As the day wore on, their weakness increased. One of the survivors described himself as feeling the approach of annihilation; his sight failed, and his senses were confused; his strength was exhausted; he looked towards the setting sun, expecting never to see it rise again. Suddenly the approach of the boats was announced; and from the depth of despair, they rose to the very summit of joy. Their parched frames were refreshed with copious draughts of water.
Immediate preparations were made for departure. Of one hundred and twenty-two persons on board the Nautilus, when she struck, fifty-eight had perished. Eighteen were drowned when she was wrecked, five were lost in the small boat, and thirty-four died of famine. About fifty now embarked in four fishing vessels, and landed the same evening at Cerigotto; making sixty-four in all, including those saved in the whale-boat. During their six days sojourn on the rock, they had nothing to subsist on, save human flesh.
They landed at a small creek. The Greeks received them with great hospitality, but had not skill to cure their wounds, and had no bandages but those procured by tearing up their own shirts. Wishing to procure some medical assistance, they desired to reach Cerigo, an island twenty miles distant, on which an English vice-consul resided. Fourteen days elapsed before they could set sail. They bade adieu to these kind preservers, and in six or eight hours reached Cerigo, where all possible help was afforded them. Thence they were conveyed by a Russian ship to Corfu; where they arrived on the 2d of March, 1807, about two months after their melancholy disaster.
Decatur is one of the most illustrious names in the naval annals of America. Among the many officers who have borne this name, none was more celebrated and admired in his life time and none more deeply lamented at his untimely decease than Commodore Stephen Decatur.
[Illustration: BURNING OF THE PHILADELPHIA.]
His life was a series of heroic actions. But of these perhaps the most remarkable of all is that which is recorded in the following language of his biographer—the burning of the frigate Philadelphia.
Decatur had been sent out from the United States, in the Argus, to join Commodore Preble’s squadron before Tripoli. He exchanged this vessel with Lieutenant Hull for the Enterprise.
After making that exchange, he proceeded to Syracuse, where the squadron was to rendezvous. On his arrival at that port, he was informed of the fate of the frigate Philadelphia, which had run aground on the Barbary coast, and fallen into the hands of the Tripolitans. The idea immediately presented itself to his mind of attempting her recapture or destruction. On Commodore Preble’s arrival, a few days afterwards, he proposed to him a plan for the purpose, and volunteered his services to execute it. The wary mind of that veteran officer at first disapproved of an enterprise so full of peril; but the risks and difficulties that surrounded it, only stimulated the ardour of Decatur, and imparted to it an air of adventure, fascinating to his youthful imagination.