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Capture of the Fox.

From New Orleans he went to Mobile, where the blockade was close. A great fleet was anchored off the town which practically forbade all entrance to the harbor. The days dragged by until finally Captain Austin, driven by waiting to an uncontrollable desire for something to turn up, sailed out of the harbor in the murky darkness of a cloudy night on a tour of investigation. There, in the offing, he discovered a steamer, loaded with arms, ammunition, and supplies for the waiting fleet. Back in the city he proposed his plan to the commanding officer. It was too daring for official recognition, but permission was given to enlist volunteers for the desperate mission. [199]

On the first favorable night, in a small steam launch. Captain Austin and six brave men went gliding out of the harbor. Unobserved they steamed to the steps leading down from the steamer's side. Confident of security, but one man had been left on deck, and he hailed the launch as it tied up to the vessel's side.

“This is launch no. 7,” came the response from Captain Austin. ‘Where's the captain of this ship?’

“He's asleep in the cabin,” answered the watchman.

“Lead me to him?” demanded Captain Austin.

Without a thought of danger the sailor turned and led the way along the deck, the leader of the expedition following. As he climbed up the side of the vessel the remainder of the crew came close behind. Each had been instructed as to his duty, and without a word they went to their different posts.

Without knocking, the watch led the visitor into the captain's cabin. When he was awakened he was looking down the barrel of a revolver.

The hatches had been closed on the crew, and the six men were in control. Quickly slipping anchor chains, the vessel was headed toward the harbor. She was lying to the westward of the channel and must necessarily cross the mouth. Scarcely had she started when she was hailed.

‘Transport Fox, bound for Key West,’ came the response from the deck of the vessel as she glided past.

Again she was hailed, but the same reply took her safely on toward the goal. Once in the channel, she was quickly put about, and the next morning found her tied up at the Mobile wharves. Thousands of muskets and a hull full of ammunition were turned over to the Confederacy with the ship. Captain Austin became the lion of the hour, and was presented with an elegant gold watch by the citizens of the town.

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