I never knew what became of the four Hamiltons that were picked up by the
Julia's boat, though I suppose they were put in some other vessel along
with their shipmates; nor did I ever learn the particulars of the loss of
this schooner, beyond the fact that her topsail-sheets were stoppered, and
her halyards racked. This much I learned from the men who were brought on
board the Julia, who said that their craft was ready, in all respects, for
action. Some seamen have thought this wrong, and some right; but, in my
opinion, it made but little difference in such a gust as that which passed
over us. What was remarkable, the Julia, which could not have been far
from the Scourge when we went over, felt no great matter of wind, just
luffing up, and shaking her sails, to be rid of it!
We lay only one night off the mouth of the Niagara. The next morning the
squadron weighed, and stood out in pursuit of the English. The weather was
very variable, and we could not get within reach of Sir James all that
day. This was the 9th of August. The Scourge had gone down on the night of
the 7th, or the morning of the 8th, I never knew which. On the morning of
the 10th, however, we were under the north shore, and to windward of John
Bull. The Commodore now took the Asp, and the Madison the Fair American,
in tow, and we all kept away, expecting certainly a general action. But
the wind shifted, bringing the English to windward. The afternoon was
calm; or had variable airs. Towards sunset, the enemy was becalmed under
the American shore, and we got a breeze from the southward. We now closed,
and at 6 formed our line for engaging. We continued to close until 7, when
the wind came out fresh at S.W., putting John again to windward.
I can hardly tell what followed, there was so much manoeuvring and
shifting of berths. Both squadrons were standing across the lake, the
enemy being to windward, and a little astern of us. We now passed within
hail of the commodore, who gave us orders to form a new line of battle,
which we did in the following manner. One line, composed of the smallest
schooners, was formed to windward, while the ships, brig, and two heaviest
schooners, formed another line to leeward. We had the weathermost line,
having the Growler, Lieutenant Deacon, for the vessel next astern of us.
This much I could see, though I did not understand the object. I now learn
the plan was for the weather line to engage the enemy, and then, by edging
away, draw them down upon the lee line, which line contained our principal
force. According to the orders, we ought to have rather edged off, as soon
as the English began to fire, in order to draw them down upon the
commodore; but it will be seen that our schooner pursued a very
It must have been near midnight, when the enemy began to fire at the Fair
American, the sternmost vessel of our weather line. We were a long bit
ahead of her, and did not engage for some time. The firing became pretty
smart astern, but we stood on, without engaging, the enemy not yet being
far enough ahead for us. After a while, the four sternmost schooners of
our line kept off, according to orders, but the Julia and Growler still
stood on. I suppose the English kept off, too, at the same time, as the
commodore had expected. At any rate, we found ourselves so well up with
the enemy, that, instead of bearing up, Mr. Trant tacked in the Julia, and
the Growler came round after us. We now began to fire on the headmost
ships of the enemy, which were coming on towards us. We were able to lay
past the enemy on this tack, and fairly got to windward of them. When we
were a little on John Bull's weather bow, we brailed the foresail, and
gave him several rounds, within a pretty fair distance. The enemy answered
us, and, from that moment, he seemed to give up all thoughts of the
vessels to leeward of him, turning his whole attention on the Julia
The English fleet stood on the same tack, until it had got between us and
our own line, when it went about in chase of us. We now began to make
short tacks to windward; the enemy separating so as to spread a wide clew,
in order that they might prevent our getting past, by turning their line
and running to leeward. As for keeping to windward, we had no
difficulty--occasionally brailing our foresail, and even edging off, now
and then, to be certain that our shot would tell. In moderate weather, the
Julia was the fastest vessel in the American squadron, the Lady of the
Lake excepted; and the Growler was far from being dull. Had there been
room, I make no doubt we might have kept clear of John Bull, with the
greatest ease; touching him up with our long, heavy guns, from time to
time, as it suited us. I have often thought that Mr. Trant forgot we were
between the enemy and the land, and that he fancied himself out at sea. It
was a hazy, moonlight morning, and we did not see anything of the main,
though it turned out to be nearer to us than we wished.
All hands were now turning to windward; the two schooners still edging
off, occasionally, and firing. The enemy's shot went far beyond us, and
did us some mischief, though nothing that was not immediately repaired.
The main throat-halyards, on board the Julia, were shot away, as was the
clew of the mainsail. It is probable the enemy did not keep his luff,
towards the last, on account of the land.
Our two schooners kept quite near each other, sometimes one being to
windward, sometimes the other. It happened that the Growler was a short
distance to windward of us, when we first became aware of the nature of
our critical situation. She up helm, and, running down within hail,
Lieutenant Deacon informed Mr. Trant he had just sounded in two fathoms,
and that he could see lights ashore. He thought there must be Indians, in
great numbers, in this vicinity, and that we must, at all events, avoid
the land. "What do you think we had best do?" asked Lieutenant Deacon.
"Run the gauntlet," called out Mr. Trant. "Very well, sir: which shall
lead?" "I'll lead the van," answered Mr. Trant, and then all was settled.
We now up helm, and steered for a vacancy among the British vessels. The
enemy seemed to expect us, for they formed in two lines, leaving us room
to enter between them. When we bore up, even in these critical
circumstances, it was under our mainsail, fore-top-sail, jib, flying-jib,
and foresail. So insufficient were the equipments of these small craft,
that we had neither square-sail nor studding-sails on board us. I never
saw a studding-sail in any of the schooners, the Scourge excepted.
The Julia and Growler now ran down, the former leading, half a
cable's-length apart. When we entered between the two lines of the enemy,
we were within short canister-range, and got it smartly on both tacks.
The two English ships were to leeward, each leading a line; and we had a
brig, and three large, regular man-of-war schooners, to get past, with the
certainty of meeting the Wolfe and Royal George, should we succeed in
clearing these four craft. Both of us kept up a heavy fire, swivelling our
guns round, so as not to neglect any one. As we drew near the ships,
however, we paid them the compliment of throwing all the heavy shot at
them, as was due to their rank and size.
For a few minutes we fared pretty well; but we were no sooner well entered
between the lines, than we got it, hot and hard. Our rigging began to come
down about our ears, and one shot passed a few feet above our heads,
cutting both topsail-sheets, and scooping a bit of wood as big as a
thirty-two pound shot, out of the foremast. I went up on one side, myself,
to knot one of these sheets, and, while aloft, discovered the injury that
had been done to the spar. Soon after, the tack of the mainsail caught
fire, from a wad of one of the Englishmen; for, by this time, we were
close at it. I think, indeed, that the nearness of the enemy alone
prevented our decks from being entirely swept. The grape and canister were
passing just above our heads like hail, and the foresail was literally in
ribands. The halyards being gone, the mainsail came down by the run, and
the jib settled as low as it could. The topsail-yard was on the cap, and
the schooner now came up into the wind.
All this time, we kept working the guns. The old man went from one gun to
the other, pointing each himself, as it was ready. He was at the eighteen
when things were getting near the worst, and, as he left her, he called
out to her crew to "fill her--fill her to the muzzle!" He then came to our
gun, which was already loaded with one round, a stand of grape, and a case
of canister shot. This I know, for I put them all in with my own hands. At
this time, the Melville, a brig of the enemy's, was close up with us,
firing upon our decks from her fore-top. She was coming up on our larboard
quarter, while a large schooner was nearing us fast on the starboard. Mr.
Trant directed our gun to be elevated so as to sweep the brig's
forecastle, and then he called out, "Now's the time, lads--fire at the
b----s! fire away at 'em!" But no match was to be found! Some one had
thrown both overboard. By this time the brig's jib-boom was over our
quarter, and the English were actually coming on board of us. The enemy
were now all round us. The Wolfe, herself, was within hail, and still
firing. The last I saw of any of our people, was Mallet passing forward,
and I sat down on the slide of the thirty-two, myself, sullen as a bear.
Two or three of the English passed me, without saying anything. Even at
this instant, a volley of bullets came out of the brig's fore-top, and
struck all around me; some hitting the deck, and others the gun itself.
Just then, an English officer came up, and said--"What are you doing here,
you Yankee?" I felt exceedingly savage, and answered, "Looking at your
fools firing upon their own men." "Take that for your sauce," he said,
giving me a thrust with his sword, as he spoke. The point of the cutlass
just passed my hip-bone, and gave me a smart flesh-wound. The hurt was not
dangerous, though it bled freely, and was some weeks in healing. I now
rose to go below, and heard a hail from one of the ships--the Wolfe, as I
took her to be. "Have you struck?" demanded some one. The officer who had
hurt me now called out, "Don't fire into us, sir, for I'm on board, and
have got possession." The officer from the ship next asked, "Is there
anybody alive on board her?" To which the prize-officer answered, "I don't
know, sir, I've seen but one man, as yet."
I now went down below. First, I got a bandage on my wound, to stop the
bleeding, and then I had an opportunity to look about me. A party of
English was below, and some of our men having joined them, the heads were
knocked out of two barrels of whiskey. The kids and bread-bags were
procured, and all hands, without distinction of country, sat down to enjoy
themselves. Some even began to sing, and, as for good-fellowship, it was
just as marked, as it would have been in a jollification ashore.
In a few minutes the officer who had hurt me jumped down among us. The
instant he saw what we were at, he sang out--"Halloo! here's high life
below stairs!" Then he called to another officer to bear a hand down and
see the fun. Some one sung out from among ourselves to "dowse the glim."
The lights were put out, and then the two officers capsized the whiskey.
While this was doing, most of the Englishmen ran up the forward hatch. We
Julias all remained below.
In less than an hour we were sent on board the enemy's vessels. I was
carried to the Royal George, but Mr. Trant was taken on board the Wolfe.
The Growler had lost her bowsprit, and was otherwise damaged, and had been
forced to strike also. She had a man killed, and I believe one or two
wounded. On board of us, not a man, besides myself, had been touched!
We seemed to have been preserved by a miracle, for every one of the enemy
had a slap at us, and, for some time, we were within pistol-shot. Then we
had no quarters at all, being perfectly exposed to grape and canister. The
enemy must have fired too high, for nothing else could have saved us.
In July, while I still belonged to the Scourge, I had been sent with a
boat's crew, under Mr. Bogardus, on board an English flag of truce that
had come into the Harbour. While in this vessel, our boat's crew were
"hail-fellows-well-met" with the Englishmen, and we had agreed among us to
take care of each other, should either side happen to be taken. I had been
on board the Royal George but a short time, when two of these very men
came up to me with some grog and some grub; and next morning they brought
me my bitters. I saw no more of them, however, except when they came to
shake hands with us at the gang-way, as we were leaving the ship.
After breakfast, next morning, we were all called aft to the ward-room,
one at a time. I was pumped as to the force of the Americans, the names of
the vessels, the numbers of the crews, and the names of the commanders. I
answered a little saucily, and was ordered out of the ward-room. As I was
quitting the place, I was called back by one of the lieutenants, whose
appearance I did not like from the first. Although it was now eight years
since I left Halifax, and we had both so much altered, I took this
gentleman for Mr. Bowen, the very midshipman of the Cleopatra, who had
been my schoolmate, and whom I had known on board the prize-brig I have
This officer asked me where I was born. I told him New York. He said he
knew better, and asked my name. I told him it was what he found it on the
muster-roll, and that by which I had been called. He said I knew better,
and that I should hear more of this, hereafter. If this were my old
school-fellow, he knew that I was always called Edward Robert Meyers,
whereas I had dropped the middle name, and now called myself Myers. He may
not, however, have been the person I took him for, and might have mistaken
me for some one else; for I never had an opportunity of ascertaining any
more about him.
We got into Little York, and were sent ashore that evening. I can say
nothing of our squadron, having been kept below the whole time I was on
board the Royal George. I could not find out whether we did the enemy any
harm, or not, the night we were taken; though I remember that a
sixty-eight pound carronade, that stood near the gang-way of the Royal
George, was dismounted, the night I passed into her. It looked to me as if
the trucks were gone. This I know, that the ship was more than usually
screened off; though for what reason I will not pretend to say.
At York, we were put in the gaol, where we were kept three weeks. Our
treatment was every way bad, with the exception that we were not crowded.
As to food, we were kept "six upon four" the whole time I was prisoner.
The bread was bad, and the pork little better. While in this gaol, a party
of drunken Indians gave us a volley, in passing; but luckily it did us
At the end of three weeks, we received a haversack apiece, and two days'
allowance. Our clothes were taken from us, and the men were told they
would get them below; a thing that happened to very few of us, I believe.
As for myself, I was luckily without anything to lose; my effects having
gone down in the Scourge. All I had on earth was a shirt and two
handkerchiefs, and an old slouched hat, that I had got in exchange for a
Scotch cap that had been given to me in the Julia. I was without shoes,
and so continued until I reached Halifax. All this gave me little concern;
my spirits being elastic, and my disposition gay. My great trouble was the
apprehension of being known, through the recollections of the officer I
We now commenced our march for Kingston, under the guard of a company of
the Glengarians and a party of Indians. The last kept on our flanks, and
it was understood they would shoot and scalp any man who left the ranks.
We marched two and two, being something like eighty prisoners. It was hard
work for the first day or two, the road being nothing but an Indian trail,
and our lodging-places the open air. My feet became very sore, and, as for
food, we had to eat our pork raw, there being nothing to cook in. The
soldiers fared no better than ourselves, however, with the exception of
being on full allowance. It seems that our provisions were sent by water,
and left for us at particular places; for every eight-and-forty hours we
touched the lake shore, and found them ready for us. They were left on the
beach without any guard, or any one near them. In this way we picked up
our supplies the whole distance.
At the dépôt, Mr. Bogardus and the pilot found a boat, and managed to get
into her, and put out into the lake. After being absent a day and night,
they were driven in by rough weather, and fell into the hands of a party
of dragoons who were escorting Sir George Prevost along the lake shore.
We found them at a sort of tavern, where were the English Governor and his
escort at the time. They were sent back among us, with two American army
officers, who had fallen into the hands of the Indians, and had been most
foully treated. One of these officers was wounded in the arm.
The night of the day we fell in with Sir George Prevost, we passed through
a hamlet, and slept just without it. As we entered the village the guard
played Yankee Doodle, winding up with the Rogue's March. As we went
through the place, I got leave to go to a house and ask for a drink of
milk. The woman of this house said they had been expecting us for two
days, and that they had been saving their milk expressly to give us. I got
as much as I wanted, and a small loaf of bread in the bargain, as did
several others with me. These people seemed to me to be all well affected
to the Americans, and much disposed to treat us kindly. We slept on a barn
floor that night.
We were much provoked at the insult of playing the Rogue's March. Jack
Reilly and I laid a plan to have our revenge, should it be repeated. Two
or three days later we had the same tune, at another village, and I caught
up a couple of large stones, ran ahead, and dashed them through both ends
of the drum, before the boy, who was beating it, knew what I was about.
Jack snatched the fife out of the other boy's hand, and it was passed from
one to another among us, until it reached one who threw it over the
railing of a bridge. After this, we had no more music, good or bad. Not a
word was said to any of us about this affair, and I really think the
officers were ashamed of themselves.
After a march of several days we came to a hamlet, not a great distance
from Kingston. I saw a good many geese about, and took a fancy to have one
for supper. I told Mallet if he would cook a goose, I would tip one over.
The matter was arranged between us, and picking up a club I made a dash at
a flock, and knocked a bird over. I caught up the goose and ran, when my
fellow-prisoners called out to me to dodge, which I did, behind a stump,
not knowing from what quarter the danger might come. It was well I did,
for two Indians fired at me, one hitting the stump, and the other ball
passing just over my head. A militia officer now galloped up, and drove
back the Indians who were running up to me, to look after the scalp, I
suppose. This officer remonstrated with me, but spoke mildly and even
kindly. I told him I was hungry, and that I wanted a warm mess. "But you
are committing a robbery," he said. "If I am, I'm robbing an enemy." "You
do not know but it may be a friend," was his significant answer. "Well, if
I am, _he_'ll not grudge me the goose," says I. On hearing this, the
officer laughed, and asked me how I meant to cook the goose. I told him
that one of my messmates had promised to do this for me. He then bade me
carry the goose into the ranks, and to come to him when we halted at
night. I did this, and he gave us a pan, some potatoes, onions, &c., out
of which we made the only good mess we got on our march. I may say this
was the last hearty and really palatable meal I made until I reached
Halifax, a period of several weeks.
While Jack Mallet was cooking the goose, I went in behind a pile of
boards, attended by a soldier to watch me, and, while there, I saw an
ivory rule lying on the boards, with fifteen pence alongside of it. These
I pinned, as a lawful prize, being in an enemy's country. The money served
to buy us some bread. The rule was bartered for half a gallon of rum. This
made us a merry night, taking all things together.
We made no halt at Kingston, though the Indians left us. We now marched
through a settled country, with some militia for our guards. Our treatment
was much better than it had been, the people of the country treating us
kindly. When we were abreast of the Thousand Islands, Mr. Bogardus and the
pilot made another attempt to escape, and got fairly off. These were the
only two who did succeed. How they effected it I cannot say, but I know
they escaped. I never saw either afterwards.
At the Long Sault, we were all put in boats, with a Canadian pilot in each
end. The militia staid behind, and down we went; they say at the rate of
nine miles in fifteen minutes. We found a new guard at the foot of the
rapids. This was done, beyond a doubt, to save us and themselves, though
we thought hard of it at the time, for it appeared to us, as if they
thrust us into a danger they did not like to run themselves. I have since
heard that even ladies travelling, used to go down these formidable rapids
in the same way; and that, with skilful pilots, there is little or
When we reached Montreal we were confined in a gaol where we remained
three weeks. There was an American lady confined in this building, though
she had more liberty than we, and from her we received much aid. She sent
us soap, and she gave me bandages &c., for my hurt. Occasionally she gave
us little things to eat. I never knew her name, but heard she had two sons
in the American army, and that she had been detected in corresponding
We remained at Montreal two or three weeks, and then were sent down to
Quebec, where we were put on board of prison-ships. I was sent to the Lord
Cathcart, and most of the Julia's men with me. Our provisions were very
bad, and the mortality among us was great. The bread was intolerably bad.
Mr. Trant came to see us, privately, and he brought some salt with him,
which was a great relief to us. Jack Mallet asked him whether some of us
might not go to work on board a transport, that lay just astern of us, in
order to get something; better to eat. Mr. Trant said yes, and eight of us
went on board this craft, every day, getting provisions and grog for our
pay. At sunset, we returned regularly to the Cathcart. I got a second
shirt and a pair of trowsers in this way.
About a fortnight after this arrangement, the Surprise, 32, and a
sloop-of-war, came in, anchoring some distance below the town. These ships
sent their boats up to the prison-ships to examine them for men. After
going through those vessels, they came on board the transport, and finding
us fresh, clean, fed and tolerably clad, they pronounced us all
Englishmen, and carried us on board the frigate. We were not permitted
even to go and take leave of our shipmates. Of the eight men thus taken,
five were native Americans, one was from Mozambique, one I suppose to have
been an English subject born, but long settled in America; and, as for me,
the reader knows as much of my origin as I know myself.
We were asked if we would go to duty on board the Surprise, and we all
refused. We were then put in close con finement, on the berth-deck, under
the charge of a sentry. In a day or two, the ship sailed; and off Cape
Breton we met with a heavy gale, in which the people suffered severely
with snow and cold. The ship was kept off the land, with great difficulty.
After all, we prisoners saved the ship, though I think it likely the
injury originally came from some of us. The breechings of two of the guns
had been cut, and the guns broke adrift in the height of the gale. All the
crew were on deck, and the sentinel permitting it, we went up and
smothered the guns with hammocks. We were now allowed to go about deck,
but this lasted a short time, the whole of us being sent below, again, as
soon as the gale abated.
On reaching Halifax, we were all put on board of the Regulus transport,
bound to Bermuda. Here we eight were thrown into irons, under the
accusation of being British subjects. At the end of twenty-four hours,
however, the captain came to us, and offered to let us out of irons, and
to give us ship's treatment, if we would help in working the vessel to
Bermuda. I have since thought we were ironed merely to extort this
arrangement from us. We consulted together; and, thinking a chance might
offer to get possession of the Regulus, which had only a few Canadians in
her, and was to be convoyed by the Pictou schooner, we consented. We were
now turned up to duty, and I got the first pair of shoes that had been on
my feet since the Scourge sunk from under me.
The reader will imagine I had not been in the harbour of Halifax, without
a strong desire to ascertain something about those I had left behind me,
in that town. I was nervously afraid of being discovered, and yet had a
feverish wish to go ashore. The manner in which I gratified this wish, and
the consequences to which it led, will be seen in the sequel.