Creighton swears Captain Bingham informed him, on the supposition that he was defending himself against an avowed enemy ; the other, according to the American version of the proceeding, with the intention of chastising the insolence of a pretended friend.
In awarding this " chastisement," Commodore Rodgers tells us, he was governed by " motives of humanity and a determination not to spill a drop of blood unnecessarily;" and yet his own captain swears, that the commodore's orders were " to fire low and with two round shot." His subordinate officers and men, emulous to please, fired low enough, and loaded their guns, not only with round and grape shot, but with " every scrap of iron that could possibly .be collected. " The consequences of this humane and magnanimous conduct on the part of, in the words of an American editor, " one of the largest 44s that ever floated, " against a ship, that was considerably less than one third of her size, and not one fourth equal to her in point of force, have already been detailed.
True it is, that one of the President's officers has sworn, that he " thought the Belt a heavy frigate until next day," and another, that he " took her for a frigate of 36 or 38 guns. " The commodore, too, confesses himself to have been similarly deceived. What must have been the astonishment of all these swearers, when " the next day " discovered their late antagonist to be a ship scarcely exceeding in length the space between the President's bows and her gangway ladder, and whose topmast heads ranged very little higher than their ship's lower yard-arms. That such a mistake should have happened seems unaccountable ; especially when there was light enough for Captain Ludlow to see that his opponent's' gaff was down, and her maintopsail hard on the cap, " and when the distance between the two ships is admitted not to have exceeded 70 or 80 yards. However, the American commodore, in all he said was believed, and for all he had done was commended, in the quarter to which alone, beside his conscience, and that probably was not an over-squeamish one, he considered himself responsible. On the other hand, the captain, officers, and men of the Little-Belt, for the spirit and firmness they had manifested throughout the whole of the unequal contest, which, according to our contemporary, " it was the misfortune of Captain Bingham" to be engaged in, * were greeted with applause by every generous mind, some in America not excepted ; and on the 7th of February, 1812, as a proof that the lords of the admiralty were far from displeased with his conduct, Captain Bingham was promoted to post-rank.
On the 2d of February, at 5 p.m., the three French 40-gun frigates Renommée, Commodore François Roquebert, and Clorinde and Néréide, Captains Jacques Saint-Cricq and Jean
* Brenton, vol., iv., p. 555.
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