Orders came shortly from the War Department providing a detail to go and help man the guns of Perry at Put-in Bay. I had the honor of leading them on the journey and turning them over to the young Captain. I could not bear to be lying idle at the garrison. A thought of those in captivity was with me night and day, but I could do nothing for them. I had had a friendly talk with General Brown. He invited and received my confidence touching the tender solicitude I was unable to cover. I laid before him the plan of an expedition. He smiled, puffing a cigar thoughtfully.
“Reckless folly, Bell,” said he, after a moment. “You are young and lucky. If you were flung in the broad water there with a millstone tied to your neck, I should not be surprised to see you turn up again. My young friend, to start off with no destination but Canada is too much even for you. We have no men to waste. Wait; a rusting sabre is better than a hole in the heart. There will be good work for you in a few days, I hope.”
And there was—the job of which I have spoken, that came to me through his kind offices. We set sail in a schooner one bright morning,—D’ri and I and thirty others,—bound for Two-Mile Creek. Horses were waiting for us there. We mounted them, and made the long journey overland—a ride through wood and swale on a road worn by the wagons of the emigrant, who, even then, was pushing westward to the fertile valleys of Ohio. It was hard travelling, but that was the heyday of my youth, and the bird music, and the many voices of a waning summer in field and forest, were somehow in harmony with the great song of my heart. In the middle of the afternoon of September 6, we came to the Bay, and pulled up at headquarters, a two-story frame building on a high shore. There were wooded islands in the offing, and between them we could see the fleet—nine vessels, big and little.
I turned over the men, who were taken to the ships immediately and put under drill. Surgeon Usher of the Lawrence and a young midshipman rowed me to Gibraltar Island, well out in the harbor, where the surgeon presented me to Perry—a tall, shapely man, with dark hair and eyes, and ears hidden by heavy tufts of beard. He stood on a rocky point high above the water, a glass to his eye, looking seaward. His youth surprised me: he was then twenty-eight. I had read much of him and was looking for an older man. He received me kindly: he had a fine dignity and gentle manners. Somewhere he had read of that scrape of mine—the last one there among the Avengers. He gave my hand a squeeze and my sword a compliment I have not yet forgotten, assuring me of his pleasure that I was to be with him awhile. The greeting over, we rowed away to the Lawrence. She was chopping lazily at anchor in a light breeze, her sails loose. Her crew cheered their commander as we came under the frowning guns.