 20 feet of

the abandoned Corunna, both ships nodding to the playful


     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


     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


     “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


        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


     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


      “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


     “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


     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


     “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


     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


     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


     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


     “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


     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


     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


     “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


     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


     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


     “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


     “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


     “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


     “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

     “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


     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


     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


     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


     “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


     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


     “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


     “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


     “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


     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


     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,


       “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.