Ultimately faced with the terrible choice

 . . . of whether to fire on his own country’s flag or to die . . . .

 

     The gun-captain fell, a foot-long splinter half-buried in his shoulder.  The man next to him pulled him back to larboard.  “Lawrence!  Take his place!” ordered Midshipman Barroughleigh, and Lawrence leapt to the breech-end of the carronade, sighted down the gun, and directed his crew-mates to lever it right a little, down a little.  His hand reached blindly out for the lanyard tied to the firing-lock, but then withdrew as Lawrence looked down the barrel of the gun and saw his country’s flag of fifteen stars and fifteen stripes before him, fluttering from the mizzenmast of the American warship.  He dropped the lanyard and stood upright.  Barroughleigh saw Lawrence’s hesitation and leapt to his side.  The Midshipman pulled his pistol from his sash and pointed it at Lawrence’s temple.  “Fire, damn ye!” he screamed, “fire, or I’ll blow your brains out!”

 

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