Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 4.djvu/31

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1807
21
THE "CHESAPEAKE" AND "LEOPARD."

made severe comments on his conduct; and Captain Gordon and some of his fellow-sufferers joined in the cry. One of his harshest critics was Stephen Decatur. Public sentiment required a victim. A court of inquiry which sat at Norfolk in October reported strongly against the commodore. He was charged with neglect of duty, with having failed to prepare his ship for action, with having surrendered prematurely, with having discouraged his men; but beneath all these charges lay an unjust belief in his want of courage. After six months delay, Barron was brought before a court-martial Jan. 4, 1808, and allowed to make his defence.

The court-martial took place at Norfolk, on board the "Chesapeake,"—his own ship, which recalled at every moment his disgrace. The judges were his juniors, with the single exception of Captain John Rodgers, who was president of the court. Among them sat Stephen Decatur,—a brilliant officer, but one who had still to undergo the experience of striking his flag and of hearing the world suspect his surrender to be premature. Decatur held strong opinions against Barron, and not only expressed them strongly, but also notified Barron of them in order that he might, if he pleased, exercise the privilege of challenging. Barron made no objection, and Decatur unwillingly kept his place. In other respects Barron was still more hardly treated by fortune; the first lieutenant of the "Chesapeake" had died in the interval; Dr. Bullus, whose evidence was of the utmost