Sunday, April 24, 2005

This Week in History - 24 April

In 1771 Captain Jules Roark from the British Colony of Virginia was in command of the privateer vessel The Silver Cow. The good Captain and his crew had left Charlotte, North Carolina for Boston, with a full cargo of tobacco and rum. Just off the Coast of Nantucket Island they were accosted by the H.M.S. Flounder, Captained by Captain Sir Myles Wickem of His Majesty's Navy.

Captain Roark knew that being caught with a hold full of untaxed tobacco and rum would probably cost him the full cargo and perhaps even his ship. He attempted to evade the British Frigate by running dangerously close to the shoals off the tip of Cape Cod. The British Captain ordered his cannoneers to demast the privateer vessel. The ensuing battle progressed as most of that day were wont. The British's superior number of cannons pitted against the quicker more agile Colonist vessel.

Both ships were sustaining considerable damage until Captain Roark in an inspired show of seamanship managed to bring his full broadside to bear upon the undefended stern of the British Frigate. At this point however he broke from tradition and instead of sinking the British Frigate he decided instead to pull close and hurl a series of insults at the British Captain.

The embarrassment of the situation caused the British Captain to drop his colors and surrender. Captain Roark however ignored the offer of surrender and continued to shout insults.

In the midst of this unusual attack history records that Captain Roark declaring that he had seen Sir Myles's mother buying her petticoats at the local sail maker's shop. Hearing this the Lady in question burst from her quarters in a rage. She stormed to the rail and leapt from the deck of the Flounder onto The Silver Cow. Crashing through the deck she smashed into the main spine of the vessel and snapped it clean.

The Silver Cow sank with all hands on board. The Lady Wickem bobbed to the surface within seconds, screaming to be rescued. Unfortunately attempts to hoist her back aboard the Flounder caused the vessel to list badly and it begin to take water.

Both ships were lost. The Lady Wickem was aided for a while by a passing pod of sperm whales, but was soon abandoned because she continued to frighten the calves.

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