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EWS travelled slowly in the days of our an
cestors, and for several reasons that of the
Declaration of Independence was delayed in reaching Philip. First, the distance was great, the nearest point of land being Cape Hatteras, some six hundred and fifty miles distant; but on account of the war between Great Britain, to whom the Bermudas belonged, and the colonies, no American ship landed in her ports, and the trading vessels were few and far between. When at last the word, so delightful to Philip's ears, reached him, that the colonies had really declared themselves free, he quickly roused himself from the poetic languor that had taken possession of him, and embraced the first opportunity that presented of returning to his native land. The voyage was roundabout, and consumed considerable time; consequently he did not reach home until after the battle that had been fought so close to his doors.
The fate of the “ amiable Amanda ” we have never learned. Whether, like Sappho, she took a fatal leap from the heights of one of the Bermuda peaks, or, like a sensible woman of the eighteenth century, bade her poet good-bye, with a promise to remember him in her orisons, is unknown; and, as Philip's sonnets ceased to flow, her fate is buried in oblivion.
Upon arriving in his native land Philip probably paid his respects to his mother. It is most likely, and then he buckled on his sword in his country's cause. This phrase is certainly figurative, for Philip could never buckle himself into anything that looked like a harness; but he did what lay in his power, he
took out letters of marque and reprisal from the Continental Congress, and sailed far out on the deep blue sea to catch all the British ships he could find. We learn from the public print that he played sad havoc with the English merchantmen, capturing and destroying many.
But after a time poor Philip came to grief, and the way it happened runneth thus.
Whether he had purchased the ship he commanded or only used it for the time being we know not, but we do know that he had one building in the Philadelphia yards, which was his own, his very own — the dream of his life. Philadelphia was famous in those days for her shipbuilding capabilities ; her harbor favoring it, she could easily bring from the Southern and New England States the best of woods for the purpose ; and we are told that at one time might be seen some twenty ships in her stocks in progress of construction. Those she turned out were swift sailers, highly finished, and even considerably ornamented; so much so, indeed, that her figure-heads were praised by foreign artists. In fact the colonies had developed such talent in naval architecture that many of the English trading vessels were built in their yards.
Although Philip's description of the building of his ship may not equal that of Schiller's, it may bear criticism :
“ Assist me, Clio! while in verse I tell
The dire misfortunes that a ship befell,
To a stout bulwark, of stupendous size,
The ship finished, Philip named her “ The Aurora,” and on her broad prow she carried for a figurehead the rising sun, so brightly gilded as, quoting his words, to “throw over the water a mimic blaze.” Poor sun, destined to set before it ran its course !
Delaware Bay, although admitting the largest vessels to its head, and even into the river beyond, had a very tortuous and intricate channel, occasioned by the numerous shoals formed by long, narrow sandbanks stretching northwest and southeast, which nearly filled the central portion. It was therefore something of a feat to guide a good-sized vessel through it and round the cape, — the shelving ground around the latter causing it to be fatal to those unacquainted with its peculiarities. It was renowned for shipwrecks ; so much so that captains felt greatly relieved when they had safely left it behind them.
On the 25th of May the “Aurora, daughter of the sun,” with all sails spread to catch the breeze, which at starting was adverse, passed gaily down the river, and
through the sixty miles of Delaware Bay, and waited for morning to round the point called by the old Swede settlers the “ Point of Paradise,” by the more prosaic modern Americans, Cape Henlopen. During her progress down the bay an event occurred which was considered by the crew a prognostic of future success, but which was, in reality, the cause of the “Aurora's” disaster. Overtaking a small sloop belonging to the enemy and laden with corn, the details incident to its capture prevented the “Aurora” from rounding the point the same evening, and thus caused the delay so fatal to her.
The morning was beautiful; and, assisted by a favorable breeze, the cape was successfully passed, and the “ Aurora” made her début on the broad ocean, where “a sea unruffled and a sky serene” awaited her: All seemed propitious; and spreading the sails, her prow was turned eastward, then to the southeast.
The sun crossed the meridian, and a gale springing up it bore the light-hearted master and crew out of the sight of the misty line of hilltops, which seemed to sink beneath the waves, Toward afternoon, a seaman was ordered to go aloft, to see peradventure if any prey, in the form of an English merchantman, might be in sight.
The tar returned and reported a ship approaching very rapidly from the east; which soon became visible to all. The master used his glass, and from her topgallant spied the English Jack; and soon after he recognized her to be the “ Iris,” once the “Hancock,” one of the swiftest ships on the American station, and one that had made the fortunes of every one that had ever commanded her save the last;' he had lost her in consequence of having put her out of trim, by starting her water while chased by the“ Rainbow,” commanded by Sir George Collier, who finally captured her.
1 Captain Manly.
“ Her lofty masts stood bending to the gale,
With all her might she strove to gain our tack,
Knowing the futility of attempting to hold their own against such odds, - the vessel carrying guns double the size of theirs, — the officer gave orders to change the course of the “ Aurora ”and steer for the land, their only safety lying in flight.
“Struck at the sight, the master gave command
Land appears, most welcome sight! The Point of Paradise looms up before them; but near and nearer presses on the foe, intent upon the “Aurora's”