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son at Plymouth, and with one other person escaping in a wherry to France, took passage thence to Boston.
One of Mr. Preble's exploits, while in this station, has been often mentioned as an instance of daring courage and cool intrepidity not less than of good fortune. He boarded and cut out an English armed brig of superior force to the Winthrop lying in Penobscot harbour under circumstances which justly gave the action great eclat. Little had taken the brig's tender, from whom he gained such information of the situation of the brig, as made him resolve to attempt seizing on her by surprise. He run her along side in the night, having prepared forty men to jump into her dressed in white frocks, to enable them to distinguish friend from foe. Coming close upon her he was hailed by the enemy, who, as was said, supposed the Winthrop must be her tender, and who cried out, “you will run aboard"
-He answered, “I'am coming aboard,” and immediately Preble with fourteen men sprung into the brig. The motion of the vessel was so rapid that the rest of the forty destined for boarding missed their opportunity. Little called to his lieutenant “will you not have more men?” “No,” he answered with great presence of mind and a loud voice, “we have more than we want; we stand in each other's way." Those of the enemy's crew who were on deck chiefly leaped over the side, and others below from the cabin window and swam to the shore, which was within pistol shot. Preble instantly entering the cabin found the officers in bed or just rising: he assured them they were his prisoners and that resistance was vain, and if attempted, would be fatal to them. Believing they were surprised and mastered by superior numbers they forbore any attempt to rescue the vessel and submitted. The troops of the enemy marched down to the shore, and commenced a brisk firing with muskets, and the battery opened a cannonade, which, however, was too high to take effect. In the mean time the captors beat their prize out of the harbour, exposed for a considerable space to volleys of musketry, and took her in triumph to Boston.
Lieutenant Preble continued in the Winthrop till the peace of 1783. This vessel is acknowledged to have rendered eminent ser. vice by protecting our trade near our shores, and picking up a great number of the small privateers which issued from the British ports to the eastward.
From this period the flag of our nation began to be displayed in every sea, and her ships to visit every mart in both hemispheres. Mr. Preble was a ship master in successive voyagés, to various places, near and distant.
In the year 1798, the accumulated injuries and insults of the rulers of France awakened a spirit of resistance in the people and government of this country. The president uttered a loud call for a navy and obtained a hearing. That class of our statesmen and citizens, who had always thought a maritime force an indispensable instrument both of defence and negociation, and who had often before pleaded for it in vain, embraced the occasion to begin the good work. In this and the following year, fifteen frigates, and about twelve other vessels of war were built and commissioned. It was fortunate for the prosperity and usefulness of this infant establishment that many of the naval heroes of the revolution, who had been accustomed to maritime warfare, were of an age to be employed in the service, and acknowledged the claim of their country to the benefit of their experience.
Of the five first lieutenants first appointed Mr. Preble was one. In the fall and winter of 1798-9 he made two cruises as commandant of the brig Pickering. The next year, 1799, he received a captain's commission, and the command of the frigate Essex of 36 guns. January 1800, he made a voyage in her to Batavia, whither he was sent with captain James Sever in the Congress to convoy our homeward bound trade from India and the East.
The day after leaving port, a snow storm came on, and they parted from the three vessels under convoy out. On the 12th, in a heavy gale, he lost sight of the Congress. She unfortunately was dismasted and obliged to put back. The Essex pursued the voyage alone, after waiting a suitable time at the Cape of Good Hope to see if the Congress would come up, she sailed for Batavia. Before and after arriving at Batavia, captain Preble made two cruises of a fortsight each in the streights of Sunda. In June he took under convoy home fourteen sail of American merchantmen, valued at several millions of dollars. He was separated from them in a tremendous gale off the bank of Lagullos—but most of them rejoined him afterwards at St. Helena, and were protected till they were considered out of danger. He met few cruisers of the enemy. He gave keen
chase to a French corvette from the Isle of France, which he would have overtaken, but the wind dying away, she escaped by means of her sweeps. He arrived at New-York near the end of the year. He had been sick on the voyage, and failed in health exceedingly afterwards. Being appointed to the Adams for the Mediterranean, he was too feeble to take command and was obliged to resign her to captain Campbell.
In the year 1803 he was sufficiently recovered to enter again upon duty. At this time he commenced a career in which he acquired great honour; and exalted the character and evinced the importance of our infant navy.
In May of that year he was appointed to the command of the frigate Constitution, then lying in Boston, which he was instructed to get ready for sea. In June he received orders to take charge of the squadron destined to act in the Mediterranean, as soon as it should be prepared; consisting of seven sail, viz. The Constitution, 44 guns; Philadelphia, 44, already on the station ; Argus, 18; Siren, 16; Nautilus, 16; Vixen, 16; Enterprise 14. This force was committed to his direction for the purpose of protecting effectually the commerce and seamen of the United States against the Tripolitan cruisers on the Atlantic ocean, the Miditerranean, and adjoining
The president in his message to congress, October 3, of this year, says “The small vessels authorised by congress with a view to the Mediterranean service have been sent into that sea, and will be able more effectually to confine the Tripoline cruisers within their harbours and supersede the necessity of convoy to our navigation in that quarter. They will sensibly lessen the expenses of the service the ensuing year.” It would seem that the views of the administration respecting this armament were limited to a constant blockade before Tripoli, as a substitute for convoys to our merchantmen. The commodore, however, hoped to give the bashaw other reasons for desiring peace with the United States besides those he would find in the obstruction of his harbour, by carrying the war into his palace and the streets and houses of his capital.
The secretary of the navy, in announcing to captain Preble his appointment, observes, “Reposing in your skill, judgment, and bravery, the highest degree of confidence, the president has determined to commit the command of this squadron to your direction. To a gentleman of your activity and zeal for the public service, to command your most strenuous exertions, I need only inform you that your country requires them.”
Commodore Preble accepted this trust with unfeigned pleasure. By a judicious and spirited exertion of this force, small as it was, and apparently insufficient for any brilliant exploit in such a warfare, he hoped not only to effect the iṁmediate object of his command, but to secure public favour to our military marine, and to earn laurels for himself and his associates. He made welcome the chance given him of adding to the proof already existing that if love of money and commercial enterprise, are thought to be the only strong traits in the American character, it is because our local situation and the nature of our policy deny us the means of earning glory. « I am fully aware,” says he in his answer, “ of the great trust and high responsibility connected with this appointment. The honour of the American flag is very dear to me, and I hope it will never be tarnished under my command.” He felt responsible to his immediate superiors. He also felt responsible to his own high sense of reputation as a commander, to the advocates of our naval establishment, and to his partial friends, who were anxious he should be tried in some “ enterprise of pith and moment.” He considered that he was to do well and more than well; more than would ordinarily be expected, to distinguish himself and his companions, if the field should be opened, by gallant adventure and bright achievement. Such an issue of his command, he imagined, would interest national pride as well as policy in the maintenance and patronage of a maritime force. It would help the cause of those patriots who wished our nation in our disputes, not only with the African governments, but others, to unite with all possible moderation in councils and discussions, a readiness to use our resources with energy where they could be used with effect. It is no more than justice to commodore Preble, in giving a sketch of his life and character, to say that these were his sentiments and feelings on this occasion.
At this time, our situation with respect to Morocco and Tunis, was critical, and in respect to Tripoli had been hostile for more than two years. The American administration had proposed to adopt the same policy towards these powers as that submitted to by most of the governments of Europe'; that is, to give them presents, or annuities, in conformity to their prejudices and habits, but to make an occasional display of force in their seas, with a view to keep down their demands and expectations. The former part of the sys. tem, however, had been practised upon at least till after the year 1798 without the aid of the latter. The opposition in congress to the building of vessels of war till that period, withheld from the government the means of employing force to lessen the amount or secure the effect of presents.
Great sums had been paid in specie and articles of war, especially to Algiers. The new bashaw of Tripoli, who had deposed his elder brother, wishing to gratify his subjects—thinking to sell his friendship to us at a high rate, and perhaps expecting the cooperation of one or more of the African governments, sent out his cruisers against our trade. The United States squadrons, first under commodore Dale, and next under commodore Morris, had furnished protection to our commerce and seamen by convoys; and had annoyed Tripoli by blockading her principal cruiser in Gibraltar, and by attacking and dismantling another. Still the bashaw had not received such an impression of our ability and determination to make the war distressing to him, as to be inclined, on admissible terms, to discontinue his piracies. “Specks of war,” and symptoms of insolence in the other Barbary States rendered it important they should have a stronger conviction of the inconvenience and danger of refusing to be at peace with the United States. The commanders before Mr. Preble, had urged the necessity of an increase of our force in those seas, and, if Tripoli was to be blockaded with effect, had recommended that a larger proportion of the squadron should be small vessels, who might easily relieve each other. The last suggestion, not the former, appears to have been regarded by the government in the armament entrusted to our officer.
Although impatient to reach the scene of operation, he was not ready to sail with the Constitution till the 13th of August. The vages in the merchant service being higher than those to public ships, it was found difficult to get her manned at all and still more with native American sailors.
On his passage to Gibraltar, he brought to and visited, 7th September, the frigate Maimona, 30 guns and 150 men, belonging to