Capture and Escape

We were off the east end of Cuba, when we discovered early in the morning, a large sail to the eastward, which we took to be an American man-of-war, but soon found we had been fatally deceived, for she was a large English sloop-of-war called the Sapho, Capt. O’Brady. She fired a broad side which sent all hands below except the captain and mate.—She then stopped firing and run down upon us, and asked us if we did not know it was war time, to which we answered in the affirmative. She then run under our lee, and sent her launch and jolly boat with 30 men, who boarded us. The Capt. having the old license from the British Admiralty with him, presented it to the boarding master, who immediately went on deck and informed the Capt. of the sloop that the schooner had a good license, and was told by the Capt. to overhaul her well, and let her go, if all was right. The boarding master then went below and told the Capt. that he would overhaul his trunk, which he refused, but after some threats from the former, the latter gave up the keys. Search was then made and a commission from the schooner Rollo was found, and the uniform coat of the Captain. This took from us all chance of escape, for immediately after, a prize master and twelve men from the sloop were sent aboard of us to take charge. The Capt. of the English sloop then told the prize master to leave all the American sick aboard the prize, and send the others aboard of his vessel. They then ordered all our crew aboard the sloop except the second mate and myself, who feigned ourselves sick.

Sometime during the afternoon, the sloop gave chase to an American privateer, and the prize ship steered away for Jamaica. Soon after this, Mr. Hutchins, the second mate of the Mary, gave the British a large supply of rum, in which he had previously put a quantity of laudanum. This, after a little time, threw them into a lethargic state, as a matter of course. After they had become quite sleepy, the mate told me that we must retake the ship that night, and that I must stand by him, for he had picked me out of the whole crew of the Mary for that very purpose. I told him that there was so many well armed men on board, that I thought the proposed adventure too hazardous, but he said we could easily accomplish it if we would be bold, as we should have to go to Jamaica and probably die there, unless we could free ourselves that night. I then told him I would stand by him. The sleepy crew were now all in the steerage, except the prize master, who was in the cabin asleep. Eight o’clock in the evening, was the time agreed upon to commence operations. When that hour arrived, the mate directed me to go below and seize the officer in the cabin, while he would secure the hatchway and prevent the crew from making their way to the deck. All now depended on doing business with despatch. While hurrying below, I slipped and fell upon the deck; this waked my antagonist, whom I intended to catch napping, but imagine my disappointment when he jumped from his berth like a tiger who had been suddenly awakened by a band of hunters; but I was ready, and as he struck the deck and was in the act of drawing his sword I closed around him, fastening his arms from behind by grasping him firmly; but he was a powerful man and I but a boy, still I was determined and resolute. After squabbling for some time, he shook me from him, and while in the act of turning to face me, I gave him a blow under the chin that felled him to the deck. I then cut his belt as soon as thought, and threw his pistols and sword under the cabin steps; just at this time, Mr. Hutchins, who had succeeded in his part of the enterprize, threw a hatchet to me and told me to split the officer’s head open if he attempted to get up. This I took and holding it over his head, told him I would finish him in an instant if he moved. At this juncture Mr. H. came to my assistance, and we soon finished the business by putting the prize master in irons.


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