|Naval history of Great Britain
||Light Squadrons and Single Ships
The Chesapeake measured 1135 tons, and at this time mounted 28 long 18-pounders upon the main deck, 14 carronades, 32, pounders, leaving a vacant port on each side, upon the quarterdeck, and two carronades, 32-pounders, and two long 12-pounders, leaving three vacant ports on each side, upon the forecastle ; total 46 guns. This was the ship's peace establishment. The books of the Chesapeake bore the names of 440 ; but, among these, were 25 runnings and discharges. Consequently her actual complement consisted of 415 ; and, included in that number, were 10 boys or lads. There were also several passengers on board, going to the Mediterranean. That the Chesapeake had at least five lieutenants, appears by the signature of her " 5th lieutenant " to several of the official documents relating to the action.
From this statement of the force of the two ships, it is clear that, had it not been for the unprepared state of the Chesapeake, the superiority of force on the part of the Leopard would only have been nominal. The American frigate threw a greater weight of shot in broadside, carried full 50 more men, and was nearly 100 tons larger, than the British " line-of-battle ship. "
Notwithstanding that, in his note to Captain Humphreys, Commodore Barron disclaimed all knowledge of any deserters being on board the Chesapeake, Jenkin Ratford himself declared, at his trial, that both the commodore and Captain Gordon mustered the crew soon after the deserters from the Halifax had arrived on board. And even, in his official letter, the commodore admits, that three of the four men had been claimed as deserters ; thus : " They (the Leopard's officers) called on the purser, who delivered his book, when the men were examined, and the three men demanded at Washington, and one man more, were taken away."
It was these " three men demanded at Washington " that, on two accounts, weakened the claim of the British. In the first place, the Melampus is not one of the ships named in the published copy of Vice-admiral Berkeley's order. Consequently the Leopard's captain, in taking away men who had deserted from the Melampus, exceeded what appear to have been his written instructions. And yet it is not improbable, that Captain Humphreys had received orders (perhaps verbal ones) to demand and take the Melampus's deserters, because Vice-admiral Berkeley officially declares to the former, that, throughout the whole of the transaction with the Chesapeake, he conducted himself most properly. In the next place, those very three men were all, as has already appeared, natives of the United States. Consequently, whether they had or had not deserted from the British, they were, if the position we have advanced is a tenable one, justly detained by the Americans.
This is the ground taken by the American president ; and accordingly, in his proclamation of date July 2, interdicting all
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