Verse > Anthologies > William McCarty, ed. > The American National Song Book
William McCarty, comp.  The American National Song Book.  1842.
The Death of Decatur
          In the war with Tripoli in 1804, the most of the gallant defenders of their country in the war which succeeded with England in 1812, can date the commencement of their career. The attack made on the town, batteries, and naval force of the Bashaw of Tripoli, on the 3d of August, 1804, stands pre-eminent in our naval warfare for deeds of daring. Lieutenant James Decatur of the Nautilus commanded No. 2, of the first division of gun-boats. His brother, Lieutenant-commandant Stephen Decatur, of the Enterprise, commanded gun-boat No. 4. of the second division. This second division performed prodigies of gallantry, which were nobly emulated by the first division under Lieutenant James Decatur. This young officer dashed into the smoke, and was on the point of boarding, when he received a musket ball in his forehead. The boats struck each other and rebounded, and in the confusion of the death of the commanding officer, the enemy made his escape, under a heavy fire from the Americans. It was said, and fully believed, at the time, that the enemy had struck his colours before Decatur fell; though Mr. Cooper, author of the “Naval History,” thinks that the fact must remain in doubt. Mr. Cooper states, that the effect of this attack and defeat of the enemy was of the most salutary kind; the manner in which their gun-boats had been taken by boarding, having made a lasting and deep impression. The superiority of the Christians in gunnery had been generally admitted, but here was an instance, in which the Turks were overcome, by inferior numbers, hand to hand; a species of conflict in which they had been thought particularly to excel. Perhaps no instance of more desperate fighting of the sort, without defensive armour, is to be found in the pages of history. Three gun-boats were sunk in the harbour, in addition to the three that were taken; and the loss of the Tripolitans by shot must have been very heavy. About fifty shells were thrown into the town, and the batteries were a good deal damaged.

’TWAS near that barbarous coast, whence every passing gale
  Wafts sighs and groans of slavery on its wing,
Where the sea whitens with the swelling sail,
  And its rude shores with hostile thunders ring,
    There gallant Preble bore, with naval pride,        5
            The Western Eagle,
            The Western Eagle;
            There, Decatur, died.
The towers of the foe that o’erhang the dark main,
No longer, no longer, the force of the battle sustain,        10
        They fall with loud crash,
        The dead strew the ground,
  And the gallant Decatur receives his death wound.
  Though his comrades his fate unaffected deplore,
  To his country’s renown he gave one laurel more,        15
  To his country’s renown he gave one laurel more.
To his valour the bark strikes her flag in disgrace,
And though short yet how glorious the young hero’s race!
Unhurt by the thunder that rolls from the walls,
Unsubdued in the battle, by treachery he falls,
  Though his comrades his fate, &c.
Unfurl the striped standard with victory crown’d,
            For ages to come,
            For ages to come,
            For ages to come
            Be the hero renown’d,        25
  While thus spoke the youth, “Contented I die,
  The bosom of Victory receives my last sigh,
  The bosom of Victory receives my last sigh,
            Contented I die.”

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