THE GOOD OLD TIMES.
A SHEAF OF ANECDOTES OF THE BRITISH NAVY. When Essex, in Elizabeth’s reign, heard that it was decided to attack Cadiz, be throw his hat into tho sea for joy ; when Savage, in the Hercules, of 74 guns, was lying alongside tho Villa do Paris, of 110, and blazing away with might and main, he cheered on his men in the smoke of the fray by singing a few lines of the song ‘Oh ! what a charming thing’s a battle ! ’ V hen Duncan at Camperdown overtook the Dutch fleet under De Winter, he perpetrated an elephantine pun: “Gentlemen, here’s a severe winter approaching; I can only advise you to keep up a good fire.” Now, remember, that if ever the fate of England as a nation hung in the balance, it was while the fight of Camperdown was raging, and you have some idea of the spirit with which our forefathers went into battle on tho sea. Search through the annals of tho navy, and you will find the same spirit in almost every one of its commanders—a curious mixture of pride in thsir glorious profession with a disposition to treat warfare as an excellent sport, viewing it with about tho same seriousness as schoolboys view a football match. For the political value of their services they seem, as a body, to have cared little. “It is not for us,” said Blake, “to mind State affairs. We are to prevent foreigners from fooling tis ” ; and later on Captain Campbell struck tho same note in an answer to Lord Anson after the battle of Conflans. ‘‘Captain Campbell,” said Anson, “the king will knight you, if you think proper.” “Deed, my lord, I ken na use that will be to me.” “ But your lady may like tho title,” objected Anson. “ Weel, then, His Majesty may knight her if he pleases.” It is this character in our great admirals that makes a dozen anecdotes of their behaviour under fire worth a dozen volumes of dry chronicles of their exploits. Take the following of Admiral Boscawen—“Old Dreadnaught,” as his men loved to call him : —When captain of the Glory frigate, and cruising off Madeira, he was set upon by two Spanish and one French ship, the latter alone of more than equal force. Boscawen, it being late in the evening, was down in his berth, taking a nap, when bis lieutenant ran down with a long face, told tho news, and asked: “What shall we do?” “Do!” answered Boscawen testily, sitting up and rubbing his eyes. “ Oh, fight ’em, to be sure 1 ” and stalked up on deck in his shirt Only. In this scant clothing he fought for near upon two glasses, when the enemy, finding they must be taken if they continued the contest, drew off under cover of the night. Of their cheery pluck in action the anecdotes are inexhaustible. Here is a sample or two Captain Timothy Edwards, otherwise called “ Old Hammer-and-Nails ” (because on going into action he had ordered the colors to be nailed to the ensign-staff), was once, in the heat of conflict, struck down by a splinter and lay upon the deck for some time unconscious; insomuch that all those round him, concluding him dead, began to bewail his loss. Stunned though he was, he soon recovered his recollection, but lay without appearance of life till one of the men happened to say “ So poor old Hammer-and-Nails is gone ! ” Whereupon the object of their compassion leapt instantly to his feet with “ That’s a confounded lie ! Fire away, my lads.” The nailing of the colors to the ensign-staff recalls the similar story of Nelson, who went into Aboukir with six colors flying, “so that if they shoot av. y one, they shall not think we have struck. ” He must needs, also, wear his four stars upon his coat. “It makes you a plain mark for the sharpshooters,” said an objector. The answer had less logic than grandeur: “ In honor I won them, and in honor I will die with them.”
Captain John Harvey, lying alongside a French ship, Le Vengeur, on the “ First of June,” was wounded, and at length, growing faint through loss of blood, was compelled to retire. Assistance was offered to conduct him below, but he refused— 11 1 will not have a single man leave his quarters on my account. My legs still remain to bear me down to the cock pit. Go on, my brave boys, and do your duty ! Remember your king and country, and my last words— 1 The colors of the Brunswick shall not be struck.’”
Benbow, in hia action with Du Casse, had hia right leg broken to pieces by a chainshot. He was carried down to the cock-pit, and while the surgeon was engaged in the amputation, a lieutenant expressed sympathy with the admiral for thus losing hia leg. “ My lad,” said Benbow, “lam sorry for it, too; bat I had rather lose them both than see dishonor brought upon the English nation. But, do ye hear, if another shot should take me off, behave like brave men and fight it out.” Duncan, lying off the Texel with his own ship, the Venerable, and only one other, hears that the whole Dutch fleet is putting to sea; so ho tells Captain Hotham to come alongside of him and cast anchor in the narrowest part of the channel. “I have taken the depth of the water,” he added, “and find that when the Venerable goes down my flag will still fly.” Nelson, again, in his early youth had received a small sword, a present from his uncle, Captain Suckling, with injunctions never to part with it but with his life. With this sword in hand he was leading the attack on Santa Cruz, when his right arm was shot off. The sword, of course, fell with it. Stunned by the shock, he was for some moments deprived of sensation; but quickly recovering and remembering the injunction, groped for the sword with his left hand, recovered it, and again fainted away. In this manner, still grasping the sword, he was found by Mr Nesbitt, “You need not longer be afraid, my lord,” reported a lieutenant once to Lord Howe, “the fire has been extinguished.” “ Afraid ! Pray sir, how does a man feel when he is afraid ? I need not ask how he looks,"
Almost as good is a story of the bluff old Admiral Gayton. On his way home to England his battered, crazy, and undermanned ship, the Antelope, sighted a large man-of-war, and got ready to receive the enemy. Gayton himself, while the preparations for fight went forward, was lying sick to death below. Roused by the noise overhead, however, he crawled on deck and addressed his crew : “ Now then, boys, behave like Englishmen. I can’t stand by you, but I’ll sit and see you fight as long as you please.” The stranger, luckily, proved to bo a British cruiser. Of the resourcefulness and readiness that went with this dogged valor a thousand stories might be told, Cornwallis, when captain of the Canada and at sea with his ship, had to face a mutiny, which arose on account of some accidental delay in the payments. The crew, in fact, signed a “ round robin,” wherein they declared to a man that they would not fire a gun till they were paid. Captain Cornwallis grasped the situation, had the crew piped up on deck, and laconically harangued them. “My lads,” he said, “ the money cannot be paid till we return to port; and as to your not fighting—why, I’ll clap you alongside the first large ship of the enemy I see, and then the devil himself cannot keep you from it.” This rough compliment was enough. The Jacks returned straight to their duty, better satisfied, perhaps, than if they had been paid their money. Having seen how Cornwallis stopped a mutiny, we will see next how Boscawcn stopped a leak. Whilst defeating the French fleet he was obliged, in the midst of a violent storm, to step into a boat in order to shift his flag from his own ship to another. In his passage a shot went through the boat’s side, when the Admiral, taking off his wig, stopped the leak with that, and by this means kept the boat from sinking until he made the ship for which he was bound. Here is another example of resourcefulness. We have seen bow Nelson lost his arm in the attack at Teneriffe, After he had fallen and was carried back to his ship; alter all the English boats had been either sunk by the dreadful fire from the batteries, or swamped in the surf, Captain Hood and Sir Thomas Troubridge found themselves in the heart of the town of Santa Cruz, at the head of a few seamen and marines armed with pikes, but surrounded by some thousands of Spaniards. Their situation was most critical. It was dark ; and for the present the enemy was kept in check from not being acquainted with the position or number of the invaders; but by daylight
their miserable force must inevitably be dis covered. They deliberated, and
Decision followed, as the thundoi bolt The lightning’s flash. Captain Hood immediately waited on the Spanish Governor, Don Juan Antoine Gutterry, with tho following laconic message:—“l am conic, sir, from the commanding officer of the British troops and seamen now within your walls, and in posession of the prinopalsfnifto, to say that, as wo are disappointed in the object for which we came (alluding to specie), provided you will furnish us with boats —those we came in being all lost —wo will return peacably to our ships; but should any means be taken to molest or retard us, wc v. ill fire vour town in different places, and force our way out of it at the point of the bayonet. Taking out his*watch he added: “I am directed to give you ten minutes to consider of this offer.” The Governor was astonished at the proposal, made with such confidence, on tho part of men whom he conceived to bo already in his power. He observed that ho had thought they were his prisoners; but, as it was not so, he would hold a council with his officers, and let the British commander know the result in tho course of an hour. “I regret to tell you, sir,” coolly answered Hood, “ that I am limited to a second; and my friends arc anxiously awaiting my return, to recommence hostilities should my demand bo refused.” With this ho was taking his leave, when the Governor, alarmed at the probable consequences of driving the English to extremity, acceded to his proposal. Ho accordingly provided boats, and sent tho English off to their ships, where they had ceased to be expected, laden with fruit and various other refreshments. They had a haughty way with them—these old sea-dogs —in dealing with foreigners. As early as Queen Mary’s reign, Lord Howard of Effingham was sent with a fleet of twenty-eight sail to meet and escort the Royal Consort, King Philip of Spain, whose own fleet consisted of 180 vessels. Along came tho Spanish Admiral, proudly sailing with the Spanish flag at his mast-head—a proceeding which so incensed Lord Howard that he sent a shot at the Spanish ship and forced him to lower his colors before he would make his compliments to the Prince.
Again, in 1605 Sir William Monson, cruising in the Channel, came upon a Dutch squadron which he had left at Calais three days before. TheJDutch Admiral, who had accepted an invitation to dine with Sir William on the following day, struck his flag thrice. Sir William sent to request him to take it in altogether. The Hollander objected. “ Very well, then,” said Sir William, “if you refuse I intend to weigh anchor and come down to try ths issue by battle ”; for, as he explains in his naval tracts, “ rather than I would suffer his flag to be worn in view of so many nations as were to behold it, I resolved to bury myself in the sea. The Admiral,” he adds, “on better advice took in his flag, and stood immediately off to sea, firing a gun for the rest of the fleet to follow him. And thus I lost my guest the next day at dinner as he had promised.” Again, in 1652 Van Tromp came upon Blake, who was lying off Dover. Blake sent three shots at the Dutch flag as a reminder. Tromp answered with a broadside ; and an action began which lasted until nine at night, when the Dutch made off, Of such stories there is no end. Let us see how Admiral Kcppel treated the Dey of Algiers. He was commanding a squadron in the Mediterranean when two ships richly laden were taken and carried off by the Algerine pirates. Orders reached him from home to sail into the harbor of Algiers and demand restitution of the Dey; in case of refusal, he had an unlimited power to make reprisals. The admiral’s squadron anchored in the bay, facing the Dey’s palace. He went on shore, attended only by his captain and barge’s crew. Proceeding to the palace ho demanded an audience; and, being conducted into the Dey’s presence, laid open his embassy anddesired satisfactionfortheinjuriesdone to Ilia Britannic Majesty. Surprised _ and enraged at the boldness of the Admiral’s remonstrances, the Dey exclaimed: “I wonder at the English King’s insolence, in fending mo a foolish, beardless boy.” “Had my master,” said Kcppel, “supposed that wisdom could be measured by the length of the beard, he would have sent your Deyship a he-goat.” The Dey, in a fury at this retort, forgot all international courtesy, and ordered his mutes to attend with a bowstring, at the same time telling the Admiral he should pay for his audacity with his life. Unmoved by this menace, Kcppel took him to a window facing the hay, and showing him the British fleet riding at anchor, said quietly: “If it be your pleasure to put me to death, you see there are plenty of Englishmen yonder to make me a glorious funeral pile.” The Dey was wise enough to take the hint; the Admiral came off in safety, and ample restitution was made.
Grimmer is the story of Benbow and the Moorish pirates. In the year 1666, when on his way to Cadiz in his own vessel the Benbow frigate, he was attacked by a Sallee rover ; against which, though with very unequal numbers, he defended himself desperately. At length the Moors boarded him, but were quickly beaten off again, leaving behind them thirteen of their number dead. The heads of these were, by Benbow’s orders, cut off and thrown into a tub of pork pickle. When he arrived at Cadiz he went on shore and ordered a negro sers'ant to follow him with the Moors’ heads in a sack. He had scarce landed before the officers of the revenue inquired of his servant what was in the sack. “ Salt provisions for my own use,” said Benbow, “ That may be,” said the officers, “but we must see them.” Benbow argued the point. “I am no stranger here, and I am not used to running smuggled goods.” “Very well, there are magistrates sitting not far off; if they are satisfied with your word you may take your sack where you please.” Benbow acceded. Away they all marched to the Custom-house, Benbow leading, his man in the middle, and the officers behind. The magistrates heard his argument with civility, but said, reasonably enough : “ You state that these are salt provisions, and we believe you ; but, as they are not liable to duty, there can surely be no great objection to your showing them.” “ I told you,” said the captain sternly,' “ they were salt provisions for my own use. Ciesar, empty the bag upon the table ! There, gentlemen, if yon like them, they arc at your service,” and out he stalked. “The Spaniards,” says the ‘Naval Chronicle,’ “ were extremely struck at the sight of the Moors’ heads, and no less astonished at the account of the captain’s adventure, who with so small a force had been able to defeat such a number of barbarians.” ' Here is another tale of the same rollicking order. The hero this time is Sir John Jervis, afterwards the Earl of St, Vincent. In the year 1794 he was co-operating with Sir Charles Grey in the West Indies when a question arose concerning the procedure of a convoy of merchant ships to Europe, about which Sir John wished to consult the different masters. A signal was made to this effect. The masters of the merchantmen attended on board the Admiral’s ship. He Ho stated hia object in convening them, and requested to hear their opinions. Finding, however, that each delivered his sentiments with a single eye to his own interests, the Admiral attempted to show the expedience of unanimity, but without effect. Upon which he grew irritated, hastily paced the deck, snapping his fingers, and singing with a voice of no common strength “ Sing tantarara rogues all, rogues all!” and repeated it with such vehemence that the merchant captains, fearing some more impressive marks of the Admiral’s displeasure, hurried out of the ship without another word; and the convoy was despatched to England on his own plan. The same Admiral (affectionately nicknamed the “Morning Star,” from the fact that at Gibraltar he rose early, and was usually abroad, decorated with all the insignia of his rank and shouting stentorian orders, long before day dawned) when blockading Cadiz was surprised one night by every indication of an approaching gale. The wind rapidly increased to such a height as to threaten the destruction of the fleet as it rode at anchor. The only means of warding off the peril was to veer away more cable. But the order for this could not bo immediately given, as no night signal was yet established for that purpose. Suddenly Sir John called for the boatswain and all his
mates, stationed them on the poop, gangway, and forecastle, and told them to pipe together, loudly, as when veering cable. The sound was heard on board the surrounding ships above the roar of the gale, and the captains, rightly conceiving the Admiral to be veering his cable, directed the same to be done on board their own vessels, and the fleet thus rode out the gale in safety. The following is told of Lord Howe : While cruising with the Magnanimo on the coast of France, he was obliged by a gale of wind to cast anchor. It was on a lee-shore, and the night was dark and tempestuous. After everything had been made snug the ship rode with two anchors ahead, depending entirely on her ground-tackle. Captain Howe at the time was laid up with the gout, and was reading in his cabin, when the lieutenant of the watch came in with a face of woe and said he was sorry to inform him that the anchors “ came home. “ They are much in the right of it,” coolly answered Howe ; “I don’t would stay out on such a night as this.” These men belonged to a rough race, and, I am afraid, showed little more respect to the church than to foreigners. “ What! ” cried Lord Howo to a chaplain w'ho objected to be employed on the watch at a shift—“ What! cannot ye watch as well as pray ? ” And this anecdote of the Earl of Cloncartie is equally characteristic : —ln his early days he was cruising off the Guinea coast, when he happened to lose his chaplain, who was carried off by yellow fever. The lieutenant, a Scotchman, brought the nows, and added: “I am sorry to inform your Lordship that he died a Roman Catholic.” “ Well, so much the better,” said His Lordship. “ Got awa’, my lord! ” exclaimed the Scot, shocked into his native tongue. “ How oan yc say that of a British clergyman?” “Why,” replied the Earl, “because I believe I’m the first captain of a man-of-war that can boast of a chaplain that had any religion at all.” ( To he continued.)
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THE GOOD OLD TIMES., Evening Star, Issue 8030, 5 October 1889, Supplement
THE GOOD OLD TIMES. Evening Star, Issue 8030, 5 October 1889, Supplement
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