- Historic Sites
Down To The Sea
Edward Moran’s series of Victorian seascapes recall a vanished national mood—when the eagle screamed, when painters were sentimental and poets misty about the eyes.
June 1967 | Volume 18, Issue 4
The Philadelphia, with forty guns mounted, doubleshotted, and ready for firing, and manned by a full complement of men, was moored within half a gunshot of the Bashaw’s … batteries. … Some Tripolitan cruisers, two galleys, and nineteen gunboats also lay between the Philadelphia and the shore. Into the midst of this powerful armament Decatur had to go with his little vessel… and … a crew of seventy-five men. …
He… drifted to within nearly twenty yards of the Philadelphia. … and when [the Tripolitans] hailed the Intrepid, the pilot answered that they had lost their anchors in a gale, and asked that they might run a warp to the frigate and ride by her. While the talk went on the Intrepid’s boat shoved off with the rope, and pulling to the fore-chains of the Philadelphia, made the line fast. …
The suspicions of the Tripolitans were now at last awakened. They raised the cry of “Americanos!” … Decatur sprang up the main chains of the Philadelphia , calling out the order to board.… There was a very short struggle, and the Tripolitans, crowded together, terrified and surprised, were cut down or driven overboard. In five minutes the ship was cleared of the enemy.
Decatur … gave orders to burn the ship, and … in a few minutes, so well and quickly was the work done, the flames broke out in all parts of the Philadelphia. As soon as this was effected the order was given to return to the Intrepid. Without confusion the men obeyed. ... The cables were cut, the sweeps got out, and the Intrepid drew rapidly away from the burning frigate.… then the Philadelphia, a mass of flames, drifted across the harbor and blew up. Meantime the … Intrepid … escaped successfully …
In the years that have elapsed, and among the great events that have occurred since that time, Decatur’s burning of the Philadelphia has been well-nigh forgotten; but it is one of those feats of arms which illustrate the high courage of American seamen, and which ought always to be remembered.
— Senator Henry Cabot Lodge Hero Tales from American History
Moran's The Brig Armstrong Engaging the British Fleet (in the Harbor of Fayal, September 26, 1814)
— Wallace Rice “A Yankee Privateer”
Moran's Sinking of the Cumberland by the Merrimac (in Hampton Roads, March 8, 1862)