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The War of 1812
"Aye, Captain!" — Old Ironsides' Captain William Bainbridge



"Aye, Captain!" — Old Ironsides' Captain William Bainbridge
Reading Level
     edHelper's suggested reading level:   grades 6 to 9
     Flesch-Kincaid grade level:   6.81

Vocabulary
     challenging words:    carronades, broadside, divert, clutches, best, impressment, incident, privateer, inquiry, booty, disrupt, command, hysterical, commander, wounded, grapeshot
     content words:    Old Ironsides, Captain Hull, William Bainbridge, Royal Navy


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"Aye, Captain!" — Old Ironsides' Captain William Bainbridge
By Toni Lee Robinson
  

1     Old Ironsides had won her nickname and her place in history with the defeat of a British warship. After her famous battle, the beloved ship was docked for repairs. While she had given much worse than she got in the fight, Old Ironsides needed some TLC (tender loving care) before she was fit to fight again. Meanwhile, Captain Hull had gone on to a new job. Old Ironsides would go back to war with a different leader.
 
2     Command of America's favorite ship went to William Bainbridge. He was an impressive man, six feet tall, lean, muscular, and dark. He was "dashing" in the old fashioned sense—handsome and adventurous, with a commanding presence. He could be kind and charmingly polite. But he had a bad reputation. He had lost three ships in a row to pirates or warring navies. Hull's crew grumbled amongst themselves about their new boss.
 
3     Actually, his bad press was an unfair reflection on Bainbridge's character. He had had more brilliant victories in his career than he had losses. He had started his life at sea at the age of fourteen. He was made captain at nineteen. The seas were a perilous place in these times. If trading ships managed to elude the predatory French and English navies, they often fell into the greedy clutches of pirates. They might also be grabbed by privateers, private vessels hired by governments to capture ships of other countries. The privateer got to keep the "booty" from his captures. These legalized pirates were weapons of war, disrupting the shipping of enemy nations.
 
4     Bainbridge had dealt with all the perils of life at sea. Once while captaining a merchant ship, he was attacked by a British privateer. Bainbridge's four-gun vessel subdued the eight-gun attacker. Instead of taking the defeated ship as prize, Bainbridge disdainfully let it go. He told its captain to "report to his masters that if they wanted his [Bainbridge's] ship they must send a greater force...and a more skilful commander."

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The War of 1812
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