American History Stories—Volume III. - Mara L. Pratt

The Friendly Foes

Just before the "Wasp" set out on her cruise an American commodore, named Rogers, put to sea with a number of ships. One of these named the "United States" and in charge of the famous Captain Stephen Decatur, started off alone across the Atlantic to the southeast.

The "United States" was beautifully fitted up, and captain and lieutenant had spared no pains in training her crew, that she might be the most strongly manned of any vessel in the United States service.

As the vessel drew near Maderia report came of a strange vessel sighted to the southward.

"If it is an English frigate, we know what that means for us," said the crew, filled with excitement.

How intently the approaching vessel was watched! It comes nearer now—almost, almost,—yes,—now her banners can be seen. Yes, it is an English vessel. A little nearer and her name! M-a-c-e-d-o-n-i-a-n!

"The 'Macedonian'!" cried the commander. "Do you say it is the 'Macedonian'? Are you sure it is the 'Macedonian'?"

"Aye, aye, sir," replied the mate; "and a fine frigate she is said to be—as fine a one as sails the English waters."

"The 'Macedonian,' " said the commander, a troubled look creeping into his eyes. "I would rather it had been any English vessel than that," said he, half to himself, looking sadly out across the water at the approaching vessel.

Now it had happened that in times of peace, Decatur, our American commander, cruising around in his frigate, had often come across this frigate "Macedonian," and the two captains had grown to be warm friends. Often they had said, "What should we do if some time our frigates should meet as foes?" And as always Decatur had said, "Let us not think of such a ting; for it is sure to go hard with any English foe my frigate might encounter; for I would fight, fight to the last man. No enemy should haul down her colors as long as I had left a hulk to raise them from!"

And now here were these two warm friends face to face in deadly battle. American and England were at war.

"Be ready, every man at his gun!" sternly commanded Decatur.

Nearer and nearer drew the "Macedonian." Now she is in range. The command is given; and out blaze the guns. Such a volley! The United States frigate was wrapped in smoke. The English frigate was raked from stem to stern.

"She is on fire! She is on fire!" shouted the British crew.

But she was not on fire. Another volley—another—another!

Down went one mast. "That volley made a brig of her!" said Decatur. "Another, boys, and she'll be a sloop!"

How the "Macedonian" creaked and rolled! Down came her great mizzen mast—and then the "Macedonian" surrendered. Poor "Macedonian"! Masts all broken, her sides full of holes—what else was there for the brave vessel to do?

Now all was quiet. The firing ceased. The smoke cleared away—there lay the brave "Macedonian," a poor, broken wreck.

Captain Carden, the commander, the friend of Decatur came on board the United States frigate, and, as is the custom, stood before Decatur, surrendering his sword.

It was a hard, bitter moment for both men. Little joy was there to Decatur in a victory that defeated and ruined his friend.

"I cannot take your sword," said he to Carden. "I will take your hand instead."

Then the two friendly foes clasped hands. The contest, the victory, and the defeat made a strange experience to them. England said, "Another frigate lost!" America said, "Hurrah! Hurrah! another victory over the British!"