The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England

       Harry Castlemon / Young Adult

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The First Capture; or, Hauling Down the Flag of England
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THE FIRST CAPTURE

OR

_Hauling Down the Flag of England_

BY HARRY CASTLEMON

_Author of ”The Gunboat Series,” ”Houseboat Series,” ”War Series,” Etc., Etc._

_ILLUSTRATED_

THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING CO. NEW YORK AKRON, O. CHICAGO

COPYRIGHT, 1900, BY THE SAALFIELD PUBLISHING CO.

CONTENTS.

Chapter Page

I. The Battle of Lexington 5

II. Enoch's Home 18

III. Zeke Lewis 30

IV. Zeke's Proposition 42

V. A Rebellion in the Court-room 56

VI. Getting ready for the Fray 69

VII. The Bucket of Yeast 82

VIII. Under Way 95

IX. The ”Aggressive” Tory 108

X. A Visit to the Jail 121

XI. A Plan that did not Work 133

XII. Different Opinions 145

XIII. The Cheer 158

XIV. The Chase 171

XV. Hauling down the Flag of England 183

XVI. After the Battle 196

XVII. Zeke's Exhibition of Strength 209

XVIII. What to do with the Schooner 222

XIX. Conclusion 235

THE FIRST CAPTURE

CHAPTER I.

THE BATTLE OF LEXINGTON.

It happened on the morning of the 9th day of May. The little village ofMachias in the far away colony of Maine was lively enough as far asfishing towns go, but on this particular time it was in a regularturmoil. Men had jumped up leaving their breakfast half eaten and ranout bareheaded to gather round a courier, who, sitting on a horse thathad his head down and his flanks heaving as if he were almost exhausted,was telling them of a fight which had occurred just twenty days before.There was nothing to indicate that the men were excited except theirpale faces and clenched hands, but the looks they turned upon oneanother had a volume of meaning in them. What had the messenger tocommunicate that had incited such a feeling among those who listened tohim? He was describing the battle of Lexington which had been fought andwon by the patriots on the 19th day of April. We did not have anytelegraph in those days, and the only way the people could holdcommunication with one another was by messengers, mounted on fleethorses, who rode from village to village with the news.

The courier was so impatient to tell what he knew that he could not talkfast enough, but the substance of his story was as follows:

General Gage, the commander of the British troops who were quartered in Boston about this time, had become a tyrant in the eyes of the people. When spring opened he had a force of three thousand five hundred men. Boston was the headquarters of the rebellion. He determined with this force to nip the insurrection in the bud, and his first move was to seize and destroy the stores of the patriots at Concord, a little village located about six miles from Lexington. To carry out this plan he sent forth eight hundred men under the command of Colonel Smith and Major Pitcairn with orders to ”seize, burn and otherwise render useless” everything in the shape of munitions of war that they could find. He supposed he went about it secretly, but the ever-vigilant patriots were awake to all his movements. A watch was established at Concord, and everywhere the minute-men were ready with ”burnished muskets, fixed bayonets, and well-filled cartouches.”

They left Boston about midnight, but it so happened that the minute-menbecame aware of their expedition almost as soon as it was ready tostart. Paul Revere was there and ready to undertake his famous midnightride. No sooner was the trampling of soldiers heard than two lights werehung in the steeple of Christ Church in Charlestown. Paul Revere saw thelights, and he forthwith mounted his horse and started to carry thewarning to every village in Middlesex.[1] The British did not see thebeacon fire blazing above them, but marched away silent and still,arresting everybody that came in their way ”to prevent the intelligenceof their expedition being given.”

[Footnote 1:

”He said to a friend, 'If the British march By land or sea from the town to-night, Hang a lantern aloft in the belfry arch Of the Old North Tower as a signal light-- One if by land, two if by sea, And I on the opposite shore will be Ready to ride and spread the alarm Through every Middlesex village and farm For the country folk to be up and to arm.'”]

As the day began to dawn in the east the British reached Lexington, andthere they found a company of minute-men gathered on the green. To saythat they were amazed at the sight would be putting it very mildly; butMajor Pitcairn, after a short consultation with his superior officer,rode up and flourished his sword as if he meant to annihilate theminute-men then and there. His officers followed him and his troops cameclose behind him in double quick time. But the patriots stood theirground, and the redcoats shouted angrily at them--

”Disperse, you villains! Lay down your arms! Why don't you disperse, yourebels?”

But our men had not come out there to be dispersed by shouting. Utterlyignorant of the ways of civilized warfare they continued to hold theirground, and for a time it looked as though there was going to bebloodshed sure enough. Major Pitcairn did not care to come too close tothem but wheeled his horse, discharged his pistol and shouted ”Fire!”and the British obeyed him. The front rank fired, and when the smokecleared away, seven men, the first martyrs of the Revolution, were foundweltering in their blood. That was too much for the patriots. They didnot suppose that the British were going to shoot them down like dogs.They scattered in every direction, and the redcoats, having nothingfurther to oppose them, kept on and destroyed the stores.

”Colonel, I don't like the way those rebels retreated,” said MajorPitcairn, as he kept a close watch upon the neighboring hills. ”Theyfell back as though they would come again.”

”If they were soldiers we would know how to take them,” replied ColonelSmith. ”But being rebels, we have nothing further to fear from them.”

Major Pitcairn, however, kept a bright lookout, and very soon he becameuneasy at the rapidity with which the militia increased in numbers. Hecalled the attention of his superior to it, and very shortly the lattergave the order to retreat; and it was not a moment too soon. The wholeregion flew to arms, for remember that Paul Revere had aroused tovigilance the inmates of every house he came to, and from every onethere came a man or boy who was strong enough to handle a rifle, andhurried to the help of his countrymen. It seems that Colonel Smith hadmore to contend with than mere rebels. It appeared, too, that one whoafterwards wrote about that battle was there to have seen it for hetells us in his poem:

”And so through the night rode Paul Revere, And so through the night went his cry of alarm To every Middlesex village and farm-- A cry of defiance and not of fear, A voice in the darkness, a knock at the door, And a word that shall echo for evermore. For, borne on the night-wings of the Past, Through all our history to the last, In the hours of our darkness, peril, and need, Will the people waken to listen, to hear The hurrying foot-beats of that steed, And the midnight message of Paul Revere.”

The minute-men gathered as if by magic. They did not come out and formthemselves in line for the purpose of being shot down by the redcoats,but remembering their skulking habits which they learned while fightingthe Indians, they hid behind trees, fences, and rocks, in front, flank,and rear, and poured so galling a fire upon the Britishers that if ithad not been for reinforcements not one of those eight hundred men wouldever have reached the city alive. As one of their officers expressed it:”the militia seemed to have dropped from the clouds,” and the flower ofthat British army must have surrendered to those patriots if relief hadnot arrived. Their retreat was regarded as a defeat and a flight, andat every corner were heard the jeers and mockings of the peopleregarding that ”great British army at Boston who had been beaten by aflock of Yankees.” At any rate the jubilee trumpet was soundedproclaiming ”Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitantsthereof.” The power of all the royal governors was broken, fromMassachusetts to Georgia.

This was the substance of the news which was brought to Machias twentydays after the fight. The people were both astonished andangry--astonished to know that the British soldiers, who had beenregarded as invulnerable, could be outdone with American bullets, andangry to learn that so many of their friends[2] should have been killedduring their conflict with them.

[Footnote 2: Lossing says: ”The British lost 65 killed, 18 wounded, and28 made prisoners; in all 273. The Americans lost 59 killed, 39 wounded,and 5 missing; in all 103.]

”This thing has got to be settled now,” said Zeke Lewis, turning awayand flourishing his fists in the air. ”That is too many of our men to goup after fighting those redcoats. Boston has been standing all thebrunt of tyranny so far, and we had better join in. Now there's that--”

The man suddenly paused and looked about him. Almost every face he sawwas that of a patriot, but there were a few who were known to be Tories,and it would not do to express his thoughts too freely before them.

”Go on, Zeke,” said a friend at his elbow. ”There's what?”

”When I get you fellows all by yourselves I will explain things to you,”said Zeke, after holding a short consultation with a young man who stoodclose beside him. ”There are too many Britishers here.”

”Yes; and they ought to be shot down as those redcoats were atLexington,” said another.

Any one who had been there could easily have picked out the Tories bythe expression of their faces. They were amazed by the news. Britishsoldiers whipped by a mob! They would have been glad to deny it if theycould, but there were too many stalwart sailors standing around whoseopinions differed from their own, and they thought it would be the partof wisdom to keep their thoughts to themselves. They turned toward theirhomes, but they had plenty of opportunity to exchange ideas with oneanother.

The most of those who had listened to the messenger's news also turnedaway when he got through speaking and walked with their heads on theirbreasts and their eyes fastened thoughtfully on the ground. Among themwas one, Enoch Crosby by name, who seemed to think that the world wascoming to an end because the British soldiers had been fired upon; buthe did not believe as the Tories did by any means. He was an American;he could not forget that.

Among all the boys of his acquaintance there was no one more loyal toKing George than he was. His father had been an officer in the serviceof the crown before he died, and Enoch believed that a monarch who hadbeen selected to reign over a country, was placed there by divine right.The people had nothing to do with it except to hold themselves inreadiness to obey his orders. He had English blood in his veins, and,although he felt the soil of America under his feet, he had been,almost ever since he could remember, a good and loyal subject of GreatBritain, and hoped some day to serve King George with his sword. To haveall this thing wiped out in a day by a fight, was rather more than theboy could live up under.

But he was an American. It came upon him with a force sometimes thatalmost took his breath away. He could still be loyal to his sovereignand ready to smite hip and thigh any one who said anything against him,but his sailor's love of fair play would not let him stand by and seehis neighbors imposed upon.

Enoch had been watching this thing for two years and all the while hefelt the ropes of tyranny growing tighter. Ever since General Gage hadtaken up his quarters in Boston he had been growing more and more severein his treatment of the patriots. The Stamp Act, the Boston Massacre,The Tea Party, and the conduct of his soldiers in destroying the ice onwhich the boys were accustomed to spend their half holidays--all thesewere galling to Enoch, and he hoped that the time would soon come whensomething would induce the King to do differently. But when ChristopherSnyder was killed by Richardson for looking on at a mob who were engagedin throwing clods and stones at him, and Governor Hutchinson refused tosign Richardson's death warrant, it opened the eyes of Enoch and hebegan to see things in a plainer light. The man was put into prison, butat the end of two years was pardoned out by the King. Enoch found thatit was necessary to fight in order to secure his rights, and it cost hima long and severe struggle to come to that conclusion. He was thinkingabout these things as he walked slowly homeward and went into the house.His mother, with snowy hair and steel-bowed spectacles, raised her eyesfrom her knitting, and one glance was enough to show her that somethinghad gone wrong with Enoch.

If there was anybody on earth Enoch loved it was his mother. All hersurroundings bore evidence to that fact. Enoch was a sailor--he had madea good many trips along the coast in little trading vessels--but when hewas at home he was not idle. His mother had enough from the earnings ofher husband to support her in as good a style as she cared to live; theraiment of herself and son was neat and comely, but that did not preventher from sticking close to the New England maxim: ”Those who do not workshould not eat.” She had plainly brought Enoch up with the same ideas,for when he was ashore he was always at work at something.

Mrs. Crosby did not go out to listen to the news the messenger had tobring, but Enoch went, and the face he brought back with him excited hismother's alarm at once. Like her son she had been waiting for this day,but she little dreamed that it would come so soon.

”What is it, boy?” she asked, dropping her knitting into her lap. ”Thatman's horse seems to be near tired out. Has he come far?”

”He came from out west somewhere,” said Enoch, dropping into the nearestchair. ”But I don't know whether he came from Lexington or not.”

”What should be going on at Lexington?” asked Mrs. Crosby; althoughsomething told her that the news the messenger brought was worse thanany she had heard yet.

”They have had a fight out there,” said Enoch, resting his head on hishands. ”King George can make up his mind to one thing, and that is, hehad better keep his men at home. The provincials whipped them becausethey destroyed property that did not belong to them.”

”And they did have a fight sure enough?” said his mother.

”They had such a fight as they used to have with the Indians. Theykilled almost three hundred of them.”

Mrs. Crosby settled back in her chair and looked at Enoch withoutspeaking.


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