In the days that followed the attempted assassination Lem Harvey was shunned by almost
everyone. The feelings against him were of mixed hatred. Some hated him for trying to kill David
Mitchel while others hated him for failing. The first mate did not mingle himself in ship disputes
and this one was no different. The captain, seeing the attitude of the crew, became cold towards
Lem and never let his contempt for David show. Lem resented this trick on the part of the
captain, but what he resented most was the kindness of David and the other three Christians on
board. He couldn't understand why they would be so gracious after what he did, so he attributed
it to some cover-up for a plot they had to take his life. With this assumption he always carried a
pistol with him when he went on deck.
A week passed with the crew in this condition. David's wound healed steadily and he was
able to walk about with the help of a stick after a while. Lem always watched him when he was
on deck with suspicion mingled with respect. The captain also watched him and looked for some
"accident" that would remove the "Preachin' cripple" from his ship.
The morning of June 6 dawned bright and clear. The wind was crisp and the Eagle was
under full sail. The sailors who were not on duty sat in little groups talking and smoking their
pipes, or in the case of Dan, Chad, Tom, and David, studying the Bible together. All at once the
man in the crow’s nest shouted, "Ship ahoy!"
"Where away?" cried the captain.
"To starboard, a few miles off, and she's flyin' British colors," answered the man. The captain
then asked the all important question, "What kind of ship?"
"Frigate, sir. Probably holds twenty-six guns to a broadside, plus bow and stern chasers, that
makes about fifty-six cannon in all," answered the watchman.
"We can take them!" exclaimed the captain. He spun around and shouted, "All hands on
deck! Man your guns! Beat to quarters! To your posts, men! Have the surgeons make ready!
Get yourselves ready for battle!"
The sailors scurried about like madmen, anyone who didn't move fast enough received blows
and curses from the captain and first and second mates. Tom also was not idle, although his
language was devoid of the curses that riddled the others orders.
"The wind is with us! Let out all sail! We can't let them escape!" shouted the captain.
Instantly men were in the topmasts letting out canvas. Hersley stood at the wheel and directed
the bow of the Eagle towards the oncoming Britisher. The marines armed themselves and
stationed themselves in readiness for boarding or in the rigging with muskets for sharpshooting.
Everything was in readiness and the American ship drew closer to her intended victim.
"It's the Sea Devil, Hersley!" the captain said in a low, urgent tone to his first mate.
"Aye sir, the one we ran in with last time. I think we have a better chance at it now that we
have drilled the crew and picked up our full compliment of guns, but you never know," replied
"Right, at lest we have long twenty-fours now instead of those shot range carronades. But
they still carry heavier metal than we do with their long thirty-twos. Make sure Lem lets all the
men know that these are the men who killed Rob and the rest. If they get at us again, they'll get
more than they bargained for," the captain growled savagely. He then turned to Tom and barked,
"We're close enough now! Have the men on the broadside prepare their guns. The bow chasers
can open up now.
"Cast loose your guns!" he shouted at the top of his voice. One hundred eighty-four sailors
worked furiously to loose the knots of the ropes that held the gun in place and level the muzzle.
"Take out your tampions!" bellowed Tom, at the same time leading the way by taking the plug
out of the muzzle of his own gun. This done he shouted,"Run out your guns!" forty-two cannon
ports opened and the same number of cannon muzzles were shoved out of the openings in less
time then it takes to tell it. The bow and stern chasers were also shoved out of the bridal ports.
"Prime!" Tom ordered, but the four man gun crews had already poured the needed amount of
powder from their flask and into the touch hole. They then lighted their match wicks and waited.
David looked up from the gun he had been assigned to and looked about at the other sailors.
Most had stripped off their shirts as he had and stood tense, sweating, peering through their gun
ports to try and spot the British ship. Would the enemy engage, or would they run off?
"Lem, have yer crews open with the bow chasers now. The rest of you, hold yer fire!" Tom
The two long bow chasers sticking through the bridal ports blasted fire and smoke and
sent twelve pounds of lead hurtling towards the British ship. The shots found their mark and
ripped though the stern of the Sea Devil. In retaliation the English ship spun around and came
full on at the Eagle, firing both of her bow chasers at the same time.
David slipped one of the double barreled pistols from his belt and examined the priming. He
shuddered at the thought that he may need to shoot someone with them by the end of the day,
although he knew he was fighting in defense of his country, his state, his family, and his God.
On an impulse he began to shout to the crew, "Remember, we are in the right, for we fight to
defend our homes and families. The battle is not ours, but Gods, and He will give the victory!
Are you with me?"
A tremendous shout went up from the crew and swords, blunderbusses, pistols, and pikes
were waved defiantly at the British ship. The enemy's intention was now obvious as they drew
closer, for the men could now see the sun gleaming off of twenty-two cannon muzzles with their
yawning mouths thrust forward from their ports as if eager for destruction.
"Hold yer fire till I order it, and only shoot if your gun is well aimed!" Tom shouted.
The British evidently didn't think much of Tom's order, for the moment he finished his
sentence they let loose a tremendous broadside at the Eagle. It mostly passed through the
rigging and did very little damage.
"Helmsman, put us at broadside with that ship!" Tom yelled. "Men, aim carefully then fire on
my mark. Steady...aim straight and true...NOW!!!"
The entire starboard side of the Eagle erupted in flame and smoke as the twenty-one
cannon on that side fired nearly simultaneously. The crew had learned well in the weeks of
training under Tom and the broadside went home. The Britisher replied with another broadside
from its starboard side as the ships passed each other. This one was better aimed than the last
one for the most part. David, Chad, Tom, and Dan, who were together on one cannon on the
port side of the ship, heard a sharp explosion beside them as one of the British shells ripped
through the side of the Eagle and smashed into the gun next to them.The cannon was not
injured but one of the crew fell dead on the spot while two of the others were wounded. The
fourth man helped one of his comrades who was less severely wounded back to his feet.
"Let’s show them lubberly Brits that we can still fight!" he said. The two worked as quickly as
they could to reload their gun, but with the one man being wounded and the other two disabled,
they were behind the others in getting their gun ready. Cries from the other parts of the ship showed that others had killed and wounded as well.
Both ships turned about and came to pass each other again. David stood tense at his gun,
waiting for it to be fired so it could be reloaded. Beside him were Tom, Chad, and Dan. Chad
held the smoking wick, waiting to lower it into the touch hole. Tom was kneeling by the cannon,
adjusting the sights so that when the ships did pass his gun would be ready. The two ships were
closing fast and Tom made out the enemy sailors working furiously at the guns.
As the ships neared each other Captain Donte ordered Hersley, "Swing us in front of them
where they can't get us with their broadsides. We'll fire the cannon on the starboard side instead
of the port guns. After that swing us around so we can hit them with the port guns."
"Aye aye sir," Hersley replied.
"Men," the captain shouted, "We'll be swinging in front of them. Men on the starboard side
will fire at the bow first, then we will swing around and do it again with the port guns!"
At the last moment the Eagle swung in front of the Sea Devil. The gunners aimed their
pieces and fired them one by one into the front of the enemy. Within a moment the American
had passed in front of their opponent and swung around. The men in the sails tacked and the
Eagle swept by again, blasting the enemy with another broadside.
Before the smoke had even cleared Tom was shouting orders, "Sponge your guns! Be quick
but thorough, don't want you to be blown up by a stray spark! That's it, that’s it. Load your guns!
Make sure all the powder is rammed back. Good, now shot your guns! Hurry, let's beat the Brits
to the next salvo! Run out your guns!"
The American ship continued to maneuver about the Britisher like some great dance. The
American crew had begun to work together like one man. The men in the topsails kept a
constant watch on the direction of the wind and tacked to port, then to starboard, then let the
ship run with the wind, then pulled her up all together. The masts were trimmed to fighting
canvas and the top men were constantly adjusting to give the American the advantage.
Hersley steered the ship to the best of his ability to keep her out of the guns of the enemy
while allowing his own men to rake her. Every time the Sea Devil tried to break away or move
ahead Hersley brought his ship around to cut her off. He and the top men called back and forth
and worked in nearly perfect coordination.
The Eagle had received some damage, mostly in her rigging and gun decks, but not a shot
had gone below the water line. About five guns had been knocked out of operation and several
more gun crews killed or wounded. The Sea Devil on the other hand had suffered terribly, with
ten shot below the water line, the foremast and upper mizenmast shot away, and half the guns
out of commission. She was nearly in sinking condition.
The artillerists worked furiously to get off another volley. David glanced at the crippled gun
crew next to him from time to time. Because of their loss of men they were a few seconds late
for every broadside, and their single salvo boomed out after the main show had died down.
David wished he could help them, but he was needed at his gun. After a minute he broke into
song. Chad, Dan, and Tom joined in the hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers!" with Tom alternately interrupting himself to yell orders.
"Like a mighty army...Aim your guns, and aim them good!...Brothers we are treading where
the saints have trod...Fire! (BOOM!!!)...all one body we,...Sponge your guns!..."
The cannon balls flew fast and thick between the two ships as they drifted closer and closer
"McNare, that blasted brig is late! If they don't get to the Eagle soon, the Sea Devil will be
nothing but a pile of wreckage! They have already inflicted forty-five casualties on us, not to
mention the wounded!" ejaculated the captain of the Sea Devil to his first mate.
"I know sir, but Captain Tompson has to come up unseen, otherwise the trap is worthless.
You know from last time that the Eagle can outrun any other frigate even with twenty-five or so
sailors missing. So if the Shark catches up to her alone without our support, she is lost due to
her smaller numbers of men and guns." replied McNare.
"At this rate we will not have any men left to support her with," grumbled the captain. "The
Americans have definitely practiced with the guns and maneuvering since we last engaged,
while we lost many of our trained men in that blasted skirmish with the Constitution. Our only
chance is if the Shark comes up and we board the Eagle together."
Just then another volley flew from the side of the American and crashed into the Sea Devil.
The captain and first mate ducked violently as a ball screeched overhead.
"That was a smidgen to close!" said the captain straightening up, but he spoke too soon. A
cannon on board the Eagle, a few seconds late for the volley, offered a single salvo. The shot
did more than its gunners ever imagined, for it exploded directly over the British captain and first
mate, killing both instantly. The second mate hurried up and bent down over the two bodies and
groaned, "What will I do now?"
As the smoke from another volley cleared Captain Donte turned to Hersley and exclaimed, "I
do believe we have them! Their volleys have not been half as strong as the first one and the
damage caused is very slight. If I am right, we should be able to close and take them in an
"Yes sir," replied the mate. "But remember sir, they carry three hundred eighty-nine men to
our Three hundred forty-six. They still may have more men than we do, and it may be a trick to
draw us in."
"I'll just have to risk that. Hersley, bring us into a boarding position!" commanded the captain.
At that moment a cry came from the snipers in the rigging, "Captain! Ship to windward, a
brig, flying British colors, and she is coming this way at full sail!"
"How many guns?" called back the captain.
"Probably about sixteen between broadsides, she's got more in bow and stern chasers. Most
likely she carries twenty guns total."
"How many men?" the captain called again.
"Probably about one hundred thirty crewmen and gunners, but I can see an unusual amount
of marines on board, probably around one hundred. I'd put her force at about two hundred
thirty." replied the man.
"Blast!" ejaculated Captain Donte, "If she hadn't come up we could have taken the Sea Devil!
Now we'll have to watch to ourselves and move off like beaten puppies unless we want to be
fightin' both at once."
"You want me to break off of boardin' course, sir?" asked Hersley.
"Yes, but let us get one last broadside at the first ship. If we hurt 'er bad enough we may
knock 'er out of the chase, and we may have a chance."
"Aye aye, sir!" replied Hersley.
The captain nodded. "Have the men hold their fire until we are within one hundred yards of
the enemy. After the broadside have the men put on more sail and get us out of harm's way. We
can't engage both at once."
The Sea Devil had kept up a spirited fire even though most of her guns were not in operating
order. The shells continued to play on the American decks and especially the rigging. One shell
came through the open gun port of David's cannon, skipped off the barrel, and exploded ten feet
behind them. All four men ducked violently and the loading stopped momentarily.
"Is everyone all right?" David asked after a moment.
"Yes, I think so," Tom answered. He then dropped to his knees and aimed the cannon
"Hold your fire until we are one hundred yards away!" Tom heard Hersley call. "There is
another enemy ship to windward so we cannot finish the engagement."
"Aye aye, sir!" Tom called back. "Alright, men, you heard the mate, hold yer fire!"
The Eagle rapidly approached the British ship, undergoing the hail of lead fired from both
enemy ships. Much of the shot passed through the rigging, while a small percentage of it struck
the Eagle, causing a number of casualties. At one hundred yards Hersley turned the Portside of
the ship towards the enemy and Tom yelled, "FIRE!" at the top of his voice. Instantly the ship
erupted in fire and smoke and five hundred four pounds of lead tore into the Sea Devil. The
effect was at once visible. Masts and spars were shot away, holes torn in the hull, and many
guns dismounted. A great shout of triumph arose from the American ship, but David couldn't
help but think of all the brave men who died due to that broadside.
The British frigate was now in sinking condition. No longer did her guns reply as they had to
the American's shot. The Yankee sailors could see the second mate hurrying the survivors into
the ship’s boats to escape. The galant English ship rolled over onto its port side and slowly
disappeared below the waves.
A number of small arms and two small cannon had been stashed in the boats of the Sea
Devil and the survivors took these up and began a fierce but harmless barrage at the Eagle,
which only the cannon could reach. The four boats were filled up and now held one hundred six
armed men between them, not to mention the men who were wounded, which were in the
majority. The crew of the other British vessel circled around to pick the boats up. Both crews
showed admirable courage and valor in their attempt to keep up the fight.
Seeing the maneuver of the Shark Hersley swung the Eagle about and headed for her. At
once the Britisher opened a spirited fire on the American, causing some damage, but the
frigate's crew responded with such force that a number of heavy guns on the Shark were put out
of action. The two ships came closer and closer until the snipers in the rigging could distinctly
see the enemy sailors and mark them with their muskets. The fire became hot between both the
broadsides and the musketry and many on both sides were killed. The Shark now approached
the boats and these were brought on board. The British and Americans now were about even in
number of men, but the Eagle was still superior in fire power. A fierce cannonade ensued, with
the snipers in the rigging spraying both decks with bullets.
"Come on men! Ram your loads home! That’s it! Now run out your guns!" Tom was shouting
at the top of his voice.
In the rigging of the British Brig, a sniper by the name of Lars Jannison saw Tom, recognized that he was the gun commander, and reached for a loaded musket. At the moment Tom touched off his cannon Lars fired. The musket ball passed through Tom's chest and he died instantly.
"NO!" Chad shouted leaping to Tom's side. Up above Lars took another loaded musket from
the man below him and sighted it on Chad. Once again he fired. Chad slumped forward across
Tom, also dead. Dan and David rushed to the fallen men, and Lars once again took up a gun.
David looked up into the rigging to see a musket aimed down at them. Before he could do
anything a rifle sounded behind him. The British sniper jolted as a rifle ball struck him and he fell
fifty feet to the deck of the Shark. David turned to see Lem Harvey standing behind him with a
double-barreled rifle in his hand.
"That one's for Tom Prince!" Lem shouted, raising the gun again.
Once more the rifle blasted and the man who had been reloading for Lars Jannison also
dropped his musket and fell.
"And that's for Chad! Cold blooded villain, shooting at a man who is tending a fallen
comrade!" Lem shouted again.
"Hersley! Guide us in to board her!" Captain Donte called from the main deck.
"Aye aye, sir!" Hersley replied. He spun the wheel to port and headed the Eagle straight at
the smaller Shark. Lem used the moment of opportunity to have his gun crews fire both forward
long cannon (which were double shotted with both solid and grapeshot) into the enemy deck.
The maneuver was so quick and the two ships so close together that no maneuvering on the
part of the Britisher was possible. The bowsprit of the Eagle tangled in the rigging of the Shark
and the ships were locked together by ropes. Both sides had their boarders called away and the
men rushed for their muskets and cutlasses. The battle would now be hand to hand.
To be continued...