In the distance, I can see two ships exchanging fire, clouds of smoke swirling as they strafe each other with broadsides. We’re moving fast toward the battle, our sails snapping in the wind. It’s a big ship, but all 13 crew have finished loading cannons, re-rigging sails, and dropping crates of fresh supplies for the gunners. Everyone has a job to do, and this one is mine: I’m staring down the barrel of a port-side cannon on the top deck. I can’t swivel left or right. I just have to light the fuse when the moment is right.
That’s easier said than done. One of the British warships has spotted us moving in, and they pivot and face their cannons in our direction. I’m hunkered behind my cannon, waiting for my shot, when hot iron starts raining down. Chainshot rips through our foresail and our ship slows. Inches away from my face, a cannonball tears a chunk out of the deck railing, flinging a crewmate dead into the pitching waves. I’m bleeding from the blast but I stay on my station….