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1815 Penguin and Hornet 383

"falling to leeward," continuing in pursuit of the Constitution ? No, the only ship, that could have pursued her with any chance of success, had been ordered by the Leander to tack from her. Most sincerely do we regret, on personal, as well as on public grounds, that this last and most triumphant escape of the Constitution, the first frigate of the United States that had humbled the proud flag of Britain, had not long ago, been brought under the scrutiny of a court-martial. The blame would then have fallen where it ought to have fallen ; and, in the unpleasant task of detailing, what, the more it is investigated, the more it will show itself to be, the most blundering piece of business recorded in these six volumes, we should neither have had our statements called in question nor our motives misunderstood.

On the 20th of January, six days after the President and store-brig Macedonian had escaped from New-York, the Peacock, Hornet, and store-brig Tom-Bowline succeeded also in getting to sea. On the 23d the Hornet parted company from her two consorts, and proceeded straight to the island of Tristan-d'Acunha, the first rendezvous for the squadron. On the 20th of March Captain Biddle was informed of the peace by a neutral; and on the 23d, at 11 a.m., when just about to anchor off the north end of the above island, the Hornet fell in with the British brig-sloop Penguin, of 16 carronades, 32-pounders and two sixes, Captain James Dickinson.

Before narrating the action that ensued, it will, we consider, prove useful to point out a few of the circumstances under which the parties met. The armament of the Hornet has already, on more than one occasion been shown : * she now carried in lieu of her two long twelves, two long 18-pounders ; and, as these, owing to their great length, could not conveniently be fought through the foremost or usual long-gun ports, they were mounted amidships. She had musketoons in all her tops, each piece throwing 50 buck-shot at a discharge, and upon each quarter a 3 or 4 pound brass swivel, fitted on a chock. All this had been done to bring the Hornet nearer to an "equality" with the Loup-Cervier, in case the challenge, to which we have already alluded, had been accepted. Her crew, consisting at this time of 165 men (eight absent in a prize), had also, it may be presumed, been well culled preparatory to the expected contest. Each man had a boarding-helmet, similar to those we described as worn by the crew of the Constitution.

The Penguin was commissioned, for the first time, in November, 1813 ; and, as a proof how much brigs of that class were wanted in the British navy, there were but 81 in commission on the 1st of the succeeding January. After having been run up by the contract-builder in the usual slight and hurried manner,

* See p. 190. See p. 326.

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