BY THE SAME AUTHOR
And Other Trails of Roosevelt
BOONE OF THE WILDERNESS
A Tale of Pioneer Adventure and Achievement in the “Dark and Bloody Ground”
A Book of Verse
E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
From a painting by Rembrandt Peale.
Setting forth David Forsyth’s Adventures in America’s Battles
on Sea and Desert with the Buccaneer Princes of Barbary,
with an Account of a Search under the Sands
of the Sahara Desert for the Treasure-filled
Tomb of Ancient Kings
Author of “Boone of the Wilderness,” “Jungle Roads
and Other Trails of Roosevelt”
E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
681 Fifth Avenue
By E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
All Rights Reserved
Printed in the United States of America
THIS BOOK IS A TRIBUTE
TO THE MEN AND BOYS
WHO CREATED AND SERVED IN
AMERICA’S FIRST NAVY
“The ship of war, with its acres of canvas, white in the morning sun, has sunk forever below the horizon…. No longer is the hoarse voice of the captain heard shouting to the tops or to the gun-deck in stentorian tones…. All have gone from the deck of the galley, the frigate, the line-of-battle ship, from the decks where, in the teeth of gales, they clawed off lee shores, when the mouths of their guns drank in the seas, or fought the fogs or Arctic cold; from the decks where they led the changing fortunes of the fight in the din of desperate battle; where men take life at the uttermost hazard and clasp hands with fate.”
—Edward Kirk Rawson.
The road cleft by early American ships into the Mediterranean Sea has become a well-traveled one. On errands of commerce, punishment or relief, our skippers have laid an ever-broadening way into the Orient.
Yet who, in the bustle of the present, recalls the pioneer American captains and sailors who once suffered slavery and torture to make the Mediterranean a safe sea for Yankee vessels? Who remembers the Americans who lay for nine years in Turkish prisons? Who recalls General William Eaton, who led a little band of Americans and Greeks on a desperate venture across the North African desert to release the imprisoned crew of the Philadelphia from Turkish bondage, and who, for the first time, raised the United States flag over a fort of the old world?
It is to make this period and its heroic characters live again in the mind of America that this volume has been written. To link the several campaigns against the Turks of Barbary, extending over a period of fifteen years, the author has adopted the method he followed in his book “Boone of the Wilderness,” and introduced characters and episodes of fiction. The material is largely derived from original sources.
Permit us, then, without further ado, to present and commend to your interest the young sailor David Forsyth,[Pg viii] who is at times the hero of the yarn, but quite as often a spectator and historian of the deeds of the brave men under whom he was privileged to serve. Do not hold his youth against him. Nelson went to sea at twelve; Drake was scarcely more than a boy when he fought on the Spanish Main; and Decatur and many other gallant American officers under whom David served were mere striplings. Youth was foremost on the sea in those days, and it is hoped that its ardent spirit flames in this volume, though a century’s dust covers our heroes.
|I.||The Man from the East||1|
|II.||Captured by Corsairs||16|
|III.||Barbary and the Buccaneers||25|
|IV.||The Rose of Egypt||40|
|V.||My First Voyage||46|
|VIII.||An American Frigate Becomes a Corsair’s Cattleship||74|
|IX.||Life Aboard Old Ironsides||82|
|X.||A Connecticut Yankee in the Court of Tunis||95|
|XI.||The Loss of The Philadelphia||109|
|XII.||We Blow Up The Philadelphia||116|
|XIII.||The American Eagle Enters the African Desert||126|
|XIV.||The Desert Girl||140|
|XV.||Reuben James Saves Decatur’s Life||154|
|XVI.||We Capture the Desert City of Derne||162|
|XVII.||The Treasure Tomb||177|
|XVIII.||Sold Into Slavery||187|
|Postscript. The End of the Pirates||228|
|Stephen Decatur, from a painting by Rembrandt Peale||Frontispiece|
|“I’d Blow Every One of Those Pirate Nests Out of
the Water Before I’d Pay One of Those Bloody
Bashaws a Sixpence!” Said the Commodore
|Wrecking and Piracy Had Been Followed by the
Communities Bordering on the Mediterranean
Since the Earliest Days
|In Look and in Deed, William Eaton was a Fighter||94|
|“How Dare You Lift Your Hand Against a Subject
of Mine,” the Bey of Tunis Demanded of Eaton
|I Hoped that I Might Join a Caravan that Would
Pass by Tokra—the Treasure City of My Dreams
|“We Are Bound Across This Gloomy Desert to
Liberate Three Hundred Americans from the
Chains of Barbarism.“—General Eaton
|This Was the First Time an American Flag Had
Been Raised on a Fort of the Old World
CHARACTERS OF THE STORY
David Forsyth, an orphan.
Alexander, his brother.
Rev. Ezekiel Eccleston, D.D., Rector of Marley Chapel, Baltimore—David’s guardian.
Commodore Joshua Barney, of the United States Navy.
General William Eaton, in command of the American expedition by land against Tripoli.
Murad, an Egyptian.
Bludsoe, mate of The Rose of Egypt.
Anne, “The Desert Girl.”
Mustapha, An Arab boy.
Stephen Decatur, William Bainbridge, Edward Preble, Richard Somers, Reuben James, Samuel Childs, and other officers and men of the United States Navy.
PIRATE PRINCES AND YANKEE
CHAPTER ITHE MAN FROM THE EAST
“But, my dear Doctor,” said the swarthy Egyptian, bowing with upturned palms, “you surely do not mean to keep the location of this treasure tomb hidden forever from science. I know that a man of your nature would not care for the money the jewels and trinkets would bring if sold, but I can not see how you can refuse to let scholars view these rare specimens of ancient art. Will you not——”
“I beg you,” said the rector in distressed tones, “to speak no more about it. The subject awakens unpleasant memories. I have never before mentioned having seen this treasure tomb. So far as I am concerned the desert sands shall not be moved from over its door. Please, my good friend, do not refer to it again!”
“But,” began the Egyptian.
Commodore Barney jerked him to one side. “Look here, Mr. Murad,” he said in gruff tones, “Dr. Eccleston lost a wife and child in that exploration. He came to this country to forget his loss. Keep off the subject of those antiques—the chances are that they’re not worth the trouble it would take to dig them up!”
“He has a secret that he owes to science,” said the Oriental stubbornly. He was a proud, determined man. The black moustache that flowed across his tawny face and the black hair that showed in strings beneath his fez gave an added fierceness to his look. His brilliantly embroidered cloak made him still more commanding in appearance. Commodore Barney, with his stout body and sea legs, cut a poor figure beside him.
“Harken, my friend,” the commodore said sharply, “I mean what I say. We’re not going to have the rector bothered. We don’t know your business in America, and we’re not inquiring into it. In return, we ask you to let us mind our own affairs. If you know what’s good for you, you’ll stop hounding the minister for his secret. Science be blowed! Art be hanged!”
Alexander and I, David Forsyth, listened with eyes popping. Orphans we were, adopted by Dr. Eccleston, our mother’s rector. My father—as brave a sailor as ever drew breath, Commodore Barney often assured us—had been killed on board the commodore’s schooner Hyder Ally, while protecting the shipping in the Delaware River from British frigates during the Revolutionary War. My mother, while father was at sea, had helped to nurse the sick people of Baltimore, and had herself died of the pestilence. Dr. Eccleston, a widower, assumed the care of Alexander and myself.
Alexander, springing up like Jack’s bean-vine, yet growing in brawn and manliness as his height increased, was my elder by a number of years. He was much taller than I, yet I was growing too and had hopes of reaching, by the time I was sixteen, the chalk mark on our wall that showed Alexander to be five feet, ten inches high.
It was on a dock in Baltimore that this talk took place.[Pg 3] The Egyptian Murad had come to our city from Washington. What his business was no one could tell. Some said that he was a Turkish diplomat. Others said that he was a spy for the Barbary rulers. He attended services at the rector’s church, and had told someone that he was a native of Alexandria, Egypt. He had embraced the Christian religion, he said, and had been so persecuted by the indignant Moslems that he had left Egypt for America. He appeared to have plenty of means, and, because there was such an air of romance about him, the people of Baltimore accepted him without much questioning, and were, indeed, rather proud that they had a man of mystery among them.
Our presence on the pier was due to the arrival of Alexander’s ship, The Three Friends, from England. Alexander, after begging Dr. Eccleston in vain to permit him to make a sea voyage, had taken French leave. When news reached our house that The Three Friends had come into port, and that Alexander was one of the crew, we hurried down to greet him. The rector was angry and affectionate. The commodore was proud of the boy. As for me, I regarded Alexander as Ulysses was doubtless regarded by the boys of his home town when he returned from his wanderings.
It was the cargo of The Three Friends that caused the discussion, and that led the rector to open a closed chapter in his life. The ship had brought flower-patterned silken gowns, crimson taffetas, pearl necklaces, and other exquisite articles esteemed by women; and silk stockings, brilliant scarfs, beaver hats and scarlet cloaks for the men. The people welcomed these articles. The men had raised tobacco, caught fish, and gathered furs that they might buy for their families these rare luxuries from[Pg 4] Europe. There were also, in the cargo, chairs of Russian leather, damask napkins, superb clocks, silver candlesticks and tankards, and a wealth of treasure of this nature.
Alexander’s special gift for the commodore was a pipe. To the rector he gave a curious-shaped little bottle.
“I found it in a curio shop in London,” he said. “The proprietor told me that it had been found in an Egyptian tomb.”
Dr. Eccleston turned pale. Then, recovering himself, he took the present and held it towards us with what seemed to be real appreciation. I learned later that his pallor was due to the memories the queer little bottle awakened.
“Bless me!” he said, “it’s a lacrimatory—a tear-bottle! I found many a one while I was excavating in Egypt. Some say that they are made to hold the tears of mourners, but scholars will tell you that they are after all but receptacles for perfume and ointments.”
Murad had approached. The sight of the curious bottle, which did not seem to me to be worth a minute’s talk, led him into a discussion of antiquities he had found in Egypt. The rector’s eyes kindled. Here was a subject that had once been his chief interest. Suddenly he launched forth into a description of a treasure tomb he had literally stumbled upon in the desert—a tomb upon which a later tomb had been built, so that, while the later tomb had been plundered by Arabs, the earlier tomb had remained a secret until he pried up a stone in the wall and discovered it. The rector who had attended Oxford, and had gone forth from college to explore the ruins of countries along the historic Mediterranean coasts, had made a rough map of the location of this tomb. He now began to tell of the treasures he had[Pg 5] found in the chamber: heavy gold masks, and breast-plates that, while barbarous in appearance, yet showed beauty of craftsmanship; bulls’ heads wrought in silver with horns of gold; beautiful jugs and cups, wrought in ivory, alabaster and amber; mummies whose brows and wrists were encircled with gems—a hoard of riches priceless both to the scholar and the fortune hunter.
This description fired my imagination. It also stirred Murad. I saw his eyes glow and his fingers tremble. I wondered if his vehement demand that the rector should reveal the location of this cave was created by his interest in science or by pure lust for riches? As for myself, I confess that I thought only of the money into which these buried jewels and trinkets could be turned.
Later, the commodore told us why the rector had been so swift to end his tale of the buried treasure. After he had discovered the tomb, somewhere on the African shore of the Mediterranean, he had covered it up and joined a caravan bound for Tripoli, meaning to organize a special expedition for further searches. His caravan was attacked by a tribe of bandits. A blow from a spear knocked him unconscious. When he regained his senses, his wife and child were gone.
“They were taken as loot,” said the commodore. “Women and children are nothing more than baggage to those Arabs!”
The husband wandered for months through the desert searching for his family. At last he was stricken with fever. Travelers found him and placed him aboard a ship bound for England. There he had plunged into religious work to keep from going mad. Blood-stained garments—proof that his wife and daughter had been[Pg 6] slain—were sent him by an Arabian sheik. Later he had come to America as a missionary.
He was now rector of Marley Chapel. It is located about nine miles from Baltimore, near the bridge at Marley Creek, which enters into Curtis Creek, a tributary of the Patapsco River. This chapel had been built long before the Revolution. The minister kept his residence within the town limits of Baltimore because it extended his field of helpfulness. The journey to the chapel was made on horseback, and whenever he went to service Alexander and myself followed him on our ponies, through sun, rain, sleet or snow.
On fair-weather days, the church-yard resembled a race-course. The ladies, in gay clothes, had come in carriages. The men, mounted on fine horses and sumptuously arrayed, rode beside them. The carriage wheels rattled. The negro drivers cracked their whips and shouted. The gentlemen loudly admonished the slaves. Over such a tumult the church bell, which was suspended from a tree, rang out to warn the people that the service was about to begin; then a hush fell over the countryside, broken only by the stamping and snorting of the mettlesome horses in the shed, or by the chuckles of the negro boys who tended them.
To bring our story back to the present hour: Alexander had wandered off from our group with some of his shipmates. Suddenly there was an uproar. There were surly fellows in the crew and quarrelsome men in the crowd. Already Alexander had pointed out to me Black Peter, Muldoon, Swansen, and other sailors whom he avowed were the toughest men he had ever met.
These were now confronted by our town rowdies. We[Pg 7] had a few men among our citizenship of whom we were heartily ashamed—men who knew how to fight in ways that surpassed for brutality those methods of warfare learned on shipboard. Eye-gouging, for instance; getting a man down; twisting a forefinger in the side-locks of his hair; thrusting, by means of this hold, a thumb into the victim’s eye, thereby threatening to force the eyeball from the socket if the sufferer did not cry “King’s cruse!” which, I suppose you know, meant “enough!”
The seaman who had been challenged by Steve Dunn, the bully, was Ezra Wilcox, Alexander’s chum. He was a stranger in our town and Alexander was eager that he should think favorably of the people of Baltimore, who, everyone knows, are in the main, an open-hearted people. Angered at having his desire thwarted by the rowdy, Alexander rushed between Steve and Ezra, and himself took up Ezra’s battle. He and the tough locked arms in a punching and wrestling match, and were soon rolling over each other on the wharf. Steve, finding that he was getting the worst of the tussle, reached his hands towards Alexander’s side-locks.
“Look out, Alexander,” I cried, dancing over the pair in a frenzy, “he’s trying to gouge you, man!”
“Unfair! Unfair! No gouging!” the other sailors shouted, while the rest of the onlookers stood by with their sense of justice absorbed by their interest.
Steve’s finger was buried in Alexander’s shock of hair, and his thumb crept closer to my brother’s eye. I was about to stoop in an attempt to break the brutal grip when Alexander released his hair by a desperate jerk that left a wisp between the ruffian’s fingers, rolled Steve over, held him face downward in a grip of iron, and rubbed his nose on the planks of the dock until blood[Pg 8] spurted from it. Then, lifting the bully up at arm’s length, Alexander cast him against the palings with a force that stunned him. If someone had not grabbed Steve then, he would have rolled over into the river and few would have mourned him if he had sank and never bobbed up again.
Steve’s friends advanced, pretending great indignation at Alexander’s roughness, but paused as Ezra Wilcox, Black Peter, Muldoon, and Swansen came forward itching to take up the battle.
“Enough of this,” cried the rector, roused from his brooding by the tussle, “Steve’s dug into my boy’s eye and paid for it with his own nose! We’ll call the affair quits, and I’ll ask you Baltimore folks to show courtesy to the strangers within your gates.”
That afternoon we attended a fair on the chapel grounds. I was eager to show Alexander that I too had strength and skill, and at the fair, in a small way, my chance came.
As we approached the grounds we saw that, among other sports, a gilt-laced hat had been placed on a greased pole, to be won by the man or boy who climbed the pole and slid down with the hat on his head. Alexander challenged me to try.
Others had tried and had slid back defeated amidst much laughter. I gave a running leap, however, and clutched the pole a man’s height from the ground. My fingers and feet managed to find cracks and crevices. My knees stuck. It may have been that the dirt and sand in which I had taken the precaution to roll before making the attempt enabled my arms and legs to overcome the grease, or perhaps it was because those who had tried first had worn most of it away. From whatever[Pg 9] reason, I continued to climb, rubbing the outer part of my sleeve over the pole as I advanced, so that more of the grease was removed from my path. At last, amidst cheers, I reached the peak of the pole, seized the gilt-laced hat, donned it—although it fell down over my ears—and slid to the ground in triumph.
“If you can climb masts as well as you can climb poles,” said Alexander, “there’s no doubt that you’ll be a fine sailorman!”
“He’ll do no mast-climbing!” said Dr. Eccleston. “One sailor in the family is enough. His climbing will be confined to the steps of a pulpit. I am training him for the ministry!”
Alexander looked at me quizzically. I winked at him. He and I had agreed from childhood that ours should be a seafaring life. My brother had boldly carried out his intention to follow father’s example, but I, seeing that the rector had set his heart upon my adopting a shore career, had postponed making my declaration. I was immensely fond of the rector; I did not care to be the means of bringing further sadness to him, so I bided my time.
Commodore Barney heard the rector rebuke Alexander and saw my wink. Bless me, behind the minister’s back, he winked too. He had told me that, when the United States began to build her navy, he expected to obtain a place for me on a frigate. “America’s prosperity on the sea is just beginning,” he said. “Don’t turn your back on your natural calling. One voyage in a privateer in one of the wars that are on the horizon will make[Pg 10] your fortune. I’ll take you to sea with me. Let the dominie look elsewhere for his recruits!”
The rector and the commodore were great comrades, but on the subject of a career for me they never agreed.
Commodore Barney had been a hero to Alexander and myself as far back as we could remember. He was a part of our lives from the first—an unofficial second guardian. I have heard him declare that he was on his way to our house to adopt us when he met the rector coming out with one of us clinging to each hand. Dr. Eccleston had told him then, the commodore stated, that a seafaring man was no fit guardian for children.
The commodore was a burly, pink-cheeked, big-hearted man. What a dandy he was! When on shore he wore a cocked hat, a coat with large lace cuffs, and a cape cut low to show his neck-stock of fine linen cambric. His breeches were closely fitted with large buckles. He wore silk stockings and large buckled shoes. No one who saw him sauntering along Market Street would take him to be a sailor, although his tongue betrayed his calling. Nautical terms, strange oaths, shipping topics were forever on his lips. His clothes spoke of the ballroom, but his language had the tang of the ship’s deck and the salt wind.
He was fond of the ladies. It often amused us to see him dancing attendance on a maid who minced along in brocade or taffeta, with her skirts ballooning from the hoops underneath, with bright-colored shoes peeping out from beneath her skirts, and with an enormous plume in her big bonnet that waved towards the commodore’s cocked hat. The hooped skirts seemed to be trying to keep her escort at a distance, while he struggled manfully to pour his words into her ear.
Murad was still hovering around us. Evidently anxious to appease the commodore, he had begun to talk to him on sea topics. The commodore, in turn, started to draw out the Egyptian as to opportunities American shippers might have to sell cargoes of American goods to Mediterranean cities.
“In Barbary, Egypt and beyond,” said Murad, “will lie your country’s chief market. The ports of the Mediterranean are eager for your goods. Lads like these——” he fixed glowing eyes on Alexander and myself—”will live to make their fortunes in the Mediterranean.”
“I don’t know but what you’re right,” said the commodore, “if someone will kindly sweep those Barbary buccaneers out of the way. Looks as if we’ll have to build a squadron to do what the navies of Europe have failed to do through all these centuries. Matters are coming to a head between our country and the pirate nests of Barbary. I’ve heard reports of American ships being captured by ships sent out by the ruler of Algiers. It may take us a little time to wake up, but in the end we’re going to stop that!”
“That,” said Murad suavely, “is nothing new. If you lived in the Orient, my dear commodore, you would think little of it. It’s merely the way the rulers of the Barbary countries have of notifying your new country that it’s America’s duty to pay them toll—ships and jewels and gold. All of the nations of Europe pay them for protection, and of course, in justice to themselves and those who pay them tribute, they cannot exempt America. If I were your President, I would send liberal presents every year to the princes of Algiers, Tunis, Tripoli and[Pg 12] Morocco. Then, sir, American ships and sailors would have nothing to fear in the Mediterranean.”
“Just so!” said the commodore. He cast a long look at the Egyptian, glanced around at us to see how we took this proposition, and chewed his tobacco with fierce energy. Then he exploded:
“I’d blow every one of those pirate nests out of the water before I’d pay one of those bloody Bashaws a sixpence!”
I’D BLOW EVERY ONE OF THOSE PIRATE NESTS OUT OF THE
WATER BEFORE I’D PAY ONE OF THOSE BLOODY BASHAWS A SIXPENCE!
“I’D BLOW EVERY ONE OF THOSE PIRATE NESTS OUT OF
THE WATER BEFORE I’D PAY ONE OF THOSE BLOODY
BASHAWS A SIXPENCE!” SAID THE COMMODORE.
“Then!” said Murad, “I’m afraid American commerce will find itself barred from the Mediterranean! I have no interest in the corsairs. I was merely trying to point out a way by which your skippers could find new markets over there without being attacked or imprisoned.”
“Well, just belay that advice when you’re talking to a man who has fought for, and still will fight for the honor of his country!” growled the commodore.
We followed the old sailor.
“That fellow’s in this land for no good!” the commodore said to the rector. “The last time I attended a session of Congress, I saw him listening to the debates. I reckon he’s keeping the rulers of Barbary informed of what’s going on over here. Those fellows want to know how rich our country is, so that they can tax us all that our finances can stand. I wouldn’t be surprised, either, if Murad’s not sending advices of our sailings, so that those pirates can be on the watch for our ships!
“Both England and France want to bar us from the trade of the Orient, and their agents will convey to them there Bashaws any news this sneaking Murad sends them. Christian convert—my aunt! Once a Moslem always a Moslem! A trapper of Christians—that’s what I think him!”
Murad went on his way and we went ours. I was to have plenty of occasion to reflect on the commodore’s opinion of the Oriental.
Alexander stayed with us for two months after his return from England. Then he hurriedly shipped on a schooner bound for Boston. Its skipper, when he returned to Baltimore, brought us a note from my brother. In it he advised us that he had shipped on board the schooner Marie sailing from Boston for Cadiz. This was in April, 1784. Over a year passed without bringing tidings of my brother. I had begun to fear that his ship had gone down, although the good rector, to comfort me, grumbled that there was a special Providence that took care of fools.
CAPTURED BY CORSAIRS
“What does it mean to them that somewhere men are free?
Naked and scourged and starved, they groan in slavery!”
The rector had encouraged me to browse through his library. He said that ministers should be well-read men. It was no hardship for me—I was fond of books. One day, as I was reading “Hakluyt’s Voyages,” he rushed into the room. His usually pale face was red and distorted from excitement.
“David, I’ve news of your brother!” he cried. “I told you that there was a Providence that safeguarded scapegraces! He’s in Algiers. He’s been captured by pirates! They’re holding him in slavery for ransom!”
“Humph,” said the commodore, who had followed him into the room, “I don’t call that being guided by a special Providence!”
“Well,” the rector said, “they might have killed him, or he might have died of a fever in that pestilential country. Yes, I think Providence is watching over him!”
The news had come in a bulky envelope that had been forwarded to Dr. Eccleston by the State Department.
“Read that,” cried the rector, tossing the letter into my lap, “and see what becomes of lads who leave comfortable homes to sail the ocean!”
He lit his pipe and fell to brooding, while I gleaned[Pg 17] from the roughly scribbled epistle the story of Alexander’s capture by Turkish corsairs.
That the Mediterranean Sea was infested by pirates Captain Stephens, with whom Alexander sailed, well knew. But Cadiz lay outside of the usual zone of the buccaneers, and the idea of danger from corsairs scarcely entered the thoughts of the skipper and his men. Yet, on July 25, 1785, while the Marie was passing Cape Saint Vincent, she was pursued by a rakish lateen-sailed vessel. Despite desperate attempts to outsail her pursuer, she was soon overtaken. Threatened by fourteen ugly cannon, she awaited the approach of the stranger.
The Marie was hailed in Spanish. Captain Stephens shouted in reply the name and destination of his vessel. He had little doubt that he would be allowed to proceed and was on the point of giving orders to resume the voyage, when a crowd of seamen in Turkish dress appeared on the deck of the vessel, which now was found to be an Algerine corsair.
The dark, bearded faces of the Moslems were forbidding enough, but when the Mussulmans drew near with savage gestures and a wild brandishing of weapons, the Marie’s men knew that either death or slavery awaited them.
A launch thronged with Moors and Arabs, armed with pistols, scimeters, pikes and spears, put out from the side of the zebec. They fired several volleys that came dangerously close to the heads of the American sailors, and threatened to slaughter the crew if they resisted.
Captain Stephens, when a pistol was held against his breast, surrendered his ship. He and his crew were transferred to the corsair, first having been stripped of all their clothes except their undergarments. They were[Pg 18] pricked and prodded until they reached the forepart of the Algerine ship, where the commander, Rais Ibrahim, a vicious-looking old Moor, who kept his hand on the pistol that protruded from his sash as if his fingers itched to fire a bullet into a Christian’s body, repeated the threat of massacre if the captives disobeyed his orders.
Captain Stephens, who spoke Spanish, went as far as was safe in protesting against the seizure.
Rais Ibrahim, crying upon Allah to wipe out all Christians, replied that the ships of Barbary were no longer limited by the Mediterranean Sea. He declared that Algiers had made a peace with her ancient enemy Spain and was free now to send her vessels through the Strait into the Atlantic.
“Have you papers,” he sneered, “showing that your country is paying tribute to the Dey of Algiers? If your government has not purchased immunity from attack by our corsairs, do not protest to me against your capture, but rather blame your rulers for neglecting to follow the wise example of the nations of Europe, who pay my lord the gold that he demands!”
A Moslem crew was placed aboard the Marie, and she was sailed as a prize into Algiers. There the prisoners found in captivity the crew of the American ship Dauphin, under Captain Richard O’Brien, who, with his mate, Andrew Montgomery, and five seamen, had been captured by an Algerine corsair near Lisbon.
To announce to the city that he was approaching with a prize the Moslem captain fired gun after gun. The Port Admiral came out in a launch to examine the prize and prisoners so that he might make a report to the Dey; the people on shore gathered at the wharves to gloat over the new wealth that had come to the city; the [Pg 19]barrooms became crowded with revelers; everyone except the slaves rejoiced.
The captors were received by their relatives and friends on shore with cheers and exultation. Estimates of the value of the prisoners and the ship passed from one to another. The captives were given filthy rags to cover their nakedness, and were marched through the streets between rows of jeering infidels. Their destination was the palace of the Dey. They were driven across the courtyard of the palace, where they entered a hall. They then were pushed and prodded by their guards up five flights of stairs, where they went through a narrow, dark entrance into the Dey’s audience room.
He sat, a dark, fat, greasy creature, upon a low bench that was covered with cushions of embroidered velvet.
He viewed the Americans with great resentment.
“I have sent several times to your nation,” he said through his interpreter, a renegade Englishman, “offering to make peace with them if they would satisfy my requirements. They have never sent me a definite reply. Since they have treated me so disdainfully, I will never make peace with them! As for you, Christian dogs, you shall eat stones!”
The captives were driven from his presence and marched to the bagnio, or prison, where they joined six hundred Christian slaves of various nationalities—poor, broken-spirited fellows, weighed down with chains.
Their names were entered in the prison book; each of them was given a blanket, a scanty supply of coarse clothing, and a small loaf of black, sour bread. They slept on the floor, with a thin blanket between them and the cold stones.
The next day each of them had a chain weighing about[Pg 20] forty pounds placed on him. One end was bound around the waist, and the other end was fastened by a ring about the ankle. They were then assigned various tasks for the government. The iron ring on their ankles, they learned, was the badge of public service. Though it was a cruel weight, it protected them from abuse by fanatical Moslems.
Some of the captives were employed at rigging and fitting out cruisers, and in transporting cargoes and other goods about the city. Because of the narrow streets the articles they moved could be carried only by means of poles on their shoulders. If they bumped into a citizen they were loudly cursed and beaten. The Dey was building a new mosque, and many of the Christians were employed in transporting blocks of stone from the wharf to the building. Four men were employed to move one stone, and only the strongest could bear up under such a load. Some of the captives were sent into the mountains to blast rocks. Under the direction of Moslem overseers, who cruelly beat them on the slightest excuse, the prisoners rolled rocks weighing from twenty to forty tons down the mountain, where they were then hoisted on carts, drawn by teams of two hundred or more slaves to a wharf two miles distant, where the stones were placed on scows and carried across the harbor to be fitted into a breakwater.
The prison, to which they returned after the labors of the day, was an oblong, hollow square, three stories high. The ground floor was composed of taverns that were kept by favored slaves who paid a goodly sum for rent, as well as for the liquor they sold. In this way a few of the slaves were able to earn enough money to purchase their freedom. These taverns were so dark[Pg 21] that lamps had to be kept burning even by day. They were filled with Turks, Moors, Arabs and Christians, who often became drunk and sang and babbled in every language.
The second and third floors were surrounded by galleries that led to cell-like rooms in which the captives slept. These cells were four deep to a floor, and hung one over the other like ships’ berths. They swarmed with vermin. The air was too foul to breathe. If any of the captives rebelled—there was the bastinado! The culprit was thrown down on his face; his head and hands were tied; an infidel sat on his shoulders; his legs were held up to present the soles of his feet; and two infidels delivered from one hundred to five hundred blows.
If a slave committed a very serious offense, he might be beheaded, impaled, or burnt alive. For murdering a Mohammedan one slave was cast off the walls of the city upon iron hooks fastened into the wall, where he lingered in agony for many hours before he perished.
The worst danger the Christians faced was an insidious one—the plague. In the hot, damp air of Africa a fever arises from decaying animal substances, which is spread about by swarms of locusts. A person may be attacked by only a slight fever, but he soon becomes delirious and too weak to move. In five days his body begins to turn black and then death comes. It is the black pestilence, and it attacks slaves and rulers without choice. If it had not been for a hospital maintained by Spanish priests, most of the captives would have died. As it was, many Christians perished.
Murad came into our thoughts as we brooded over Alexander’s plight. He was still in Baltimore and still[Pg 22] attended the chapel services. Did he have influence enough, we asked, to obtain my brother’s freedom?
The commodore had sworn that the Egyptian went to church only for the purpose of ingratiating himself with Americans upon whom he had designs. The rector had retorted that he could not allow himself to suspect one of his flock of any but pure motives when entering the house of God. He himself, I felt, disliked the man from the East, but he concealed it well. Therefore, when Murad came to our door, the rector invited him into the library and told him briefly what had happened.
“I am heart-broken over it!” Murad exclaimed, gazing at me with his great liquid eyes, “and I am helpless because I am no longer a follower of Mohammed; yet your Government will surely be able to ransom your brother and his comrades. I do not think their lives will be in danger if your statesmen appropriate the money promptly. It’s shocking, of course, yet it’s quite the usual thing to pay these ransoms. England, Spain, France—all do it. You see, ever since the days when the Queen of Sheba brought tribute to King Solomon, the Orientals have been trained to look for gifts from foreigners who touch their shores.”
The rector looked dismayed at this attempt to justify kidnapping by the Scriptures. “It’s time,” he said, “for this western world to teach those ruffians that blackmail is blackmail and that murder is murder!”
He fumbled with the envelope that had contained Alexander’s letter. A slip of paper slid out. He read to us this memorandum, written by my brother:
Amount of Ransom demanded by the Dey of Algiers for the Release
of American captives
“Crew of ship Dauphin:
Richard O’Brien, captain, ransom demanded 2,000
Andrew Montgomery, mate 1,500
Jacob Tessanoir, French passenger 2,000
Wm. Paterson, seaman 1,500
Philip Sloan 725
Peleg Lorin 725
John Robertson 725
James Hall 725
“Crew of ship Marie:
Isaac Stephen, captain, ransom demanded 2,000
Alexander Forsyth, mate 1,500
George Smith, seaman 900
John Gregory 725
James Hermet 725
“How much is 1,500 Algerine sequins?” I asked Murad.
“A sequin,” he explained, “amounts to eight shillings sterling, so that 12,000 shillings will be required for Alexander, and 126,000 shillings for the entire lot. There must be added to this sum 10 or 20 per cent of the total as bribes to the Dey’s officers, and as commission to brokers. There are Jewish merchants over there whose chief business it is to procure the release of captives—for a consideration!
“I know such a merchant in Algiers,” Murad went on, “I shall write to him to interest himself in the captives and to use his influence to see that they are kindly treated. Perhaps he will be able to reduce the amount of the[Pg 24] ransom. When the money is raised, I shall be at your service for negotiations.”
He bowed himself out. The rector went to the window and stood staring out after him. “It can’t be,” I heard him say, “and yet, if the commodore heard what he said to me, he’d swear the fellow was an agent for the corsairs!”
BARBARY AND THE BUCCANEERS
“In lofty strains the bard shall tell
How Truxton fought, how Somers fell,
How gallant Preble’s daring host
Triumphed along the Moorish coast,
Forced the proud infidel to treat,
And brought the Crescent to their feet!”
I was straining like a leashed hound to board a ship and fight for my brother’s freedom, but no way was open to secure the release of the captives except by diplomacy. As a vent for my feelings in those first weeks of hot rage, I plunged into a study of the history of the Barbary pirates. Every outrage done by them was the occasion for an outburst of vain anger on my part. But was it, after all, vain? Later I had my wish and shared in a campaign to free three hundred American prisoners from captivity in Tripoli.
Meanwhile, we lost no time in sending to Alexander as comforting an answer as we could compose. He had asked that we send his mail to the care of the English consul who, he wrote, had obtained the consent of the Dey to send and receive letters for the American captives.
Dr. Eccleston assured Alexander that Mr. Samuel Smith, Maryland’s representative in Congress, had taken an interest in the case and would urge Congress to procure his speedy release. It was easy to predict a swift release—but hard, we soon found, to obtain one. I have[Pg 26] heard men joke about the law’s delays, but the delays of diplomats are longer yet. Alexander’s captivity was to endure for years!
Fortunately for me in my pursuit of knowledge concerning these buccaneers, I could talk to the rector who had years before traveled through Mohammedan countries. He poured out to me freely his recollections of the miserable nations that occupied the African coast of the Mediterranean.
In books concerning these pirates his library was not lacking. He was a great bookworm—some of his people whispered that he would trade the soul of one of his flock for a rare book. He made friends with skippers, it was said, mainly to have them bring him the latest books from abroad. By trading with sailors, schoolmasters and preachers, he had acquired many volumes, among which were many books on travel and exploration.
Wrecking and piracy had been followed by the inhabitants of the communities bordering on the Mediterranean since the time of Odysseus. The rector read to me from Thucydides how Minos of Greece used his fleet to “put down piracy as far as he was able, in order that his revenues might come in.” From Homer he read the passage, “Do you wander for trade or at random like pirates over the sea?”
WRECKING AND PIRACY
WRECKING AND PIRACY HAD BEEN FOLLOWED BY THE COMMUNITIES
BORDERING ON THE MEDITERRANEAN SINCE THE EARLIEST DAYS.
In the first half of the last century before Christ, I learned, Cicilia and Crete were the chief buccaneering nations on the Mediterranean. Rome had ruined all of her rivals, and therefore made no effort to guard the seas from corsairs. Refugees from all nations joined the pirate fleets of Cicilia and Crete. The small communities surrounding these pirate states were forced to become[Pg 27] allies of the pirate rulers. In addition to seizing ships and goods, the buccaneers became slavers, attacking small towns and carrying away men, women and girls. The island of Delos became a clearing-house for this traffic, and in one day ten thousand slaves were sold. It was said that while the harbor of Delos was supposed to offer mariners protection from pirates, the crew of a ship that anchored alongside a merchant vessel might be the kind that made merry with the merchantman’s crew on shore, and, after learning of her cargo and destination, might follow her out of the harbor to cut the throats of her crew on the high seas.
Along the southern coast of the Mediterranean, in that part which is now called Barbary or Northern Africa, where Morocco, Algeria, Tunis and Tripoli lie, the galleys of Phoenician traders roved in these early times, exploring the rivers.
Following these traders came Carthaginian warriors who founded colonies upon this coast. Among these communities was the famous city of Carthage, that in time brought forth the mighty leader Hannibal.
Then came the Romans, who conquered the Carthaginians and turned their cities to ruins. Thus the entire territory became Roman African colonies.
Over six centuries after the birth of Christ, the Saracens began to invade this region. Their wars continued until by the eighth century all Roman authority was swept away, and Mohammedan rule was established throughout the country.
Born of my reading and thinking about Mediterranean pirates, through my dreams went a pageant of cruel[Pg 28] corsairs and pitiable captives. There was the corsair chief Uruj Barbarossa, who, hearing on his native island of Lesbos of the rich galleons that passed through the Mediterranean, entered the Sea in 1504 with a fleet of robber galleys and made an alliance with the ruler of Tunis whereby that port became the center for his thieving. This Barbarossa, or Red-Beard, was a pirate of the heroic order. On one of his first voyages out of Tunis he fell in with two galleys belonging to Pope Julius II, bearing rich merchandise from Genoa. These galleys were far bigger than his two galleots, yet Red-Beard attacked so fiercely that he overcame the foremost galley. As the second galley came up without having seen the outcome of the battle, he arrayed his sailors in the clothes of the Christian captives and, taking the second galley by surprise, captured her too. His victories made Europe tremble. Emperor Charles V of Spain in 1516 sent ten thousand veterans to Barbary to end Red-Beard’s career. Barbarossa’s army of fifteen hundred men was surprised by the Spaniards in crossing a river. Having crossed, he turned back on hearing the cries of his men and died fighting gallantly in their midst.
Next through my fancy passed Kheyr-ed-din, Red-Beard’s brother. Having slain Red-Beard, the Spaniards could have driven the corsairs out of Africa, but instead of waging further war, the army returned to Spain. Kheyr-ed-din then assumed command of the sea rovers, and with a fleet of one hundred and fifty galleys and brigantines engaged an Allied Christian fleet of one hundred and forty-six galleons under Admiral Andrea Doria. The battle amounted only to a skirmish, for Andrea Doria, although his vessels were manned by sixty thousand men—forces far greater than that of the infidels—retired [Pg 29]when the Moslems had captured seven of his galleys.
GALLANT DON JOHN
Next in the pageant passed the great corsairs of the battle of Lepanto, where the Turks, then at the height of their glory, suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of the brilliant young emperor, Don John of Austria.
The Moslems, before this historic date of October 7, 1571, were threatening to overwhelm Europe. They desired to make the rich island of Cyprus one of their stepping-stones to the mainland. Venice, who owned the island, resisted the claims of the infidels. The Moslems thereupon threatened to conquer Venice herself. That city’s fleet was too small to cope with the great navy of the Turks. Philip II of Spain, appealed to by Pope Pius V, went to her aid. The Holy League to protect Christendom against the infidels was formed.
Don John of Austria, brother of Philip, was chosen to lead the Christian fleet. He was tall and handsome, and, although only twenty-four, had distinguished himself in wars against the Moors. He went to join his navy in a dress of white velvet and cloth of gold. A crimson scarf floated from his breast. Snow-white plumes adorned his cap. He looked every inch a hero, and every inch a hero he proved himself to be.
He found himself at the head of the greatest Christian fleet that had ever assembled to fight the corsairs. Three hundred vessels and eighty thousand men sailed forth under his command. The men were incited to battle by news of the almost unbelievable cruelties the Moslems had inflicted upon the Venetian garrison of a city in Cyprus which they had captured. The captain of the[Pg 30] Venetian troops, Bragadino, had had his ears and nose cut off. He was next led around before the Turkish batteries, crawling on hands and knees, laden with two baskets of earth. Whenever he passed the quarters of the Turkish general, he was forced to kiss the ground. Next, with Mustapha, the Moslem general, looking on, he was flayed alive, and his skin, stuffed with straw, was then paraded through the town.
Resolved to end forever such atrocities, the Christian fleet sought that of Ali Pasha, the Turkish admiral. Three hundred galleys, with one hundred and twenty thousand men, composed the Moslem fleet. They came on with their decks covered with flags and streamers, while, hid by this glory of banners, the galley slaves, chained to the oars, toiled beneath the lash. The two fleets met near the Gulf of Lepanto. Don John’s lookout, from his perch on the main-top, discovered a white sail. Behind it came sail after sail, until the full strength of the Turkish navy was in sight.
Don John ran up his signal for battle—a white flag—and went in his gig from galley to galley, encouraging his men.
“Ready, Sir, and the sooner the better!” they replied to his question as to their preparedness.
As a last act before battle, Don John unfurled a standard containing the figure of the Saviour, fell on his knees and prayed for God’s blessing on his cause, then formed his line of battle. The fire from the huge floating castles that belonged to his fleet created a panic among the Turks and broke their line. The ships of both sides came together in a confused mass, so that their decks, almost joined together, formed a huge platform upon which the Christians and Turks battled.
Ali Pasha, the Moslem admiral, came alongside of Don John’s ship and was on the point of boarding it when the galley of the Spanish captain Colonna rammed his vessel, while its crew poured a destroying fire across the Turkish galley’s deck. Ali Pasha was slain. The Ottoman emblem fluttered down from the mast of the flagship, and the Christian ensign rose in its place. Heartened by this victory, the other Christian galleys triumphed over their foes. Such Turkish ships as were able to escape fled, pursued by the Christians. The Moslems lost over two hundred ships. Twenty thousand of their men perished. The Christian fleet lost over seven thousand men. Twelve thousand Christian slaves were set free from the Turkish galleys.
The Pope who had urged that the Christian fleet be assembled cried in thanksgiving: “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.”
CERVANTES—WARRIOR AND AUTHOR
Following these great corsairs came cruel, mean-spirited buccaneers, whom I was glad to dismiss and replace in my imaginings with that noble captive of the Turkish pirates, Miguel Cervantes, who, after his release was to write the immortal book, “Don Quixote.”
In 1575 Cervantes set sail from Naples for the coast of Spain in the vessel El Sol. His brother, Rodrigo, went with him. They were returning to Spain, their native land, after serving as soldiers of fortune abroad. Cervantes was the son of an impoverished nobleman of Castile. He had commanded a company of soldiers on board the Marquesa at the Battle of Lepanto. In this battle he lost his left arm. He bore with him a letter of testimonial from Don John, stating that he was as[Pg 32] valiant as he was unlucky, and recommending him to Philip II of Spain.
His ship was almost in sight of the desired haven. The coast of Barbary which lay on the shore of the Mediterranean opposite from Spain was feared by the Spaniards because it was infested with pirates, but it seemed that on this occasion they were to escape attack.
Suddenly, however, three corsair galleys, commanded by Arnaut Memi, pushed out from the Algerine shore. The El Sol’s captain tried his utmost to escape, but was overtaken. A desperate engagement followed, in which Cervantes fought with valor, but the pirates were in overwhelming numbers and the master of the El Sol was at last forced to strike his colors.
Deli Memi, a renegade Greek, took Cervantes as his captive. Finding upon his person the letters of recommendation from Don John to the King of Spain, the pirate thought that a rich and powerful person had become his prisoner and so set a high ransom price upon him. To make Cervantes the more anxious to be delivered from captivity, Deli Memi loaded him with chains and treated him with continued cruelty.
As a matter of fact, Cervantes was poor both in money and the means of borrowing it. His father, in the second year of his sons’ captivity, managed to raise enough funds to secure the release of one of them, but Deli Memi, thinking Miguel of more importance than his brother, kept the future author and set free Rodrigo. Upon this, Cervantes planned to escape. In a cavern six miles from Algiers a number of fugitive slaves were hiding. Rodrigo promised to send a Spanish ship to take away these refugees. The captive Cervantes was to join them. The ship arrived but some Algerine fisherman[Pg 33] gave the alarm and the vessel was obliged to put out to sea without the fugitives.
The Dey of Algiers, learning of the hiding place from a treacherous comrade of Cervantes, sent soldiers to seize the escaped slaves. He was a murderous ruler. Cervantes later in “Don Quixote” gave the Dey eternal infamy by thus painting one of the characters in his colors:
“Every day he hanged a slave; impaled one; cut off the ears of another; and this upon so little animus, or so entirely without cause, that the Turks would own he did it merely for the sake of doing it and because it was his nature.”
Cervantes took the blame for the entire project on himself. Threatened with torture and death, he held to his story. The ruler, amazed at his boldness, departed from his usual custom and purchased Cervantes from Deli Memi for five hundred crowns.
Again and again the Spaniard tried to escape, always at the risk of being punished with death. At last, when his master was called to Constantinople, and was taking Cervantes with him in chains, a priest obtained his ransom for one hundred pounds, English money, and Cervantes was free to go home and enter upon the literary career that brought forth “Don Quixote.”
The nations of Europe by persistent effort could have wiped out piracy along the entire Barbary coast, but instead they continued to allow their shipping to be preyed upon, paid ransoms meekly, and sent bribes in the form of presents to the greedy and insolent rulers. France incited the pirates to prey upon the shipping of Spain; Great Britain and Holland urged the corsairs to destroy the sea commerce of France—each great power[Pg 34] sought the pirates as an aid to bar their rivals from the trade of the Mediterranean.
The consuls sent from Europe to these provinces were often seized as hostages by the pashas, deys and beys to whom they toadied, and if the fleets of their countries in a spasm of rage at some fresh indignity attacked the Barbary ports, the consuls were tortured. For instance, when the French shelled Algiers in 1683, the Vicar Apostolic Jean de Vacher, acting as consul, was blown to pieces from a cannon’s mouth.
DAUNTLESS MASTER NICHOLS
While we who were interested in the captives lamented that the nations of the world, our country included, were so slow to wipe out these pirates, my thoughts ran back to the story of an adventure that had been passed on to me through some family chronicles, of one of our ancestors who fought against this same race of corsairs. This Forsyth was an English sailor. He shipped in the Dolphin, of London, along with thirty-six men and two boys, under Master Nichols, a skilful and experienced skipper.
While in sight of the island of Sardinia, in the Mediterranean Sea they caught sight of a sail making towards them from the shore. Master Nichols sent my forbear into the maintop, where he sighted five ships following the one that had already been discovered. By their appearance they were taken to be Turkish corsairs.
The Dolphin was armed with nineteen guns and nine carronades, the latter pieces being used to fire bullets for the purpose of sweeping the decks when the ship was boarded by enemies. These guns were made ready to resist an attack, the men were armed with muskets,[Pg 37] pistols and cutlasses, and the assault was awaited with courage. Master Nichols, upon the poop, waved his sword as confidently as if the battle was already won. His example did much to hearten the crew for the ordeal confronting them.
When the foremost ship came within range, Master Nichols ordered his trumpeter to sound and his gunner to aim and fire. The leading ship, which had gotten the wind of the Dolphin, returned the fire as fiercely. This ship, which was under the command of a renegade Englishman named Walshingham who acted as admiral of the Moslem fleet, came alongside of the Dolphin. She had twice as many pieces of ordnance as the Dolphin, and had two hundred and fifty men to match against the forty men on the English ship’s decks. These boarded the Dolphin on the larboard quarter, and came towards the poop with pikes and hatchets upraised to slaughter.
However, the Dolphin’s crew had a carronade in the captain’s cabin, or round house, and with bullets from this they drove the infidels back, while their own gunners continued to pour shot into the corsair. At last the Turkish ship was shot through and through and was in danger of sinking. Walshingham therefore withdrew his men from the Dolphin’s deck and sailed his ship ahead of the English vessel, receiving a final broadside as he passed.
Following Walshingham’s ship, two other large Turkish vessels came to attack, one on the starboard quarter, and the other on the port. Each of them had twenty-five cannon and about two hundred and fifty men. With scimiters, hatchets, pikes and other weapons, they poured on to the Dolphin’s deck where the others had left off. One of the most daring of the Turks climbed into the[Pg 38] maintop of the Dolphin to haul down the flag, but the steward of the ship, espying him, took aim with his musket. The Turk dropped dead into the sea, and the flag still floated.
These boarders were repelled in the same fashion. The Dolphin’s crew fired their small battery with great effect into both ships. They too, torn and battered, passed on at last to mend their leaks.
After them came two more ships as well-armed and as well-manned as those that had passed out of the fight. The gunners of the Dolphin disposed of one of these quickly, and she hurried to get out of range. The crew of the other one, however, approaching on the starboard side, boarded the Dolphin where the earlier assailants had entered, and swarmed up the deck crying in the Turkish tongue: “Yield yourselves! Yield yourselves!” Their leaders also promised that the lives of the Englishmen would be spared, and their ship and goods delivered back to them.
“Give no ear to them! Die rather than yield!” cried Captain Nichols. His men fought on doggedly, plying their ordnance against the ship; playing upon the boarders with small shot; meeting them in hand-to-hand encounters.
Suddenly smoke poured out from the hatches of the Dolphin. The infidels, fearing that their own ship would catch fire from the burning vessel, retreated from the Dolphin, and permitted their ship to fall far astern of her.
The Dolphin’s intrepid crew now set to work to quench the flames and succeeded. A haven was near, into which they put, the enemy ships having gone ashore in other places to save themselves from wreck.
In these three battles, the Dolphin lost only six men and one boy, with eight men and one boy hurt. The Moslems lost scores of men. Master Nichols was wounded twice. The ship arrived safely in the Thames, near London—a plain merchant ship, manned by ordinary sailors, but as meritorious of honor as any ship that fought under Nelson or Drake.
I was glad that the story had been passed down to me. I thought of the two boys in the crew—one killed, the other wounded. I resolved that when my chance came to help rid the seas of these buccaneers I would try to fight as nobly.
THE ROSE OF EGYPT
The Egyptian Murad had surprised the sailors of Baltimore by purchasing a schooner that had seen service as a privateer. He had changed its name from Sally to The Rose of Egypt. He announced that he intended to open trade with Mediterranean cities, and that he would make our town his headquarters. Enlisting a crew from idle men along the wharves, he began to load the vessel with goods for which there was a market in the Orient.
This scheme vastly puzzled the commodore. “I’d like to get to the bottom of it. It’s my private opinion that he deserves a tar-and-feather party, but I haven’t anything to proceed on but strong suspicions. Every time I go to look in on Congress, blast me, if I don’t run afoul of Murad. He told me, the last time, that a naval committee desired to question him on trade conditions in the East. Time must hang heavy on the hands of our representatives—hobnobbing with such a fellow! They better spend their hours in finding a way to set our American lads free from Turkish chains. Can’t they see what Murad’s up to? I can give a guess that’ll turn out to be pretty near the truth. He’s spying on Congress for the rulers of Barbary! If I can only get proof of it, we’ll hang the Egyptian to the Sally’s yardarm!”
There came a turn of events that prevented the commodore from making further inquiry into Murad’s affairs[Pg 41]—though it did not hinder him from spreading his opinions. The Administration chose the old sea-dog as a confidential messenger to bear certain important dispatches to Commissioner Benjamin Franklin, in Paris. Off he went, promising to return within six months, and pledging me that when he came back he would have a serious interview with the rector that would result in my getting permission to go to sea.
Meanwhile the rector had gone to Virginia to attend a conference of ministers. He came back aflame with a new purpose, and with lips set in a thin line that spoke determination.
“These stout-hearted settlers who are flocking out to settle in Kentucky,” he said, “are sheep without shepherds! I have learned that there is a woeful lack of ministers in the new settlements. I have determined to spend a year there. My friend, Joshua Littleton, will occupy my place here until I return. He is a scholarly man. Your studies will not suffer under him.”
I did not like Mr. Littleton. He was a little dried-up man, too much occupied with studies to pay attention to the welfare of his pupils. I had a feeling that he regarded me merely as a mechanical thing that must be made to utter words and rules. You may note Mr. Littleton’s industry by this advertisement that appeared frequently in a local journal:
“There is a School in Baltimore, in Market Street, where Mr. Joshua Littleton, late of Yale Colledge, teaches Reading, Writing, Arithmatick, whole numbers and Fractions, Vulgar and Decimal, The Mariner’s Art, Plain and Mercator’s Way, also Geometry, Surveying, the Latin tongue, the Greek and Hebrew Grammars, Ethicks, Rhetorick, Logick, Natural Philosophy, and Metaphysicks, all or any of them at a reasonable price.”
After I had gleaned from him all he knew of the “Mariner’s Art” I was eager to escape.
When the rector rode away on horseback to follow Daniel Boone’s trail, I began to spend along the wharves all the time I could find. Murad invited me to inspect The Rose of Egypt, and soon I was as much at home on board of her as were the sailors the Egyptian had shipped.
Murad, in his endeavors to make me feel at ease, spun yarns about his career that were as fascinating as any tale Scheherazade told. One vividly described how he, having been driven from Alexandria through persecution, decided to earn his salt by assuming the character of a dervish—a rôle in which he had to pretend to be both a priest and a conjurer. He professed to be a devout Mohammedan, and practiced this holy profession of dervish by giving advice to the sick, and by selling, for considerable sums of money, small pieces of paper on which were written sentences in Turkish from the Koran, which he sanctified by applying them to his shaven and naked crown.
At a place called Trebizond he was informed by the people that their ruler was dangerously sick and threatened with blindness. He was ordered by the ministers of the Bashaw to prescribe for him. Through files of armed soldiers he was conducted into the presence of the sick monarch. Calling upon the officers to kneel, he displayed all the pomp and haughtiness that is expected of a dervish. After invoking the aid of Allah and Mohammed, he inquired under what disease the Bashaw labored. Finding that he was afflicted with a fever, accompanied by a violent inflammation of the eyes, Murad made bold to predict that he would recover both health and sight[Pg 43] by the time of the next new moon. Searching in the pouch containing his medicines, he produced a white powder which he ordered to be blown into the ruler’s eyes, and directed that a wash of milk and water should then be used. He likewise recommended that the patient be sweated by the use of warm drinks and blankets.
He was well rewarded with money and presents.
The next day the caravan he was traveling with departed for Persia, and Murad, hoping to be nine or ten days’ journey from Trebizond by the time of the next new moon, so that he might be quite out of reach in case his remedy should harm instead of help the Bashaw, departed with it.
The caravan was a large one and heavily loaded. A few days later it was overtaken by a lighter caravan, also from Trebizond. Murad, trembling in his shoes, heard two men of the newly arrived caravan talking to each other concerning the marvellous cure of the Bashaw. He learned that the court and citizens of Trebizond were singing his praises, and searching for him to heap rewards upon him.
“I was tempted to return,” Murad concluded his yarn, “but I began to wonder what the restored Bashaw would say if some jealous physician should investigate my remedy and find that I had blown lime in the Bashaw’s eyes to eat the films of disease away!”
Before the rector went away, Murad had been a weekly visitor to our home. He was a well-educated man, and Dr. Eccleston was glad to chat with one who could discuss the affairs of the universe and delve back into classical times. The Egyptian had restless eyes. They roved over every book in the library. Several times it[Pg 44] seemed to me that he was trying to lead the conversation back to the theme of the treasure tomb. He would ask the rector if he had heard that a certain statue had been unearthed in Greece, or if he knew that an expedition was on its way from London to Egypt to delve for traces of a race that flourished before the Egyptians. The rector’s eyes would light up, and he seemed to be on the point of answering, but always he checked himself and turned the topic. On one of these occasions his glance darted towards a locked bookcase that stood in the corner of the library. Murad’s glance followed his.
When the rector went west Murad began to call on Mr. Littleton, who also received him in the library. His visits stopped suddenly. Then he announced his date of sailing. I kept putting two and two together, and one night, as I lay awake thinking about all these strange things, it suddenly flashed on me that the Egyptian had discovered the location of the rector’s diagram of the treasure chamber, and that one of the reasons for his sailing was to search for the treasure. I searched in the corner of the library towards which the rector had glanced while talking to Murad, and found that the lock to one of the bookcases had been forced. A leather-bound tome, “Travels in the Holy Land,” was missing.
In an instant I decided to accept Murad’s often-urged invitation to sail with him.
Murad now told me that, as a matter of form, I should have to apply to his mate, Mr. Bludsoe. He led me down the deck and whispered to the mate, who eyed me sharply. Then the mate spoke:
“Can you steer?”
“Ay sir,” I answered glibly, “I can reef and steer. I[Pg 45] can make a man-rope knot, crown a lanyard, tie a reef-knot, or toss a royal bunt!”
“I fear,” he said dryly, “that you are too expert for our forecastle. The men will be jealous of you. How are you as a cook?”
“I can make coffee and peel potatoes,” I said more humbly, “and I know how to fry potatoes, and bacon, roast beefsteak, and cook oatmeal.”
“Get your things and come aboard,” he said, “such an all-around fellow is spoiling on shore.”
I was by no means a greenhorn aboard a schooner. No boy could grow up in a seaport town without becoming familiar with ships, and be sure that I was no exception. The wharf and river had been my play region since earliest childhood. There were a number of yawls and cutters which the boys of the town were allowed to use when their owners did not require them, and in these we held mimic warfare, playing at buccaneers, or pretending that we were Yankee sailors fighting off English press-gangs. Sometimes a kindly skipper would allow us to explore his vessel, and there was always an old sailor of deck or dock willing to show a lad how to tie a rope or haul in a sail. Thus I became familiar with sailing ships from stem to stern and from the main royal truck to the keel.
MY FIRST VOYAGE
“Now, my brave boys, comes the best of the fun.
All hands to make sail, going large is the song.
From under two reefs in our topsails we lie,
Like a cloud in the air, in an instant must fly.
There’s topsails, topgallant sails, and staysails too.
There is stu’nsails and skysails, star gazers so high,
By the sound of one pipe everything it must fly.
Now, my brave boys, comes the best of the fun,
About ship and reef topsails in one!
All hands up aloft when the helm goes down,
Lower way topsails when the manyards goes round.
Chase up and lie out and take two reefs in one.
In a moment of time all this work must be done.
Man your headbraces, your halyards and all,
And hoist away topsails when it’s ‘let go and haul!'”
(Ditty sung in early days aboard Salem ships.)
One night in May, Murad sent word to me that we were to sail at four o’clock the next morning. I went to bed as usual, but before the hall clock struck three I was out of my window with my luggage and on my way to the ship. When I went aboard I found that all of the confusion of spare rigging, rope, sails, hawsers, oakum and merchandise that I had noted on the deck the day before, had been cleared away.
All of the crew were Baltimore men. Some of them were honest, goodhearted fellows. Others were ruffians. I recognized Steve Dunn and some of his gang among[Pg 47] the crew. Baltimore had evidently become too hot to hold such rascals.
Samuel Childs, who had sailed under Commodore Barney, took me under his wing, although he swore that I should have been keelhauled for going to sea without asking the advice of the rector or the commodore.
“But,” I protested, “they are both out of the city, and if they knew the reason I had for going, they would approve.”
“I don’t like to see the skipper taking such an interest in you,” Samuel said with a shake of his head. “Mr. Bludsoe, the mate, is a fine man. You can trust him as you would a father. But these Orientals—I question their motives. True, Murad was a skipper in the Sultan’s navy, but he’s hiding something. He’s more than a mere captain. We older men can take care of ourselves, but you’ve had no experience with men. You’d better stick close to me aboard ship, and closer still when we land!”
Samuel was our chantie man, and good service he did in stimulating us to work the windlass in hauling up the anchors—sometimes buried so deep in the mud at the sea’s bottom that it needed the liveliest sort of chantie to inspire our hearts and strengthen our sinews. The secret of the swift way in which we heaved up the anchor, cleared away lashings, pumped the ship, unreeved the running gear, and mastheaded the topsails lay in the fact that the chantie caused us to work in unison. No matter how tired we were, our spirits rose and the blood coursed as we worked to the chantie Samuel roared forth:
“Way, haul away;
Oh, haul away, my Rosey.
Way, haul away;
O, haul away, Joe!”
There being a fine breeze from the shore, we made sail at the wharf and headed out to sea. As the wind increased, all sail was made, topmast stun’sail booms were run out, stun’sails spread, anchors secured, and all movable things on deck were made fast. When we hove the log it was seen that we were doing better than ten knot, a rate of speed that made Murad well satisfied with his ship.
We were mustered aft—watches were to be chosen. There were ten able seamen, three ordinary seamen, and one boy—myself. The men were divided between the port and starboard watches. Mr. Bludsoe, the chief officer, was in command of the port watch. Mr. French, the second officer, was in charge of the starboard watch. When we were not attending to the sails, we were kept busy scraping, painting, tarring and holy-stoning.
At four bells—six o’clock—the port watch came on deck to relieve the starboard. The starboard watch then went below for supper, and were allowed to remain off duty until eight o’clock—eight bells. The port watch was then relieved by them, and its members were allowed till midnight for resting. Short “dog” watches were provided for so that the port and starboard watch had eight hours off instead of four hours’ duty every other night.
When the watch was changed, the man at the wheel was relieved, the lookout man climbed to the topgallant forecastle to relieve the weary lookout who in loneliness had faced exposure to the weather for four hours, while[Pg 49] the rest of the men smoked their pipes in as comfortable places as they could find, and swapped yarns.
The cry that caused the most excitement aboard ship was “All hands shorten sail.” This meant “going aloft.” The order had no terrors for me, thanks to my early experiences on schooners in the Chesapeake Bay.
It is not much of a job to go up the masts in calm weather. Indeed, on a calm moonlight night, a place on the crosstrees was my favorite spot. One seems to be then on the top of a mountain looking out on an enchanted land. But when the seas are heavy it is a different matter. The force of the gale that leads the mate to bawl his command to shorten sail pins you against the mast. The rain lashes you, and sometimes there is sleet to prick you like swords’ points. The man above you may kick you with his heel as he comes to grips with his task. The officers on deck and the boatswain on the yardarm have their eyes fixed on you and the rest of the watch. The canvas must be mastered and every man must do his part. Overhead the spars and yards pitch and reel. The yard you stand on seems almost as unstable as the waves that leap up to engulf you.
On the first day out, two of our men had a fist-fight due to trouble that arose between them while they were aloft. Wesley Burroughs had stopped in the shrouds as if he meant to go no farther. Giles Lake, who was behind him, thought to find favor with Bludsoe, the boatswain, and began to prick Wesley’s legs with his knife.
The result, however, was not what he expected. Wesley continued his ascent, but when the task was done and the two had reached the deck, he went at Giles,[Pg 50] who was much larger, like a thunderbolt. Under the eyes of the boatswain, who seemed to think Lake deserved the punishment, he knocked his tormentor down, seized his own sheath knife, and returned prick for prick.
An ordeal I feared was that of initiation by King Neptune. I was relieved when Samuel told me that Neptune’s visit came only when a ship crossed the equator, and that The Rose of Egypt would not cross that imaginary line. He satisfied my curiosity by describing his own experience.
After breakfast on the morning the ship crossed the equator, he was ordered to prepare for shaving. The crew blindfolded him, led him on deck, and bound him in a chair.
A voice said:
“Neptune has just come over the bow to inquire if anyone here dares to cross his dominions without being properly initiated. Samuel Childs, prepare to be shaved by the King of the Seas, a ceremony that will make you a true child of the ocean!”
His shirt had been stripped off his back. A speaking-trumpet was held to his ear, through which a voice thundered:
“Are you, O landsman, prepared to become a true salt?”
“I am!” Samuel said boldly.
“Apply the brush!”
When the bandage was removed from the victim’s eyes, someone stood before him dressed like Neptune, with gray hair and beard and long white robes. In his right hand he held a trident; in his left hand the speaking-trumpet. In a sailor’s hand was a paint brush that[Pg 51] had been dipped in tar. With this thin tar Samuel was lathered, the tar being later removed with fat and oakum.
Neptune then said: “You may now become an able seaman. You may rise to boatswain and to captain. If you are killed or drowned, you will be turned into a sea-horse, and will be my subject. You may now eat salt pork, mush, and weevilly bread. Do it without grumbling. I now depart!”
Samuel was again blindfolded. When the bandage was removed, Neptune had disappeared. It was told Samuel that he had dashed over the bow into his sea-chariot.
“I know better now,” Samuel explained to me. “Neptune was impersonated by Jim Thorn, our oldest sailor. His long beard was made of unraveled rope and yarn. He perched under the bow and climbed aboard by the chains.”
My first turn at the wheel, with Samuel standing by, was a curious experience. Told to steer southwest, I found that I swung the wheel too far, and that the direction was south southwest. When I tried to swing back to southwest I went too far in the other direction, and was steering southwest by west. In a few hours, however, I had mastered the trick. I loved to steer. It enabled me to escape the dirty work of tarring, painting and cleaning. Yet I never took the helm without thinking of how my father had been killed at the wheel of the Hyder Ally.
Whistling aboard ship was a custom disliked by the old sailors. They entertained a superstition that he who whistled was “whistling for the wind.” On one of my first nights at sea, feeling lonesome, I puckered my lips[Pg 52] and began to blow a tune. Along came Samuel. He paused beside my berth.
“My boy,” said he, “there are only two kinds of people who whistle. One is a boatswain. The other is a fool. You are not a boatswain.”
He passed on. I never whistled again aboard ship.
When we were within the vicinity of the capes, there came a calm spell in which our schooner barely moved. While we were fretting at this snail’s pace, a frigate, enjoying a wind that had not come our way, overhauled us and hove to across our bows, displaying the British flag.
“Have your protections ready, lads,” the mate said, squinting across the water, “that ship is looking for men to impress!”
A boat put out from the frigate’s side and came towards us.
“On board the cutter, there,” called our mate, “what do you want with us?”
“On board the schooner,” came the reply, “we’re looking for deserters from the British navy. Let drop your ladder!”
We obeyed. A spruce, slender, important, yet surprisingly youthful lieutenant came over the side.
“Compliments of Captain Van Dyke, of His Majesty’s ship Elizabeth,” he said to the skipper and the mate, “we desire to inspect your crew.”
“It’s a high-handed proceeding,” said Murad, his black eyes snapping, “but since we are only slightly armed, I suppose we must submit. My men are all American citizens. Each has proof of it.” He turned to the mate, “Mr. Bludsoe, have the men lined up.”
The lieutenant passed down the line, scrutinizing the[Pg 53] protection papers and asking searching questions. I was the last one, and as my turn came, I began to turn cold with dread, for, fearing that I would be kept from shipping, I had neglected to get a protection paper. Putting on as bold a front as I could muster, I looked up at the lieutenant. He had friendly blue eyes—he was not at all like the dreadful impressment officer of my imagination.
“Please sir,” I said, “I shipped without taking the trouble to get a protection. I’m an American to the backbone, though. I was born in Baltimore and my father was killed fighting the British during the war of Independence. He was on the Hyder Ally when she captured the English ship, the General Monk. I don’t want you to take me because I have a brother who is a prisoner in Algiers, and I expect to join the new American navy and go to fight for his release!”
He laughed. “If we robbed you of a father, I think it’s due you to be allowed to go your own way. I should say that your brother requires your aid more than we do, so I’ll take your word for it that you’re a Yankee. Better not go to sea again without a protection paper. I happen to be a particularly tender-hearted officer.”
He went down the side.
Samuel Childs gave me a slap on the back that took my breath away.
“Youngster,” he said, “that’s the first time I’ve seen a British officer pass by an American without papers. Blast them, if they would give their men better pay and stop flogging them through the fleet for offences hardly worth one lash, they wouldn’t have to be taking us to fill the places of their deserters!”
It was a grand though often terrifying sight to see[Pg 54] the ship in a storm flying beneath leaden clouds. With the main topsail and fore topmast staysail close reefed; with the masts tipping over as if they were going to plunge their tops into the sea; with spray showering upon us; with mountainous waves following us as if they would topple their full weight over our stern; it was a sight to make one both marvel and tremble.
In such a storm we lost James Murray, an ordinary seamen, well-liked by all.
We were in a heavy sea. The clouds were so low that they enveloped our mastheads. Tremendous waves beat against our bow, so that our plunging stem was like a knife cutting a way through them. All hands were called to shorten sail as the wind increased into a gale. The men who were light of weight went out along the yardarms, while the heavier men remained closer to the mast. The upper mizzen topsail was being furled when a sudden gust of wind blew the sail out of their grasp.
Murray, who was one of the outermost men, was thrown off the yard into the sea. As the great waves tossed him up, we saw him struggling to swim, handicapped as he was by his heavy oil-skins. A boat was cleared away and volunteers were called for to endeavor to rescue Murray. I stood forth with the rest of the crew—I saw no one hold back—but a crew of our strongest men was chosen, and all we could do was to stand on a yard and watch the progress of the little boat. The seas poured into her. We could see two of her men baling desperately. At last we lost sight of her in the mists. An hour later, when we were worrying greatly over the fate not only of Murray, but also of the boat’s crew, the mist cleared and showed our location to the[Pg 55] men struggling out there in the furious ocean. They gradually made their way towards us and were pulled on deck exhausted. They said that they had caught one glimpse of Murray, but as they pulled desperately to reach him the mist had drifted between him and them—a mist that was to him as a shroud.
“‘Twas on a Black Baller I first served my time,
Yo ho, blow the man down!
And on that Black Baller I wasted my prime,
Oh, give me some time to blow the man down!”
Murad had been forced to ship some of the toughest rascals in Baltimore in order to complete his crew. They were men who had gotten into trouble through acts of violence ashore, and were forced to take to sea. They, too, had heard rumors that Murad was a spy in the employ of the Barbary powers, but it did not seem to bother them. I am of the opinion that they meant to seize the vessel before it had sailed out of sight of the Atlantic coast.
If such was their plan, Mr. Bludsoe, the mate, was their chief obstacle. He was a fearless, muscular man, and a belaying-pin in his hand was a deadly weapon. Even in a plain fist fight he was equal to two of them. He was not overfond of the Egyptian, yet he was the sort of person who stuck to a task once he had entered on it.
He suspected Steve Dunn and his crowd of an intention to murder the officers and seize the ship, and told the skipper of his suspicions. Murad gave orders that we should be mustered before him. We were under the guns of an American frigate when the orders were issued, and the crew obeyed promptly.
“You men have far more weapons on your persons than is necessary,” the Egyptian said smoothly. “In the interest of good fellowship, and to keep you from slashing and shooting at each other, I desire you to leave your knives and pistols in my care. Mr. Bludsoe, you will search the men’s berths and bags and bring to me for safe-keeping any weapons you find!”
I saw sullen glances exchanged by Steve Dunn, Mulligan and other members of the crew.
“We ain’t none of us planning any trouble among ourselves!” said Steve. “We don’t know when this here vessel is going to be boarded by pirates and we want our weapons handy!”
“Handy they shall be!” said Murad, still smiling. “It would be too bad to start ill-feeling between you and me by your disobeying this, my first request. It would bode ill for our voyage. I was once an admiral in the Sultan’s navy. I know how to make men obey orders. I should hate to have to ask the captain of yonder frigate to send a crew aboard to help me make my crew obey. Throw down your knives. You have them sharpened to a point that makes an honest man shiver. My good fellows, show me what a good crew I have by obeying me—at once!”
His voice rang on the last two words. The men dropped their dirks on the deck. There was a motion of Steve’s hand towards the inside of his shirt as the skipper stooped to pick up one of the knives, but Murad seemed to have eyes in the back of his head.
“Look, Mr. Bludsoe,” he said, straightening himself swiftly, “Steve Dunn has a second knife that he wants to give up!”
He pulled a pistol from his pocket. “Give us the [Pg 58]hidden knives too, men! This pistol might go off if I am kept waiting too long!”
Mr. Bludsoe had returned with an armful of weapons. He deposited them at the skipper’s back and went down the line, feeling for dirks. He found two. Ending his search, he ordered the men to go forward.
In spite of these precautions, the men continued to grow rebellious. The man who relieved Samuel Childs at the wheel disobeyed orders. When Mr. Bludsoe scolded him he gave impudence.
After a scuffle, in which several of the loyal members of the crew, including Samuel Childs and myself, went to Mr. Bludsoe’s assistance, this man, Bryan by name, was put in irons.
“Holystone the decks!” the next order given after this episode, brought no response from seven members of the crew. They outnumbered the officers and the loyal sailors. If we had not taken possession of their arms, we should have been in a bad way. The men came forward towards the Egyptian.
“Release Bryan if you want us to work!” Steve called.
“I am the master of this ship!” said Murad calmly, “Bryan is in irons for disobedience. Others of the crew who refuse to obey orders will be treated as mutineers. You know the punishment for that! Holystone the decks!”
They folded their arms and stood glowering at the skipper.
“I shall starve them into submission!” Murad said to the mate.
Two days passed. The men stayed forward. The officers made no attempt to give them orders. Fortunately, the weather remained calm, and the few of us[Pg 59] who were loyal were sufficient to handle the sails. If a tempest came, we would be in a serious situation.
“They will attack like starved wolves tonight!” said Mr. Bludsoe to Burke, Ross and myself, “I shall give each of you a pistol. Your own lives are at stake. Shoot any man of them who comes aft.”
The first man who came aft, however, we did not shoot.
I was the first to catch sight of his figure stealing away from the forecastle. I fear that my voice trembled when I cried:
“Halt! Throw up your hands!”
“It’s Reynolds,” he said, “Take me to the skipper. I want to throw myself on his mercy. Intercede for me, lad. I’ve had my fill of that gang yonder!”
The captain and mate had joined me. “It’s the first break in their ranks,” he said, “and I’ll take advantage of the chance to show them that they can still surrender without being strung up.”
He turned to me.
“Give Reynolds biscuits and coffee! He will take the wheel after that, and if he fails us there we’ll——”
He whirled his hand around his neck and then pointed to a yardarm in a way that emphasized his meaning far more than words could have done.
The surrender of Reynolds led us to hope that others were on the verge of yielding. We questioned Reynolds as he ate ravenously the food we brought him. He was whole-heartedly aiding us now, because he knew that if the mutineers triumphed it would go hard with him.
He said that if we could show the men that we were powerful enough to conquer Steve Dunn and Mulligan,[Pg 60] the ringleaders, the others would be glad to go back to work.
“It’s those two who’re to blame for us not yielding sooner,” he explained. “We had planned twelve hours ago to come out and throw ourselves on the skipper’s mercy, but Mulligan knocked me down when I suggested it. He thought that he had me cowed, and that I would be afraid to make any further attempt. He stationed me as a guard at the forecastle scuttle tonight, while he planned with the others just how they would attack you. If they could get rid of the skipper and the mate, they thought it would be easy to bring the others over to their side. I expect they’ll be crawling out very soon to make the attempt.”
“Captain,” said Mr. Bludsoe, “I think I can end this. There are lads in that forecastle whom I don’t want to see hung for mutiny. They resent our trying to starve them into submission, and I’m afraid the longer they go without food, the more desperate they’ll become. May I promise them that if they come forth peacefully and go to work you will take no steps to enforce the laws against them?”
Murad had been plainly worried by the rebellion. We were out of the track of American frigates, and we still had a long voyage before us. If a storm came, the few loyal men would find themselves overtaxed in managing the vessel, and while they were endeavoring to save the ship, the mutineers would have an opportunity to do murder.
I could not help wondering, too, whether the Egyptian was not fearful as to the effect the mutiny would have on his treasure hunt, for the more I studied him, the deeper became my conviction that he had secured [Pg 61]possession of the rector’s secret, and, under the pretext of going on a trading voyage, was off on a solitary treasure quest. One of my duties was to keep the cabin clean and tidy, and when opportunity offered I had poked in chests and cubby-holes to see if I could find the rector’s map of the treasure country. My hurried searches had failed thus far.
Thoughts kindred to mine must have been running through Murad’s mind, for he consented to Mr. Bludsoe’s proposal.
“But I warn you against entering the forecastle!” he said, “Better talk to them at a distance. Keep them well covered with your pistols. They’ve found weapons!”
The mate went forward. I had conceived a strong admiration for him, and, on an impulse I followed his shadowy figure as it crept along the starboard side, past the galley, towards the forecastle hatchway. Ross and Burke, not to be outdone, strung along behind us.
Mr. Bludsoe had reached the forecastle hatch without meeting a person. I expected to hear him yell his message down the hatchway, which was open, but instead I saw his black figure leap into the yellow glare that came up from the forecastle lantern. He had leaped down into the room.
I crept up to the scuttle, and leaned down the hatchway, cutlass in hand. I was determined to fight in the mate’s defence if necessary, though I knew that my cutlass, with only a youth’s arm behind it, was a poor weapon against desperate men, even if they were only armed with dirks.
The men had been standing in the center of the forecastle, and seemed to have been on the verge of rushing forth to attack us. Reynold’s desertion had not been[Pg 62] noted by them, and they had evidently thought that the person leaping into the room was their sentinel. The mate’s spring, therefore, took them by surprise. They glanced uncertainly up the ladder, saw the flash of my cutlass, and thought that our entire force was back of Mr. Bludsoe. It was a reasonable conclusion, for who would have dreamed that the mate would have done so bold a thing.
Knives flashed. “Here’s one of them,” Steve cried, “thought he’d starved the strength out of us, I reckon. We’ll show him!”
Bludsoe put his back against the ladder and leveled his pistols at the most menacing mutineers.
“Men,” he said, “I can kill four of you before you down me. There are others waiting to take care of the rest. Listen—I haven’t come down here to shoot—I’m trying to end this row and save you from the gallows. Some of you have never been in trouble before. Some of you are married men. It’s no use trying to budge the skipper. You won’t get a bite to eat until you start to work. If you hold out another twelve hours the chances are some frigate will see our signals and take you to where you’ll get short shrift. Come now, throw down your knives and——”
A heavy boot, viciously aimed, knocked me aside. Its owner jumped across my body and leapt towards the scuttle.
I saw the huge bulk of Mulligan pass me. He had been out to reconnoiter and we had passed him in the darkness.
“Look out! Mulligan’s behind you!” I cried.
A shot was fired.
I crept in despair towards the hatchway. I was unable[Pg 63] to interpret from the sounds and curses that issued from the forecastle what had happened, and feared that I should see Mr. Bludsoe trampled upon by those he had tried to rescue from their own folly. Yet, as I raised my head to peer down, I heard his voice ring out:
“There’s no need for anyone else to pay the price Mulligan has paid. Down with your weapons!”
Dirks and pistols clattered to the deck. Some of the points of the knives stuck into the timber. I looked at these shivering blades and thanked Providence that they had found lodging there instead of in the mate’s breast.
Out they came, sullen but subdued. Mr. Bludsoe drove them aft with his pistol points.
“Thank you, lad,” he said, as he passed me, “I owe my life to you!”
I peered down into the forecastle. Under the smoky lamp lay Mulligan—a huge, motionless mass. Blood flowed from his temple.
The wind had died; the sun was hidden in haze; the sky darkened; the barometer fell. “We’ll be in the midst of a tempest soon,” Samuel Childs whispered to me, “if the rebels had held out they might have had the ship at their mercy.”
“Call all hands to shorten sail,” the skipper said calmly to Mr. Bludsoe.
The ship was made snug; the sails were furled; the spars, water casks, and boats were lashed; the hatches were battened down.
Seeing that the men were thoroughly cowed, the skipper passed the word to the cook to serve them with breakfast. From the galley came the sound of pots and pans. The peace meal was ready.
It grew warmer as we approached Gibraltar. Flying fish arose from the water and shot over the surface like silver arrows. Porpoises frolicked around us. Flocks of sea-gulls followed us as we passed the southern coast of Europe. Through the Azores we sailed until we came in sight of the red cliffs of St. Vincent, on the Portugal coast. Then we entered the Straits of Gibraltar and caught our first sight of the mountainous African coast.
I had better note here that three continents form the shores of the Mediterranean Sea—Europe, Asia and Africa. The entrance to this sea from the Atlantic is guarded by the Pillars of Hercules, formed by Gibraltar on the European shore and “the Mount of God” on the African side. These pillars, it interested me to discover, were thought by the ancients to have been left standing by Hercules as monuments to his might when he tore asunder the continents. It will be remembered that along the sea these monuments of nature guarded, civilization had been cradled. Art, architecture, law, poetry, drama, and religion had come into being on these coasts. The treasure tomb that now nightly filled my dreams had doubtless been laid in these early days.
And now, as the events of my story have so much to do with this North African shore, let us have a clear understanding of its cities and people. The coast is[Pg 65] called Barbary, because the race that inhabits it are named Berbers. They belong to the same stock as the Anglo-Saxons and many of them have fair complexions, rosy cheeks and light hair. They are fanatical Mohammedans, and despise us because we are Christians. The Moors and Arabs, who are descended from the Mussulman warriors who captured Africa centuries ago, abound here too, and are the people with whom our quarrel lies.
Barbary is sometimes called Little Africa. It extends from Egypt to the Atlantic Ocean and from the Mediterranean Sea back to the Sahara desert. Just over the way from Gibraltar lies Morocco. It is a little city with white walls surrounded by great hills. Most of the cities of Barbary are similarly situated between mountains and water.
Next to the province of Morocco, lies Algeria, and farther on is Tripoli, the farthest boundary of which adjoins Egypt.
Algeria, I learned, is five times as large as Pennsylvania. Algiers, one of the largest cities on the coast, is its capital. Walls of stone have been built across the harbor as fortifications. Algiers resembles an amphitheatre. Its streets rise on terraces. The streets are narrow; bazaars are everywhere. These are roofed over with matting and lined with booths in which all sorts of goods are sold. The booths are nothing more or less than holes in the walls in which the dealer sits, while the customers stand out in the street and buy. One bazaar is given over to the shoemakers; another bazaar is devoted to jewelry; still another is set apart for the sale of perfumery. Tailors, saddlers, rug sellers—each trade has a separate bazaar. Here are shops selling carpets and rugs, and there is a café in which Turkish[Pg 66] coffee, as sweet as molasses, may be sipped. Yonder is the stand of an Arab selling sweetmeats; beyond him a man in a long gown fries meat and sells it hot from the fire.
There are solid-looking public buildings, and a great mosque that covers several acres. A turbaned priest from the minaret which rises far above the roofs of the shops and homes calls out the hour of prayer, and the Mohammedans kneel.
A picturesque crowd pours through the dark, narrow streets. Arabs in long gowns; brown Arabs from the desert; Berbers from their country villages; Jewish girls in plain long robes of bright colors—pink, red, green, and yellow; Moorish women in veils; Berber girls with their rosy faces exposed; boys with shaved heads, wearing gowns and skull caps; holy men and beggars innumerable. Some of these veiled Mohammedan wives are only thirteen years old.
We anchored off Sale, a harbor of Morocco. I heard our skipper tell the mate that he proposed to go ashore and inquire into the chances of disposing of part of our cargo to advantage.
No sooner had he left the ship than I, whose task it was to keep Murad’s quarters tidy, began to make a thorough search of his belongings. I was seeking that which only my suspicions told me existed—the map showing the location of the treasure.
There was a sea chest in the cabin which Murad kept locked. In another room of the ship, however, I had found a similar chest. The key to this one I had taken, hoping that it would open the Egyptian’s strong-box. In this experiment I was fortunate—the key turned in the lock as if it were made to fit it, and the lid was loosened.
I found in the top of the chest the volume that had been stolen from the rector’s library. The trail was hot. There was, however, no map between its pages. Deeper into the chest I plunged. At the bottom I pried up a false bottom and found a paper. It seemed to be a copy instead of an original. I concluded that if this was the diagram of the treasure site, Murad had taken ashore the original, and had left this one aboard in case he lost the first one.
The map was simple enough. It showed a section of the southern coast of the Mediterranean. The towns Tripoli and Derne were indicated. Between them was a village lettered Tokra. In the neighborhood of this spot were queer markings, which were explained by writing at the bottom of the map. When I tried to decipher this I found that it was in Arabic. The original was doubtless in English. Murad, in copying, had doubtless changed the English to Arabic to keep the secret from prying eyes.
Towards midnight—while I was on watch—I heard a noise on the water from the direction of shore. It sounded like rowing, and yet it was too indistinct a sound for me to make certain. I decided that Murad had given up his idea of spending the night ashore and was returning. However, I asked Mr. Bludsoe to listen.
“Oars!” he said, his ear cocked over the landward side.
He listened again. “There are three boats at least!” he whispered, “it looks like an attack. Pass the word for all hands!”
By this time both watches were on deck. Pistols and cutlasses were passed out. We lined up along the bulwarks, peering out.
The mate stood near me. I heard him thinking aloud.[Pg 68] “So this is the way our precious skipper protects us from corsairs?” he muttered, “He goes ashore and an attack follows. Looks queer. Wonder what slaves are worth in Morocco? Maybe he’s planning to sell a double cargo—goods and men!”
We could hear the sounds plainly now. The splash of the oars struck with a chill more than one of us, but we gripped our weapons and made up our minds to sell our lives dearly.
Mr. Bludsoe had been sweeping the sea with a night glass. “They are near us, men—four boats, swarming with cutthroats!”
He peered over the rail and shouted:
“On board the boats! This is an American schooner with whom you have no business. Come nearer at your peril!”
Still the boats came on. The steady beat of the oars tightened our nerves almost to the snapping point.
The mate shouted a second warning. It was not heeded. “It’s either their lives or ours,” he said to us, “Pick out your marks. Fire!”
Our cannon belched forth flame. Shrieks and curses took the place of the splash of oars. We saw two boatloads of men pouring into the water, snatching at the remnants of their cutters. On board the remaining two boats was havoc and confusion. We saw these boats at last turn stern and make for the shore.
One of the boats managed to escape our fire and came up against the schooner on the farther side. This boat was not in the group we had first sighted, and in the excitement of the battle, it stole up on us without discovery. I chanced to turn in its direction just in time to see a dark head appear above the bulwarks. I caught[Pg 69] up a cutlass and ran with a cry to cleave the fellow’s head. He ducked, and my blade cut into the rail. The mate, with more presence of mind, had caught up a heavy shot from beside the Long Tom and called upon others to follow his example. Down into the boat they dropped the balls, smashing heads and smashing boat. Before her crew could get a foothold on our chains, she filled with water and sank. In this fashion we met and overcame our greatest danger.
“Lower away a boat!” said Mr. Bludsoe, “we can’t let those wretches out there drown without making some attempt at rescue!”
We rowed out and brought in three men and a lad.
Mr. Bludsoe questioned them by the light of a lantern. We gathered around in a circle. The boy could talk Spanish, which the mate also could speak. They were dark, half-naked creatures, with something of the appearance of sleek rats as the water dripped from their glossy, matted hair.
Two of the Moslems were sullen and made no responses to the mate’s query. One, however, was explosive. His rage was directed not against us, but against some one of his own party.
“Who is responsible for this attack? Answer truly, unless you want to swung from yonder yardarm!” Mr. Bludsoe threatened.
The fiery individual, with frantic gestures, poured a response intended for our mate into the lad’s ears.
“The captain of your ship betrayed you,” said the interpreter with rolling eyes and flashing teeth. “He betrayed us too. He said that it would be easy for us to capture you because he had assured you that you were free from[Pg 70] attack. He led us to believe that the guns had been spiked and the weapons thrown overboard.”
Mr. Bludsoe turned to the crew. “Murad made such an attempt. I found him fooling with the cannon and scared him off. I suspected him after that, and gave him no chance. He’s sold us in advance to the pirates of Morocco. They’ll be putting out in pursuit of us as soon as they learn of the failure!”
He had scarcely spoken when two lateen sails could be seen moving out from shore. We were becalmed, and capture seemed certain.
“We can’t beat off their warships! Man the longboat!” Mr. Bludsoe ordered, “We’ll have to trust to yonder mist to hide us. We ought to be able to reach the Spanish coast if it holds!”
The moon had been clouded by a fog. We could feel the haze settling upon us. The change seemed to precede a storm.
With the war-ships nearly upon us, we rowed off into the haze, taking the prisoners with us.
When we were a league from the shore, we heard a gun fired. I thought that the corsairs, who by this time had doubtless found that we had deserted the ship, were cruising in search of us and had fired the gun in our direction. No balls struck the water near us, however, and we rowed on desperately.
Mr. Bludsoe questioned Mustapha. “It is the hurricane signal on shore,” the youth explained. “It means that the barometer has fallen tremendously, and that a storm’s on the way. You need have no fear of pursuit. The ships that came out to attack you will seek shelter now. We shall all sink if you do not make for the beach!”
Mr. Bludsoe ordered us to row towards the Moroccan shore, in a direction that would take us clear of the harbor. Heavy gusts of wind beat down upon us and floods of rain poured over our straining muscles. The wind became a gale and threatened to come with greater intensity. Furious waves leaped up on every side to swallow our boat. We gave up hope of reaching the shore, and rowed on expecting every uncertain stroke of our oars to be the last.
Suddenly Mr. Bludsoe’s voice rang out calm and strong through the tempest. “There’s a ship ahead. It must be one of those that came out to attack us. Yet it’s better to take our chances aboard her than to stay in this sea. Pull towards her!”
The ship loomed up larger than we had expected. Her sails were cut differently from those of the corsairs. Against the gray of the storm we caught sight of the American flag.
“By all that’s holy,” the mate cried, “she’s a Yankee frigate!”
The frigate, whose commander was shifting her to the shelter of the harbor, caught sight of us as we plunged towards her bow. Willing hands dipped down to help us climb over her side.
The frigate’s name was George Washington. Her commander, Captain William Bainbridge, was bearing to the Dey of Algiers certain presents. With great joy I learned that peace had been made between Algiers and the United States, and that Alexander and his comrades were on their way home. Of these things I shall have more to tell later. We were not yet out of danger. The hurricane now seemed to be concentrated over us. The wind’s force must have been over a hundred miles an[Pg 72] hour. The tremendous gusts struck the heavy vessel with the force of battering rams and drove her forward as if she were a cockle-shell. We could see the shore looming up.
“Rocks!” someone shouted. We were within a hundred yards of them when a miracle happened. The wind shifted its fury. It now blew in a twisting fashion from the shore. Our ship turned with it. On another side of the harbor there was a beach of yielding sand. Beating behind us with the same terrific force, the hurricane sent the nose of the frigate into the sand in a way that held her more firmly than a hundred anchors.
Here we stayed without listing. The first part of the cyclone lasted about two hours. There was a lull and we thought the storm was over. It returned an hour later, however, in all of its fury, and we expected every moment to be torn from our haven and hurled across the harbor to destruction—a fate that we could now see had overtaken many vessels, for the shore was lined with wrecks. Whistling, roaring, devastating, it whirled over us, lashing the waves until they dashed with savage force over our decks. Our only comfort was that the onslaughts gradually decreased in strength, and we saw the barometer rise rapidly from its lowest point.
On shore, storehouses, castles, and residences were unroofed or demolished entirely.
Spars, masts, and parts of wharves floated on top of the waves. I shuddered as my eyes rested on a dead body floating amidst a mass of wreckage. It seemed providential that we were not floating corpses.
A wreck lay near us. She had overturned and the water was washing across her deck. She had a familiar[Pg 73] look. Her stern was towards us. I caught a glimpse of her name and read The Rose of Egypt.
Murad had played upon a youth’s imagination to lead him into a trap. The rascal’s gift at story-telling had been drawn upon to add me to those he hoped to lead into captivity that he might obtain ransoms. He also, no doubt, had it in his mind to revenge himself on the commodore by persecuting one of whom the sailor was fond. As my knowledge of Barbary grew, I saw that it was quite possible for Murad to act as a spy for one or all of these Barbary rulers. America was a new country. The corsair princes desired information as to how rich she was; what they had to fear from her navy, etc. It came out later that secret discussions in Congress upon the subject of the Barbary powers were promptly reported to the Dey of Algiers, so that when our envoys came to negotiate with him he threw their secrets into their faces. But, be that as it may, adventures were crowding upon me so swiftly that I felt disposed to forgive Murad for the sake of the thrills he had sent my way.
AN AMERICAN FRIGATE BECOMES A CORSAIR’S CATTLESHIP
When I felt the deck of the George Washington beneath my feet, I felt a different thrill than that which had run through me when I stepped aboard The Rose of Egypt. I was a navy lad now, and my own quest for treasure, that had absorbed all of my attentions, dwindled before the fact that it was now my duty to consider the interests of my country more than my own selfish aims.
Moreover I was to meet men, and find adventures, that made my treasure hunt for the time being a secondary interest. I intended before I quitted the Barbary coast to make the search; meanwhile I was content to take what experiences navy life brought me, awaiting my opportunity to enter the desert in search of the riches. The Egyptian, I had reason to believe, had been killed in the hurricane. The secret of the treasure was safe with me. Time would unfold my opportunity.
As for those who are following this chronicle, let us hope that the thrilling naval activities these pages will now mirror will be more absorbing even than the personal experiences I have told about; yet if any wonder as to the result of my quest for treasure, let me encourage them by saying that it was the historic events I am now about to relate that placed me at last in a position to[Pg 75] reach the spot where the jewels and trinkets described by the rector were buried.
My good friend Samuel Childs found an old comrade on board the George Washington—one Reuben James. The two had been shipmates in the merchant service. Reuben, though now scarcely more than a boy, was a veteran sailor. He had gone to sea at the age of thirteen, had sailed around the world, and had every sort of experience that comes to a seaman. All of us became members of the frigate’s crew, and Samuel and I were chosen for Reuben’s watch, so that the three of us had many a chance to talk things over.
From Reuben I drew forth an account of the release of Alexander and the other American captives. It was not until Samuel told him that I was a brother to one of the captives that he displayed interest in me; after he had discovered this fact, however, he went out of his way to be kind to me.
“Well do I remember Alexander Forsyth,” Reuben said, “and I’ll swear that when I met him at Marseilles, where he was awaiting a passage home after his release from bloody Algiers, he was the nearest thing to a dead man that I have ever seen alive! He looked like a skeleton with a beating heart! Mark my word, he’ll never go to sea again! What can you expect—after years of cruelty, starvation, sickness, chain-dragging!”
“You see,” Reuben said in excuse for our statesmen, “our Congressmen had other important things to worry about: Indian uprisings, trouble at sea with England and France; a union to form between the bickering commonwealths, finances to raise for running the government,[Pg 76] and what not? A few sailors imprisoned in an out-of-the-way part of the world were apt to be forgotten!”
The fresh captures by the pirates that brought about the settlement had, I was informed, happened in this manner:
When the Portuguese warships withdrew from guarding the Straits of Gibraltar, the Algerine cruisers entered the Atlantic in four ships and swooped down on unsuspecting American vessels. Eleven of our ships were captured by corsairs. Their crews were taken as slaves to Algiers, and, added to those already held in captivity, increased the number to one hundred and fifteen.
The Swedish consul warned Colonel Humphreys, our minister to Portugal, that Bassara, a Jew slave-broker at Algiers, through whom the United States was trying to procure the release of the captives, was out of favor with the Dey, and that to succeed the business should be transferred to the Jew Bacri. This was done, and an agreement soon followed.
Captain O’Brien was sent to Lisbon to get from Colonel Humphreys the money the United States promised to pay. Humphreys was forced to send O’Brien to London to borrow the funds, but, on account of the unsettled condition of European politics, O’Brien failed in his mission. The Dey, vexed at the delay, threatened to abandon the treaty. Upon this a frigate was offered by the American envoys as an inducement to hold to the treaty, while Bacri himself advanced the necessary gold. The prisoners were then released and sent in Bacri’s ship Fortune to Marseilles, where the American consul, Stephen Cathalan, Jr., secured a passage home for them in the Swedish ship Jupiter.
What I had learned of the insolence of the Barbary[Pg 77] rulers had come to me thus far only by hearsay. I was now to see an example of it with my own eyes.
While I was thus gathering the details of Alexander’s tardy release, the George Washington was proceeding from Morocco to Algiers, Captain Bainbridge having been ordered by our government to deliver presents to the Algerine prince. Before leaving Morocco, Captain Bainbridge, who had heard the story of the assault upon us with amazement and anger, demanded of the Dey of Morocco that he surrender to him the Egyptian, Murad, for the action of our government.
Word came back that a search had been made for Murad but that no person such as we described could be found in the city. Punishment for those who had attacked us was also requested, but the oily monarch protested that his officers could find no citizens who had attempted such a raid. Baffled, we went on our way.
I looked over the rail towards the frowning castles of Algiers in huge disgust. Yet I was curious to see the town in which Alexander had been enslaved, and Captain Bainbridge, knowing of my relationship to one of the released Americans, provided a way that I might enter the palace as one of his attendants when he went with Consul O’Brien to pay his supposed respects to the Dey.
By listening to the English renegade who acted as interpreter between our officers and the ruler, I gathered that the Dey was in trouble with his overlord, the Sultan of Turkey, because he had made peace with France while Turkey, then allied with England, was making war on the French forces in Egypt.
To appease the wrath of the Sultan, the Dey had decided to send to that monarch at Constantinople an ambassador bearing valuable gifts. With amazing cheek,[Pg 78] he now asked Consul O’Brien to lend him the frigate George Washington for the purpose of bearing the envoy and his train. Captain Bainbridge blushed. “It is impossible for an American naval officer to carry out such a mission,” I heard him cry.
“Your ship is anchored under my batteries. My gunner will sink her if you refuse!” the Dey said with a scowl.
“That is no work for an American ship,” Captain Bainbridge said.
“Aren’t Americans my slaves? Don’t they pay tribute to me?” the Dey demanded. “I now command you to carry my embassy!”
I felt like rushing forward and choking the creature, and I saw from Captain Bainbridge’s look that it was all that he could do to restrain himself from drawing his sword and plunging it into the fat stomach of the beast.
Consul O’Brien came forth with soothing words. He advised Bainbridge to obey the ruler, and Bainbridge, because of the superior authority of the consul, was forced to consent.
“Shade of Washington!” he exclaimed, when he returned aboard ship, “behold thy sword hung on a slave to serve a pirate! I never thought to find a corner of this world where an American would stoop to baseness. History shall tell how the United States first volunteered a ship of war, equipped, as a carrier for a pirate. It is written. Nothing but blood can blot the impression out.”
We heard that he wrote thus to the Navy Department:
“I hope I may never again be sent to Algiers with tribute, unless I be authorized to deliver it from the mouth of the cannon.”
THE VOYAGE TO CONSTANTINOPLE
When the ambassador to Constantinople came on board, his suite and following were enough to make angels laugh. There were one hundred Moslems attending him. Many of the officers brought their wives and children. In addition there were four horses, twenty-five horned cattle, four lions, four tigers, four antelopes, and twelve parrots. The money and regalia loaded as presents for the Sultan were valued at a million dollars.
When our frigate reached the two forts that commanded the entrance to Constantinople, Captain Bainbridge decided that he would save the time that would be spent in entering the port in the usual formal way. We approached the anchorage as if we meant to come to a stop. We clewed up our courses, let go the topsails, and seemed to be complying with the rules of the port. Then our commander ordered that a salute be fired, but, when the guns of the fort replied, he ordered sail to be made under cover of the smoke. By this trick, we passed by the guns under the smoke screen, and were inside the harbor and beyond range before the Turks realized it.
An officer rowed out to ask to what country our ship belonged.
“The United States,” answered our commander.
The officer returned to shore. A half-hour later he again rowed out to inform Captain Bainbridge that the Sultan had never heard of the United States, and desired to know more about it. Our captain replied that he came from the new world discovered by Columbus. Again the officer went ashore and returned, bringing this time a lamb and a bunch of flowers, as tokens of peace and welcome.
The admiral of the Turkish fleet, Capudan Pasha, took the George Washington under his protection. The Sultan gave Captain Bainbridge a certificate which entitled him to special protection in any part of the Turkish empire.
With the ambassadors from the Dey of Algiers matters went very differently. When the messenger was received on board Capudan Pasha’s ship, the admiral snatched from the envoy’s hand the Dey’s letter, and then, in a great rage, spat and stamped upon it. He was then told to inform his master that the admiral meant to spit and trample upon him when the two met. The Sultan was equally harsh. He told the ambassador that he would force the Dey to declare war against France within sixty days, and threatened to punish the ruler if he did not send to him an immense sum of money. The presents of tigers and other animals were viewed by him with supreme contempt.
The sight of the American flag, flown for the first time in this section of the world, created a sensation.
It was said that, seeing the stars in the American flag, the Sultan decided that since there was represented on his flag one of the heavenly bodies, his country and ours must have the same religion. The foreign consuls at Constantinople welcomed Captain Bainbridge and he in turn entertained them. At one dinner he had on the table food and drink from all quarters of the globe, representing places at which he had stopped—Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, and men from each of these countries sat at his table.
We returned to Algiers with a disgruntled ambassador. The Sultan, while he treated our commander with great courtesy, found fault with the Dey of Algiers’ gifts and[Pg 81] threatened to punish both him and his envoy if more valuable presents were not forthcoming. All of which delighted us hugely.
When we drew near to Algiers on our return passage, we wondered what further indignities would be offered. Captain Bainbridge, having learned of the Sultan’s message to the Dey, knew that a ship would be required to take a second Algerine mission to Constantinople. Fearing that the Dey might try to use the George Washington again for this purpose, and suspecting too that to obtain the money the Sultan demanded the Algerine prince might attempt to enslave the crew of the George Washington and hold them for ransom, Captain Bainbridge decided that he would anchor his ship out of range of the Dey’s guns. Threats and persuasion were used by the Orientals to induce us to come into the harbor, but Captain Bainbridge squared his jaw and kept the ship where we had first anchored.
Consul O’Brien now rowed out and told our commander that the Dey wanted to have a talk with him. The captain, armed with his certificate of protection from the Sultan, went ashore. The Dey, maddened over the result of his intercourse with the Sultan, and further enraged at Captain Bainbridge’s cleverness in avoiding his snares, threatened him with torture and slavery, and seemed about to call upon his armed janizaries to seize the officer. At this moment Captain Bainbridge produced the certificate. The tyrant, seeing his master’s signature upon a document that expressed good will to the American, fawned and apologized.
LIFE ABOARD OLD IRONSIDES
“And now to thee, O Captain,
Most earnestly I pray,
That they may never bury me
In church or cloister gray;
But on the windy sea-beach,
At the ending of the land,
All on the surfy sea-beach,
Deep down into the sand.
For there will come the sailors,
Their voices I shall hear,
And at casting of the anchor
The yo-ho loud and clear;
And at hauling of the anchor
The yo-ho and the cheer,—
Farewell, my love, for to the bay
I never more may steer.”
“I hear it reported,” Samuel Childs remarked one night on watch, “that Captain Edward Preble is coming out in command of the Constitution. Looks like he’ll have charge of the Mediterranean fleet. A hard man. A hot temper. He’s as rough as the New Hampshire rocks where he was born. I doubt whether I’d want to serve under him!”
“The harder they come, the better I like them,” said Reuben James. “A hard man means a hard fighter. I understand Stephen Decatur’s coming out too. There’s[Pg 83] an officer for you! Hope I have a chance to serve under both!”
Samuel Child’s idea of Captain Preble’s disposition was held aboard all of our ships. Yet Preble changed this adverse comment to enthusiastic admiration. It happened in this way:
As his frigate was passing at night through the Straits of Gibraltar he met a strange ship and hailed her. The vessel made no reply, but manoeuvred to get into an advantageous position for firing.
“I hail you for the last time!” Preble shouted. “If you don’t answer, I’ll fire a shot into you.”
“If you do, I’ll return a broadside!” came from the strange ship.
“I should like to catch you at that! I now hail for an answer. What ship is that?” Captain Preble cried.
“His Britannic Majesty’s eighty-four gun ship-of-the-line Donegal! Sir Richard Strachan. Send a boat on board!”
Preble shouted back:
“This is the United States’ forty-four gun ship Constitution, Captain Edward Preble, and I’ll be d—d if I send a boat on board any ship! Blow your matches, boys!”
No broadside was fired. Captain Preble now shouted to the officer that he doubted the truth of his statement and would stay alongside until the morning revealed the identity of the stranger. A boat now approached, bearing a message from the strange ship’s commander. He explained that she was the thirty-two gun British frigate Maidstone, and that, taken by surprise, he had resorted to strategy in order to get his men to their stations before the Constitution fired.
Samuel Childs had his chance to serve under this terrible Captain Preble, and so, for that matter, had all of us. My first meeting with the captain was far from being one that promised comfort. To explain why, I had better note here that the clothing supplies of the George Washington had been depleted, consequently there were several pieces of my dress that were not in accord with the regulation uniform. Captain Preble’s gaze chanced to rest on me. Then, with an outburst that nearly frightened me out of my wits, he asked me how I dare present myself before him in such attire.
“If I catch you out of uniform again,” he said, “out of the service you’ll go!”
I darted out of his sight, resolving to alter my dress at once, but a lieutenant hailed me and gave me a message to deliver to the Constellation. He then ordered the coxswain to man the running boat. Off we rowed. The Constellation lay with her bow towards us. Instead of waiting for the Jacob’s ladder to be thrown to me, I stood in the bow of the running boat waiting for it to be lifted to the crest of a sea. The next roller lifted our cockle shell high in the air, approaching the level of the ship’s deck. I took advantage of this rise and vaulted from our boat. We were in a rough sea, and, instead of landing on the bulwark, as I had aimed to do, I was hurled by the next roller head-first across the vessel’s side. With the velocity of a butting goat, my head rammed a group of three officers who had chosen that particular spot for a chat. Two of them were tossed left and right; the third one was floored. I arose with abject apologies. Who should I see squirming and cursing before me but Captain Preble? I felt my blood turn to ice.
To my terrified imagination a flogging seemed to be the least punishment I could expect. Not only had I knocked him down, but here was I appearing before him in the clothes he had ordered changed. The other officers, crimson and purple with wrath, helped the Captain to his feet. It appeared that while I had been waiting for the letter, he had gone forth in his gig to inspect the very ship I was bound for.
“Ha!” he exclaimed when he had recovered his breath, “the same lad! The same uniform!”
Then suddenly he looked at his frowning companions and burst into laughter. “Why,” he exclaimed, “just when we were talking about our enemy’s guns, he came over the side like a cannon ball! I thought the gunners of Tripoli were bombarding us!”
When the laughter ended I had a chance to deliver the letter and to explain that the lieutenant had pressed me into service before I had an opportunity to change my garb.
He nodded. “The irregularity of your clothes we will overlook just now,” he said, “but your irregular way of coming aboard, and the headlong way in which you approach your superiors, and intrude upon their conferences, is a matter that warrants your being turned over to the master-at-arms. However, you scamp, we’ll forgive all of your offences for the laugh you have given us! I hope if I ever call on you to board an enemy’s ship you’ll go over her side with the same speed!”
The crew was divided into three sets. The men in the first set were called topmen; their duty was to climb the masts and to take in or furl, reef or let out the sails. This group of topmen were in turn subdivided, according[Pg 86] to the masts of the ship. Thus we had fore-topmen, main-topmen and mizzen-topmen.
The second set of men attended to the sails from the deck. It was their task to handle the lowest sails, and to set and take in the jibs, lower studding sails and spanker; they also coiled the ropes of the running gear. These men too were grouped according to masts.
The third set of men were called scavengers. These did the dirty work of the ship, gathering the refuse from all quarters of the vessel and casting it overboard.
I, on account of my youth, was assigned to none of these sets, but to the boys’ division. There were a dozen of us lads on board, and a merry set of scamps we were. We were assigned to serve the officers, and because of this we managed to overhear and pass to each other a good deal of information concerning the operations of the ship that was not intended for us to know. Some of us became favorites with the officers we served, and when we got into mischief and were threatened with punishment, our officers often shielded us.
In addition to the sailors and boys, the ship had over a score of marines on her muster roll. They were the policemen of the ship. In battle their place was in the rigging, where they picked off the enemy crew with their muskets. The marines filled a peculiar position, in that they were called upon to uphold the authority of the officers, and therefore could not be on intimate terms with the sailors—in fact, the officers discouraged familiarity between the soldiers and sailors.
As for food, we were the envy of our British cousins. Our menu was: Sunday, a pound and a half of beef and half a pint of rice; Monday, a pound of pork, half a pint of peas and four ounces of cheese; Tuesday, a pound[Pg 87] and a half of beef, and a pound of potatoes; Wednesday, half a pint of rice, two ounces of butter, and six ounces of molasses; Thursday, a pound of pork and half a pint of peas; Friday, a pound of potatoes, a pound of salt fish, and two ounces of butter or one gill of oil; Saturday, a pound of pork, half a pint of peas, and four ounces of cheese. In addition, one pound of bread and half a pint of spirits, or one quart of beer, were served every day.
Sundays were usually holidays. After muster on the spar deck, we would have church service, and then the rest of the day was ours to spend as we pleased. We wore our best uniforms, but we could never tell from one Sunday to another just what kind of dress we were to appear in. The captain had a way of ordering us to wear one day blue jackets and white trousers, and on the next Sunday to change to blue jackets and blue trousers. When he wanted us to look particularly smart he would command that we wear in addition our scarlet vests. When, on top of all this, we donned our shiny black hats, we felt fine indeed.
In fair weather we slept in hammocks, swung on the berth deck. We were trained to roll up and stow our hammocks swiftly, so that when a call to action sounded, our beds disappeared from sight in the bulwark nettings as if by magic. These hammocks, in battle, were placed against the bulwarks as shields to prevent splinters from hitting us when the vessel was hit.
Our ship kept a merit roll, upon which were entered the names of every member of the crew. If a man did his work well, he was given a good standing on this roll; the sheet, on the other hand, also showed who were the lazy and inefficient members of the crew. The system[Pg 88] of handling men was modeled after that of the older navies, where each man of the ship’s company was assigned a certain duty.
When a sailor died, we sewed up our mate’s body in his hammock and placed it on a grating in a bow port. Then an officer read the burial service. At the words, “We commit the body of our brother to the deep,” we raised the grating and allowed the body to drop into the sea. There would be a heavy splash—then a deep silence rested on both the water and the ship for several minutes.
Our greatest enjoyment came from our band, which we had formed out of members of the crew who had more or less talent for music. I wondered afterwards how our efforts would have sounded in competition with a professional band of musicians that in later years played aboard one of our sister ships. These musicians had found their way into the American navy in a strange manner. They had enlisted on board a French warship under the condition that they would not be called on to fight, but were to be stowed away in the cable tier until “the clouds blew over.” It was also stipulated that they were not to be flogged—a custom of which many captains were far too fond. The French ship upon which they played was captured by a Portuguese cruiser. They were permitted by the Portuguese to enlist in a British vessel, and when the latter was captured by an American frigate, the band was enrolled in our navy.
In sailing from a cold to a warm climate, we were unknowingly weakening our rigging, which had been fitted in cold weather. The masts were subject to expansion and contraction by heat and cold, and so was[Pg 89] our cordage. When we entered the Mediterranean our shrouds and stays slackened under the hot sun. The ship was in this condition when we were caught in a heavy gale. The ocean had grown rough. We were at dinner when a tremendous wave broke over our bow. It poured down the open hatchway, swept from the galley all the food that was on the table, washed our table clean of eatables, and poured through all of the apartments on the berth deck in a terrifying flood. The huge waves beating upon our ship from the outside, the tossing of the vessel, and the sloshing water we had shipped racked the vessel so that it seemed that it must founder. We were a white-faced group, for Davy Jones’ locker seemed to be yawning for us below, but we kept our upper lips stiff and sprang nimbly to obey orders. The officers commanded the crew to man the chain pumps and cut holes in the berth deck to permit the water to pour into the hold, and in this way we emerged from our dangerous situation.
Another peril, however, beset us on deck. One of our lieutenants, watching the rigging, discovered that it had become so slack that the masts and bowsprit were in danger of being carried away. He summoned all available hands to help tighten the ropes. We managed at last to secure purchases on every other shroud, and to sway them all together, which restored the firmness.
One night we had shown to us what a terrifying experience it is to have a fire break out aboard ship. As we were climbing into our hammocks a shower of sparks flew up from a corner of the cockpit.
The captain ordered the drum to beat to quarters, and soon the crew was assembled under good control. Fire buckets filled with water were standing on the [Pg 90]quarterdeck. We ran for them and poured them over the flames. All hands emptied buckets on the flames until the fire had been quenched.
If the fire had occurred a few hours later, when we were asleep, it might have gathered enough headway to sweep the ship. We learned later that a lighted candle had fallen from a beam on the deck below and had set fire to some cloths. The steward had tried to smother the fire with sheets, but all the cloths had then caught fire. We did not fully realize our danger until it was pointed out to us that the room in which the fire had started was next to the powder magazine, and that the bulkhead between the two compartments had been scorched.
When decks were cleared for action, you may well believe that my heart was in my mouth. The ship’s company was running here and there as busy as ants—and apparently as confused. The boatswain and his mates saw to the rigging and sails. The carpenter and his crew prepared shot-plugs and mauls and strove to protect the pumps against injury; the lieutenants went from deck to deck, supervising the work. The boys who were the powder monkeys rushed up and down at their tasks of providing the first rounds for the guns; pistols and cutlasses were distributed. Rammers, sponges, powderhorns, matches and train tackles were placed beside every cannon. The hatches were closed, so that no man might desert his post and hide below. The gun lashings were cast adrift. The marines were drawn up in rank and file. These occupations, fortunately, left us little time to think of home and loved ones, and by the time the decks were cleared, why, the cannon were thundering and the missiles were striking about us.
Bathing and boat racing were popular sports with us; yet, in the case of the first pastime, we had to be very careful on account of blue sharks.
It was a matter for wonderment with us that, while the blue shark has been known time and again to attack white men, he seldom bothered a colored person. We had sailors aboard who had sailed in Oriental waters, where there are thousands of sharks. These men agreed in their story that the natives could swim and dive without fear of them, but if a white man ventured to bathe in the same place the sharks would be after him in a short time. We learned from these yarn-spinners that the pearl-divers of Ceylon stay down under water for several minutes at a time while they gather into bags the shells that contain pearls, and yet are seldom attacked by sharks. This may have been, though, because while they were under water their comrades above shouted and sang to scare the sharks away. Sometimes natives whose skins were of a light color would dye their bodies black, while other divers would carry in their girdles spikes made of ironwood, which they used to poke out the eyes of sharks that came near.
These stories about sharks were enough to make us enter the water warily, and to borrow the custom of the pearl divers in making a loud noise when we bathed. An experience was awaiting us, however, that brought our danger home to us more than all the warnings that could be uttered.
Jim Hodges, perhaps the most expert swimmer among us, was fond of boasting that he could outswim a shark. One day, when there was a calm sea, he started to swim from the side of our vessel to another frigate that was anchored close by. We who were on duty watched, over[Pg 92] the ship’s side, his progress. Suddenly a gray fin showed above the turquoise water, about one hundred yards from him, but moving rapidly in his direction. We shouted and pointed in the direction of his danger. He heard us, realized his peril, and turned instantly towards our ship. The shark at once changed its direction so that the swimmer and the fish seemed to be following two sides of a triangle that would meet at the apex—this point being the bow of our vessel. We watched in breathless suspense while Hodges moved towards us, swimming with amazing coolness and nerve. The shark gained steadily. We had lowered a rope at the point nearest to the swimmer, and we could see him measuring the distance with an anxious look. Those of us who managed to obtain firearms began to shoot at the shark, but at last it had drawn so near to the swimmer that there was danger of hitting him with our bullets. We ceased firing and waited. At last Hodges, with a desperate spurt, reached the rope. As soon as we felt his tug at it we began hauling him in. If he had seized the rope a second later, it would have been too late. The teeth of the shark flashed in the swirl at the end of the rope. If Hodges had not lifted his feet into the air, one of them would have been snapped off.
A CONNECTICUT YANKEE IN THE COURT OF TUNIS
At Malta, whom should I bump into but commodore Barney! His business in France having been completed, he had taken the notion to see southern Europe before returning to the United States.
He was amazed to see me in the uniform of the United States, yet proud, too, that I had taken matters into my own hands and gone to sea willy-nilly. He told me that the rector had been sent back to his Baltimore charge by his bishop, and that Alexander had begun business in Baltimore as a ship chandler. My story of Murad’s treachery brought forth a series of explosions, which, however, were cut short by the arrival of the commodore’s friend Captain William Eaton, a military officer from the United States, who had stopped in Malta on his way to take the office of American envoy at the court of Tunis.
The conversation turned towards Captain Eaton’s mission to Tunis. “I understand that I have an abominable ruler to deal with,” he said, “I shall be doing well if I do nothing more than keep Yankee ships and sailors out of his hands!”
“I wish I were going with you, sir,” I said impulsively.
“Can you write? Are you handy at clerical work?” he asked.
“Is he?” burst out the commodore, “why, the boy was[Pg 96] brought up to be a minister. When I knew him a quill or a book was never out of his hands!”
“I have authority from Washington to employ a secretary,” said the captain. “The lad can accompany me in that office.”
Delighted, I turned away to make the necessary arrangements. “If you haven’t the knack of fighting as well as of writing, I advise you to decline the position,” Captain Eaton called after me, “for I expect to battle with the Bey of Tunis from the hour I arrive!”
“That,” I returned, “is the reason I said I’d like to go along! You look like a fighter, sir!”
Captain Eaton was pleased instead of offended at my boldness. The story of his career, as I heard it later from the commodore, proved that the captain was a fighter in deeds as well as in looks. He had a broad forehead, with deep-set eyes and heavy eyebrows. His nose was that of a fighter, and if ever a chin expressed determination, his did.
WILLIAM EATON WAS A FIGHTER
IN LOOK AND IN DEED, WILLIAM EATON WAS A FIGHTER.
His career, as I heard it later from the lips of the commodore, was fascinating. His father had been a farmer-teacher who raised crops in the summer and taught school in the winter. William, who was born in Woodstock, Connecticut, developed into a lad with a studious yet adventurous spirit. When sixteen he ran away from home and enlisted in the army where he was employed as a waiter by Major Dennie, of the Connecticut troops.
A DARTMOUTH LAD
After he had risen to the rank of sergeant, he decided that he would like to go to college, and secured an honorable discharge. He was admitted as a freshman to [Pg 97]Dartmouth College, at Hanover, New Hampshire, but was given permission to be absent during the coming winter, in order that he might by teaching school obtain enough money to pursue his studies. Due, however, to difficulties at home, he was forced to prolong his school teaching, and it was not until two years later that he was able to return to Dartmouth. With his pack suspended from a staff thrown over his shoulder, he started on foot for Hanover.
In his pack was a change of linen and a few articles which he expected to sell on his journey. When he reached Northfield, his money gave out, and he was in despair. He began, however, to offer his pins, needles and other notions for sale, and with the proceeds he was able to go on to college. Here he was received with great kindness by President Wheelock, and here he pursued his studies, handicapped by sickness and by the necessity of teaching school in town. At last, in August, 1790, he received his degree. In March, 1792, he was appointed a captain in the army of the United States, and was assigned to duty at Pittsburgh and later at Cincinnati.
His prediction as to a troubled career in Tunis came true.
With an embrace and a God-speed from Commodore Barney, I sailed with Captain Eaton for Tunis. Arriving there, Mr. Cathcart led the captain to the Bey’s palace. I was allowed to follow. We were ushered into the Bey’s Hall of State, and there the captain must approach and bow to a fat-faced individual who frowned on him as if he were a stray cur that had wandered in among his satins and velvets. This fellow, from his safe place among his over-dressed officers, poured out abuse.
“It is now more than a year since your country promised me gifts of arms and ships! Why have they not been sent to me?”
Captain Eaton replied with dignity: “The treaty was received by our government about eight months ago; a malady then raged in our capital, which forced not only the citizens, but all the departments of the government, to fly into the interior villages of the country. About the time the plague ceased to rage, and permitted the return of the government, the winter shut up our harbors with ice. We are also engaged in a war with France; and all our means were used to defend ourselves against that country.” He then went on to explain that he was empowered to offer a cash sum instead of the naval stores promised.
“I am not a beggar,” said the Bey, “I have cash to spare. The stores are more than ever needed because of my war with France. You have found no trouble in fulfilling your promises to Algiers and Tripoli; and to Algiers have made presents of frigates and other armed vessels.”
The captain explained that the Dey of Algiers had agreed to pay for certain armed vessels built for him by the United States, and that, moreover, several years’ time had been allowed for their delivery.
“You may inform me,” said the Bey, “that the Dey of Algiers paid you cash for your vessels. I do not believe it.”
Arguments such as this one went on forever.
Our first pilgrimage, after becoming settled in Tunis, was to visit the hill which was once the site of Carthage. We passed through fertile pastures where donkeys, sheep, cattle, and camels were feeding, and among fields of[Pg 99] wheat, barley, and oats where awkward camels were used for plowing. Captain Eaton’s military soul became aroused as we stood at the place where the great Hannibal was born.
My chief was well acquainted with Carthaginian history and thrilled me with his description of how Hannibal, commanding an army of paid mercenaries—Africans, Spaniards, Gauls, and Italians—managed them for thirteen years through wars and hardships in a foreign country without experiencing a single mutiny. Captain Eaton little dreamed that, on a small scale to be sure, fate had designed him to play the part of a Hannibal for his own country—but this will be told in due time.
When I was not on duty I spent my time taking donkey tours of the city, with an Arab boy running behind me to make my stubborn steed go. In this fashion I visited the Maltese, Jewish and Arab quarters, and explored the bazaars. When I grew hungry, why, here was the stand of an Arab who sold sweetmeats, and there was the booth of a man who fried meat and sold it hot from the fire, while always in the streets were fruit merchants selling fresh dates, oranges, and figs. When I stopped to buy curios, the swarthy, turbaned dealers usually invited me into their little shops to sit cross-legged on the floor and sip strong black coffee while we haggled over prices.
Before we arrived in Tunis, the agent there for the United States was a French merchant, named Joseph Etienne Famin. Upon our arrival the English consul at Tunis, Major Magre, warned Captain Eaton not to place confidence in Famin, stating that he was a dangerous man who would set snares for his successor. Captain[Pg 100] Eaton soon learned that the Frenchman had protested to the Bey against the United States establishing a consul there “to keep the bread out of his mouth.”
The captain, lonely among enemies, rewarded my faithfulness by taking me into his confidence. He told me that he had found that Famin had yielded to every outrageous demand made by the Bey against the United States, which Famin represented. Captain Eaton also told me that he suspected the Frenchman of reaping a profit from the presents sent by the United States to the ruler. Famin, we learned, had declared to the Bey that Eaton was nothing but a vice-consul, subject to Consul-General O’Brien at Algiers, and only placed at Tunis to spy upon the court.
At last, when the Frenchman told the court that “the Americans were a feeble sect of Christians” and that their independence from England “was the gift of France,” Captain Eaton, giving him his jacket to hold, horse-whipped Famin at the marine gate of Tunis, before a crowd of amazed Moslems.
Famin went whining to the Bey and demanded that Eaton be punished.
“How dare you lift your hand against a subject of mine in my kingdom?” the Bey demanded of Captain Eaton, who took me with him to the palace.
HOW DARE YOU LIFT YOUR HAND
“HOW DARE YOU LIFT YOUR HAND AGAINST A SUBJECT OF MINE?”
THE BEY OF TUNIS DEMANDED OF EATON.
The captain replied that Famin had tried to betray him, and had tried also to betray the Bey. He brought forth a paper, and prepared to read its contents.
“Hear him call your prime minister and your agents a set of thieves and robbers!” exclaimed Captain Eaton.
“Mercy! Forbearance!” cried Famin.
“Yes, thieves and robbers! This is the man of your confidence!” the consul went on. Then I heard him tell[Pg 103] the Bey that Famin had blabbed all his secrets to a woman, who had repeated them to others, so that all the town knew that he was playing a double game with the Americans, and increasing the misunderstandings that had arisen between the American envoy and the court.
Famin trembled as if in a fit, and began an address in Arabic.
“Speak French!” said the Bey, frowning.
The ruler was at last convinced of the Frenchman’s guilt. As we quitted the place we heard the Bey say to his court:
“The American consul has been heated, but truly he has had reason. I have found him a very plain, candid man; and his concern for his fellow-citizens is not a crime.”
On one occasion, while Captain Eaton was in the palace, I paid a visit to the executioner, who occupied a lodge at the entrance to the palace. I went with an interpreter, a friend of the executioner, but even under the circumstances I felt timid when the official took down from its place on the wall a long curved scimitar and began to feel its edge as a reaper feels the blade of his scythe.
“It is a good blade—it has never failed me,” he said, “even though I have had to slice off as many as twenty heads in a day.”
If one is disposed to think that the ancient cruelty of these Turkish rulers has been decreased, let him think of these cruelties which we saw enacted in spite of our attempts to stop them.
Five corsairs from Tunis, manned by nine hundred and ninety men, sailed forth and landed upon the island of St. Peters, belonging to Sardinia. They captured and[Pg 104] brought back with them as prisoners to Tunis two hundred and twenty men and seven hundred women and children. In the raid upon the island, old men and women, and mothers with infants were pulled from their beds, driven down stairs or hurled from windows, driven almost naked through the streets, crowded into the filthy holds of the cruisers, and then, when landed at Tunis, bound with thongs and driven through the streets to the auction square, where they were sold into slavery. The old, the infirm and the infants, being unfit to work, were left to shift for themselves. If it had not been for contributions made by Captain Eaton and European ambassadors, they would have died of starvation.
The sum of $640,000 was demanded by the Bey for the ransom of the slaves, but at last he agreed to accept $270,000 from the king of Sardinia for their redemption.
WAR BREAKS OUT WITH TRIPOLI
A fire broke out in the palace and destroyed fifty thousand stands of arms. The Bey called upon Captain Eaton to request the United States to forward him ten thousand stands of arms. “I have divided my loss,” he said, “among my friends; this quota falls to you to furnish; tell your government to send them without delay.”
Captain Eaton refused to forward the demand. “You will never receive a single musket from the United States!” he declared.
Meanwhile, Captain Eaton’s neighbor consul, Mr. Cathcart, was having similar troubles at the court of Tripoli. We learned from correspondence that in April, 1800, Tripoli’s greedy Bashaw had bidden Cathcart, the American consul, to tell the President of the United[Pg 107] States that while “he was pleased with his proffers of friendship, had they been accompanied by a present of a frigate or brig-of-war, he would be still more inclined to believe them genuine.”
In May the Bashaw asked: “Why do not the United States send me a present? I am an independent prince as well as the Bey of Tunis, and I can hurt the commerce of any nation as much as the ruler of Tunis.”
The President paid no heed to these threats. Thereupon, on May 18, 1801, the Bashaw cut down the flagstaff of the American consulate at Tripoli. Consul Cathcart quitted the city, and a state of war was declared.
Matters came to a head with us in Tunis in March, 1803. Commodore Morris had been detained in port by the Bey because the American squadron had seized a Tunisian vessel bound for Tripoli, with which country the United States was at war. Consul Eaton had protested with more than usual vigor against this outrage. The Bey ordered him to quit the court at once.
“It is well,” replied Captain Eaton, “I am glad to quit a court where I have known such violence and indignity!”
On the 10th of March, we left Tunis on board of one of the ships of the American squadron. Doctor George Davis, of New York, was left in charge of American affairs. On the 30th of the same month, Captain Eaton sailed from Gibraltar in the merchant ship Perseverance, bound for Boston, at which port he arrived May 5th. He then went to Washington to urge that a land campaign be waged against the ruling Bashaw of Tripoli, of which project more will appear in this story. He was appointed navy agent for the United States and instructed to aid in the campaign of our squadron against the Bashaw of Tripoli.
I hoped while in Tunis to obtain a leave of absence that I might join a caravan that would pass by Tokra, the treasure city of my dreams. But no opportunity came. I remained with the fleet while Captain Eaton was at home and rejoined him when he returned. He brought with him a plan of campaign that, in operation, was to bring me well within reach of the treasure spot.
I HOPED THAT I MIGHT JOIN A CARAVAN
I HOPED THAT I MIGHT JOIN A CARAVAN THAT WOULD
PASS BY TOKRA—THE TREASURE CITY OF MY DREAMS.
THE LOSS OF THE PHILADELPHIA
“But sailors were born for all weathers,
Great guns let it blow, high or low,
Our duty keeps us to our tethers,
And where the gales drive we must go.”
Hard luck, indeed! The frigate Philadelphia stranded on a reef in the harbor of Tripoli, and Captain Bainbridge and his men were left captives in the hands of the Bashaw. Yet the ill wind for them was a kind wind for me, since it brought me a chance to serve under Stephen Decatur in what men say is one of the most brilliant exploits in our navy’s annals.
Fortunately, before this disaster befell, Captain Bainbridge had been given an opportunity to show the Mediterranean squadron his mettle, for Commodore Preble had assigned the Philadelphia, under Bainbridge, to blockade duty on the Barbary Coast.
When I fell in again with Samuel Childs and Reuben James after my sojourn in Tunis, the first yarn spun to me in the night watch was that of how the Philadelphia had been captured. Reuben James was boatswain aboard of her when she was seized. He dived overboard and swam to safety when he saw that the jig was up, and rejoined the fleet to tell again and again the story of Bainbridge’s gallantry in the face of misfortune.
Reuben’s story ran like this: The Philadelphia, while cruising in the vicinity of Cape Gata, had come upon[Pg 110] and hailed a cruiser and a brig. When the commander of the cruiser, at Captain Bainbridge’s repeated demands, sent a boat aboard with his ship’s papers, the captain learned that the cruiser belonged to the Emperor of Morocco; that her name was the Meshboha; that her commander was Ibrahim Lubarez; that she carried twenty-two guns and one hundred men.
The captain then sent an armed party to search the brig. He found imprisoned in her hold Captain Richard Bowen, and seven men. The brig was the Celia of Boston. Captain Bainbridge released her crew, and imprisoned the officers and men of the Meshboha aboard his frigate.
Asked by what authority he had captured an American vessel, Ibrahim Lubarez replied that he understood that Morocco intended to declare war on the United States and that when he seized the vessel he thought that a state of war existed. The captain suspected that the Emperor of Morocco had given orders that American ships be seized. “You have committed an act of piracy,” he told the Moor, “and for it you will swing at our yardarm!”
“Mercy! Mercy!” wailed Ibrahim. Unbuttoning five waistcoats, he brought forth from a pocket of the fifth a secret document signed by the Governor of Tangiers.
Captain Bainbridge reported the matter to Captain Preble, and the latter at once proceeded to Tangiers with four frigates. There the Emperor abjectly disclaimed all knowledge of the affair, renewed his treaty, deprived the Governor of Tangiers of his office, and punished the commander of the Meshboha.
The American squadron was given a salute of twenty-one guns; a present of ten bullocks with sheep and fowl[Pg 111] was made to Captain Preble, and the Emperor’s court reviewed the American ships and engaged with them in an exchange of salutes.
But, Reuben testified, when the American officers discussed the Emperor’s declaration of innocence, they spoke of it as if it were a huge joke.
On the morning of October 31st, 1803, Reuben, who was the lookout on the Philadelphia, espied a corsair sneaking out of a port. Captain Bainbridge at once swung his vessel round in pursuit. The wind was strong, enabling the frigate to gain on the pirate craft.
The ship was one of a corsair fleet under command of the Bashaw’s captains, Zurrig, Dghees, Trez, Romani, and El Mograbi. Zurrig had sailed away from the other vessels on purpose to decoy the American ship on to a line of partly-submerged rocks that lay in the waters of the bay, parallel to the shore. The captain of the corsair knew every yard of the coast, and by hugging the shore, he soon drew the pursuing frigate into shallow water. The Philadelphia had drawn close enough to the fleeing vessel to attack with the bow guns, and in the excitement of seeing if the shots struck home, the officers and crew forgot that their vessel was in danger of running upon a reef the corsair knew well how to avoid.
A BRAVE OFFICER’S BAD LUCK
Eight fathoms of water had been reported. Then the men who threw the lead reported seven fathoms. The cry of six and a half fathoms soon followed. Captain Bainbridge at once gave the order to head seaward. The helm was thrown hard over; the sails flapped as the vessel came up to the wind. It seemed that she would reach deep water safely, but suddenly the vessel struck[Pg 112] a rock and rose with her bow six feet out of water. From beneath the walls of the city, scarcely three miles away, the Bashaw’s gunboats put out and opened fire on the Philadelphia. Captain Bainbridge made every possible attempt to free his vessel. The guns forward and other parts of her equipment were thrown overboard, but the reef held her in an unyielding grip. Her crew returned the fire of the corsairs as best they could, but as the tide went out, the ship keeled over and the guns could no longer be fired. Captain Bainbridge ordered that the magazine be flooded; that the pumps be wrecked; and that holes be bored in the ship’s bottom.
Warships—feluccas and other small boats crowded with Arabs—now attacked the Philadelphia. Led by their captains, they swarmed over her sides. The Americans fought with small arms, wounding six of their assailants, but Bainbridge saw that his men would be massacred if the fight were prolonged, and hauled down the flag. Bainbridge and his crew of three hundred and fifteen men then surrendered. A few of the best swimmers took to the water, Reuben among them, but all were captured except him.
The captives, by means I will later describe, managed to write frequently to their friends aboard vessels of the fleet. Reuben corresponded with Tom Bowles, and thus knew as much about the experiences of the prisoners as if he were among them.
A few days later, he found out, the pirates managed to haul the vessel off the reef at flood-tide. They recovered the guns that had been thrown overboard, and boasted that their navy now owned a splendid American warship that had come into their possession without spending a sequin, or a drop of blood. The red flag [Pg 113]bearing the crescent of the Moslems was lifted where the Stars and Stripes had flown. To purge the vessel of Christian contamination, and to consecrate her to the Prophet, the green flag of Mohammed was unfurled at certain periods.
As soon as the Americans gave up their arms, the infidels began to plunder them of all of their valuables. Swords, epaulets, trinkets, money, and clothing were taken. Captain Bainbridge wore a locket around his neck that contained a miniature picture of his wife. One of the looters snatched at it, but Captain Bainbridge made a determined resistance and was at last allowed to keep the trinket.
The boats containing the prisoners reached the docks of Tripoli at ten o’clock that night. The Bashaw was eager to inspect his captives, and received them in his audience hall, where he and his staff sat gloating. After much questioning, he sent them to supper, placing them under the care of Sidi Mohammed D’Ghiers, his prime minister. Mr. Nissen, the Danish consul, came promptly to comfort the prisoners, and to offer them such assistance as was in his power to render.
The Bashaw, who knew that some of the twenty-two officers he had bagged were members of prominent American families who could afford to pay big ransoms, was so delighted with the capture that he did not at first treat the captives severely. They were allowed to wander among groves of olive, fig, and lemon trees, and, on feast days, were sprinkled with attar of roses and fumigated with frankincense, while slaves served them coffee and sherbet.
The under-officers and sailors were at first treated with some consideration. The carpenters, riggers, and sailmakers were employed in making repairs on the[Pg 114] Bashaw’s gun-boats. The seamen worked on fortifications. These men, by working overtime, earned a little money, which they usually spent for drink. The Mussulmans hated drunkenness. When they saw a drunken American, they spat in his face. Jack, in turn, thrashed the offender. Arrest and punishment followed, but the Moslems who guarded the slaves were subject to bribery and lightened their blows.
When the sailor was sentenced to receive blows on his bare feet, the guard would cover the soles with straw pads, telling the culprit to yell as if he were being hurt, as the chief of the guards was standing outside to tell by the cries whether the punishment was being administered.
The comfort of the officers was soon to end. Reuben showed me letters received from Tom Bowles written at this period that were full of bitter complaints. It appeared that the Bashaw summoned Captain Bainbridge to his presence and told him that one of his ships had been captured by the American war vessel John Adams, and that if their prisoners were not released the officers and men of the Philadelphia would be severely treated. Captain Bainbridge was not able to give a reply that satisfied the ruler. The Bashaw then ordered that he and his men be removed to a foul dungeon. There, in a room once used for smoking hides, they were obliged to remain without food except a little black bread and water.
A renegade Scotchman named Lisle, in the employ of the Bashaw, visited Captain Bainbridge here and urged him to send a message to the John Adams to release the prisoners.
Captain Bainbridge answered: “Your ruler can subject me to torture and can lop off my head, but he can not[Pg 115] force me to commit an act incompatible with the character of an American officer.”
When Captain Bainbridge learned that the Bashaw of Tripoli designed to use the Philadelphia as the chief ship of his own navy, he was greatly distressed.
With the aid of the Danish consul Nissen, he managed to write a letter to Commodore Preble, who was on his way to blockade Tripoli. This letter he wrote in lemon juice, which, when the paper is held to the fire, becomes readable. This letter Commodore Preble showed to the officers and enlisted men of the squadron, and even gave us permission to copy it for keepsakes in honor of Captain Bainbridge’s pluck and resourcefulness. In the letter the latter advanced this plan for destroying his frigate:
“Charter a small merchant schooner, fill her with men and have her commanded by fearless and determined officers. Let the vessel enter the harbor at night, with her men secreted below deck; steer her directly on board the frigate and then let the officers and men board, sword in hand, and there is no doubt of their success. It will be necessary to take several good rowboats in order to facilitate the retreat after the enterprise has been accomplished. The frigate in her present condition is a powerful auxiliary battery for the defense of the harbor. Though it will be impossible to remove her from anchorage and thus restore this beautiful vessel to our navy, yet, as she may and no doubt will be repaired, an important end will be gained by her destruction.”
How faithfully this plan was carried out by Commodore Preble and his men, I shall soon show.
WE BLOW UP THE PHILADELPHIA
Reuben, Samuel and other members of our crew attended a theatrical performance in Malta during a period in which our ship was detained in that harbor by a gale.
There were British ships in port and the contacts of their crews with men from our ships was seldom friendly. The little affair of the Revolution had not yet been forgotten, and, besides, the British habit of impressing us did not contribute towards a harmonious spirit. This island was one of England’s fortresses in those waters and, of course, Englishmen abounded.
We saw in the theatre several of our midshipmen, looking very spruce in their dress uniforms, with brass buttons shining and with flashing dirks hanging by light chains from their hips. Among them was Joseph Bainbridge, the younger brother of Captain William Bainbridge. He was a slender, bright-eyed, manly young fellow, the most popular middie aboard the Constitution.
The group were standing in the lobby as we entered. We saw a crowd of young British officers looking them over with an air that came near to being insulting. Our middies were returning their gaze boldly and with even more insolence.
One of the British officers, a tall, handsome fellow looking very fine in his scarlet coat with silk braid, collided with Bainbridge in the lobby.
“I beg your pardon,” we heard young Bainbridge say. The lads had been warned by the captain to avoid quarrels and Bainbridge, we could see, was trying to obey the command.
“That fellow pushed Joe on purpose,” said Reuben, clenching his huge fist. “I’ve heard of that pusher—he’s Captain Tyler, the Governor’s secretary, a bad man in a duel. He has a dozen deaths to his credit, and is itching to add an American life to his score!”
When the performance was over—the singer Carlotta had entertained us well—we went out behind the middies, as a sort of rear-guard. We weren’t looking for trouble, but if those lads got into a tussle, we felt that they might need aid from some plain sailors.
Captain Tyrone Tyler was standing where Bainbridge and his comrades had to pass. He gave young Bainbridge a dig with his elbow, whereupon our middy turned and spoke to him sharply. Tyler then jammed his elbow into the middy’s face, and with his other hand tried to seize our lad by the collar.
“Rough work—stand by!” said Reuben to us. We pushed forward.
Bainbridge, however, had eluded Tyler’s grasp.
His hand went out towards his tormentor, but it had a card in it.
“You are a bully and a coward,” he said as cool as ice, “and I welcome the duty of putting a stop to your insults to American officers.”
Tyler took the card from him. The comrades of both men closed in.
“It’ll be a duel,” said Reuben, in great disgust, “and our lad will go up against that killer! Why didn’t he decide to let us settle it with our fists?”
As the two parties separated, Reuben glanced towards another part of the lobby. “What ho,” he exclaimed, “there’s Lieutenant Decatur looking on! He’d have taken part in the affair, you can bet your boots!”
Stephen Decatur, first lieutenant of the Constitution, followed the midshipman out of the theatre. We saw him approach Bainbridge and draw him away from the other middies, who were as flustered as hens.
We learned later that the meeting was to be on the beach the next day at nine o’clock. You may be sure that every man Jack of us was on the lookout to see if Lieutenant Decatur intended to permit Bainbridge to go ashore. When we saw them go off together in the cutter there was little work done among the crew. It looked to us as if the midshipman was on his way to sure death, and we decided that Decatur was going to seek a way out of the quarrel for the lad.
Reuben shook his head. “That would be against the honor of the United States’ navy. Decatur may give him a lesson or two in duelling, but he’ll see the thing through. They’re leaving the ship a full hour and a half before the time set—I’ll wager there’ll be pistol practice somewhere.”
About half-past nine a boat put out from the shore. There were two officers in it and both sat upright and chatted to each other. Could it be that——?
An hour later, young Bainbridge told us what had happened. Decatur, as the second of Bainbridge, had chosen pistols at four paces. Tyler’s second objected. “This looks like murder, sir!” he said to Decatur.
The lieutenant replied: “No sir, this looks like death; your friend is a professed duellist; mine is inexperienced.”
Decatur gave the warning: “Take aim!” and then “Fire!” Both, through agitation, missed. Again they faced each other. The pistols were discharged simultaneously. Tyler fell. A surgeon hurried towards him, while Bainbridge turned to Decatur. “I don’t think his bullet touched me!” he said.
“I thank God for that!” said the lieutenant. “I fear it is not so well with your adversary, but he invited it. Let’s be off!” They passed poor Tyler, lying mortally wounded, and lifted their hats as they went.
Reuben James, ever since I met him, had talked Decatur, Decatur, Decatur. He idolized him. During our country’s affair with France he had served on a frigate on which Decatur was a midshipman, and the exploits of the young officer had so appealed to Reuben that he would have followed the youth into the mouth of death.
And indeed, what Reuben told me about Decatur made me also a fervent worshipper.
My own state was proud to claim Decatur as a son, for he was born in Sinnepuxent, Maryland. He was of the blood of Lafayette. His father and grandfather had been naval officers before him; and the former had served with honor on our side in the war of the Revolution.
This, however, was not his first experience in these waters. He had been an officer in Captain Dale’s squadron, serving on the Essex under Captain Bainbridge. Bainbridge and he had been linked in an affair that made him eager now to help his imprisoned friend. The commander of a Spanish gunboat insulted Captain Bainbridge at long distance while the Essex lay in the harbor[Pg 120] of Barcelona. Later Decatur was also insulted. Decatur visited the gunboat.
“Where is your captain?” he demanded of the officer on duty.
“He has gone ashore,” was the reply.
“Tell him that Lieutenant Decatur, of the frigate Essex, pronounces him a cowardly scoundrel, and that when they meet on shore he will cut his ears off!”
The matter came to the attention of the commandant of the port, who requested Captain Bainbridge to curb his fiery officer. The captain replied that if the gunboat commander did not know how to be courteous to American officers he must take the consequences. The commandant thereupon ordered the gunboat captain to apologize to Decatur. The matter reached the ears of the King of Spain.
“Treat all officers of the United States with courtesy,” he ordered, “and especially those attached to the United States frigate Essex.”
DECATUR’S BRILLIANT EXPLOIT
Seventy volunteers were required to help Lieutenant Decatur blow up the Philadelphia. Seventy volunteers—that meant that I had a chance to go. Fortunately, I was one of the first to hear the orders read, and thus had an opportunity to apply before others. Captain Eaton was on board the Siren, returning from sitting at the court of inquiry, when Lieutenant Stewart, commander of the Siren, read to him orders he had just received from Commodore Preble. I, as orderly to Captain Eaton, was present at the reading. Plain and direct was the message, but thrilling enough without flourishes.
I stepped forward.
“Pardon me, Sir,” I said, “but I want to be one of the seventy volunteers. I speak also for Reuben James. Reuben has served under Lieutenant Decatur at other times, and he’d be heartbroken to be left behind.”
I realized as I waited for a reply that I had done a bold thing. I was not supposed to be hearing the letter read, much less acting upon it. However, Lieutenant Stewart was not strict about discipline and he took no offence at my act.
“Your name goes down!” he said, “also Reuben James, though he’ll be given a chance to speak for himself. You show the right spirit, young man, but don’t feel lofty about it, for I expect any other man of our navy would have said the same thing if he were standing in your place.”
Properly humbled, I went off to tell Reuben James that he had me to thank for gaining him an adventure.
Lieutenant Stewart’s prediction came true. The crews of the squadron actually fought with each other for a chance to go. Decatur’s name to them spelt romance. His exploits had been on every man’s lips.
The crew of the ketch Intrepid having been chosen, off we started. It was sundown when we drifted into the harbor of Tripoli. We approached the city knowing that a sudden fear of attack had swept over Tripoli; that the forts were manned; the guns loaded, and a sharp watch kept.
We learned later that the Moslem guards congratulated themselves when they saw the ketch entering the harbor, thinking that it was manned by good Mohammedans who had had the shrewdness to escape blockading ships.
The gates of the city were shut. The Captain of the Port would not inspect the ship until morning. The[Pg 122] call of the muezzin sounded over the still waters of the bay. Night fell on the city.
On board the Intrepid all of the crew, except six men disguised as Moors, were concealed below deck or behind bulwarks. Our ketch drifted towards the Philadelphia. A sentinel on the frigate hailed us, but the answer came back from our Maltese pilot in the sentry’s own language to the effect that the ketch had lost her anchors during a recent gale and wished to make fast to the anchors of the Philadelphia until new ones could be purchased the next morning. As if taking permission for granted, Lieutenant Decatur directed Blake, a sailor who spoke Maltese, and Reuben and myself to set out from the ketch in a small boat for the purpose of fastening a line to a ring-bolt on the frigate’s bow. When this was done, the sailors on the ketch were to haul on the line, to bring our boat nearer to the frigate. The men hidden behind the bulwarks caught the rope as it came through the hands of their disguised comrades, and helped in the hauling.
Suspecting nothing, the Moslems on the Philadelphia sent in turn a small boat with a line to aid in mooring the Intrepid, but Blake met them and took the line from their hands, saying, in broken Maltese:
“We will save the gentlemen the trouble.”
So far so good. But now, as the ketch was being hauled in by the bow line, the pull of the stern line swung her broadside towards the Tripolitans, and the guards on the Philadelphia saw the men who, under the screen of the bulwarks, were hauling in the line.
“Americanos! Americanos!” we heard them shriek.
Swift action followed on the part of Decatur. The hidden sailors sprang into the open and gave the line a[Pg 123] pull that sent the ketch close to the Philadelphia. An Arab cut the rope, but the Americans were now near enough to throw grapnels.
“Boarders away!” Decatur shouted. We in the boat clambered up the sides of the Philadelphia. The rest of the seventy climbed like cats over the vessel’s rail with Midshipman Morris in the lead and Decatur at his heels. The Philadelphia’s deck was home ground to many of us, and in a moment we had cleared the quarterdecks of the enemy. Then, in a cutlass charge, we drove the panic-stricken crew before us. Some of the infidels leaped overboard. Others sought refuge below, but died at the hands of sailors who had climbed through the ports. In ten minutes’ time a rocket went up from the Americans to signal to the Siren that the Philadelphia had been taken.
Combustibles had been rushed on board. Firing gangs were distributed through the ship. So swift was the work and so fierce was the blaze that Midshipman Morris and his gang, who were setting fire to the cockpit, were almost cut off by flames started elsewhere. From the portholes on both sides the flames leaped out, enveloping the upper deck. I saw that Decatur was the last to leave the ship.
The ketch, when all of the boarding party had returned to it in safety, had its period of danger too, for while it was still fastened at the frigate’s stern, flames poured from the cabin of the Philadelphia into the cabin of the ketch where the ammunition was stored. The line was instantly severed. The crew laboring desperately with the big sweeps, eight to a side, pushed the Intrepid clear of the burning vessel and headed for the sea.
At last the flames reached the magazine of the vessel,[Pg 124] which burst with a tremendous roar. Great sheets of flames arose and sparks flew like a storm of stars over the waters of the harbor. This was the end of the good ship Philadelphia.
Every man on the Intrepid returned without injury. Lord Nelson later declared this exploit to be “the most bold and daring act of the age.” Decatur was made a captain. He received a letter from the Secretary of the Navy, and noted with joy that it was addressed to “Stephen Decatur, Esq., Captain in the Navy of the United States.” His pride increased when he read:
“The achievement of this brilliant enterprise reflects the highest honor on all the officers and men concerned. You have acquitted yourself in a manner which justifies the high confidence we have reposed in your valor and your skill. The President has desired me to convey to you his thanks for your gallant conduct on this occasion, and he likewise requests that you will in his name thank each individual of your gallant band for their honorable and valorous support, rendered the more honorable from its having been volunteered. As a testimonial of the President’s high opinion of your gallant conduct in this instance, he sends you the enclosed commission.”
Some people asked if the Philadelphia could not have been saved, though Commodore Preble’s orders were to destroy her. We heard one of the captive officers of the frigate say later:
“I know of nothing which could have rendered it impracticable to the captors to have taken the Philadelphia out of the harbor of Tripoli.” The pilot on board the ketch, Catalona, was of the same opinion. Decatur [Pg 125]himself told his wife that he believed that he could have towed the ship out, even if he could not have sailed her.
But Commodore Preble, in setting down explicit orders to destroy her, had written: “I was well informed that her situation was such as to render it impossible to bring her out.”
He wrote thus because Captain Bainbridge himself had written:
“By chartering a merchant vessel and sending her into the harbor with men secreted, and steering directly on board the frigate, it might be effected without any or a trifling loss. It would not be possible to carry the frigate out, owing to the difficulty of the channel.”
The main object was to get the Philadelphia out of the possession of Tripoli. This Decatur did without risking the success of his enterprise.
THE AMERICAN EAGLE ENTERS THE AFRICAN DESERT
Hotter and hotter grew our campaign. Thicker and faster adventures came. I could not be in the center of all of them, but I had reason to be glad that I had been with Captain Eaton in Tunis, because now he was returning to the seat of war to launch an attack, and I, because of his friendship for me, was granted the chance to go along. This new enterprise came about in this way.
Captain Bainbridge, I was told by Captain Eaton, while a prisoner in Tripoli, observed in the Bashaw’s court three forlorn children. He inquired who they were.
“They are the children of Hamet Bashaw,” a guard informed him. “Hamet Bashaw is the elder brother of our ruler, Joseph Bashaw. Hamet occupied this throne, until Joseph set on foot a rebellion and drove him out. Hamet fled to Egypt, and his children were captured by our monarch’s troops. They are now held here as hostages, to insure that Hamet will make no attempts to regain the kingdom.”
“That gives me an idea,” Captain Bainbridge remarked to his officers, and he set to work to plan to unite against Joseph the forces of Hamet and the United States.
The lemon juice was again used as ink. In his letter to one of the consuls, the captain suggested that the United States should send a party out to find Hamet and persuade him to lead a movement to regain his throne, using in the campaign marines and sailors of the American navy.
It was this scheme, proposed to him while he was in Tunis, that Captain Eaton advanced when he visited the Navy Department. He returned to the fleet with permission to join forces with Hamet.
My employer’s enterprise seemed at first thought to be doomed to failure. Most naval men disapproved and Captain Murray, then in command of the Gibraltar squadron, opposed it strenuously. Captain Eaton’s title of “Naval Agent” was also resented by Murray and other officers. The captain met their attacks with his usual vigor.
“The government,” he burst out, “may as well send out Quaker meeting-houses to float about this sea as frigates with Murrays in command. The friendly salutes he may receive and return at Gibraltar produce nothing at Tripoli. Have we but one Truxton and one Sterret in the United States?” Later, he included Preble and Decatur in his list of worthy officers.
Our first task, then, was to find Hamet, whom Joseph had displaced as ruler of Tripoli.
In the finding of Hamet we were greatly assisted by a German engineer named Leitensdorfer, who had been a colonel in a Tyrol battalion. At this period he was at Cairo, employed as a military engineer by the Turks. News came to him that Captain Eaton desired a secret agent to deliver a message to Hamet. He deserted the Turks and sought Captain Eaton, who employed him.
With one attendant and two dromedaries, he entered the desert in search of the Arab tribe that had given shelter to Hamet. The only sleep he secured was what he could snatch on the back of his beast; he fed his animals small balls composed of meal and eggs. Reaching the camp in safety, he was cordially received, and refreshed with coffee. Hamet agreed to the American proposals, and one night with one hundred and fifty followers, he rode away from the Mameluke camp as if on an ordinary ride, but instead he rode to our camp with Leitensdorfer.
It had been decided that our route of march should be over the Libyan desert, along the sea-coast, to the town of Derne. The Viceroy at Alexandria, bribed by the French consul, forbade us to enter the city or to embark from the harbor. We were not troubled by this order, however, because Hamet said that if he went by ship along the coast while the Arabs were left to cross the desert, they would soon lose heart and turn back.
Our object in attacking the Tripolitan cities of Derne and Bengazi was to cut off the enemy’s food supplies; to open a channel for intercourse with the inland tribes; and to use these cities as recruiting places for our attack on Tripoli.
The desert lay ahead of us—the place of which an ancient traveler once said: “How can one live where not a drop of rain falls; where not a single dish is to be had; where butter can no more be procured than the philosopher’s stone; where wheat is the diet of kings alone; where the common man lives on dates, and fever has its headquarters?”
Except for oases here and there, the Libyan desert is so barren that there is no animal life. At the oases,[Pg 129] towns have been in existence since the days of the Romans. In one of these, Ghadames, the streets are covered from the sun, and give the traveler the impression that he is entering a mine. Caravan roads run from oasis to oasis. Donkeys, horses and cattle are used as beasts of burden, but the camel is the chief of desert animals.
Tripoli extends for many hundreds of miles along the coast from Tunis to Egypt. Its cities and oases contain about a million people. Along its caravan routes traders bring ostrich feathers, elephant tusks, and other products from Central Africa to be shipped to Europe.
Into this desert we push, a motley army. Arab adventurers have gathered around Hamet, sheiks and tribesmen who are moved only by a hope of plunder and reward. Our own American forces can be depended on, but how few they are. The six marines are a good-natured, independent set, sufficient unto themselves. They look at the Greek soldiers whom the Greek captain has enlisted with great amusement, for the Greeks wear kilts. However, they too are good-humored, and the Americans and Greeks may be counted on to stick together, being Christians, against the semi-hostile infidels.
Our food consists of dates, figs, apricots, camel’s meat, and camel’s milk. After a while even these will grow scarce and famine will confront us as it confronted Jacob and his sons in this same country, but for the present let us not look forward to hunger.
At the front of our caravan, on swift camels bred for racing, ride the sheiks. Trained to be on the watch for robber bands, they survey the horizon keenly, although our expedition is so large that there is little need[Pg 130] to fear attack. Thieves will steal up to plunder at night, but they dare not attempt robbery in force.
Behind these picturesque chiefs, come the freight camels, loaded with all kinds of equipment and supplies. They are drab and sullen as the desert itself. On these beasts ride their owners, Bedouins in long, white or brown gowns, wrapped so that only their faces may be seen.
Our water we carry in pigskins, loaded on certain camels. There are also jugs of oil. The water tastes like the pigskin, and it almost sickens one to drink it.
We follow no path or road; there is none; yet our guides know the way by rocks and hills or other marks. At night the stars are our only guides, but the march has been arranged so that we camp near a well or spring every night.
When we stop to rest, the camels kneel down to be relieved of their burdens. Their feet are examined to see if they have been bruised, and such wounds are treated and bound up, after which the camels are hobbled to keep them from running away.
Meanwhile, our tents are being pitched. We smooth out the soft sand to make a comfortable bed. We have brought fuel with us, and with this a fire is made. Guards are stationed, and we sleep with our guns near our hands. The Mohammedans in our party, after first rubbing their faces and hands with sand because water is not to be had, kneel in prayer.
During the day the sun beats upon us with almost unbearable heat, and as there are no clouds in the sky, the sun’s rays, striking against the white sand, almost blind us, while to make things more uncomfortable, the camels raise a thick dust. We understand now why the Arabs[Pg 131] wear cloths about their heads. We follow their example, and cut slits in the cloths for eyes and nose. After the sun goes down it is better for traveling.
It is lucky for us that we are sailors and used to a rolling motion, for the motion of the camel is like that of a ship.
A sand storm comes. A small black cloud arises and grows till in a short time it has half covered the sky. The sand begins to blow, and beats into our faces like hail. We stop the caravan; the camels kneel; and fighting off terror, we lie down with our faces in the ground beside the beasts. The blowing sand is so thick that it hides the sun.
The storm passes quickly. There has been, for all the blackness of the clouds, no drop of rain.
After the sun goes down, the air becomes cool and blankets are needed. The sky is full of low-hanging stars and the moon is big and mellow.
Once in a while we meet a wandering tribe that moves from green place to green place with their animals, living in tents of camels’-hair cloth. “Aleikoom salaam!” (Peace be with you!) they call to us, bobbing up and down on their camels. “Salaam aleikoom!” (With you be peace!) we answer. Bands of robbers appear in the distance. At the oases we meet farmers who are not given to roving. They have priests and sheiks, and worship in mosques, and raise grain and vegetables. Once in a while a hospitable sheik roasts a kid on a stick and invites us to dine. Fingers are forks here. We find it so highly seasoned with red pepper that our mouths burn and our eyes water.
The approach of a caravan is picturesque and exciting. First you hear a moaning sound like the wailing of a[Pg 132] strong wind through a clump of trees. Then a cloud appears on the horizon. In a few moments you see that this cloud is of dust, and that in its midst are scores of camels. The rumbling noise you heard is found to be merely the gurgling sound that camels make.
It was also interesting to observe a caravan go into camp. The foreleg of each camel was folded and tied to keep the beast from wandering; baby camels, their white coats contrasting strongly with the dark brown color of their parents’ coats, knelt by their hobbled mothers.
The owners of the camels busied themselves in driving stakes for their tents, while the women occupied themselves by arranging the palanquins in which they and their little ones traveled on the backs of the camels. These palanquins are no more or less than woolen tents made of red blankets supported on the camels’ backs by a framework of tree branches. The camel’s hump is wrapped around by woolen stuffs and on each side of the hump a woman sits, surrounded by babies and bundles, but protected by the canopy from the sun.
At some of the oases we passed we saw bronzed, graceful women and girls weaving carpets and ornamenting veils and blankets. Two women worked at an upright loom. One of these spinners unwound the skeins of wool while the other wove, using her fingers as a shuttle. Peeping into one of their tents I saw the entire family sitting around a wooden dish, into which all dipped, while kids and dogs tried to poke their heads between the children, eager to have a share in the repast.
The date palms were the principal trees at these oases. Nature, when this land became a desert, yet provided the date palm to sustain the life of the desert people. Each[Pg 133] tree yields a hundred pounds or more of dates yearly for a century. The green dates taste like unripe persimmons but the ripe dates are sugary and delicious. The Arabs call the date the bread of the desert and besides using it as a main food, feed it also to their camels and dogs.
It was on March 6th, 1805, that we broke camp and began our fifty days’ march across the desert—a journey that required all of the American grit we could muster to carry on. Hunger and rebellion and the wavering of Hamet himself had to be endured, and Arab chiefs had continually to be coaxed and bribed.
There were ten Americans in the party: General Eaton, Lieutenant O’Bannon; Mr. Peck, a non-commissioned officer, six marines, and myself. The rest of the force was composed of a party of twenty-five cannoniers and their three officers; thirty-eight Greek soldiers and their two officers; Hamet Bashaw’s company of ninety men; and a party of Arab cavalry under the command of the Sheiks il Taiib and Mahamet, including footmen and camel drivers. Our entire force numbered about four hundred and our caravan consisted of one hundred and seven camels and a few asses.
THE SHEIKS REBEL
After a day’s march the first trouble occurred. The owners of the camels and horses we had hired demanded pay in advance, but General Eaton foresaw that if the money were advanced they would be in a position to desert if they became dissatisfied, and he refused to comply with their demands. They then became mutinous. To make matters worse the Sheik il Taiib insinuated to them that if they performed their services without [Pg 134]getting paid, we would be apt to cheat them out of their wages.
General Eaton appealed to Hamet but found him undecided and despondent, and at last he made a bold move by ordering the Christians to take up their arms and to march back to Alexandria, threatening to abandon both the expedition and Hamet unless the march proceeded forward at once. The expedition was resumed.
After we had marched about seventy-five miles through low sand valleys and rocky, desert plains, a courier met us, sent to us by some of Hamet’s friends at Derne. He informed us that the province was arming to assist our cause.
We chanced to be near the ruins of a castle of Greek design. Because of the good news the Arabs entertained us with feats of horsemanship, firing their rifles as they rode. This sport, however, came close to bringing on a serious disaster. Our Arabs, who were on foot and who were yet at a distance, bringing up the baggage, heard the firing and thought that we had been attacked by wild Arabs of the desert. Thereupon they attempted to disarm and put to death the Christians who were in their party. One old Arab, however, advised them to postpone the slaughter until they learned the cause of the firing. This counsel they heeded, and the lives of the Christians were saved.
One night, not long after, a musket, a bayonet, cartridges, and all of our stores of cheese were stolen from one of our tents by the Arabs.
When we had reached an ancient castle in the desert called by the Arabs, Masroscan, another rebellion occurred. Here we found vestiges of old walls, gardens, and mansions that showed that people of refined tastes[Pg 137] had lived there in the dim past. Now a few Arab families lived in tents among the ruins. Here and there were patches of wheat and barley, and miserable cattle, sheep, goats, and fowl searched the ground for sustenance.
We learned that the Bashaw had directed the caravan to proceed only to as far as this place, and that its owners had received no part of their promised pay. General Eaton’s cash was low, but he managed to borrow one hundred and forty dollars among the Christian officers and men, and turned over to Hamet Bashaw six hundred and seventy-three dollars, with which he settled the claims of the chiefs of the caravan. Upon this they agreed to march two days more, but in the night all these camel-drivers withdrew and turned their camels towards Egypt.
Hamet Bashaw favored leaving the baggage at the castle and marching on in the hope of hiring other camels, but, since we were now without cash, General Eaton rejected this advice, as it would mean proceeding without provisions and with no money to obtain fresh supplies.
Then the mischief-maker, Sheik il Taiib, reinforced by other sheiks, declared that they would proceed no farther until we had sent forward a messenger to learn if our American warships were awaiting our arrival at Bomba, a sea-coast town on the route to Derne. These chiefs had heard that an army of cavalry and foot soldiers had been sent from Tripoli to the defence of Derne, and they wanted assurances that our navy was at hand to help us against them.
“We will delay for no messenger!” General Eaton declared, “as long as you halt here I will stop your rations.”
To his companions he said: “If they persist in their[Pg 138] course, we will seize the castle, fortify ourselves, and send word to our fleet to send a naval expedition to our relief!”
Then he added: “We have marched a distance of two hundred miles through an inhospitable waste of world, but we are bound across this gloomy desert on pursuits vastly different from those which lead fanatics to Mecca; we go to liberate three hundred Americans from the chains of barbarism!”
WE ARE BOUND ACROSS THIS GLOOMY DESERT
“WE ARE BOUND ACROSS THIS GLOOMY DESERT TO LIBERATE
THREE HUNDRED AMERICANS FROM THE CHAINS OF
On the next morning we found that General Eaton’s firm stand had had its effect, for fifty camels were reassembled by the sheiks and the march was resumed. After traveling twenty-five miles we came to a high, green place by the sea where three tribes of Arabs, numbering four thousand, lived. Around them were vast herds of camels, horses, cattle, and countless flocks of sheep and goats.
We were the first Christians these wild people had ever seen. They laughed at our dress, but showed great respect towards our officers. Our polished arms filled them with amazement, and the gold lace on the General’s hat, and his epaulettes, buttons and spurs awed them. They thought that the ornaments were gold and silver, and expressed astonishment that God should permit people, who followed what they called the religion of the devil, to possess such riches. They offered us for sale whatever food or articles they possessed, including such rarities as young gazelles and ostriches. They offered us also dates that had been brought in a five days’ journey from the interior of Africa. We desired to buy all that was offered, but, we had only our rice to trade for their products, which greatly restricted our purchasing power.[Pg 139] Here we found water in plenty, the rain having been caught and preserved in natural caverns of rock.
These Arab tribes had never seen bread. When we offered them hard biscuit, they broke it with their shepherds’ clubs or their hatchets and tasted it gingerly, but then, liking the taste, they begged us for more.
THE DESERT GIRL
Attracted by the sound of a drum, beating rhythmically and unceasingly, we strolled after sunset to the entrance of an Arab tent. Old women, with straggling hair and wizened faces, and with eyes ablaze with excitement, were pounding the drum. The tent was thronged with young men and women, who watched tensely and eagerly the dancers in their center. Only young women were dancing. The dance was in honor of a holy man, and was called the djdib.
Women, urged on by the drum and by the cries of the spectators, whirled and swayed. Their heads rocked from side to side like tree-tops in a tempest. The spirit of the dance had taken possession of them and urged them on until there was no more strength left in their lithe bodies.
They danced until they became exhausted, then others threw aside their scarves and renewed the dance.
I saw a golden-haired girl of about fifteen standing among the tawny Arab girls. The contrast between her quiet beauty and the bold charms of her companions drew the attention of all of the members of our party. I pointed her out to General Eaton. He began to wonder aloud as to whether she was one of the Circassian race, brought down from the mountains by Arabian bandits in some raid, or whether she was of Anglo-Saxon stock.
“She must be a Circassian,” he concluded, “it is [Pg 141]unbelievable that an English or American girl should be owned by this desert tribe!”
An old woman poked her hatchet-shaped face into that of the young girl.
“Go and dance! All these years you have been under the protection of Allah. Who is this Nazarene—that you place him above Mohammed and his saints? Go and dance. Give your spirit to the djinn! May Allah wither your budding beauty if you refuse to worship his saint in the dance!”
She seized the young girl by her thick sash and pulled her into the center. The band of ribbon that had bound her golden hair became loose; her hair poured like a flood of gold over her shoulders. She stood trembling amidst the wild dancers, some of whom, in their frenzy, were digging her with their sharp elbows.
The drum beat insistently, but the girl did not obey its urge to dance. She stood trembling, and now she raised her eyes towards us with a pleading that roused us to interfere.
General Eaton motioned to a sheik.
“We would not interrupt the dance, or offend the hospitality of this tent in any way. But that girl seems to be of our blood, and the dance is strange to her. Would it not offend the marabout in whose honor you dance to have a Nazarene take part? What is worship of the hands and feet if the heart is not submissive too? I pray you, permit the girl to withdraw.”
The young Arabs cast hostile glances at us, but the sheik was good-natured and was expecting rich gifts from the general. He called the girl to him. She came quickly. He spoke to her in Arabic, and she withdrew to an alcove.
“She is an adopted daughter of our tribe,” he explained.
The famine lay heavily upon this people. Perhaps it was due to the biscuits we offered this tribe that our interference with their ceremony was not hotly resented. Perhaps, indeed, the famine was responsible for their next move.
An old woman came out of the alcove that had hidden the girl and came directly to General Eaton. “The fair-haired one is a trouble to me,” she said. “We have given her food and shelter for many years, yet when we speak to her of marriage, she weeps. When we tell her that we will sell her to become a dancing-girl in the bazaars and cafes if she will not wed one of our young men, she threatens to kill herself! Lovelier damsels than she have gone into the harem, happy to have a lord who will keep them from want. And there are worse lives than to dance at the fantasias of rich men, and to win the approval of the cafes. The girl is ungrateful and a burden to us. Our own children are starving. Give us money to buy food and take the unthankful girl!”
“Let the girl be summoned,” said the general. She came forth, glancing from the Sheik Abdullah to General Eaton with fear in her eyes.
“My girl,” said the general through an interpreter, “these people have offered you for sale. My purpose in buying you would be to find you a good home, where you will be brought up in the way of people of your color and race. Do you consent?” She looked at him as if she could not believe her ears, then sobbed, then nodded earnestly.
“Done!” thundered the general, “I call on Sheik Abdullah to witness that the offer has been made and [Pg 143]accepted. I shall be liberal, too! Tell me what price such girls bring at the slave-market in Murzuk and it shall be paid.”
The money was poured into the old hag’s outstretched palms. The members of her family gathered round to gloat over it. The young Arabs laughed at the prospect of food. The departure of the girl in our company did not cause them the slightest concern. Maidens are held cheaply in the Sahara. A swift camel is worth more than a girl. What value has a Nazarene maiden compared with food for one’s own famished children?
The general, to shield the girl as much as possible from the curious soldiers, gave her a tent where she dwelt alone, watched over by an old Nubian woman who had become attached to our party in Egypt and had been taken along for her value as a cook.
The general told a group of us briefly that the girl remembered little of her early life. There was a vague remembrance of a mother who had lived among these dark people. There came a day when she went out of her life and a scolding Arab woman took her place.
The girl and her black servant traveled on donkeys. A young sheik, a friend of the sheik, who had sold the girl to our party, joined Hamet’s forces at this village. I wondered if he had planned to add the maiden to his circle of wives.
HAMET BASHAW LOSES HIS TEMPER
A courier from Derne met us here with news that Joseph’s army was approaching Derne. This caused a panic among our Arabs, and even Hamet seemed to be in doubt as to whether it were wise to proceed. I was[Pg 144] forming a rather low opinion of his bravery, but tried to lose such thoughts by thinking that if he were a hundred times less a man he would be better than his brother. Some of the camel drivers fled. We heard, too, that many of Hamet’s followers were planning to turn back. General Eaton again stopped their rations and ordered that no food be served them until they marched forward. The general had a lion’s heart and was a born leader. Obstacles like these only served to bring out his firm qualities.
The Sheik il Taiib was again the center of the revolt, since he had resolved to go no farther until news arrived that our vessels were awaiting us at Bomba. When General Eaton reproached him for his want of courage and fidelity, he flew into a rage and put himself at the head of such Arabs as would follow him, which was about half of our force, and started back to Egypt. Hamet begged General Eaton to send an officer to pacify him and persuade him to return, but the General refused.
“We have paid him for his services,” he declared, “and we have a right to expect that he be faithful to his pledge; I will not permit him to dictate measures to us!”
“But he may take part against us,” pleaded frightened Hamet.
“Let him do it,” the general answered, “I like an open enemy better than a treacherous friend!”
We continued our march. Messengers then arrived from the rebellious sheik, assuring us that he was really on his way back to Egypt.
The general sent word back to him: “I will take vigorous steps for the recovery of the cash and property you have drawn from me by fraud!”
In a few hours a new messenger arrived with the [Pg 145]information that the Sheik il Taiib would join us if we halted to await his coming.
At last his caravan hove in sight.
“You see,” he said to the general, to mask his defeat, “what influence I have among these people!”
“Yes,” returned the general, “and I see also the disgraceful use you make of it!”
On the next day, the sheik having been quieted for a time, Hamet himself again showed signs of turning back. Separating his Moslem party from us, he took from our officers the horses he had loaned us for the passage through the desert. When General Eaton reproached him for his indecision and lack of perseverance, high words followed. We marched on; Hamet turned back, but after two hours had passed he rejoined us, complimented the general on his firmness, and said that he had been forced to pretend that he was falling in with the wishes of his people, so that he might in the end manage them.
The next day brought the same daily measure of trouble. Several sheiks quarreled with Sheik il Taiib over the distribution of the money that Hamet had paid them, and had quitted camp. We could not proceed without them because they exercised a powerful influence over the Arab tribes near Derne, whose support we were counting on. Hamet rode after them to persuade them to be loyal to us, and in his absence Sheik il Taiib took the stage again, demanding that the general issue more rations.
“Remember,” he said threateningly, “You are in a desert, and a country not your own! I am a greater man here than you or the Bashaw!”
The general retorted: “I have found you at the head[Pg 146] of every commotion which has happened since we left Alexandria. You are the cause of the present trouble among the chiefs. Leave my tent! But mark: if I find a mutiny in the camp I will put you to death as the man who produced it.”
The sheik left the tent and rode away with other chiefs. A few hours later, however, he returned and swore that he was devoted to the general; that some secret enemy had told lies about him; that he would even abandon the Bashaw to follow us; and hoped that at Derne he would have the opportunity to show that he was a man.
Our next halt came when some of the Arab chiefs insisted on riding off to an oasis called Seewauk for a supply of dates. They promised to rejoin our party at Bomba. We halted to discuss the matter.
While this matter was being debated we visited an Arab camp nearby. We found that the young men and women, although copper-colored, were handsome and well-formed. The women did not veil, and were modest and bashful in their deportment. The general complimented the wife of the chief on her beauty. She smiled and said there were more beautiful women in camp than herself and brought in a group of girls to prove it. But the general gallantly held to his first opinion.
Our soldiers were fond of dates, and to secure them from the girls they gave as payment the buttons on their uniforms, which the women strung as ornaments about their necks.
We were fortunate enough to see a marriage in the Arab camp. Two camels bearing canopies resembling wagon tops covered with Smyrna carpeting, passed along, to the noise of volleys of muskets. The bride and groom[Pg 147] rode separately in these canopies, attended by elderly women, adult unmarried girls, and by mounted Arabs.
The women chanted a savage kind of song; the men performed daring feats of horsemanship, and young men and girls danced between the camels. In this manner they circled their tents and our encampment. Then the camel carrying the bride was driven seven times around a tent that had been assigned to her. The animal was then made to kneel, the door of the canopy was opened, and the bride was pitched headfirst into the tent, where her women companions were reciting a benediction.
We were told that presents were expected. We gave a little money to an old Arab woman who had taken the leading part in the celebration, supposing her to be the mother of the bride. The general also invited an Arab of about fifty-five years to his tent to receive an extra present of provisions. Upon questioning the Arab as to the ages of the bride and groom, we learned that he himself was the groom; that the bride was a girl of thirteen years; and that the woman we had supposed to be her mother was another wife of the groom.
THE ALLIES QUARREL
Now arose a crisis that threatened more than any of the previous ones the success of our movement. Indeed, even the lives of all of the Christian members of the expedition were at stake. When we had reached a spot about ninety miles from Bomba, we found ourselves facing a famine. We had only six days’ rations of rice, no bread nor meat, nor other ration. General Eaton was therefore anxious that we move forward to Bomba as swiftly as possible, but Hamet, while the general was out of camp, ordered the expedition to halt and announced[Pg 148] that the troops needed a day’s rest. The reason for his act, we learned, was that he might send a courier to see if our ships were indeed awaiting us at Bomba.
The general stopped the rations when he found that his army had halted, and Hamet, influenced by his Arab hosts, prepared again to march in a direction away from Derne. The Arabs tried to seize the weapons of the Christians, and General Eaton promptly called us to arms. We stood in a row before the magazine tent, guarding our guns from those who would use them to slaughter us. When the crowd had fallen back, the general ordered us to proceed with our daily drill. Seeing this, an Arab chief shouted:
“The Christians are preparing to fire on us!”
Hamet put himself at their head, with drawn sword, as if he feared that such was our intention.
General Eaton stood firmly facing the threatening host of Turks and Arabs. Around him clustered a little group: O’Bannon, Peck, Farquhar, Leitensdorfer, Selem Aga, the Greek officers, and myself. I tried my best to keep the gun in my hand from shivering, but the more I tried the more my hand trembled. Two hundred mounted Turks and Arabs advanced in full charge against us. The end was in sight. We leveled our muskets. I thought of Alexander and the Rector and said a prayer.
“Do not shoot until all hope of peace is gone—then sell your lives dearly!” General Eaton said.
The charging Arabs swerved and withdrew, but when we began to breathe more freely, they came closer, and this time we could see them selecting us as their targets. It did not seem that any of us Christians could survive five minutes longer. An Arab youth snapped a pistol at[Pg 149] my breast. Providentially it missed fire. If one bullet had been fired, war to the death between the two sides would have resulted. A moment later we heard the command of “fire!” ring out from among the Arabs.
“At the first shot, give them a volley!” General Eaton ordered.
At this critical instant, one of Hamet’s officers ran out towards the mutineers and cried: “For God’s sake, do not fire! The Christians are our friends!”
Then the general, although a column of muskets was aimed at his breast, approached Hamet and demanded of him how he could support such desperate acts. The Bashaw wavered. A chorus of furious whoops from the Arabs drowned the general’s voice. He waved his hand as a signal for attention. In response, some of the more kindly disposed chiefs rode before the Arabs with drawn sabres and ordered the infuriated tribesmen to fall back.
The general again reproached Hamet for his weakness, and even Hamet’s chief officer asked the Bashaw if he had lost his senses. The latter, in a fury, struck his officer with his drawn sabre. The fracas began again and had nearly reached its former heat when General Eaton seized Hamet by the arm and drew him away from his people.
“Can it be,” the general exclaimed, “that you have forgotten who your true friends are, and where your interests lie?”
Hamet melted. He called the general his protector and friend; lamented that he lost his temper so easily, and ordered the Arabs to disperse.
General Eaton agreed to issue a ration of rice if the Bashaw promised march would be resumed early the next morning. This pledge was made and peace [Pg 150]returned. Then we saw a sorry sight. At least two of the white men had acted like cowards and had hidden themselves among the tents. They now came slinking forth to stammer excuses that, you may be sure, were received stonily by us. We again went forward, but after we had marched twenty-five miles our rice became exhausted, and we were now without rations.
With starvation threatening us, Hamet killed a camel, and also gave one in exchange for sheep, that were also slaughtered. The meat, however, had to be eaten without bread or salt. As we went on the hunger increased, and we saw the Arabs searching the plain for roots and vegetable substances on which they might subsist. A water famine was almost always with us. At one time we were obliged to drink from a cistern in which we had found the bodies of two murdered Arabs.
For the first time in my life I realized the meaning of such passages of Scripture as:
“The Lord is my Shepherd. I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures;
He leadeth me beside the still waters.”
While facing yet another insurrection, this time of the gunners, a courier arrived from Bomba with the news that our ships were off both that place and Derne. This gave us new strength and courage and ended the mutiny, and so at last we came to Bomba.
There, however, we found that the vessel that had been seen had departed. The fat was in the fire again, with the Arabs abusing us as impostors and infidels and threatening to leave us, if they did nothing worse.
But oh, the resourcefulness of our general! Withdrawing with the Christians to a high hill nearby, he ordered that a huge fire be kept burning on its crest all[Pg 151] night; the next morning as the Turks and Arabs were scattering, to go to their homes, when the end of the expedition seemed indeed to be in sight, we saw from the top of the hill a sail. The United States’ ship Argus, with Captain Hull in command was approaching. The next day the sloop Hornet arrived, laden with provisions. We then refreshed ourselves and our famished army, and unloaded from the Hornet the provisions necessary to feed us on the march to Derne.
The worst of the journey was over. We were approaching cultivated land. To keep the inhabitants from becoming hostile to us the Bashaw sent a herald through the camp to cry:
“He who fears God and feels attachment to Hamet Bashaw will be careful to destroy nothing. Let no one touch the growing harvest. He who transgresses shall lose his right hand!”
I now heard shrieks from the tent that sheltered the girl we had rescued by purchase from the Arabs. I saw two camels standing beside the tent, held by a young Arab who looked towards us furtively. It flashed across my mind that the young sheik whom I had suspected of an intention to add the girl to his household had seized upon the moment when we were engaged in putting down a rebellion to kidnap the girl. I rushed to the tent, followed by an Arab lad Mustapha, who also came from the girl’s village, and who had shown an humble devotion to her by daily giving to the negress for the maiden a share of his ration of dates.
As we reached the door of the tent the sheik emerged with the girl in his arms. I jabbed the point of my pistol into his face while Mustapha plunged earthward in an effort to stay his strides toward the camels. The lad’s[Pg 152] attack was so vigorous that the sheik sprawled face downward into the sand, while the girl, released by his stumble, fell into my arms for support.
She was pale with terror and leaned against me like a broken lily. General Eaton, having pacified Hamet and his supporters, came dashing between me and the kidnapper, who had seized his knife and risen to his feet. I still menaced him with my pistol, but the general forbade me to fire.
“He richly deserves death,” he whispered, taking in at a glance the situation, “but to fire a shot would cause a general battle and the defeat of our plans.” He then turned to the scowling chief.
“Mount your camel and go,” he said. “Hamet Bashaw wants no one in his ranks who, under pretense of loyalty to a cause, comes to steal a girl who despises him.”
The Arab, without replying, mounted his camel and rode away with his attendant. We saw a small group detach themselves from the main body and follow him.
“A good riddance!” the general muttered. Then, seeing Mustapha, he delighted the youth by saying, “You, my boy, are worth a hundred such fellows!”
The Nubian woman, who had been choked into insensibility, now staggered out of the tent and relieved me of my burden—one that I was none too glad to surrender.
The girl murmured something to me in Arabic as she re-entered the tent, including Mustapha in her glance. I looked at him questioningly.
“She said,” the lad explained, “that her heart is overflowing with gratitude to you and myself for rescuing her.”
General Eaton ordered that the maiden’s tent be continually guarded after that. I managed to be selected for[Pg 153] sentinel duty more often than anyone else. Mustapha also stood guard with me. The girl sat in the door of her tent looking up to the stars. With Mustapha interpreting, we chatted. I told her about America and Baltimore and assured her that once she was out of the desert, a happy life would open for her. She asked shy questions about the girls of the United States—what they wore; how they occupied themselves. I heard her and the Nubian woman laughing when I said, rather abruptly, that I had not paid attention to the looks and habits of girls at home. I taught her a few words of English—”America,” “ship,” “friend,” “good morning,” and “good night.”
When we reached Derne, a few days after the encounter I have described took place, the girl went aboard one of the American warships. The last I saw of her was when she stepped timidly into a cutter, assisted by General Eaton. I stood on the shore watching. I saw her glancing back at the shore and I am sure I saw a motion of her hand in response to my furious waving. From that hour I began thinking of home more than I had ever thought of it before. And Mustapha and I, when we walked back to our tents, never spoke a word to each other the whole way.
REUBEN JAMES SAVES DECATUR’S LIFE
The fleet had not been idle while we fought our way across the desert. Letters awaited us at Bomba, brought us by one of the naval vessels. A long epistle, with a thrill in every paragraph, was the combined work of Samuel Childs and Reuben James. It gave an account of the gallant way in which Reuben saved his idol Stephen Decatur’s life in a hand-to-hand conflict between the crews of our gunboats and those of the corsairs. The part describing Reuben’s part was written by Samuel, and bore in the margin a sentence of protest scrawled by the modest Reuben. Here is the story as I gleaned it:
The gunboats were sent in to attack the enemy’s fleet in two divisions, one led by Stephen Decatur and the other by Richard Somers. The Moslems were past masters of this art of boarding. Decatur and Somers were therefore leading their men to do battle with these ferocious fighters under severe handicaps.
Our habit of boarding dismayed Joseph. He had thought that his men were invincible in a fight on a ship’s deck.
The mode of attack used by the corsairs was always by boarding. Their vessels were so made that it was easy for them to go on board an enemy. Their lateen yards were so long that they projected over the deck of the vessel approached. The infidels used these as a[Pg 155] passageway from their vessel to the prize. Then, from all points of their riggings and from all quarters of their decks, the pirates would leap on board the attacked ship. That they might have free use of their hands in climbing the gunwales of the vessel, they carried their sabres grasped between their teeth, and had loaded pistols in their belts. As they swarmed aboard, thus armed, they were a terrifying sight. They were taught by their religion that if they died in battle with Christians their salvation was assured, so they fought desperately. But Joseph, scornful of America, without knowing what fighters her sons were, now found his fiercest warriors slain by men who could board ship and give battle on deck with even more strength and bravery than his own captains.
Decatur, who had charge of the foremost three boats, had to bear the brunt of the fighting. Opposed to his three boats were nine Tripolitan boats, well armed and crowded with men.
Reuben James was in Decatur’s boat. The first gun Decatur fired was loaded with a thousand musket balls in a bag. The shot wrought terrific damage on board the vessel selected for the attack. The captain fell dead with fourteen of the musket balls lodged in his body. Thus far Captain Decatur had had easy work.
Lieutenant James Decatur, Stephen’s brother, had commanded the second boat. He had been treacherously slain. The Moor in charge of the boat he attacked hauled down its flag at the first fire. James Decatur then directed his men to board, but as his boat approached the Tripolitan craft, the cunning captain shot Decatur dead, and while the dismayed Americans gathered around their leader, the Moor hauled off his boat.
News soon reached Stephen of the loss of his brother and away he went in vengeful pursuit of the slayer of James. He overhauled the boat and led his men aboard in a fierce charge. Reuben was at his heels. The Moorish captain was a powerful brute; he had all the weapons a man could carry, and he was as desperate as a treed wildcat.
Stephen Decatur, however, went at his huge foe in a way that meant death either to the Moor or himself. The infidel met Decatur’s rush with his pike, while Decatur depended on his sword. Reuben James was busy disposing of an infidel. Before he tackled another, he looked to see what headway the captain was making. Imagine how taken aback he was to see Decatur staggering back from a pike stab in the breast. He slashed his way towards his leader, but, as luck would have it, a shot lodged in his right hand and a moment later a jab from a spear disabled his left arm.
Meanwhile Decatur, nothing daunted by his wound, had brought his sword into play. The blade, meeting a savage blow from the pike, broke off at the hilt. Reuben saw Decatur dart in past the Moor’s weapon, and grapple with him. An Arab sneaked up in the captain’s rear and aimed a blow at his head. Reuben then threw his own disabled body between Decatur and his second foe. The blow landed on his head, and he sank to the deck crippled and half senseless. He could see Decatur and the Moorish captain fall to the deck, with the infidel on top. The Moor had one arm free and with it he drew a knife. Reuben closed his eyes. Then he heard a shot and opened them again. In Decatur’s hand was a smoking pistol, and the slayer of his brother lay dead at the captain’s feet.
From the rest of the letter I gathered facts that gave me a fair idea of the progress of the campaign.
The third boat in Decatur’s division was commanded by John Trippe, sailing master. Trippe killed a Moorish captain in much the same manner as Decatur slew his adversary. As he led his men across the side of a Tripolitan vessel, his own boat was swept away from the side before all of his party could board. Thus Trippe, with another officer and nine men, was left to face thirty-six infidels. Trippe determined, as his one hope of victory, to kill the captain, a man of great height and strength. He came as near to death as did Decatur, receiving eleven wounds. At last, when the Moor had forced him down so that he was fighting with one knee on deck, he caught his foe off guard and stabbed him to death with a pike. Fourteen of the infidels had been slain by the Americans and the remaining twenty-two now surrendered. None of the Americans were killed. Richard Somers, who commanded the other three boats, was prevented from following Decatur along the inside route he took, yet he found means to capture three Moorish gunboats and to sink three others.
Reuben James passes out of my story here, but it is due him that I skip several years and tell how when doctors were about to amputate, because an old wound had diseased a bone in his leg, he exclaimed: “Doctor, you are the captain, Sir. Fire away; but I don’t think it is shipshape to put me under jury masts when I have just come into harbor.”
From other correspondence we learned how Commodore Preble, while his gunboats were thus engaged, sailed into the harbor on board the Constitution, with Captain Chauncey in command, and bombarded the forts. The[Pg 158] ship was excellently handled. Her crew tacked and made sail under the guns of the enemy with as much coolness and skill as if there were no guns trained on them. Several times the Constitution passed within three cables’ length of the batteries on shore, and silenced them. But the moment the frigate passed on, the silenced batteries were manned again. The monarch had thousands of soldiers at his command and continued to drive fresh gunners to the batteries.
On another day a Tripolitan fleet of five gunboats and two galleys came out to attempt to capture or destroy certain gunboats of the American fleet lying near the harbor. Commodore Preble signaled to the brigs and schooners under his command to meet the raiders, and these ships poured such a hot fire upon the Moslem flotilla that they were forced to turn back.
The grape-shot fired by the Americans during these engagements swept the enemy’s decks of men, and worried the gunmen on shore so badly that it spoiled their aim, so that the Constitution was but slightly damaged, and had none killed and only one man wounded.
THE DEATH OF SOMERS
Now, came news of the tragedy of the campaign. It was decided to use the ketch Intrepid as a fireship to destroy the enemy’s shipping. Captain Somers volunteered to take command of her, and Lieutenant Wadsworth volunteered to go with him. Ten men went with them—six volunteers from the Constitution and four volunteers from the Nautilus. Two small boats were taken, so that the party could escape from the floating mine after they had lighted the fuses. The Intrepid started upon her perilous duty on September 4th. [Pg 159]Lieutenant Joseph Israel of the Constitution arrived at the moment of getting under way and asked permission to go along. Somers consented.
The night was dark, and the other American ships soon lost sight of the ketch. She was discovered, however, by the Tripolitans as she was entering the harbor, and their batteries opened fire.
Suddenly, the night was lit by terrifying flashes. A series of explosions shook land and water. A shower of sparks arose. The powder on board the Intrepid had prematurely exploded, and left nothing on the face of the harbor but scorched fragments. All of her officers and men were killed. Their mangled bodies floated ashore and were found by the people of Tripoli.
What caused the explosion remains a mystery. Commodore Preble thought that the Intrepid had been attacked and boarded by a Tripolitan gun-boat, and that Captain Somers, rather than be taken captive, himself exploded the powder; or else that the fire from the batteries caused so much damage that Somers saw that escape was impossible and chose death to surrender. This reasoning was partly based on the fact that Somers and his men had boasted that they would die rather than be captured. The squadron was greatly affected by this tragedy. Decatur had special reason to grieve, because Somers had been his schoolmate, and had given Decatur, before sailing, tokens to remember him by if he did not return.
I learned with amazement that Commodore Preble had been recalled. Although he had conducted a fight that had won for the American navy lasting glory, the navy department had thought it best to call him home and to put Commodore Samuel Barron, who was his senior, in[Pg 160] his place. Commodore Preble was notified of this with much praise and apology. No wonder was it that his going was lamented. His fifty-three officers joined in a letter of regret. English officers praised his work. The Pope said that “the American commander, with a small force and in a short space of time, had done more for the cause of Christianity than the most powerful nations of Christendom had done for ages.”
The Commodore had labored under great handicaps. Congress had not supported his requests for ships and supplies, and those that came were long delayed. The food sent him was poor. He was forced to depend largely on foreign seamen.
Commodore Preble was deeply regretful at not being able to carry the campaign against Tripoli through to final victory, and also mortified that, with success in sight, he should be recalled. He went home an almost heartbroken man, although his record must stand out as one of the most brilliant in our naval history.
If the bold Preble had continued in command of the squadron, there is little doubt that when he saw what Eaton was doing at Derne he would have begun an attack on Tripoli that would have brought Joseph Bashaw to his knees.
The one good reason advanced as to why General Eaton’s expedition should have ended at Derne was that if it approached Tripoli, the Americans held prisoners there might have been killed by Joseph Bashaw when his city was attacked. He threatened that, in an extremity, he would slay the prisoners. Several of the officers who were in captivity held this fear. Yet Commodore Rodgers wrote afterwards to the Secretary of the Navy:
“I never thought myself that the lives of the American prisoners were in any danger.” Lieutenant Wormely, a midshipman held in captivity, also testified before a Senate committee that: “I do not believe that there was any danger to be apprehended for our lives.”
WE CAPTURE THE DESERT CITY OF DERNE
“An army, composed in part of Americans, but chiefly of the descendants of the ancient Grecians, Egyptians and Arabians; in other words, an army collected from the four quarters of the globe, and led by an American commander to conquest and glory, is a phenomenon in military history calculated to attract the attention of the world, not only by its novelty, but by its real influence and consequence. It ought to be considered, too, that this army, notwithstanding the singularity of its organization and character, and the smallness of its number and its means, acted in a cause that might be thought to affect, at least in some remote degree, the general interest of mankind. Since the destruction of Cato, and his little senate at Utica, the banner of freedom had never waved in that desert and barbarous quarter of the globe; and he who carried it so nobly, in the language of the resolution, through the desert of Libya, and placed it so triumphantly upon the African shore of the Mediterranean deserves to be honorably distinguished by that country and that government, to which the enterprise has added lustre.”
—Speech made by James Elliott, Representative from Vermont, before the House of Representatives.
Every step we took, I could tell by the rector’s map, which now I daily consulted, was taking me to that section of the coast where the treasure lay buried. We had hard fighting ahead of us, and all of my energies were needed to help our cause, yet I was determined to[Pg 163] find enough time to make the search. The problem of finding a trustworthy person who could read for me the Arabic inscription on the map had been solved through my friendship with Mustapha, who had acquired a fair education in Egypt. I planned to go to Tokra under his guidance. My plans worked out well, but in a different way from that which I proposed.
The first duty ahead of our army—a task that must be done before any treasure hunt could be thought of—was the capture of Derne. The city of Tokra lay beyond Derne. Our army, if it went on to Tripoli, must pass near it. The coast was clear—if Derne were captured by us. Little did I think that the ill fortunes of our soldiers should send me forth at last to fulfill my long-cherished aim.
Two days after leaving Bomba, we camped on a height that overlooks Derne, and reconnoitered. We had reached the climax of our march. We learned that the governor of the place had decided to defend the city against us. We learned also that the army Joseph Bashaw had sent from Tripoli was making a forced march to Derne and might arrive before the return of our vessels, which had been blown out to sea in a gale. This information alarmed the Turks and Arabs. Hamet, we observed, again seemed to be ready for flight. The Sheik il Taiib, who had promised to prove himself a valiant man at Derne, quitted the camp.
Several chiefs came out from Derne to assure Hamet of their faith. They told us that the city was divided into three departments; that two of these favored Hamet and one Joseph, but that the department that favored Joseph was strongest and had control of the guns.
General Eaton had sent a messenger to the governor under a flag of truce with this message:
“I want no territory. With me is advancing the real sovereign of your country—give us a passage through your city; and for the supplies of which we shall have need, you shall receive fair pay. Let no differences of religion induce us to shed the blood of harmless men who think little and know nothing. If you are a man of liberal mind you will not hesitate. Hamet Bashaw pledged himself to me that you shall be established in your government. I shall see you tomorrow in a way of your choice.
The flag of truce was sent back to the general by the governor with this answer:
“My head or yours!”
“We shall see whose head it will be!” General Eaton declared.
Having learned that the army from Tripoli was only a four hours’ march distant, the general determined to attack the city before it had time to arrive.
On the next morning the Argus, Hornet and Nautilus appeared off the coast, and on a signal sailed in toward the city. The general at once began the assault. The fleet sent a few guns ashore to assist us in the land attack, and then the three vessels opened fire on the city’s batteries.
The Governor of Derne had mounted a battery of eight nine-pounders along the water-front; had thrown up breastworks along the unprotected parts of the city; and had mounted cannon on the terrace of his palace and on the roofs of certain buildings. We heard that[Pg 167] he possessed an army of eight hundred men, in addition to such citizens as would fight with him.
General Eaton, with a detachment actively commanded by Lieutenant O’Bannon, consisting of the six American marines, twenty-four gunners, twenty-six Greeks, and a few Arabs, attacked the temporary forts that had been thrown up in the southeast section of the town. Hamet Bashaw attacked and captured an old castle on the southwest, and drew up his cavalry on this site. I fought beside the general, and a stiff business it was. The enemy’s musketry was so warm that our troops were thrown into confusion. To counteract this, the general ordered a charge. The enemy had flocked to the point where we advanced, so that we had to fight as ten to one. The infidels waged a guerrilla warfare, dashing out of their hiding-places and then, in retreat, firing from behind every palm tree and wall along their way.
The battery was at last silenced by the fire of our ships, and most of the gunners retired to join the forces opposed to us. Yet on we went, passing through a shower of bullets from the walls of houses. Soon we reached the battery, and wrested it from its defenders. I had the honor of planting, amidst cheers from my comrades, the American flag on the wall—an honor indeed, since this was the first time the American flag had been raised on a fort of the old world. Then we turned the guns on the infidels and drove them back into the houses, where they could only fire at us from behind walls.
AMERICAN FLAG HAD BEEN RAISED
THIS WAS THE FIRST TIME AN AMERICAN FLAG HAD BEEN
RAISED ON A FORT OF THE OLD WORLD.
Our ships, which had suspended their fire during our charge, now resumed bombarding the houses that sheltered the governor and his men.
The deadly fire of the ships terrified the already faint-hearted forces there, and they began to flee in [Pg 168]disorder. Hamet’s troops captured the governor’s castle, and his cavalry pursued the flying foe. By four o’clock in the afternoon we were in full possession of the city, the action having lasted about two hours and a half. Of the Christians who fought there were fourteen killed and wounded. Three of these were American marines; two dead and one wounded. The rest of the dead were Greeks. Our Grecian allies showed great bravery and were worthy descendants of the ancient heroes of their race.
THE GOVERNOR FLEES
The governor fled first to a mosque; then to the abode of an old sheik.
“I must lay hold of him!” General Eaton said. “He is the third man in rank in the entire kingdom of Tripoli, and we can use him to exchange for Captain Bainbridge!”
The general, in great zeal to take the governor captive, now marched at the head of fifty Christians with bayonets to that remote section in which the fugitive had found refuge. The aged chief who sheltered him, however, vowed that the laws of hospitality would be violated if he permitted us to take the governor, and refused to yield him up to us.
General Eaton explained that the Governor had rejected peace terms; had challenged us and been beaten at his post; was still in a conquered town, and was by all the laws of war a prisoner. The sheik remained firm.
The citizens of Derne began to look at us with hostile eyes.
“The Christians no longer respect the customs of our fathers and our laws of hospitality,” they exclaimed.
Hamet Bashaw, fearful that the people would be[Pg 169] turned against him if we seized the governor against the old sheik’s wishes, persuaded the general to postpone the attempt.
We had been in possession of Derne about a week when the army sent from Tripoli arrived and planted their camp on the ground we had occupied. Meanwhile, General Eaton had fortified the city as strongly as possible.
We found ourselves facing enemies within and foes without, because the people of the town, true to their nature, were now debating which army would be the most likely to win, so that they might be on the victor’s side. The late governor, we learned, was the leader in trying to persuade the people of the city to revolt against us.
On May 18th the troops from Tripoli advanced towards the city in order of battle, but when General Eaton marshalled his forces to meet them they halted, conferred, and then retired. We found out later that the Beys in charge of the enemy’s forces had tried day after day to persuade the Arabs under them to attack. They had refused, stating that Joseph Bashaw must send them aid before they would attempt to conquer the city.
“We have,” they said, “not only our lives to preserve, but also the lives of our families. Hamet has possession of the town; his Christian allies possess the batteries; these, together with the great guns of the American ships, would destroy us if we attacked!”
The Beys then demanded of the Arabs that they permit their camels to be used to protect the front and flanks of the assaulting forces, but this too was refused.
Word came to General Eaton that Hassien Bey, commander of the enemy’s forces, had offered six thousand[Pg 170] dollars for his head, and double that sum if he were brought as a prisoner. We heard also that thirty dollars had been offered for the head of an ordinary Christian.
Then there came to our camp a Bedouin holy man who had previously been befriended by the general. He whispered that two women, one in our camp and one in Derne, had been employed by Hassien Bey to poison our commander. In payment for this service they had already been given presents of diamond rings. The saint cautioned the General not to accept any presents of pastry, preserves or fruit.
A few days later, the forces of Hassien Bey gave battle. He was assisted by Muhamed, Bey of Bengazi; Muhamed, Bey of Derne, and Imhamed, Bey of Ogna. Under them were one thousand mounted Arabs and two thousand Arabs on foot. On the night before, Muhamed, the former governor of Derne, had escaped into Hassien Bey’s camp, and had told him that our numbers on shore were far less than the general had supposed. Encouraged by this information Hassien Bey ordered the attack.
About nine o’clock in the morning his troops appeared, under five standards, and attacked about one hundred of Hamet’s cavalry, who had been stationed about a mile from town. The cavalry fought bravely but were forced to retreat. The Argus and Nautilus trained their guns on the enemy, and we in town bombarded them with our battery and field pieces, but by taking advantage of walls they penetrated the town up to the palace that sheltered Hamet. Here they were met by a hot rifle fire from Hamet’s supporters, but they held their ground stubbornly, determined to capture Hamet.
The general was wondering whether with the small[Pg 171] force in charge of the battery he dare risk a sortie to defend Hamet, when fortunately a shot from one of our nine-pounders killed two mounted enemies near the palace.
Instantly they sounded a retreat and fled from all quarters. Hamet’s cavalry pursued them. In their flight they again came within range of our ships’ guns, and these poured into their ranks a galling fire.
We were told later by an Italian slave who escaped from their camp that they had lost twenty-eight men killed and that fifty-six of their number had been wounded by our fire.
This defeat took the heart out of the Arabs supporting the Beys. Officers and soldiers began to desert to us from the enemy, and when Hassien Bey began to prepare for another assault by collecting camels that would be used as traveling breastworks, the Arabs recruited on the march refused to take part. They protested that they would have been willing to fight under ordinary circumstances, but that the Americans were firing balls that would kill both a rider and his horse, and that they would not expose themselves to such shots. They also complained that we rushed at them with bayonets, and would not give them time to reload their muskets!
Hearing these reports our fearless general tried to persuade Hamet to make a counter-attack, but without success. Skirmishes continued to occur. A few days after the battle, a company of the enemy attacked some Arab families who had camped in the rear of the town. Learning of the attack, the general headed a party of thirty-five Greeks and Americans, with a view to cutting off their retreat. We met them in a mountain’s ravine—the Greeks must have thought of the Spartans[Pg 172] at Thermopylae—and charged them with our bayonets. They broke and fled, hotly pursued. We killed their captain and five men, and took two prisoners. None of us were injured.
This affair put Hassien Bey in a frenzy. The next morning he came forward to revenge his cause, but again the Arabs mutinied and retreated, leaving Hassien and his soldiers to follow in humiliation back to their camp.
Hamet Bashaw had his turn at open fighting a few days later, and acquitted himself far better than we expected. The enemy appeared in great numbers on the heights overlooking the town, seeking a way to descend that would not expose them to the fire of our guns. They found a pass and started to descend to the plain below, but here Hamet’s cavalry met them and, as reinforcements joined each side, the battle increased in size until there were five thousand men engaged. The fighting lasted four hours, during which Hamet held his ground like a true general. It was a battle fought in the Barbary style, for the field of conflict was beyond the range of our batteries, and we were rejoiced to learn that the victory belonged to Hamet. The enemy lost fifty men killed, and had over seventy wounded, while of the forces of Hamet, the killed and wounded amounted together to about fifty. We had lost respect for Hamet during our march across the desert, but his gallantry in this engagement restored confidence.
Lieutenant O’Bannon was eager to lead our Americans and Greeks out to hold the pass by which the enemy must retreat with our bayonets, but the general decided wisely that it would be unwise to leave the batteries undefended, since Hamet Bashaw’s forces might suffer a reverse.
THE CAMPAIGN BLOCKED
Our prolonged stay at Derne had begun to worry both the general and Hamet. I saw them frequently conferring with great seriousness, and heard General Eaton say that if the aid, money, and supplies had come which he hoped would be awaiting him at Derne, he might now be at Cape Mensurat, and in fifteen days after, at Tripoli.
My wonder as to what there was being discussed by the general and Hamet Bashaw was cleared away somewhat by the arrival of a spy from the enemy’s camp, who informed us that a courier had arrived, eleven days from Tripoli, with dispatches from the reigning Bashaw stating that he intended to make peace with the United States, even if he had to sell his wardrobe to do so. This was a great change of front; a change caused, we all felt sure, by our conquest of Derne, and by our openly avowed determination to capture Tripoli in the same manner.
Then there came a letter from Commodore Barron which informed General Eaton that the United States must withdraw her support from Hamet, since Consul Lear was making a peace with Joseph.
The general wrote hotly in reply: “I cannot be persuaded that the abandoning of Hamet is in keeping with those principles of honor and justice which I know actuate the national breast. But, if no further aids come, and we are compelled to leave the place, humanity itself must weep; the whole city of Derne, together with numerous families of Arabs, who attached themselves to Hamet Bashaw, and who resisted Joseph’s troops in expectation of help from us, must be left to their fate;[Pg 174] havoc and slaughter must follow; not a soul of them can escape the savage vengeance of the enemy; instead of lending aid to the unfortunate people, we involve them in destruction.”
The general wrote also in protest to the Secretary of the Navy, stating that when Commodore Barron agreed to cooperate with Hamet there was no talk of the latter being used as a means of making peace with the reigning Bashaw; that nothing was talked of but punishment. The example of Commodore Preble, he stated, had fired the squadron which relieved him with an ambition to punish Joseph, and it was in the same spirit that he, General Eaton, was sent on his mission to bring Hamet to the rear of the enemy.
Shortly after these letters were dispatched, we had occasion to march through Derne.
“Long live the Americans! Long live our friends and protectors!” the people shouted.
The general bowed his head in shame.
General Eaton, in the opinion of all of us who marched with him, and of many with whom I afterwards talked, could well complain of the way he was treated by the United States Government. He had won at Derne a victory that many thought was superior to the naval victories won over Tripoli, and by his campaign had opened the way for a peace that saved the United States the payment of hundreds of thousands of dollars in warships and tribute money. Yet he had been allowed to enter upon his enterprise in such a manner that if successful the Administration would receive full credit for sending him, while if he failed, he could be blamed for acting without authority.
At Tripoli, peace was being made after this manner:[Pg 175] Colonel Lear, then at Malta, received a letter from the Spanish consul at Tripoli asking him to come to that place under a flag of truce, as the Bashaw wanted to discuss peace. A few weeks later Captain Bainbridge wrote to Commodore Barron that the Tripolitan minister of foreign affairs, Sidi Mohammed Dghiers, who was opposed to the war, was about to leave the city, and that it would be well to send an envoy to treat for peace before the minister left.
Colonel Lear sailed from Malta on the Essex, which joined the blockading frigates Constitution and President of Tripoli. The white flag hoisted by Lear was answered by the hoisting of a similar flag on the Bashaw’s castle. The terms agreed upon were that the United States was to pay him $60,000 for the ransom of the American captives remaining after an exchange of prisoners, man for man, had been made; that the American forces should withdraw from Derne, persuading Hamet to go with them; and that in the course of time Joseph was to restore to Hamet his wife and children.
The articles were signed on board the Constitution. A salute of twenty-one guns was then fired by the Bashaw’s battery and answered by the Constitution. The people of the city crowded to the wharves celebrating the making of peace. The released American officers and sailors ran to the wharves to leap into the barges that were to take them out of the hated town.
Sage men have predicted that the historians of the future would say that Colonel Lear acted unwisely in making the peace, and that if he had delayed for a few weeks, until bomb vessels and gunboats on the way from America had arrived, a squadron would have assembled before Tripoli that would have frightened the Bashaw[Pg 176] into agreement with any terms the United States’ fleet chose to lay down. That we should have had to pay ransom for the American captives at Tripoli after we had captured the powerful province of Derne, and with such a strong fleet in the Mediterranean, was not in accord with American traditions.
The act of Colonel Lear in making peace with the reigning Bashaw seems to have been for the purpose of blocking Eaton’s triumph. “Eaton,” said an officer holding a high place in the Mediterranean squadron, “was running away with the honor of the Tripolitan war. Between an army and navy jealousy is common. What had the navy done long before, after the achievement of Preble? Hence the readiness to snatch the first chance for peace.”
The politics of the matter gave me little concern. Here was General Eaton needing money. With money he could hire Arab tribes, buy caravans loaded with food, march on to Tripoli. Here was my opportunity, and my duty.
THE TREASURE TOMB
Through all my adventures in the desert campaign, from the time when we first faced the hot, choking winds of the desert and covered our eyes to keep from being blinded by the sand until the time when we lifted the Stars and Stripes on the ramparts of Derne, the thought of the treasure tomb had dwelt with me. According to the rector’s map, the buried chamber was within an hour’s ride by camel of Tokra, a town located between Derne and Tripoli, quite near to the former.
The coast of northern Africa jutted out into the Mediterranean at this point, and made it a favorable spot for settlement by Phoenicians and earlier races who ruled this sea.
When I perceived that Captain Eaton’s campaign against Tripoli had been blocked through lack of funds and that he himself had given up hope of receiving from our naval officers the money and supplies required to proceed against the stronghold of Joseph, I resolved to begin my treasure search in earnest, hoping to turn the gems and gold to the general’s use. I resolved to take Mustapha along as my guide. The attachment that had sprung up between us grew stronger as the weeks passed. He was an Arab to the backbone. He could run all day in the heat and fall asleep at night on bare stones. He was as quick and noiseless in his movements as a[Pg 178] wildcat, and his mood was a queer mixture of gentleness and fierceness. Having adopted me, he was fiercely jealous, and his brown face would become convulsed if strange Arab boys from any of the camps we passed tried to follow me.
One night, on swift camels which we borrowed from Mustapha’s sheik, we rode away from Derne. It was a foolhardy enterprise, because Joseph Bashaw’s army lay between us and Tokra, yet we managed to avoid their outposts and when morning broke we were well beyond their lines.
I had not taken the general into my confidence. He might have told me, to keep me from going on what he would consider a wild goose chase, that he would not avail himself of the gold, even if it were found. I felt too, since the rector had tried so hard to keep the facts concerning the treasure a secret, that I should not reveal it, even to those I trusted most.
We joined ourselves to a caravan as we approached Tokra. Mustapha had acquaintances among the camel-drivers, and his explanations created for us a kindly reception. Mingling thus with the Arabs, we rode into Tokra without attracting the attention of the people. That this was fortunate for me, I was soon to find out. A larger caravan had entered the town a few hours before us. Its people had thronged the cafés. As I rode through the narrow street, holding my hood well over my face to keep from being recognized as a hated “Nazarene,” I caught sight of a tall well-dressed Moor watching a group of dancing girls. His brilliant robe attracted my attention, then something familiar about his figure made me observe him more closely. My gaze traveled up his burly form to his bearded face. I could[Pg 179] see it only in profile, but the sight was enough to set me to trembling. I had recognized Murad.
He did not see us. In the café before which he lounged were girls of the Ouled-Nahil tribe, dancing. We could see over the heads of the men these stately creatures gliding and twisting to the music of clarionets and tam-tams. Their mountainous head-gear of plaited wool, bound by brilliantly-colored silk kerchiefs shook with the movements of their bodies. We could hear amidst the music the jingling of their bangles. I saw also a boy bring a live coal in a pair of tongs to Murad, so that the latter might light his long pipe.
A score of questions flashed through my mind. Had the Egyptian found the treasure, and was he now enjoying the wealth? Or had he been detained as I was in reaching this spot, and could it be that he had been a member of the newly arrived caravan? Did he mean to spend the night amidst the luxury of the café or would he soon come forth to hunt for the treasure tomb?
I decided from his manner that he had newly arrived, and that, for a few hours at least, he would smoke his pipe and drink his coffee and watch the dance. During those few hours I resolved to push my search.
When we found a spot in which I could examine the map without being observed I was puzzled to find that the location of the treasure tomb was set down as being not outside of the city, but in its very midst. Through Mustapha, I made inquiry of an old Arab. Yes, he said, in reply to my questions, there had been a temple there once. The reason the ruins could not be seen now was that successive tribes of Arabs had come and camped on the ruins until the soil and filth they had left behind them had covered the floors. There had been walls, but[Pg 180] they were now used for sheep folds, goat-yards, poultry-yards, donkey-sheds.
The rector’s exploration had been made also at night. The upper tomb he had found was known to everyone. It too had probably held riches, but it had been plundered centuries since. None of the later tribes had thought to look beneath it. The rector would not have had the curiosity to explore if it had not been that in Greece a scientist had discovered there double layers of tombs hewn out of the rocks.
Mustapha then translated to me the words written in Arabic at the foot of the diagram:
“Walk along the north wall of the town until there rises from the mud-huts and cattle-sheds a stone pillar that lifts about eight feet above the surrounding roofs. This pillar will mark the location of a tomb that is still respected as a holy place by the people of the town. Under the floor of this tomb, lies the treasure chamber. Its entrance is through the outer wall, where I dug out a stone. Pry along south wall below ground till triangular slab is found.”
Past clusters of mud-huts, dirt-heaps, piles of broken pottery, and odorous cattle-sheds we groped. The dogs barked and ran snarling about our feet, but Mustapha had magic words that soothed and hushed them. At last, against the star-filled skies, we saw a rugged pillar lift up. The huts and sheds stopped at this point, and for several rods there were no buildings. The loneliness of the spot I took as a good omen. It meant that I could dig with little fear of disturbance.
From the town came sounds of singing and shouting. Drinking and dancing and merry-making were engaging the people. With these unceasing noises drowning the clink of our spades, we began to dig.
The dirt and debris was loose, and our arms were winged by excitement and fear. I had told Mustapha that I expected that he should earn enough money on this trip to give him a university education at Fez, enough to make him respected as a sheik. Under the enchanting prospect, and for love of me, he toiled.
After ten minutes of digging, I took my dirk and felt along the side of the wall which we had uncovered. My dirk’s point entered a crevice. We dug again, frantically, and now I was able to trace all sides of the loose block of stone that acted as a bar to the entrance. Mustapha brought out his knife and aided me in the prying, and between us we managed to move the stone outwards as if it worked on hinges. I thought of the Arabian lad who entered the retreat of the Forty Thieves. I too had found an “Open Sesame” to riches. Were my eyes also to be dazzled by the sight of treasure?
The finding of the entrance, though it made me solemn, also created something of a sense of security, for now we could continue our search underground without attracting attention. One fear, however, still lingered, and moved me to frantic haste—Murad’s coming!
We lowered ourselves a depth of six feet into the rock room. The clammy moisture chilled our faces; the foul smell choked us. Lifting our torches, we peered into the darkness.
When our eyes grew accustomed to the gloom we found ourselves standing among several skeletons, which had the appearance of having been hurriedly buried. This discovery almost led us to a panicky retreat, but I had risked too much to be turned from my quest by skeletons, and I stepped across the bones and thrust my torch into the center regions. There, buried[Pg 182] in oblong chambers rudely hewn out of the rock floor of the cavern, I saw six bodies that had moldered to dust. Girding their bones, however, was jewelry such as I had never, even in my wildest dreams, imagined.
Upon the time-blackened skulls were headbands of gold. Covering the rib-bones were massive breast-plates of the same metal. As I held down my flame the delicately-wrought patterns of rosettes and palmettos with which these pieces were ornamented flashed out brilliantly. Upon the wrist-bones hung loosely serpent-shaped gold bracelets. From this rich metal dress jewels flamed out to match my beacon’s fire.
Around these rock tombs lay more treasures—inlaid daggers with images of cats engraved on their gold handles and with lotus patterns traced on their blades; alabaster cups, hollowed out and painted inside with a brilliant red; stone images of elks with heads of silver; jugs and cups of ivory, alabaster, amber, silver, gold, and porcelain.
Scholars have since told me that the ancients considered that the station of a person in the world of the dead depended upon the wealth with which he was buried. The people who buried these corpses had assuredly done their utmost to insure the eminence of their friends in the dominions of death. I did not pause to wonder whether these were the remains of Phoenicians, Egyptians or of a still earlier race that had dominated the Mediterranean and exacted toll of treasure from the surrounding barbaric tribes. Here the bodies lay. Above them, through the centuries, strange peoples had settled and passed; caravans had stopped and hurried on; dancing girls had whirled; dervishes had practiced sorceries, yet none dreamed of this cool tomb with its riches. The[Pg 183] stuff was here for my taking. Murad was hard on my heels. My lust for fortune overcame all thoughts of reverence for the dead.
“Open the sacks, Mustapha,” I said, “the smallest treasures are the most valuable. We will take what we can carry and trust to fortune for a chance to bring out the rest—or perhaps they will fall as crumbs to Murad!”
“Listen, master,” Mustapha whispered. Men’s voices came to us. I sprang in terror towards the entrance with Mustapha at my heels. As I peered out into the night my breath came again. The tinkle of camel bells came to reassure me. A caravan was entering Tokra, with no suspicion that they were passing within a stone’s throw of such wealth.
The capacious sacks loaded, I climbed out of the tomb by making a stepping-stone of Mustapha’s back. He hoisted up to me the three bags. I then leaned down and pulled him out. It was about midnight.
“Go to the stables,” I said, giving him a coin, “and tell Achmet the camel keeper that urgent business takes you back to Derne. Bring our camels—Achmet knows that they belong to you. Put the gold into his palm. Tell him that you are on business for Hamet Bashaw, who may conquer Tokra next week!”
“I know that he sympathizes with Hamet,” Mustapha assured me. “He will help us, and keep his tongue!”
While Mustapha was gone, I replaced the stone door and shoveled back the dirt. Mustapha returned with the camels. They knelt as we loaded the sacks upon them. Around them we piled the bags of dates that had already formed the camels’ freight. We turned towards Derne and rode like the wind.
Many hours would pass, I reasoned, before Murad[Pg 184] would begin his search. If then he suspected that the tomb had been robbed and made inquiries, many more hours must pass before he could start in pursuit.
As things happened, however, it was not from behind us that danger came. We came into the vicinity of Derne at nightfall, and drove our jaded camels as fast as we could make them fly, fearing always an encounter with the soldiers of Joseph Bashaw. We succeeded in gaining the city’s bounds with no adventure except passing through a volley fired at random by guards whom we passed too swiftly to permit them to arrest us, but as we rode through the town at gray dawn we observed no signs of our troops.
We learned from old Omar, an inn-keeper who came drowsily out to open for us, that the ship Constellation had arrived bearing orders to General Eaton to quit Derne at once, since Consul-General Lear had concluded a peace with Tripoli. He told us that General Eaton and all of the Christians in the party, together with Hamet Bashaw and his suite, had embarked on the Constellation in a secret manner, for fear that the people of Derne, and their allies, the Arab supporters of Hamet, would attempt to massacre the party when they found that the war had been abandoned and that they were left to the mercy of Joseph.
Omar described how, when General Eaton had barely gotten clear of the wharf, the soldiers and citizens of Derne had crowded down to the shore shouting prayers to the general and Hamet not to leave them to the mercy of Joseph’s soldiers. Finding their pleas of no avail, the soldiers had seized the horses the party had left behind, plundered the tents of the departing officers, and fled towards Egypt.
After this occurrence a Tripolitan officer, a messenger from Joseph Bashaw, had landed from the Constellation under a flag of truce, bearing a message to the people of Derne that Joseph Bashaw would pardon all who laid down their arms and renewed their allegiance to him. Joseph’s troops were to begin the occupancy of Derne that morning.
Omar shook his head.
“For myself, I fear nothing. Allah is good. Under his guidance I remained loyal to Joseph. The returning Governor will know that Omar is faithful. But as for my neighbors—let them not trust too much in the Bashaw’s promises. If I had fought on Hamet’s side I should flee to the mountains!”
Mustapha and I exchanged worried glances. Here we were abandoned by our friends and facing capture by Joseph’s soldiers when they entered the city. In that case, our gold and jewels would go to adorn the greedy Joseph’s throne. The main object of our treasure search, to provide the general with funds to continue the expedition, could not be carried out. There was nothing to do but flee—but where? From the camp of the enemy came sounds of soldiers assembling. The triumphal entry would soon begin.
“Cavalry! Mount! Escape!” cried Mustapha.
From a distance, swiftly coming nearer, we heard the sound of hoof-beats. Around the corner of the inn came a blaze of color. Galloping steeds were suddenly reined in. A Moorish officer, splendidly uniformed, came towards me. Mustapha, who had stood several yards away, began to lead his beast and mine down towards the river front.
“Alhamdulilah! (Praise be to God)” he sang, “My[Pg 186] lord the Bashaw returns to his own! The cowardly usurper Hamet has fled before Joseph Bashaw’s brave warriors!”
The troopers gave Mustapha but a fleeting glance. My head was uncovered and they saw that I was an American.
There was a whispered conference. American warships might be still in the mists that hid sea and shore. I had hopes that they would pass me by unmolested. Instead the officer turned to his men.
“Bind the Nazarene! One at least of the Christian dogs shall pay the penalty of starting rebellion against our worshipful ruler!”
I was bound hand and foot, thrown across a camel’s back, and led out of the city, to the enemy’s camp.
In the possession of an Arab lad, who was now as a lamb among wolves, were the gold and jewels I had risked so much to secure. One gem of the collection would have purchased my ransom, but knowing that a hint as to the contents of the sacks would lead to the loss of all of the treasure, I resolved to suffer slavery before I spoke of them. I prayed that Mustapha would keep the secret, yet how could I expect that fate would not reveal the contents of the sacks to covetous eyes?
SOLD INTO SLAVERY
My captor, the Moorish officer, was a native of Ghadames, an interior city of Tripoli—a caravan center located on a camel route to the Soudan. I was regarded by him as the spoils of war, and his purpose was clearly to sell me for a good price in an inland slave market where there would be no American consul to make inquiries. As soon as Derne was occupied, Joseph’s army disbanded and the soldiers whose property I was began to journey to their homes. Our caravan started too, and I found myself riding upon the most uncomfortable camel in the outfit, chained by one wrist to the trappings of the beast.
I decided to lose no chance to escape. I knew that the farther inland I went, the more difficult it would be for me to reach the coast. My thoughts dwelt upon the treasure-bags I had last seen flopping through the streets of Derne on Mustapha’s camels. I swore that my Arab comrade would see me again soon—and I devoutly hoped that his ingenuity would enable him to hide the treasure.
At last, when I was beginning to despair of falling in with a coastbound caravan, we met a huge one bound from the Soudan to Tripoli. In the excitement of meeting, and in the feasting and dancing that went on between the two parties, my guard forgot me. I had been unshackled while I ate, and the only sentinel over me[Pg 188] was a young Arab who had been stationed at the front entrance to my tent. I saw him looking yearningly at the Arab girls who were dancing. I snored loudly and regularly, watching his movements through the opening. Suddenly he disappeared. A moment later I vanished too. I hoped to escape with the Tripoli-bound caravan, and stole over to where its camel-drivers were gathered. I had made my color as dark as possible, and wore my long gown in true Arab fashion. I had learned, too, some common Arab words.
In the center of the crowd I saw an African snake-charmer. The fakir’s round, fleshy face shone like polished ebony, and when he grinned, which was often, I caught sight of two massive rows of gleaming ivory. He wore nothing but a breech-cloth and sandals. His body was covered with scars. These snake-charmers, I had heard, inflicted wounds upon themselves, sometimes through religious frenzy, and sometimes because it gave them prestige with their audiences.
This fakir influenced the people much in the same way that a street evangelist at home attracts listeners by music and loud words. In his train were several men who played cymbals and bagpipes. As soon as they began clanging and blowing upon these instruments, the crowd gathered.
I drew back, for fear that the fakir’s attentions to me would lead to discovery, but his eyes had singled me out from the minute of my approach, and he followed me, though not in a way to attract notice.
Alarmed, I was about to make a wild dash into the desert when he caught my arm. I drew back to strike.
“The saint Mohammed,” he said, catching my arm, “will harbor an escaping Nazarene so long as the [Pg 189]Nazarene is willing to clang the cymbals loudly in the name of Mohammed, and is active in collecting coins when the snakes have done squirming and the tales have been told. Two of my attendants have deserted me. I offer you a trip to the coast in my train.”
I nodded assent—any port in a storm!
“Bring forth the cymbals! Mohammed is welcome to any music I can make with them!” I said.
“Pay close attention to my motions and when I signal you, collect what coins you can. If any man question you, pretend to be dumb.”
He led me into his tent close by, procured for me a coarse robe that was an effectual disguise and applied a pigment to my skin. When he was through with me I looked like one of his own tribe. I went forth then and mingled with the throng, listening while Mohammed told tales in Arabic.
Fascinating indeed were Mohammed’s tricks. I watched in astonishment as he shaped a bundle of hay into a mound and covered the pile with water.
“By the grace of Mulai Ali, my patron saint,” he said, “I give this hay to the flames and command these serpents to respect the commands of the Prophet’s servant!”
With these words, he emptied a bag of snakes on the ground. They looked deadly as they wriggled about his feet and twined themselves around his body. I was told that their poison had not been removed, yet he held the head of the serpent that looked the most dangerous so close to him that its fangs almost touched his lips.
With feats of this nature, and with many tales, my new patron won his audience, and collections were easy to make. What I gathered pleased him and I had the feeling that I had for the time earned a right to his [Pg 190]protection. I was safely housed in his tent when men came to search the oasis for me, but when they inquired of him he called down curses on them for causing the thought of a Nazarene to cross the mind of a child of the Prophet.
We departed with the caravan bound for the coast. The Moorish officer’s soldiers inspected us closely, but Mohammed kept me closely engaged, and arranged my hood so that I was dimly seen by the watchers. I escaped even a challenge. We stopped at frequent oases, where Mohammed entertained and I collected.
But now, perhaps because the matter of my disguise handicapped him; perhaps because he feared punishment for harboring an escaped slave; perhaps from greed, Mohammed betrayed me. When we were a day’s travel from Tripoli, we fell in with a small coast-bound caravan that had lost one of its camels and needed a beast of burden to take its place. I became that animal!
On hearing Achmet, the chief of the caravan, offer a large sum for a beast of burden, Mohammed’s eyes lighted on me. “There,” he said, “is a sound-bodied Nazarene slave that will do the work well. He has served my purpose and since I have saved him from being sold as a slave in the interior, he should not carp at my selling him to you. Take the Christian dog, and may you lead him to become a true follower of Mohammed!”
I was thus hurled into the ranks of Achmet, whose blood-shot, piercing eye and hawk nose gave him a cruel look in keeping with his character.
“The Christian dog belongs to no country,” Mohammed told the people to whom I sought to appeal. “He is[Pg 191] a cur who has been helping the troublesome Hamet Bashaw to stir up a rebellion against our noble ruler.”
These words enraged the crowd against me, and seeing how hopeless was my state, I slunk away, kicked and slapped, to take up my burden.
Fortunately, this caravan too was bound for Tripoli. I expected that there I would have a chance to lay my case before the American consul, and hoped to secure through him freedom and permission to sail back to Derne in search of my treasure sacks.
Loaded with as much of the camel’s pack as I could stagger under, I followed in the camel train. When camp was made, I was forced to scramble among the dogs for my share of the scraps thrown to them by the camel-drivers.
When we reached Tripoli I was driven, closely guarded, to dark quarters on the outskirts of the town, and threatened with death if I tried to escape. I found out that the American consul was at Malta on business that had arisen out of the making of peace with Joseph Bashaw. My case, therefore, seemed almost as hopeless as when I was first captured.
These cities of Barbary are strange affairs. The streets wind in and out between white walls. You go under shadowy arches; you climb here a dozen stairs and a little later go up an incline without stairs. The streets are usually too narrow for camels or carts, so that porters and donkeys do most of the hauling. A swarm of people pass continually up and down these cramped ways. The Moslem women wear silken street garments (haicks) that conceal the finery beneath. The faces of these women are covered with a fine silk veil,[Pg 192] and underneath their haicks may be seen their bulging Turkish trousers.
When I asked why the women wore veils, I was told that the custom had come down from the time the Christian crusaders invaded the Moslem countries; the attention they paid to the wives and daughters of the Turks led to the followers of Mohammed prescribing the veil for their women folk.
Among the streams of people were Jews talking trade, consoling themselves for the insults by the Mohammedans with the thought of the profits they were making in their dealings with the Moslems; European envoys; rich, lazy Moors; camel drivers; black slaves; soldiers in the Bashaw’s service, and sailors employed by the corsair captains. Lame, halt and blind beggars sat by the roadside, beseeching gifts.
“In the name of Allah, give us alms!” a beggar wailed from almost every corner and doorway. The men they solicited were usually rich Moors who wore turbans of fine cloth and richly embroidered vests. Yet often they would select for their target a camel driver from the desert, clad in his coarse gray baracan.
Here stood a fountain surrounded by Arabs and negroes drawing water in gourds and jugs; yonder a dozen women sat on the ground, selling bread. Hooded Arab boys romped on the outskirts of the throng, or recited verses from the Koran to a bearded teacher. Lean cats and dogs were everywhere. All kinds of smells filled the air—garlic, burning aloe wood, fish.
I stood one day in an archway six feet wide that stood in the center of four streets and watched the crowd go by. I saw fish-mongers carrying great baskets of sardines, and strings of slimy catfish, against which the[Pg 193] crowd brushed, leaving the dirt and smell of the fish on their garments. Girls with boards on their heads filled with dough ready for baking darted in and out among the throng; donkeys, laden with garbage, ambled alongside of donkeys carrying fresh roses. Jews, burdened with muslin and calico, went from door to door, haggling with those who examined their wares through partly-opened doors. Boys sauntered along munching raw carrots and artichokes; girls of eight carried on their backs babies wrapped in dirty rags. The little mothers and their charges seemed never to have seen soap and water, but from hair to anklets they were decked with faded flowers.
Blind people—there were hundreds of them—walked along as boldly as if they had eyesight, leaving it for those who could see to get out of their way.
“Balek (out of the way)!” was the cry of everyone. “Emshi Rooah, ya kelb (clear out, begone, you dog)!” was a cry I had grown accustomed to through hearing it hurled at me countless times, for was not I a member of
“A sect they are taught to hate
And are delighted to decapitate.”
The upper stories of the houses projected over the lower, and, because of the narrow street, the houses that stood opposite each other almost met, so that all one could see of the sky in many places was a bright blue chink overhead. The walls were all whitewashed; here and there a beautiful gateway appeared. One could not tell from the exterior of the houses whether rich folk or poor folk dwelt inside the walls, yet beyond many of these dark corridors leading through the walls were beautiful garden courts, with silver fountains playing[Pg 194] and an abundance of flowers and trees, while underfoot were tiles of various rich colors.
Of the many mosques I passed I can tell nothing, as Christians are not allowed to enter them. Neither were we allowed to dress in green or white—for these are the colors of the prophet.
My new master, still using me as a beast of burden, took me several times to the house at which he lodged. I was thus able to get a glimpse inside a Mohammedan home of the middle class. We went through a whitewashed tunnel till we came to a gate from which hung a huge brass knocker.
My master did not use the knocker. He began to pound on the door in the Arab fashion. A veiled woman peeped over the terrace wall and screamed a question at him. His reply reassured her, and we were admitted to a little square court that was neatly paved with red tiles, through which ran a path of marble lined with oleanders and fig trees. Rooms, white-washed and blue-washed, opened on this court. The owner of the house, Fatima, was a widow, who lived with her old father, and earned her living by embroidering and weaving. She wore the white silken veil as we entered; but as she gossiped with my master she pulled it aside and showed her brown, dumpling face. She wore an embroidered jacket and silk pantaloons, along with gold trimmings and jewelry—an array that seemed so strange to me that I kept my eyes fastened on the ceiling while I was in her presence. She had rented one of her small rooms to my master, whose parents she knew. Fatima spent much of her time on the roof of her house, looking down on the street over the walls of her terrace. The roofs or terraces were used by women alone and most of the visiting[Pg 195] between houses was done by climbing across the walls dividing the houses.
For privacy, Fatima dropped a flimsy curtain over the door of her room, and this barrier was as strictly respected by her household as if it were a strong door. Visitors were received in the parlor. Fatima and her guests sat on a divan covered with cushions and drank coffee. Handwoven carpets and draperies were everywhere.
The beds of the household were mattresses spread on the floor. One blanket often covers an entire family in the houses of the poor. Fatima fell sick while we were under her roof, and sent a woman friend to a holy man for a remedy. I discovered that the medicine was nothing more than a slip of paper containing the words “He will heal the breasts of the people who believe.”
Fatima was ordered to chew and swallow the paper. The widow still complained of illness after swallowing this dose, and was ordered by the marabout to write a verse from the Koran on the inside of a cup; then to pour in water till the writing was washed away; then to drink this water, which was supposed to have in it the virtue expressed in the verse. I followed my master out of Fatima’s house greatly amazed at this kind of medical treatment, but I did not wonder at hearing that she had complained that her aches were increasing.
THE SLAVE MARKET
Achmet had now no further use for me and decided to sell me as a slave. I was driven, chained, to the slave market. This auction place was in a large square. All around it were little booths. These were crowded with spectators. Through the center of the bazaar ran a walk.[Pg 196] Most of the slaves that had been brought to the market for sale were women and girls. Among the Moors it was thought no evil to deal in human flesh. A black woman with children was first sold. One could tell by the way she clung to her brood that she feared she would be separated from them. We saw her face light when one of the Moors who was squatting on the edge of the walk bought the entire family.
A boy came next. He was handled by prospective buyers as if he were a horse. His eyes, mouth, teeth and nostrils were examined. The first Moslem who inspected him must have seen some defect in the lad, for he waved him away. The auctioneer then seized the boy and led him up and down the walk before the Moors in the bazaars, shouting his good points.
Most of the girls were blacks or mulattoes, brought from the interior of Africa by Arabian traders. There were a few white girls among them. Each girl or woman was handled in the same manner as the boys had been. Some of the maidens boldly returned the stare of those who inspected them. Others shrank from their inspection and, when possible, covered their faces with the woolen haicks they wore.
This slave market reflected only a small part of the slave life of the city. I saw men and women of all classes huddled together in dark, dirty prisons, praying their countrymen would send money to ransom them.
Those whose relatives were not rich enough to buy their freedom were sold to various buyers and set to work at all kinds of labor. The owners often made use of their slaves to earn them money. The old slaves were usually sent out to sell water. Many a drink have I bought from these water-carriers, as, dragging their[Pg 197] chains, they led their donkeys through the streets and sold water from bags of skin that hung across the backs of their beasts. Some of my other acquaintances among the slaves acted as messengers or house-servants; others were employed as herders, drivers or plowmen—I have even seen a Christian slave yoked to a plow with an ox for a yoke-fellow.
Once, while inland, I saw coming out of the Soudan a score of slaves fastened together in a long wooden yoke that had many holes cut in it a few feet apart to admit the heads of the slaves. If one of these slaves fell sick or grew too weak to walk, he would hang from this yoke by his neck, with his feet dragging. As much as he suffered himself, his condition added to the sufferings of his yoke-fellows, for they had to bear his weight. I heard that if he seemed likely to die before the slave market was reached, his master would cut his head from his body with one knife stroke—it saved halting the procession to remove the sick man from the yoke.
Murad in Tripoli! There he stood, stroking his beard and gazing at me with glittering eyes as I was hauled past him to the auction-block.
A fierce Arabian trader, who was forming a caravan to go into the Soudan, bid for me. Murad offered more. I was torn between my terror of being sold “up-country” and of being bought by the Egyptian, who would probably apply torture to wring from me the story of what had become of the contents of the treasure tomb. The Arabian, scowling at Murad, made a still higher bid, whereupon Murad increased his offer. The trader gave me a few final digs and slaps, as if to see if I had the sinews and endurance to warrant his paying a higher price; then he shook his head, cursed me for a Christian dog, and passed to the next slave. Murad came forward. I was pushed into his arms and then thrust by him into the rough hands of his two Moorish attendants.
The Egyptian told me curtly that he had purchased from the Algerines a ship they had captured called the Hawk, which he meant to use as a merchant vessel under the protection of the Bashaw, and that he had bought me for service on board of her.
“I am buying out of these slave markets a crew of European sailors,” he said curtly. “Remember that we are now master and slave. Where I once befriended you, now I will compel you to wear chains and be subject[Pg 199] to the lash. The American consul to this port is now in Malta; we will sail before he returns; place no hope in him. I want you to search your memory and be prepared to tell me every move you made since I left you aboard The Rose of Egypt. I shall soon question you upon certain happenings in the desert about which you doubtless have knowledge!”
My eyes fell before his piercing gaze. “I see I have struck home,” he said, “I can question you better aboard ship. Go! Report now to my mate, MacWilliams.”
Under the charge of the two Moors, I was sent aboard the Hawk. She was a staunch, graceful, roomy vessel, built on the Clyde out of the best materials—a ship that reflected credit on the Scotchmen who made her. I said to myself, as I viewed her admiringly, that she was far too good a ship to be in such vile hands. For all of Murad’s threats, my spirits rose as I felt her deck under my feet. Here I was among white men, and decent fellows they appeared to be. Here I had a dozen chances to escape, while if the Arabian trader had gained possession of me, only a miracle could have rescued me. As for Murad, if he tortured me, I meant to leap overboard and attempt to swim to safety.
The mate, William MacWilliams, was a big, raw-boned, lantern-jawed man. He received me with kindness and pity. I heard that, under threat of death, he had denied the religion of Christ and had embraced the faith of Mohammed. Murad seemed to place great trust in him. The Egyptian had become, it seemed, too important a man to be a mere ship captain—perhaps his experience on The Rose of Egypt had brought about this state of mind—and he left all matters in charge of the mate. He himself had much business to transact at court, and things[Pg 200] occurred to postpone his questioning of me until we were almost ready to sail.
Since my chains were the badge of my slavery, no watch was kept on me as I went to and fro on errands for those who were outfitting the ship.
William MacWilliams interested me greatly. I had heard that there were many renegades of his type in Barbary. I have been informed that the word renegade comes from the Latin word nego, which means “I deny.” Some of these men had become turncoats to save their skins; others had become renegades because the Moslems, poor sailors themselves, were glad to employ Christian sea captains, and gave them opportunities to live luxuriously and become rich.
MacWilliams wore a most melancholy expression. For all his supposed devotion to the religion of Mohammed, I came upon him one day reading a pocket Testament.
“It is a book that has sublime characters in it, my lad,” he said in an embarrassed fashion. Then he turned and looked towards a mosque on shore. “There is but one God, and Allah is his prophet!” he said piously. I looked around, surprised at the change in his attitude. Then I saw the reason. The commander of the Turkish soldiers quartered on board the Hawk had passed our way.
I could not fathom MacWilliams. Yet, understanding something of the temptations a Christian faced in Barbary, I tried to be charitable in my judgment towards him.
Meanwhile, I became a carrier of supplies, threading my way through the motley throngs with my back bent beneath coils of rope, carpenters’ tools, and ship’s stores.
While on one of these errands I had a curious adventure.
I tried to go through the streets without giving offence to any Mussulman, as I feared a cuffing or even the bastinado.
I soon learned that it was the so-called “saints” that were the most dangerous to Christians. The Arabs, while they will themselves refrain from showing the contempt they feel towards Christians, nevertheless will reward and praise one of the holy men for abusing us.
A tall scantily clad negro, of the type of Mohammed, was the most fanatical and the most dangerous “saint” I met. He was begging alms at the entrance to a courtyard when he saw me passing. He carried a staff in his hand which he used principally to strike Jews and Christians. It was not the stick that troubled me, but instead the habit he had of spitting in the face of Christians. As he peered into my face, detecting my Christian features despite my attempt to disguise them, I saw his mouth moving as if he were preparing to attack me after his vile custom. I hurried out of his range, and escaped the spittle. My quickness enraged him, and he called after me in Arabian. I had heard the words often enough to know that they meant:
“Dog of a Christian, may your grandmother roast! Why shouldst thou avoid the spittle of a saint? It would be the only thing blessed upon thee, seeing that it came from the mouth of a saint!”
I darted down a side street and into a doorway, hoping to rid myself of the pest, but he followed quickly and caught sight of my place of refuge.
“Dog of a Christian,” he cried again, poking me in the chest and ribs with his staff, “why do you offend Mohammed by treading the same ground as true believers?”
My blood mounted as I smarted beneath his cudgel. I decided that I would fare just as well by resisting as by submitting, so I ducked my head and dived into the stomach of the fellow, upsetting him. This turned out to be, in the eyes of the Moslems, a great sacrilege. It appeared that while the alleged holy man had entire freedom to beat me, I had committed a crime by doing violence to his body. He made a tremendous uproar as he rose from the dust, and the noise drew a crowd that began to pummel me. I plunged deeper into the doorway, and, having seized the stick of the marabout, whirled it before me in a vigorous fashion. A storm of stones and sticks beat upon me.
While I was on my knees, expecting a rush that would trample me to death, I suddenly heard a familiar voice above the shrieks of the mass.
“Dogs of the desert, how dare you trouble the slave of a good Mohammedan? This Nazarene is the slave of my master, friend of the Bashaw! Is my lord a Jew or a Christian that you would destroy his property before the eyes of a witness? The slave was assaulted first. I swear by the Prophet that he is a gentle slave, and intended no injury to the holy man. Off with you before I call the soldiers of the Bashaw!”
The crowd dispersed. Grumbling, the marabout departed.
I looked into the twinkling eyes of Mustapha. Snatching the marabout’s staff from my hand, he began to pelt me across the shoulders. “It is necessary that I do this,” he whispered, “the people are watching.”
I went through the crowd with Mustapha belaboring me and shouting:
“Dog of a Nazarene, how dare you risk your body,[Pg 203] for which my master paid a great sum, in a fight with a holy man?”
When we reached a place where our talk could not be overheard, I burst out: “The treasure sacks, Mustapha? Do not tell me that the Moors have them!”
“The bags are safe, oh David,” he assured me, “but fret not if you are not able to open them till you return to America. After you were captured, I hurried to the waterside. There I saw the cutter of The Morning Star, a vessel of the American navy. I unstrapped the sacks and put them in the boat, pointing out to the sailor in charge the tags you had tied around their necks.”
This information dumbfounded me. The fact that I had been careful enough to tie to the necks of the sacks tags from our own naval stores seemed to promise now delivery of the sacks to a safe place—if they were not ripped open and plundered meanwhile. This was not liable to happen in view of the pains I had taken to ward off curiosity. Upon each tag I had written plainly:
to be delivered to
Rev. Ezekiel Eccleston, D.D.,
Rector of Marley Chapel,
Sender: David Forsyth,
With American Military Expedition
in Libyan Desert.
“If the men who handle the bags respect either the navy or the ministry,” I said to Mustapha, “the treasure will be safe. But how can I be sure that the sacks were received on board the ship?”
“I saw the bags lifted over the side, oh, thou of little faith,” Mustapha reproved me, “and the boat did not return to the dock. A few hours later The Morning Star sailed for America. Allah favored you—my tribe moved this way when Joseph Bashaw’s soldiers took possession of Derne, and thus I came to prevent your blood being spilled in the streets of Tripoli!”
“I want to reward you with the biggest gem in our collection,” I said, “but how can I do it when our fortune is at sea?”
Then a thought came to me. “Mustapha,” I said, “I mean to escape from the Hawk and board a ship bound for England or America. I have learned from the mate that a servant boy is needed on the Hawk. If you like, I’ll recommend you for the place. You must pretend not to know me. If the owner of the Hawk discovers that you know about the treasure, he’ll probably cut your throat? Can you swim?”
Mustapha nodded. “I’ll dive overboard if he bothers me!”
“Come then,” I said, “we’ll follow our riches to America, and you shall return home a great sheik!”
His tribesmen had returned to the desert, and he was free to act for himself. Quite without fear, he followed me aboard. I spoke a good word for him to MacWilliams, and before long he was peeling potatoes in the galley. If I had thought that Murad would recognize him, I should have given my right hand rather than have invited him to share my luck; I did not know that my meeting with Mustapha had been observed by Murad, and that I was leading the lad into danger.
All too soon came the interview I feared with my[Pg 205] owner. One day Murad came aboard the Hawk, entered the cabin, and sent for me. The tiger was about to show his claws. I was not greatly frightened, for I reckoned that he would need me in his plans to gain possession of the treasure.
“Now, you scheming dog,” he said, “let’s not beat about the bush. Your guardian told me once of a treasure tomb hidden in the desert. You know the story. Perhaps you know, too, how I came into possession of the rector’s secret. When at last I was able to uncover the tomb, all of the relics worth taking had vanished. Don’t try to look innocent: you were my cabin boy on board The Rose of Egypt. The reason you enlisted with me so readily was that you wanted to find the chart and get a chance at the treasure at Tokra. I found that someone had entered the tomb a few hours before me. Two strange young Arabs had been seen near the spot. I choked a stablekeeper until he described both rascals. One of the two Arabs was you, eh? Tell me where the trinkets and jewels are! If your tongue is stubborn, a red-hot iron may cause it to move. What did you find? Tell me what you took away! Speak up—the way to save yourself from the torture you well deserve is to put me on the track of the treasure!”
There was nothing to be gained by secrecy, and much to be suffered, so I described the trinkets and gems in a way that made his eyes sparkle and his fingers quiver. He snarled and showed his wolfish teeth when I told him that the treasure sacks were on their way to America.
All of a sudden I was knocked down by a blow from his fist. He stepped across me and called to a sailor in Arabic. After the lapse of a minute, the door of the[Pg 206] cabin was thrown open, and Mustapha was thrust in by a Moslem guard. He had been seized in the act of diving over the side.
“Is this the young devil that led you to Tokra?” Murad thundered at me.
“Yes,” I said, “but he went only as my guide and knew nothing of why I went. He has done nothing to merit punishment.”
Under a volley of threats, Mustapha was commanded to tell all that he knew of the treasure tomb. He looked at me with frightened eyes; yet his lips remained sealed.
“Tell all, Mustapha,” I said, “it will free you, and it will be no more than I have already told.”
His story, as he stammered it, agreed with mine in every particular.
Murad strode up and down the cabin, swearing in Arabic and English. Then he shot questions at both of us concerning The Morning Star. When had she sailed from Derne? What was to be her next port? Was she fast? How many men and guns did she carry?
When Mustapha had answered as well as he could, Murad booted us out of the cabin. “I’m not done with you, miserable curs,” he cried. “I’ll need you when I board The Morning Star. Then for all the trouble you’ve caused me, I’ll sew you up in the bags and drop you overboard! If you can think of a way of getting those bags you’ll do well to send for them as your ransom. If I don’t get them, you——” He drew his finger across his throat with a horrible gesture.
He now sent for MacWilliams and gave him sharp orders.
The next morning, after a day of hurried preparation, the Hawk sailed.
The ship had an armament of ten cannon, and carried an abundant supply of ammunition and provisions. A company of Moorish soldiers were on board of her. What was the Hawk’s mission? Were we Christians to be used in enslaving other Christians? Was the Hawk a ship whose mission fitted her name? Was she to be a pirate ship seeking Christian vessels as prey, and would we be made to fight and to help enslave men of our own religion and blood? Questions like these concerned the Christians among the crew, and I for one prayed that I would have the courage to jump overboard if there came a moment when I was driven to do such deeds.
On our first day out, I made bold to unburden myself to the mate. MacWilliams eyed me gravely. “You are not to ask questions. You are to do as you are told. What happens on board this ship shall be on my conscience.”
He walked off, leaving me no more clear about the matter than I was before. I saw the Danes and Italians talking earnestly in their languages, and I knew that what was worrying me was also troubling them.
MacWilliams was master of navigation, but had no authority over any other activity aboard ship. There were about forty Moslems aboard who took no part in sailing the vessel. In charge of them was Murad, who had command over the entire ship and told MacWilliams the direction in which he wanted the ship to sail. I learned that he had directed MacWilliams to sail to certain ports outside of the Straits, where he hoped to fall in with The Morning Star.
The master gunner was an English renegade named Watson, who had charge of the guns and ammunition. The commander seemed to think that European gunners[Pg 208] were better than Moors, because among the gunners under Watson were several Christian renegades. I found myself wondering whether, if all of the men aboard of Christian or former Christian faith were moved by the same desire to escape, they could not overcome the Mohammedans and capture the vessel. Yet, having observed that some Christians when they adopted the Moslem religion grew as fanatical in their devotion as did the most extreme worshippers, I decided that it would not be safe to whisper such a suggestion to anyone.
It gave us entertainment while we were performing our tasks to watch the peculiar customs of the Moslems. Our greatest source of amusement was a professional wizard the Moors had brought with them. He had a book of magic, and when the commander was in doubt as to which course to take, the dark-skinned humbug would open his book and advise him according to the wisdom he drew from its pages.
When the wizard’s advice was passed on to MacWilliams, he said nothing by way of dissent, but proceeded to steer and set sails as his own judgment and experience dictated. The Moslems, who had no sea knowledge, and were lost when they were out of sight of land, made no effort to find out whether the mate was following the magician’s counsel.
Our fears as to what sort of work we were about to enter upon soon became certainties. On our second day out we caught sight of a large schooner and gave chase. Her crew, rather than surrender, drove the ship ashore and fled along the coast. The men Murad sent in boats to plunder the vessel brought back several guns, some gold, and such wearing apparel and furnishings as took their fancy. The sight of the gold brought back[Pg 209] to my mind my own lost treasure. Between the prospect of attacking Christian vessels and the remembrance of what I had already suffered, I spent my night watches in great distress of mind, a state which was in no way soothed by the thought that around me lay Christian slaves racked by the same thoughts.
On the next day we sailed boldly through the Straits and out into the Atlantic Ocean. As we were making the passage through the Straits, we discovered a sail. I feared that it was The Morning Star. It proved, however, to be an Algerine corsair. We spoke to each other and separated.
We headed north, past Cape St. Vincent. It puzzled me that Murad would permit MacWilliams to take the ship so far from the Mediterranean. It was a dangerous undertaking for the corsairs, but the Hawk was an unusually speedy ship, and I supposed that Murad was depending on her swiftness to escape any hostile warships that he might meet.
A great homesickness came upon us as we passed into the Atlantic. It was intolerable to think of returning to the Mediterranean and the dreadful shores of Barbary when the coasts of Europe were almost in sight. I thought often of the girl who escaped from the desert and sailed to America.
Sometimes Murad’s lieutenant grew angry with some of the Moors, who were slow in carrying out his orders. To spite them, he showed favor to such Christians as happened to be near.
“Bon Christiano! Bon Christiano!” he called endearingly. The next hour, however, the wind would change. He would stroll along the deck followed by the very Moslems he had reviled, and if he found any of us at[Pg 210] fault about our work he would bid his Moors knock our heads together. He was afraid to carry these tyrannies too far, for MacWilliams was prone to look upon him with a look that warned him that the Christian sailors were too valuable to Mohammedan safety to be abused too far.
One night, while I was on watch, MacWilliams approached me. His hand rested on my shoulder with a fatherly touch that moved me greatly.
“The time has come when I need your help,” he said. “I intend to take this ship to England despite her crew of Mohammedans. If the plan goes through, every Christian slave aboard the Hawk shall step upon the earth of Europe a free man. I’ve been watching you. I believe you agree that it’s better to risk death than to go on leading such a life. There are other slaves who think the same way. What do you say, lad?”
“Just you try me!” I said. “I owe the infidels a score that can hardly be wiped out. Besides, hasn’t the skipper threatened to sew me in a sack and toss me overboard? Of course, you can trust me, and Mustapha, too!”
“Lad, lad,” MacWilliams went on, “we English blame the Turks, yet we have been reaping the fruits of what our own race has sowed. The story has passed down to me, through generations of seafaring ancestors, of how when good Queen Elizabeth passed and when the English and Spaniards ceased for a time their warfare at sea, hundreds of sailors who had fought in bloody battles under Drake were at a loss for employment and found it in piracy.
“Down to the Mediterranean they went and entered the service of these evil Moors. It was our forebears[Pg 211] who taught the Moslems how to become good sea-fighters. It was men of our own race who first led the Barbary corsairs forth on buccaneering expeditions. What our forefathers started, some of us have carried on, but the time has come to end it all!”
Continuing, for we had an idle hour to pass, and the mate was desirous of heartening me for our desperate undertaking, MacWilliams told me of how in 1639 William Okeley, an English slave, had constructed in the cellar of his master’s shop a light canoe made of canvas, making oars from the staves of empty wind pipes. This craft he and his companions smuggled down to the beach, and five of them embarked in it and made their way safely to Majorca. The hardest part of the enterprise was their farewell to two other English slaves who were to have made the voyage with them, but who were found to overweight the little boat.
“With the help of Gunner Watson,” MacWilliams explained as I drew him out as to his plan, “we should be able to trap the Moslems between the decks; get control of the cannon and powder, and sail the ship into some European port. It’ll be turning the tables in fine style—a Christian crew bringing infidels as captives to an English harbor!”
He proceeded to set forth his plan in detail. “By to-morrow,” he concluded, “I shall know every trustworthy man. I shall then give each man a definite part. Such a way of escape has been in my mind for years. A man with a Presbyterian conscience can never remain a Mohammedan. If our plot succeeds I shall make a contribution to the church of my fathers that I hope shall to some extent offset my wickedness!”
Mustapha carried food from the galley to Murad.[Pg 212] MacWilliams told me that it was essential to the success of the plot that Murad be made too ill to note the direction of the ship. The mate was skilful in Oriental medicines, and he produced a phial containing a liquid that, while tasteless, yet had the power to nauseate and weaken a man. While Mustapha obligingly turned his back, and while I kept guard, MacWilliams poured the fluid into Murad’s broth. The Egyptian was taken with what seemed to be chronic sea-sickness and kept to his cabin. I do not think he suspected that his food had been “doctored.” He ordered MacWilliams to sail close to certain ports and to pursue any vessel that was not plainly a warship.
I told the mate something of the treasure tale—enough for him to know that Murad was in pursuit of The Morning Star—and at whatever port it seemed safe for us to stop, MacWilliams brought aboard reports that there was a richly laden vessel bound for America that might be overhauled before we reached the next Atlantic harbor. Thus we continued steadily away from the Straits.
Once an encounter with a strange warship came near to upsetting our plans for capturing the Hawk. MacWilliams and Watson, being renegades, were afraid to meet the captain of any European warship, for fear that they might be recognized and treated as buccaneers. Knowing their minds, I watched the outcome of the chase with intense interest.
I happened to be the lookout for that day, and had reported a strange sail ahead.
MacWilliams climbed the mast to a place beside me and adjusted his telescope. Then he went down and approached Uruj, Murad’s lieutenant.
“She is well to windward——I doubt if we can pass her!” the mate reported.
“Why should we try to pass her?” Uruj said insolently.
“‘Twill go hard with us if we don’t,” said MacWilliams. “She is double our size—with double our crew and guns. Our only chance is to keep our course and try to weather the ship.”
Uruj looked to the wizard for advice. The magician, being a rank coward, found by his book that MacWilliams told the truth. Uruj therefore agreed to MacWilliams’s plan.
We could now see the ship over our lee bow, about three miles away. The sea was heavy, but the Hawk met the waves gallantly. We saw a thick white puff of smoke from the forecastle of our pursuer.
“The wind looks like it will die down,” said MacWilliams, who had been anxiously watching the sky. “If it does, we will outsail her. The next few moments should tell what the outcome will be.”
It looked to us as if we must pass within pistol shot of the vessel, and the thought of having to receive a broadside from her at such a short distance was enough to make a braver lad than I shiver with fright. Watson and his gunners stood at the cannon, waiting for Uruj’s command.
Our pursuer was close to us now—in full sail. We could see groups of men about the gun ports, from which cannon jutted.
A voice hailed us.
“Ho! The schooner, ahoy!”
“Hello!” MacWilliams responded.
“What vessel is that?”
“The Tripolitan schooner Hawk, from Tripoli. What ship is yours?”
We could not catch the first part of the reply, but we did hear the last words: “Haul down your flag and heave to!”
Uruj went down to tell Murad. We continued on our course.
“Heave to or we’ll sink you,” cried the challenger.
MacWilliams spoke to Uruj. “Do as you think best,” said Uruj. “Fire the bow guns,” MacWilliams commanded Watson.
Our grapeshot whistled through the rigging of the frigate. We saw her foresail fall.
Jets of flame issued from her ports and a broadside swept our decks. Our sails were undamaged, but several shots tore through our hull, injuring several of the sailors and soldiers with flying splinters, though none was seriously hurt.
Before the next cannonade came, we had widened the distance between the Hawk and her pursuer. The winds, as MacWilliams had predicted, had grown lighter, and the Hawk, a splendid sailer in light winds, showed her heels handily to the enemy. Their shots struck us with less force, and soon we saw the shots from their long gun falling short of us.
We had escaped from capture by a ship that evidently belonged to a country that was hostile to the Tripolitans. If she had seized us the renegades would have been treated in the same way that the Moslems would be used, and therefore MacWilliams took this desperate chance. As for me, I did not know whether to be glad or sorry, for if I had lived through the battle, I could doubtless have proved that I had been held in slavery. Yet the[Pg 215] incident must have confirmed the Turks in their opinion of MacWilliams’ loyalty.
On another day we sighted a vessel that appeared to be The Morning Star, but when she was nearly under our guns, and when Mustapha and I were about to surrender hope of saving our riches, a freak of wind bore her away from us, and we never saw her again.
Meanwhile, the scheme of rebellion and seizure was making steady progress. The plan of mutiny as it had formed itself in MacWilliams’s mind was to provide ropes and irons near the hatchways, gratings and cabins so that they could be closed from the outside at a moment’s notice. When this had been arranged, the next step was to dupe the Moslems so that the most of them would be below deck when the signal for attack was given. MacWilliams went about the work cautiously. To have one traitor among us, he well knew, would cost every Christian his life. Mustapha, being an Arab, hated the Moors, and entered the plot eagerly.
Each man who consented to engage in the plot swore a sacred oath of fidelity.
With those MacWilliams could not trust—renegades or slaves whose character he could not read—his plan was, when the uprising came, to put pistols to their breasts and threaten them with death if they did not assist in the rebellion.
After hours that seemed as long as months had passed, he passed me the word one night that the signal would be given on the morrow, before noon. The rough weather we were laboring through was an aid to our scheme.
The next morning MacWilliams made an inspection of the hold. Then he came up to inform the Moslem lieutenant that there was much water in the bilges, and[Pg 216] that it would be necessary to trim the ship. Uruj, suspecting nothing, consented. Our leader then asked that, for the same purpose, the cannon that were forward should be moved aft. This being done, he further requested that the Moslem soldiers be quartered aft so as to bring the ship’s bow out of the water. This was also agreed to. Meanwhile, we had managed to store in a convenient place such weapons as we would need.
When all these things had been done, to avoid suspicion, we went about our regular duties. Our confederates of the gunner’s force went below deck with the infidel soldiers so that it would not appear that there was a crowding together of the slaves and renegades. The rest of us were set to pumping water by MacWilliams. I could tell by the arrangement of the men, and by the way they acted, which were sharers in the secret. There were about a score of us, and we had to contend with double our number.
At noon, while most of the Turks that were on deck were aft, using their weight to bring the stern into the water so that the water in the vessel might flow towards the pumps, MacWilliams gave the signal to one of the gunners to fire a cannon. An explosion followed—the signal for us to proceed. With a ringing hurrah we sprang to the attack.
Each man had been assigned a specific duty: first we battened down the hatches down which most of the Moslems had gone, so that the greater part of our enemies were now prisoners; then we turned to conquer the Moslems on deck.
There were twelve of them. They came at us with pistols, knives and hatchets, calling us by their epithet,[Pg 217] “Christian dogs!” But the dogs had become bloodhounds now. Johansen, one of the Danes, swung one of the cannon in their direction. They made a rush at him, but he fired the gun directly at them, at which there was a terrific explosion—and the decks became a welter of gore. The terrible death of these Mohammedans caused the remaining Moslems to prostrate themselves before us, their fury turned to abject fear.
Meanwhile, the Moslems imprisoned between decks were trying desperately to break through the hatches. Murad, weak from sickness, yet rose up beside Uruj to thunder threats against us and to urge his men on. However, our victory on deck left us free to attend to those below. Two men were stationed over each passageway, with orders to shoot any infidel who by the use of hatchet or knife was able to break through the planking.
MacWilliams stood over the hatchway below which Murad and Uruj raged.
“If you value your lives,” he called, “you will surrender! My men have orders to shoot any man who dares to lift his head. If you come too strongly for our numbers, we will blow you to bits with your own cannon. We are only two days’ sail from Plymouth. Your precious wizard hadn’t enough insight to see that we were taking you nearer the coast of England every hour we sailed. We will take you there, alive or dead. If you would enter England with breath in your lungs, surrender!”
Uruj at once offered to surrender himself and his men as prisoners of war. Murad cursed Uruj, but at last yielded. He reminded MacWilliams that he had treated him with consideration.
“That I acknowledge,” MacWilliams replied, “and I will so treat you as well so long as you make no attempt to thwart us!”
The Mohammedans came out of the hatches one by one to be disarmed. The chains they had in store for such Christians as they might take captives were placed on their wrists and ankles. I was one of those who were called upon to receive the arms. It was a task to make a youth flinch to go from one scowling ruffian to another, collecting muskets, pistols, dirks, and pikes, but I came through without much trouble, having nothing harder thrown at me than curses. Murad flinched as I came toward him with a dirk in my hand, but I only grinned at him. For a keepsake, I took the cowering wizard’s book of magic.
When the last Moslem was put in irons, MacWilliams brought out openly his Bible.
“I call on all of you who are willing to be reconciled to their true Savior,” he said, “and who repent of being seduced by hopes of riches, honor, preferment, and such devilish baits, to join me in praise and prayer to the true God, whom we re-establish in our hearts and restore in our worship.”
With that he read to us this passage from the Psalms:
“They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
“These see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep.
“For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
“They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths; their soul is melted because of trouble.
“They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.
“Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
“He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
“Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.”
MacWilliams closed the Bible. “Now men,” he said, “having given thanks to the Almighty, let us wash the decks of infidel blood, so that our ship will present a decent appearance when we enter the harbor of our hopes.”
We thereupon set about washing and holystoning the decks, and repairing the damage resulting from the battle. Two days later, we entered Plymouth harbor, astounding the town as we, in strange garb ourselves, marched our captives in their queer Mohammedan dress to the town jail, where they were left to the disposition of the Government. We heard later that they were used in exchange for citizens of friendly European nations, held in captivity in Tripoli.
“Oh! dream of joy! Is this indeed
The lighthouse top I see?
Is this the hill? Is this the kirk?
Is this mine own countree?”
The owners of the Hawk could not be found. The authorities decided that we had the right to offer her for sale and to divide the money among ourselves in proportions according to rank. Her value was placed at eighteen thousand dollars—but MacWilliams, backed by a group of merchants, purchased the ship for fifteen thousand dollars. He had not, canny Scot, returned from Barbary with empty pockets. He bought the Hawk at auction, and was able to obtain it at a low price because other merchants, when they saw his eagerness to obtain possession of her, refrained from bidding.
I was eager to take passage for America, and MacWilliams, to accommodate me, hurried the sale along so that Mustapha and myself could have our share. With three hundred dollars apiece in our possession, we bade him an affectionate farewell.
He changed the name of the Hawk to the Dove, and vowed to me that she should be used only on honorable missions.
“Lad, lad,” he said, as he gripped my hand, “it’s glad I am to see you returning to a God-fearing home. When you remember William MacWilliams, blot out the [Pg 221]remembrance of ill deeds connected with my name, and think of me as a repentant man who yet intends to leave a good name behind him!”
We sailed for Baltimore in the brig Lafayette, Captain Lord. As we entered the Patapsco River Mustapha pointed out a schooner lying off Fell’s Point. “Blessed be Allah—it’s The Morning Star!” he cried.
“Pray then that her crew are not going ashore to spend our fortune!” I said.
Our first thought was to go directly aboard the schooner, but we then considered that we should have to furnish proof to her skipper that the sacks belonged to us, and that in such dealings it would be better to have the rector’s support; therefore, we decided to seek him first.
As we passed a shop near the docks, I observed this sign above its door:
Fish, Flour, Tobacco, Corn and Furs
Teas, Coffee and Spices
I entered and pounded on a desk.
“I want to buy a shipload of cannon balls to fire at the Dey of Algiers! I want to charter a frigate that will blow Joseph, Bashaw of Tripoli, to perdition! Fish, flour, tobacco—who’s dealing in such tame stuff—it’s blood and thunder I’m after purchasing; it’s muskets and cutlasses I want. Show me your stock, man!”
A man with the build of a mastpole came out of the counting-room and stared at me. I swaggered towards[Pg 222] him, but, suddenly, overcome by amusement at his puzzled look and joy at beholding him again, I sprang forward and threw my arms about him.
“David!” he cried.
“Alexander,” I answered.
We stood hugging each other like two polar bears.
In a few minutes of hurried chat, I found out that my brother, recovering his health, had married Nell King, a Baltimore girl, and was prospering as a merchant. Commodore Barney, who had backed Alexander in business, was at sea. (How I fell in with him later and increased the family fortunes by acting as chaplain on his privateer Polly may not be told now.)
Customers came into the shop, and promising to call on Alexander and Nell that night, I broke away and went on up to the house. Mustapha, gaping at the strange western land I had brought him to, and as bewildered as I had been when I wandered through his desert cities, walked closely beside me, clutching my arm. I saw some of the bullies who had mutinied on board The Rose of Egypt. I think they recognized me, but Mustapha and I were a stalwart pair, and the looks cast our way by the dock loafers were more of respect than of hostility.
We approached the rector’s house at dusk. A welcoming light shone through the elms. I was swaggering along, thinking how much of a man I would appear to the rector. The yellow glow from the window, however, spread an influence that changed me into a soft-hearted boy. Here was I, a sailor hardened through contact with all sorts of men, toughened by wind, wave and warfare, yet brushing a tear from my cheek as I saw the lamp in the parsonage shining out cheerier than the ray of a lighthouse on a tempestuous night.
The door was bolted—I knocked. A girl answered, her face in the shadows.
I was as much taken aback as if I had seen a ghost. I was not used to seeing girls around the old home. Besides, Alexander had not warned me.
“Is it someone to see father?” she asked timidly.
“You are Nell, Alexander’s wife?” I said boldly, “and a pretty choice he made!”
“No!” she said, and I stood there in worse confusion than ever.
Yet there was something vaguely familiar in her tone.
“I beg your pardon,” I said, “I thought Dr. Eccleston still lived here.”
“He does!” she replied. “Please come in!”
We stepped into the hallway. I looked around, taking in each familiar object.
“I am David Forsyth,” I said, “perhaps you have heard the rector speak of his boy who went to sea.”
“I recognized you at first, David,” she said, her face still in the shadows. “What a grand surprise for the rector!”
I walked towards the library, but the rector had heard our voices. He came out, spectacles in one hand, a book in the other. He stared at me as if he could scarcely credit his own sight.
I was in his arms the next moment.
“David,” he shouted. “I had almost given you up for lost! No letters! And all the time I’ve been waiting to thank you for sending me my precious jewel!”
I looked at Mustapha in puzzlement. What did he mean by “jewel”? Had he gotten the treasure?
He turned to the mysterious girl, whose gold hair flashed in the lamplight as if ten thousand diamonds[Pg 224] were netted in it. I had seen a girl’s hair flashing in just such a way before! But where?
He saw me twirling my hat and grasped the situation:
“David,” he explained, “this is my daughter! General Eaton told me that it was you who first pointed her out to him in the Arab camp.”
Heigho! I had gone forth to seek adventures, and here at my home door was a more marvelous thing than any I had come upon. The girl that General Eaton had bought from the Bedouin hag was no other than the daughter the rector had lost in the desert! She was taller and lovelier, and the more I looked the more flustrated I became. I had always been shy before girls, and now I stood like a gawk, blushing under her gaze. I wanted the floor to open when she came forward and held up her lips in a matter-of-fact way for my kiss.
However, I did not dodge the invitation, for all my bashfulness. Indeed, I might as well record here that that sisterly kiss became a few months later the kiss of a sweetheart—but since I have no notion of having this book end in a love story, we had better get back to our course.
Mustapha, who had kept himself well in the rear, was now discovered by Anne, and what a jabbering in Arabic took place. Whenever after that I started to tell Anne of my adventures I found that she had already heard it from Mustapha. I can’t say that I was displeased at this, because the lad—not that I deserved it—held me in high esteem, and painted me in every episode as a great hero.
Over the supper table we learned how the rector and Anne had been united. General Eaton had landed in Baltimore, and the rector, beholding beside the General[Pg 225] a girl who bore a striking resemblance to his wife, stopped the officer in the street, questioned him, brought him and his ward to the parsonage as his guests, and there, by matching his story with that of Anne’s, discovered that she was no other than his own daughter. Her mother—Anne had only a slight remembrance of her—must have died early in her captivity.
The next morning Mustapha and myself induced the rector to take a stroll with us. We reached the dock where The Morning Star was moored just as she was being unloaded. As we started to go aboard we bumped into a string of stevedores. Our search ended there and then, for among the baggage these men carried were our sacks.
“Toss those confounded bags aside,” cried the officer in charge of the unloading. “I wonder if the cheeky rascal who sent them aboard thought I was going to hunt over Baltimore for ‘Rev. Ezekiel Eccleston of Marley Chapel.'”
I approached him in my most respectful manner.
“Here, sir, is the Reverend Eccleston. He is the gentleman for whom the sacks are intended, and I’m the ‘cheeky rascal’ who shipped them. Your coxswain will recognize Mustapha here as the lad who stowed them in your cutter. There wasn’t much need of shipping the curios after all, since my schooner arrived here almost as quickly as your ship.”
He looked at me as if he wanted to pour out a flood of oaths. Then his gaze wandered over the rector’s garb and he grew less surly.
“It’s lucky for you, sir,” he said to my guardian, “that we didn’t pitch those sacks overboard! I like this cub’s[Pg 226] cheek—sending freight aboard without even saying, ‘By your leave!’ If the bags hadn’t been addressed to a parson, overboard they’d have gone!”
“Your forbearance is much appreciated,” said the rector. “The boy, I believe, was in a trying situation.”
I took out a roll of banknotes.
“We’ll pay you in full for all the bother you’ve been put to. You really saved this stuff from falling into the hands of the Turk, Joseph Bashaw. Yet there was another skipper who wanted in the worst way to carry those bags! In fact, he inquired for The Morning Star at several South Atlantic ports. I think you came in sight of him. But we’re none the less grateful to you, sir!”
He snatched from me a pound note. “Always glad to serve the Church,” he said civilly to the rector. “By the way, my men said there appeared to be metal ornaments in the sacks—candlesticks for worship, I suppose?”
The rector, at a loss for a reply, stared at the sacks.
“Something of that sort! They will be very useful to the Church,” I answered, shouldering one. Mustapha followed suit with another, and the rector, good man, dragged the third sack to a wagon I had hired. With a load of worry removed from Mustapha and myself, we drove homeward. I heard afterwards that The Morning Star, though then a freighter for the Government, was a converted privateer and had even been suspected of piracy while in Uncle Sam’s employ. Her men had probably captured and sunk many a ship without obtaining loot half as valuable as these, our riches, which they so carelessly carried.
On the way home the rector questioned me concerning the contents of the sacks, but I evaded him. Now, as we[Pg 227] stood in the hallway, with the sacks at our feet, I myself popped a question.
“Rector,” I said, “if you were suddenly handed a good-sized fortune, what would you do with it?”
“I suppose, David, that we all like to indulge in such day-dreams. First, I should erect a larger church here—this business of hanging our church-bell to a tree is getting sadly out of fashion. Then I should build mission chapels in the border settlements. Then Alexander should have capital with which to expand his trade with the West Indies. Then I should send you to Yale College—it’s really time now, David, that you settled down to your studies. Then I should send General Eaton some funds. Congress praised him, but has since neglected him, and the poor fellow is low in spirits and failing in health. Then——”
“Rector,” I said, “all those wishes and as many more are granted. I found both Aladdin’s lamp and Ali Baba’s cave in the deserts of Africa. Stand by and watch me bring all of your day-dreams true! Fall too, Mustapha, servant of the geni!”
With our jackknives we slashed open the sacks. The treasure hoard of the ancients—the priceless jewelry and trinkets which the rector long ago had discovered and then sealed up and abandoned—poured out in gleaming confusion at his feet.
THE END OF THE PIRATES
So far as my fortunes are concerned, I was rid forever of Barbary’s corsairs. But, to make my narrative complete, it may be well to state that the end of their piracies was in sight, and that Stephen Decatur was the man who struck the blow that marked the beginning of their end.
The United States had borne these insults and oppressions meekly during the time she was evolving into a nation, but at last, under Decatur, her true spirit showed itself. The Dey of Algiers, the last to affront us, was at length forced to take tribute in the way our naval officers had long wished to deliver it—from the cannon’s mouth.
The War of 1812 tempered the spirit of our navy for this closing campaign with the buccaneers of Barbary. The frigate Constitution thrilled the nation by her victory over the British warship Guerrière, although the Constitution’s captain, Isaac Hull, had to steal out to do battle without the knowledge of the timid Monroe administration, which feared that our ships were no match for the British frigates. Then the United States, commanded by Captain Stephen Decatur, defeated and captured the Macedonian, one of the swiftest and strongest and best-equipped ships in John Bull’s navy, and Lieutenant Archibald Hamilton marched into a ball given to naval officers[Pg 229] in Washington with the flag of the captured ship across his shoulders.
Then the Constitution met the British frigate Java, and by splendid gunnery reduced her to a burning hulk. Then the British had their innings and Captain Broke, of the Shannon, defeated the chivalrous but over-confident Captain Lawrence in the Chesapeake.
Decatur, with his feathers drooping somewhat from the fact that he had been forced to surrender the President to two British frigates after a hard fight, was sent, after the treaty of peace had been signed, to deal again with the Barbary states, to which we still paid tribute. These powers had grown insolent again when the United States became engaged in war with England and had resumed their piracy. Decatur sailed in the flagship Guerrière and commanded a squadron of nine vessels.
Algiers, the chief offender this time, had organized a strong navy under the command of Admiral “Rais Hammida,” called “the terror of the Mediterranean.” Decatur’s squadron sighted this Algerine admiral in his forty-six-gun frigate Mashouda off Cape Gatte, and pursued and captured the Turkish ship. Her captain was killed in the first encounter.
Decatur now proceeded to Algiers to bring the Dey to terms. The captain of the port came out insolently to meet him. “Where is your navy?” demanded Decatur.
“Safe in some neutral port!” retorted the Algerine officer.
“Not the whole of it,” Decatur said. “We have already captured the frigate Mashouda and the brig Estido, and Admiral Hammida is dead.”
The captive lieutenant of the Mashouda was brought[Pg 230] forth to confirm these statements. The Dey’s representative became humble and begged that hostilities should cease until a treaty could be drawn up on shore.
“Hostilities will go on until a treaty is made,” Decatur replied, “and a treaty will be made nowhere but on board the Guerrière!”
The officer came out again the next day and began haggling over terms in true Oriental fashion. Decatur stuck to his terms, which included the release of all Americans held in slavery and the restoration of their property. He demanded an immediate decision, threatening:
“If your squadron appears before the treaty is signed by the Dey and if American captives are on board, I shall capture it.”
The port officer left. An hour afterward an Algerine man-of-war appeared. Decatur ordered his officers to prepare for battle. Manning the forts and ships were forty thousand Turks.
Before the squadron got under way, however, the Dey’s envoy was seen approaching, flying a white flag—the token of surrender.
All of the terms had been agreed to. We were to pay no further tributes to the pirate prince. Our ships were to be free from interference. Ten Americans that had been held in captivity were delivered up. They knelt at Decatur’s feet to thank God for their release and rose up to embrace their flag.
From Algiers, Decatur sailed to Tunis and then to Tripoli, and actually forced their rulers to pay indemnities for breaking, during the period of our war with Britain, the treaties they had made with the United States.
Decatur thus put an end to the attacks of the Moors upon American merchant ships. He had set an example that Britain was soon to follow.
BRITAIN FOLLOWS DECATUR’S LEAD
British consuls and sea-faring men were still being insulted and molested by Moslems. Public indignation in England rose to such a height that the British government sent Sir Edward Pellew, upon whom had been bestowed the title Lord Exmouth, to negotiate similar terms. The fleet sailed first to Tunis and Tripoli and forced the two Beys to promise to abolish Christian slavery. An element of humor came into the situation at Tunis, for Caroline, Princess of Wales, was on a tour of the country, and was not above accepting the hospitality of the Bey, no matter what wrongs to her countrymen went on under the surface. Her entertainment included picnics among the ruins of Carthage and the orange groves of Tunis, to which she was driven in the Bey’s coach and six. She was indignant when word reached her that a bombardment from her own fleet threatened to put an end to her pleasures. She sought to interfere, but the Admiral was firm. The Princess took refuge on board one of the English ships; the squadron prepared to attack; but the Bey yielded.
The squadron now proceeded to Algiers. Here the Dey protested so vehemently that the Admiral agreed to the ruler’s proposal to send ambassadors to England to lay his case before the final authorities. No sooner had the fleet returned to England than news came of a massacre of Italians under British protection in Bona, by Algerines acting under orders actually given by the Dey while Lord Exmouth was at Algiers.
There was, in the port of Bona, a little to the east of Algiers, a coral fishery carried on under the protection of Britain. Corsicans, Neapolitan and other fishermen came here to gather coral. On the 23rd of May, 1816, Ascension Day, as the fishermen were preparing to attend Mass, a gun was fired from the castle and two thousand Moslem soldiers opened fire on the helpless fishermen and massacred them. Then the English flags were torn to pieces and the British Vice-Consul’s house wrecked and pillaged.
Lord Exmouth’s squadron, on its way to punish the corsairs for these atrocities, fell in with five frigates and a corvette under the Dutch Admiral, Van de Capellan. All civilized nations had been aroused by the massacre of the Italian coral fishers, and the Dutch were eager to take part in the expedition to punish the murderers. Lord Exmouth welcomed them, and the combined fleets set sail for Algiers.
Lord Exmouth sent a letter ashore to the Dey demanding that the Algerians abolish making slaves of Christians; that they surrender such Christian slaves as they now held; that they restore ransom money exacted from Italian slaves, make peace with Holland, and free the lately imprisoned British Consul, and other English captives. The Dey was allowed three hours in which to reply. No answer came. Lord Exmouth began the battle.
His flagship, Queen Charlotte, led the fleet to the attack. Reaching the left-hand end of the mole, she anchored, thus barring the mouth of the harbor. In this position, her guns could sweep the whole length and breadth of the mole. Up came the Superb, the Minden, the Albion, and the Impregnable. Meanwhile, the foe[Pg 233] had opened fire and the Queen Charlotte had replied with three broadsides that ruined the mole’s defences and killed five hundred men.
The Dutch squadron and the British frigates came in under a heavy fire and engaged the shore batteries. The Algerian gunboats, screened by the smoke of the guns, came out to board the Queen Charlotte. The Leander, lying beyond the smoke, saw them and sunk thirty-three out of thirty-seven with her batteries.
At last the enemy’s guns were silenced. The British and Dutch fleets withdrew into the middle of the bay. The defeated Dey accepted the British terms. The English consul was released. Three thousand slaves were set free; some of these had been in prison for thirty years. The bombardment destroyed part of the house of the American consul Shaler, who, the British afterwards testified, did all in his power to aid the English.
The British squadron gained its victory at the cost of one hundred and twenty-eight men killed and six hundred and ninety men wounded. Lord Exmouth led his men with Nelson-like gallantry. He was wounded in three places, his telescope was knocked from his hand by a shot, and his coat was cut to ribbons. Even this punishment did not entirely crush the corsairs. It was reserved for the French to put an end to their piracies.
But that campaign did not begin until 1830—and my story can not run on forever.
SOURCES OF INFORMATION DRAWN UPON BY THE AUTHOR
“The Narrative and Critical History of America,” edited by Justin Winsor.
“American State Papers, Foreign Relations.”
“Debates of Congress,” compiled by Thomas H. Benton.
“Life of the Late General William Eaton,” by Charles Prentiss, published in 1813 in Brookfield, Mass.
“Ocean Life in the Old Sailing Ship Days,” by Captain John D. Whidden.
“From the Forecastle to the Cabin,” by Captain S. Samuels.
“Round the Galley Fire,” by W. Clark Russell.
“The Story of Our Navy,” by Edgar Stanton Maclay.
“A History of the United States Navy,” by John R. Spears.
“Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs,” by Gardner W. Allen.
“The Barbary Corsairs,” by Stanley Lane-Poole.
“Yankee Ships and Yankee Sailors,” by James Barnes.
“Maryland Chronicles,” by Scharf.
“Africa,” by Frank G. Carpenter.
“Rambles and Studies in Greece,” by Mahaffy.
“Winters in Algeria,” by F. A. Bridgman.
“The Romance of Piracy,” by E. Keble Chatterton. (The episode of David’s escape in the ship Hawk is founded on an actual adventure that occurred in 1622, related in Mr. Chatterton’s book. The story of the mutiny aboard The Rose of Egypt was suggested by an actual episode—described in Captain Samuel’s autobiography.)
To Deane H. Uptegrove and George Mullien, the writer is indebted for advice concerning the sea episodes that appear in this book. The New York Public Library, The Newark Public Library, the East Orange Public Library, and the private library of the New York Evening Post have been helpful in giving the author access to material not easily obtainable.