Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the night, in expectation of pouncing upon a good prize at day-break. They were, however, very soon undeceived, and began to exert all their nautical skill in manœuvre for their individual safety.

The sight was beautiful, and interesting to us in no common degree, but the bad sailing of the ship gave us little hope of success; nevertheless, as soon as the sea-breeze afforded the opportunity, we set all sail possible in chase, and soon commenced firing from the main-deck guns upon those that were within reach. By trimming, and suspending the chests and shot-lockers, sending part of the crew to bed, in order to make the ship more lively, her sailing was wonderfully improved ; she tacked with unusual celerity, and afforded us occasionally some gleams of hope. In this state of anxious uncertainty we continued until noon, when the whole of the men were ordered down, for a few minutes, to their dinner: at this time we had one of the privateers on our lee-bow on the same tack, who, in the most prompt and skilful manner, put about with the design of trying for the weather-gage by crossing our hause! It was a bold and hazardous attempt, but it was the only chance she had of escape, and she succeeded! The intrepidity of the French commander upon this occasion can never be obliterated from my memory: he sent all his men below, and took the helm himself—there he stood, like a hero and a veteran warrior, unmoved amidst the showers of shot that fell around him, ripping up the decks of his little bark, and tearing his sails into ribands—there stood Jacque Mathieu himself, alone, and undismayed! Steadily he approached, and so close under our bows, that some of his ropes caught our flying-jib-boom and made it bend like a bow; the instant this temporary check ceased, she sprang, as it were, from us, and was soon out of reach of our shot ; the forecastle guns, and all the marines blazing away at the little floating thing. Jacque was in his glory—it was in hazardous and difficult situations that this clever and intrepid seaman shone most conspicuous, differing essentially in this point from the generality of his countrymen ;-a man of less nerve and presence of mind would not have attempted it, and the correctness of his eye and the soundness of his judgment may be here inferred, from the success that attended his manoeuvre. His escape depended upon the possibility of crossing to windward of the frigate without falling on board her-he had a moment only to decide, and the boldness of his conception and promptitude of action carried him through all; and as he slid rapidly by, he waved his hat, accompanying the action with a loud and steadily delivered “ Bon jour, Messieurs ! This was most admirably performed, and every body laughed at the fellow's coolness, and admired his abilities, and turned their attention to the next nearest: she, however, not daring to follow the example of the gallant Jacque, soon convinced us that her commander was not equal to the difficulty he was placed in; by bearing round away, as a dernier resort, and running up all his flying-sails he committed an error in judgment, that cost him his vessel, although, as it was, she held us a tug until six o'clock in the evening, when we had the satisfaction of capturing a very beautiful vessel. She was subsequently scuttled and sank into the bosom of the deep, as we could not spare men, without weakening the ship's crew, to navigate her to Port Royal, thus sacrificing, and very properly, individual profit for the public good.

Resuming our station off Cape St. Nicholas, we again fell in with a French schooner privateer, and chased her into the Bight of Leogane. As the night drew on, the cunning rover kept his vessel close to the shore, not only because he knew we could not follow him in the ship, but in the hope that we should lose sight of him in the shade of ile land; but our night inverting glasses were excellent, and the eyes at them well practised. At half past eight, the wind having died away, and perceiving that the chase bad luwered her sails, the ship's anchor was dropped under foot, and the boats manned and armeil sent after her. The opportunity appeared glorious to the young mids; their pushforward-zeal knew no bounds; I never saw a pack su elated; the feeling whilst the uncertainty lasted may be defined, something like delight mixed with anxious impatience. Happy fellows-thrice happy days ! who would wish to grow old and wise, that cou'd live on as cheerful and as thoughtless as a mid ? From a splashing in the water we found that the privateer was using her sweeps;

this
gave
increased

energy to the boat's crews, and they pulled away most lustily. At nine, the sound of the sweeps was no longer heard : we had now no guide, but pulled on as near as we could guess along the line of shore: in a few minutes after, a strong smell of garlic and tobacco smoke warned us that we were near our enemy. Directly after, the indistinct appearance of her masts told us her position, and a smart fire of muskelry was opened upon her, which was spiritedly returned. At this moment there was not a breath of wind stirring; the schooner, which was long and low, lay motionless-her sails down, and her sweeps bauled in, in readiness to repel the boarders, and to act when the land wind came off. All our party were confident of success; the boats approached, and were in the very act of hooking on under a tremendous fire of muskets and musketoons, when in an instant, the whole of the schooner's sails were spread, a cold air from the land filled them, and she glided away in the most astonishing manner. The effect was singular; one could almost swear the thing was endowed with life ;—the shade of niglit added to the effect that sort of sublimity which darkness throws over objects and scenes in themselves un possessed of that character. The oars were got out as speedily as possible, and the men pulled with great spirit after the fugitive; at this time the frigate passed us under all sail, firing her guns in rapid succession, some of the balls from which made a grand clatter among the rocks on shore. The noble frigate as she dashed past our pigmy vessels like a huge leviathan, had some. thing very grand and imposing about her as seen through the dubious light ; apparently, her size was greatly augmented; and the long white horizontal line of her painted side, just distinguishable through the obscurity, glided past like a winged serpent darting through ether. As we advanced towards the open sea, the breeze became fresh, and in a little time we lost sight both of the ship and the schooner, and as the cannonading had ceased, we were in doubt whether the chase had surrendered or escaped. On getting on board the ship at midnight, we found that the privateer had really escaped, although, at one time, completely under the guns of the frigate ;-as the breeze freshened she drew away surprisingly fast, and at last she was suddenly lost sight of, when it was concluded that she had gone

down. A nearer chance of capture never, perhaps, occurred; the boat I was in had fairly got alongside the enemy's schooner, and another boat in the act of hooking on, by the rudder, to haul up, at the moment I have described that she slid past us, as it were, by magic! Our third lieutenant, lieutenant of marines, and several seamen were wounded. A day or two afterwards, we learned from an American, that he had spoken the privateer almost in a sinking state making her way to Monte Christo; great part of her deck was torn up by the 32-pound shot from the frigate's quarter-deck guns, and many of her men were killed and wounded; but the spirit of the commander remained unsubdued : he could be no other than our old acquaintance Jacque.

(To be continued.)

A SOLDIER OF FORTUNE.

“ Le premier qui fut roi fut un soldat heureux,

Qui sert bien sa patrie n'a pas besoin d'ayeux." These lines, so flattering to the noble profession of arms, bear upon two points, differing in their nature, yet equally honourable to the army; the one proves that the hero needs no ancestry to ennoble him ; the other shows that the nobility ought to be the natural defenders of the crown, the natural guardians of that country, in which they have the largest stake, in that legislature of which they are the highest branch under royalty; and if the soldier of fortune (designated by the French, l'officier de fortune) is encouraged by this hope of advancement and of elevation not only in military, but in civil rank, the nobleman and gentleman are called upon to be the champions of their king and country :* the former, by joining the martial ranks, adds dignity and weight to the profession; the latter, by devoting himself to the service, blends the nobility and gentry in that happy union, so necessary to a monarchy like ours, and gains a livelihood at once fraught with respectability and honest pride. The army is bread to some, others are bred to the army; the accomplished officer should partake of both, the profession affording at least decent means, and a thorough military education fitting him for all ranks, from that of the subaltern to the highest grade—from the duty of obeying, to the high office and trust of commanding. The younger sons of our aristocracy and gentlemen of moderate fortune form, perhaps, the most natural and desirable nursery for the line. We might say the same of the navy, but that this article is exclusively (from its motto) dedicated to the military; and the reason why these junior patrician branches and gentlemen of moderate fortune seem to be sucli, is because, whilst they partake of all the feelings flowing from high blood and independence, the profession offers them an additional pecuniary resource and an emulative expectation of rising to higher honours and emolument, in which career, all that is chivalrous, animat

* When Louis XVI. signed the act of the abolition of the nobility, the Viscomte Mirabeau, (brother to the Count,) being in a court dress, drew his sword and broke it against the wall, exclaiming, “Quand un monarque brise son sceptre, un gentilhomme doit rompre son épée."—When a monarch breaks his sceptre, a gentleman ought to smash his sword; indicating that the noble-born man, id est, the nobility and their descendants form the rampart of the throne, and that royalty compromised, “ Othello's occupation's gone."

ing, exciting, high and ornamental, affords a powerful auxiliary. The standard, or colours, at once the ensign of royalty, the badge of nationality and the mute monitor to stand by and do our duty; the gorgeous trappings, the bristling of arms, the glittering of steel, which bespeaks bright polish and daring deeds, the brilliancy of intellect and the vigour of execution; then again the stately war-horse eager for the fight, and lastly the heart-stirring sounds of martial music, soothing, beguiling, encouraging and elevating the soul by turns : nor is the sulphurous canopy under which the soldier has to fight, nor the cannon's roar, less a stimulus to deeds of arms than the necessary offensive and defensive means of conquest.

These adjuncts assist and raise up alike the soldier and the chief, but the more highly educated and refined the martial youth entrusted with leading on his men is, the stronger will these accompaniments of war operate upon his conduct and courage ; nay, if love and romance (and they are inseparable) inhabit his breast, prodigies of valour may be expected from him. Speaking of courage, the great Turenne was heard to say that the officer ought to be “cent fois plus brave que le soldat," because he has not only to avoid disgracing himself, but he has an example to set, on which not only a battle or a life may depend, but on which the records of posterity must report, and which will add lustre or sully the name and house to which he belongs. Nothing has ever been found more animating to the soldier in the hour of fight than reminding him of name, country, locality, former reputation and the like. “Voilà le Soleil d'Austerlitz !" said Buonaparte to his troops on an after occasion--this was enough to ensure similar bravery in his men. What did the sight of the Empress Marie Thérèse not do when, with her imperial infant in her arms, she showed herself to the grenadiers ? The wings of victory from that moment hovered over them; for sentiment is a tower of strength—a female voice and royal suffering—a wonderworking engine on a noble mind! These forceful appeals are electric to the heart beating under worsted lace, * as well as to that surmounted by the epaulette ; but Honneur et patrie need not be on the star—it is engraven in the heart's core of the nobleman and gentleman who enters the service. To the first class, the device of the order of Saint Lazare was peculiarly appropriate, “ Atavis et armis." Alas! the order has almost disappeared with the reign of chivalry, but the seeds of chivalrous daring are not lost, and they have sprung up and fructified in our three dear united kingdoms until they have produced a rich harvest of laurels.

It may now not be out of place, in conformity to our device, to examine what materials are inost calculated to form a fine army; the dazzling splendour of royalty, titles, riches and power; him whom the vulgar and base call the poor gentleman; or the valiant private, and the hardy, experienced veterans, who are les officiers de fortune, and who rise by merit to distinction and command. We would unhesitatingly say, that none of these would do exclusively, but that a judicious commingling of all three would be most likely to produce real invincibles : of the first,

* At the battle of Lugo, the French having most furiously attacked the right of the line, one regiment, (the 51st) being driven back behind the walls, Sir John Moore, at the head of his staff, perceiving them fall back, rushed forward with his hat in his hand, exclaiming, “ Recollect, men, I was your lieutenant-colonel--fullow me!" when gallantly leading them, they rapidly drove the French before them.

the proportion should be comparatively small to the second, and the third still smaller, because we have seen, in foreign countries, the worst results from titled children of staff rank, sickly diminutive lieutenant-colonels and colonels without talent, martial education and experience, calcu. lated to bring the profession into contempt; and because la haute no. blesse cannot devote a whole life to a military career, nor even sacri, fice time and pleasure enough to forin a scientific soldier's education ; whilst the third class lacks in study, accomplishments and other useful and ornamental acquireinents, what he makes up for in personal bravery, discipline, and practical knowledge, and therefore is incomplete, less tit to command than to obey, less effective in the cabinet than in the field, and wholly ignorant of various branches of education which give perfection to the officer and the man ; mathematics, for example, geography, military and other history, languages, the graces, and those exercises which are attractive in society and of great utility in a campaign.

The nobility and gentry are, according to the accustomed laws of the country, both civil and military, formed to command, the inferior ranks to obey, yet this does not preclude transcendant valour or talent from mounting to higher rank. A royal name, illustrious ancestry, ancient title and good fame are becoming to the military man, but ihe mere possession of riches is no recommendation, and an extravagant officer, eitlier from habit, or from thus having an extensive command of money, is no advantage to the regiment nor to the service; a certain degree of honourable and becoming economy being the very soul of a military life. Whilst, however, we praise the economist, and consider the officer who devotes his life to, and depends, in certain degree, on the service, we are very far from thinking the gayest cavaliers, the very votaries of fashion, are so enervated as to be unfit for the profession of war. Men who take the greatest care of their person out of the field are found to be the most regardless of it in it, and the most courtly youths in the high circles, both of ton and town, have been found the first in the ranks of danger, and ever ready to be an example to others; of this the beaus militaires abroad, our Household brigade, and our crack pattern regi. ments, hussars, lancere, &c. at home, present a striking proof.

The perfection of an army is the mixing up of great men as a high example to others; the general main body being composed of higlily educated military noblemen and gentlemen of minor means, whose early studies have been directed to their profession, and a third portion being open to the officier de fortune, tried and approved in the field, and owing to practice only what the former derives both from the theory and practice. There cannot be a greater error than the idea of a rough soldier and a rough sailor being a better warrior than a thorough-bred child of Mars, a man of high blood, an infant brought up in honour's school. How will the scholar, the linguist, the historian, the travelled man, the fine draughtsman, the able horseman, the fencer, the gymnastic scholar, feel his pre-eminence in all the stages of a military life! And these advantages (we speak it with all deference and high approbation) cannot belong to him who is raised from the ranks ; nevertheless it is acceptable to find him as a companion in the harvest of laurels. It may, perhaps, not be amiss to add one more remark to military qualifications, namely, that in those countries where the nobility serve as cadets, or volunteers, for a certain time, they become at once soldiers

« AnteriorContinuar »