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A SHORT CRUISE IN THE LETTER-OF-MARQUE-SCHOONER LEO, GEORGE COGGESHALL, COMMANDER, FROM L'ORIENT TO CHARLESTON, AND HER CAPTURE IN THE YEARS 1814 AND 1815-PREPARE AND FIT OUT THE LEO AT L'ORIENT-DISARMED BY ORDER OF THE FRENCH GOVERNMENT-SAIL FROM L'ORIENT-PROCEED TO THE ENGLISH CHANNEL-CAPTURE SEVERAL PRIZES COMPELLED TO LEAVE THE CHANNEL AND STEER TO THE SOUTHWARD, ON ACCOUNT OF BEING BADLY ARMED, AND VERY DEFICIENT IN SAILS AND RIGGING ARRIVE OFF LISBON-DISMASTED WHILE IN CHASE OF A BRITISH PACKET TAKEN BY THE GRANICUS FRIGATE, AND TOWED ROUND TO GIBRALTAR— PROCEED IN THE GRANICUS TO TETUAN BAY, MOROCCO-RETURN TO GIBRALTAR—REFUSAL OF THE GOVERNOR OF THAT PLACE TO PAROLE CAPTAIN AND OFFICERS-EXAMINATION AT THE ADMIRALTY OFFICE-ESCAPE FROM THE GARRISON-GO ON BOARD A NORWEGIAN GALLIOT-HUBBUB AND CONFUSION IN GIBRALTAR TO FIND THE CAPTAIN OF THE LEO-TAKE PASSAGE TO ALGECIRAS WITH A GANG OF SMUGGLERS-RESIDE WITH THE FAMILY OF THE CAPTAIN OF THE GANG-AIDED AND PROTECTED BY THE AMERICAN CONSUL, HORATIO SPRAGUE, ESQ.-LEAVE ALGECIRAS, IN DISGUISE, FOR CADIZ--REMARKS ON THAT REGION OF COUNTRY-ARRIVE AT, CADIZ-KIND RECEPTION AT THAT PLACE BY HIS OLD FRIENDS AND COUNTRYMEN-RESIDENCE AT CADIZ THEATRES AND BULL-FIGHTS-SAIL FROM CADIZ FOR LISBON IN A PORTUGUESE VESSEL.
CRUISE IN THE LETTER-OF-MARQUE SCHOONER LEO, FROM L'ORIEN I TO CHARLESTON, WITH AN ACCOUNT OF HER CAPTURE.
The Leo was a fine Baltimore built vessel of 320 tons, a remarkably fast sailer, and in every respect a superior vessel. She was lying in the harbor of L'Orient on the 1st of November, 1814, and was then owned by Thomas Lewis, Esq., an American gentleman, residing in Bordeaux. On the 2nd of November, she was purchased by an association of American gentlemen (then in France). placed under my command, and her commission as a letter-of-marque indorsed over to me under the sanction of the Hon. William H. Crawford, who was at that time our Minister at Paris. It was determined that I shoul make a short cruise for the purpose of capturing a few
prizes from the enemy, and then proceed to Charleston for a cargo of cotton, and return to France as soon as possible.
As there were at this time quite a number of American seamen in Bordeaux, Nantes and L'Orient, supported by the government of the United States, through the consuls at those ports, it was desirable to take home as many of them as the schooner could conveniently accommodate. I took with me, as first officer, Mr. Pierre G. Depeyster, and left Bordeaux by diligence, for L'Orient. On our way we stopped a day or two at Nantes, where I engaged, with the consent of our consul at that port, forty seamen and two petty officers.
Mr. Azor O. Lewis, a fine young man, brother of the former owner of the Leo, was one of my prize masters, and to him I committed the charge of bringing about forty more seamen from Bordeaux to L'Orient. The residue of the officers and men were picked up at L'Orient, with the exception of four or five of my petty officers, who came up from Bordeaux to join the schooner at L'Orient.
Early in November we commenced fitting her for sea. We found her hull in pretty good order, but her sails and rigging were in a bad state. I, however, set every thing in motion, as actively as possible, and put in requisition sailmakers, blockmakers, blacksmiths, etc., etc.; while others were employed taking in ballast and filling water casks, in fine, hurrying on as fast as possible, before we should be stopped.
The English had so much influence with the new government of Louis XVIII. that I felt extremely anxious to get out on the broad ocean without delay, and therefore drove on my preparations almost night and day.
After ballasting, I took on board 3 tons of bread, 30
barrels of beef, 15 ditto of pork, and other stores to correspond, being enough for fifty days.
I got ready for sea on the 6th of November. My crew, including the officers and marines, numbered about one hundred souls, and a better set of officers and men never left the port of L'Orient. But we were miserably armed; we had, when I first took command of the schooner, one long brass 12-pounder, and four small 4-pounders, with some fifty or sixty poor muskets. Those concerned in the vessel seemed to think we ought, with so many men, to capture prizes enough, even without guns.
With this miserable armament, I was now ready for sea, and had dropped the schooner down near the mouth of the outer harbor, and was only waiting for my papers from Paris, to proceed on my intended voyage; when to my severe mortification, I was ordered by the public authorities to return into port, and disarm the vessel. The order was imperative, and I was of course compelled to obey. I accordingly waited on the commanding officer of the port, and told him it was a hard case not to allow me sufficient arms to defend my vessel against the boats of the enemy.
He politely told me he was sorry, but that he must obey the orders of his government, and that I must take out all the guns except one, and at the same time laughingly observed that one gun was enough to take a dozen English ships before I got to Charleston.
I, of course, kept the long 12-pounder, and in the night smuggled on board some twenty or thirty muskets. In this situation I left the port of L'Orient, on the 8th of November, 1814, and stood out to sea in the hope of capturing a few prizes. After getting to sea we rubbed up the muskets, and with this feeble armament steered for the chops of the British Channel. I soon found that
when the weather was good and the sea smooth, I could take merchantmen enough by boarding; but in rough weather the travelling 12-pounder was but a poor reliance, and not to be depended upon like the long centre gun that I had on board the David Porter.
It is true, my officers and men were always ready to board an enemy of three times our force; but, in a high sea, if one of these delicately Baltimore built vessels should come in contact with a large, strong ship, the schooner would inevitably be crushed and sunk. For this reason, I was compelled to let one large English ship with twelve guns escape while in the English Channel, because the weather was too rough to board her.
November 13th.-At six P. M. sounded in sixty-five fathoms water, the Scilly Islands bearing N.W. fifteen leagues distant. Light winds and variable through the night. At 6 A.M. saw a brig to windward. At 7 ditto she set English colors; gave her a gun, when she struck her flag. She proved to be an English brig from Leghorn, bound up the Channel. It now commenced blowing a strong breeze from the N.W., and soon there was a high sea running. Saw a large ship steering up the Channel; left the prize, made sail in chase of her. At 10 A. M. she set English colors, and fired a gun. Had the weather been smooth, I think we could have carried her by boarding in fifteen minutes, or had I met her at sea, I would have followed her until the weather was better, and the sea smooth: but being now in the English Channel with a high sea, it would have destroyed my schooner if she had come in contact with this wallsided ship. She showed six long nines on each side. After exchanging a few shot, I hauled off, and returned to our prize.
Nov. 14th.-Fresh breezes and cloudy weather. At
2 P. M. the weather moderated, when I took out of the English prize brig the captain, mate, and crew, and put on board of her a prize-master and seven men, with orders to proceed to a port in the United States. At 4 P. M. saw a sale to windward, when we made sail in chase. At 8 ditto it became dark and squally; lost sight of the chase. At 8 A. M. saw our prize ahead; we soon came up with her, when I supplied her with two casks of water and a quantity of bread, and left her to proceed on her course to the United States.
Nov. 15th.-Fresh gales from the westward, with a rough sea running. Middle and latter part of these twenty-four hours, the wind continued to blow strong from the westward, with a high sea. As it was now the middle of November, and no prospect of much fine weather, and my schooner so badly armed, I concluded to leave this rough cruising ground and run to the southward, in hopes of finding better weather, where I could profit by a superior number of men in making prizes Lat. 47° 28' North.
Nov. 17th.-At 3 P. M. boarded the Spanish brig Alonzo, from Teneriffe, bound to London. On board of this vessel I put the late captain of our prize brig.
Nov. 18th.-Light winds and fine weather; a man-ofwar brig in chase of us, about two miles distant. At 8 P. M. light breezes from the southward; passed near a brig standing to the eastward; had not time to board her, as the man-of-war was still in chase. At midnight the wind became fresh from the W.S.W., with dark, rainy weather. Took in all the light sails, and hauled close upon the wind to the W.N.W. At 7 A. M. saw a small sail on our weather-bow; made sail in chase. At 10 ditto came up with and captured the chase; found it was