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An American sloop-of-war, of eighteen guns rating and 480 tons burden; was conspicuous in the naval events of the War of 1812-15. After the capture of the Java (see Constitution of the United States), Bainbridge left the Hornet, Commander James Lawrence, to blockade the Bonne Citoyenne, an English vessel laden with treasure, in the harbor of San Salvador, on the coast of Brazil. the Hornet was driven away by a large British vessel, and on Feb. 24, 1813, she fell in with the British brig Peacock, eighteen guns, Captain Peake, off the mouth of the Demerara River. the Hornet, gaining a good position, with quick and incessant firing, came down upon the Peacock, closed upon her, and in this advantageous position poured in her shot with so much vigor for fifteen minutes that her antagonist not only struck her colors, but raised the union in a position that indicated a cry of distress. Very soon afterwards the main-mast of the Peacock fell and went over her side. She was sinking when officers from the Hornet went on board of her. Her guns were thrown overboard, the holes made by balls were plugged, and every exertion was made to keep her afloat until her wounded could be removed, but

Hornet and Peacock (from a contemporary caricature).

in vain. She rapidly filled and went to the bottom of the sea, taking down with her nine British and three American seamen. Lawrence sailed immediately for the United States, and the story of the exploit of the Hornet created a profound sensation. A Halifax newspaper said: “It will not do for our vessels to fight those of the Americans single-handed; they are a dead nip.” Public honors were awarded to Lawrence, and Congress voted him thanks and a gold medal. The corporation of New York resolved to present him with the freedom of the city, with a piece of plate bearing appropriate devices and inscriptions, and to give a public dinner to the officers and crew of the Hornet. The banquet was given at Washington Hall, on May 4, 1813, only a few weeks before Lawrence was slain. Art and song made contributions to the praise of Lawrence, and the pencil caricature made fun of the vanquished British, as seen in the annexed sketch, which was published soon after the victory. A silver medal was given to each of the other officers of the Hornet. The officers of the Peacock sent a public letter of thanks to Lawrence for his generous treatment of the prisoners. See Lawrence, James.

When Decatur departed with the President (see President) he ordered the remainder of his squadron to rendezvous at the port of Tristan d'acunha, the principal of a group of islands in the South Atlantic, in lat. 37° S. and 12° W. from Washington. They followed the President to sea (Jan. 22, 1815), not knowing her fate, and the Hornet, Capt. James Biddle, and Tom Bowline arrived at the rendezvous together at the middle of March. On the 23d they entered the port, and the Hornet was about to cast anchor, when a strange sail was discovered at the windward. Biddle immediately went seaward to reconnoitre. The stranger came down before the wind, and a little before two o'clock was within musket-shot distance from the Hornet, displayed English colors, and fired a gun. The challenge was accepted by the Hornet, and for fifteen minutes a sharp cannonade was kept up. Then the British vessel ran down the Hornet with the intention of boarding her. The vessels became entangled, and the opportunity for boarding was lost by the refusal of the men of the stranger to undertake it. Biddle's men, on the contrary, were eager for a hand-to-hand fight, but, as his ad- [427]

Medal awarded to Captain Lawrence by Congress.

vantage lay with his guns, he would not allow it. His broadsides terribly raked his antagonist, and in a few minutes she was surrendered. Springing upon the taffrail to inquire if she had actually surrendered, Biddle was fired upon by two British marines and wounded in the neck. His assassins were instantly slain by bullets fired from the Hornet. The latter became disentangled, and wore to give her antagonist a broadside, when twenty men on the stranger threw up their hands and asked for quarter. The conquered vessel had struck her colors after a battle of twenty-three minutes. She was the brig Penguin, eighteen guns, Captain Dickenson. She mounted nineteen carriage guns, besides guns in her top. Her complement of men was 132, and her size and weight of metal was the same as those of the Hornet. The latter lost one man killed and ten wounded. The loss of the Penguin was unknown. Among the slain were her commander and boatswain. After taking from her all that was valuable, Captain Biddle scuttled her (March 25), and she went to the bottom of the South Atlantic Ocean. Special honors were bestowed upon Captain Biddle. When he arrived in New York a public dinner was given to him, and his native town (Philadelphia) gave him a beautiful service of silver-plate. Congress thanked him in the name of the republic, and voted him a gold medal. Converting the Tom Bowline into a cartel ship, he sent his prisoners in her to Rio de Janeiro. See Biddle, James.

When sailing towards the Indian seas on the morning of April 27, 1815, the Hornet and Peacock were close together, and Captain Warrington, of the latter, signalled to Biddle, of the former, that a strange vessel was seen in the distance. Both sloops started in chase, with a light wind, and gained on the stranger. the Peacock was ahead, and on the afternoon of the 28th displayed caution in her movements, for she had discovered that the stranger was a heavy British line-ofbattle-ship, and that she was about to turn upon and chase the American vessels. Then the Peacock and Hornet spread their sails for flight. The latter was in greater peril, for she was a slower sailer than her consort. The huge Englishman was gaining upon her. Biddle began to lighten her, and during the entire night of the 28th and early morning of the 29th the chase became exceedingly interesting. At dawn the British vessel was within gunshot distance of the Hornet, on her lee quarter. At seven o'clock her pursuer threw out British colors and a rear-admiral's flag, and began firing. Onward the Hornet sped, casting overboard anchors, shot, cables, spars, boats, many heavy articles on deck and below, and all of her guns but one. At noon the pursuer was within a mile [428] of her, and again commenced firing. Onward the Hornet still sped, her commander having resolved to save his ship at all hazards. By consummate seamanship and prudence he did so, and, with her single gun, and without boat or anchor, the Hornet arrived at New York, June 9, 1815. The vessel that had pursued her was the British ship Cornwallis, seventy-four guns, on her way to the East Indies.

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