|Naval History of Great Britain - Vol III
||Light Squadrons and Single Ships
wounded; but, according to a published letter from one of her passengers, it amounted to only 20 men killed and 40 wounded.
The officer killed on board the Constellation was Mr. James Jervis, a young midshipman, who, with some of the men, fell overboard with the mainmast. " It seems this young gentleman," says Commodore Truxton, "was apprized of the mast going in a few minutes, by an old seaman ; but he had already so much of the principle of an officer ingrafted on his mind, not to leave his quarters on any account, that he told the men, if the mast went, they must go with it; which shortly afterwards occurred, and only one man was saved."
Although, undoubtedly, the American frigate was the superior both in force and effectiveness, yet, had the Constellation made a prize of the Vengeance, no one can deny that it would have redounded to the honour of Commodore Truxton, and been a subject of fair triumph to so young a navy as that of the United States. But, if it be true, as the French captain is represented to have stated, that the flag of the Vengeance came down three times during the contest, what was the Constellation about that she did not attempt to take possession ? It would seem that the Constellation, notwithstanding she was to windward, persisted in remaining at too great a distance from her antagonist, to observe, in the dark, what the latter was doing. According to Captain Pichot's account, indeed, the Vengeance lost all three masts by the Constellation's fire; and yet Commodore Truxton, although so minute in his " Journal " as to tell us that, previous to the action, he got " the large trumpet in the lee gangway ready to speak " the French frigate, takes no notice of the loss of her masts.
The most extraordinary circumstance, however, remains to be told. The Vengeance, M. Pichot declares, was compelled, owing to the inexperience of her crew, to remain stationary for three days, while jury-masts were erecting; and, during the whole of that time, the Constellation lay to windward, with her fore and mizen masts still standing (her mainmast had fallen a few minutes after the firing had ceased), and yet did not bear down, or evince the least inclination, to renew the engagement. The Constellation, soon afterwards, made sail for and anchored in Port-Royal, Jamaica; and the Vengeance, no less happy than surprised at such an escape, steered for Curacoa, where she arrived in a very shattered state.
No sooner did the commodore's account of his rencontre reach the United States, than his fellow-citizens, particularly those of his own, or the federal party, set to work to bring to an issue on paper, that which had been left undecided on the ocean. They pronounced and published the action as a victory; ate dinners, and drank themselves drunk, in honour of it ; and, when the commodore arrived in port, assailed him on all sides with addresses of congratulation, founded on assertions that the commodore's letter had never sanctioned, and from which,
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