When Admiral Benbow was a common sailor, his messmate, who was stationed with him at the same gun, lost his leg by a cannon shot. The poor fellow instantly called out to his friend, who immediately took him up on his shoulder, and began with great care to descend with him into the cockpit; but it happened that just as the poor fellow's head came upon a level with the deck, another ball carried that off also. Benbow, however, knew nothing of the matter, but carried the body down to the surgeon, and when he came to the bottom of the ladder, called out that he had brought him a patient, desiring some one to bear a hand, and help him easily down. The surgeon turned about, but instead of giving any assistance, exclaimed, "You blockhead, what do you do here with a man that has lost his head?" "Lost his head!" says Benbow; "the lying fellow, why he told me it was his leg; but I never in my life believed what he said without being sorry for it afterwards."
When Lieutenant O'Brien (who was called Skyrocket Jack) was blown up at Spithead, in the Edgar, he was on the carriage of a gun, and when brought to the admiral, all black and wet, he said with pleasantry, "I hope, sir, you will excuse my dirty appearance, for I came out of the ship in so great a hurry, that I had not time to shift myself."
A painter was employed in painting a West India ship in the river, suspended on a stage under the ship's stern. The captain, who had just got into the boat alongside, for the purpose of going ashore, ordered the boy to let go the painter (the rope which makes fast the boat); the boy instantly went aft, and let go the rope by which the painter's stage was held. The captain, surprised at the boy's delay, cried out, "Heigh-ho, there, you lazy lubber, why don't you let go the painter?" The boy replied, "He's gone, sir, pots and all."
At a grand review of the fleet at Portsmouth by George III., in 1789, there was a boy who mounted the shrouds with so much agility, as to surprise every spectator. The king particularly noticed it, and said to Lord Lothian, "Lothian, I have heard much of your agility, let us see you run up after that boy." "Sire," replied Lord Lothian, "it is my duty to follow your majesty."
Admiral Haddock, when on his death-bed, called his son, and thus addressed him: "Considering my rank in life, and public services for so many years, I shall leave you but a small fortune; but, my boy, it is honestly got, and will wear well; there are no seamen's wages or provisions, nor one single penny of dirty money, in it."
An English frigate was obliged to strike to a French vessel of superior force. The English captain, on resigning his sword, was reproached by the French commander for having, contrary to the usages of war, shot pieces of glass from his guns. The English officer, conscious that no such thing had been done, made inquiry into the matter among his men, and found the fact to be this. An Irish seaman, just before the vessel struck, took a parcel of shillings out of his pocket, and swearing the French should have none of them, wrapped them in a piece of rag, and thrust them into his gun, exclaiming, "Let us see what a bribe can do!" These shillings, flying about the vessel, were mistaken by the French for glass. The above explanation not only satisfied them, but put them in great good humour with their captives.
A child of one of the crew of His Majesty's ship Peacock, during the action with the American vessel Hornet, occupied himself in chasing a goat between decks. Not in the least terrified by the destruction and death which was going on all around him, he continued his amusement till a cannon-ball came and took off both the hind legs of the goat; when seeing her disabled, he jumped astride her, crying, "Now I've caught you." This singular anecdote is related in a work called "Visits of Mercy," (New York.)
The British sailors had always been accustomed to drink their allowance of brandy or rum pure, until Admiral Vernon ordered those under his command to mix it with water. The innovation gave great offence to the sailors, and, for a time, rendered the commander very unpopular among them. The admiral, at that time, wore a grogram coat, for which reason they nick-named him "Old Grog," hence, by degrees, the mixed liquor he introduced universally obtained the name of "Grog."
When the Earl of Clancarty was captain of a man-of-war, and was cruising on the coast of Guinea, he happened to lose his chaplain by a fever, on which the lieutenant, who was a Scotchman, gave him notice of it, saying, at the same time, "that he was sorry to inform him that he died in the Roman Catholic religion." "Well, so much the better," said his lordship. "Oot, oot, my lord, how can you say so of a British clergyman?" "Why," said his lordship, "because I believe I am the first captain of a man-of-war that could boast of having a chaplain who had any religion at all."
A fleet of merchant ships, on their return from Spain, about three hundred years ago, were shipwrecked on the fatal rocks on which Sir Cloudsley Shovel was cast away: among these unfortunate men none were saved but three, viz. Miles Bishop, and James and Henry Clerk, who were miraculously preserved on a broken mast. From this accident the rocks took the name they bear, "The Bishop and his Clerks."
When Admiral Keppel was sent to the Dey of Algiers, to demand restitution of two ships which the pirates had taken, he sailed with his squadron into the bay of Algiers, and cast anchor in front of the Dey's palace. He then landed, and, attended only by his captain and barge's crew, demanded an immediate audience of the Dey; this being granted, he claimed full satisfaction for the injuries done to the subjects of his Britannic Majesty. Surprised and enraged at the boldness of the admiral's remonstrance, the Dey exclaimed, "That he wondered at the king's insolence in sending him a foolish beardless boy." To this the admiral made a spirited reply, which caused the Dey to forget the laws of all nations in respect to ambassadors, and he ordered his mutes to attend with the bowstring, at the same time telling the admiral he should pay for his audacity with his life. Unmoved by this menace, the admiral took the Dey to a window facing the bay, and showed him the English fleet riding at anchor, and told him, that if he dared to put him to death, there were Englishmen enough in that fleet to make him a glorious funeral pile. The Dey was wise enough to take the hint. The admiral obtained ample restitution, and came off in safety.