Gateway to the Classics: American History Stories, Volume III by Mara L. Pratt
American History Stories, Volume III by  Mara L. Pratt

A Young Hero

On board the "United States," and during the battle you have just read about, was a boy only ten years of age, Jack Creamer by name.

In those days very many young boys were employed on shipboard, but their names were not entered upon the muster roll of the ship until they had reached a certain age, or served a certain time.

When Jack, our young hero, saw the "Macedonian" bearing down upon the American frigate, he looked troubled, "Ho! ho! Jack," cried his comrades, "you are afraid!"

"I'm not!" cried Jack, indignantly; and he hurried away to find the captain.

"Well Jack, what's wanting now?" said the captain, as the bashful boy sidled up to him, evidently wishing, yet dreading, to make some request.

"Please, Commodore, will you put my name upon the muster roll before the battle begins?"

"Why, what for, my lad?" asked Decatur, surprised.

"So that I can draw my share of the prize money when we capture the British vessel," replied the boy, bravely.

"All right;" laughed the captain: "since you are so sure we shall have the prize money to divide."

"I am sure we shall," answered Jack, simply.

The battle came on; a quick, hot battle, as you have read. Jack was stationed on the main deck—in the thickest of the fight—as powder boy. Close to one of the great guns he stood; and to keep powder ready for this gun was his duty. Back and forth between the powder magazine and the gun he hurried, the cartridges closely hidden beneath his jacket so that no spark might reach them. Overhead, among the rigging, all about him on every side, whizzed the deadly leaden balls; but Jack took little heed. To keep his gun busy, to take the British ship, was all he thought or knew.

"Well, Jack," said the captain, when the battle was over, "we did  capture the Britisher!"

"Yes, sir; yes, sir," answered Jack, his smoky, sooty face radiant with joy. "I knew we would."

"And now," continued the captain, "if we succeed in getting the old hulk safe into port, there'll be the prize money. Would you mind telling me what you propose to do with the two hundred dollars that will be your share?"

"O sir," answered Jack. "Half of it I shall send to my mother. The other half—with that I will get me a bit of schooling."

Decatur's kind heart was touched. You may be sure the brave boy got his "bit of schooling" and that he had ever after a warm friend in the good captain.

For many years the lad served under his friend in the navy, and in his service won many honors both through Decatur's friendly interest in him and through his own unfailing courage and his strong, ready, honest bravery.

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