Sea Stories

Early American Heroism

During one of the former wars, between France and England, in which the then Colonies bore an active part, a respectable individual, a member of the society of Friends, of the name of ----, commanded a fine ship which sailed from an Eastern

port, to a port in England. This vessel had a strong and effective crew, but was totally unarmed. When near her destined port, she was chased, and ultimately overhauled, by a French vessel of war. Her commander used every endeavor to escape, but seeing from the superior sailing of the Frenchman, that his capture was inevitable, he quietly retired below: he was followed into the cabin by his cabin boy, a youth of activity and enterprise, named Charles Wager: he asked his commander if nothing more could be done to save the ship--his commander replied that it was impossible, that every thing had been done that was practicable, there was no escape for them, and they must submit to be captured. Charles then returned upon deck and summoned the crew around him--he stated in a few words what was their captain's conclusion--then, with an elevation of mind, dictated by a soul formed for enterprise and noble daring, he observed, "if you will place yourselves under my command, and stand by me, I have conceived a plan by which the ship may be rescued, and we in turn become the conquerors." The sailors no doubt feeling the ardor, and inspired by the courage of their youthful and gallant leader, agreed to place themselves under his command. His plan was communicated to them, and they awaited with firmness, the moment to carry their enterprise into effect. The suspense was of short duration, for the Frenchman was quickly alongside, and grappled to the merchant ship. As Charles had anticipated, the exhilarated conquerors, elated beyond measure, with the acquisition of so fine a prize, poured into his vessel cheering and huzzaing; and not foreseeing any danger, they left but few men on board their ship. Now was the moment for Charles, who, giving his men the signal, sprang at their head on board the opposing vessel, while some seized the arms which had been left in profusion on her deck, and with which they soon overpowered the few men left on board; the others, by a simultaneous movement, relieved her from the grapplings which united the two vessels. Our hero now having the command of the French vessel, seized the helm, and placing her out of boarding distance, hailed, with the voice of a conqueror, the discomfited crowd of Frenchmen who were left on board of the peaceful bark he had just quitted, and summoned them to follow close in his wake, or he would blow them out of water, (a threat they well knew he was very capable of executing, as their guns were loaded during the chase.) They sorrowfully acquiesced with his commands, while gallant Charles steered into port, followed by his prize. The exploit excited universal applause--the former master of the merchant vessel was examined by the Admiralty, when he stated the whole of the enterprise as it occurred, and declared that Charles Wager had planned and effected the gallant exploit, and that to him alone belonged the honor and credit of the achievement. Charles was immediately transferred to the British navy, appointed a midshipman, and his education carefully superintended. He soon after distinguished himself in action, and underwent a rapid promotion, until at length he was created an Admiral, and known as Sir Charles Wager. It is said that he always held in veneration and esteem, that respectable and conscientious Friend, whose cabin boy he had been, and transmitted yearly to his OLD MASTER, as he termed him, a handsome present of Madeira, to cheer his declining days.

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