168 MILITARY HISTORY OF CANADA
might; they had nine vessels to the British six, their ships were manned by numerically superior and better trained crews, and they had twice the weight of metal.
Perry had given careful instructions to his commanding officers "to engage each your designated enemy in close action at half cable length" (130 yards) and quoted the words of the world's greatest seaman, Nelson: "If you lay your enemy close alongside you cannot be out of your place." As an inspiration, he flew from the Lawrence, his flagship, a motto-flag on which were inscribed the dying words of Captain James Lawrence of the Chesapeake : "Don't give up the ship!" He had now a favouring north-east wind, and, accompanied by the Scorpion, Ariel, and Caledonia, led the Lawrence into action against the Detroit, which was supported by the Chippewa and Hunter. The Niagara selected as her foe the Queen Charlotte, while the Somers, Porcupine, Tigress, and Trippe prepared to do battle with the Lady Prevost and the Little Belt.
At fifteen minutes to twelve the long guns of the British fleet began to rain their iron storm on the van of the foe, and ten minutes later the United States 'commander sent back a vigorous answer. Barclay's guns were skilfully handled, and soon began to make havoc on the Lawrence. Shot after shot hurtled into her, line after line and brace after brace was cut away, while huge splinters flew from hull and masts. Perry saw he could not stand this long range warfare for any length of time, and possessing immense superiority in carronades he did his utmost to bring his van to close quarters with the British. After being severely pounded for half an hour, he succeeded in getting within cannister distance. Then for two hours one of the most stubborn and heroic con-tests in the history of naval warfare was waged. Both commanders seemed to think the victory would be to the one who should first conquer the flagship of the opposing fleet, and each fought with the utmost bravery and de-termination. The Detroit was a staunch craft and her heavy guns soon began to weaken the Lawrence, whose