[Book of Blunders Contents]
DURING the struggle of the American colonies for their independence, a strange mistake was made by the captain of a Yankee cruiser. The mistake, and the scene that ensued, was described by an American in the following clever verses:-
“All lovers of Old England’s fame, know how the Yankee Chesapeake
Was pummelled by our Shannon, whence they bear us yet, I guess, a pique;
But listen, for a naval tale I’m now about to handle,
To which that fam’d engagement is not fit to hold a candle.
“Last year a Yankee cruiser, once, amid the ‘darkness visible’
Of a hazy winter’s morning dawn, when scarcely to see one is able,
Made out upon his larboard bow an object which he reckon’d on
To be an English man-of-war, and bore down in a second on.
“He hail’d her thrice, he fired a gun, and several times successively,
But deuce an answer could he get, though nearing her progressively;
On which the Yankee skipper, one of Boston’s cute and witty sons,
Wax’d wrathful at this insult on our free, enlightened citizens.
“Says he, ‘Confound their impudence, we’ll speak a little louder then!
So bear a hand, my gallant lads, get ready shot and powder then;
I guess we’ll mend their manners, though they are so “nation skittish,” boys:
The British can whip all the world, but WE can whip the British boys!’
“A shotted gun he forthwith fired to try if that would bring her to,
The unknown sent back her compliments, and shot away a wing or two;
This set the Yankee’s dander up, who into rage was furnaced now,
So he dropped his anchor, furl’d his sails, and bang’d away in earnest now.
“Though three long hours the contest raged with wonderful ferocity,
The offensive all on one side lay, like Irish reciprocity;
But the stranger, somehow, never fired till after the American,
But then she knocked his sticks about his ears like any hurricane.
“At length, when all his masts are gone, and half his crew disabled,
Poor Jonathon, to come to time, no longer was enabled;
‘I’ve put my foot in’t, that’s a fact,’ says he; ‘and, tho’ unwillingly,
Our glorious ensign must come down, and now not worth a shilling be!’
“He struck his flag, and hail’d the foe, to tell him he had had enough;
But still no officer there came to take him, this was bad enough;
And when the morning breeze sprang up, and cleared the fog and smoke away,
I can scarce tell you what he saw, lest at him fun you poke away.
“A mighty Iceberg met his view, in most imposing attitude –
A sight, as navigators tell, quite common in that latitude,
‘Gainst which, at every gun he’d fired, his own shot had rebounded,
And swept off every mast he had, and filled his decks with wounded.
“Our Yankee, who’d commenced the fight, and rather to be donnish meant,
Bam-squabbled felt (as well he might) with genuine astonishment,
But when, by aid of jury masts, he reach’d his native city,
If he didn’t look tarnation streaked and foolish, it’s a pity!“