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Italy. Riches may enslave a country, but will never make it free; for it is only the poor and the hardy that can sustain the labours and privations, by which the struggle for freedom must be maintained.
With the exception of Rome, the city of Syracuse was the most celebrated in all Italy, and its islands. In its most flourishing state it extended twenty-two miles in circumference, and maintained an army of one hundred thousand foot, ten thousand horse, with a navy of four hundred ships. It was said of the inhabitants of Syracuse, that they were the best of men when virtuous--the most wicked when depraved by vicious pursuits. Unhappily they verify the truth of the latter position at this time. Our officers all agree that no community can be in a worse moral state than the people of this city. The nobility are impoverished and corrupt-monopolizers of almost every employment--one nobleman has the monopoly of baking bread for a city, and no one is permitted to bake but himself; another has the rare privilege of supplying Messina, or some other place, with fish, and it is not many years since this last city was obliged to live upon tainted fish for several days, because the prince who had the monopoly of that article, and who, if we remember right, claimed a descent from the Cyclops, who once possessed Sicily, chose to enrich himself at the expense of the wretched populace. In short, evefy thing is a monopoly in Sicily; and the peasant who has a surplus of grain to sell, cannot dispose of it until a price is fixed by a certain chamber at Palermo. Certainly it is worth while to shed little blood for the restoration of such a system of government!
Robberies and assassinations are the nightly amusements of Syracusans, and our officers in their evening rambles, were frequently assailed by soldiers, or fellows armed with knives or daggers. Their favourite mode of fighting is to blow out the candles, and in that situation their knives and daggers are the most dangerous of all weapons. On some occasion, which occurred in Syracuse, Macdonough was attacked by three of
these desparadoes; with his back against a door, he had the good fortune to wound two, and the other took to his heels. He was followed by the lieutenant, who pushed him so hard that he climbed up to the roof of the barracks, whither Macdonough followed him still, and finding no other means of escape, he jumped off, with the loss of his life.
In the interval between the Tripolitan war and that which commenced in 1812, no occasion occurred to our naval officers for signalizing themselves, and we shall pass silently over this period of lieutenant Macdonough's life, because it furnishes no incident of sufficient importance to be interesting to the reader. The ordinary vicissitudes of life, are only of consequence to ourselves, and our immediate friends; and though we may run counter to the opinion of Dr. Johnson, we cannot help believing that the curiosity which is gratified by the important fact, that Milton wore latchets in his shoes, is more worthy a prying village gossip, than a great philosopher; because such a circumstance furnishes no elucidation either of character or manners. It is by the aid of such trifles that a jobbing writer will contrive to swell the life of a learned archdeacon, or of a man who derives his sole claim to notice, from freezing ice in summer (as if we had not quite enough of it in winter) into a bulk surpassing that of all Plutarch's Lives put together. As we have no perception of the value of such minute inquiries, we will proceed to a detail of that action in which the subject of this article became distinguished by the most important services to his country, in gaining a victory which occasioned the total failure of a plan of operations on the part of the enemy, which would otherwise have produced the most fatal consequences.
Soon after the declaration of war, in 1812, a small naval force was created on lake Champlain, for the three-fold object of affording protection to our frontier in that quarter; facili-tating military operations; and preventing, as far as possible, the enemy from receiving those supplies, which were contiVOL. VII.
nually furnished by the corrupt and treasonable agency of some of our own citizens. It became necessary, in proportion as the operations of our armies were directed to this quarter, to aug. ment this force, as well because it could materially co-operate in offensive designs, as because it had become indispensable, perhaps, from the augmentation of the naval force of the enemy, on lake Champlain. This contest of building was carried on from year to year, until 1814, when the relative force of the two nations stood as follows:
Thus stood affairs, when early in the month of September, in that year, sir George Prevost began his march at the head of fourteen thousand men, with the intention of dislodging general Macomb from his works at Plattsburg, and then penetrating into the heart of the state of New York. There is reason to suppose that this plan was connected with an attack on the city of New York, by the force on our maritime frontier, had it succeeded in the affair of Baltimore. Certain it is that this apprehension had drawn the militia from the country above, and left it in a state very much exposed to the incursions of the enemy. The destruction of the American naval force on lake Champlain was supposed by sir George Prevost to be essential to the success of his plan of operations; and captain Downie, who was at the head of the British squadron, was directed to attack the American naval force, which had been for some time under the command of Macdonough, then only a lieutenant, at the same time that sir George stormed the intrenchments at Plattsburg.
Aware of their intentions, and knowing of their approach, Macdonough decided to await the attack at anchor. At eight in the morning of the 11th of September, 1814, the look-out boat announced the approach of the enemy's squadron.' At nine the action was general, and we cannot do better than describe it in captain Macdonough's own words.
“At nine,” says the captain, “ the enemy anchored in a line ahead, at about three hundred yards distant from my line: his ship opposed to the Saratoga; his brig to the Eagle, captain Robert Henley; his gallies, thirteen in number, to the schooner, sloop, and a division of our gallies—one of his sloops assisting their ship and brig; the other assisting their gallies. Our remaining gallies were with the Saratoga and Eagle.
“ In this situation, the whole force on both sides became engaged, the Saratoga suffering much from the heavy fire of the Confiance. I could perceive at the same, however, that our fire was very destructive to her. The Ticonderoga, lieutenant-commandant Cassin, gallantly sustained her full share of the action. At half past ten, the Eagle not being able to bring her guns to bear, cat her cable, and anchored in a more eligible position, between my ship and the Ticonderoga, where she very much annoyed the enemy; but unfortunately leaving me exposed to a galling fire from the enemy's brig.
“Our guns on the starboard side being nearly all dismounted, or unmanageable, a stern anchor was let go, the bower cable cut, and the ship winded with a fresh broadside on the enemy's ship, which soon after surrendered. Our broadside was then sprung to bear on the brig, which struck about fifteen minutes afterwards. The sloop which was opposed to the Eagle, had struck some time before, and drifted down the line. The sloop that was with their gallies had also struck. Three of their gallies are said to be sunk; the others pulled
Our gallies were about obeying with alacrity the signal to follow them, when all the vessels were reported to me to be in a sinking state. It then became necessary to annul the signal to the gallies, and order their men to the pumps. I could only look at the enemy's gallies going off in a shattered condition; for there was not a mast in either squadron that could stand to make sail on. The lower rigging being near. ly all shot away, hung down as though it had just been placed over the mast heads.
“ The Saratoga had fifty-nine round shot in her hull; the Confiance one hundred and five. The enemy's shot passed principally just over our heads, as there were not twenty whole hammocks in the nettings, at the close of the action, which lasted without intermission two hours and twenty minutes.
“ The absence and sickness of lieutenant Raymond Per. ry left me without the assistance of that excellent officer. Much ought fairly to be attributed to him for his great care and attention in disciplining the ship's crew, as her first lieutenant. His place was filled by a gallant young officer, lieutenant Peter Gamble, who, I regret to inform you, was killed early in the action.”
Captain Macdonough concludes his letter by stating that the Saratoga was twice set on fire during the engagement by hot shot from the enemy's ship; and expressions of gratitude for the able support he received from every officer and man in the squadron.
The loss of the Americans in this hard-fought battle was fifty-two killed and fifty-eight wounded: that of the British eighty-four killed and one hundred and ten wounded. Among the killed on the American side was lieutenant Peter Gamble, a gallant young officer, one of three gallant brothers who had devoted themselves to the service of their country. The other two brothers still survive, one a commandant in the navy, the other a captain of marines, and both ranking among the first officers of their grade in either service. He who fell on the memorable 11th of September is inseparably connected with an event which will never be forgot in this nation, and will, we trust, bear with it the recollection as well of the