« AnteriorContinua »
A BRIEF MEMOIR
LIEUT. SAMUEL SMITH, ROYAL MARINES,
CHIEF OF THE TRIBE OF CHEROKEE INDIANS.
A Few words may be necessary on the subject of the preceding dedicatory lines; and it is hoped that little apology will be needed for introducing them, in homely prose, in this little volume of unpretending verse, as they are prompted by the desire to rescue from oblivion the memory of an excellent and brave father-Lieutenant SAMUEL SMITH, R.M., who died, in the service of his country, in the 38th year of his age, at Fernando Po, in Africa.
A very brief sketch of his military life is subjoined, which, it is boped, will not be altogether without interest to the general reader; and should it happen to arrest the attention of any who may have shared the chances of war with him, and witnessed his intrepid yet ever humane conduct, it is confidently believed that they will give the writer their hearty support and assistance in publishing the few unvarnished records of a brother soldier's bravery, which memory (and the few documents left in England at the time of his departure for Fernando Po, where all his papers were stated to have been destroyed after his death!) enables her to furnish.
“Let laurels drench'd in pure Parnassian dews
Reward his mem'ry, dear to ev'ry Muse,
A passion for military glory, notwithstanding the modern outcry against it, is frequently coexistent with the most amiable qualities of the heart and the finest intellect. The chivalrous sentiment of defending the weak and oppressed against violence or injustice, and Man's natural respect for the rights and dignity of the State under which he lives, are the sources from which this passion generally arises with those who furnish the brightest examples of true martial heroism; while the personal hazard it involves is a fascination well adapted to his love of excitement, and a stimulus to many of the noblest moral qualities which, too often, rot themselves with ease in civil life--for instance, courage, fortitude, self-denial, and devotedness.
Mercy, too, is the highest and sweetest prerogative of conquest; and there is no right noble soldier in whose heart it is not throned—its sceptre breaking his sword before Defencelessness, or turning it aside where it shonld learn to spare.
A passion for military glory has been a distinguishing characteristic of the family from which the subject of this Memoir sprung: once enjoying a good estate—the Ashley Moor, in Herefordshire, which, however, for some years before his entering upon the scene of life, was too much encumbered with mortgages to support its inheritors or admit of the purchase of a commission for even the elder son, as a means of indulging his wish to carry arms in his country's cause, as he would naturally have preferred to do as an officer; consequently, his friends wished to turn his attention to commerce; but in vain-Hercules with the distaff, was as much at ease as he amongst the Sons of Trade; and escape, at all risks, he resolved he would.
After being recovered by his father, by the payment of the (at that time) heavy redemption money (fifty guineas) from a recruiting party, which he had walked forty miles to join, when little more than fifteen years of age,—and indentured, as a means of deterring him from a military life under such circumstances,-he managed, ultimately, to get clear off as a Volunteer for a musket with a party of Royal Marines, recruiting in his native town-Ludlow, in Salop.
Having received a good education, and being highly intelligent and enterprising, he soon attained the highest noncommissioned rank in the corps, such men being in great requisition, to controul and influence the less enthusiastic portion of the Army and Navy, three-parts of which, at that time, being composed of impressed men.
Shortly after he entered, he was drafted with a party on board the Malta, 74, commanded by Captain Shiels, and proceeded up the Mediterranean, where, in 1806-7-8, he was in several engagements, and assisted in taking many valuable prizes. His services and bravery were recognised by the rapid promotion above alluded to; before he had attained his eighteenth year, he won his last stripe as non-commissioned officer,
and was by far the youngest serjeant ever known in the Division, or, indeed, in the entire corps of Marines.
After his return to England in the Malta, where he remained but a short time, he embarked again on board the Orpheus frigate, commander Captain Patrick Tony, who died at Dominique and was succeeded by Captain (afterwards, Sir Hugh) Pigot, and was at the taking of Guadaloupe and Point Petre, in the West Indies.
From thence, at the commencement of the late American war, he was ordered on to the Halifax station, where he volun. teered to join the expedition against New Orleans, in which he signalised himself greatly.
On one occasion, on board the Orpheus (Captain Pigot), after a severe engagement with an American man-of-war, he made the second in command in a “boarding-party,” where he gave a remarkable instance of presence of mind, cool intrepidity, and fearlessness of personal danger. His superior being killed in the boat by a long shot from the Americans, he led his party on alone, and boarded the vessel, which, greatly to his surprise, he found deserted by her surviving crew, who, having managed to get ashore (after taking away the matches and all the locks off the ship's guns), had betaken themselves to a strong stone edifice near the shore, and kept up an incessant fire upon the boarders. The men, glad enough to get out of such a pelting storm of bullets, which they could not effectually return on account of the shielded position of the Americans, made excuses to get below, ostensibly to search for matches, and left him with one gunner only on deck, exposed to a fire that would soon have been fatal to them. In this emergency, with merely the ship's boat set up to prevent the direct aim of the enemy, after assisting the man to point the guns at the stronghold of the Americans, he took one of the men's muskets, and
firing the contents into the touch-holes, thus discharged the cannons; of course, at the imminent risk of a recoil and destruction to himself. By this daring expedient, every gun in the ship was successively employed against the ambushed foe; till, the stones of the building tumbling about them, they were completely routed. Captain Pigot was a delighted spectator from the deck of the Orpheus, repeatedly crying, “ Bravo, Bravo!-We shall have him an Admiral!” The ship was a rich prize.
In consequence of this exploit and his uniform courage and intelligence, he was recommended by Captain Pigot to Sir Alexander Cochran as a meritorious soldier, deserving trust and distinction; and Sir A. Cochran was pleased to entrust him with a Lieutenant's commission, to proceed to South America with arms and ammunition (to use his own words, quoted from a letter, dated “May 18, 1814, New Orleans") "to deliver them to the Indians ou the borders of the Mississipi, which parts the American frontier from that of the Indians, who are going to act against the Americans, in the cause of Britain and with a view to the recovery of their own property, which the Americans have taken from them." These Indians were the fine tribe called “ Cherokees,” now extinct, and were brave, generous, grateful, and unaffectedly moral. There were upwards of 500 of them waiting for arms and instructions to use them when the subject of this notice arrived, with only two of his own countrymen—a Corporal Denny and a gentleman of the name of Woodbine, British Agent at Fort St. Leon, in Florida.
In a very short space of time from the period of his arrival, the influence he acquired over these unsophisticated and persecuted creatures was so complete, that they would have invested him with absolute sovereignty had it been theirs to own a realm vast and important enough to form a kingdom. Subjects more leal and devoted no monarch ever had.