Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 4.djvu/28

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
18
Ch. 1
HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES

wound, while he repeatedly hailed the "Leopard" in the hope of gaining a moment's time, and sent officer after officer below to hurry the men at the guns. Neither among the officers nor among the crew was courage the resource that failed them. Many of the men on the upper deck exposed themselves unnecessarily to the flying grapeshot by standing on the guns and looking over the hammocks, till Barron ordered them down. Careful subsequent inquiry could detect no lack of gallantry except in the pilot, who when questioned as to the commodore's behavior had the manliness to confess his alarm, "I was too bad scared myself to observe him very particularly."

The British account, which was very exact, said that the "Leopard's" fire lasted fifteen minutes,—from 4.30 to 4.45 p.m.,—during which time three full broadsides were discharged without return. No one could demand that Commodore Barron should subject his crew and ship to a longer trial when he had no hope of success. The time in which the "Leopard" could have sunk the "Chesapeake" might be a matter of doubt; but in the next battle between similar ships, five years afterward, the "Constitution," with about the "Leopard's" armament, totally disabled the "Guerriere" in less than thirty minutes, so that she sank within twenty-four hours,—though at the time of the action a heavy sea was running, and the "Guerriere" fought desperately with her whole broadside of twenty-five guns. June 22, 1807, the sea was calm; the "Leopard" lay quietly within pistol-shot; the