Page:Henry Adams' History of the United States Vol. 4.djvu/26

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Ch. 1.

Hardly more than five minutes passed between the moment when the British officer left Commodore Barron's cabin and the time when Barron was hailed. To get the ship ready for action required fully half an hour. Barron, after giving the order to clear the guns, had come on deck and was standing in the gangway watching the "Leopard" with rapidly increasing anxiety, as he saw that the tompions were out of her guns and that her crew were evidently at quarters. He instantly repeated the order to prepare for battle, and told Gordon to hurry the men to their stations quietly without drum-beat. Gordon hastened down to the gun-deck with the keys of the magazine; the crew sprang to their quarters as soon as they understood the order. Barron, aware that his only chance was to gain time, remained at the gangway and replied through his trumpet: "I do not hear what you say." Captain Humphreys repeated his hail, and Barron again replied that he did not understand. The "Leopard" immediately fired a shot across the "Chesapeake's" bow;[1] a minute later another shot followed; and in two minutes more, at half-past four o'clock, the "Leopard" poured her whole broadside of solid shot and canister, at the distance of one hundred and fifty or two hundred feet, point-blank into the helpless American frigate. Before the gunner of the "Chesapeake" got to his magazine he heard the first gun from the "Leopard;" just as he opened and entered the magazine the "Leopard's" broadside was fired.

  1. James's Naval History, iv. 330.