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But their renewed endeavours were in vain. About four o'clock in the afternoon some of their larger galleys were beaten from the land, and struck their colours. Of those, several afterwards foundered, and several were taken possession of by the Swedes.
Gustavus was not absolutely without loss himself. One of his best galleys, the Udema, caught fire about six o'clock and sank; but happily the whole of her crew was saved. The same fate befel one of the Russian xebecs, and after this the smaller vessels began to sheer off.
Many of the enemy's heavy galleys continued firing till the evening, and then made sail with a view of effecting their escape. Some ran on the shoals and struck their flags. At eleven, darkness compelled a cessation of hostilities. The conquered vessels were taken possession of, and the prisoners removed.
As early as three next morning the cannonade was renewed, and shortly after, one of the Russian frigates surrendered, and several of the smaller craft were taken. The enemy then commenced retreating in every direction, and to set fire to their stranded ships. They were pursued till ten at night, and forty-five captured. Out of the Russian vessels that were sunk, one officer and one surgeon only were saved. Six of the
stranded vessels were burned by the Swedes. The victors computed the number of their prisoners at four thousand five hundred, including two hundred and ten officers.
Thus, in this action, after having for so long a period trembled upon an equality, whilst thousands on both sides were passing to judgment, the scales of victory inclined towards Gustavus. The Russians, in their turn, suffered a defeat, with the loss of five frigates, fifteen galleys, two floating batteries, with twenty other vessels, and, a great quantity of naval and military stores; and, as before mentioned, four thousand five hundred prisoners were also captured.
On this memorable occasion, an English officer of the name of Dennison cornmanded the Russian frigate Venus, and, by his presence of mind and gallantry, very nearly effected the capture of the King of Sweden's sacred person, as he gained possession of the galley in which that monarch had embarked.
Captain Smith, who was with the sovereign, observing the gallant and seaman-like style in which the Venus was bearing down upon the galley, became assured that she must be under the command of an Englishman, and suggested to the king that it was high time for them to look out for their mutual safety; an advice not at all to be disregarded under the pressing nature of the contingency. The king, being fully conscious of his imminent danger, shuffling off his royal dignity for the nonce, like a very prudent and private individual, conveyed himself and his adviser into a small boat that was lying alongside, and pulled off to another and a safer vessel.
The non-nautical reader may suppose, that, in this instance, the future hero of Acre showed abundantly that better part of valour named “ discretion.” So he did ; and without at all impugning his valour in the abstract, it must be understood that the galley was nothing more than a sort of great row-boat, as little able to contend, vessel to vessel, with a frigate, as a minnow with a pike. The gallantry and seamanlike conduct of Dennison were not displayed in the taking of this galley, but in his making his way to her, by breaking through the greatly superior obstructing force.
This noble fellow was killed on the same day.
Let us pause, for a moment, in the course of our narrative, and attempt an apology for Sir Sidney Smith, and those of his brave countrymen who degraded themselves to mercenaries in a quarrel, on opposite sides, in which they could have had no patriotic, and hardly a public interest. Humanity
requires one, and the enlightenment of the present day will let nothing pass as a justification that will not bear the test of a sound morality.
If biography be something only to extol that which is commendable, and to gloze over faults, and palliate that which is discreditable, it is a species of writing that cannot too soon become extinct. That, lately, memoirs have partaken of this nature, is lamentably true. When written in this manner, they become to the rising generation false guides and lying finger-posts. They are painted all white, on which dark letters of instruction are nowhere to be seen.
We have just described Englishman opposed to Englishman, fellow-subject to fellow.subject; and in this almost suicidal contest we see the country deprived of some of its most gallant defenders, the king of some of the best supporters of his crown, families of their fathers, and the ornaments and the nourishers of social circles ruthlessly destroyed. The picture is true, and, the more nearly examined, as it is true so is it revolting
For acts like these, the fervour of youth cannot be pleaded ;-youth, far more prone to act than to reflect, yet, in numerous cases, as well as age, must deliberate. The drawing the sword for
a foreign potentate, even in the youngest, must be an act of deliberate calculation. The responsibility, therefore, must remain upon the mercenary's conscience.
In the case before us, neither party of the English belligerents could have been influenced to shed the blood of each other on the score of philanthropy, or in advocacy of the cause of the human race. Liberty was not then fully appreciated anywhere, and nowhere so little as among the people of the two nations that were opposed to each other.
We will not suppose, for a moment, that these gentlemen embarked in this quarrel, on different sides, for their private emolument. Hired gladiatorship, however highly it may have been estimated on the continent, has never yet been the naturalised occupation of the English. It would therefore appear that, the more we examine this question, the greater, we find, are the difficulties that surround it, and the more specious are the fallacies by which a justification must be attempted. In fact there is no justification, in the broad and general point of view, for either party of the English officers that were thus unnaturally opposed to each other. On this point we insist, for the sake of religion, for the sake of humanity,