(The Fighting Anthonys – 3)
This is a work of fiction and is not an account of actual historical events.
This book is dedicated to Ray Knight and Nancy Lopez for their friendship, generosity and endless support to my grandson, my family and me during a period of personal tragedy. Truly these are two of God's special angels and our family will never forget their efforts.
I would like to issue a special 'Bravo Zulu' to Dave and Nancy at Boson Books. Without these wonderful people HMS SeaWolf would have been sunk before the keel ever cut deep water. Due to their continued support Barracuda now sets sail.
I would like to thank that one special lady who doesn't want her name mentioned but without her help there wouldn't have been a manuscript. She edits; critiques and doesn't let me get by with mediocrity.
Special thanks to Carrie Skalla for her art work. She is truly a talented young lady who has spent many hours creating the artwork for the Fighting Anthonys series.
Also a special thanks to the Skalla family for always being there in a time of need and their willingness to lend a helping hand.
I want to thank you, 'the reader' for not only buying The Reaper and HMS SeaWolf, but demanding Book Three, Barracuda. I hope you enjoy this and future installments of the Fighting Anthonys series.
I take a breath and look around me.
I'm grateful to be alive.
The guns, they're all silent now,
But, the smoke still burns my eyes.
There's a heaviness within me,
It takes a heavy toll.
It burns like rum going down,
To an empty, aching soul.
– Michael Aye
'Damme, Mr. Decker, what's that?'
'We're being attacked, sir,' a trembling wild-eyed midshipman answered the fourth lieutenant of HMS Diamond 64.
CRASH!… 'Watch out, zur, the foremast 'as been hit,' a scrambling seaman shouted out as he ran by, looking back at the wild-eyed midshipman.
Brown, the fourth lieutenant snarled, 'Aye, we're being attacked, Mr. Decker, but by whom and how in God's name did they get this close without being sighted?' BOOM!… BOOM!…
Dozen's of shadowy figures came up from below decks. Among the half-crazed men, Mr. Knight, the ship's first lieutenant, was still dressing as he made his way on deck.
Flames came spurting up like a bonfire from a nearby vessel.
'That's the mail packet, sir, the HMS Mosquito.'
'Well, I hope to hell all the mails off,' Knight answered sarcastically, then stared at Brown. 'Beat to quarters, Mr. Brown.'
'Aye, sir. Bosun!'
'Aye, Mr. Brown.'
'Beat to quarters.'
'Aye, aye, sir.'
The assault continued… then another explosion.
'Damned if we aren't being attacked by a fleet, Mr. Brown. I believe a cannon fires about every time I take a breath,' Lieutenant Knight exclaimed.
Then as if to emphasize his remarks the whole ship seem to shudder as another ball had found its target.
'Where's Captain Stafford?' Knight asked.
'He… ah… sent a note aboard with his cox'n, sir, and said he'd be ashore tonight, but I'm sure he's heard the cannons so he's bound to be on his way back,' the frightened Decker stammered.
'No doubt our captain is awake,' Knight responded, 'But what about those fools in the fort? They've not fired a shot.'
'Mr. Knight!' It was Williams, the carpenter, 'We're sinking sir. We've got over three feet in the well and it's gaining.' Then as an after thought he continued, 'The pumps have either been destroyed or what's left can't keep up.'
'Well, hell's fire, we've been attacked by God knows who, the fort is yet to fire a shot and Commodore Meriwether's flagship is going to sink right here at the entrance of Saint Augustine Harbour.'
Another ball had scored a hit and overturned a cannon.
Wounded men were crying out in agony while others were cursing.
Then another explosion as the schooner, HMS Amsterdam, was hit and immediately engulfed in flames.
'Does anyone know where the Commodore is?' Knight asked the group in front of him, a group that had increased in numbers, as the men came forward looking for direction.
'Ah…,' this again from the midshipman Decker, 'Sir Percival is being entertained ashore this evening as well, sir.'
'Well, it better be a hellish fine entertainment to make up for what's in store when he faces the Admiral.'
'Sir!' a pleading Williams cried. 'What about all these men?' gesturing to the wounded that lay about.
Knight could see four sets of sails rounding the bend from the south. Had they even gotten off a shot, he wondered. Was this to end his career? Surely there would be a court martial and he'd been in the Navy long enough to know 'shat ran downhill'.