Recollections of Naval Officer, 1841-1865 [Digital Version]

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Parker, William Harwar, 1826-1896, Recollections of Naval Officer, 1841-1865 (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1883)

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Title: Recollections of Naval Officer, 1841-1865 [Digital Version]
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Author: Parker, William Harwar, 1826-1896
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Contents


RECOLLECTIONS OF
A NAVAL OFFICER



To Col: E. C. Mackan
with the compliments
of H [...] Ramsey   — Ch'f Engr.   C. S. Navy.




RECOLLECTIONS
OF A
NAVAL OFFICER
1841-1865

"The greatest friend of Truth is Time; her greatest enemy is Prejudice."

NEW YORK
CHARLES SCRIBNERS' SONS
1883

COPYRIGHT BY
CHARLES SCRIBNERS' SONS
1883

v

PREFACE

During the war with Mexico, 1847–48, a friend of mine,
J. Hogan Brown, was the sailing master of the United
States steamship Mississippi. The Mississippi went from Vera
Cruz in the squadron to attack Tampico, and had in tow
the schooner Bonita—gunboat.

During the night a "norther" sprang up, and the officer
of the deck let the Bonita go, and did not think it necessary
to report the fact to the commodore.

In the morning the commodore, Matthew C. Perry, came
on deck, and not seeing the Bonita, inquired where she
was. The officer of the deck told him that in the night
they had let her go in consequence of the weather. The
commodore, who was not noted for his suaviter in modo,
though strong in the fortiter in re, said: "Send the master
to me." Upon his appearance he said, "Mr. Brown, where
is that schooner?" Brown, who was never at a loss for an
answer, instantly replied, "She is S. S. E., fifteen miles
distant." "She is, eh?" said the commodore, and turning
to the officer of the deck he said, "Steer S. S. E." The
officers in the ward room, hearing of the occurrence, said,
"Well! old Brown is caught at last." In about an hour
the man at the mast-head called out: "Sail ho! "Where
away?" said the officer of the deck. "Right ahead," was
the reply; and in a few minutes: "Can you make her out?"


vi

"Yes, sir, a schooner." "By George," said the officers in
the ward room, "old Brown is right, after all!" After
awhile the strange sail was reached, and proved to be a
merchant schooner bound to Pensacola. The commodore,
in a great rage, sent for Brown and said: "Did you not
say the schooner Bonita bore S. S. E. fifteen miles off?"
"Well, sir,' said Brown, "the reckoning called for a schooner;
but it did not say it was the Bonita!"

Now the moral of this is that this reckoning calls for a
schooner, but no particular schooner: so if any fellow expects
his schooner to be mentioned he may find himself mistaken.

I wish to say here, with Captain Kincaid of the rifle
battalion: "That this is my book; and if any man wishes
his name or services to be specially mentioned, let him
write a book for himself."

43 YORK ST.,
Norfolk, Va.


vii

CONTENTS.

CHAPTER I. PAGE.
Entrance into the Navy.—Join the North Carolina, 74, at New
York.—First Impressions.—Hammocks versus Cotton Bales.—
Midshipmen's Pranks.—The U. S. brig Somers.—The brig
Boxer.—Melancholy Suicide.—The "By-No-Meal" Theorem.—
Am Ordered to the line-of-battle ship Columbus.—A poetical
Sailmaker
1
CHAPTER II.
My First Cruise.—The Columbus, 74.—Ghosts.—Cross the Atlantic.—
Gibraltar.—Guarda Costa and Smugglers. —Port Mahon.—
Assassination of Mr. Patterson.—Lieutenant Charles G. Hunter.
—Squadron Winters in Genoa.—Passed Midshipmen Beale
and Murray.—The brig Somers.—A Duel.—Return to Mahon.—
The Delaware, 74.—Toulon.— Cape de Gata.—Gibraltar
Again.—Madeira.—Sail for the Coast of Brazil.—Saturday
Night Yarns.—Target Practice.—Improvement in Gunnery.—
Captain Marryatt and American Thunder
10
CHAPTER III.
Arrival at Rio de Janeiro.—The East India Squadron.—Anecdotes of
the War of 1812.—The Brazil Station.—Slavers.—The Harbor
of Rio de Janeiro.—Marriage of the Emperor Dom Pedro.—
Salutes.—Promotions in the Squadron.—Monte Video.—The
Bishop of Honolulu.—Visit to Buenos Ayres.—Rosas, the Dictator.
—La Señorita Manuelita.—A Day at Rosas' Quinta.—Return
to Rio.—Arrival of the frigate Raritan.—Sandy Thompson's
Will—Return to the United States
22
CHAPTER IV.
The frigate Potomac.—The Millerite Excitement.—Sail for Norfolk.—
Leave Norfolk for the West Indies.—The Landfall of Columbus.

viii

PAGE.
—Gonaives.—Port-au-Prince.—A San Domingo Game-Cock.
—The Yellow Fever.—Port Royal.—Havana.—Tomb of
Columbus.—Pensacola.—Vera Cruz.—Rumors of War with
Mexico.—Return to Pensacola.— Sharks.—A Leak in the
Bow.—A Coffer Dam.—The U. S. S. Princeton. —Return Home.
35
CHAPTER V.
Return to the frigate Potomac. —List of Her Officers.—First Impressions.
—Sail for Vera Cruz.—Arrival.—Sacrificios Island.—San
Juan de Ulloa.—Sail for Brazos Santiago—Land a Force at
Point Isabel.—Battle of Palo Alto.—Battle of Resaca de la
Palma.—General Taylor and Commodore Conner.—An
Alarm.—Major Ringgold.—Captain May.—Lieut. Ridgely.—
Boat Expedition up the Rio Grande
47
CHAPTER VI.
War Declared.—Blockade of the Coast.—Rivers and Towns on the
Gulf of Mexico.—Blockade of Vera Cruz.—Green Island.—
The Pirates of the Falmouth.—Passed Midshipman Hynson.—
Burning a Vessel under the Castle of San Juan de Ulloa.—
Midshipman Rogers.—Loss of the brig Somers.—Unlucky
Vessels.—Affair at the Rio Antigua.—The gunboat Reefer.
First Attempt on Alvarado.—The British frigate Endymion,.
57
CHAPTER VII.
Capture of Tampico.—Slipping off Tampico in "a Norther."—The
U. S. S. Hornet.—Vessels of the U. S. Navy lost between
1841-61.—Pensacola.—Yellow Fever.—Second Attempt on
Alvarado.—Admiral Joshua Sands.—Attack on Tobasco.—
Death of Lieutenant Charles Morris.—Captain French Forrest.
—Incidents of the Blockade of Vera Cruz.—Anton Lizardo.
—Narrow Escape of the Cumberland.—Loss of the U. S.
brig Truxtan.—A Man Hanged at the Yard-arm of the U. S. S.
St. Mary's.—Visit Pensacola and return to Vera Cruz,
68
CHAPTER VIII.
The Fortifications of Vera Cruz.—What Admiral Farragut thought
of them.—Campaign of General Taylor.—Lobos Island.—Arrival
at Vera Cruz of General Scott's Army.—A Reconnaissance.
—Landing of the Army of General Scott at Vera Cruz,

ix

PAGE.
March 9th, 1847.—Remarks On.—Investment of the City.—
Services of the Navy.—Opening of the Bombardment.—A
Heavy Norther.—Incidents Connected with.—Sailors on
Shore.—Affair at Medellin,
79
CHAPTER IX.
Opening of the Bombardment of Vera Cruz.—Captain Tatnall and
the Spitfire.—Commodore M. C. Perry assumes command of
the Squadron.—Commodore Conner's Mistake.—The Navy
lands six heavy guns.—The Mosquito Fleet.—The Navy Battery.
—It opens fire on Vera Cruz.—Incidents.—Passed Midshipman
Fauntleroy.—Surrender of Vera Cruz and the Castle
of San Juan de Ulloa.—Our Army takes Possession.—Battle of
Cerro Gordo.—A visit to the Castle and City.—Our Marines,
91
CHAPTER X.
Expedition to Alvarado.—"Alvarado" Hunter and the steamer
Scourge.—A Coincidence.—An Allegory.—Capture of Tuspan.
—Jack Beard's Disappointment.—Grand Expedition to Tobasco.
—Attack on the Gunboats by the Enemy in Ambush.—
Landing at the Devil's Bend.—The March.—Incidents.—The
Steamers Raise the Chevaux de Frise and take the Fort.—
Capture of the Town of Tobasco.—Captain Bigelow appointed
Governor.—An Unfortunate Affair.—Sail for Home in the
frigate Raritan.—Yellow Fever.— Arrival at Norfolk,
103
CHAPTER XI.
Ordered to Annapolis.—The Naval School of 1847.—Captain George
P. Upshur.—Duels.—The Battle-ground of Bladensburg.—Professor
William Chauvenet.—Swapping Yarns.—Pat Murphy
and the Coon Skins.—Captain X.'s Dilemma.—Commodore
Chauncey.—A Precise Message.—A Sailor's Testimony.—Van
Ness Phillip's Visit to Troy.—Thompsonian Treatment.—Mad
Jack Percival.—Pass my Examination.—A Bad Quarter of an
Hour on Board the Bay State.—A Friend in Need.—Hard
Work at the Boston Navy Yard,
117
CHAPTER XII.
Orderered to the sloop-of-war Yorktown.—Sail from Boston.—Arrival
at Porto Praya.—First Cruise on the Coast of Africa.—The

x

PAGE.
Gambia River.—Monrovia.—Battle between the Liberians and
Natives.—President Roberts.—A Cruise to Windward.—Cadiz,
Funehal, Teneriffe, Palmas —Porto Praya Again.—An Old
City.—Riding out a Gale on a Lee Shore.—Rescue of the
American brig Copperthwait,
129
CHAPTER XIII.
Kroumen.—The brig Porpoise.— A Boatswain's-mate's Poetry.—A
narrow escape from Drowning.—Accra.—Elmina.—Cape Coast
Castle.—Grave of L. E. L.—Slavers.—A Yankee Trick.—The
Slave Trade.—The Bridgton.—Whydah.— Dahomey.—
Prince's Island.—African Fever.—Second Cruise to Windward.
—Madeira.—Canary Islands.—Wreck of the Yorktown on the
Island of Mayo.—Return Home.—How to find the Moon's Age,
140
CHAPTER XIV.
A Morning Call.—Ordered to the Surveying brig Washington.—Survey
of Nantucket Shoals.—Block Island and No-Man's Land.
—Pilot Daggett.—The Pilot of the Bibb.—Anecdote.—Ordered
to the Princeton.—A Night with the "Spirit Rappers."—Am
detached from the Princeton and ordered to the Cyane,
154
CHAPTER XV.
Join the Cyane.—Bad Navigation.—Havana.—The Lopez Expedition.
—Key West.—The Dry Tortugas.—Pensacola.—Commodore J.
T. Newton.—Greytown.—The Nicaragua Route.—A Trip up
the San Juan del Norte.—Castillo.—Join a Flying Squadron
at Portsmouth, N. II.—Eastport.—St. Johns, N. B.—The
Bay of Fundy.—Captain George N. Hollins.—A Sunken Rock.
—An Old-time Dutch Commander.—The Gulf of St. Lawrence.
—Detached from the Cyane.—The Cyane Bombards Greytown.
—The Isthmus of Darien.—Strain's Expedition.—Captain
Prevost's Experience.—The Darien and Mosquito Indians,
160
CHAPTER XVI.
Report for duty at the Naval Academy— Ordered to the Merrimac.
Auxiliary Steam Power.—Sail from Boston.—Arrival at Rio.—
The Ganges, 74.—Double Cape Horn and Arrive at Talcahuana.
—Brilliant Performance at Valparaiso.— Chincha
Islands.—The Chinese Coolie and the Peruvian Cholo.—First

xi

PAGE.
Inhabitants of North America.—Callao.— Lima.—The Spanish
American Republics and Population.—Payta.—The Buccaneers.
—Alexander Selkirk.—Juan Fernandez.— Dampier.—
Circumnavigators.—Magellan.—Drake.—The Early Spanish Voyagers
174
CHAPTER XVII.
Cook's Voyages and Discoveries.—Anson's Voyage around the World.
—The Mutiny of the Bounty.—Panama.—Indian Names and
their Signification.—Tumbez.—Callao Again.—Lieutenant
Denny, R. N.—The Sandwich Islands.—Realejo,—Nicaragua.—
Chinandegua.—A Voyage in a Bungo.—Panama Again.—Commodore
J. B. Montgomery.—Valparaiso.—The Levant.—The
Lancaster.— Sail for Home.—Rio Janeiro.—John Brown's
Raid.—The frigate Congress.—Arrival at Norfolk,
187
CHAPTER XVIII.
Ordered to the Naval Academy.—Secession of the Cotton States.—
Occupation of Annapolis by Troops under General Butler.—
Secession of Virginia.—Resign my Commission in the U. S.
Navy and enter the Confederate Navy.—Governor Hicks and
the State of Maryland.—Secession of the Border States.—The
Northern Democrats.—Harper's Ferry.—General Harney.—
The Appearance of Richmond at the beginning of the War.—
The Pawnee War.—Arrival of Troops.—A Naval Howitzer
Battery.—Evacuation of Norfolk.—Captain A. B. Fairfax.—
—The Patrick Henry.—Lieutenant Powell.—Our First Ironclad.
—The Battle of Manassas.—Affair at Acquia Creek,
200
CHAPTER XIX.
The North Carolina State Navy.—I join the reinforcements for Hatteras.
—Capture of Cape Hatteras.—Commodore Samuel Barron.
—Lieutenant Wm, H. Murdaugh.—Roanoke Island.—Oregon
Inlet.—I assume command of the Beaufort.—Fort Macon.
—Colonel Bridges and his Command.—A Pleasant Day.—
Reading under Difficulties.—Public School Education.—The
Beaufort's Crew—My Cabin Boy.—The Neuse River.—Teach,
the Pirate.—A Pilot's Yarn.—Visit to Jacksonville.—A False
Alarm.—Washington, N. C.—A cruise on a Canal.—Arrival at
Norfolk,
211

xii

PAGE.
CHAPTER XX.
A Visit to Newbern.—Change of Officers.—Join the Squadron at Roanoke
Island.—Wise's Brigade.—The Defences of Roanoke Island.
—Commodore Lynch's Squadron.—The Burnside Expedition.
—Flag Officer Goldsborough's fleet.—An evening with
Commodore Lynch.—Battle of Roanoke Island.—Incidents.—
Retreat of the Squadron to Elizabeth City
224
CHAPTER XXI.
The Defenses of Elizabeth City.—Henningsen's Artillery.—Reconnoissance
by Commodore Lynch.—He is chased back to the
Pasquotank.—I am placed in command of Fort Cobb.—The
Battle of Elizabeth City.—Incidents.—The Destruction of the
Confederate Squadron.—Commodore Lynch.—Retreat from
Elizabeth City. Cross the Dismal Swamp.—Incidents along
the Route.—Henningsen's Men.—March to Suffolk.—Arrival
at Norfolk.—Find the Beaufort there.—Join General Wise at
Great Bridge.—Return to Norfolk and report to Commodore
Buchanan.—His Squadron
234
CHAPTER XXII.
The Evacuation of Norfolk by the Federals.—Ordnance left at the
Navy Yard.—Vessels Burned.—The Merrimac.—Is converted
into an Iron-Clad.—Her Designer.—Her construction and appearance.
—Her Armament.—Her Engines, and Speed.—Her
Draft.
246
CHAPTER XXIII.
The Federal Ships in Hampton Roads.—The Merrimac and her Consorts
leave Norfolk.—The Battle of Hampton Roads.—The
Sinking of the Cumberland.—Arrival of the James River Squadron.
—The Batteries at Newport's News.—The Frigates Minnesota,
Roanoke
and St. Lawrence come up from Old Point.—They
get aground.—Surrender of the Congress.—Fire from Troops on
Shore.—Incidents of the Battle.—The Federal Loss.—The Confederate
Loss.—The Ram and Iron-Clad.—Confederate Gunboats.
—Services of the wooden vessels in this Battle
251
CHAPTER XXIV.
The Night of the 8th of March.—The Battle Between the Merrimac
and Monitor.—Remarks upon this Battle.—Injuries of the Merrimac.

xiii

PAGE.
—What was Expected of her North and South.—What
she could not have done.—The Case of Captain Smith and Lieutenant
Pendergrast.—What a White Flag Signifies.—Lieutenant
Joseph P. Smith.—Commodore Tattnall relieves Admiral
Buchanan of the Command.—His Character.—Preparations for
Another Battle
264
CHAPTER XXV.
Our Plan for Boarding and Smothering the Monitor.—The Merrimac
challenges the Monitor to Battle.—We capture three Vessels.
—Operations in Hampton Roads on the 11th of April, 1862.—
Remarks on.—The Merrimac drives the vessels employed in
Bombarding Seawell's Point under the Guns of Fort Monroe.—
The Monitor declines to fight the Merrimac.—Am ordered to
command the Dixie.—Evacuation of Norfolk by the Confederates.
—Commodore John Rodgers.—His Attack on Drury's
Bluff.—Blowing up of the Merrimac.—Commodore Tattnall's
Report.—Reflections on the Destruction of this Ship.—Pilots.
273
CHAPTER XXVI.
Am ordered to command the Gunboat Drury.—The James River
Squadron.—The Seven Days' Fighting around Richmond.—
A Board for the Examination of Midshipmen.—Am ordered to
the Iron-Clad Palmetto State at Charleston.—Description of
her.—An Incident.—A Fire at Sea.—Flag Officer Duncan L.
Ingraham.—Battle off Charleston, January 31, 1863, between
the Confederate Iron-Clads and the Federal Fleet.—Surrender
of the Mercedita and Keystone State.—The other vessels driven
off.—Proclamation of General Beauregard and Commodore Ingraham.
—Remarks upon this Engagement and its Results
286
CHAPTER XXVII.
Capture of the U. S. S. Isaac Smith.—Torpedoes.—Charleston at this
time.—Its Defences.—Blockade Runners.—Arrival of the U. S.
Iron-Clad Fleet off the Harbor.—Attack on Fort Sumter by
Admiral Dupont's Fleet, April 7,1863.—Result of the Attack.
—The Keokuk Sunk.—Admiral Dupont's Captains.—An Intended
Torpedo Expedition.—The Monitors leave Morris
Island and go to the North Edisto river
306

xiv

PAGE.
CHAPTER XXVIII.
Reconnoissance of the Monitors in the North Edisto river.—I Organize
a Torpedo Expedition to attack them.—Arrival at Rockville.—
A Deserter.—Skilful and Original Flank Movement.—Return
to Charleston.—Commander W. T. Glassell's attack on the
New Ironsides.—Admiral Daniel Ammen.—I am ordered to
Richmond
316
CHAPTER XXIX.
Organization of the Confederate Naval Academy.—The School Ship
Patrick Henry.— Capture of the U. S. S. Underwriter.— The
Iron-Clads Virginia, Richmond and Fredericksburg.—The Defence
of James River by Torpedoes.—Captain Hunter Davidson.
—His attack on the U. S. S. Minnesota.—Opening of the
Campaign of 1864.—General Butler's Lost Opportunity.—Battle
of Drury's Bluff.—I am ordered to command the Richmond.
—Trent's Reach
323
CHAPTER XXX.
Curious Target Practice.—Attack on the Monitors in Trent's Reach,
June 21, 1864.—The Confederate Iron-Clad Albemarle and her
Engagements.—Captain Jas. B. Cook.— Lieutenant W. B.
Cushing.—The Alabama and the Kearsarge.—The Florida and
the Wachusett.—Attempt to get our Iron-Clads to City Point.—
Its Failure.—Blowing up of the Gunboat Drury.—General Joseph
E. Johnston and President Davis.—Vice President Stephens.
—The Confederate Government.—State of Affairs in
Richmond and on the James River in March, 1865
336
CHAPTER XXXI.
The Evacuation of Richmond.—Ordered to take charge of the
Confederate Treasure.—The Corps of Midshipmen.—The Night of
April 2d.—Scenes at the Depot.—Departure of the President
and Cabinet.—Arrival at Danville.—Go on to Charlotte, N. C.
—General Stoneman at Salisbury.—Resolve to carry the Treasure
farther South.—Mrs. President Davis and Family.—Leave
Charlotte.—Pass through Cheater, Newberry, Abbeville and
Washington.—Arrival at Augusta, Georgia.—The Armistice
between Generals Johnston and Sherman.—Determine to Retrace
my Steps.—Leave Augusta for Washington, Georgia
349

xv

PAGE.
CHAPTER XXXII.
Return to Abbeville.—An Alarm.—Arrival of President Davis and
Cabinet.—I transfer the treasure to General Basil Duke and
Disband my Command.—Interview with President Davis.—His
Departure from Abbeville.—General Joseph E. Johnston's Surrender.
—Am Paroled.—Leave Abbeville on my Return Home.
—Bad Travelling.—A Day at Burksville.—Arrival at Norfolk,
Va
363

1

RECOLLECTIONS
OF A
NAVAL OFFICER.


CHAPTER I.
ENTRANCE INTO THE NAVY—JOIN THE "NORTH CAROLINA 74," AT NEW
YORK—FIRST IMPRESSIONS—HAMMOCKS VERSUS COTTON-BALES—MIDSHIPMEN'S
PRANKS—THE U. S. BRIG "SOMERS" —THE BRIG "BOXER"
— MELANCHOLY SUICIDE—THE "BY-NO-MEAL" THEOREM — AM ORDERED
TO THE LINE-OF-BATTLE-SHIP "COLUMBUS" —A POETICAL SAILMAKER.

WE are told that when Mr. Toots attempted to write an
acrostic to Florence Dombey he carefully prepared the first
letters of the lines, and then never got farther than "For
when I gaze"; and I must confess that in commencing these
recollections I feel somewhat in the same predicament; so I
think it best to plunge at once in medias res and say that I
entered the U. S. navy as a midshipman on the 19th day of
October, 1841, being then fourteen years of age. I was
almost immediately ordered to the U. S. ship North Carolina,
and on the 27th day of the same month reported for duty to
Commodore M. C. Perry, then commanding the station at
New York.

I well recollect my extreme surprise at being addressed as
Mr. by the commodore, and being recalled to my senses by the
sharp William of my father, who accompanied me to the Navy
Yard.


2

Upon our arrival at New York we had put up at the City
Hotel, the favorite resort of naval officers. The night of our
arrival we took a Whitehall boat at Castle Garden and pulled
off to a transport lying in the North River, to visit my eldest
brother who was on board with other officers on their way to
join their regiments in Florida, My brother had just graduated
at West Point, and was attached to the Fourth Infantry.
I never saw him again as he died within a year.

I reported on board the receiving ship North Carolina,
Captain Francis M. Gregory, on the morning of the 28th of
October. She was at anchor in the North River, off the Battery;
had a full complement of officers and men, and was
kept in fine order. She was one of the largest of our line-of-battle
ships, or 74's as they were generally called. One of the
midshipmen informed me the next day that she was called
a 74 because she carried 80 guns! When I got upon her
quarter-deck the marines were drawn up for drill, the band
was playing, a large party of ladies were promenading the
poop-deck, and these sights taken in connection with unaccustomed
smells (for this ship had always a curious odor of
rum, tar, bean-soup and tobacco combined), tended to confuse
me terribly. The one defined recollection I have is of a
midshipman (whom I had met the day before in Commodore
Perry's office) passing us, and recognizing my father with a
touch of the cap, so jaunty and debonair, that I thought that
if I could ever attain to that perfection I would be a naval
officer indeed.

My father soon left me and I was taken below to be introduced
to my messmates, of whom I found about thirty, messing
in the gun-room and sleeping on the orlop deck. During the
first day I was in a constant state of excitement; the frequent
calling of all hands, and the running about caused me to think
the ship was on fire, and I repaired to the quarter-deck many
times to see what the matter was.

Several of the midshipmen hung about me, watching a
chance to perpetrate their jokes; but a greenhorn, like myself,


3

happening to complain to them that he "could not find Cheeks,
the marine, anywhere," caused me to smile; for I was well up
in Marryatt's novels—so they lèt me alone with the remark
that they supposed my father and brother (both of whom were
in the navy) had put me up to the usual navy jokes.

About this time all hands were called to stand by the hammocks,
and my surprise was great when I saw the hammocks
taken out from the nettings; for I had previously supposed
that naval officers, taking the hint from General Jackson's
defences at New Orleans, had stuffed the ship's sides with
bags of cotton, to resist shot! Fortunately I did not allow
this to escape me, or I should have been called "cotton-bale
Parker" to this day.

When I was taken down to the orlop deck and saw the
hammocks swung I could not imagine how I was to sleep in, or
rather on one; for, not knowing that it was not unlashed and
that it contained inside a mattress and blankets, I naturally
thought it was the way of sailors to sit a-straddle of it and
repose in this unnatural attitude. It caused me much unhappiness
that night in the gun-room, and I thought I had,
perhaps, better resign and go home at once; but at two bells,
nine o'clock, when we all went down to turn in, I was much
relieved to see the hammocks spread out into a more reasonable
shape.

Here another surprise awaited me: up to this time I had
suffered much with ear-ache, and my mother had caused me
to wear night-caps—there was nothing strange to me in this,
as other boys wore them at my boarding-school—but it seems
it was not a "way they had in the navy." My caps were of
many colors: red, blue, green, etc., for they were made of
remnants of my sisters' dresses. Now as I made my final
preparations for repose I opened my trunk and put on a
close-fitting night-cap. It was the signal for an indescribable
scene of confusion. If I had put on a suit of mail it could
not have caused greater astonishment among these lighthearted
reefers. They rushed to my trunk, seized the caps,


4

put them on, and joined in a wild dance on the orlop deck, in
which were mingled red caps, blue caps, white caps—all colors
of caps—in pleasing variety. I had to take mine off before
turning in as it really did seem to be too much for their feelings;
but I managed to smuggle it under my pillow, and when
all was quiet I put it on again; but when the midshipman
came down at midnight to call the relief he spied it, and we
had another scene. This was the last I ever saw of my caps.
I have never had one on since, and consequently have never
had the ear-ache!

I do not propose to give a detailed account of my life on
board this ship, but only to present a few scenes as they come
to my recollection.

My first duty was to carry the daily dispatches to Commodore
Perry at the Navy Yard, and this kept me in a boat
pretty much all day, and involved a good deal of risk in
passing the ferries; but after a few weeks I was, to my great
joy, (for I was green then and didn't know any better) assigned
to a watch.

About the latter part of November the ship was taken to
the Navy Yard, laid alongside the wharf, and made comfortable
for the winter, by building houses over the hatches, closing
in the half-ports, etc. Our time was occupied in keeping our
watches and learning navigation under Professor Ward. I,
for one, soon learned to work all the rules in Bowditch's
Navigator; though, if the truth must be told, I did not exactly
understand "what it was about:" nor did I learn until
I got fairly to sea on my first cruise. Few explanations were
given as to "theory," as well as I remember.

The navy at that day was, as to the officers and men, very
similar to the British navy, as described by Marryatt in his
novels: the same jokes were perpetrated and the same characters
existed.

We had on board the North Carolina some sailors who had
been in the Constitution when she captured the Guerriere;
some who were in the United States when she took the Macedonian,


5

and others who had served under Commodores Perry
and McDonough on the Lakes; and it was the custom to get
them in the gun-room at night, to sing the old sailor ditties of
"The Constitution and the Guerriere," "The Wasp and the
Frolic," "The Enterprise and the Boxer," etc. Of course I
looked upon these men as not only heroes, but Methusalehs as
well!

Among my messmates was the ill-fated Spencer. He was a
classmate of mine, and joined shortly after I did. I remember
him as a tall, pale, delicate-looking young man of perhaps
nineteen years of age. It will be remembered that Midshipman
Spencer was accused of inciting a mutiny on board the
United States brig Somers, in November, 1842. He was tried
by a summary court-martial at sea, and hanged at the yardarm
on the 1st of December following, in company with the
boatswain's mate, Cromwell, and the gunner's mate, Small.
This affair caused an immense sensation in the country, and
the commander, Alex. Slidell Mackenzie, asked for and obtained
a Court of Inquiry. His course was sustained by it;
though J. Fenimore Cooper, the novelist, took up the cudgels,
and made a savage attack upon him. Officers of the navy in
my time generally declined to discuss this affair.

I saw the Somers launched at the New York Navy Yard in
the spring of 1842.

During the winter the brig Boxer was fitted out for foreign
service, and I was anxious to apply for her, but our judicious,
and kind-hearted first lieutenant, Charles Armstrong, would
not allow me to do so.

It was the luck in that day of the small, crowded, illventilated
vessels like the Boxer and Dolphin to be sent to the
West Indies, coast of Africa, and other sickly stations: on the
same principle I suppose, as Dickens says, that in serving out
clothing the long men get into the short trousers, and the
short men into the long ones. While the Boxer was fitting
out our junior lieutenant was ordered to her, much against
his will; he tried very hard to have his orders revoked, but


6

without success. He was much loved by the midshipmen, and
we often went to see him.

One afternoon while rowing about the dock for amusement,
in company with another reefer, I saw a boat under the bows
of the Boxer smuggling liquor to the men. We went on
board and reported it to our friend, whom we found the senior
officer—the captain and executive officer being on shore. I
well remember his kindness to us, boys as we were, taking us
below and treating us to cakes. The next morning shortly
after 4 o'clock we were aroused by the news that the Boxer's
men had mutinied and killed this lieutenant. Our marines
were immediately sent on board, and I went in charge of the
boat. It was a mistake about the mutiny. Our friend had
gone on deck at 4 A. M. to keep the morning watch, and a few
minutes after he blew his brains out. I saw his body lying
cold and stiff upon the quarter-deck. No one ever knew the
cause of the fatal act. Our fellows felt the death of this officer
very much, and it was some days before we were up to our
tricks and deviltries again.

The midshipmen were constantly changing during the six
months I was on board this ship. As vessels were fitted out
drafts of reefers were sent to them, and new ones were constantly
arriving. In consequence of this our mess was kept
in a disorganized condition, and in point of fact our money
would give out before the end of the month and we would go
for several days without regular meals. I have occasion to
remember this fact. I joined on the 28th day of October,
when the mess was in this condition. The caterer did not ask
me for my mess bill, and I never thought of offering it; in
fact, I did not know how the mess was supplied and had an
idea that the government furnished it. The day after I
joined, Friday, I was invited to breakfast with the lieutenants
in the ward-room. I had not much appetite, and when I left
the table Mr. Armstrong said: "Youngster, this will never
do; you must learn to eat your ration." To my extreme surprise
we had no dinner in the gun-room that day, and no


7

supper! The table was not even set! It seems that during
this dies infanstus kind of a time the midshipmen lived upon
the bum-boat and skirmished on the berth-deck for a living;
but I knew nothing about that, and was too proud and bashful
to make any inquiries, and, strange to say, no one thought
of giving me information. All day Saturday it was the same
dies non. I frequently thought of the ration alluded to by
Lieutenant Armstrong and wished I could see it! On Sunday
after muster, Mr. Neville, the sailing master, told me
my father wanted me to come ashore in the 1 o'clock boat,
and said the first lieutenant would give me permission to go
if I asked him. I was rather astonished to hear this, for I
had supposed that I was to remain on board three years without
going on shore, and had been wondering how long I could
hold out without eating. I think that reading about Admiral
Collingwood's long cruises had given me this idea. I went on
shore and hurried up to the City Hotel; the clerk informed
me that my father had gone to Brooklyn to dine, and left
word for me to follow him. I found I had left my purse on
board and had no money to pay my ferriage: but there was
a chance to overtake my father. I caught up with him on
Fulton Street, just opposite the old Dutch Reformed church
(I have never passed it since without recalling this incident),
and getting some money from him went to a stand and purchased
some pies and cakes, which I immediately commenced
devouring. My father seemed surprised, and well he might
be! He asked me how I liked it on board ship. I told
him that I did not like it at all; that they had no meals
there. He, thinking that the midshipmen lived, perhaps, on
the ship's rations—salt beef and hard-tack—and that I did not
like it, replied that I would get accustomed to it. I told him
no; that I had never been used to going without meals and
that I was too old to learn; it might do for other midshipmen,
but I could not stand it; and finally, as to returning to that
ship and trying to live without eating, I couldn't and I
wouldn't.


8

My father naturally failed to entirely comprehend the actual
condition of our mess, and we continued the conversation until
we arrived at our destination. We had an excellent dinner,
and I rather suspect my performance at it somewhat astonished
our kind entertainers. We had tarts for dessert. I ate about
twelve, and there was one remaining on the dish. Observing
me to eye it rather hard, our kind hostess said: "William
must have this, because he is a sailor boy." The sailor boy
took it accordingly!

It was now time to set off for the Battery as I was ordered
to return in the sunset boat. I unwillingly accompanied my
father, and though I was dressed in a midshipman's jacket and
trousers, with a smart dirk at my side, I was a little enough
fellow to hold him by the hand. Upon our arrival at Castle
Garden we found one of the older midshipmen who explained
the condition of affairs to my father; he said that the next
day, being the first of the month, everything would be all
right, and meals would be served regularly. Upon this assurance
I consented to return, but took the precaution to lay in
pies and cakes enough to last me several days. Upon getting
back to the gun-room, one of the older midshipmen surprised
me by an invitation to an oyster supper that night at 9
o'clock. I cannot say I felt hungry, but I remembered Major
Dalgetty's advice as to the laying in of provance, and accepted.
The next morning we had a regular breakfast to my
great gratification. We always had this to go through with as
long as I was in the ship; it was "bite and cry" for the last
three days of every month; but I "knew the ropes" then, and
could skirmish with the best of them, and my experience
taught me to look after the greenhorns on such occasions and
see that they got enough to eat.

Towards the latter part of the spring of 1842 I was detached
from the North Carolina and ordered to the line-of-battle ship
Columbus, then fitting out at Boston for the Mediterranean.

I bade adieu to the old ship with many regrets; and with
this shall close my first chapter, which I found so hard to


9

commence. And, after all, when I come to think of it, this is
not so much to be wondered at; for I once sailed with a fellow
—a poetical sailmaker—who, after we had been only a few
days at sea, remarked to me confidentially, that he would like
to read me a piece of his poetry, "if I wouldn't laugh at it:"
(the idea!)
I having duly promised, he read as follows:

"Far o'er the billow the moonlight is streaming,
Dispelling the vapor and gloom of the night,"

and then stopped, with the remark that "that was as far as he
had got:" and though I continued with him for two years he
never got any farther! Basta.


10

CHAPTER II.
MY FIRST CRUISE—THE "COLUMBUS 74" —GHOSTS—CROSS THE ATLANTIC—
GIBRALTAR—GUARDA COSTA AND SMUGGLERS—PORT MAHON—ASSASSINATION
OF MR. PATTERSON—LIEUTENANT CHARLES G. HUNTER—SQUADRON
WINTERS IN GENOA—PASSED MIDSHIPMEN BEALE AND MURRAY—
THE BRIG "SOMERS"—A DUEL—RETURN TO MAHON—THE "DELAWARE
74"—TOULON—CAPE DE GATA—GIBRALTAR AGAIN—MADEIRA—SAIL
FOR THE COAST OF BRAZIL—SATURDAY-NIGHT YARNS—TARGET PRACTICE
—IMPROVEMENTS IN GUNNERY—CAPTAIN MARRYATT AND AMERICAN
THUNDER.

THE Columbus was an old-fashioned 74, built about the
beginning of the century. She carried long 32-pounders on
her main and lower gun decks, and 32-pounder carronades on
her spar deck. She had four 8-inch shell guns, or Paixhams
as they were called from their inventor, on the main deck
amidships, and the same number on the lower deck. She
had made but one short cruise in the Mediterranean, which
was said to have been specially marked by two incidents:
first, in crossing the Atlantic, she had "fetched a compass"
around about a fly-speck on the chart which the Commodore
took to be a rock; and secondly, her false keel getting
slued athwartships she would neither tack, veer nor sail.
She was called at that time an unlucky ship. It was furthermore
said by the men that a woman and child had been
murdered on her orlop deck while she was laid up in ordinary
at the Navy Yard.

In company with many other midshipmen I reported for
her early in the summer of 1842, and as she was not ready for
her officers and men we took up our quarters at the old
National Hotel in Charlestown. Here we remained but a
short time in consequence of our mad horseback rides; for


11

some twenty of us happening to gallop past the commodore's
house on a Sunday, we were next day ordered on board the
receiving ship Ohio for "safe keeping."

Some time in July, however, the Columbus was put in commission
and we all went on board.

I suppose that a finer body of men than the Columbus' crew
never trod a ship's deck. In all my experience I have never
seen their equal. Some eight hundred strong they could, as
the boatswain said, "tear the ship to pieces." She was
commanded by Captain William H. Spencer, and had a
full complement of officers, among whom were eight passed
midshipmen, and about thirty midshipmen—mostly green.
In consequence of the ship having a bad name the men
commenced to desert while lying in the stream and we were
obliged to row guard around her at night to prevent it. In
performing this duty I frequently heard the men in the boat
declare that they heard a baby crying on the orlop deck—
and (as the old sailor says) "being sailor-men, 'taint likely
they lied about it;" but I never heard it myself. The orlop
deck, which was below the water-line, and very dark and
gloomy-looking even in the day-time, had a peculiarly ghostly
appearance at night, and indeed a ghost was frequently
seen descending the ladder of the fore-hatch in the "wee
short hour ayont the twal," (whenever that may be) and disappearing
through the gratings which covered the fore-hold.
It was so fully believed that it became difficult at last to
get a marine to walk that lonesome post; but after crossing
the Atlantic the story died out, and we heard no more about
ghosts; and now I come to think about it one of our passed
midshipmen was detached about that time!

Speaking of ghosts reminds me of a singular circumstance
which happened to a great-uncle of mine.

He had served in the Revolutionary war, and rose to be a
brigadier-general in the the U. S. Army. He was said to be
a very brave man; but be that as it may, one night while
sleeping, with his door wide open as was his habit, a ghost


12

appeared to him and said, "Aleck, Aleck, get up!—Aleck,
Aleck!" Just then he awakened and replied "Eh!" then
instantly recollecting that it was bad luck to answer a ghost, he
turned it off into, "Eh diddle dinkum dido," as though he was
singing. At this—which showed his presence of mind at
least—the ghost disappeared.

We sailed from Boston on the 29th day of August, 1842,
and after a very smooth passage across the Atlantic arrived at
Gibraltar, which I shall always especially remember as being
the first foreign port I ever visited.

Gibraltar is a rocky promontory, some 1400 feet high, at
the southern extremity of Spain. It is at the entrance to the
Mediterranean sea, and the straits here are fifteen miles wide.
It is strongly fortified on the western front, and its galleries,
cut out of solid rock, are one of the sights of the world. The
eastern face is entirely inaccessible to assault. The town is built
at the foot of the promontory, and the bay is nine miles across.
The name comes from the Arabic words gibel al Tarif (the
rock of Tarif): the name of the general who took it in 711.
The Spanish took it in 1302, and it fell into the hands of the
English under Admiral Rooke in 1704. In 1779 the Spanish
made a desperate effort to recover it. It was defended by
General George Eliott. The siege lasted three years, and has
been described by Drinkwater whose book is a model of its
kind. The rock is separated from the main by a low, sandy
neck of land called the neutral ground. At San Roche and
Algeziras the Spaniards have erected extensive fortifications
and a large garrison is kept. The English garrison Gibraltar
with their best troops.

Gibraltar is generally said to command the straits; but this
must be understood in a "Pickwickian sense" at the present
day. There is nothing to prevent steamers going through at
any time. It is valuable to the British as a depot for stores,
and the harbor gives protection to their vessels, just as Malta
does. The current runs in from the ocean at all times—a singular
fact;—the surplus water is probably carried out by an
under current.


13

A stay here of a few days is an excellent introduction to
the Mediterranean; for, I believe, there are natives of most of
the countries of Europe to be met with; as well as many inhabitants
of Asia and Africa. I spent many hours in the captain's
gig at the mole, and saw Englishmen, Spaniards, Frenchmen,
Russians, Germans, Italians, Turks, Jews, Armenians,
Egyptians, Arabs, Moors and Negroes intermingled. A novel
sight to any one, but especially to a greenhorn!

We sailed from Gibraltar after a short stay for Port Mahon.
The day after sailing we saw a Spanish Guarda Costa chasing
a large smugglers' boat. The smugglers ran under our lee for
protection, and as we were sailing only about four knots an
hour they easily kept up with us with their oars. There were
about twenty men in the boat, and fine, hearty-looking fellows
they were, and their red caps gave them a most picturesque
appearance. Our captain took no notice of them, and the
Guarda Costa did not approach any nearer, but sailed along
in company. After night fell the smugglers left us, and I presume
made for the shore.

Gibraltar is a free port, and there was at that time much
smuggling done between it and Algeziras and other Spanish
ports.

Upon our arrival off Port Mahon we fell in with the U. S.
frigate Congress, a new frigate on her first cruise. She was
built in Portsmouth, N. H., and at that time was said to be the
largest frigate afloat. We were struck by a heavy squall that
afternoon, the first I had ever seen. The Columbus came out
of it all right; as she did out of all kinds of weather. Though
an old-fashioned ship she was the finest sea-boat I have ever
seen; moreover she sailed well and could be handled like a
pilot boat. It would surprise some of the young officers who
have never sailed in anything but the long, narrow ships of
the present navy to see one of these old-time ships beating in
a narrow channel. Upon our arrival at Mahon we found the
entire squadron, consisting of the frigate Congress and sloops-of-war
Fairfield and Preble, assembled there. Commodore


14

Charles Morgan, who commanded the squadron, now hoisted
his flag aboard our ship, and I was appointed his Aid.

Port Mahon is on the island of Minorca. Its harbor is one
of the best in the Mediterranean—a natural mole runs along
the shore, and is occupied by shops with naval stores. At the
time of our visit provisions and clothing were to be had very
cheap and in great abundance.

It was off Mahon that Admiral John Byng had a partial
engagement with the French squadron in May, 1756; for his
conduct on this occasion he was shot on board the Monarch at
Spithead, March 14, 1757. Voltaire says this was done "pour
encourager les autres!"

The article of war under which Byng was tried, says: "If
any person, through cowardice, disaffection or negligence, shall
fail to put his ship in readiness for battle, etc., he shall suffer
death." The admiral was acquitted of cowardice and disaffection,
but found guilty of negligence, which, under the articles
of war, required a sentence of death. It is well known now,
however, that he was shot to satisfy the clamors of a political
party. Not the only man or woman so sacrificed. In point of
fact it was the admiral's second-in-command who acted badly
in not supporting him, and who richly deserved punishment,
but got off scot free.

Up to this time Mahon had been the wintering port of the
American squadron and we were making our preparations for
it when a melancholy event took place: the sailing-master of
the Congress, Mr. Patterson, was assassinated!

He had been on shore and was returning to his ship very
late at night—some time in the mid-watch in fact—and was
descending the hill by the winding path which led to the landing-place
of his boat. Following Mr. Patterson at some little
distance were Lieutenant Charles G. Hunter and the surgeon
of the Fairfield; they were startled at hearing Mr. Patterson
cry out, and as they quickened their steps, he met them with
the expression: "The villain has murdered me," and fell dead
at their feet. He had two, or, perhaps three stabs directly


15

through his heart, either of which, the doctor said, would have
killed him; so that the assassin was no novice in the art.
While the doctor knelt down by the side of the murdered
officer, Hunter drew his pistol and started in pursuit of the
murderer. He saw his shadow in the moonlight as he ran
towards the house of Blazes (as the sailors called it), but could
not get a shot at him, and he finally returned to the assistance
of the doctor. I shall have something more to say of this
Lieutenant Hunter when I come to relate some incidents of
the Mexican war.

There was a large number of Spanish troops in Mahon at
this time, and it was thought that the murder was committed
by a soldier; but the truth was never known—by us, at least.
I think it was in consequence of this affair that the commodore
decided not to winter in Mahon; and the American
squadron has never wintered there since.

A few days after the burial of Mr. Patterson we sailed in
company with the squadron for Spezia, it was said; but in
passing near by Genoa it presented so inviting an appearance
that the commodore was induced to go in, and finally decided
to winter there. The vessels were moored head and stern
under the lee of the mole, and we remained here in safety all
the winter. We rode out several heavy gales and had plenty
of exercise in housing topmasts and sending down lower yards.
Take it all in all it was the best disciplined squadron I have
ever served in, and it was a credit to the country.

Genoa being the birth-place of Columbus, our ship attracted
particular attention, and we were crowded with visitors and
overwhelmed with invitations. We in the steerage were kept
under pretty taut discipline, and were only occasionally permitted
to visit the shore. Our mornings were spent on the
half-deck, under the professor of mathematics, and the rest of
our time was taken up by our watches and writing our logbooks,
or journals. For this reason I do not know much
about Genoa, and therefore (contrary to the custom of some
travelers) will not attempt to describe it.


16

One incident I will relate which occurred in the harbor:
one dark, stormy night while a number of us were sitting in
the bow port a cry of "man overboard" was heard from the
Congress, lying half a cable's length inside of us. Passed
Midshipman E. F. Beale sprung out of the port, swam to the
man, and held him until a boat picked them both up. To say
nothing of the gallantry of the act, it always struck me as
most remarkable that on so dark a night he should have found
the man, and that afterwards the boat should have found
them both! This was not the first time that Mr. Beale had
rescued a man from drowning. He resigned from the navy a
few years after this cruise, and highly distinguished himself in
California during the war with Mexico. He is now General
Beale, and resides in the city of Washington.

Our ship was fortunate in having a remarkably fine set of
passed midshipmen, and the midshipmen were still more fortunate
from their close association with them. One can readily
understand the influence they would naturally exert over a
set of boys ranging from fourteen to eighteen years of age.
The tone of the steerage was given by them. Among the
number was Francis Key Murray, than whom a nobler spirit
never served under the United States flag. Frank, generous,
brave, and self-contained in a remarkable degree, he influenced
all with whom he came in contact; he had "the heart to
conceive, the understanding to direct, and the hand to execute."
It was his fortune to be thrown early in life in responsible
and critical situations. In a fight with the Seminole Indians
at Indian Key, Florida, where he had only a few sick and convalescent
men to aid him; in riding out a gale of wind off
Cape Hatteras in the brig Washington, where his commander,
Lieutenant George Bache, and a number of men were washed
overboard and-drowned; and in command of the Coast Survey
steamer Jefferson, shipwrecked on the coast of Patagonia, he
showed in these as in every other situation of his life the same
heroic qualities. It was my good fortune to be honored by
his friendship. He lived but a few years after the close of the


17

civil war, and to borrow the words of General Harry Lee on
a similar occasion (for my feeble pen is unequal to the task),
he died "embalmed in the tears of his faithful comrades, and
honored by the regret of the whole navy."

While in Genoa we got the news of the unfortunate affair of
the brig Somers, before alluded to. It caused much excitement
on board our ship, as our captain was the uncle of Midshipman
Spencer, and the captain's clerk was his brother.
Knowing as I did most of the officers of the Somers, I always
felt much interest in the matter. Different opinions have been
held as to the action of Captain Mackenzie, but I do not propose
to discuss it.

Only a few months ago I saw the death announced of Mr.
Deslondes, who was a midshipman in the Somers. I expect he
was the last survivor among the officers. It is a remarkable
fact that the Somers sunk in a squall off Vera Cruz, (as I shall
hereafter describe); and most of the officers who were in her
at the time of the mutiny died sudden and tragic deaths.

During the winter here two of our midshipmen broke upon
the monotony by fighting a duel, in which one was badly
wounded in the knee, though he subsequently recovered. There
was nothing singular in their fighting a duel, for midshipmen
often took a shot at each other in that day; but in this case
the principals and seconds all went out in the same carriage,
and not getting into the country as soon as they expected, the
seconds decided to post their men in the street, and let them
fight there; this they did with the result mentioned; after
which they all returned in the same carriage again in a very
amicable manner. The Genoesè marveled much at the strange
conduct of these North Americans, and said it was not their
costumbre del pais. No notice was taken of the matter by
either the American or Genoese authorities.

In the spring of 1843 the squadron sailed for Mahon. Upon
our arrival we went busily to work filling up our provisions
and water for a long cruise up the Levant; for rumor said the
Delaware, 74, bearing the flag of Commodore Charles Morris,


18

was coming over from the coast of Brazil to relieve us, and we
were to take her place on that station; which was not to our
liking. We were to fill up and get off before the arrival of
the Delaware, and would make a long summer cruise before
we could be found, at least that was the "galley news." However,
one fine morning the Delaware arrived with our orders
to proceed to the coast of Brazil.

We sailed with the entire squadron, parted company the
second day out, and went to Toulon. From Toulon we returned
to Mahon, remained a few days and sailed for Gibraltar.
We had the usual blow off Cape de Gata, celebrated in the
old sailor song of "Off Cape de Gatte I lost my hat, and where
do you think I found it?"

During the blockade of Toulon by the British squadron in
the latter part of the last century vessels bound thence to Gibraltar
for stores would frequently find themselves unable to
beat round this cape, and would bear up for one of the Italian
ports for supplies—here the sailors received instead of rum a
kind of wine they did not like, and which they called black-strap:
from this they came to say on such occasions that they
were black-strapped off the cape. We beat round in a few days
and arrived at Gibraltar. Our commodore used to go on
shore every evening about sunset, and I passed most of the
nights waiting for him in the barge at the "ragged staff." We
finally sailed for Rio Janeiro, touching en route at the delightful
island of Madeira.

I recall with much pleasure the pleasant Saturday nights
on this passage. I was a member of the passed midshipmen's
mess, some members of which sang and played upon the guitar,
and all spun a good yarn.

Among our best raconteurs were passed midshipman J. Hogan
Brown and Mr. James Tilton. This latter gentleman had
a varied experience; he entered the navy as a captain's clerk;
went round the world in the U. S. brig Perry, as purser;
served through General Scott's campaign in Mexico as captain
of voltigeurs; became civil engineer, surveyor general of Washington


19

territory, and finally died in Washington city. He was
a gallant officer and a chivalric man.

One of his best stories, told to me in after years, was of
Brown himself. Brown was the navigator of the brig Perry,
and on a passage from China to Mexico he allowed the chronometers
(by which they found the longitude) to run down.
They were bound to San Blas, and running to make Cape St.
Lucas, which is high and can be seen a long way off. The
captain, Jot Stone Paine, was not told that the chronometers
had run down and that they were depending on dead reckoning
for the longitude. Brown got on the parallel of the Cape,
and steering due east kept a good lookout ahead. He kept
a foretopman at the masthead with orders to come down and
tell him quietly when he saw the land, and not otherwise to
announce it—promising him a bottle of whiskey in return.
Accordingly one day shortly before twelve o'clock the foretopman
came down and reported the land in sight from aloft.
He was told by Brown to return to the masthead, and when
the bell struck one to report it in the usual manner. A little
after twelve o'clock the captain came out of the cabin and
said: "Well, Mr. Brown, when do you think we will make
the land?"

"We will make the land, sir," said Brown, "at half-past,
twelve o'clock," (one bell).

"We will, eh?" said the captain. "Yes, sir," replied Brown
in his most pompous manner, "at half-past twelve precisely."

Just then the bell struck, and the man at the masthead
roared out in a stentorian voice, "Land ho!"

"By George," said Captain Jot, "that's the most remarkable
landfall I ever made!" and he afterwards told the
first-lieutenant that he considered Brown one of the most
skilful navigators he had ever met!

Tilton told me also that one night, in the Perry, (Saturday
night be it noted) the fellows insisted upon looking over
Brown's journal, which they had noticed he wrote up every
night. After some resistance on Brown's part one of the mess


20

opened it, and began to read aloud. Tilton said the yarns in
it all commenced in this way: "being once in Berlin," or
"happening to remain overnight in St. Petersburg," etc. As
Brown had never been in any of the places referred to, he
was taken to task, and finally said that when he returned from
a cruise and went to his home in Alabama, he frequently
dined out and was always expected to tell of his travels; so
he made it a practice to copy all the yarns he heard in the
mess in his journal for future reference.

One of Brown's stories was that when he was first appointed,
he reported for duty on board the schooner Experiment, at the
navy yard, Philadelphia; he was put in charge of the deck to
keep the first watch, from 8 P. M. to midnight, though he had
never seen a man-of-war before in his life. About 9 o'clock
the captain put his head out of the cabin door and said:
"Quarter-master, how is the hawse?" (this was simply to inquire
into the state of the cables by which the vessel was
anchored). "The hawse is all right, sir," answered the quartermaster.
"Hello!" says Brown to himself, "they have a horse
on board, it seems," and he went forward to take a look at
him! Not finding him, he returned to the quarter-deck and
asked the quarter-master whether the captain had not asked
him as to the condition of the horse. "Yes, sir," he replied,
"the hawse is all right!" "Well," says Brown, "I so understood
you," and he passed the remainder of his watch looking
for him!

Taking into consideration what I have said concerning
Brown's journal, this may have happened to some other officer:
especially as the records of the Navy Department show that
Brown's first orders were to the sloop-of-war Levant, at Pensacola!

On the passage from Madeira to Rio Janeiro we had target
practice for the first time. I well remember the preparations
for it; it took so long to get ready for the great event that we
seemed to require a resting spell of six months before we tried
it again. Then, shells were a great bother to us; as they were


21

kept in the shell-room, and no one was allowed even to look at
them; it seemed to be a question with the division-officers
whether the fuse went in first or the sabot; or whether the fuse
should be ignited before putting the shell in the gun or not!
However, we used to fire them off, though I cannot say I ever
saw them hit anything.

We were great in running the guns in and out rapidly, but
some parts of the "manual" would strike an officer of these
days as very ridiculous; for instance, after the guns were
pointed, the orders were, very slowly and deliberately, "handle
your match and lockstring," cock your lock," "blow your
match," "stand by,"—"fire": and if the ship did not remain
stationary all this time it was not our fault. We were great,
too, in "boarding" and "repelling boarders" in those days,
and to see the Columbus' officers and crew engaged in this
business was a sight to behold.

The Mexican war taught us a good deal about gunnery, and
what we did not learn then we picked up in the civil war,
when greater advances were made in ordnance, rams, and torpedoes
in four years than the European nations had made in
centuries. But although the navy has made such gigantic
strides in gunnery it has not improved in ships and seamen;
indeed, I was told only the other day that an old growl of a
boatswain was heard to say: "Formerly we had wooden ships
and iron men; now we have iron ships and wooden men!"

As I have said before, the navy as it was in 1843 could
not be better described, as to its personnel, than by Captain
Marryatt in his novels.

Speaking of him reminds me of an anecdote I read which
happened while he was travelling in this country. He was in
a small town in New England, and his pompous manner did
not tend to make him popular. A thunder storm coming up,
the captain said in a condescending manner to the landlord:
"You have very heavy thunder in this country!" "Well!
we dew, considerin' the number of inhabitants," was the reply.


22

CHAPTER III.
ARRIVAL AT RIO DE JANEIRO—THE EAST INDIA SQUADRON—ANECDOTES
OF THE WAR OF 1812—THE BRAZIL STATION—SLAVERS—THE HARBOR
OF RIO JANEIRO—MARRIAGE OF THE EMPEROR DOM PEDRO—SALUTES
—PROMOTIONS IN THE SQUADRON—MONTE VIDEO—THE BISHOP OF
HONOLULU—VISIT TO BUENOS AYRES—ROSAS, THE DICTATOR—LA SENORITA
MANUELITA—A DAY AT ROSAS' QUINTA—RETURN TO RIO—ARRIVAL
OF THE FRIGATE RARITAN—SANDY THOMPSON'S WILL—RETURN
TO THE UNITED STATES.

WE arrived off Rio de Janeiro some time in July, 1843, and
were three days getting in the harbor; indeed, we had like to
have never gotten into port, like the flying Dutchman, for our
captain would stand in all day with the sea breeze, and stand
out all night with the land breeze; then in the morning we
would find ourselves becalmed like "Barney's brig with both
main tacks aboard;" we began at last to think we should never
get in until the days were longer than the nights. However, on
the third day towards sunset we succeeded in anchoring-on the
"rolling ground" just outside the harbor, and the most dangerous
anchorage we could have selected. The next afternoon
we went in with the sea breeze, and made a beautiful "come
to" by running in with royals and stun'-sails set both sides,
taking in everything together, and making a flying moor. It
was not an uncommon sight to see a ship do this at that time.

We found in Rio the squadron intended for the East Indies,
consisting of the frigate Brandywine and the sloop of war St.
Louis
, commanded by my father; and I remember no happier
moment of my life than the visit to the Brandywine the night
of our arrival.

Upon his return from this cruise my father told me an interesting
episode in his naval career. Immediately after the


23

declaration of war against Great Britain in 1812, he sailed as
junior lieutenant of the U. S. brig Nautilus, commanded by
Captain Crane—the day after sailing from New York they
found themselves enveloped in a thick fog, and upon its lifting
discovered that they were close under the guns of the Africa,
74, the flag ship of the British squadron. Of course the brig
was captured, and they were on board the Africa during the
celebrated chase of the U. S. frigate Constitution by the
English squadron. My father told me that the officers of the
Africa were very desirous that Captain Dacres, who was considered
a very dashing officer, should get alongside her with
the Guerriere. The Guerriere did get alongside her on the
19th of August of the same year, and the result is well known.
But to my story: On the way to Halifax one of the Africa's
lieutenants observing my father to be very low-spirited inquired
what the matter was; he replied that he felt badly at
being taken prisoner, and moreover had no money. The
Englishman told him that his father lived in Halifax and
would cash any drafts he chose to draw upon his father in
Virginia. This gentleman's family were exceedingly kind and
hospitable to the officers of the Nautilus during their short
stay in Halifax, and especially so to my father.

When the Brandywine arrived at Bombay on the cruise I
have just alluded to, the British commodore, who commanded
the squadron there, came on board to pay the customary visit
of civility, and my father recognized him as his old friend of
the Africa; they had not met since parting in Halifax in 1812,
and were now both in command of their first squadrons.

The Brandywine and her consort, the St. Louis, sailed for
the Cape of Good Hope shortly after our arrival. Some fifteen
days afterwards we were surprised at seeing the St. Louis
coming back alone, and my heart sank as we made out her
"number." I could only think that the Brandywine had
gone down with all hands. A boat soon came from her with
the information that she had sprung a leak and returned for
repairs. She sailed again in about ten days, and got safely to


24

China, where her captain left her and was succeeded by a better
man.

The brig Perry came out from Norfolk, where she was built,
about this time, bound to the East Indies; and so many of
her officers left her that she was almost officered from our
ship. Our acting commander, Edward C. Tilton, went as
her captain; our junior lieutenant, Horace N. Harrison, as
her first lieutenant; our sailing master, John C. Howell, as
her junior lieutenant, and our captain's clerk, James M. Tilton,
went as her purser.

These new brigs were not looked upon with favor in the
navy, being thought unsafe. The Perry, however, made the
cruise around the world and two cruises on the coast of
Africa. She was finally lost off our coast during the civil
war. I think she capsized and went down with all hands.

Commodore Charles Morgan left us here, and was succeeded
by Commodore Daniel Turner: an officer who had distinguished
himself in the command of the schooner Caledonia at
the battle of lake Erie. He was an irascible old fellow, and
suffered with the gout; but I soon found that his bark was
worse than his bite. I was his aid and stood in dread of him
at first, though I afterwards learned to love him for his
great kindness to me. Being an "Aid" during my entire
service as a midshipman I was much thrown with the officers
who had served in the war of 1812; and I heard many incidents
relating to it, told by men who had been in the actions
described.

I heard a commodore say that in the action between the
Chesapeake and Shannon, off Boston, June 1st, 1813, the latter
had suffered so much from the Chesapeake's fire that she
must have surrendered had she not run the Chesapeake on
board. In proof of which he cited the fact that Captain
Broke of the Shannon "headed his boarders," and that the
regulations of the British navy at the time forbade a captain
doing so, unless his ship was in a critical condition!

Captain Broke of the Shannon, it will be remembered, was


25

severely wounded in boarding the Chesapeake by a blew over
the head with a cutlass in the hands of the chaplain, who was
on deck and conspicuous for his gallantry. This gentleman
was a Mr. Livermore of Kentucky. He was a friend of Captain
Lawrence and being in Boston at the time he applied to
him to go out and take a hand in the fight. The captain consented,
and appointed him his chaplain as he had the power
to do. Captain Marryatt in his novel of Midshipman Easy
may have had him in mind when he sketched the character of
Chaplain Hawkins.

The squadron on the coast of Brazil at this time consisted
of the Columbus, the frigate Columbia, the sloop-of-war John
Adams
and the schooner Enterprise. The Columbia soon
went to the Mediterranean, and our old consort, the Congress
took her place in the squadron. The station was considered a
very healthy one at that time; small-pox in Rio being the only
disease to be feared. Yellow fever was not known in Rio
until some years later. I think it broke out about 1849; it
was probably introduced by some of the vessels engaged in
bringing slaves from the coast of Africa. The custom of these
vessels was to land their slaves somewhere on the coast, and
then come to Rio to refit and prepare for another voyage.

One of our midshipmen, however, (an oldster) told me that
the slaves were brought into Rio; but that they could not be
seen
in consequence of their being painted air color, which of
course rendered them invisible! He said that the slaves were
landed, and taken to a pond outside the city; and, the air-colored
paint
being washed off, they became visible; but, as a
friend of mine is in the habit of saying, "I don't know anything
about that!"

The harbor of Rio de Janeiro is without doubt the most
beautiful one in the world. Other sheets of water I have seen
as fine, but the surroundings of this bay cannot be equalled.
Seen from the sea, the high range of mountains back (or rather
in front, as seen from the sea) of the city first come in view.
Their outline presents the effigy of a man lying on his back,


26

and this is known as "Lord Hood's Nose" —one very remarkable
peak is known as the "corcovado," (humpback, a favorite
name with the old Spanish voyagers). Nearing the harbor,
and just at the narrow entrance, a conspicuous hill called "The
Sugar-Loaf," is seen.

The city, which is the largest and wealthiest in South
America, lies at the foot of the mountains. The streets rise
one above the other and as the houses are painted in bright
colors the effect is very fine. At night the lights present an
unusually brilliant appearance. I think the appearance of
this harbor in the early morning with the first rays of the sun
reflected from the mountain-sides is not to be surpassed. The
place derives its name, signifying river of January, from the
mistake of the first discoverer of the bay, who conceived it to
be the mouth of a large river. It was founded by the Portuguese
in 1565.

Rio has some handsome public buildings, a very fine aqueduct,
and a well-kept botanical garden. The climate is warm
and humid, and as in all tropical climates, there are but two
seasons: the wet and the dry. The population consists of a
mixture of all colors and nations. Of the natives I can only
say, in the words of the old sea captain when required to
describe the Chinese: "Manners they have none, and their
customs are very beastly." They are hybrids, and will never
improve; but I shall have more to say on this subject in
another place.

The sea breeze which blows every afternoon tempers the
heat and renders it more bearable; it dies out towards ten
o'clock at night, and about two in the morning the land breeze
springs up, and blows till about eight o'clock. In the intervals
the heat is most oppressive. Vessels take advantage of these
winds: leaving port with the land wind, and entering with the
sea breeze some time in the afternoon. One of the great
beauties of this bay is the large number of pretty coves, or
smaller bays, communicating with it: such as "Boto Fogo,"
etc., and the picturesque villages on their shores. It was my


27

fortune to make many boat expeditions with the commodore,
and we used to explore all these nooks.

One of them, near Praya Grande, possessed a melancholy
interest from the fact that on its shores and near the ruins of
an old convent, the first lieutenant of the United States frigate
Hudson killed the surgeon of the ship in a duel. They fought
with ship's pistols, and the surgeon fell dead at the first fire.
I have always heard he forced the duel upon the lieutenant.

The present emperor, Dom Pedro, was married while we
were lying here in the fall of 1843. His wife was the sister
of the king of Naples. She was brought over in the Brazilian
frigate Constitution, escorted by a Neapolitan squadron consisting
of a line-of-battle ship and two frigates.

There being a very large number of men-of-war of all
nations in port at the time the firing of salutes exceeded anything
I have ever heard. It was kept up for a week, and we
all got so accustomed to it that one morning at sunrise a salute
of twenty-one guns was fired from our lower gun-deck, and it
did not wake up the midshipmen who were sleeping on the
deck directly under. I can scarcely believe this now, though
I know it to be true from my personal experience. It goes to
show that we had good consciences; though I have known
a man to say (but he was a passed midshipman), "that he
would as lieve have a bad memory as a good conscience."

Much rivalry existed among the ships in port, and some
very pretty work was done with masts, sails and yards. We
used to furl sails "from a bowline" in twenty-eight seconds, I
recollect.

All of our passed midshipmen were promoted to be sailing
masters, or navigators, to supply vacancies in the squadron;
and I noticed that after a vessel with a new master
sailed great anxiety was felt in our mess until we heard she
had arrived safely at her destined port. We wanted to know
what kind of a landfall the new master had made! Perhaps
if her captain had known of the doubts of our fellows, and
the reasons for it, he would not have slept so soundly.


28

In October we sailed from Rio to Monte Video, the capital
of the republic of Monte Video, situated on the left bank of the
Rio de la Plata, not many miles from its mouth. Here we
were forced to anchor well off shore owing to our great
draught of water; and the boat service, of which I had more
than my share, was attended with much danger from the
pamperos, which winds spring up very suddenly and blow
with great violence. I passed many hours in the barge with
Commodore Turner beating off to our ship under reefed sails,
and learned more about sailing boats than I had ever known
before.

Monte Video at that time was a rather pretty city, built on
a gentle ascent. The streets are wide and straight, and the
houses of one story, with flat roofs. It takes its name from a
neighboring mountain—the climate is moist and the cold is
severe in the winter months, June, July and August. Gales
are frequent in summer. The city is fortified, and when we
were there was in a state of siege, and had been for I don't
know how many years; indeed that was its normal condition.
What the war was about, and who were the parties to it I never
knew; being in that respect like Lieutenant Denny of the
British navy, who had been seriously wounded in a fight with
the Japanese at Simoda or Simoneseki. He once described
the fight to me, which was a bloody one, and upon my asking
him the cause of the war, replied that one of the Damios had
given the admiral a lot of cheek; this was all he knew or cared
to know as to the cause.

Speaking of the distance ships have to anchor from this
city reminds me of an accident which happened to the English
Bishop of Honolulu, and which he related to me some time
about 1870, when I was commanding a Pacific mail steamer
between Panama and San Francisco. The bishop was a passenger
with me to San Francisco, being on his return, with his
family, to Honolulu. He joined me at Panama, having come
out from England via Rio de Janeiro, Monte Video and the
Straits of Magellan. He told me that while going ashore at


29

Monte Video, with his wife and children, in a small boat, they
were run into by a Spanish schooner, and that he, in his fright
caught hold of the schooner's bobstay (a rope leading from
the stem to the end of the bowsprit). The boat was not upset,
and got clear; and the schooner sailed away carrying off the
bishop in his upside-down position! Those in the boat cried
out to the captain of the schooner; but as he did not understand
English, and as, moreover, the bishop could not be seen from
the schooner's deck—being under the bowsprit, in fact—so that
no one on board knew he was there, it was some time before
the captain could be made to "heave-to," so that the boat might
rescue the bishop. He said he was just ready to let go his
hold and tumble backwards into the water.

As the good man always wore his uniform—gaiters and
three-cornered cocked hat included—I could not help thinking
at the time the story was told me what a picture it would have
been for Punch!

At the time we were at Montevideo the notorious Juan
Manuel de Rosas was the Dictator of Buenos Ayres. He was
descended from an old Spanish family, according to some: the
others said he was a gaucho, born on the pampas; and was
credited with many bloody acts before attaining the position he
then held. It was, indeed, war to the knife between the two
parties in the country, and our men-of-war lying off Buenos
Ayres the year before had been crowded with women and
children flying from Rosas' party.

News reaching us that an American merchant ship had been
unjustly seized at Buenos Ayres, the commodore determined
to visit the city; and as our ship could not go there, he went
up in the schooner Enterprise, escorted by a large number of
officers of which I was one.

We reached Buenos Ayres in due time, and even so small a
vessel as the Enterprise had to anchor some miles off the land—
the water shoals so gradually that even row-boats cannot
approach the shore nearer than half a mile. Carts come out
to them when they ground, and all passengers and freight are


30

I do not remember much about Buenos Ayres at this time;
it struck me as a large, straggling town, the streets filled with
savage-looking gauchos on horseback, and carts with solid
wooden wheels drawn by oxen. On all the walls placards
were posted with the inscription, "death to the savage Unitarians,"
and I believe that even then scarcely a day passed that
Rosas did not put some one to death. He had only to "tip
the wink" to one of his followers and the thing was done. No
eastern potentate ever had greater power over his subjects than
Rosas had over the wretched inhabitants of this city at this
time. Buenos Ayres will live in the memory of the English,
for it was here that their army suffered two defeats at the hands
of the inhabitants; in 1806 under General Beresford, and in
1807 under General Whitelock. Gen. W. lost one-third of
his army of 8000 men, and was glad to conclude a truce.

Commodore Turner had an interview with Rosas, and the
ship was immediately released and sent down the river to
Monte Video to be restored to her owners.

We passed a week here very pleasantly, visiting the ladies,
and riding over the pampas. One day we all spent at Rosas'
quinta by special invitation; it was about four miles from the
city and we went out there on horseback. We found there
Rosas, his daughter Manuelita, and a large number of the
ladies of the court. La Señorita Manuelita spoke English
pretty well, and was said to be fascinating. She was a graceful
girl, but not particularly pretty. Report said that the
year before our visit she had been engaged to a U. S. lieutenant
of marines; but happening to go down to receive him on one
occasion with a number of human ears strung on a string, in
her hand
, the lieutenant fled the palace. I do not know the
truth of this; it may have been prepared especially for the
marines!

On the occasion I speak of we rode all over the quinta with
Rosas and his body-guard—a bloody-looking set of villains—
one could see the blood in their eyes.

The country was then in so unsettled a condition that some


31

of our officers actually feared treachery that day. They were
armed and we were not. All the ladies were of the party, and
they, and the guard of gauchos were continually leaping wide
ditches and beckoning us to follow; the padre, who had his
gown tucked up on his saddle, and who was the worst-looking
villain of the lot, was conspicuous in this amusement.

We declined to follow these fellows, fine riders as we were:
being sailors!! We excused ourselves on the plea that ours
were livery horses and could not leap. I really believe that
the commodore was on a horse for the first time in his life.
Everybody knows what a gaucho is on horseback; and to see
him on the pampas in his wild state lassoing cattle is a sight
worth traveling for.

We attended a ball at the palace that night, and the next
day returned to the Enterprise, and went in her back to our
ship. Rosas finally fled the country in April 1852, and went to
England where he died. His daughter married an Englishman
and probably is still living.

In consequence of Monte Video being besieged we could
obtain no fresh provisions in the city, and were forced to send
the launch occasionally down to Maldonado, a village some
fifty miles below us, at the mouth of the river. Here we obtained
fresh beef and ostrich eggs; which latter I ate for the
first time. We returned to Rio in February 1844, and remained
there until the time came for us to sail for home.

The worst of the Brazil station is that there are so few ports
to visit: Rio Janeiro, Monte Video, Buenos Ayres, Pernambuco
and Bahia complete the list. The Cape of Good Hope
was included in our command, but none of our ships went
there while I was on the station.

In April 1844 the frigate Raritan, Captain Francis S.
Gregory, arrived out to relieve us. Our gallant old commodore
transferred his flag to her, and about the middle of the
month our boatswain, with his eight mates standing in line
with him on the main gun deck, piped that "call" which
sends a thrill through every heart—old or young— "All hands


32

up anchor for home!" While on the "Coast-of Brazil," as
the station is called, I frequently heard old "stagers" repeat
what was known as "Sandy Thompson's Will." I give here
such of it as I can recall, not so much for the merit of the
lines, as on account of the mournful interest attached to them.
It was said that Midshipman Sandy Thompson of the navy
wrote them while lying on the mess table in the steerage of
his ship, and that he died a few minutes after.

SANDY THOMPSON'S WILL.

Dear Jack you know that on this river
Folks very rarely live forever;
This cursed climate and fresh water
Among our people make great slaughter.
Beside the Orinoco's flood,
And near a copse of tangled wood,
A reefer whom we all lament
And seven poor sailors home were sent.
May Heaven which all events controls,
Extend its mercies to our souls,
When at destruction's very portal:
For well you know we all are mortal!
So, now, my dear old messmate Jack,
Should sickness lay me on my back,
Or should it be the will of God
To lay me underneath the sod,
I pray some things that I may mention,
May claim from you some small attention.
The last of all my earthly cares
Is the bad fix of my affairs;
What causes most of my regrets
Is for the payment of my debts;
But whether they be great or small.
We'll see by looking at them all:
First, to the purser, much I owe,
The true amount I do not know;
But thirty dollars with my pay,
Would not clear me to this day.
The unpaid mess-bill in New York;
The money due for beef and pork;

33

To fifty dollars these amount,
As near as I can now account.
Confusion take these cursed bills
This catering is the worst of ills.
My writing desk to Thomas give it;
Beg him from me that he'll receive it.
Present to Charles my shaving case
To help him scrape his dirty face.
My journals, books and all such trash,
That are not worth one cent in cash,
These with my side-arms you will send
To Carolina to my friends:
To Beaufort in South Carolina,
And there you will obtain the rhino,
As much as will enable you
To give to each his proper due.
And, now, dear Jack, for one request,
Much more to me than all the rest,
If ever to New York you go,
In summer's heat or winter's snow,
You'll straight repair to Second Street,
And there Miss S. you'll surely meet;
Tell her that I, her faithful swain,
To her faithful did remain;
And with my last and dying breath,
When struggling with that traitor Death,
I called upon her worshipped name,
In life or death I'd be the same.
When I am dead and body rotten,
And memory almost forgotten,
Then let the starboard messmates meet,
And every reefer take his seat
Let whiskey circulate around
And mirth, and wit, and joy abound.
And wheresoever you may wander
Remember your old friend,

ALEXANDER.


34

We made a good passage home, having fine weather. After
we struck the N. E. trades we averaged ten miles an hour for
seven consecutive days, and I have logged the ship fifty miles
in a watch of four hours—not bad for an old line-of-battle
ship! The first vessel we spoke on the coast gave us the news
of the bursting of Commodore Stockton's gun, the Peacemaker
on the steamer Princeton, at Washington; by this accident
several distinguished gentlemen lost their lives, Hon. Abel P.
Upshur, who had been secretary of the navy in 1841, among
others.

We arrived in New York late in May. We anchored
inside of Sandy Hook, and I went up in the gig with our captain,
Benjamin Cooper, to Brooklyn, where he lived. It being
late when we arrived he told me not to return to the Columbus,
but to go to the receiving ship North Carolina for the
night. I did so; and as soon as I got down on her lower deck,
I recognized the old smell of rum, tar, bean-soup and tobacco
which I had noticed three years before. The next day the
Columbus came up, and after lying a few days off the battery,
went to the navy yard. The men were paid off and discharged,
sand the officers granted three months' leave of
absence. So ended my first cruise.


35

CHAPTER IV.
THE FRIGATE "POTOMAC "—THE MILLERITE EXCITEMENT—SAIL FOR NORFOLK
—LEAVE NORFOLK FOR THE WEST INDIES—THE LANDFALL OF
COLUMBUS—GONAIVES—PORT-AU PRINCE—A SAN DOMINGO GAME-COCK
—THE YELLOW FEVER—PORT ROYAL—HAVANA—TOMB OF COLUMBUS—
PENSACOLA—VERA CRUZ—RUMORS OF WAR WITH MEXICO—RETURN TO
PENSACOLA—SHARKS—A LEAK IN THE BOW—A COFFER DAM—THE U. S.
SHIP "PRINCETON"—RETURN HOME.

I REMAINED on shore but a few months, and in September
was ordered to the frigate Potomac, the flag-ship of Commodore
David Conner, commanding the West India, or Home
Squadron. The Potomac was a vessel of 1750 tons; she carried
fifty-two guns and was consequently called a "44!" She carried
thirty long 32-pounders on her main, and twenty-two 32-pounder
carronades on her spar deck. These carronades
were certainly the most ridiculous guns ever invented; they
had neither range or penetration, and were never known to
hit anything when fired. The slides, though, on which they
were mounted were very convenient for sitting down on, and
the midshipmen made good use of them in their long night
watches. When I reported for duty the ship was lying off the
navy yard. She had been some time in commission and had
but lately returned from the West Indies. The appearance of a
fine frigate, in full commission, was not usual in Philadelphia,
and she was visited by persons from all parts of the State.

This was the time of what was known as the Millerite excitement.
One Miller had prophesied that the world would burn
up on a certain day in October; and strange to say had found
many to believe him. The papers said that on the night appointed
the fields in the neighborhood of Philadelphia were
thronged with believers in their ascension robes, ready to go


36

up. In fact, I knew myself a distinguished "society-lady"
who was all ready for the event which she fully believed in.
There was so much said about it in the papers that I think
a good many people felt uncomfortable, to say the least.

On the night appointed for the destruction of the world I
had the mid-watch, and about 3 o'clock I heard a curious,
rumbling noise which I could not account for, and which
caused me much uneasiness. The discipline of the ship would
not allow of my stepping across the deck and asking the lieutenant
of the watch what he thought about it; so I kept my
weather eye open for any change in the weather. The noise
continued, and when I called my relief at 4 the first thing he
said when awake was: "what's that; is the world coming
to an end?" It showed how completely men's minds were
taken up with the prophecy when even a midshipman condescended
to pay some attention to it. My relief told me
afterwards that the noise was caused by a steamer blowing off
steam under water.

We sailed from Philadelphia in November, 1844, and went
to Norfolk, where we received on board Messrs. Crump of
Virginia, and Bryan of Ohio who were to take passage with
us to Port Royal, Jamaica; there they were to take the English
mail packet for Chagres. There were no steamers running
between New York and the Isthmus at that time, and the trip
to California or the ports in South America was very long and
tedious. Mr. Crump was appointed Chargé d' Affaires to Chili,
and Mr. Bryan to Peru. We left Norfolk about December
1st and shaped a course to pass through the Turk's island passage.
Our course took us along the eastern side of the Bahama
islands, one of which is the first land discovered by Columbus
in 1492. Concerning this same landfall there is much difference
of opinion. All opinions are based upon that portion of
Columbus' journal preserved by Las Casas.

When Washington Irving was writing the history of Columbus
he got Captain Alexander Slidell Mackenzie of the U. S.
navy to investigate this matter, and after an exhaustive


37

analysis, which received the approbation of Humboldt, the
captain decided that the first land discovered was Cat island.
It was called by the natives Guanahani, and by the Spaniards
San Salvador. [See Irving's Columbus, vol. 1.]

In 1856 Captain A. B. Beecher, Royal navy, after another
exhaustive analysis decided that the landfall was Watling's
island, which is 41 miles S. E. from San Salvador, or Cat
island.

Navarette the Spanish historian, (and one might suppose a
Spaniard should be the best informed), says it was Turk's
island, 280 miles from Cat island.

Fr. Adolph de Varnhagen has published a book to prove
that it was Mariguana island, distant from Cat island 160
miles: and finally, in 1882, the Hon. Gustavus V. Fox, who
was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy during President
Lincoln's administration, came out in an article published in
the Coast Survey report, to prove that they were all wrong,
and that the landfall was Samana or Atkins Kay! This is
100 miles distant from Cat island.

It appears to me that in this investigation it is impossible
to determine the first land seen by Columbus by simply taking
his journal which gives only the daily course and distance from
the island of Gomera—(one of the Canaries). Let a ship in
this day
sail from Gomera and only give the same data, and
what seaman will undertake to say what island she would
first make in the space comprised between Cat and Turk's
islands! He would want to know something more than the
course and distance; such as the prevailing winds, the set of
the currents, and not only the variation of the compass, but
the local deviation. This latter point seems to have been overlooked
by the investigators.

The compass in use in that day must have been of rude construction,
and we do not know anything at all as to how it was
mounted. Who knows but that the helmsman occasionally
hung his steel helmet, (if he wore one) upon the binnacle, (if
there was one)! Bringing into the discussion the magnetic


38

deviation, or variation of the compass as it is called, is, in my
humble opinion, drawing it entirely too fine; it is painting the
lily, as it were.

We know that Columbus first observed the "variation" or
the compass; but what means had he of determining it? All
his instruments were imperfect. His improved Astrolabe did
not hinder him from making many errors in the latitude—he
never did know his longitude, and he never used the log-line;
it was not known then.

It seems to me that the best way to determine the landfall is
to start from a known point—such as Isabella, on the northern
coast of the island of San Domingo, where Columbus built a
fort—and "try back" as it were. This was the plan pursued
by Mackenzie. But even here we meet with the same difficulties
of winds, currents, and local attraction.

Having read much and thought more on this subject I shall
continue to pin my faith on Guanahani, or San Salvador, or
Cat island, as it is severally called. As Captain Mackenzie
says: "Do not disturb the ancient landmarks."

It is worthy of note that in his voyage to the islands and
back Columbus was forced by the N. E. trades and the Gulf
stream to pursue precisely the route followed by navigators of
the present day. On the voyage out he made a straight course
for the Bahamas, and on his return was forced to go up to
the parallel of 40° in order to get the west winds. He stopped
on the voyage back to Spain at the Azores in latitude 39°
north. Moreover he sailed from Palos in Spain on his voyage
of discovery on a Friday, and he first made the island of
Guanahani on a Friday!

The Potomac passed through the Turk's island passage and
went first to Gonaives, a small port on the western coast of
San Domingo island—from thence we went to Port-au-Prince
which is situated at the bottom of a deep bay on the same
island. The island of San Domingo was known as Hayti by
the natives and called Hispaniola by the Spaniards. At present
the eastern half of the island is called Dominica, and the western


39

Hayti. It was taken by the French in 1677. In 1793 the
negroes revolted and massacred nearly all the whites; since
which date it has remained in their possession.

Upon our arrival at Port-au-Prince we found the yellow
fever raging and the commodore decided to remain but one
day. Only the caterers of the messes were allowed to go on
shore, and our caterer went with the others. Whether he had
underestimated our powers, ox not, I do not know; but our
stores were exhausted, and we had been reduced to the By-no-meal
theorem for some days. With much difficulty we raised
ten dollars and sent him on shore. We did not expect much
for that sum of money, but we had visions of yam and fruit at
least. When our caterer returned he brought back a one-eyed
game cock
, for which he had spent all our money! We were
inclined to grumble, but as he could man-handle any member
of the mess we kept our complaints to ourselves. This caterer,
who was one of those who go through the world with a "light
heart and a thin pair of breeches," said to us: "it's no use
to growl; this game cock will give you more satisfaction in
the end than the fruit," and he did. We turned him loose
upon the main deck where he lived upon the captain's chickenfeed
as a kind of free lance; he became a great favorite
with the men, and many were the fights he gained. He lived
in this way many months and was eventually murdered by the
captain's steward. His death caused much indignation in the
steerage, and his epitaph was written by our mess poet. It
was somewhat after the style of "Old Grimes is dead."

With all our care the yellow fever broke out soon after
we sailed from Port-au-Prince; but we only had two cases.
Since then I have seen more of this disease than most men,
and have had it twice. The first time was at Pensacola in the
summer of 1846. I was ashore at the navy yard one night in
the gig waiting for the captain, and while there saw that a
steamer at the wharf near us was on fire. I gave the alarm
and went on board with the gig's crew. The men from our
ship soon came to our assistance and we extinguished the fire;


40

and when that was done, we midshipmen got to skylarking
with the hose and were soon very wet. Our captain (God
bless him) kept me waiting for him in my wet clothes until
near midnight and I was chilled to the bone. When I got on
board I found the starboard mess "keeping it up!" Tom Kinloch
I remember was making an omelette in a tin cup over
three candles. The caterer of the mess having to write orders
for the steward to get the next day's marketing, and having
kept it up too high himself, asked me to write for him. Upon
taking the pen I found I could not see. I thought it hard
lines that the others were seeing double, and I not at all; but
nevertheless in a few hours I was down with the yellow fever
and I did not get to my duty again for a long, long time. As
the ship had a spar-deck cabin in addition to one on the main
deck, and our captain could not occupy both, (though he tried
to) I was removed to it. Just as I had "turned the corner,"
though still very weak, one-half of our midshipmen were
ordered home for their examination as passed-midshipmen.
The night before leaving they came to bid me good-bye,
and in the excitement of going home and joy at my probable
recovery (I am happy to say), one of them, Harry Bluff by
name, danced a horn-pipe on the centre-table with his boots on.
The next day our captain—a Tartar if there ever was one—
came in to see me, and on leaving the state-room he noticed
the state of the table. "Why! what's all this?" he exclaimed:
"Damme, it looks as though some one had been
scratching this table with a nail!" I preserved a judicious
silence; but I thought to myself, if you had seen Harry Bluff's
performance last night you would not be so much surprised.

Less than a year after this, near the close of the war with
Mexico, I was returning home in the frigate Raritan and
again had the yellow-fever. My symptoms were the same as
in the first attack. We had many cases on board, but I had
not feared it; indeed, I was under the impression that I could
not have it a second time. I was walking the deck and went
to look at the compass to see how the ship was heading, preparatory


41

to turning in. I could not see the compass and a few
hours after I was down again, and this attack was as bad as the first.

When we left Port-au-Prince one of our midshipmen was ill
of the fever and I used to lie in his cot with him while
nursing him, and so did some of the other midshipmen; but it
did not spread. Altogether, I have seen enough to know that
it is not contagious, though it may be infectious. I believe
doctors are not certain of it, however. That it can be carried
in ships admits of no doubt. In 1855 the steamer Ben
Franklin conveyed the yellow fever to Norfolk—the men
working on her first carried it to Gosport, and it crossed the
river into Norfolk with them. This was as plain as a thing
could be.

There is much yet to be learned concerning this fearful
scourge, and one difficulty, which I have myself observed, is
that in one place it is of a mild type, and in another of a very
bad one; and even in the same place the fever of one year
differs from the fever of another. It prevails every summer
on the east coast of Mexico, but is not known, I think, on the
west coast. We had on this occasion but two cases; one
proved fatal, and the other, being a midshipman, got well.

A few days after leaving Port-au-Prince we arrived at Port
Royal, Jamaica, the seaport of Kingston. I have since been
much in the tropics, but I have never seen any spot that
came up so completely to my idea of "tropical scenery" as
Port Royal, with its groves of cocoa-nut trees, thatched cottages
and still life.

Our Chargés landed here, and in company with many of
our officers, visited the governor, Lord Elgin, at his palace,
situated somewhere up in the mountains.

This being our first convenient stopping place two of our
midshipmen took advantage of it to fight a duel. Neither was
hurt and the authorities knew nothing about it.

From Port Royal we sailed for Havana, touching at the
beautiful port of Santiago de Cuba by the way. Off Havana


42

we experienced a heavy "norther," which caused us to lie to
under a close reefed main topsail for two days. At 12 o'clock
on the third day the commodore determined to bear up for
the harbor; I expect he did not happen to bear in mind what
a heavy sea there would be off the port. In entering Havana
you steer directly for the mouth of the harbor and then haul
short round the Moro Castle, which stands on the left hand
side. As we went flying before the wind and sea, under double
reefed topsails, we commenced rolling our spar deck guns
under water as we approached the port. The pilot could not
come off, so our captain had to take the ship in; and he
soon becoming confused, the commodore took charge the
deck; it was the best thing I ever saw him do. The ship was
yawing four or five points, and four men at the wheel could
hardly steer her. At one moment she would be heading for
the Moro Castle as though she was about to run it down, and
the next for the rocks off the playa on which the sea was breaking
higher than our fore-top. It was an anxious moment with
all hands; the braces were led along ready to be manned, and
the men were hanging on to the belaying pins, guns, and everything
else that would yield a support. On shore the playa
was crowded with spectators, and as our ship would point her
head in that direction as though determined to be among them,
there would be an involuntary movement on their part to get
out of the way. It must have been a most beautiful sight to
them and no doubt they enjoyed it. I was hanging on to the
spanker boom myself and could not help thinking at the time
what a grand spectacle we must present, and how much I would
enjoy it if on shore! As Ross Brown says in his description
of his horse Saladin running away with him: "It would have
been so funny to see somebody else mounted upon Saladin!"
As we got nearly abreast the Moro, the frigate gave a heavy
roll to port, then to starboard, taking the water in over each
bulwark in succession, and nearly dipping her lower yardarms
in the water, pointed her bow toward the playa for one awful
moment, and then with the helm hard a-starboard she slowly

43

doubled round the castle, and in less than one minute was in
smooth water, and nearly becalmed under the lee of the precipitous
cliff on which it is situated. Those of us who had
been singing to ourselves the long metre doxology drew a long
breath, and resumed our every day duties!

Havana was founded in 1511; it was taken by the English
in 1762 and restored in 1763. The old town is surrounded by
a wall and the streets are very narrow. In the new portion
they are wide and there are many handsome public buildings.
The Tacon theatre is one of the largest and prettiest I have
ever seen. In the cathedral are deposited the remains of Columbus.

Columbus died in Spain on the 20th of May, 1506. His
body was deposited in the Convent of St. Francisco, and his
obsequies were celebrated at Valladolid. In 1513 his remains
were transported to the Carthusian monastery of Las Cuevas
of Seville. In 1536 the bodies of Columbus and his son Diego
were removed to Hispaniola and interred in the principal
chapel of the cathedral of the city of San Domingo. At the
termination of the war between France and Spain in 1795, all
the Spanish possessions in the island of Hispaniola were ceded
to France, and in 1796 the remains were again removed to the
cathedral in Havana.

A few years ago in consequence of some discoveries in the
cathedral at San Domingo an attempt was made to throw some
doubt as to whether the body removed to Havana was that of
Columbus or not, but as Navarrette in his "collections" has
given a circumstantial account of the proceedings, and has
minutely described the precautions taken by the Spanish
authorities upon the occasion of disinterring the body, I do
not see that there could have been a mistake made or a reasonable
doubt as to the authenticity of the narrative.

In February we sailed from Havana and went to Pensacola
where we found the other ships of our small squadron; they
were the Falmouth and the brigs Lawrence and Somers. The
7th U. S. Infantry was at this time garrisoning Forts Pickens


44

and Barrancas, and we became well acquainted with the
officers. Pensacola was very gay at this time, and many were
the balls given, alternately, on board ship, at Fort Pickens, at
the navy yard, and in town. Affairs with Mexico were beginning
to look squally. General Taylor was assembling a force
at Corpus Christi in Texas, which the 7th Infantry soon joined,
and Commodore Conner proceeded to Vera Cruz with his
squadron.

Upon our arrival there we anchored off Green island, which
lies 4¼ miles east of Vera Cruz, and no one was permitted to
visit the city. We had only occasional communication with
the town—a boat coming off now and then with dispatches for
the commodore, and taking his in return. I have always
understood that Commodore Conner's dispatches at this time
were regarded as models in their way, and were highly approved
of at Washington.

We remained here for four months and had a hard time of
it; there was no place to visit but Green island—a little spot
formed of coral. We had frequent and long exercises at the
guns, and worst of all a half allowance of water. It was an
idiosyncrasy of the commodore's to keep his men on a short
allowance of water. There was in this case no earthly necessity
for it. We had only to go a few miles up or down the coast to
find rivers where we could have gotten all we wanted. It became
so unbearable at last that the lieutenants represented it
to the Navy Department, and the Secretary issued an order that
the allowance should not be reduced unless it was absolutely
necessary. It was a joyful moment when we got underway and
returned to Pensacola, where we arrived in August, 1845.

In consequence of the advance of our army under General
Taylor towards the Rio Grande and the threatening attitude of
Mexico, it was thought necessary to make large additions to
the squadron and we soon had quite a respectable fleet in
Pensacola harbor.

Many sharks were seen in the harbor at this time—the pilots
said it was because of the large number of ships in port, which


45

they followed in. Among them I particularly remember the
Leopard shark, a horrid spotted monster, about 14 feet long.

In the fall of this year a fishing party came over from Mobile
and whilst they were hauling the seine on Santa Rosa
island the leader, a large, corpulent man, was seized by a shark
and carried off in spite of the shouts and splashings of his companions;
I think they did not recover the body.

This is the only case that ever came under my observation
where a shark actually took a man off. I believe that such
cases are rare, and that a shark only attacks a man, in a
crowd, when very hungry.

I recollect that a boat came alongside of us from the Saratoga
one day with a man's ghastly head in a bucket, for
recognition. They had caught a shark and found the head
inside. It proved to be that of a man who had fallen overboard
from the Falmouth the night before. In this case the
man was probably drowned before the shark bit his head off.

While on our way from Vera Cruz to Pensacola we discovered
a leak in the bow of the Potomac, and there being no
dock at the navy yard it was thought the ship would be sent
north. Mr. Brodie, the naval constructor on the station, however,
thought he could get at it by means of a coffer-dam, as
he had once succeeded in stopping a leak in the bottom of the
Delaware, 74, in that way. Accordingly a false bow was built
at the navy yard, and finally launched and brought to the ship.
I believe we had commenced pumping it out and it would probably
have proved a success, but a gale of wind springing up
suddenly the other bower anchor was let go, and this with the
wind and sea combined, caused the false bow to open and it
was forced asunder on the ship's stem. This was a very badly
managed affair throughout, and Mr. Brodie did not have the
cordial co-operation of our officers; indeed, when the news
came aft that the thing was done for, it was received with cheers.
Poor Mr. Brodie was seized with an apoplectic fit on the
quarter deck, and died before he could be removed to his
house.


46

The commodore transferred his flag to the Falmouth and
early in December we sailed for Norfolk in company with the
screw sloop-of-war Princeton, which vessel was sent with us as
a matter of precaution.

The Princeton was the first screw steamer we had in the
navy, and I sometimes think the best. She was commissioned
in 1843, and during the entire war with Mexico was actively
employed. I never served in her myself, but was in squadron
with her for three years, and she was always ready for service.
At the time of which I am writing screw ships were rare, and
the appearance of the Princeton, with her sails furled, going
along seven knots an hour—like the ship of the Ancient
Manner, "without or wave or wind"—used to excite much
astonishment among the merchant craft.

We anchored on the 19th of December in Lynhaven Bay,
just inside Gape Henry. The next day was too foggy to proceed
up the bay. About noon a merchant schooner passed
close to us, aud I was sent in a boat to put some officers on
board her. She had a fair wind and tide and it was some
time before I caught her up. The captain told me he had not
seen the land since leaving Boston, yet here he was in a thick
fog steering directly for Norfolk.

I had some difficulty in finding the ship again and came
near "losing the number of my mess." Fortunately the captain
ordered guns to be fired and the ship's bell to be rung.
When I heard the first gun I found I had passed the ship, and
was pulling out to sea. It was nearly four o'clock when I got
on board. We arrived at Norfolk on the 20th day of December
and, contrary to our expectations, the ship was put out of
commission and the crew discharged.


47

CHAPTER V.
RETURN TO THE FRIGATE "POTOMAC" —LIST OF HER OFFICERS—FIRST
IMPRESSIONS—SAIL FOR VERA CRUZ—ARRIVAL—SACRIFICIOS ISLAND —
SAN JUAN DE ULLOA—SAIL FOR BRAZOS SANTIAGO—LAND A FORCE
AT POINT ISABEL—BATTLE OF PALO ALTO—BATTLE OF RESACA DE LA
PALMA—GENERAL TAYLOR AND COMMODORE CONNER—AN ALARM—
MAJOR RINGGOLD—CAPTAIN MAY—LIEUTENANT RIDGELEY—BOAT EXPEDITION
UP THE RIO GRANDE.

THE Potomac was put into dock and the leak soon stopped.
She was immediately re-commissioned, a new set of officers ordered
to her, and a new crew shipped. Feeling sure that war
with Mexico was imminent, I applied to return to her; and
after some difficulty received my orders. I reported on board
in February 1846.

As the Potomac's officers and men took part in all the
naval operations in the Gulf of Mexico during the war, I give
a list of the officers so far as my memory serves me: captain,
J. H. Aulick; lieutenants, Lockwood, Jas. Rowan, Humphreys,
North, Frailey and Doyle; sailing-master, Noland; purser,
Bryan; surgeon, Dodd; assistant surgeons, Baxter and
Hamilton; marine officer, Garland; chaplain, Lewis, passed
midshipmen, Moore, Abbott, Tattnall and Hopkins; midshipmen,
Monroe, Carmichael, Powell, Pembroke Jones, McLane,
C. Hunter, Murdaugh and Somerville. The forward officers
I do not recollect. There were many changes in the wardroom
during the cruise, but none among the midshipmen.

My first impressions were not agreeable. I was the last officer
to report, and when I arrived I found the ship in commission
and nearly ready for sea. Full of zeal, I barely stopped
to get my breakfast at the hotel, and then slipping on my uniform
I hurried over to the navy yard to report. Our captain


48

was known in the service as a martinet and I knew it would
not do to delay.

After reporting I asked his permission to remain on shore a
day or two to purchase my mattress, blankets, &c., and get my
things together—it was quite usual to allow this—but the captain
refused it; and indeed it was with some difficulty that I
obtained permission to return to the hotel for my trunk.

Said he—after saying he would give me one hour to do this
—"Sir, when I get a midshipman on board my ship I never
let him go on shore until I know something about him," —and
I will do him the justice to say he was as good as his word:
for I was with him sixteen months and was only allowed to
go ashore on liberty twice in that time; and yet I was his aid
and supposed to be a favorite!

I found the officers much discontented and all hands were
prophesying an unpleasant cruise; but we had a set of midshipmen
on board that even Captain Aulick could not put
down. They were all on their second cruise and knew their duty
well. Intelligent, gentlemanly and full of zeal it was hard for
the captain to find fault with them. Then they were sworn
friends, and all pulled together—indeed, the feeling among
seven of them was more like that of brothers than friends, and
to this day among the four who survive the tie continues as
strong as in the days of our youth. Kept in three and sometimes
even two watches; roused out at all hours of the night
to take lunar observations; kept for hours in the tops; knocked
about in boats, and "ridden down like a main tack" generally,
all would be forgotten when we got to our own quarters
and assembling round the mess table would join in the chorus:
"It will never do to give it up so, Mr. Brown; it will never
do to give it up so."

The lieutenants were always our friends; and I cannot cite a
better proof of the way these midshipmen performed their
duties than by stating the fact that not one of them was ever
punished during the cruise.

We sailed from Norfolk in March, 1846, and passing through


49

the Turk's island passage and along the south side of Cuba,
arrived at Vera Cruz early in April.

We found the squadron under Commodore Conner anchored
under Sacrificios island, a much better anchorage than under
Green island, and the usual anchorage for men-of-war visiting
Vera Cruz. Sacrificios island lies E. S. E. 3¼ miles from San
Pedro Bastion, Vera Cruz; and is about 4 miles from the castle
of San Juan de Ulloa, which is 1600 yards N. N. E. from the
same bastion. The island lies three-fourths of a mile from the
main land, and the anchorage is between the island and the
main; pretty close to the former for protection during the
norther season.

The Spaniards under Grijalva landed on this island in 1518,
and Bernal Diaz says of it: "Our people found on this last
mentioned island two buildings of lime and stone, well constructed,
each with steps, and an altar placed before certain
hideous figures, the representations of the gods of these Indians.
They found here also the bodies of five unfortunate persons
who had been sacrificed on the preceding night, their hearts
cut out, their limbs separated from the bodies and the walls
and altars stained with their blood. This island was named
Isla de Los Sacrificios. Opposite to it on the continent we
landed, and constructing huts, remained some time in expectation
of trading with the natives for gold."

This landing place of Grijalva's followers was precisely the
spot where General Scott landed his army in 1847.

In reference to the name of the castle of San Juan de Ulloa,
Bernal Diaz says: "Our interpreter who showed some marks
of intelligence being questioned as to the cause of these victims
being put to death in that manner, made answer as well as he
could, that it was done by the Indians of Culva or Culchua,
meaning the Mexicans; but he pronounced this word Ulua, a
name which ever after distinguished the place. It was called
St. John partly because this was the day of St. John, and
partly in compliment to our chief, Juan de Grijalva."

The squadron at this time, as well as I recollect, consisted


50

of the frigates Cumberland (flag ship), Potomac and Raritan;
the steam frigate Mississippi; the sloop-of-war Falmouth, John
Adams
, and St. Marys; the steam sloop Princeton; and the
brigs Lawrence, Porpoise and Somers. It was largely reinforced
from time to time as I shall mention.

About the first of May we were unexpectedly signalled to
get underweigh, and most of the vessels named stood to the
northward in company. As the men were kept constantly exercising
with small-arms in obedience to signal from the flag
ship, we knew "something was in the wind," though war had
not been declared. We anchored off Brazos Santiago, in
Texas, about seven miles north of the Rio Grande river on
the 6th, and the next day landed some 1200 men, sailors and
marines, under Captains Gregory and Aulick, to reinforce the
garrison at Point Isabel. We arrived in the nick of time.
Previous to our arrival General Taylor with his army had
advanced to the Rio Grande, established a post and completed
a fort opposite to Matamoras. He then returned to Point
Isabel, leaving the 7th Infantry to garrison this fort, which
was afterwards called Fort Brown, in honor of Major Brown,
of the 7th, who so heroically held it against all the attacks of
the Mexicans from the 3d to the 9th of May, and who lost his
life in the defence.

General Taylor having made his arrangements for the defence
of Point Isabel (his base of supplies) again left to meet
the Mexican army, which was now between Fort Brown and
Point Isabel, and threatening the latter point. So that, as I
have said, we arrived just in time.

Point Isabel was fortified, and we of the Potomac were
assigned to some heavy guns at one of the angles. All the
men were armed with muskets, but had not been much
drilled in their use. Indeed, at that day it seemed impossible
to get a regular "blue-jacket" to perform a soldier's
duty. The prejudice against the small-arm drill was so strong
among the men that during the whole war they made but little
progress in learning even the company drill. They were always


51

ready—too ready—to load and fire; but their awkwardness
rendered them about as dangerous to friends as foes.

As soon as we got on shore at Point Isabel we expected we
might have to march to join the army, so the lieutenants went
immediately to work drilling their companies; and I thought
the army officers who looked on would die of laughter at the
sight. One lieutenant would persist in giving the order
double up, when he wished to form two ranks; and we were
all performing the most remarkable evolutions, none of which
were laid down in Scott's Tactics.

The officers of the present day are so well instructed in
infantry tactics at the Naval Academy, and the sailors are so
well drilled, that they would find it hard to realize how very
green we were at that day. However, we were all full of
zeal and pluck, and were always able to hold our own in all
our fights afloat or ashore. Each ship had a company of
well-drilled and disciplined marines, and in our shore operations
they formed a battalion, and this battalion formed the
nucleus on which we rallied.

General Taylor met the Mexicans on the 8th of May, 1846,
and fought the battle of Palo Alto. He stood on the defensive
in this battle, and it was fought principally with artillery.
He made good use of a siege train he fortunately had with
him. I think it consisted of 18-pounders. The Mexicans
made but one attempt to come to close quarters—towards the
close of the day a body of lancers rode up as if about to charge,
but were soon thrown into confusion by the 5th Infantry.

We at Point Isabel could hear the guns all day, and we
knew by the sound that our army, if not retreating, was not
advancing. As may well be imagined we were in a great state
of excitement, and the sailors were dying to go to the assistance
of the army. About 12 o'clock that night a negro camp-follower
came in and informed Major Jock Monroe, who was
the senior army officer at the post, that General Taylor was
defeated with great slaughter, and that he himself had barely
escaped with his life. Captain Gregory of the navy was immediately


52

called and begged to join the General with his men;
and both he and Captain Aulick were keen to go; but Commodore
Conner had to be consulted, and an express was sent
off to him on board his ship. The commodore positively refused
to send the men out; he said that unaccustomed as they
were to the use of small-arms, and with no knowledge of formations,
one regiment of cavalry could cut them to pieces, and
that he would not risk crippling his squadron at the very beginning
of the war; with many other good reasons no doubt,
but here, in my opinion, he made his first mistake in this war:

" He either fears his fate too much,
Or his deserts are small,
That dares not put it to the touch
To gain or lose it all!"

If we had sent out a thousand men they would have reached
General Taylor at daylight on the morning of the 9th of May
when more than one officer thought help needed. It was afterwards
said that General Taylor called a council of war on the
night of the 8th, and after calling upon his officers for an
opinion, which was to the effect that the army should fall back
on Point Isabel
, he broke it up with the remark: "Well, gentlemen,
we will advance to-morrow morning at daylight."
This was characteristic of the General; but even he, I think,
would not have been sorry to see a thousand American blue-jackets
on the morning of the 9th.

It must be recollected that the Mexican army, under General
Arista, consisted of six thousand men, while General Taylor
had barely two thousand.

On the 9th of May General Taylor advanced upon the
Mexicans at Resaca de la Palma and utterly defeated them.
This battle was gained by an advance of our whole line, and
as it was somewhat in the nature of a scrimmage the sailors
would have given a good account of themselves, and it would
have been said that the navy had saved the army. It was
better for the army as it was; but the navy lost a glorious


53

opportunity. We were all much disgusted at not being permitted
to march out; but as no more stragglers came in, but
on the contrary dispatches were received to the effect that the
army had held its own on the 8th, we were relieved of our
uneasiness as to its safety.

On the 9th we found the sound of the guns becoming more
and more indistinct and towards nightfall our hopes were confirmed
by the news of a glorious victory.

I knew Commodore Conner well; I was his aid for some
time. He had served with distinction in the war of 1812,
and was in the Hornet when she captured the Penguin; where
he was badly wounded. He was an educated man and a brave
officer; but during the war he always seemed to be too much
afraid of risking his men; he lacked moral courage, and would
not take the responsibility his position imposed upon him. Consequently
he failed.

After General Taylor had defeated the Mexicans at Resaca
de la Palma and relieved Fort Brown he returned to Point
Isabel and had an interview with Commodore Conner. The
newspapers in describing this interview pictured the commodore
as appearing in a gorgeous full dress: cocked hat,
epaulettes, &c., while the general was represented as being in
an old coat and straw hat and very shabby. As well as I recollect
the commodore wore a jacket on that occasion. I
know he generally wore one, for he had very little of the
"fuss and feathers" in his dress, though always scrupulously
neat. But some persons have the idea that heroes must necessarily
be dirty and cannot be disabused of it. Just as I have
observed that passengers on board ship judge of a captain's
qualifications by his size. Only those who are fat, with full
round stomachs, are considered "fine old seamen!" Why if
I were a ship owner I would not have a captain in my employ
who weighed less than two hundred and fifty pounds and a
large stomach should be a sine qua non if the vessel carried
passengers.

But to return to my story. Although we knew on the 9th


54

that General Taylor had gained a victory that day we were
still on the qui vive, for it was thought that the Mexican cavalry
might get round to the rear of our army and make an attack
on Point Isabel; and considering that it was the base of
General Taylor's supplies and the Mexicans must have known
it was feebly garrisoned, it did seem reasonable. That night
there came up a hard storm, with rain in torrents. In the
midst of it the report was circulated that the picket guard
had been driven in; and all was alarm and confusion. We
of the Potomac manned our heavy guns, and I, being Captain
Aulick's aid, was sent to a distant part of the post to call
him. In performing this duty I had to pass through the
encampment of the John Adams' crew, and just at this time the
men commenced to discharge their muskets to see—as they explained
—"if they would go off!" The balls whistled around
me like hail, and how I escaped being hit is more than I can
tell. I always regarded it as my narrowest escape during the
war. However I got to the captain's quarters all right, and
returned with him to our battery, which we reached about daylight.
I shall never forget the appearance of things there. It
seems it was the lowest part of the encampment, and the
water had drained into the enclosure until it was knee-high.
In the darkness our fellows had lost' their clothing, hats and
arms—everything that would float did so—and when we arrived
all hands presented a pitiable, not to say comical, sight.

Now it is usual in a man-of-war to receive the captain with
a certain amount of ceremony, and upon this occasion the
"officer of the guard," Midshipman Murdaugh, did the best
he could under the circumstances. Seeing the captain coming
he managed to get on a pair of white trowsers and throw an
old cloak over his shoulders, but he had no hat. One of the
passed midshipmen had a straw one, but declined to loan it,
(bless his stingy soul) saying it made no difference, seeing
the general condition of affairs in the camp. "But it is just
for the sake of appearance," said Murdaugh earnestly, and
putting it on he received the captain in due form.


55

This became a by-word with us in the steerage, and Murdaugh
never heard the last of it. If a midshipman had to
keep an extra watch, go in a boat, or do anything disagreeable,
he would remark that he only did it "for the sake of appearance."
The incident was even commemorated in a song, one
of the verses of which ran as follows:

"And then when we landed at Point Isabel,
To Taylor's assistance to go,
Buck Murdaugh appeared in a battered straw hat,
And an old ragged cloak, and 'twas borrowed at that,—
'For the sake of appearance,' you know!"

When General Taylor returned to Point Isabel after his
victories, he was received with great enthusiasm, especially by
the sailors, who were generally drunk. They had gotten the
run of the sutlers' stores by this time, and knew where to get
whiskey; but even without sutlers' stores they would have
known where to have found it. I heard a lieutenant say that
he once sent a watch of sailors ashore for recreation on an
uninhabited island in the middle of the Pacific ocean, and
they all came back drunk! I don't know anything about that,
but I know that our men were drunk, and when General Taylor
arrived the sailors almost carried him in their arms and could
hardly be kept out of his tent. The General was very tolerant
of them; and here as well as at Vera Cruz afterwards, when
we were thrown much with the regular army officers, I noticed
that they made a pet of Jack, and allowed him all kinds of
liberties. They looked upon him as a sea-dog who should not
be held responsible for anything he did on shore.

The wounded in the two battles soon commenced to come
in, and upon visiting the hospital it struck me as odd to see our
soldiers and the Mexican soldiers lying alongside each other
so sociably. Poor Major Ringgold of the Flying Artillery was
brought in desperately wounded, and soon after died. We
all attended his funeral. He introduced the drill of the flying
artillery in the army, and commanded the first battery organized.


56

When General Taylor came in his escort was commanded
by Captain Charles May who charged the Mexican artillery
at Resaca de la Palma, and captured General La Vega who
commanded it. He was the hero of the hour; six feet in
height, and with his hair hanging over his shoulders, he was
the picture of a dashing dragoon.

Just as May was about to charge the Mexican batteries,
Lieutenant Randolph Ridgeley, commanding Ringgold's battery
of artillery, and beyond a doubt the most distinguished
officer at the battle of Resaca de la Palma, called out: "Hold
on, Charley, until I draw their fire;" which he did, and May
then charged. For his services May received two brevets;
and Ridgeley but one, which he declined to accept. It was
not May's fault, but there was much feeling on the subject
among those who knew what Randolph Ridgeley's services
really were at both Palo Alto and Resaca. When May returned
home there was a dinner given him at New Orleans,
and upon his rising to respond to a toast, a voice from the lower
end of the table called out: "Hold on, Charley, till I draw
their fire!"

In the interview between General Taylor and Commodore
Conner it was agreed that there should be a combined attack
upon a place called Burrita, on the Rio Grande. Colonel
Wilson, with the First Infantry, was to march by land and
we were to send a boat expedition up the river. We accordingly
weighed and anchored off the mouth of the Rio Grande;
but there being rather a heavy swell on the bar the commodore
would not risk the boats. We waited two days, and on the
third the expedition started under Captain Aulick. When he
got to Burrita he found the First Infantry in quiet possession
of it—so here was another disappointment to the navy and
another opportunity lost.


57

CHAPTER VI.
WAR DECLARED—BLOCKADE OF THE COAST—RIVERS AND TOWNS ON THE
GULF OF MEXICO—BLOCKADE OF VERA CRUZ—GREEN ISLAND—THE
PIRATES OF THE "FALMOUTH"—PASSED MIDSHIPMAN HYNSON—BURNING
A VESSEL UNDER THE CASTLE OF SAN JUAN DE ULLOA—MIDSHIPMAN
ROGERS—LOSS OF THE BRIG SOMERS—UNLUCKY VESSELS—
AFFAIR AT THE RIO ANTIGUA—THE GUNBOAT REEFER—FIRST ATTEMPT
ON ALVARADO—THE BRITISH FRIGATE "ENDYMION."

THE war with Mexico was caused by the annexation of the
independent State of Texas (which was once a part of Mexico,
and had separated by means of a revolution) to the American
Union. The advance of the American army to the Rio
Grande brought about the first clash of arms. It now became
the duty of our squadron to blockade all the ports on the Gulf
until such time as we were prepared to take possession of them.
These ports were Matamoras on the Rio Grande; Tampico
on the Tampico river; Tuspan on the Tuspan river; Vera Cruz
on the Gulf; Alvarado on the Alvarado river; Coatzacoalcos
on the Coatzacoalcos river, and Tabasco on the Tabasco river.
This latter town is also called San Juan de Bautista. All
these rivers—save the Rio Grande—are insignificant streams,
and all have very bad bars at their mouths. Vera Cruz is
the only one of the places named that has anything like a
harbor. The others, are for vessels of any size, simply open
roadsteads.

There are some ports in Yucatan, such as Laguna and Campeachy,
but I think our vessels only visited them for the purpose
of buying cattle during the war. To the best of my
knowledge the State of Yucatan, though belonging to Mexico,
took no part in the war. It may have been in a state of revolution
at the time, but I do not know.


58

Matamoras was immediately occupied without opposition by
the army under General Taylor, and Commodore Conner proceeded
to distribute the vessels of his squadron to blockade
the other places. The larger vessels were generally assigned
to the blockade of Vera Cruz, and of this number was our ship.

The squadron was largely increased, and among the vessels
that joined it at one time or another were the sloops-of-war
Germantown, Albany, Saratoga and Decatur; the steamers
Spitfire, Vixen, Alleghany, Scorpion and Scourge; the brig
Truxtun; gunboats Reefer, Bonita and Petrel, and (just before
the bombardment of Vera Cruz) the Ohio 74, and bomb
vessels Vesuvius, Hecla and Stromboli. There were more
small steamers and gunboats, but I cannot recall them.

Upon our arrival off Vera Cruz we anchored under Green
island where we had spent so many weary hours the summer
before. Our anchorage was about 3¾ miles from the castle of
San Juan; out of gun-shot in those days, but not by any means
so in these days of rifled 100-pounder guns. The larger vessels
remained generally at anchor, but the smaller ones were kept
underweigh on the lookout for vessels approaching the harbor.
Occasionally a vessel would arrive from Europe and anchor
under Green island. I do not know what we would have
done for mess-stores had it not been for these vessels. I think
ninety days grace was allowed vessels from foreign ports to
give them time to hear of the blockade of the coast; after that
time they were made prizes if caught attempting to go in or
out of port. Most of the vessels arriving were from German
ports, with assorted cargoes, and their captains would break
bulk and sell to our messes such stores as we were in want of.
We always kept a prize master in them, and the midshipmen
were glad to be detailed for this service as it insured plenty to
eat and drink. Our mess was a poor one—we were always
hard up for something to eat and for money to purchase it. I
don't know how it was; we had the best set of fellows in the
world in the steerage, lived in perfect harmony, but no one
would act as caterer—we were divided up into little squads
and lived from hand to mouth.


59

I recall a piratical trick played on us here by the midshipmen
of the Falmouth. We had a gander belonging to the
mess, brought from Norfolk, but he was in bad condition and
not fit to kill—so one day while it was blowing half a gale of
wind we thought we would send him ashore, on the island for
his health—we tied a label on his neck marked: "Potomac's
steerage mess," and set him adrift. He was bravely drifting
towards the shore and we were congratulating ourselves upon
the success of our manæuvre, when as he passed the Falmouth
the midshipmen espied him and sent a boat to pick him up.
We thought it was blowing too hard to lower a boat; but that
was the last we ever saw of our gander—they literally "cooked
our goose for us."

Officers from all the ships assembled every afternoon on
Green island for exercise and bathing—there, too, we used to
exchange ideas.

One of the finest fellows in the service I often met on
Green island. I allude to Passed Midshipman Hynson, of
Maryland. He was drowned in the brig Somers when she
capsized and sunk off Vera Cruz in the fall of this year. At
the time of her sinking Hynson had both of his arms bandaged
and in a sling, and was almost helpless. It was said
that when the brig sunk he managed to get hold of a spar
with another man, and finding it would not support two he
deliberately let go his hold. It was like him. The way he
happened to have his arms in a sling was this: While the
Somers was maintaining the blockade of Vera Cruz a vessel
managed to slip in—I think she was a Spanish schooner. The
Mexicans moored her to the walls of the castle of San Juan
for safety; but the officers of the Somers resolved to cut her
out or burn her. Hynson was the leading spirit in the affair,
though Lieutenant James Parker, of Pennsylvania, was the
senior officer. They took a boat one afternoon and pulled in
to visit the officers of an English man-of-war lying under
Sacrificios island. It was quite usual to do this. After nightfall
they left the British ship and pulled directly for the


60

schooner, which they boarded and carried. This, be it observed,
was directly under the guns of the castle and the
muskets of its garrison. The crew was secured, and finding
the wind would not serve to take the vessel out it was resolved
to burn her. Her captain made some resistance, and the
sentinel on the walls called out to know what was the
matter. Parker, who spoke Spanish remarkably well, replied
that his men were drunk and he was putting them in irons.
The party then set fire to the vessel and got safely away with
their prisoners. It was in setting fire to the schooner that
Hynson got so badly burned.

A short time after this Passed Midshipman Rogers of the
Somers, accompanied by Assistant Surgeon Wright, landed in
the night on the beach to the southward of Vera Cruz, their
object being to blow up a magazine outside the city-wall. A
Mexican patrol coming up Mr. Rogers was made prisoner, but
Dr. Wright escaped to the boat and got back to the brig.
The Mexican authorities threatened to hang Rogers as a
spy; but he wore his uniform at the time of his capture and
they could not do so without violating the rules of war.
Rogers was held a prisoner until the capture of Puebla by
Scott's army in 1847; he then joined the Army and went
into the city of Mexico with the captors. He resigned after
the war, studied law and removed to San Francisco, where I
believe he still lives.

Although it did not happen until late in this year, I will
mention here the particulars in relation to the loss of the
Somers. She was lying at anchor under Green island when a
vessel was observed close to the main land, evidently with
the intention of running the blockade. Captain R. Semmes,
who commanded the Somers, got her underweigh and stood out
under topsails and foresail to intercept her. The brig was
nearly out of provisions and water, and flying light; so that it
made her what sailors call crank. A heavy squall from the
northward struck her as she was about the middle of the
channel, and she went over before her sheets could be let go.


61

She carried down with her Passed Midshipmen Clemson and
Hynson and nineteen men. The survivors were saved by
boats from the English and French men-of-war lying at Sacrificios
island. It was said at the time that if the tanks of
the Somers had been filled up with salt water she would not
have capsized.

The brig was named for Captain Richard Somers, who lost
his life off Tripoli in 1804. He was in command of the ketch
Intrepid, a fire-vessel loaded with bombs and combustibles,
and his object was to destroy the Tripolitan gunboats in the
harbor and perhaps the batteries. He intended to set fire to
the ketch and to escape with his men in a small boat. The
Intrepid blew up shortly after she entered the harbor, and all
hands were lost in her. There was not a man left to tell the
tale. Some of Somers' shipmates believed he blew her up to
avoid capture. He was unlucky, and the brig was unlucky;
and whatever may be said about the superstitions of sailors there
does appear to be "something in a name"—why, look at the
name "America," so popular with ship owners; I know myself
of the loss of the steamers Central America, North America,
South America
, and two named "America." I was not at all
surprised at reading of the loss of the English sloop-of-war
Phæenix the other day. If any man has a doubt in reference
to unlucky names let him take up a list of shipwrecks in the
British navy and count up the "Phænixes," "Pandoras,"
"Martins" and "Magnets." I do not hesitate to say that if
I were a marine-insurance man I would charge a premium on
vessels named after unlucky ones. Bismillah! on my head be it.

After lying at Green island for some months it became
necessary to fill up our water tanks, and the commodore decided
to do this at the river Antigua, a small stream not many
miles to the northward of Vera Cruz. I shall always remember
this river as it is the place where I first heard a hostile
shot. We got underweigh with a number of other vessels, and
passing just out of gun-shot of the castle, anchored off the
mouth of the river about sunset of the same day. Our launch


62

with the water casks was to go up the river the next morning
in charge of passed midshipman Moore and midshipman
Hunter, and I got permission to go in her as a volunteer.

In the morning at daybreak we started off, and in company
with the boats of the other ships proceeded up the river. The
bar was rough, and in crossing it we shipped several seas which
wet the muskets packed away in the stern sheets. The expedition
was composed of the launches with the water casks,
and a number of cutters with armed men and marines to protect
them. It was commanded by Captain Engle of the
Princeton, an enterprising and dashing officer.

We anchored in the river and filled up our water casks;
and I recall now the extreme beauty of the scene; it was a
very narrow rives, the shores were covered with tropical verdure,
and through the groves of palm trees we could catch
glimpses of thatched huts—we could hear the birds singing in
the trees on the banks, and all bore the appearance of peace
and quiet. We had been so long cooped up on board ship
that I know I, for one, was wishing I could get on shore.
The banks of the river were high, and away off in the distance
was seen a solitary mounted vedette, the pennon of his
lance gaily fluttering in the light morning air—he did not
change his position while we were in the river and his appearance
made the scene still more picturesque. He was the one
thing wanted to give life to the landscape.

The boats having filled up their water-casks, we returned to
our ships to discharge and get our breakfasts. We then returned
to the river for another load. Captain Engle did not
go the second time, and Lieutenant Boggs was the senior
officer. We crossed the bar safely, shipped a few seas as
before, and anchored in the river. This time it was thought
necessary to take more precautions and two marines were landed
from one of the cutters to act as sentinels. They commenced the
ascent of a small hill where they could command a better view,
and had just reached the top of it when a volley was fired by
the Mexicans lying in ambush. Having nothing to do with


63

the boat I was sitting on the rail watching these marines and
wishing I was with them when the firing commenced.

To me the scene instantaneously changed to a drama, and I
fancied myself in a theatre. I enjoyed it very much. I saw
the marines retreat down the hill; I saw one of them turn
round when half way down and discharge his musket; I saw
his hat fly away with a bullet through it; and then I saw both
marines run madly into the water and the "play" concluded.
Not to put too fine a point upon it, it became now a regular sauve
qui peut.
There being no understanding as to what we were to
do the boats commenced to go down the river and did not stand
upon the order of their going. I saw the light boats come flying
down the river and pass the marines who were standing up to
their necks in the water and begging to be taken in. It began
to look as though they would be left to their fate—(which would
have been to our everlasting disgrace), and I was imploring Mr.
Moore to pull to them when the last boat sheered in and picked
them up. In the meantime the men in our boat did not remain
idle spectators of the scene—not by any means! They were
trying to weigh the anchor and be off with the rest; but being
unable to do so I'm afraid they cut the cable—(we kept dark
about this though, and it was not known in the squadron; otherwise
like Mrs. Gradgrind, "we should never have heard the last
of it.") As soon as we commenced to retreat the Mexicans, who
had never ceased their fire, showed themselves on the banks
and followed us down towards the mouth of the river. One
of our men received a ball in his shoulder about this time
which brought me to a better appreciation of the state of affairs
and convinced me that it was not a "play;" so Hunter and I
commenced with the muskets in the stern sheets to see if we
could not bring down a Mexican. The muskets being wet
would not explode and after trying five or six I got careless in
holding them, and the seventh happening to go off I was
knocked heels over head in the bottom of the boat. The
Mexicans reported afterwards that they had killed an officer,
and I think they must have seen me fall. Our boat being a


64

very slow one we had the honor of bringing up the rear, and
we were, I need not say without any effort on our part, the last
under fire.

The first boat out was the Cumberland's first cutter, as she
was anchored nearest the mouth of the river; but for a long
time after, the officer who commanded her had a good deal to
bear—nothing could be said about boating or racing that some
devil of a reefer did not slyly say: "Well, I'll tell you what,
the Cumberland's first cutter is a fast boat."

Now it seems that this whole performance was witnessed
from the ships, and the midshipmen by going aloft into the
tops could see us all very well. As the current was running
out the river, the boats appeared to leave the scene of action
with remarkable speed—much to the disgust of our brave
boys, who did not comprehend the state of affairs—so when
we got back to the ship they were prepared for us.

To tell the truth I felt something of a hero. I had been in
a battle and I had fired off a musket, (I really believe it was
the first I had ever fired, and I was not a little proud of it),
so when I went down to the steerage it was with a proud and
lofty air. I was received with shouts of derision; remarks
were made of boats rowing twenty miles an hour, etc., etc,.
until I was glad to edge in a word and say meekly, that "I
was only a volunteer."

The upshot of this expedition was that in the afternoon the
Princeton anchored nearer the shore and shelled the woods; a
force was landed which drove the Mexicans back, and the
boats finished filling up their casks. They may have made
one or two trips afterwards, but I do not think we got all the
water we wanted for the squadron. The fact is the enemy had
us at so great a disadvantage that they should have killed or
wounded half of us when they first fired. Sailors in boats
cannot row and fire at the same time; and even the marines
fire at a great disadvantage. It seems the force attacking us
had been sent from Vera Cruz, and the Mexicans claimed a
great victory. The Vera Cruz papers were full of it, and


65

stated that we had lost many men; but I think we had but
one man wounded.

It was while we were lying off the Antigua river that the
first of the gunboats arrived. It was the Reefer, Lieutenant
Commanding Sterrett. She was a very small schooner, mounting
one gun. I went alongside her once in our barge, which
was nearly as long, and not knowing any better stepped
over her port quarter. The first lieutenant immediately informed
me in no very gentle tone that "there was a gangway
to that vessel!" Oh! there was a good deal of style kept up
in these schooners, if they were little; they were gotten underweigh
with the longest of speaking-trumpets and the hoarsest
of voices; and I once saw one of them crossing the stern of
the line of-battle-ship Ohio, and carefully throwing the lead.
They drew about six feet of water! These gunboats did good
service in Mexico, and took part in all the engagements. In
port they looked very cosy and comfortable—at least in good
weather—but at sea they were mostly under water; still I do
not remember that one of them was lost during the war.

The first important expedition undertaken by us was for
the capture of Alvarado, a town near the mouth of the Alvarado
river, which is thirty-three miles S. E. of Vera Cruz.
We went there with the squadron and anchored off the mouth
of the river, outside the bar, which has only eight or ten feet
of water on it. We were within long range of the batteries;
at least I suppose we were within range, as we went to quarters
and cast loose the guns. The gunboats anchored much
closer in. We saw the Mexicans manning their batteries,
and there were a number of small armed vessels lying in the
river; among them a fine brig, which should have been cut
out that night and added to our squadron. We did not open
fire from the ships, but during the afternoon and night the
gunboats were engaged with the enemy, both with their heavy
guns and small arms. A boat expedition was organized to
go in the next day, and there was not much sleeping in the
wardroom and steerage that night. The lieutenants selected


66

for the boat-work were writing letters home, and probably
making their wills. The midshipmen were sharpening their
swords, loading their pistols, eating hard tack and salt junk,
and boasting of what they intended to do the next day.
There was no drinking in our steerage, but there was noise
enough to scare all the Mexicans in Alvarado if they could
have heard it. Those appointed to go in the boats were the
operators and loud talkers, while we unfortunates who were
to remain on board confined ourselves to criticising the commodore
and growling generally. The morning broke cloudy
and gloomy, but there was nothing particularly threatening in
the look of the weather. About 9 o'clock a general signal was
thrown out by the flag-ship, and words cannot express our
astonishment at reading: "Return to the anchorage off Vera
Cruz."

It was said that the pilots predicted a "Norther," but I
believe that Commodore Conner's strongest adherents were
shaken in their faith after this fiasco. We returned as ordered,
and in beating up the coast that day we were in company
with the British frigate Endymion. The Endymion was
one of a squadron of four frigates that captured the U. S.
frigate President, Commodore Stephen Decatur, in 1814. On
that occasion the Endymion was badly crippled by the President,
and would have been captured had she been alone. The
late Commodore Hollins was a midshipman on board the
President at the time, and I remember his giving me a full
account of the chase and capture in 1876. After a lapse of
sixty-two years the commodore related all the circumstances
with as much minuteness as though it had happened but a
month before.

The Endymion had accompanied the squadron to Alvarado
to see the fun; and she saw it! and as if this was not mortification
enough for one day, she beat us sailing. Whether it
was that our captain was laboring under a fit of disgust or
not, he would not make any effort to prevent it. Our yards
and sails were not properly trimmed and set, and no attempt


67

was made to trim ship—for the Potomac sailed very well when
by the head.

Midshipman Hodge of the Cumberland "took the rise" out
of the Britishers, though, a few days afterwards. He was
sent to the Endymion with a dispatch, and upon leaving one
of her midshipmen accompanied him to the gangway, and
could not resist the temptation to say: "This is the ship that
took the President, you know!" "Ah!" said Hodge, casting
his eye aloft, "I see you have put extensive repairs on her
since that day." The best of it was that Hodge, being just
"caught," did not know one rope from another.

As I have said, this feeble attempt upon Alvarado satisfied
the officers that Conner was "not the man for Galway;"
and I can attest that while he commanded the squadron anything
like enterprise or adventure was discouraged. The
affair of burning the schooner under the walls of the castle
was disapproved; if a boat at night, out looking for vessels
trying to run the blockade, took an opportunity to reconnoitre
the castle and defences of the town, it was disapproved—
everything of the kind, in short, was frowned upon. We
should at one time or another have cut out every gunboat at
Alvarado and every other place. We had the officers and
the men to do it, and all we wanted was the word. Our fiasco
at Alvarado was highly ridiculed by American papers and
was a sore spot in our memories.


68

CHAPTER VII.
CAPTURE OF TAMPICO—SLIPPING OFF TAMPICO IN A "NORTHER"—THE
U. S. SHIP "HORNET"—VESSELS OF THE U. S. NAVY LOST BETWEEN
1841-61—PENSACOLA—YELLOW FEVER—SECOND ATTEMPT ON ALVARADO—ADMIRAL
JOSHUA SANDS—ATTACK ON TOBASCO—DEATH OF
LIEUTENANT CHARLES MORRIS—CAPTAIN FRENCH FORREST—INCIDENTS
OF THE BLOCKADE OF VERA CRUZ—ANTON LIZARDO—NARROW ESCAPE
OF THE "CUMBERLAND"—LOSS OF THE U. S. BRIG "TRUXTUN"—A MAN
HANGED AT THE YARD-ARM OF THE U. S. SHIP "ST. MARYS"—VISIT
PENSACOLA AND RETURN TO VERA CRUZ.

SHORTLY after this attempt on Alvarado the squadron sailed
to attack Tampico, a town of about 7,000 inhabitants, on the
Tampico river 210 miles north of Vera Cruz, and next to that
city the largest and most important place on the coast. It
was said that the wife of the American consul, who remained
in the city, had long been in communication with
Commodore Conner, and finally wrote him that the city would
yield, without resistance, to the appearance of force. This must
have been so; for we went there, and sending in the light
steamers and gunboats, the town surrendered to us without a
fight. I did not accompany the detail from our ship up to the
city, and do not recall any incidents of interest in relation to
the expedition.

The bar off the mouth of the Tampico river is considered
the most dangerous on the coast, and many lives have been
lost on it. Sharks are numerous in the vicinity, as though
they knew of the dangers of the place and the probabilities of
prey. We anchored off the bar in the Potomac, and remained
for some time after the place fell. Tampico was
immediately occupied by the Army, and the Army may have


69

co-operated with us in its capture; but I cannot say positively.
I only know that there were troops there immediately after
its capture, if not before.

It was the "Norther" season while we were there, and as
vessels never attempt to ride these heavy gales out at anchor
in the open roadstead, we had our topsails reefed
before furling, and a slip-rope and buoy on the chain.
These "Northers" spring up suddenly and blow with great
violence along this coast from Galveston, Texas, to Alvarado;
below Alvarado they do not, I think, blow home, as
sailors call it.

One very beautiful evening we were all on deck watching
the sunset and listening to the music of our band, when we
saw a small steamer with troops (sick men I presume) coming
out over the bar. She was a river-boat, and not intended for
the ocean; but the exigencies of the times pressed into service
many such "rattletraps" for the transportation of troops and
stores. I did not wonder at hearing soldiers say they did not
like "going to sea" when I saw the kind of vessels the quartermasters
chartered to transport them from place to place
during this war. Delightful as the sea is, especially off Cape
Horn, in winter, a hard gale, with the hatches battened down
and the water knee-deep in the steerage; or on the coast of
Africa in a dead calm, thermometer at ninety degrees, and
hatchways covered during a hard rain,—still, packed like
herrings in an unseaworthy craft resembling what sailors call
the ship" Doodledeaddidee, (I am not sure about the spelling
of this tall word) with three decks and no bottom," is quite
another thing. But "this," as Mr. Toots says, "is a digression."

The steamer crossed the bar safely and stood to the northward,
bound to New Orleans. I do not know why, but we all
watched this little vessel until she disappeared in the gloom
of the night. I had no watch that night, and not feeling
sleepy—which was an abnormal state for a reefer to be in—I
passed the first watch with Hunter (familiarly known as


70

"Nag.") About eleven o'clock a light breeze sprang up from
the northward and Hunter was directed to inform the captain,
who immediately came on deck and ordered all hands called.
It seemed to me that the wind increased to a gale like magic.
As we had close-reefed the topsails we had only to sheet them
home and slip the chain to be underweigh.

The John Adams and the British brig Daring were in company,
and it was a grand sight to see them rearing and pitching
in the heavy sea that was soon raised. I do not remember
ever to have known it to blow harder than it did on this occasion.
As soon as we got well clear of the land we furled the
fore and mizen topsails and hove to under a close-reefed main
topsail and fore storm staysail, with the ship's head off shore.
We lost sight of our consorts and did not see them again until
we returned to our anchorage off Tampico.

It was under precisely similar circumstances that the U. S.
sloop-of-war Hornet, Captain Norris, slipped from her anchorage
here in September, 1829, and she has never been heard
of since—foundered with all hands on board! She had
previously touched at Havana, and while firing a signal gun
her first lieutenant, the late Commodore Young, was so much
injured by the recoil of a gun as to require the amputation of
both of his legs. He was sent home from Havana and lived
for more than forty years after the loss of his ship.

During my twenty years' service in the U. S. Navy the
following vessels were lost at sea, and never afterwards
heard of: Schooner Grampus, Lieutenant Commanding Albert
Downes, on our coast, in 1841; brig Porpoise, Lieutenant Commanding
Bridge, off the island of Formosa, in 1853 or 4;
sloop-of-war Albany, Commander Gerry, in the West Indies,
in 1855; and the sloop-of-war Levant, Commander William
Hunt, near the Sandwich Islands, about 1860. Nothing has
ever been heard of any of these vessels.

Upon our return to Tampico we heard that the little steamer
I have mentioned put back as soon as she encountered the
gale, and in attempting to cross the bar was lost with all hands


71

on board. No wonder we watched her with so much interest
the evening she sailed:

"'Tis the sunset of life gives me mystical lore,
And coming events cast their shadows before,"

sings Campbell.

We had many of these "Northers" during the cruise, and
I remember I rather liked them. Our hammocks were not
piped up during their continuance, and we midshipmen had
fine times below, sleeping as late as we pleased and skylarking.
One of our amusements was to turn the mess-table bottom up,
get on it, and slide to and fro as the ship rolled. Much we
cared for gales of wind in those days!

From Tampico the Potomac went to Pensacola for provisions
and water, and we arrived there in July, 1846. The yellow fever
prevailed in the town and navy yard at the time; but we had
only two cases on board, of which I was one, as I have previously
stated. We remained here only a few weeks and were
busily engaged in provisioning the ship during that time.
Midshipmen Monroe, Carmichael, Somerville, Powell and
Murdaugh left us here to report at the Naval Academy,
Annapolis, for examination; so McLane, Pembroke Jones, Nag
Hunter and I were left to "battle the watch" alone. Upon
our return to the squadron at Vera Cruz we heard of the loss
of the brig Somers, an account of which I have already given.
We heard, too, that in our absence a second attempt had been
made upon Alvarado. On this occasion the commodore had a
larger force than upon the first. The force was divided into
two divisions, each consisting of small steamers having in tow
gunboats and cutters; and the intention was to make a dash
across the bar and storm the place with the men in the boats.

Commodore Conner was on board the steamer Vixen, Captain
Joshua Sands; his division had crossed the bar, and was
nearly under fire when he saw that the second division, under
Captain French Forrest, had grounded. "Well, Sands, what
is to be done now?" said the commodore. "Go ahead and


72

fight like h–ll," answered Sands. Unfortunately the commodore
did not take his advice, but turned back, when if he had
gone a cable's length farther the Mexicans would have surrendered.
So ended the second attempt on Alvarado, and the
papers sent up a howl of derision over its failure.

Captain Joshua Sands commanded the steamer Vixen
throughout the war. The Vixen was a sister ship to the Spitfire,
Captain Tatnall, and was in all the engagements with
her. Sands' name was not so frequently heard, perhaps, as
Tatnall's, but he proved himself a gallant officer on all occasions.
He is now an admiral on the retired list, and the
oldest officer in the navy.

When he was a lieutenant returning from a long cruise in
the Pacific in the Franklin 74, bearing the flag of Commodore
Charles Stewart, while she was lying to in a gale of wind off Cape
Horn, under a close-reefed main topsail, a man fell overboard.
Sands was under "suspension from duty" at the time and not
allowed to go on the quarter-deck, but as the lee-quarter boat
was being lowered to save the man, he sprang into it through
one of the main-deck ports. The boat was lowered and got
away from the ship's side when they found there were in it
but Sands, the sailing master E. Peck, and two men. Peck
who had been a foremast hand was a fine practical seaman,
and getting an oar out aft he managed to keep the boat's head
to the sea until the ship picked them up, which singularly
enough under the circumstances, she managed to do. I forget
whether the man was saved or not. Upon the return of the
party on board Commodore Stewart put Sands under arrest
for "leaving the ship without permission!" This anecdote
was told me by Admiral Sands himself only a few years ago;
he said Peck saved his life.

A short time after the Alvarado affair an expedition was
fitted out to make an attack on Tobasco, a town on the Tobasco
river, seventy-five miles above its mouth. Tobasco contained
about 5,000 inhabitants, and the troops of the state were assembled
there under the command of General Bravo, a bold


73

and enterprising officer. I believe General Bravo had sent
several messages to Commodore Conner inviting him to make
an attack on Tobasco, and we knew pretty well that there
would be an obstinate defence on his part. Indeed the Tobascans
prided themselves on their courage and they were
anxious to emulate their brethren of Alvarado. There is no
doubt but that the native Indian of this part of Mexico is
physically brave.

The river Tobasco was first visited by the Spaniards, under
Grijalva in 1518. Cortez stopped here in 1519, and had a
desperate encounter with the inhabitants. Bernal Diaz says that
after this fight they dressed the wounds of the men and horses
with the fat of Indians ! I think the town called at that time
Tobasco is the present Frontera, for Bernal Diaz says: "Our
troops proceeded to the shore and disembarked at the Point of
Palmare, which was distant from the town of Tobasco about
half a league." Cortez changed its name to Santa Maria de la
Vittoria.

Our expedition was commanded by Commodore M. C. Perry,
who had lately joined as second in command and who had his
flag on the good old steamship Mississippi, a ship that did
more hard work in her time than any steamer in the Navy
has done since—and she was built as far back as 1841.

Commodore Perry's command, consisting of small steamers,
gunboats and cutters arrived off the Tobasco river one afternoon,
and dashing across the bar captured the town of Frontera,
near its mouth, almost before the Mexicans knew they were
there. Two river boats plying between Frontera and Tobasco
were lying at the wharf; one of them with steam up and the
supper table spread. The town and vessels were taken possession
of without opposition, and the supper was enjoyed by the captors.
In one of these steamboats I recognised the old steamer Champion,
a boat that once ran between Richmond and Norfolk.
She was very fast, and under the command of Lieutenant
Lockwood, was very useful to the squadron afterwards as a
dispatch boat. The commodore went up the river to Tobasco


74

with his little fleet and captured a large number of small vessels
lying off the town. The authorities, however, would not
capitulate, and at the prayer of the foreign consuls the commodore
forbore to bombard the place. The soldiers had evacuated
it, and the commodore spared the town from motives of
humanity, though I do not think the Mexicans appreciated
it. While our men were taking possession of the various
prizes the Mexicans kept up a fire from the banks by
which Lieutenant Charles Morris, a son of the distinguished
Commodore Charles G. Morris, lost his life. He was standing
up in his boat when a musket ball pierced his heart. He was
a very fine officer, and his death was much deplored by us all.

Commodore Perry finding the Mexican military had fallen
back a short distance only from the town determined now to
land a force and fight the enemy wherever he could find him.
The landing party of marines and sailors was under the command
of Captain French Forrest, a man who literally did not
know the meaning of the word fear. He had a programme
written out and after getting on shore was very particular in
seeing that every officer and man took his position in accordance
with this programme. This it took some time to do, and
as the party was under a dropping fire of musketry the men
became very impatient to advance, but Forrest would have
his own way: all of a sudden he called out impatiently:
"Where is that base drummer, where is that base drummer?"
then pausing a moment he said quietly: "Oh! I forgot, he
broke his drum-head this morning and couldn't come."

Before Captain Forrest had everything arranged to his
satisfaction the commodore concluded it would be better not
to send the men out from the cover of the guns of his squadron.
He thought the game was not worth the candle, and it assuredly
was not. The landing party was recalled and the commodore
proceeded down the river with his prizes. As the town of Tobasco
was not occupied by us the inhabitants affected to consider
this a victory for their side, and became correspondingly
"cheeky;" but we took the conceit out of them a few months


75

after as I shall relate. This expedition to Tobasco took place
while the Potomac was temporarily absent from the squadron.
We were all very sorry not to have had a hand in it and to
have been on what was known as Forrest's program-me. When
we got back to the squadron we resumed the blockade of Vera
Cruz, sometimes remaining some days under sail, and then
again anchoring under Green island. While the vessels were
at anchor they sent their boats out at night to cruise in the
channel between Green island and the main. The service was
arduous and dangerous. While out on this duty the launch of
the Mississippi in charge of Midshipmen Pillsbury and Bridge
capsized one night and Midshipman Pillsbury and some men
were drowned. The survivors clung to the boat all night and
were picked up the next morning in a pitiable condition.
Bridge was afterwards drowned in the U. S. brig Porpoise off
the island of Formosa. He was in command of her at the
time. The Porpoise separated from the sloop-of-war Vincennes
in a typhoon and has never been heard of since. This was in
1853–54.

Our boats caught a brig one night attempting to run the
blockade, and brought her to us at Green island. We found
several military-looking men among her passengers, and Captain
Aulick sent for them to come on board the Potomac.
They had a long interview with him in the cabin and finally
were allowed to return to the brig, and it was understood by
us that the brig was to be permitted to return to Havana,
which was the port she had sailed from. She got underweigh
that afternoon with the sea breeze, stood to the northward a
short distance, and then putting her helm up, she squared
away for Vera Cruz under all sail, and got safely in under
the castle. We sent boats to chase her, and pretended to fire
on her; but it was evidently a "put-up job." There was some
shenanigan about it, but our captain never referred to it
again. No doubt he had secret instructions.

It is well known that we permitted General Santa Anna to
return to the country (from which he had been banished in


76

1845) during the war. He landed at Vera Cruz with his
staff in an English mail steamer; our boarding officer permitted
him to land by order of the commodore. This was a
wonderful stroke of policy on the part of our Government. It
was thought that Santa Anna would immmediately bring
about a peace with us. He commenced his operations in that
way at Buena Vista, and followed them up at Cerro Gordo,
Contreras and Chapultepec!

It was some time in the summer of 1846 that Commodore
Conner determined to make the anchorage at Anton Lizardo
the general rendezvous for his fleet, which now began to
assume large proportions. Anton Lizardo is twelve miles S.
E. of Vera Cruz. The harbor is an excellent one, and is
formed by the coral islands lying off the point, and which
make a lee from the "northers." There are passages between
the islands to the northwest and southeast, and as well as I can
recollect, the anchorage is perfectly safe in all winds. It is a
pity Vera Cruz had not been located there.

The frigates Cumberland, Potomac and Raritan, with some
sloops-of-war and numerous small craft started in company
for this place one day, leaving the Mississippi and some other
vessels on the blockade off Vera Cruz. Our station was immediately
astern of the flag-ship Cumberland, and it soon
became evident to Captain Aulick that we were not steering
for the proper passage between the coral islands. He hauled
his wind somewhat which brought him on the port quarter
of the flag-ship. The commodore was warned by his pilot and
others that he was attempting the wrong passage, but he was
obstinate and held on until he brought up on the reef hard
and fast aground. It is a wonder his masts did not go over
the bows, but they held. When it was seen that the Cumberland
had struck an amusing scene occurred. It reminded me
of a large boy getting into trouble and being deserted by his
friends. The vessels scattered in every direction. Our captain
hauled on a wind and stood away to the northward as
though he intended making for Pensacola, and even the little


77

gunboats, which only drew six feet, steered for the open sea.
The effect upon the commodore was to make him furious. He
immediately made general signal to "anchor near the flagship;"
but it took a verbal order, communicated by the
flag-lieutenant, to bring the Potomac down within hail of the
flag-ship. As it was we found a sunken rock not very far
astern of us.

Signal was at once made to the Mississippi, and about ten
o'clock she came to the commodore's assistance. The night
was employed in taking out the Cumberland's stores to lighten
her—fortunately the weather remained good. The first thing
Captain Aulick did the next morning was to take a boat and
sound round his ship. I accompanied him, and it being very
rough and before breakfast, I was seasick for the first and
only time in my life.

The Mississippi now got her stream cable fast to the Cumberland,
and during the morning she got her afloat; and if
the Mississippi had not been at hand, I do not think the
Cumberland would have been gotten off. That afternoon the
squadron anchored at Anton Lizardo, which ever afterwards
was our headquarters. The Cumberland was so much damaged
that it was found necessary to send her home to be docked,
and as the Raritan had been a long time in commission and
the times of her men were out, it was decided to exchange the
officers and crews of the two vessels. This was accordingly
done, and the Cumberland sailed for Boston under Captain
Gregory, and the Raritan, Captain Forrest, became the flagship.
Upon reflection I think that this occurred in the summer
of 1846, not very long after the return of the vessels from
Point Isabel, and I think the capture of Tampico must have
been in the fall of that year, after the visit of the Potomac to
Pensacola, and not before as I have stated. In fact the
"northers" only blow in the fall and winter.

We were lying at Anton Lizardo when we heard of the loss
of the U. S. brig Truxtun, Captain Carpenter. The news was
brought by Lieutenant Bushrod Hunter. The Truxtun was


78

blockading the port of Tuspan, some 120 miles northwest of
Vera Cruz, and got ashore near enough to the land to be under
the fire of some small guns which the Mexicans brought down
to the shore. The captain sent a boat under Lieutenant Bushrod
Hunter to report the disaster to the commodore, and soon
after determined to surrender. This was, I believe, opposed
by his officers and crew. It was said afterwards that the quartermaster
on duty positively refused to obey the order to haul
down the flag. Either before this was done or immediately
after Lieutenant Otway Berryman left with a boat's crew and
got safely to the ships blockading Vera Cruz. The remaining
officers and men were made prisoners by the enemy and sent
to Vera Cruz, and the brig taken possession of. As soon as
we got the news Captain Engle with the Princeton was sent
there and he made short work of it. He drove the Mexicans
out of the brig and burned her; not, however, before they had
gotten some of her armament and stores on shore. The guns
of the Truxtun were mounted by the enemy in the forts built
to protect Tuspan; but we recovered them eventually as I
shall mention.

Early in the winter of 1847 the Potomac went to Pensacola
again for provisions and water. During our absence from the
fleet a man was hanged on board the St. Mary's for striking
an officer—he stepped from his gun at evening quarters and
knocked down the lieutenant commanding the division. He
was tried by a court martial and sentenced to be hanged.
The commodore thought the discipline of the squadron required
that the sentence should be carried into effect, and he
was right. When this man was hanged at the yard-arm of
the St. Mary's the crews of all the other vessels were mustered
on the decks of their respective ships to witness it. He
acknowledged the justness of his sentence, and was, at his own
request, attended in his last moments by the very lieutenant
he had assaulted. As soon as we got back from Pensacola in
the Potomac we took up the blockade of Vera Cruz again as
usual.


79

CHAPTER VIII.
THE FORTIFICATIONS OF VERA CRUZ—WHAT ADMIRAL FARRAGUT THOUGHT
OF THEM—CAMPAIGN OF GENERAL TAYLOR—LOBOS ISLAND—ARRIVAL
AT VERA CRUZ OF GENERAL SCOTT'S ARMY—A RECONNOISSANCE—LANDING
OF THE ARMY OF GENERAL SCOTT AT VERA CRUZ, MARCH 9TH,
1847—REMARKS ON—INVESTMENT OF THE CITY—SERVICES OF THE
NAVY—OPENING OF THE BOMBARDMENT—A HEAVY NORTHER—INCIDENTS
CONNECTED WITH—SAILORS ON SHORE—AFFAIR AT MEDELLIN.

THE city of Vera Cruz contained at this time probably
ten thousand inhabitants. Like all the old Spanish towns it
is a walled city, and defended by numerous fortifications to resist
an attack either by land or sea. There was a strong fort
on the northern point of the city, and another on the southern
point, with guns principally pointed seaward, and a number
more along the walls for the land defence. About half a mile
off the city lies the castle of San Juan de Ulloa, a well constructed
fortification, built on a coral island of soft coral stone.
The island is surrounded by reefs on the north-eastern, eastern
and southern sides, and cannot be approached nearer than
three-fourths of a mile; but on the face next the city vessels
can go close up to the walls of the castle. The castle mounted
it was said about one hundred guns of all calibres. There
were a few mortars throwing a ten-inch shell, but the guns
were, I think, principally 18 pounders. The water battery
was considered very powerful—between it and the citadel or
main fort was a wide and deep moat with a drawbridge. If the
water battery was carried by assault the citadel commanded it.
This is in accordance with my recollection of the castle as it
looked to me after its surrender. The castle of San Juan de
Ulloa was taken by a French squadron under Admiral Baudin,


80

on the 27th of November, 1838, after a bombardment of five
hours.

The late Admiral Farragut witnessed it, being present in
command of the sloop-of-war Erie. He took notes of all that
occurred, and visited the castle a few minutes after its surrender.
He says in his journal: "I visited the castle to ascertain
the cause of its early surrender, and a single glance satisfied
me that it would have been impracticable for the Mexicans to
stand to their guns. The very material which formerly insured
their safety was now a means of destruction, for the castle
is built of a sort of limestone resembling coral, into which a
solid shot will penetrate a short distance and remain buried,
having little or no effect; but with shell it was another matter,
they would explode and rend the stone in immense masses
killing and wounding the men at the guns, in many instances
shattering the walls from summit to foundation. I am satisfied
that in a few hours more it would have been a mass of rubbish."
"The Cavaliero Alto was very much shattered, and a few
more shells would have reached the magazine. The guns
were rendered useless, with scarce an exception, by the destruction
of the carriages." The admiral does not state the exact
force of the French; I think it consisted of three frigates, some
corvettes, bomb vessels and steamers; but any French naval
history will tell. The officers of our squadron were very desirous
of taking the castle before the arrival of General Scott's
army, and some presented plans for doing so. The commodore
must have had a correct plan of it, and he must also have
known of the disposition of the French squadron in 1838. He,
however, thought it had been greatly strengthened since that
time, but subsequent events proved this untrue.

Captain John Wilkinson in his book, "Narrative of a Blockade
Runner," speaking of Admiral Farragut, says that during
the Mexican war: "he [Farragut] had proposed to Commodore
Perry, then commanding the gulf squadron, and urged
upon him the enterprise of capturing the strong fort of San
Juan de Ulloa at Vera Cruz by boarding." The gallant captain's


81

memory does not serve him in regard to this. Farragut
was not in the gulf during the Mexican war until after the
capture of the castle and town of Vera Cruz. He sailed in the
Saratoga from Norfolk in February for Vera Cruz, and he
says in his journal: "But we were just too late; the castle
had surrendered to our forces under General Scott (March 26,
1847), and the flag was proudly floating over its walls." But
it is well known that admiral, then commander, Farragut was
of the opinion that the castle could be taken by the force under
Commodore Conner, and it would have been a most fortunate
thing for the navy if Farragut and not Conner had been in
command at that time. There is no doubt in my mind but
that we should have had it some months before we did, and
the city of Vera Cruz fell with San Juan de Ulloa: for the
latter commanded it.

General Taylor occupied Matamoras May 18, 1846, and on
the 24th of September following captured Monterey after a
desperate fight of three days. He then advanced in the direction
of Saltillo. It was now decided by the authorities in
Washington to abandon the advance on the city of Mexico by
that line, but to capture Vera Cruz, make it the base of
operations, and march on the capital via Jalapa and Puebla.
The plan of this campaign was intrusted to General
Winfield Scott, and all the regulars were taken from General
Taylor save several batteries of light artillery and a squadron
of dragoons. This caused much criticism and excited much
feeling among General Taylor's friends; but the volunteers left
with him had been drilled and disciplined by General Wool
and gave a good account of themselves at the battle of Buena
Vista—fought February 22, 1847. There General Taylor
with 5000 men successfully resisted all the attempts of General
Santa Anna with his army of 20,000 men to force his position,
and the latter ingloriously retreated. This was the last battle
fought by General Taylor's army. The transports containing
the troops of General Scott's army were assembled at Lobos
island, 150 miles north of Vera Cruz. Several of the vessels of


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the squadron were ordered there, and the senior captain took
charge of affairs afloat. On the 24th of February, 1847,
General Scott issued his final orders to his fleet at Lobos
island, and we in the squadron now commenced to keep a
bright lookout for the transports. About the end of the month
the Potomac was lying under Green island in a moderate
"norther," when shortly after noon the man at the mast-head
reported a sail to the northward, and soon after we saw the
long-expected fleet coming down before the wind. What
number of vessels were there I do not know, but there were
more than we could count—the little brig Porpoise, under her
very efficient commander, Lieutenant William E. Hunt, gallantly
led the way. The first thing that excited our astonishment
was the great amount of sail carried by the transports,
and the next the skilful manner in which their captains
threaded their way between the reefs! But as one of them
remarked to me afterwards, "any one could see the channel in
a gale of wind;" meaning that the breakers on the reefs would
show the deep water.

No words can express our excitement as ship after ship,
crowded with enthusiastic soldiers, successively came in; some
anchoring near us, and others continuing on for the anchorage
at Anton Lizardo. We had been so long on board our ships,
and for some months so inactive, that we were longing for
something to do. I cannot answer for others, but the scene of
that day—and I recollect it was Sunday—is so vivid, and the
events so firmly fixed in my memory, that I can almost see the
ship Diadem as she grazed our spanker-boom in her desire
to pass near enough to speak us, and I can to this day
whistle the "waltz" played by an infantry band on board a
transport anchored near us that night, though I have never
heard it since. It was indeed "a sight to dream of and not to
tell." That night I went in charge of a boat to convey our
marine officer, Lieutenant Garland, to the transport containing
the Fourth U. S. Infantry, which regiment was commanded
by his uncle, Lieut. Colonel Garland, and I shall never forget


83

my welcome when it was known that I was a brother of the
Parker who had died while belonging to the regiment in 1842.
Many of the officers of this regiment were afterward killed—
among them the gallant and genial Major Graham.

After the landing at Vera Cruz I passed many hours at
their encampment near the beach and I remember meeting a
Lieutenant Grant—the present General Grant—both there
and on board the Potomac; though I suppose he has long
since forgotten all about it.

A few days after General Scott's arrival, Commodore Conner
took him with a large number of the principal officers to
make a reconnoissance of the fortifications of Vera Cruz, and
to select a place for the disembarkation of the troops. The
reconnoissance was made in a small steamer, and a bold one it
was—the steamer went so close to the Castle and the northern
land batteries that we expected to see her blown out of water.
Why the Mexicans did not open fire was inexplicable to us;
but I suppose it may have been their siesta time.

General Joseph E. Johnston, then Captain Johnston of the
Topographical Engineers, was on board at the time and he
has told me since how very rash he thought Commodore Conner
on this occasion.

The reconnoissance decided General Scott to land the army
on the main land abreast of Sacrificios Island. I do not see
myself how there could have been two opinions as to its being
the proper place; but perhaps the visit to the north side of
the city was a blind. At all events all the transports were
now assembled at Anton Lizardo and the final preparations
made for landing the troops. Early on the morning of the
9th of March, 1847, the frigates and sloops of the fleet having
taken on board as many troops as they could carry, and the
steamers towing the transports with the others, we all got
underweigh for Sacrificios Island, nine miles distant. It was
a beautiful day and we had a fair wind, with a smooth sea.
On board the Potomac we had two Pennsylvania regiments,
under General Pillow, and among the privates I recognized to


84

my great astonishment, a Mr. McDougall, who had been a
midshipman with me in the Columbus. He had failed to pass
his examination and had enlisted. Poor Mac, I never heard
of him after this. The vessels anchored under Sacrificios Island
about one o'clock, and we prepared to disembark the
army, which consisted of about twelve thousand men, in three
divisions, commanded by Generals Worth, Patterson and
Twiggs respectively.

The Government had previously sent out a large number of
surf-boats for this service—these boats were built at or near
Philadelphia, and were admirably adapted to the purpose.
They were sharp at both ends, with flat floors and drew very
little water. They carried one hundred soldiers with their
arms and accoutrements, and were manned by one naval officer
and eight or ten sailors. In landing in the surf our practice
was to let go a kedge which we carried at the stern just before
entering the breakers. Whatever may be said of Commodore
Conner's management of affairs up to this time the arrangements
for this service were simply perfect. The division of General
Worth formed the advance and was the first landed. The
men were put in the boats and the boats were then towed astern
of the several men-of-war at anchor. The mosquito fleet under
Captain Tattnall ran close in to the beach and kept up a constant
shelling; but not a Mexican was to be seen. I had in
my boat a company of artillery commanded by Captain and
Brevet Major Gardner and Lieutenant McCowan. Everything
being in readiness a signal gun was fired from the flag ship,
and we all cast off and pulled in line for the shore; the first
boat to touch the beach was one containing a company of the
Sixth Infantry, and Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald sprang out
and planted the regimental colors on the shores of Mexico.
In less than two minutes after four thousand American soldiers
were on the beach, and the landing was a fact accomplished.
The boats returned to the ships and took on board and landed
the division of volunteers under General Patterson; and finally
the division of General Twiggs. By midnight General Scott


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and his entire army were in a position to commence the investment
and siege of Vera Cruz.

Here I must pause awhile to say something in reference to
the landing of troops upon a hostile shore. If the enemy will
dispute the landing boldly it cannot be successfully accomplished.
In the landing at Vera Cruz if the Mexicans had
concealed themselves behind the sand hills until our boats
were nearly in the surf, and had then come down and opened
fire, it is my belief that half of the men would have been killed
or wounded before reaching the beach. The gunboats could
not have fired without endangering their friends, and the men
in the boats crowded as they were would have been helpless.
If there are no hills a moderately deep trench is all that is
necessary for the shore party to shelter itself from the fire of
gunboats. The idea is to keep under cover until the landing
force gets about fifty yards from the shore and then let them
have it with small arms and light artillery. Those of us who
served on the James river in the civil war know how very few
lives were lost by the shelling of gunboats. If the Russians
had followed these tactics the allies would not have made good
their landing in the Crimea, nor would the Federal troops
have done so at Roanoke island had the Confederates adopted
this plan.

Having landed the troops the work of landing material
was now commenced. We who were engaged in it were
called daily at 4 in the morning, and we worked until 9
or 10 at night. Each midshipman had charge of four surf
boats, and we got our meals when and how we could. One of
the officers of the flag ship had the general supervision of this
work, and we went to the different transports as he directed.
The officers and men worked very zealously in this business,
and at the end of a week it was marvelous to see the amount
of material put on the beach: guns, ammunition, tents,
lumber, provisions, clothing, horses, mules, sutlers' stores,
&c., &c. The landing place commenced to assume the appearance
of a small town, and still the work went on. Transports
sailed as soon as discharged and others were constantly


86

arriving. The weather fortunately was good and the sea
smooth.

The quartermaster of the Army and the other heads of departments
seemed to have everything well arranged beforehand,
and were always able to tell us which of the vessels they wished
next to be discharged. There were no mishaps, no accidents,
no men drowned; but everything went on with the utmost regularity
and good order. It was a most creditable performance
in every way, and the Navy had every reason to be proud of
it. Without our assistance General Scott would never have
advanced from Vera Cruz.

The Army after landing on the 9th quickly surrounded the
city, and it was besieged in due form. General Scott gave
the authorities a chance to send the women and children out
before opening his fire, but his offer was declined; later in the
siege they wanted to do so, but the general would not then
consent; so they remained in the city during the whole of the
bombardment. The castle of San Juan and the other forts
kept up a constant fire upon the besiegers from this time till
the close of the siege. Some mortars were mounted by our
army, and I think they commenced firing about the 20th.
The army siege train was for some reason late in arriving.

We heard of General Taylor's success at Buena Vista a few
days after landing, and General Scott issued the news in a
general order. Salutes were fired as a matter of course.

Before the regular bombardment of the city commenced
the Army had two officers killed, Captain Vinton of the Artillery
and Captain Albertis of the Infantry. Both were
highly esteemed by their comrades.

We had at this time the heaviest "norther" I ever experienced.
A large number of merchant ships dragged ashore in
consequence of their being so badly provided with ground
tackle; and the number of surf boats that broke adrift and
went sailing down the coast was simply enormous. During the
height of the gale a ship called the Diadem broke from her
anchors and drifted across our hawse and it looked as if she


87

would carry us on shore with her; but our captain promptly
sent his men on board and cut away her masts. We then
gave her the end of our stream cable which we secured to our
mainmast, and veering her astern we held her safely through
the remainder of the gale. The captain of the transport had
the "cheek" to claim damages for the loss of his masts, but
Captain Aulick did not admit the claim. Our men, however,
rigged her up with jury masts afterwards and she went to sea.

No communication could be held with the shore while this
gale lasted, but as soon as it subsided the Navy got most of
the grounded vessels afloat, and one of the small steamers went
down the coast and picked up many of the surf boats.

Happening to be on shore when this gale sprung up I was
unable to get off to the ship, and many others were in the
same category: among them my messmates, Midshipmen
McLane and Jones. I suppose there were two or three hundred
officers and sailors ashore. We of the Potomac hauled our
boats up on the beach, and told the crews they must "shift for
themselves," which they said very confidently they could do,
and we then held a council as to what we should do for something
to eat and a place to sleep. We knew nothing about
sutlers' stores, and if we had were not provided with money.
About 8 o'clock in the evening as we were disconsolately walking
the beach we were accosted by a Lieutenant Ward of the
Third Infantry, who said he had just heard that some naval
officers were on shore unprovided with quarters, and he had
come to look for them. So we went with him to his tent
where we found Captain Dawson of the artillery. They had
charge of some recruits and were messing together temporarily.
Dawson received us very hospitably, and we had some beefsteak
for supper which we were glad to get; though in consequence
of the "norther" blowing it had more sand in it than
was agreeable. After supper a field bed was made in the tent,
and we all sat or lay about very comfortably and sociably.
We were treated to a small allowance of pelos cochos—two
Greek words signifying neck oil—the midshipmen of my time


88

said—and about 11 o'clock Ward informed us that he knew
where some hand grenades could be gotten, and he proposed
that we should creep up under the walls of Vera Cruz and throw
them over into the city; he said it would cause a stampede, as
I have no doubt it would. My messmates gladly caught at
the idea; it seemed that a march of three miles to reach the
city, with a strong probability of being captured by the enemy,
if we were not previously shot by our own sentinels, struck
them as "just the thing." Captain Dawson, after attempting to
dissuade us from the attempt, positively refused to accompany
us and I must confess I had "my doubts." However I could
never let my messmates go without me; so we buckled on our
swords, and after several unsuccessful attempts to get through
the tent door which was tied, and our swords would act as
"toggles," we emerged upon the plain. I can see Captain
Dawson now rolling on the tent floor with uncontrollable
laughter. To obtain the hand grenades we had fortunately to
cross the encampment of the Fourth Infantry; I say fortunately,
for the night being very dark we kept stumbling over the confounded
tent pegs, and not being very steady on our feet (probably
in consequence of the furious "norther" blowing) we
could not hold a straight course; so that Ward, after each of
us had fallen down about twenty times, proposed that we should
give it up for that night and return to the tent. He said that
perhaps the next night would be better as we could make an
earlier start! To this we gladly acceded, and upon getting
back Jones insisted that we should take off our shoes before
creeping into the tent. This we did, and the next morning
they were gone, of course. Dawson said he had never heard
before of putting shoes out to be blacked in an encampment.
We were much disgusted, but our men loaned us theirs to wear
until we returned to the ship. We left our kind friends in
the morning and wandered about all day; but when night
came (although we declared that three were too great a tax
on a mess of two) yet we had to go back as we knew of no
other place to sleep, and we did this for three nights in succession

89

and always received the same hearty welcome. We made
no more attacks on Vera Cruz, however. Poor Ward was
killed in the valley of Mexico, but Dawson still lives, a general
on the retired list. Our men somehow managed to take good
care of themselves—we used to go sometimes to their mess and
get our dinners; they seemed all to be provided with muskets,
though they brought none on shore with them, and they always
had fresh beef for dinner. We thought it best to ask no questions.
In the midst of this gale a report came that a vessel
with a company of dragoons under Captain Thornton had
dragged ashore at Anton Lizardo, and it was proposed to send
all the sailors down there to assist in getting the horses on
shore. The Fourth Infantry was to march on our flank to
protect us against an attack, as the sailors were supposed to be
unarmed. We assembled on the beach about 10 o'clock at
night, and I found, to my surprise, that most of my men were
mounted, either on horses or donkeys. Finding that I intended
making the march on foot my coxswain said that would never
do, and going back from the beach towards the general
encampment he soon returned with a horse. I mounted and
said nothing. We did not go down, however, after all our
preparations; though I have forgotten why we gave the expedition
up. I saw Captain Thornton the next day on his
way to report at headquarters—my beau ideal of a dragoon.
He was captured by the Mexicans while on a scout before the
battle of Palo Alto with his entire command, and had not long
been exchanged when he joined General Scott. He was killed
by the first gun fired by the enemy in the valley of Mexico.

The sailors having nothing to do wandered about, and a
band of them went to Medellin (a small village some ten miles
down the coast, and named for Cortez' birth place) and committed
some outrages. General Scott was justly indignant and
the offenders would have been severely dealt with if they had
been caught. These stragglers met their punishment in some
instances—every now and then we would find the dead body
of a sailor terribly mutilated by the enemy. Most of the


90

sailors though contented themselves with quietly getting drunk
and riding about the camp. The army officers, as I have said
before, took no notice of their pranks. One day an old "salt"
rode by General Scott's quarters on a donkey, and some officers
standing by observing that he was, as they thought, seated too
far back, called out to him to shift his seat more amidships.
"Gentlemen," said Jack, drawing rein: "This is the first craft
I ever commanded, and it's d—d hard if I cannot ride on the
quarter deck."

The second dragoons were sent down to Medellin about this
time and had a fight with the Mexicans. One of the midshipmen
of the squadron, Thomas Young by name, was sent with a
dispatch to the commanding officer just before the battle. He
was mounted on an old cavalry charger, and not being a very
good horseman was unable to manage him. When the charge
was sounded the horse started off, and Midshipman Young had
the honor of leading the way across the bridge just below Medellin.
He was highly complimented by the colonel of the
regiment for his gallantry, and still lives to congratulate himself
upon his narrow escape.


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CHAPTER IX.
OPENING OF THE BOMBARDMENT OF VERA CRUZ—CAPTAIN TATNALL AND
THE SPITFIRE—COMMODORE M. C. PERRY ASSUMES COMMAND OF THE
SQUADRON—COMMODORE CONNER'S MISTAKE—THE NAVY LANDS SIX
HEAVY GUNS—THE MOSQUITO FLEET—THE NAVY BATTERY—IT OPENS
FIRE ON VERA CRUZ—INCIDENTS—PASSED MIDSHIPMAN FAUNTLERÒY—
SURRENDER OF VERA CRUZ AND THE CASTLE OF SAN JUAN DE ULLOA
—OUR ARMY TAKES POSSESSION—BATTLE OF CERRO GORDO—A VISIT TO
THE CASTLE AND CITY—OUR MARINES.

As well as I recollect the regular bombardment of Vera
Cruz by the Army commenced March 22d, 1847. On that
day General Scott formally summoned the town, and notified
the authorities of the consequences of a non-surrender.

I have omitted to say that the day after the landing, March
10th, we were awakened by the sound of heavy firing, and
going on deck found that it was caused by Captain Tatnall in
the Spitfire. He had gone in under Point Hornos and opened
a fire upon the town and castle, without orders. He was
quickly recalled by the commodore, and as he left his exposed
position was loudly cheered by the Army. He lost no
men by this affair, which was much regretted by the gallant
captain—he could not rid himself of the old English idea that
there must be a large list of killed and wounded to certify to
a brave action. The "butcher's bill" at Algiers in 1816, in
Lord Exmouth's squadron, must have satisfied the English
nation in this particular.

On the 21st of March, shortly after the hoisting of the
colors we were electrified by the signal from the flagship:
"Commodore Perry commands the squadron." I think Commodore
Perry had gone north after the Tobasco affair, and
had but lately returned in the Mississippi. Commodore Conner


92

had been in bad health for some time, and willingly
turned over the squadron to Commodore Perry; but the
youngest reefer in the squadron felt that he had made a
mistake in yielding the command when he did. He should
have waited until Vera Cruz fell, at least.

The effect of this change was soon seen, and Commodore
Perry's first order was to land six heavy guns (three 64-pounder
shell guns and three long 32-pounders), and place
them in battery to assist General Scott's siege guns. This was
the most efficient co-operation we could give the army.

It is generally thought that Vera Cruz and the castle of
San Juan were bombarded by the fleet. I have seen this
stated in more than one "history," and recollect going to see
a panorama in Boston shortly after the war which represented
the fleet bombarding the castle while the troops were being
landed on the north side of Vera Cruz.

The castle was thought to be too strong to risk the vessels
of the fleet against it—there were no iron-clads then—but I
believe that if it had not surrendered when it did, we were to
have tried the effect of an escalade.

On the 22d of March the Mosquito fleet consisting of the
steamers Spitfire and Vixen, and gunboats Reefer, Bonita,
Petrel
and two others, under Captain Tatnall, took up a position
under Point Hornos, and opened on the town; and the next
morning the Spitfire and Vixen each having two gunboats in
tow stood closer in and opened on the town and castle both,
and received their fire in return. The vessels received no
damage and there were no men killed. This diversion was
ordered by Commodore Perry, and was the only bombardment
of the castle by our vessels.

The Spitfire went the next day to the northward of the city
to open communication with the left wing of the besieging
army, which rested on the beach there.

Of the six guns landed from the vessels two were taken from
the Potomac with their crews. Lieutenant A. S. Baldwin and
three midshipmen went command of them. Captain Aulick


93

who was appointed to command the naval battery on the first
day of its firing, ordered that all the passed midshipmen and
midshipmen should draw lots to determine who should go with
the guns, and it fell to McLane, Jones and myself. The lieutenants
also drew lots for the service; of course every one
wanted to go. The guns were landed on the 22d, and the one
I was assigned to was placed in the bottom of a surf-boat instead
of being put on skids across the gunwale, so when we got
ashore we found great difficulty in getting it out; we finally
accomplished it through the bottom of the boat! It was then
hauled up on the beach by hundreds of soldiers and we waited
for the "trucks," of which there were but two, to take it to the
naval battery some three miles distant, and to reach which we
had to plough through sand knee-deep, and cross many hills.
There was no particular road. Four of the guns were sent off
the first day and night, but we remained on the beach with
ours. The next day, 23d, Midshipman Jones was sent with the
gun-carriages, ammunition and implements, and towards sunset
one "truck" came back and Lieutenant Baldwin and Midshipman
McLane started with one gun, leaving me to take up
the other and last. I tried to keep my men together, but had
much trouble with them; missing some of them I went to a
sutler's store near by and found them round a cask of ale which
they had tapped. I capsized the barrel as the best way to
solve the difficulty. Towards midnight another "truck"
arrived with two or three hundred "regulars" and their officers,
and a number of mules. The sailors slung the gun, the mules
were hitched, the soldiers manned the drag-ropes and off we
went. I walked with the officers in advance. The batteries
kept up a constant fire upon our lines and the bombs occasionally
went over our heads, or burst near us. No one was
hurt, however, and we kept steadily on. The bombs could be
followed with the eye by the burning fuse and presented a
grand sight.

The "truck" we were using was nearly worn out, and we
broke down several times; but we managed to patch it up


94

until we got very near General Patterson's headquarters, where
the "regulars" were to be relieved by a detachment of volunteers,
and here the "truck" broke down entirely. We found,
after many attempts to sling the gun for one more effort, that
we must make up our minds to wait for the other "truck,"
which had taken up Baldwin's gun, and must be on its return.
One of my best men was a negro: a tall, powerful fellow who
performed wonders in getting the gun slung, and helping along
generally; he was the life of the party until we got to the battery;
but he succumbed at the first gun from the enemy and
was of no further use. After breaking down the last time the
senior army officer said to me that if I made no objection he
would take his men back to their camp as they had had much
hard work, and could do nothing by remaining. Of course I
made no objection, so I was left with about twenty half drunken
sailors who threw themselves on the ground and were soon
asleep. I took a seat upon the gun, and confess to feeling
lonesome, and to make matters worse a snake ran over my
legs, and that was more than I could stand—bomb shells were
nothing to it. I knew General Patterson had been informed
of my condition, and I made up my mind that if the other
"truck" did not come, or if it broke down, I would make my
way to the battery with my men. However, towards daybreak
I heard the welcome creaking of wheels, and soon after the
"truck" appeared with a large detachment of soldiers—my
men sprung up refreshed and ready for anything; we slung
the gun and were soon underweigh. We forded a small stream
near General Patterson's quarters, and here Captain Aulick
came out and directed me to come back from the battery as
soon as I had gotten my gun mounted, and let him know
"how affairs were going on." As I had been up for two
nights I was not in the best of humors—indeed, for the first
time in my midshipman's career I was insubordinate: so I
told the captain that as soon as my gun was mounted we would
open fire, and that I would not leave the battery after that!
He eyed me keenly for a moment, and a pretty picture I must

95

have presented after my two days experience in the sand and
dirt, and then told me to take his clerk up with me and send
the message back by him, and this I did.

Now the naval battery (as it came to be called) was placed
by the engineer officers only about seven hundred yards from
the walls of Vera Cruz. It was carefully masked and all
the guns had been taken to it by night; so the Mexicans up
to this time had no suspicion of its existence; but my gun
being delayed, as I have said, it was broad daylight when we
crossed a railroad which ran a short distance from the principal
gate. I believe there were never any cars on it. We
rushed the gun across the track as rapidly as possible, but the
Mexicans, if they did not make out the gun, saw enough to
excite their suspicions; and probably sent their engineer officers
out to make a more careful examination of the surrounding
hills. At all events we got safely to the battery, mounted
the gun, and that completed the number. I went to the brow
of the hill and looking through the brushwood which served
to mask the battery saw the city of Vera Cruz stretched at our
feet; and just over the city and within easy range the Castle
of San Juan de Ulloa with its hundred guns. It was a beautiful
scene, and in the early tropical morning everything looked
so tranquil and sleepy that it was hard to realize that in a few
minutes the silence would be broken by what Napoleon III.
called a "fire of hell;" or what our volunteers more forcibly
called a "hell of afire!"

Some distance in the rear of the battery, lying in trenches,
was a brigade of volunteers ready to support us in case the
enemy attempted to storm our position. The first gun on the
right of the battery was the Raritan's 32 pounder, Lieutenant
Harry Ingersoll; the next the Potomac's 32 pounder, Lieutenant
A. S. Baldwin; then there was a heavy "traverse," built
of sand bags of six or more feet in thickness to prevent a raking
fire; then came the Mississippi's 64 pounder shell gun,
Lieutenant Sidney Smith Lee; next the St. Mary's 64 pounder
shell gun, Lieutenant C. H. Kennedy; then another "traverse,"


96

and finally the Albany's 64 pounder shell gun, Lieutenant
Oliver H. Perry; and next on the extreme left, the Potomac'
32 pounder, Commander Alexander Slidell Mackenzie.

Captain Mackenzie was Commodore Perry's fleet captain,
and we did not know that he was in the battery. Midshipman
Jones and I were of the same date and we had some conversation
as to which of us would command the Potomac's second
gun; so when we saw Captain Mackenzie take charge of it
we growled a good deal; but there was no help for it, so Jones
stayed with the captain, and McLane and I with Baldwin.
Captain John H. Aulick of the Potomac, being the senior captain
in the fleet, was appointed to command the battery on
the first day, March 24, 1847, and after that Captains Mayo,
Stringham, Forrest and Breese were to command one day
each in succession.

The guns were mounted on platforms, on their own carriages.
The recoil was checked with sand-bags, and they were
run out with the side-tackles and handspikes. Our gun was
fired with a match, as we had the lock blown off early in the
fight.

I should mention that the battery was constructed entirely
of sand-bags. I do not know whether this was the first time
that sand-bags were so used, but they answered their purpose
so admirably this day that I wonder that any engineer who
witnessed the fight should ever have thought of any other
fortifications than "earthworks." I am very sorry* I cannot
give the name of the officer who planned this work. It resisted
a very heavy fire for two days, and was not injured to
any extent. What damage was done was repaired at night
and I suppose we could have held it for an indefinite time.

We were sponging the last gun mounted, and getting the
sand out of it, when the battery opposite us opened with a fire
so well aimed that it was evident we were discovered. Orders
were immediately given to unmask the battery, and it was
soon done. The Mexicans had a cross-fire on us from seven
forts and now opened on us from them all; and the castle


97

threw 10-inch bombshells over the city in our midst. For the
first five minutes the air seemed to be full of missiles, and it
did really look as if it was "no place for the bugler." But
our men soon settled down to their work and let them know
what American sailors could do with navy guns.

We heard afterwards that when the Mexican engineers picked
up some 64-pounder shells which had not exploded and 32-pounder
solid shot they said the place must fall.

We fired with great accuracy and after a few hours the
enemy's fire commenced to slacken, though it was still heavy.
A few minutes after we opened I heard a peculiar "thud,"
and turning round I saw that a man's head had been taken
off by a round-shot at the next gun. I saw Ingersoll wipe
the man's brains off his own face with a white handkerchief,
and coolly go on with his firing. This was the first man I
ever saw killed by a solid shot.

Lieutenant Baldwin happening to say about this time that
his gun was not entirely unmasked so that he could see Midshipman
McLane and a man named Cavanagh sprang through
the embrasure and cleared away the brushwood. For this
gallant act they were very properly mentioned by Captain
Aulick in his official report.

Our fire was first directed against the batteries, or forts, and
afterwards at the walls of the city. Lieutenant Baldwin fired
with great coolness and deliberation and soon succeeded in
cutting away the flagstaff of the battery opposite us—called
by our men the "red" battery, and the most spiteful devil of
them all. At this all hands mounted the parapet and gave
three cheers. We cut away the walls to the right and left of
the forts as cheese is sliced with a knife and soon made a
practicable breach, if it had been intended to assault. These
breaches were filled up that night with sand-bags and were
stronger than ever. This I noticed upon a visit to the town a
few days after it had surrendered.

Several amusing scenes came under my observation during
the day. Just in the rear of the guns a trench had been dug


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for the powder-boys to jump into for shelter. They would
run from the magazine, a little farther back, and wait in the
trench until the cartridge was wanted. A large shell happening
to fall just back of the trench the order was given to lie
down. A powder-boy threw himself upon the ground very
near the shell, and I saw him eye it anxiously. He then commenced
rolling himself towards the trench, and there being a
gentle inclination the disturbance of the loose earth caused
the shell to roll after him!

Dickens says that Miss La Crevy, the little portrait painter
in Nicholas Nickleby, upon hearing of the death of Smike
screwed her face, in the effort to prevent crying, into such remarkable
contortions that "if she could have transferred it
to canvas she would have made her everlasting fortune:" and
so it was with that boy's expression if I could but paint it.
Finally he rolled into the trench and the shell followed—
fortunately not on top of him. No jack-in-a-box ever sprang
up with more sprightliness than did that powder monkey!
After all the shell did not explode.

Upon another occasion a shell foil in the battery and at the
order "down!" a number of us fell on the ground together,
with Passed Midshipman Charles M. Fauntleroy underneath.
He had a self-cocking revolver in his hand and in the excitement
involuntarily fired off two barrels; one of the bullets
wounded me slightly in the left knee; and although it only
broke the skin, it pained me for some weeks after. Where
the bullets went, and why some one was not killed (unless it
was because they were midshipmen) is more than I can tell.

Fauntleroy was stationed at the next gun to me: at the end
of the day's fight hearing Captain Aulick express a desire to
send a dispatch to the beach he volunteered to take it. As
the Mexicans were playing upon us with all their guns at this
time, we being out of ammunition and unable to reply, it was
no joke to go from under the protection of our parapet. He
got safely through, however, and he should have been specially
mentioned for it; but he was not. He served with much distinction


99

in the civil war on the southern side, sometimes in the
navy and at others in the army. At one time he was the inspector
general of General Jos. E. Johnston's army. A better
officer or more chivalric man never trod a quarter deck; and
a truer messmate never took his bean soup out of a cigar-box
(with a sliding cover to prevent the other reefers from grabbing)
as he told me he once did himself. By the way he was
the fellow that bought the one-eyed game cock in San Domingo.
As we got out of ammunition the embrasures were filled up
with sand bags, and the men were directed to lie close in under
the parapet and traverses. We were the last gun to expend
our ammunition, and Lieutenant Baldwin being wounded, I
had the honor of being left in command of it. At the very
last fire we double shotted it, which was a rash thing to do as
the gun was very much heated and there was danger of its
bursting. Indeed Captain Aulick said the gun certainly would
burst and ordered me to draw one of the shot; but we had
no means to do it; so sending the men out of the way after
aiming it, McLane stood on one side of the breech with a
match and I on the other, and we fired it. I suppose our idea
in doing this was that if the gun did burst we would not live
to be reprimanded by "old Aulick." After filling up all the
embrasures we had nothing to do but to sit under the parapet
and await the arrival of our "relief" under Captain Mayo.
The Mexicans having returned to their guns, most of which we
had previously silenced, sent a storm of shot and shell over
our heads and it was rather fun to watch the new fellows
coming up, though they probably "did not see it." Our loss
this day was four killed; and one officer and five men wounded.
I never heard what the loss of the enemy was from our fire.

Upon Captain Mayo assuming the command we were ordered
to make the best of our way to the beach, and the Potomac's
men left in charge of Midshipmen Jones and McLane. I went
down in a wagon to take care of Mr. Baldwin who was
wounded. We had four wild mules hitched to an army wagon,
and as the road was frequently blocked by other wagons, and


100

one of our mules had his tail shaved off by a cannon shot, it
was with much difficulty and danger that we got through.
However by 8 P. M. we were all safely on board the old Potomac,
eating our supper of hard tack and salt junk, and telling
the other fellows "all about it." On the next day, 25th, the
navy battery continued its good work under the gallant Captain
Isaac N. Mayo. The fire from it confirmed the Mexicans
in the belief that the town must fall, and on the evening of
that day they sent out a flag of truce preparatory to surrendering.
Our loss in the battery was Midshipman T. Shubrick of
the Mississippi and several men killed and a few wounded.

On the 27th commissioners were appointed to arrange the
terms of the capitulation, and Captain Aulick represented the
navy on the occasion. The fall of Vera Cruz did not necessarily
involve that of the castle, for the latter commanded the
city. For this reason preparations were being made in the
fleet to carry the castle by an escalade in case it held out.
For some reason it did not do so, and its commander gave up
when the city did. Some said that General Scott would have
assaulted the city on the night of the 25th had the flag of truce
not come out that afternoon; but I know nothing as to the
truth of this report. General Scott probably kept his own
counsel. The enemy surrendered five thousand prisoners, and
five hundred pieces of artillery of all calibres. Taking everything
into consideration they made a brave defence. The loss
of life among the soldiers was not great; but I am sorry to say
that many women and children were killed. This was not
General Scott's fault, as he gave the authorities a chance to
send them away which they declined to avail themselves of.
When our advance guard entered the town on the 27th to take
possession they saw just as they passed through the gate the
naked corpse of a woman lying in the middle of the street,
placed there for effect, of course. During the bombardment
the citizens took refuge in the churches, which was unfortunate
for them as the steeples and towers made them conspicuous
objects by which to "lay" the mortars. On the 27th our army


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marched in, as I have said, and many of the naval officers
were allowed to go on shore to witness the ceremonies. I went
in a boat to the mole to be ready to transport our captain to
the castle. It seemed to me strange to pull in under the guns
of the castle without being fired at. We had been watching
it at a distance for so many long months that I could not divest
myself of a feeling of awe as we approached it. The mole was
occupied by the lazzaroni who were civil enough while we
waited there. After some hours the "advance" arrived, and
I took General Patterson and Captain Aulick to the castle of
San Juan. I had a good opportunity to examine it, both then
and afterwards. I have recorded my opinion as to its strength.
It is only that of a young midshipman. When I first visited
it, it was certainly the filthiest place I had ever been in; and
as for the smells the city of Cologne itself could not surpass
them.

General Scott's plans for the capture of Vera Cruz and
prosecution of the campaign were admirable. As the troops
detailed for the garrison of the castle and town marched in to
take possession the division of "regulars" under General Twiggs
took up the line of march for the city of Mexico. Only twenty-two
days after the fall of Vera Cruz Scott defeated the
Mexicans at Cerro Gordo, where Santa Anna was strongly
posted with an army of twelve thousand men. Captain Joseph
E. Johnston of the topographical engineers (the present General
Johnston) was badly wounded the day before this battle
while reconnoitring, and Midshipman McLane of our ship
who was his brother-in-law went up to look out for him; so
when he returned he told us much about this fight. The
marines of the fleet were on shore with the army during the
entire siege and behaved with great gallantry, as indeed they
did in all the naval operations of the war. A few days after
our occupation of the city I went on shore and visited the forts,
&c.—they were badly battered. In the churches the organs,
pictures and images were generally knocked to pieces, and
men were hard at work glueing on the arms and legs of the


102

saints. I thought it characteristic of these people to be at this
when there were so many suffering people outside to be attended
to. I saw many sad sights that day in the way of wounded
non-combatants, and was glad to get back to the ship again.

The Potomac now went up and anchored near the castle. We
sent a number of the captured guns home. I spent many
an hour in carrying them to the transports—they were generally
very long eighteen pounders, cast of brass or bronze—the
metal was very valuable and the original cost of the armament
of the castle and city must have been enormous. Some
of the guns were very old, and no doubt had a history. All
had names and mottoes inscribed on them; one was called
"the terror of the North Americans." Many of these guns are
now at the naval academy in Annapolis—to me they recall
days of hard work, whatever may be the thoughts of others
in viewing them.


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CHAPTER X.
EXPEDITION TO ALVARADO—"ALVARADO" HUNTER AND THE STEAMER
"SCOURGE"—A COINCIDENCE—AN ALLEGORY—CAPTURE OF TUSPAN—
JACK BEARD'S DISAPPOINTMENT—GRAND EXPEDITION TO TOBASCO—ATTACK
ON THE GUNBOATS BY THE ENEMY IN AMBUSH—LANDING AT THE
DEVIL'S BEND—THE MARCH—INCIDENTS—THE STEAMERS RAISE THE
CHEVAUX DE FRISE AND TAKE THE FORT—CAPTURE OF THE TOWN OF
TOBASCO—CAPTAIN BIGELOW APPOINTED GOVERNOR—AN UNFORTUNATE
AFFAIR—SAIL FOR HOME IN THE FRIGATE "RARITAN"—YELLOW
FEVER—ARRIVAL AT NORFOLK.

AFTER the capture of Vera Cruz, in which the Navy had
played so conspicuous a part, Commodore Perry determined to
take Alvarado, which place it will be remembered had successfully
resisted two attempts made on it by the vessels under
Commodore Conner. Alvarado, situated near the mouth of
the river of the same name, is a small town, thirty-three miles
S. E. of Vera Cruz. At this time it was blockaded by the
Scourge, Lieutenant Commanding Charles G. Hunter. The
Scourge was a very small steamer, carrying one gun, and a
crew of perhaps forty men. She had but lately joined the
squadron.

The Commodore made great preparations for this attack,
and to make assurance doubly sure a brigade under General
Quitman was to march along the beach and co-operate with
the vessels.

We accordingly sailed in the Potomac, and as the signal was
made to the ships to make the best of their way, we, being out
of trim and consequently a dull sailer, did not arrive oft
Alvarado until towards the last. As we approached the bar
we saw that something was wrong as the vessels were all
under weigh instead of being at anchor. Very soon the Albany


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hailed us and said that Alvarado was taken. "By whom?"
asked our captain." "By Lieutenant Hunter, in the Scourge,"
was the reply. And so it was. Hunter, the day before had
stood in pretty close and observing indications of flinching on
the part of the enemy he dashed boldly in and captured the
place almost without firing a gun. Not satisfied with this he
threw a garrison, consisting of a midshipman and two men, on
shore and proceeded in his steamer up the river to a place
called Tlacatalpan which he also captured.

When General Quitman arrived with his brigade and the
place was gravely delivered over to him by Passed Midshipman
William G. Temple (the present Commodore Temple), he was
greatly amused and laughed heartily over the affair, But it
was far otherwise with Commodore Perry; he was furious and
as soon as he could get hold of Hunter (which was not so easy
to do as he continued his way up the river, and we could hear
him firing right and left), he placed him under arrest, and
preferred charges against him. This was a mistake—he should
have complimented him in a general order, and let the thing
pass. Lieutenant Hunter was shortly after tried by a court-martial
and sentenced to be reprimanded by the Commodore;
the reprimand to be read on the quarter-deck of every vessel in
the squadron. This was done, and the reprimand was very
bitter in tone and unnecessarily severe.

The reprimand said in effect: "Who told you to capture
Alvarado? You were sent to watch Alvarado, and not to
take it. You have taken Alvarado with but a single gun, and
not a marine to back you!" and it wound up by saying that
the squadron would soon make an attack on Tobasco, in which
he should not join; but that he should be dismissed the
squadron. This action on the part of the Commodore was
not favorably regarded by the officers of the squadron; and
as to the people at home they made a hero of Hunter. Dinners
were given him, swords presented, etc., and he was known as
"Alvarado" Hunter to his dying day.

Poor Hunter, his fate was a sad one after all. Soon after


105

his arrival at home his friends got him the command of the
schooner Taney, and in her he made a sort of a roving cruise
in the Mediterranean. He was not allowed a purser, and being
extremely careless with his accounts found himself heavily involved
upon his return to the United States. His friends came
to his assistance and succeeded in getting him another command.
He went to the Brazil station in command of the brig
Bainbridge. I think this was in 1854 or '55. After being on
the station for a year or so, he got into some difficulty with
the commodore and deliberately ran away from the squadron
in his brig, and brought her home to New York. Relying
upon his popularity he issued an "address" to the people as
soon as he arrived. As well as I remember he found fault
with his commodore for not sending the Bainbridge to the
Falkland islands to adjust some matters in dispute and for
which business the commodore no doubt considered him too
rash. The "address" fell to the ground. It would not do—the
offence was of too serious a nature to be overlooked, and he
was immediately dismissed the service by the President. Not
very long after, he died in a New York hospital. In many respects
he was one of the best naval officers of his day.

Looking over Bernal Diaz' "Conquest of Mexico" not long
ago I came across an incident related by him which strikes me
as a rather remarkable coincidence: he says, in speaking of the
voyage of Juan de Grijalva in 1518, and in which Pedro de
Alvarado (afterwards a captain under Cortez) had a command:
"Alvarado discovered and entered the river called by the
natives Papalohuna, but by us afterwards the river of Alvarado;
where the natives of a place named Tlatocalpa presented
him with some fish. Our chief was much displeased with the
conduct of this officer
, for whose return we were obliged to wait
for the space of three days, and gave orders that in future no
ship should ever separate from the squadron."

Upon my return to the United States after the war, while
traveling between Baltimore and Philadelphia, I bought a
New York paper which contained an article which seems not


106

to have been generally read; at least I have never mentioned
it to a man who had read it. It was headed: An Allegory,
and was so apropos that I am tempted to repeat it:

"Once upon a time the inhabitants of a certain village were
much annoyed by the depredations of a wolf. Two expeditions
had been organized and sent out to kill this wolf, but failed to
find him. One day, however, a man came in and reported
that he had seen the wolf go into a cave, and he thought that
if they went out soon enough they would catch him. The
Selectmen of the village immediately called up a countryman
and directed him to go out and watch the mouth of the cave to
see that the wolf did not escape; and he, throwing a hoe over
his shoulder, and whistling up his dog, started out to do so.
The Selectmen now organized a grand expedition with music
and banners, and marched out to the cave. Upon their arrival
there the countryman met them with the information that the
wolf was dead; he said that while he was watching the mouth
of the cave the wolf got his head in a hole and could not draw
it out again; seeing which he went in and chopped his head off
with his hoe.
The Selectmen were highly indignant at this information,
and the chief man stepped forward and reprimanded
the countryman in these words: "Who told you to kill that
wolf? You were sent to watch that wolf and not to kill him.
You have killed that wolf with a single hoe, and only a dog to
back you! But I'll tell you what it is; we are going on a
coon hunt to-night, and d—n you, you shan't go." I never
knew who of Hunter's friends wrote this article, but it struck
me as clever.

Commodore Perry next turned his attention to the capture
of Tuspan. The Potomac sent a detachment of fifty men on
this expedition, under a lieutenant. Midshipman Hunter
went from our mess. The bar at Tuspan is a dangerous
one and the small steamers had their masts hoisted out to
lighten them. Commodore Perry hoisted his flag on the
Spitfire and led the way up the river with the boats of the
squadron in tow. The first fort on the river below the town,


107

called the Pana, was silenced by the guns of the Spitfire and
then stormed by the sailors; two other forts were taken in the
same way and the town was occupied.

The Mexicans made a spirited defence. Captain Tatnall,
Commander Whittle and Lieutenant James Parker were
wounded, with some men. We lost but one man killed. The
guns taken from the brig Truxtun were found in one of the
forts, and restored to the fleet.

Upon Hunter's return from this expedition he had many
amusing yarns to spin. We had a man named John Beard,
captain of the maintop, who was an original in his way.
Hunter told us that in the attack on the town of Tuspan
Beard pushed ahead after the retreating enemy and succeeded
in capturing a soldier; taking his musket from him, and
tying his hands behind his back with his neckerchief, he proceeded
to take him to headquarters. On his way he invited
those of his shipmates whom he met to turn back as he
intended to show his prisoner to the commodore, and then
take him out and shoot him. This interesting spectacle he
thought they would not like to miss. Upon the commodore's
ordering the prisoner to be put in the guard-house, Jack preferred
his modest request to take him out and deal with him
in accordance with his deserts. To his surprise the commodore
pitched into him most savagely, and came near giving him a
dozen with the "cat-o'-nine-tails" there and then.

"Well," said Beard, "if I had supposed he was to be put
in the guard-house I would have shot him when I had the
chance." He always considered himself badly treated in this
affair.

There remained but one place of importance on the coast
in the hands of the enemy and to that we now turned our
attention. It was Tobasco, which I have already described;
and as it was well garrisoned and commanded by a brave officer,
General Bravo, we expected a serious resistance. Great care
was taken in organizing the attacking force. It consisted of
the light vessels and cutters. I can recall, of the vessels which


108

went up the river, the steamers Scorpion and Spitfire; the bomb
vessel Vesuvius; the brig Washington and detachments from
the Raritan, Potomac, Mississippi, Germantown and Decatur.
Doubtless there were other vessels represented. The force was
divided into two grand divisions; and we had a thousand
sailors and marines, and ten pieces of light artillery ready to
land. The guns were the Army six-pounders and were drawn
by hand. I was detached from the Potomac and ordered to
the frigate Raritan, then lying off the mouth of the Tobasco
river, and went down in the flag-ship Mississippi to join her.

A detachment of fifty men from the Potomac, under Lieutenant
Stellwagen and Midshipman A. McLaughlin, took
passage in the Mississippi as part of the attacking force.
Commodore Perry kindly offered me a place on his staff; but
finding an old shipmate, Lieutenant L. Maynard, in command
of a company of pioneers I preferred joining him.

Arriving off the river in June, 1847, the Scorpion bearing
the flag of Commodore Perry with the first division in tow
crossed the bar and commenced the ascent of the river,
followed by the second division, commanded by Captain Forrest,
in tow of the Spitfire.

I was in a small whale-boat with Midshipman King and the
company of pioneers. Our boat towed astern of the brig
Washington and she was in tow of the Scorpion, Captain
Bigelow.

The city of Tobasco, called also San Juan de Bautista and
Villa Hermosa, is seventy-five miles from the mouth of the
river. We anchored off the town of Frontera the first day
and made our final dispositions. The next morning at dawn
we started again. About three o'clock in the afternoon as we
were going along in fancied security we were fired on by the
Mexicans lying in ambush on a high hill. We had no one
hurt, the shots going over us, and we returned the fire without
stopping. We continued on up the river and about sunset
anchored at a place called the "Devil's Bend," seven miles
below the town of Tobasco. Here the river was known to be


109

obstructed by a chevaux de frise; and it was the intention of
the commodore to land the men here if it was found impossible
to raise the obstruction. As soon as the vessels anchored
we youngsters assembled on board the Scorpion and commenced
discussing the attack made on us in the afternoon. Passed
Midshipman Nelson (known as Bully Nelson) was expatiating
in a loud voice, after his manner; the subject of his remarks
was that he did not believe that we had been fired into at all—
that it was all gammon, etc. Now the commodore did not
intend to have any part of our work depreciated, so Mr. Nelson
was promptly suspended and sent below. This was my first
introduction to this officer, who was a brave man if he was a
bully. He became a major-general in the U. S. Army, distinguished
himself at Shiloh, and was finally killed by one of
his own brigadier-generals for some affront, real or fancied.

The vessels and boats all lay huddled together at the Devil's
Bend, and just about dark a Mexican came to the bank of the
river and deliberately shot a man on board the Vesuvius. A
bold fellow whoever he was, and although we opened with
great guns, field artillery, and small arms I do not believe he
was hit!

The next morning at daylight Lieutenants Alden and May
were sent up the river in their boats to sound over the obstructions.
They had hardly commenced operations when the enemy
opened a fire upon them from the banks by which Lieutenant
May and some men were wounded. It being impossible to
continue the work under this fire the boats returned, and the
commodore determined to land the men and march to the city.
This was done, and in a short time we had a thousand men
and ten field pieces on shore. It was hard work scrambling
up the bank, which was steep, and how the guns were hauled
up I never knew; but it was done, and a pretty sight it was
as seen from the vessels. Of this force two hundred were
marines under Captain Edson, and a fine body of men they
were. The order of march was that the pioneers should constitute
the advance guard, then the marines, and next the companies


110

of sailors, with the field pieces in the centre. As soon
as the pioneers landed, we pushed ahead to look for the road,
and having found it the order was given to the command to
march. After marching a few miles we came upon the Mexicans
who opened fire upon us from an intrenchment. A halt
was called by the commodore, and the field pieces were ordered
to the front; they commenced firing as they got up. The
marines deployed on our right, and we were all in line eagerly
waiting for the word to charge. Now I was "flying light" upon
this occasion; instead of being loaded down with arms and ammunition
as most of the officers were I had but my dress sword,
which I carried in my hand, and a small double barreled rifle
pistol in my breast pocket. My haversack I threw away, and
being clothed in simple jacket and trousers, with not even a
vest, I was ready for a "fight or a foot-race." Commodore
Perry was well in front with a sailor holding his broad pennant
immediately behind him, presumably as a good mark for
the enemy. After a few rounds from Blunt's and Frank Murray's
guns the order was given to charge, and away we went,
pioneers with their axes, marines, artillerymen and sailors in a
mass. For my own part I had no definite idea as to what I
expected to do; but I determined at all events to get to the
front, and I did so. We went over the intrenchments, from
which the enemy fled as soon as they saw us coming. I was
by this time in the lead, and was one of the very few who
caught sight of a Mexican at this place. I had one in sight
and did my best to capture him. Lieutenant Maynard, long
as his legs were, could not keep up with me, and I could hear
him shouting in an exhausted voice, "catch him Parker."
After running my man a half mile or so, we came to a hamlet;
he ran through a hut, or open shed, and I after him; and
when I got to the other side he had disappeared and was not
to be found. It was a narrow escape—for me I mean, not the
Mexican, for as I weighed about one hundred pounds only I
suppose if I had caught him he would have coolly cut my
throat and continued his flight. As our men came up we resumed

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the search, but without success; and it has always been
a mystery to me where in the mischief he did go. Maynard
could testify that he was not like Sarey Gamp's Mrs. Harris!

The march was resumed and soon the men commenced to
suffer from the heat, and want of water. The artillerymen,
especially, were breaking down. Most of the guns had been
thoughtlessly landed without the limbers, and it was almost
impossible to draw them with the trails dragging on the
ground; so two men had to stand by to lift them. All the
ammunition, too, was in boxes, slung to handspikes, and carried
across the men's shoulders. It was heartbreaking and
backbreaking work, and many men succumbed. It took all
the men we had to keep the guns up in position. Sailors cannot
march, however ready they may be to attempt it.

We struck the river about this time and the men rushed in
to drink without much regard to order, and just then to our
great surprise the steamers passed by and gave us a broadside.
Fortunately no one was hurt, and we hastened to show our
flags.

The way the steamers happened to be there was this: a certain
Captain Taylor had invented a method of raising sunken
obstructions, and had been sent out with his apparatus. He
was with us at this time. His method consisted simply in
this: India rubber bags were attached to the obstructions by
divers; the bags were then inflated with air by means of tubes
from above; and their buoyancy would cause them to rise and
bring up the obstructions. In this way the chevaux de frise
had been raised at the Devil's Bend; and Captain Bigelow
immediately started up the river with the vessels under his
command.

As we advanced with our tired men the pioneers would frequently
be called back from the front to assist in getting the
guns across the rough corduroy roads and bridges we had previously
constructed; and this gave us an extra amount of
walking; but our men stood it very well and we were in the
advance when we came in sight of the fort, situated on the


112

left bank of the river, a few miles below Tobasco. We knew
the fort contained some heavy guns.

Midshipman King was sent back to notify the commodore
and we continued to advance. We were in single file, I remember,
and I proposed to Maynard that we should form "line
abreast," giving as a reason that a raking shot would bowl us
all down like nine-pins. Maynard adopted the suggestion.
When we got near enough to distinguish the flag, which was
flying from a tall flag-staff, "what words can express our disgust
and surprise" when we saw that it was the American flag!!
We had had our toilsome march for nothing. The steamers
had arrived before us, and after a short action had captured
the fort—the garrison retreating from it. I have always
thought that this was a fortunate thing for the land party, as
we would have lost many men in taking it by assault with our
limited knowledge of military tactics. We would have had to
advance a mile across a plain in the face of a fire from a number
of heavy guns, and I do not suppose it would have entered
our heads to try a flank movement. Upon our arrival at the
fort the commodore ordered a halt to allow the line, which
now extended for some miles, to close up. We found a well
here, and were glad to get a glass of cool water. After some
fifty of us had drank, Commodore Perry came up and directed
that no one should drink from the well as it was probably
poisoned. We who had already done so now suffered excruciating
pains for a short time; but there was nothing the matter
with the water, and we soon forgot all about it.

When the line was closed up we took up the line of march
for the city. There was a wide, paved road to it from the fort,
and as we marched along in company front, with a fine band
of music at the head of the column and flags flying, we no
doubt presented a gallant appearance. Most of the inhabitants
had fled, I think, and the only persons left to admire us were a
few foreigners. We entered the city about sunset, and were
assigned quarters by our acting quartermaster. The few people
remaining in the town were not at all disturbed by us. There


113

was some drinking by our men the first night, but it was soon
put a stop to. The first thing I saw the next morning was
the provost guard marching off a lot of sailors to the guard
house. Most of the men were dressed in women's clothes and
presented a ridiculous appearance. Captain Bigelow was appointed
governor of the town, and a garrison of several hundred
men detailed; the rest of the men were sent back to their vessels;
the pioneers among the number.

The afternoon we left Tobasco on our return, the boats assembled
alongside the Vesuvius at the Devil's Bend. I suppose
there were six or seven hundred men collected there, and one
of them happening to discharge his musket a fusilade commenced
which the officers found it impossible to stop, and
finally we had to take refuge in the cabin of the vessel to avoid
being shot. The men kept it up until they got out of ammunition.
That night one of the steamers towed us down the
river and the next morning we joined our respective ships.
The garrison at Tobasco was not left in quiet possession by the
Mexicans. They kept it in a constant state of alarm. Captain
Bigelow marched out on one occasion and fought a battle with
them and defeated them. The Potomac's men behaved very
well in this combat.

An unfortunate affair occurred during the summer. The
Mexicans were in the habit of stealing up on our outposts at
night and opening an annoying fire. Passed Midshipman
Bradford of the Spitfire, to stop it, took a number of his men
out one evening after sunset and concealed them in the chapparral:
—the idea being to surprise the enemy,—but unfortunately
the officer in command of the field piece at the outpost,
Midshipman A. McLaughlin, was not notified of this manœuvre;
so when Bradford opened on the Mexicans about 10 o'clock
that night McLaughlin opened on Bradford and killed and
wounded a number of his men. Fortunately Bradford made
himself known before the field piece was fired a second time.
The capture of Tobasco was the last of the naval operations of
the war, and all the ports were now in our possession.


114

The yellow fever broke out during the summer along the entire
coast; it was particularly virulent at Vera Cruz and Anton
Lizardo and the navy lost many valuable officers and men.
General Scott took possession of the city of Mexico on the 14th
of September, 1847, which practically ended the war. The
treaty of peace was signed at Guadalupe Hidalgo on the 2d of
February, 1848. By this war the United States came into
possession of New Mexico and California.

Upon my arrival at the mouth of the river Tobasco I went
on board the frigate Raritan, Captain Forrest, for a passage
home. My old ship, the Potomac sailed also for home at the
same time from Vera Cruz. We sailed for Norfolk about the
1st of July and the yellow fever broke out the day after. The
first case was that of Midshipman Robert B. Storer, a most
promising young officer, and he died almost before I realized
that he was sick. The surgeon at first concealed the fact that
"yellow jack" had made its appearance, but we very soon had
from 150 to 200 officers and men down with it. It became
evident that the worst cases were those whose duties kept them
much below decks, such as the purser's clerk, the captain of the
hold, &c., and the captain very wisely ordered us all to remain
on the spar and main decks, and not to go below under any
circumstances. The ward-room officers messed on the spar
deck and the midshipmen on the main deck. All etiquette
was laid aside, drills were suspended, and everything done to
make all hands as comfortable as possible. Of four doctors
but one remained on duty; most fortunately he escaped entirely.
Captains McCluney and Walker (passengers in the cabin) were
down; all the ward-room officers but the four lieutenants, and
all the midshipmen were sick. I have mentioned in a former
chapter the fact that it was my second attack. The ship
became a floating hospital, and to make matters worse
we were frequently becalmed, and when we did have a wind
what distance we made to the eastward we would lose by the
strong current setting to the westward through the Yucatan
channel. Captain Forrest's conduct in this trying time was


115

admirable; he frequently visited the sick, and at all hours of
the day his cheerful voice could be heard singing in his cabin.
No doubt he did it to encourage us. As for myself I determined
to get home
and that alone saved my life. Those who gave
themselves up to despair soon died. I cannot attempt to describe
the appearance of the ship, nor the many weary days we
passed— "many a day to night gave way, and many a morn
succeeded" —but at last we got to Havana where we put in for
medicines—we were out of nearly everything. The authorities
at Havana treated us in the handsomest manner. We were
put in quarantine, of course, but supplies of every kind were
sent us—among other things ice!

I have always been fond of music—in fact I may say I have
an ear for music—in my youth I had heard the wonderful Clara
Novello, and since then I have listened to the melodious tones
of the divine Patti; but no music ever equalled in my ears the
rattling of the ice on a large platter which the hospital steward
carried round to the sick that morning, and for which I lay in
my hammock awaiting my turn!

We remained in Havana but twenty-four hours, and as soon
as we got outside the harbor we hove to, and buried Captain
Alvin Edson of the Marines and two of his guard with him.
We lost on the passage Captain Edson, Midshipman Storer,
the purser's clerk, the purser's steward and a good many
men—the exact number I do not know. We arrived at Norfolk
the latter part of July, and the Potomac, with my old
messmates, arrived the very same day. There was no fever,
on board the Potomac; so, as they said, if I had not left her I
would not have had the yellow fever a second time—but then
again I would not have been on the famous Tobasco expedition.

Captain Forrest ran the Raritan up to the town and anchored
off the naval hospital; the sick were immediately landed, the
remainder of the officers and crew granted leave of absence
and discharged, and the ship was taken down and anchored
off Craney Island. The fever did not spread, and I


116

never heard that a case occurred in Norfolk or Portsmouth
this summer. But if men had been put to work on the
Raritan breaking out her holds, etc., it might have been
different; for that the steamer Ben Franklin carried the yellow
fever to those cities in 1855 is "as true as taxes," as Mr.
Barkis says.

As soon as I obtained my leave of absence I started for
Boston. I had had my head shaved, was as yellow as gold,
and weighed about ninety pounds, and to crown all my tailor
made my clothes too small. Smike himself did not present a
more ridiculous appearance.

Upon my arrival at Boston I got into an hotel coach which
had many other passengers in it; the driver said he would
drive them to their several destinations in Boston and then
take me to the Charlestown Navy Yard, which my father commanded.
One young man would not get out at the Lowell
depot, but said he would wait. The driver told him that if he
went to Charlestown he would miss his train: still he persisted
that he would wait; and I saw that he had made up his mind
to see the last of me. I could not understand his behavior at
the time, but I knew afterwards. He thought I was being
taken to the penitentiary, which is located in Charlestown!

During the summer I remained "on leave" and my physician
tried to "build me up," for in the autumn I was to go to
Annapolis to prepare for that grand climacteric of a Middy's
life, his examination for the grade of Passed Midshipman.


117

CHAPTER XI.
ORDERED TO ANNAPOLIS—THE NAVAL SCHOOL OF 1847—CAPTAIN GEORGE
P. UPSHUR—DUELS—THE BATTLE GROUND OF BLADENSBURG—PROFESSOR
WILLIAM CHAUVENET—SWAPPING YARNS—PAT MURPHY AND THE
COON SKINS—CAPTAIN X'S DILEMMA—COMMODORE CHAUNCEY—A PRECISE
MESSAGE—A SAILOR'S TESTIMONY—VAN NESS PHILIP'S VISIT TO
TROY—THOMPSONIAN TREATMENT—MAD JACK PERCIVAL—PASS MY EXAMINATION
—A BAD QUARTER OF AN HOUR ON BOARD THE "BAY STATE"
—A FRIEND IN NEED—HARD WORK AT THE BOSTON NAVY YARD.

I REPORTED for duty at the Naval School, Annapolis, in September,
1847. The school had been established here in 1845
by the Hon. George Bancroft, then Secretary of the Navy.
Previous to that time the school was held at the Naval Asylum,
Philadelphia. The first class to graduate at Annapolis was
that of the midshipmen of the date of 1840—the class graduated
in July, 1846. The class of 1841 was very large, and
when the time came for it to report at Annapolis we were in
the midst of the Mexican war, so the Secretary of the Navy
decided to divide it into two parts—all those appointed between
January and July, 1841, joined the school in the fall of
1846 and graduated in 1847; and the other part, to which I
belonged, went there in the fall of 1847 and passed in 1848.
The class was the largest ever appointed in the navy, numbering
245 I believe, and owing to various causes there remained
some forty who went to the school in 1848 and passed in 1849.
It was not until the three divisions had passed that the "numbers"
were assigned. At the time I joined the school it presented
a far different appearance from what it does at the
present time. The place had been known as Fort Severn and
was transferred to the navy by the War Department March
15, 1845. The fort was built in 1808 and mounted a few 24


118

pounders en barbette, at which we were drilled. Near the
water's edge six 32 pounder guns were mounted on a platform
built to represent a section of a ship's deck, and we were also
exercised at these guns. The walls enclosed but nine acres in
all and the professors and midshipmen used the buildings left
by the army. There was not a new building on the grounds.
The large barrack-rooms were used as recitation rooms and
quarters. Two small gun-houses were turned into quarters also.
We called them "Brandywine Cottage," and the "Abbey;"
the long barracks were called "Apollo Row" and "Rowdy
Hall." The curriculum embraced gunnery, infantry tactics,
steam, mathematics, navigation and nautical astronomy, natural
philosophy, chemistry, English grammar and French—
seamanship the midshipmen were supposed to be prepared in
and there were no vessels attached to the school. Commander
George P. Upshur was the superintendent; having just relieved
Commander Franklin Buchanan, to whom is due the
honor of having organized the school. Professor William
Chauvenet taught mathematics, nautical astronomy and navigation;
Professor H. H. Lockwood, gunnery, steam, infantry
tactics and natural philosophy; Professor Arsène N. Girault,
French; Dr. John A. Lockwood, chemistry; and Chaplain
George Jones, English grammar. Captain Upshur was assisted
in his executive duties by Lieutenant Sidney Smith Lee. The
instruction in mathematics, nautical astronomy and navigation
was very good, and that in natural philosophy, French, gunnery
and steam was fair. The chemistry, English grammar
and infantry tactics we paid but little attention to; the two
last were taught only on Saturday and we made quite a farce
of the recitations.

In the spring of 1848 Mr. Copeland, a distinguished engineer
of New York, gave us some interesting lectures on steam; and
about the same time Lieutenant Dahlgren (afterwards a rear
admiral) drilled us a few times at the guns, and gave us some
practical instruction in filling shells, driving fuses, etc. There
were about one hundred men in the class, and as we had all


119

been to sea for six years I fear we gave our good superintendent
much trouble.

There have been stricter disciplinarians than Captain Upshur
at the naval school, but never a more honorable,
high-toned gentleman than he; and I doubt if any young
man was ever thrown in his company without being the better
for it—for my own part I have never ceased to remember his
gentle manner, his high honor, his pure character and unexceptionable
life. If example counts for anything we had it
before us in him, and if we did not profit by it it was our own
loss. As a rule we studied hard—the class was so large that
many were struggling for the first honor—for to be the "number
one" of the 41's was almost equal to a patent of nobility in
our estimation.

The Hon. John Y. Mason was the secretary of the navy at
this time. In many points he resembled Captain Upshur—
they were both Virginians. As might be expected of so large
a number of young men assembled together we gave the
citizens of the quiet old town something to talk of: the nocturnal
revels of the "Owls" and the "Crickets;" the "Corn
Hill Riot," etc., rather surprised these staid old gentlemen;
but take it all in all there wag not much disturbance created.

Two duels were fought during the session. The first one was
fought inside the walls of the school; the parties left the supper-table
in advance of their classmates, and going behind the
ten-pin alley in a few minutes one of the principals had a ball
in his hip, and the "affair" was over. When he was carried
to his room Doctor Lockwood was sent for and it was intended
to pass it off as the result of an accident. The doctor silently
probed the wound, and then suddenly said: "What distance?"
"Ten paces" replied two or three Middies without pausing to
think. A short time after this another duel was fought at
Bladensburg and one of the party was wounded in the hip as
before. The secretary of the navy was very indignant at
these affairs; the impudence of the parties in the first case in
selecting the grounds of the school for fighting was what he


120

said he "could not get over." All the parties engaged—seconds
as well as principals—were dismissed the service by President
Polk. About three years after they were re-instated by President
Taylor. Only two of the principals chose to return to
the navy; they were the ones who had been wounded, and
are at present commodores in the navy. The seconds are all
dead. If these duels had both been fought at Bladensburg I
think the Department would have overlooked them. I know
Captain Upshur would have "winked" at them; for though
no duelist he did when a passed midshipman resign to fight
his first lieutenant; but the commodore would not accept his
resignation. Bladensburg has been a duelling ground since
the "Bladensburg races," as the battle fought in 1814 is
facetiously called. A Washington poet celebrated this battle
in the following lines:

THE BATTLE GROUND.

"And here two thousand fought, three hundred fell,
And fifteen thousand fled; of these remain
The three where Barney laid them, —they sleep well.
Of the fifteen, part live to run again,
And part have died of fever on the brain,
Potions and pills—fell agents—but the worst,
As Sewell in his pamphlet proves is thirst.
And General Winder, I believe, is dead,
And General (——) retired to learned ease,
Posting a ledger, He has exchanged the bed
Of fame for one of feathers, and the fees
Of war for those of trade: and, where the trees
Shook at his voice, all's still, as ere began
The fight; for, when it did, they cheered, and—ran.
All, save old Handspike and his crew—they stood
Drawn up, one coolly buttoning his breeches,
Another his cheek helping to a quid
Of purser's pigtail. No long windy speeches—
For valor, like a bishop, seldom preaches—
They stood like men prepared to do their duty,
And fell as they had done it—red and smutty.

121

Peace to them! men I still have found
Though sadly looked on by us land-bred people,
High-souled, warm-hearted—true, it must be owned,
They've no great predilection for a steeple,
And too much for a bottle. But the ground
Strongest in tares is so in wheat; the sod
May flower as here, whose very earth is blood."

But to return to the naval school. To Professor William
Chauvenet is due more credit for its establishment than to any
other man. Appointed a professor in the navy in 1841 he
went to sea in the Mississippi, and here very soon discovered
the defects in the method of instructing the midshipmen as
pursued at that day. He was soon after sent to the Naval
Asylum in Philadelphia to take charge of the school there,
and from that time he applied himself to the task of establishing
a school more fitted to the wants of the navy. He saw
from the beginning that such an institution must be a growth
and not a creation. He remained in the navy until 1859
when he resigned to accept a professorship in Washington
University, St. Louis. In 1862 he was chosen chancellor of
the university. Up to the time of his resignation he was the
life of the naval school. He was, next to Professor Peirce of
Harvard, the best mathematician in the country, and as an instructor
he stood second to none. He left the navy because
his salary was too small for him to support and educate his
family. A miserable economy on the part of the Government
permitted him to leave without an effort to retain him. Professor
Chauvenet died in 1870; but lie lived long enough to
see the naval school attain the growth he always predicted for
it, and to achieve which he gave eighteen years of his life.

It was our custom to meet on Saturday nights and hold what
Van Ness Philip called "reformed banquets." Coming from
different stations we were in the habit on these occasions of
"swapping yarns;" and although I never wrote them in my
journal, as Brown did, yet many remain in my memory, and
some few I will relate.


122

A mid who had served on board the Pennsylvania, lying off
the Norfolk navy yard, said that one morning at sunrise an
old darky who had come down through the Dismal Swamp
canal in a canoe came close to the ship, and seeing a man
standing in the gangway, inquired: "Is Master Pat Murphy
on board dar?" "Yes," was the reply, "what do you want
with him?" "Missis sent him a peck of sweets and a couple
of coon skins," said the old man. Another story was of Captain
Arthur X. It seems that his friends got him the command
of a brig upon condition that he would take no liquor to
sea with him in his cabin—he being somewhat addicted to it.
After being at sea a week or two the captain felt an inordinate
desire for a drink. In that day the ration of grog was served
to the men on the upper deck in small vessels. At 12 o'clock
the grog tub was brought up, and the captain, after passing
it several times, walked up to the purser's steward and said:
"What's this complaint I hear of the ship's whiskey?" "Give
me a tot;" he drank it with gusto, and remarked: "It's as
good whiskey as ever I drank; let me hear no more complaints."
It is needless to say there had been none.

Old Commodore Chauncey commanded the New York navy
yard at the time when there was "no law for post captains."
One Sunday in the chapel of the yard the chaplain read a
notice which he said was by order of the bishop of the diocese:
"By whose order did you say?" inquired the commodore,
standing up: "By order of the bishop of the diocese," mildly
replied the chaplain." Well, the notice will not be obeyed,"
said old Chauncey: "I'll let you know that I am the bishop of
this diocese
."

One of our classmates was very precise and it was told of
him that being directed by the lieutenant of the watch to report
to the captain that "there was a sail in sight," he did so in
these terms: "Captain P. the officer of the deck desires me
to inform you that there is visible on the extreme verge of
the sensible horizon a small speck, which he conceives to be a
sail."


123

Discussing sailors one day the opinion was expressed that
a man-of-war's man would not tell the truth if his interests or
desires lay the other way: and no amount of "swearing"
would make him do it; in illustration of which a story was
told concerning one Passed Midshipman C. He had been on
shore from his ship in some port of the Mediterranean and
upon his return to his boat, lying at the mole, was intoxicated.
Here he happened to fall in with an English chaplain who
was waiting for a boat to take him to his ship, and after some
words C. knocked him overboard. A shore boat picked the
unfortunate man up and took him to his vessel. C. was too
drunk to know what he was about. The fact coming to the
ears of the commodore he promptly brought C. to a court-martial,
and, as the chaplain generously declined to appear as
a witness, the judge advocate had to rely upon the boat's crew
to make out his case. The first witness testified "that Mr. C.
was down on the mole when he saw the chaplain approaching
in an intoxicated condition. The chaplain walked up to Mr.
C., and in making a pass at him, he fell overboard." This
was the coxswain's testimony and the remainder of the boat's
crew swore to the same effect. Of course C. was acquitted,
and equally of course he made the amende honorable to the
chaplain.

This C. was a very humorous fellow, though he would
"crook his elbow." Being at the old Bowery theatre one
night—in that happy condition when "another glass of claret
would spoil him" —he went in front of the curtain and gave
out the following announcement: "Gentlemen and ladies, tomorrow
night will be performed the drama entitled, 'The
babes and the woods;' Babes, Mr. Brown; Woods, Mr. C.;
to be followed by the roaring farce called 'Moses and the
bulrushes:' Moses, Mr. C.; Bulrushes by the entire troop.'

Mr. C.'s sailors may or may not have given the testimony
attributed to them; but I have often noticed their great objection
to appearing before a court as a witness. They seem to
have some extraordinary superstition in regard to their "committing


124

themselves" as they call it. Old Junius B———as a
witness in a case of assault and battery once testified that he
"saw the accused give the accuser several kicks, or," he cautiously
added, "words to that effect."

Midshipman Van Ness Philip used to tell a very good
story on himself: He once carried his niece to Troy and entered
her at Mrs. Willard's famous school. He was invited to
attend a party at Mrs. Willard's the same evening and remained
in town to accept it. Philip enjoyed a joke more
than most men, and during the day he came across a conundrum
which amused him much. It was: "What is the
difference between Tom Thumb and Queen Elizabeth?"
The answer was: "He is a wonder and she was a Tudor."
He said that when he attended the party that night this
abominable conundrum kept running in his thoughts and
he was dying to ask it; but he did not know a soul in the
room save Mrs. Willard. After awhile, however he seized
an opportunity and propounded it to her. It seems, the
old lady was somewhat deaf, and after Philip had asked
it she said: "What did you say, sir?" Philip repeated the
conundrum in rather a loud voice, and as this drew the attention
of all in the room he said he began to get pretty red in
the face. "Ah!" said Mrs. W., "what is the difference between
Queen Elizabeth—and whom did you say, sir?" "Tom
Thumb
," roared Philip in a stentorian voice and much to the
astonishment of the company assembled. Of course Mrs. W.
gave it up, and Philip had to repeat the answer several times
in a loud voice and was then doubtful whether the old lady
"took." He said he left the party as soon after as possible
and determined never to ask a conundrum unless sure
of his listener.

One of our fellows told a yarn concerning the "practice" of
a merchant captain who treated his crew by the Thompsonian
method, in which all the medicines were marked from number
one to ten. On one occasion a man complained of being unwell
and the captain judged he required the medicine marked


125

number six; but on looking in the medicine chest he found
that he was out of number six, so he gave the man two threes.

Many of our stories were of the captains we had sailed with,
and old Captain Percival, or mad Jack, as the sailors called
him, came in for his share. Captain Jack was eccentric, but he
always took a fatherly interest in his midshipmen. He wrote
once to the father of one of them that his son had entered a
profession "where he would either go down to his grave wept,
honored and sung, or unwept, unhonored and unsung. A few
days after, he got angry with the young man and at once sat
down and wrote to his father: "Dear Sir—Your son is going
down to his grave unwept, unhonored and unsung."

Captain Jack being upon a board for the examination of
midshipmen announced the passing of one of them to his
father (who was a commodore in the Navy) in the following
delicate way:

"Dear X—Your son has passed. Do you recollect our
taking the Columbus out of dock? She just grazed.—Yours
truly,

PERCIVAL."

But this is a digression. "When to the sessions of sweet
silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past," I
get off the regular track as it were.

The Board of Examiners, consisting of Commodores Morgan,
Wyman, Mayo, Dulany and Gwinn assembled in Annapolis
in June, 1848, and in July I passed my examination and became
a passed midshipman, eligible to promotion to all grades
above it and entitled to wear a star on my collar to back the
anchor already worn there. I could bring in a great many
elegant quotations here in relation to stars, but I'll "pass."
Upon passing my examination I received orders to the Boston
navy yard and upon getting as far as New York on my way
there found myself short of funds. There was nothing remarkable
in this, because I generally got home in that condition.
Upon going to Brooklyn and applying to a friend
for a loan, he informed me that he was going to Boston


126

that afternoon and would meet me on the boat, pay all my expenses,
&c. I gave myself no further trouble and at 5 o'clock
went down to the Bay State, Captain Brown, of the Fall river
line. Having some small change I bought the evening papers
and a magazine or two and ensconced myself comfortably on
the hurricane deck which was crowded with ladies and gentlemen
on their way to Newport—it being the height of the
season there. As the boat shoved off I happened to look up
and words cannot express my dismay when I saw my friend
standing on the wharf carpet bag in hand, left! My first feeling
was that of anger that he should have allowed himself to
be left under the circumstances, and I felt a diabolical desire
for a rifle that I might put a bullet in his block of a head;
but that soon gave way to despair and I felt in a moment that
the ladies all knew I had no money! What to do was the
question; the fare was five dollars, and I had but one.

Now the Bay State had been repaired in the dock of the
Boston navy yard a short time before this and my father
having extended some civilities to Captain Brown, he (the
captain) had since been especially polite and hospitable to him
and his family. I had heard of this, and though I had no
personal acquaintance with the captain, I resolved to make
myself known to him and explain my peculiar (or pecuniary)
condition; so I went to the purser's office and asked to see the
captain. "He is in the pilot house," said the purser; "won't
I do?" (I'm sure the rascal suspected my impecunious state).
"No," I answered, "I wish to see Captain Brown," and I went
to the pilot house.

One of the waiters pointed out the captain. He was a stout
man, with a white beaver on the side of his head, and as he
stood talking with a number of gentlemen to save my life I
could not introduce myself and break the subject to him; so I
walked aft. The confounded negro rang his bell and requested
the passengers to "call at the purser's office and settle" oftener
than I had ever known him to do before. Not feeling able to
remain on the hurricane deck where I felt that all hands knew


127

I was short of funds I went down on the main deck. I had
no sooner gotten there than I saw the mate belaboring a shabby-genteel
man, and upon my interfering and inquiring as to the
cause of such harsh treatment the mate said: "Well, sir, this
man has no money"—(just my case thought I)—"and he knows
we cannot put him on shore until we get to Newport: We
have many such stowaways," he continued. Well! to make a
long story short, while I was deliberating whether to make
another attempt to see Captain Brown, or jump overboard, I
was accosted by a young man who seemed to know me well;
he said he had been on board the Ohio with me in 1842. He
informed me that he had just returned from a cruise in the
Albany, where he had served as captain's clerk, and had just
been paid off. These words sounded well, and as soon as he
got through his story, I told mine. I will never forget the joy
with which he pulled out a handful of bank-notes and thrust
them upon me. He wanted me to take a hundred dollars, but
I only took twenty which I put in my pocket and became "a
man again."

I saw this gentleman the following day in Boston at the old
United States hotel and returned the loan. I have never been
able to recall his name, nor have I any recollection of his being
with me on board the Ohio. I have never met him since. I
have always believed that he was in some humble position on
board the Ohio and that I had done him a service of some
peculiar kind; for he could not have been kinder if he had
been my own brother; and, as I have said, it seemed to be a
real joy to him to be able to assist me. Even Macaulay's
"schoolboy" can see the moral of this story.

I remained attached to the navy yard in Boston about two
months and cannot say I rendered any material service to the
Government in that time. In fact there seemed to be no scope
for a young man of my transcendent ability. I was a passed
midshipman, and consequently a "gnostic;" moreover I was a
41, and we 41's did not hold ourselves cheap, I assure you. It
rather surprised me to see everything going on all right without


128

my assistance, but so it was. I was zealous enough, but
for the life of me I never could find anything to do. One day
the executive officer, Lieutenant Timothy Hunt, tired I suppose
of seeing me "standing about" told me to see what Lieutenant
Handy was doing, and to help him. I called upon
Lieutenant H. and asked him what he was doing; he replied:
"nothing;" "well," said I, "I've come to help you." This
is all the duty I remember to have done at the Boston navy
yard.


129

CHAPTER XII.
ORDERED TO THE SLOOP-OF-WAR "YORKTOWN" —SAIL FROM BOSTON—ARRIVAL
AT PORTO PRAYA—FIRST CRUISE ON THE COAST OF AFRICA—THE
GAMBIA RIVER—MONROVIA—BATTLE BETWEEN THE LIBERIANS AND
NATIVES—PRESIDENT ROBERTS—A CRUISE TO WINDWARD—CADIZ, FUNCHAL,
TENERIFFE, PALMAS—PORTO PRAYA AGAIN—AN OLD CITY—
RIDING OUT A GALE ON A LEE SHORE—RESCUE OF THE AMERICAN
BRIG "COPPERTHWAITE."

IN September of this year I was ordered to the frigate Constitution,
fitting out at the Boston navy yard for the Mediterranean;
but the ship was largely stocked with passed and
other midshipmen and not wishing to pass another cruise on
the forecastle or quarter deck carrying messages and calling
the "relief," I applied to have my orders changed to the Yorktown,
a sloop-of-war fitting out for the coast of Africa. The
Secretary of the Navy granted my request and remarked that
he expected I was the only officer who had preferred a sloop-of-war
on the coast of Africa to a fine frigate in the Mediterranean;
but I was looking forward to promotion and a
"watch," and I got it.

The Yorktown was a third-class sloop-of-war of 560 tons,
and carried a battery of sixteen 32-pounders of 27 cwt.
She was a staunch little craft and a good sea-boat. We went
into commission in October, Captain John Marston. The
other officers were: Lieutenants, Rootes, Spottswood, Frailey
and Fleming; Sailing Master, Caldwell; Purser, Semple; Surgeon,
Fox; Passed Assistant Surgeon, Potter; Passed Midshipmen,
Coleman, Seawell, Selden and Parker; Midshipmen,
Bruce, J. Parker, Fyffe and Means; Boatswain, Young; Gunner,
Oliver; Sailmaker, Frankland, and Carpenter, Mager.
Our junior lieutenant left us as soon as we got on the station,


130

and the passed midshipmen were promoted to fill vacancies;
otherwise there were absolutely no changes in our officers, which
in a two years' cruise is rather remarkable, especially on what
is called a sickly station. We had a very fine crew and numbered
in all 150 souls. Commodore Benjamin Cooper took passage
with us; he was appointed to succeed Commodore Bolton
in the command of the African squadron and intended to hoist
his flag on board the Portsmouth, a very fine first-class sloop.

I do not propose to give a detailed account of the cruise.
A two years' stay on the African coast does not, as a general
thing, present much variety of incident. The object of keeping
vessels on the coast was to capture slavers and protect
our own lawful traders. The English and American Governments
kept squadrons of a certain number of guns in accordance
with a special agreement or treaty—(since abrogated).
The English took many slavers but our vessels, being bound
by our interpretation of the "right of search" took very few
indeed. The explorations of Livingstone, Burton, Stanley and
others have added very much to our knowledge of Africa in
the last thirty years; and the introduction of steam-packets
along the coast has no doubt made the aspect of it very different
from what I remember it in 1848–9–50.

We sailed from Boston November 22,1848, and had a very
rough passage across the Atlantic. I had been in heavy gales
in the Gulf of Lyons, pamperos off Monte Video, and "northers"
in the Gulf of Mexico and thought I knew what bad
weather was; but this experience in the Atlantic on the
"fortieth parallel" exceeded anything I had before dreamed
of. When we were not scudding we were lying to; and had
not the little ship been, as I have said, a very good sea-boat
she must have foundered. I have seen her hove to with only
a tarpaulin in the mizen rigging and not a rag of sail on her
forward rising to the seas and not shipping one. She had a
way as Joe Seawell said of making two "butts" at a sea, and
then going around it. For many days we in the steerage did
not pretend to wear shoes and stockings—everything was wet


131

for the steerage was ankle-deep in water. However, we arrived
safely at Madeira and found the Jamestown, Commodore
Bolton, in port. Remaining but a few days we sailed for the
Cape de Verde islands, looked in at Porto Grande, and early
in January, 1849, anchored at Porto Praya. Here we found
the Portsmouth, and Commodore Cooper transferred his flag
to her. Lieutenant Fleming accompanied him as "Flag";
Caldwell was made junior lieutenant, and I succeeded him as
sailing master. After filling up our provisions and water we
sailed to make the usual four months' cruise on the coast.
While crossing the Atlantic we found that our rudder-post was
decayed, and as Porto Praya did not offer the facilities required
we went first to Bathurst on the Gambia river to
repair it. The Gambia is a pretty sheet of water and the
appearance of Bathurst is picturesque in the extreme. It was
from Pisanea on this river that Mungo Park set out on his last
expedition to discover the mouth of the Niger river, in 1805.
We found here several companies of one of the English West
India regiments. These regiments have white officers, and
the privates are recruited from the captured slaves. All the
English posts on the coast were garrisoned by these troops.
The officers of the regiment at Bathurst were individually
very polite and hospitable; but I observed here, what I afterwards
noticed at the other posts, that the officers did not agree
well together and were split up into several small messes. I
had expected to see them a "band of brothers" —exiles in a
sickly clime as they were—but it was otherwise. Thinking of
this curious state of affairs I came to the conclusion that it
must be the effect of the climate; their livers get out of order
and they become irritable and quarrelsome.

We put an iron band on the rudder-head which we thought
would answer temporarily and then sailed for Monrovia. This
town is situated on Cape Mesurado which is elevated about
80 feet above the ocean. The small river Mesurado enters
the sea on its northern side. Monrovia was named in honor
of President Monroe, one of the earliest friends of the American


132

Colonization Society, and is the capital of Liberia. The first
settlement was made in Liberia in 1822; it remained under the
protection of the Colonization Society until 1847 when it became
a free and independent republic, and Mr. Roberts, formerly
a slave in Petersburg, Virginia, was elected President.
The republic was modeled after the government of the United
States. At the time of our first visit the town of Monrovia was
much excited at the probability of a war with a tribe on the
southern coast. It appears that some Spaniards (slave dealers)
held possession of a strip of coast which the Liberians claimed
to have purchased some years before and refused to give it up.
They had a factory in the neighborhood of Sinou, and a large
quantity of stores, such as rum, cotton-cloths, muskets, powder,
&c., &c. on hand for the purchase of slaves. It must
be understood that the tribes on the coast are not opposed
to the slave trade, for the reason that the "slavers" make
it a rule never to carry them off—the coast tribes make
war upon those in the interior and all the slaves they capture
they sell to the "factors," who put them in barracoons until an
opportunity occurs to ship them. The Spaniards, therefore,
felt perfectly safe in arming the tribe at Sinou and defying the
Liberians.

Great preparations were going on at Monrovia, reinforcements
were arriving from the different settlements, and Queen
Anne muskets, second-hand uniforms, swords, epaulettes, cocked
hats and top boots were at a premium. President Roberts,
a mulatto, (about three fourths white I should judge), was
a man of character and some education. As he was on
board the Yorktown a month or more I had an opportunity
of observing him. He was very quiet in his deportment
and modest withal. We were of course full of curiosity as to
the object of the grand expedition and Roberts being closemouthed
we used to "pump" one Colonel Hicks who kept the
hotel in Monrovia where we were in the habit of dining when
on shore. Hicks was a regular old time darkey and very
talkative. Upon one or two occasions where the Liberians had


133

come in collision with the natives Hicks had incontinently fled
—he was a born coward, and it was well understood. Hicks,
however, did not know much about matters although he was on
the President's staff. As he himself acknowledged, upon his
propounding a few questions to the President, he had replied:
"Colonel Hicks mind your own business." "Oh!" said Hicks
in relating this: "That Roberts is a smart nigger!" It was
well for him that Roberts did not hear him!

When all was ready the army under Brigadier General
Lewis, (also a mulatto, and a former slave in Virginia) was put
on board some small schooners, and these were taken in tow
by a French steam gunboat which co-operated with the Liberians.
We sailed in company with President Roberts on board
and soon anchored off Sinou. The force was landed the next
morning and although we had orders to take no part yet at
the request of Roberts our captain consented to let four unarmed
boats pull in with them, for effect. I went in charge of one
and had a good view of the battle.

When Colonel Hicks landed, which was towards the last,
he was a sight to see, in his cocked-hat, epaulettes and top
boots. Our purser, an old acquaintance, chaffed him unmercifully
because he did not go to the front; but Hicks did not
advance; he "saw from the beach when the morning was
shining" all he wanted to see.

The opposing parties with their old fashioned arms kept up
a heavy fire at long range the whole of the first day. The
natives lay hidden in the woods or bushes and the Liberians
would not leave the sea-side. The second day the French
captain thinking he might be kept there a lifetime decided to
take a hand in it himself; so twenty sailors were landed under
a lieutenant, the woods were shelled by the steamer, and with
the Frenchmen in advance the Liberians advanced into the
country. Having given them a "start" the Frenchmen returned
and left the army to pursue its victorious career; the
enemy retreating up the country to the factory where the
Spaniards had established their head quarters, and which was


134

General Lewis' objective. After the Frenchmen left, the advance
was led by a company of Congo negroes who had been
captured in a slaver and were now apprenticed in Monrovia.
They were the bravest men in the army. The Liberians were
absent four or five days and at night we could track them by
the burning villages. They reached the factory and burned it
and returned to the beach with the Spaniards as prisoners.
There was great rejoicing in all the land when the victorious
army got back to Monrovia. We had orders to take President
Roberts on board again, which we did, and visited
Cape Palmas, Grand Bassa, Tradetown, Cape Mount and
other places. The president lived in the cabin and conducted
himself with much propriety.

We fell in with an English man-of-war at Cape Mount and
as soon as her captain saw the Liberian standard at our masthead
he came on board in full uniform to call upon President
Roberts. In fact, at all the places visited he received the
same honors as would have been extended to a crowned head.
We carried Mr. Roberts back to Monrovia, and in June returned
to Porto Praya. Here we replenished our stores of
provisions and water and sailed for Cadiz in Spain. This
was off our station; but our rudder-post was in such bad condition
that it became necessary to replace it, and this could not
be done at any port on the coast. It may readily be believed
that we were glad to have so pleasant a break in our cruise.
We touched at Madeira on our way for a few days. We
found the Portsmouth in port and Commodore Cooper whose
health had long been failing went home in her. In a few
months she rejoined the squadron bearing the flag of Commodore
F. S. Gregory.

We were in Cadiz some weeks while a new rudder-post was
made for us at the dock-yard. We then sailed and spent the
summer in visiting Madeira, Teneriffe and Palmas; and in
October returned to Port Praya. The cruise to windward was
a most delightful one, and was of much service to us all. The
merchants of Funchal, Madeira, are famed for their hospitality


135

and the people of Palmas, Grand Canary, we found equally
kind. I shall have more to say of these islands in my next
chapter.

Porto Praya is on the island of St. Jago, one of the Cape
de Verdes. It is a small town, inhabited by a few Portuguese,
half breeds, and negroes; the latter constitute the bulk of the
population. It is situated on a high bluff overlooking the bay
and is not particularly unhealthy or warm.

The harbor is a good enough one during the continuance of
the "trades," which blow about ten months in the year. In
the months of August and September heavy gales sometimes
blow from the southwest, and as the harbor is open in that direction
vessels which happen to be in the port must slip their
cables and go to sea.

It was to Porto Praya that Commodore Charles Stewart
brought his two prizes, the Cyane and Levant, which he had
captured in the frigate Constitution eighteen days before:
February 20th, 1815. While lying there an English squadron
of superior force made its appearance and the commodore
fearing it would not observe the neutrality of the port
stood out to sea with his ships, and endeavored to make his
escape. The Constitution and the Cyane got safely to New
York, but the Levant was recaptured.

On the north side of the island are the ruins of an old
Portuguese city. It was abandoned in consequence of having
no harbor; but from the appearance of the ruins it must have
been rather an imposing place. I saw there the stone walls of
the churches and other public buildings. Upon the occasion
of my visit I went to a monastery, some portions of which are
inhabitable; indeed we found several black monks in possession.
There was a library there and some of the books were
in a good state of preservation. These books must have been
very old and rare and would be worth their weight in gold in
London. Being fond of old books I have since regretted not
purchasing some of them which I could readily have done.

The Cape de Verdes were discovered in 1449, and I expect


136

this city was founded not many years after. It was called
Santiago, and it was here that the Vittoria, one of Magellan's
squadron, touched, July 10th, 1522, upon her return to Spain
after having accomplished the first circumnavigation of the
globe. The old city presented a mournful appearance; but
we found a few negroes there. Dr. Potter being with me all
the sick were brought out for him to prescribe for as soon as
it became known. It is indeed sad to fall in with people
in these out-of-the-way places and witness their sufferings for
the want of medical and especially surgical assistance. The
fever they can manage themselves, but any accident to body
or limb must go uncared for. The only people more to be
pitied in this respect are the American merchant sailors.

The Government established a depot at Porto Praya some
time in 1842 I believe, and it was the general rendezvous of
the squadron. The island furnishes very fair mess stores—
fruits in great abundance, and the oranges the best I have
ever seen anywhere. The inhabitants raise turkeys in great
numbers, and at all the places on the coast we found them in
abundance. This rather surprised me, for I do not remember
seeing them in any numbers in the tropics anywhere else.

We were caught here on this visit by a southwest gale which
came near driving us ashore. The wind sprang up at night
and increased so rapidly that our captain did not think it
prudent to attempt to get underweigh and he decided to ride
it out. All hands were called about two A. M., the topmasts
were housed and the lower yards sent down. We were riding by
the starboard bower anchor, and immediately let go the port
bower and sheet anchors; we veered chain on all until the starboard
bower had 120 fathoms out. I had never before seen a
vessel ride out a gale on a lee shore; and as the sea rose and came
rolling in it seemed impossible that anything could hold the
ship. The port chains did not get an even strain with the
starboard bower, and as the ship rose to a sea she would
straighten the latter out as stiff as an iron bar and the strain
would squeeze the stay-bolts out of it. But it held. We were


137

in the habit of overhauling our chains once a quarter and
knew that everything was in good order. The stern of the
ship was not very far from the rocks at the base of a steep
cliff, and if the ship had gone ashore not many of the hundred
and fifty men on board would have reached the shore alive.
We were up all night and well into the next day making all
snug. The starboard sheet was hemp and it took some time
to bend it, which we did. At noon just as the order was given
to pipe to dinner an American brig—called the Copperthwaite,
from Philadelphia on a trading voyage—dragged ashore and
hoisted her colors union down. It was my special duty, as
Master to attend to this kind of work so I volunteered to go
to her assistance. The captain hesitated some time about lowering
a boat—indeed there was such a fearful sea running that
most of the lieutenants thought that a boat could not reach the
shore—but he finally consented to let me make the attempt.
The boatswain was ordered to call down the main hatch for
volunteers and the whole ship's company promptly responded.
Passed Midshipman Selden volunteered to go with me and we
picked out thirteen men, most of whom were petty officers. The
boat was lowered with Selden, two men and myself in her, and
towed astern by a hawser; the other men jumped overboard
with lines and we pulled them in the boat as best we could.
Watching a favorable opportunity we let go the hawser, pulled
short round, and made for the stranded brig. I cannot attempt
to describe the trip; but we could only see the top of our ship's
masts when we went down in the hollow of the waves, and
from the ship they did not see us at all.

There was an American whaler between us and the shore
and her boats were much better adapted to the work than
ours but her crew looked upon it as our "pigeon," and contented
themselves with giving us three cheers as we went flying
by. The brig was lying broadside to the beach, the sea was
making a clean breach over her and the men were lashed in
the rigging. I pulled in under her lee to turn round, and having
done so, pulled directly for her main rigging in which I saw her


138

captain waiting. As we got near I ran forward to be the first
on board and as the boat touched the brig's side I made a
spring and caught the captain's hand, at the same time the receding
wave carried the boat back towards the shore. I hung
on for a moment, but our hands being wet and perhaps a little
greasy, my hold slipped and overboard I went. The anxiety
of my men to save me came near drowning me; for as soon as
my head appeared one fellow stuck a boat-hook in the back
of my neck which pushed me under again, and I could not
get a chance to catch my breath. When I did catch it I
ordered them in terms more forcible than polite to let me
alone, and being a tolerable swimmer I was soon on board the
brig and my men after me. As is the custom in such cases I
took command of the brig and gave some necessary orders as
to sending down the upper yards and masts, and to execute
which my men sprang aloft like cats. The captain relieved of
all responsibility seemed another man, and his first words
were: "Well gents, what will you take to drink?"

At sunset the gale had somewhat moderated; but fearing
the brig might go to pieces during the night, and knowing that
no assistance could be expected from the shore, we decided to
leave her and watch her from the beach. As I had previously
sent the boat ashore under the lee of the brig, where she had
been hauled up by the natives, we all jumped overboard and
swam ashore in a body. The gale still moderating we went
off to the brig again shortly after midnight and got an anchor
out to windward. About daylight the land breeze made, we
set sail, and by 8 A. M. she was afloat. The brig was really
not much injured; she leaked a little, but not more than the
pumps could clear very handily; the men however were
tampered with by the Portuguese merchants in Porto Praya
and went before the American Consul and protested against
going to sea in her. The Consul ordered a survey, and we sent
a gang of men, discharged her cargo, and hove her down.
Our carpenters stopped the leak, and we put her all a-taunto
again; the men still refused to go in her and she was sold.


139

She was worth about six thousand dollars and brought fifteen
hundred. A few days after, she sailed for the coast under a
Portuguese captain with a full cargo of rice! Not the first
American vessel sacrificed in this way in a foreign port by a
long shot. I felt very much for the poor captain, and after
all the men did not make very much by their motion as most
of them died of fever. In spite of the exposure and hard work
our men did not suffer at all. We did not have a single case
of fever. For my services on this occasion I, some months
afterwards, received a letter from the Hon. Secretary of State;
all I remember about it is that it was tied with a blue ribbon.


140

CHAPTER XIII.
KROUMEN—THE BRIO "PORPOISE"—A BOATSWAIN'S MATE'S POETRY—A NARROW
ESCAPE FROM DROWNING—ACCRA—ELMINA—CAPE COAST CASTLE—
GRAVE OF L. E. L.—SLAVERS—A YANKEE TRICK—THE SLAVE TRADE—
THE "BRIDGTON"—WHYDAH—DAHOMEY—PRINCE'S ISLAND—AFRICAN
FEVER—SECOND CRUISE TO WINDWARD—MADEIRA—CANARY ISLANDS—
WRECK OF THE "YORKTOWN" ON THE ISLAND OF MAYO—RETURN HOME
—HOW TO FIND THE MOON'S AGE.

UPON our first visit to Monrovia we had provided ourselves
with twenty Kroumen to do the boat work of the ship. These
men belong to a tribe on the coast near Tradetown; but there
are always a number of them to be found at a little village of
their own near Monrovia. They are sober and obedient, and
the best boatmen in the world. They are regularly enlisted
and borne on the ship's books and as their proper names cannot
be pronounced—much less spelled—the purser names them
to suit himself. These names are printed inside their Sunday
hats and if the hat is lost the man loses his identity. On Sundays
they were mustered with the rest of the crew, and it was
hard to resist a smile at hearing called out such names as:
Jack Fryingpan, Giraffe, Upside Down, Bottle of Beer, &c.

When I went on shore to take observations with the artificial
horizon (a small trough filled with quicksilver) the boat's crew
of Kroumen would sit on their haunches near by and gravely
watch the operation. As they saw me do this always before
sailing from a port they not unnaturally gathered the impression
that as I looked in the quicksilver with the sextant I was
looking for the way to the next port!
I encouraged them in
this belief to keep them quiet. At Porto Praya, especially,
they were always very anxious to know what vessels were
anchored off Monrovia, and as I generally knew what vessels
should be there I could give a correct answer.


141

We sailed from Porto Praya on our second cruise down the
coast in November, 1849. Upon our arrival at Monrovia we
found the brig Porpoise at anchor (as I had previously predicted.)
The second lieutenant of the brig, Israel Waite, was
one of the most humorous men I have ever known. Alas poor
Yorick! he lost his commission a few years after this time and
went to Nicaragua with Walker's filibusters where he was
either killed or died of fever. The captain of the Porpoise
was a nervous man and had a habit of calling everything a
"chap;" he would say: "What do you think of that chap,"
meaning perhaps a rising squall. Waite in turning over the
deck to his relief would frequently say: "It looks a little chappy
on the lee bow." The Porpoise had a fine set of fellows in her
wardroom and we were very intimate with them. She had,
too, that rara avis in navis, a poetical boatswain's mate! Here
is one of his parodies which I happen to recall:

1.

I knew by the smoke that so gracefully curled
Around the fore hatch that dinner was nigh;
And I said if there's anything good in this world
'Tis made in our mess and they call it sea-pie.

2.

'Tis 12 and the boatswain is ordered to pipe,
His mates they stand ready to answer and bawl;
The grog-tub is out and the line stretched along,
Each hand is awaiting the sound of the "call."

3.

By the side of yon grog-tub how sweet 'tis to stand
And listen to catch the dear sound of your name:
But oh! how much sweeter when the tot's in your hand
You drink and are off some sea-pie to claim.

4.

And thus in a snug man-of-war did I say,
With a cook to attend me and make me sea-pie;
With my half pint of whiskey to drink every day,
How sweet could I live, and how calm could I die!

142

The mess on board the Porpoise kept a book called the
"goss" book; I do not know the etymology of the word "goss;"
but that was its name. All such effusions as the above were
entered in it, which is why I remember it. My memory preserves,
fortunately for the reader, but one more.

TO ANNAPOLIS.

For many months we happy were
In drinking juleps, eating crabs,
Without a thought, without a care,
We smoked away—not penny grabs!
But oh! the day at length arrived
To pony up the good and just
Round sum of three seventy-five
But very few put down the dust.

But: Satis superque, de reste, bastantemente! All this is
digression and a long one too. Let me pull myself together
and resume.

While at Monrovia upon this visit I made a pretty narrow
escape from drowning. When we went on shore we never
attempted to land in our own boats—the custom was to lie outside
the breakers and wait for a canoe to come out and take
us in. One morning I started with two of our lieutenants to
go on shore to hold a survey on some naval stores, and when
we got near the beach the senior officer said it was too rough
to land. My friend, Dr. Thomas M. Potter, (now a medical
director on the retired list) was in the boat and as we wanted
to go on liberty we waited for a canoe and very imprudently
both got in her—I in the bow and he in the stern. When we
entered the breakers the first one went completely over and
swamped us. I knew the Krouman was all right, but as soon
as I got my head above water I turned to look for Potter; seeing
him diving for his umbrella I concluded he could take care
of himself, so I struck out for the shore which I was the first
to reach. Fortunately there were a number of Kroumen on
the beach watching us and they joined hands and hauled us
up as soon as we struck the beach: otherwise we would inevitably


143

have been carried back by the undertow and drowned.
I remember that when I struck the beach the sand seemed to
me to be receding at the rate of 40 miles a minute; "or words
to that effect."

In January, 1850, we sailed from Monrovia for a cruise
down the coast. We first stopped at Cape Palmas, which
struck me as the prettiest of all the settlements in Liberia, and
I believe it is the most healthy. From there we went down
along the gold coast into the Gulf of Guinea, stopping at Accra,
Elmina, and Cape Coast Castle. Elmina and Cape Coast
Castle are fortified places; the former is held by the Dutch
and the latter by the English. All these places were originally
held by the Portuguese who made the first discoveries on this
coast; they discovered Madeira in 1419; Cape Bojador in
1439; Cape Verde in 1446; the Cape de Verde islands in
1449; Sierra Leone in 1450; Congo was visited in 1484; and
finally Bartolomeo Diaz reached the Cape of Good Hope—
called by him the Cape of Storms—in 1486. They were the
great navigators of the world at this time.

Cape Coast Castle presents a very imposing appearance from
the sea. It is built of brick or stone, and mounts some large
guns, principally for the land defence. It has resisted several
attacks by the Ashantees. It was here that the poetess, Miss
Landon, (L. E. L.) died. She married Governor McLean, and
died soon after her arrival at the Castle under somewhat mysterious
circumstances. I had a commission from a lady to
gather something from her grave—a flower or even a tuft of
grass—but I found only a slab to mark where she had been
buried in the parade ground, and no green thing within a mile
of it.

At Elmina and Cape Coast Castle we were most hospitably
entertained by the officers. Poor fellows, they were much cut
off from the world and a strange face was a real pleasure to
them. These places along the coast, called factories, were
originally established for the trade in slaves. At Accra we
fell in with H. B. M. brig Contest, Captain Spencer, who told


144

us of a certain American brig Bridgton being on the coast and
strongly suspected of being a slaver. I had always had a
desire to catch a slaver with the slaves on board, for I wanted
to see if what I had heard of them was true; but I knew the
trouble it gave if one were only taken on suspicion. The
difficulty with these vessels was that the slavers took out the
same cargo as the regular traders, viz.: rum, tobacco, cotton-cloths,
fire arms, &c., &c. Under a cargo of this kind the
slavers had lumber for the slave deck, water casks, &c. When
they arrived at the place where the slaves were ready to be
shipped they would discharge cargo, fill up their water, take
the negroes on board with inconceivable rapidity, and put to
sea.

A neat trick was played upon the English brigs Contest and
Kingfisher by the captain of one of these vessels. He was in
port with them, and at first was suspected; but as he flew the
American flag the Englishmen were chary of searching him.
After some time, as he continued to sell his goods as a regular
trader, their suspicions were allayed and he became quite
sociable with the two English captains. He had just arrived
on the coast, had plenty of good liquors and cigars, and was
very hospitable. The captains frequently dined with him and
no doubt found it pleasant to be relieved of the restrictions of
a man-of-war. One evening the conversation turned on the
sailing qualities of their respective vessels and the American
said he would like to give them a trial. The next morning
he got underweigh with the land breeze and in passing the
English brigs hailed their commanders and challenged them
to a race. They both got underweigh, followed him out, and in
the afternoon when the usual sea breeze set in they had a trial
of speed "on a wind." At sunset the English vessels parted
company as they were obliged to return to their stations. The
American bid them an affectionate adieu. When the brigs
got back they found he had taken on board a full cargo of
slaves the preceding night, and as he had 24 hours start it was
useless to pursue.


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When slaves are actually on board a vessel it is hard to say
whether their condition is ameliorated by being recaptured or
not. If they are recaptured they cannot be restored to their
homes; for they are taken from the interior, and if landed,
the coast tribes make them prisoners again: so some other disposition
must be made of them. If captured by an English
man-of-war they are sent to Sierra Leone, or enlisted in the
West India regiments; if an American man-of-war captures
them they are landed at Monrovia and apprenticed to the
Liberians for a term of years; and if they are not slaves
their condition is so near it that I was unable to perceive the
difference.

On our way down to Whydah we fell in with the brig
Bridgton. I boarded her and brought her captain back with
me, with his "papers." He was a Portuguese and had not an
American in his crew. He was evidently much frightened,
but after some conversation with our captain he convinced
him that his "papers" were all right: as indeed they seemed
to be. The brig was cleared from Bahia and her "papers"
were countersigned by the American consul. When the captain
found we intended to let him go he became as saucy as a
Pasquotank man in the herring season. We furnished him
with an anchor and cable, for which he gave us an order on
his owners in Philadelphia. The Bridgton accompanied us
to Whydah, and here we found the launch of the Kingfisher,
commanded by a Lieutenant Hamilton.

The English used to keep their boats stretched along the
coast, at intervals of ten miles, and in this way one vessel
watched a long strip of coast. The brig Perry, commanded
by Commander Foote (afterwards a distinguished admiral)
was the only vessel of our squadron that adopted this plan
and she was rewarded by the capture of several slavers. One
was a large ship with six or eight hundred slaves on board.
The Perry was under English colors when she saw her, and
the ship hoisting American colors, Captain Foote took possession
of her. Hamilton of the Kingfisher had been after


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the Bridgton for some time. He was very glad to spend his
nights with us while at Whydah; but I observed he kept a
bright lookout for the Kingfisher, and was always, off bright
and early. He was a capital fellow and we were glad to have
him. He told us that the captain of the Bridgton was very
"cheeky" since our arrival and would point to our flag and
tell him he could not "touch him now." Hamilton always
told him he was only waiting for him to get his slaves on
board to capture him. We heard afterwards that the Bridgton
got off with a full cargo of slaves a few days after our departure,
in spite of Hamilton.

Whydah is the principal seaport of the kingdom of Dahomey,
of which we have heard so much of late years. An
Englishman who had been in the country for some time gave
me an interesting account of the king and his people.
Speaking of their snake temples—for they worship snakes—
he said that an English cooper, not long in the country, was
one day coopering a cask, and seeing a large snake near by
he chopped its head off. It was with much difficulty that the
foreigners saved his life; he was sent out of the country and
a large fine paid. He told me that when the king desired to
send a message to a deceased friend or relative he would
send for a slave, give him the message and have his head cut
off; he said he had never seen a slave exhibit any fear, and I
have been told the same of the Chinese when about to suffer
death.

From Whydah we went to Prince's island to water ship.
This is a beautiful spot, nearly on the equator; the land is very
high and as vessels anchor near the shore the hills seem to be
nearly overhead. We enjoyed our visit here very much, principally
on account of the fresh-water bathing. Many streams run
into the sea from the mountains near the village, and in a hard
rain it is wonderful to see the rapidity with which the water
rises. In company with half-a-dozen officers I walked across
the island to visit an old city which had been abandoned. I
found there the ruins of stone churches, monasteries, etc., similar


147

to the old city on St. Jago island. It had evidently been
a place of importance. These old cities all have romantic histories
if one could only get at them. The Portuguese seemed in
those days to build cities first, and look for a harbor afterwards.
St. Paul de Loanda, in about nine degrees south latitude,
was the largest and most important of all their cities on the
west coast. It still belongs to Portugal, but is of little consequence
now; though the recent operations on the Congo river
may resuscitate it.

Our ship was perfectly healthy the whole time we were
on this station. We were never allowed to remain out of the
ship after sunset, and the ship never entered the rivers. In
1844 the Preble lost many of her crew while lying in a river
on the coast, since which time it is forbidden by the Department
to do so. I think the health of the station compares
favorably with the West Indies or coast of Brazil. We had
but one case of real African fever and the patient recovered.

Leaving Prince's island we sailed for Porto Praya, touching
at many ports on our way up the coast. We sailed from Porto
Praya for a cruise to windward in June, in company with the
Portsmouth. We beat up through the islands (Cape de Verdes)
and I was much surprised at the strength of the trades. As
we got to the northward of Mayo the wind freshened to double
reefs, and at noon we were actually hove to under a close-reefed
main topsail and fore storm staysail. At 4 P. M.
the same day we had the royals set. We arrived at Funchal
on the 1st of July and for the month we remained there did
nothing but enjoy ourselves. It was our third visit and we
had many acquaintances. We commenced the round by having
all of our friends on board to a déjeuner à la fourchette on the
4th of July, and after that there was a succession of picnics,
dinner parties, etc. Mr. Howard March, our consul, kept
open house and his partner, Mr. Beyman, did the honors.

About the 1st of August we left Madeira for the Canary
islands and spent another month between Teneriffe and Palmas.
These islands belong to Spain. They were known to the


148

ancients under the name of the Fortunate Islands. One can
readily understand why they were known as they can be seen
from the coast of Africa. The peak of Teneriffe, 12,000 feet
high, is visible in clear weather at a distance of 150 miles.
The Spaniards discovered these islands about 1330. They
were inhabited at that time by a race called Guanches, probably
Arabs from the adjacent coast. All trace of these people is
now lost, which is much to be regretted. The Spaniards extirpated
them during the 16th century. From Gomera, the
most westerly island, Columbus sailed to discover the new
world.

We sailed from Palmas about August 30th, 1850, on what
was to prove the last cruise of the Yorktown. We had fresh
trades and fine weather and steered to make Bonavista the
northernmost of the Cape de Verde islands. We expected to
meet our relief, the sloop-of-war Dale, at Porto Praya whence
we would sail for home. It may be imagined that we were all
in fine spirits. Our cruise was up; we had lost but one or
two men by sickness; there had been no courts-martial, and
nothing had occurred to break the harmony existing on board.
The second day out I remember that when I marked the chart
in the wardroom I called attention to the fact that we were
abreast the point where Captain Riley was wrecked in the brig
Commerce in the early part of the century, and he and his
crew made prisoners by the Arabs.

We made the island of Bonavista as expected, and on the
4th of September ran along the eastern side of the island of
Sal with a strong trade wind blowing. At sunset that day we
hauled round the south point of that island and shaped a
course to pass to the northward of the island of Mayo. There
was some discussion as to this, for the usual course was to go to
the southward of Mayo; but no danger was anticipated as
there was plenty of room and to spare between Mayo and the
island to the northward of it. The ship was under top gallant
sails and the lee clew of the mainsail, and running 9 knots,
with the wind on the starboard quarter. At 1 A. M. we hauled


149

up the mainsail. I had the morning watch and at 4 A. M. relieved
Lieutenant Caldwell, who, after passing the orders, expatiated
upon the good breakfast he expected to wake up to
in Porto Praya, where we expected to arrive by 8 A. M.

The island of Mayo was in sight on our port beam, and the
island of St. Jago ahead; the weather was clear with flying
trade clouds. The captain who had been up all night came
out of his cabin and asked me how far I thought we were from
Mayo. The peaks visible to us were some distance inland, and
it was difficult to judge. Our lookouts were cautioned to be
on the qui vive, and I had scarcely issued the order when the
forecastle lookout called out: "breakers ahead." It was just
before 5 o'clock, and the day was beginning to dawn. I immediately
slapped the helm hard down and manned the lee main
braces, intending to brace up aft, brace abox the head yards,
and wear short round on her heel; but she had hardly come
up a point when she struck, and fetched up all standing. It
was a miracle that the masts did not go over the bows. We
now braced up fore and aft, and attempted to force her over.
Upon sounding the well it was found that there was already
much water in her, and we manned the pumps and commenced
pumping. By this time all hands were on deck, and the first
lieutenant, Mr. Rootes, had just relieved me when the carpenter
came up, and in a low, calm voice said:" It is of no use
to pump; the ship's bottom is knocked out!" And so it was;
she had struck on sunken, sharp-pointed rocks, and as she rose
and fell with the sea which was pretty heavy the bottom was
crushed in, and the water tanks, &c., in the hold were rammed
up against the berth deck beams. Finding that it was useless
to attempt to save the ship we now turned our attention to the
saving of life and material. The boats were hoisted out and
lowered and towed a-stern with marines in them to prevent
any one getting in without orders, and the upper masts and
yards were sent down on deck. The ship had now settled down
on the rocks with the water about knee-deep on the berth deck.

When day broke we found we were on the north end of


150

Mayo island about a mile from the shore. Outside of us, at a
distance of a mile, was a reef on which the sea was breaking
heavily; had we struck on that reef not a man would have
been saved. The purser's safe with the ship's money and
books were taken up into the cabin, and the men were ordered
to bring their bags up on the spar deck. While we were engaged
in this the ship suddenly fell over on her starboard
beam ends, and there was a rush for the boats, which were soon
filled with the marines, landsmen and idlers. The officers and
our best men, however, stuck to the ship and clambered up
the sides to the weather rail. The masts were cut away, and
although some men were aloft at the time they were rescued
unhurt. As soon as I got on the weather side I turned to
take a view of the scene, and the first man I noticed was
Caldwell sitting on the weather main brace bumpkin with a
loaf of bread under his arm, and a very tall plume sticking
up in his old straw sombrero. It seems that as the ship capsized
he had grabbed at the captain's flower-pots and seized
the plume which he stuck in his hat. The ship now lay completely
over on her starboard side, with the water over her
hatchways. Lieutenant Frailey who was below when the ship
went over made a narrow escape; he found all the ladders
carried away and could not get on deck; as the water came
pouring in it swept him aft, and with a receding swell he was
carried to the hatchway, where the boatswain caught sight of
him, and with the assistance of the gunner hauled him up on
deck in an exhausted condition. The ship had no air-ports
and the lower deck was lighted by dead lights let into the
spar deck. As the ship capsized, the pressure of the air forced
out all those on the port side. Two of the wardroom servants
(Portuguese) who were caught below took refuge in the master's
room, and thrust their hands through these openings
with loud cries for assistance. The boatswain, Mr. Young,
and the gunner, Mr. Oliver, who were conspicuous for their
activity and courage on this occasion, cut the hole larger with
axes and soon got them on deck. They certainly came up

151

through a very small hole, and were so dreadfully frightened
that they forgot all the English they had previously learned,
nor did they recover it while I was with them. The boats
being loaded to the water's edge were sent ashore to land their
men, and we hung on to the wreck to await their return. Our
best men stuck by the officers and were perfectly unconcerned;
the only fear I had was that she might slip off' the rocks and
go down in deep water. In the course of an hour the boats
returned, and the ship was formally abandoned without the loss
of a man.
Mr. Rootes was the last man to leave the wreck.

As soon as we got on shore we picked out good boats' crews
and returned to the ship where we commenced getting sails
and spars for tents and sent them on shore. All the provisions
we could get at were also landed. The water was spoiled five
minutes after the ship struck, and it was well for us that we
found it on the island. As it was we suffered much for the
want of it the first day. By sunset we had sent ashore many
necessary articles and we all landed. I shall never forget the
headache I had when I got on shore, nor the magical effects
of a cup of tea which a sailor brought me in a tin pot. We
slept that night on the beach in the tents we had erected. The
next morning we went again to the wreck, and the Kroumen
who were demoralized the first day now proved very efficient.
The ship's money which consisted of doubloons and silver dollars
in bags had been put on the transom in the cabin, and was
now lying to leeward of it under water with débris of all kinds.
The Kroumen recovered a good deal of it by diving. I noticed
that when they became exhausted they would say they would
make one more dive and stop. At the last dive they would
come up with both hands full of money and their mouths also!
We winked at this proceeding, remembering the old adage
that you should never "look a gift horse in the mouth."

Had it not been for these water-dogs we would not have recovered
a cent. As the ship broke up, different articles floated
on shore; among them many quarter casks of good Madeira
wine. These we had to stave to prevent the men from getting


152

at it. We remained here several days and then removed to
the southern end of the island, where there was a town inhabited
by negroes. Some of us went by land and the rest in the
boats. Upon our arrival the officers and men were distributed
among the houses, and Lieutenant Spottswood was sent in the
launch to Porto Praya to notify the Consul of our condition.
He soon returned with a schooner loaded with provisions from
the naval store-house. There were a few Portuguese in the
village; a commandante, of course, and about twenty black
soldiers. The American Consul was a Portuguese negro who
had received some education in Lisbon. We found him a very
sensible and hospitable man. Mayo exports salt only. Ships
go to the town I am writing of for it. There is no harbor,
and the salt is taken off with much difficulty; it is collected in
pans. We remained on the island 33 days anxiously looking
for the arrival of the Dale. Our amusements were salt-water
bathing, riding donkey races and shooting. We found large
numbers of quail and guinea fowls on the island; the latter
the most difficult bird to shoot I have ever met with. Our
men remained healthy and we lost but one man by sickness.
The huts we lived in were comfortable enough in dry weather;
but in rainy weather the roofs leaked badly. Calling upon
one of the midshipmen one morning I found him in bed reading
Shakespeare; he was smoking a pipe and had a glass of
aguadiente convenient; and to make himself still more comfortable
had an umbrella hoisted to protect himself from the
rain which was falling heavily, and from which the roof of his
shanty did not protect him. On the 8th of October the Dale
arrived, and the next day we went in her to Porto Praya where
we found the Portsmouth, Commodore Gregory, and the John
Adams
, Captain Powell. To this latter ship we were now
transferred and sailed in her for home. We ran the trades
down to the island of St. Thomas where we stopped to water.
We remained but a few days and then sailed for Norfolk where
we arrived in December, 1850. Captain Marston was tried
by a court martial for the loss of his ship and honorably
acquitted.


153

Before closing this chapter I am reminded to give a "rule
for finding the moon's age," given me by Captain Marston—
not that it is new, for I have seen it in almanacs many times
since then, but because I have never known any one, save
myself, to make a proper practical use of it. I am reminded
of it here, because I wanted to know if there was a moon on
the night the Yorktown was wrecked and have applied the
rule to find out. Of course all almanacs give the moon's age;
but then one cannot always have an almanac at hand.

The rule is used by the Church in determining festivals,
feast days, etc. It is as follows: "To the epact, add the day
of the month, and to this sum add the number of the month
from March (inclusive). This sum if less than 30 will be the
moon's age; should the sum exceed 30, subtract 30 and the
remainder will be the moon's age. "The moon's age calculated
in this way may be one day in error.

The epact can be found in the Book of Common Prayer of
the Episcopal Church. Knowing it for one year it is easily
calculated, as it increases by 11 from one year to the next, and
30 is dropped when the sum exceeds 30. It should be observed
that the epact is reckoned from March to March. I will give
an example of the application of this rule:

Required the moon's age on the 5th day of September, 1850.

Epact for 1850 17
Number of months from March to September (inclusive) 7
Day of the month 5
Moon's age 29

So there was no moon on that night.


154

CHAPTER XIV.
A MORNING CALL—ORDERED TO THE SURVEYING BRIG "WASHINGTON"—
SURVEY OF NANTUCKET SHOALS—BLOCK ISLAND AND NO MAN'S LAND—
PILOT DAGGETT—THE PILOT OF THE "BIBB"—ANECDOTES—ORDERED
TO THE "PRINCETON"—A NIGHT WITH THE "SPIRIT-RAPPERS"—AM DETACHED
FROM THE "PRINCETON" AND ORDERED TO THE "CYANE."

UPON the conclusion of the court-martial on Captain Marston,
before which I appeared as a witness, I was granted the
usual three months' "leave." While at home on this "leave"
I was frequently requested by my mother and sister, who were
not visiting at the time, to call on their friend Miss Zanes, who
was living at one of the largest private boarding-houses in the
city. I never returned from a walk that I was not asked if I
had called upon Miss Zanes, until it became at last a household
word. Being very bashful I did not like the idea of
calling alone and introducing myself, but finally I screwed my
courage up to the sticking place.

Calling at the house I inquired if Miss Zanes was in, and
being answered in the affirmative, I sent up my card and
entered the parlor. I had not been long seated when the door
opened and a lady appeared. I met her, introduced myself as
Passed Midshipman Parker of the navy, and shook hands with
her. I thought she seemed embarrassed, but she advanced to
the fire and sat down. I drew up a chair and commenced the
conversation with an allusion to certain atmospherical changes,
etc., but I made but little headway. Miss Zanes is quiet and
timid, I thought, I must endeavor to bring her out. While revolving
in my mind the best manner of accomplishing this the
door opened and another lady appeared; she had her hat on. It
flashed across me in a moment! I had made a mistake. This
was Miss Zanes; she had been out walking, and had just come
in and heard of my being in the parlor. I advanced to the


155

door, bowed, introduced myself as Passed Midshipman Parker
of the navy, and shook her warmly by the hand; at the same
time congratulating myself upon my self-possession and perception.
She went to the fire, took a seat, and entered into
conversation with the first lady. I also took a chair and occasionally
tried to get a word in edgeways, (so to speak); but in
a little while they both rose and went to the window and sat
down in the alcove. Well, I thought, this is a most extraordinary
proceeding on the part of Miss Zanes! But I could
not remain alone at the fire-place, so I picked up a chair and
followed them. The mischief of it was that I was not certain
now which was Miss Zanes! I became somewhat confused and
rather red in the face. I did the best I could under these
novel circumstances and put in a remark now and then to
which they did not deign to reply. While meditating a retreat,
and not exactly sure as to which one to shake hands with in
making mes adieux the door opened, and a third lady appeared
upon the scene!

By George, said I to myself, I have been all wrong, this must
be Miss Zanes! I advanced to meet her, introduced myself as
before, and fortunately for my brain it was Miss Zanes: the
real Simon pure. I begged her to explain to the other ladies
that I was not an escaped lunatic with a mania for introducing
myself to people; shook her very warmly by the hand and
evaporated through the front door. If Miss Zanes had not
made her appearance when she did I would have introduced
myself to all the boarders in the Butler house (as it was just
before the dinner hour) and would probably have ended by
being sent to an asylum. I have not had the pleasure of meeting
Miss Zanes from that day to this.

At the expiration of my "leave" I was ordered to the surveying
brig Washington, lieutenant commanding S. Swartwout.
The party was in charge of lieutenant commanding Charles H.
McBlair, and consisted of the steamer Bibb, the brig Washington
and a small schooner which we chartered for the season.
We spent the summer of 1851 in surveying the Nantucket


156

Shoals, and what with gales of wind and fogs we did not get a
great many working days. I had the command of the
"tender," and when we did have fair weather would have to
sit upon deck from about 4 A. M. till 8 in the evening taking
an angle every five minutes. I found it uninteresting as well
as hard work and was not sorry when the season was over.

Happening to ride out a gale on the shoals I comprehended
how so many small fishing vessels are lost on the
banks; for if one holds on too long she will swamp before a
man can get forward to slip the chain; indeed it is impossible
to do so.

We did some independent work in the Washington afterwards
off Block island and No-man's-land. Block island and
Nantucket were primitive places in those days, but are now
popular summer resorts. Our pilot, Mr. Daggett, had been
the pilot of the frigate Congress in the war of 1812, and related
many interesting incidents concerning it. He said they
were once nine months at sea without going into port. The
present Commodore Ingraham who was a midshipman in the
ship has since corroborated many of Daggett's statements.
The pilot of the Bibb was quite another character; brought
up on Nantucket island, going to sea in the summer and
working at his trade in the winter, he was one of the most
original men I have ever met. He had a fund of anecdotes,
and most of them were out of the usual run of sea-yarns;
one was of a man who was taken very ill from having eaten
twelve lobsters. The doctor not relieving him of his pain, he
went off and commenced praying as follows: "Oh Lord, you
know I am not like those Methodist fellows who are always
praying for help and doing nothing for themselves—but if
you will relieve me of six of these lobsters I'll try and grapple
with the other half-dozen myself."

We laid the Washington up in New York in October, and
then went to Washington for the winter, where we were employed
in office work.

In the spring of 1852 preparations were being made for


157

Commodore Perry's Japan expedition. I was ordered to the
Princeton, a new screw sloop just completed at the Boston
Yard and designated as one of the vessels of the squadron.

I had a very curious experience with the "spirit rappers"
the night I arrived in Boston. It was in the midst of the excitement
caused by the revelations of the Fox girls, and there
were more or less believers in every town in New England. I
met at the Tremont House my friends Passed Midshipmen Hare
and Selden, the first a "true believer," the latter a sceptic in the
rapping business, and they proposed that we should visit a "medium"
that night. Before starting it was decided that Hare
should be the questioner and that he should summon up the spirit
of a Passed Midshipman Simmons, who had been drowned off
the coast of Brazil a year before. Simmons was a friend of mine,
but an enemy of Hare. We got to the house of a Mr. Leroy
Sunderland about midnight and were ushered into a back
parlor where we found the "medium" seated. She was a pale,
delicate-looking young woman, of nervous temperament and a
frightened air. She had the appearance of a person addicted
to the use of narcotics. She was very lady-like in her dress
and manner, and for a few minutes we sat around the table,
which was an ordinary mahogany centre-table, engaged in
conversation. After awhile the spirit of Simmons made its
arrival known by a series of raps under the table, and we
proceeded to business. I should mention that we were each
provided with a pencil and a card with the alphabet printed
on it. All communications were made by means of this alphabet,
the questioner putting his pencil on each letter in
succession, and the spirit designating the correct one by a rap,
until the word was spelled out. Suffice it to say that all
Hare's questions were answered with the most remarkable
accuracy, though we knew the "medium" could have no suspicion
of who we were. Finally the spirit said to Hare: "I
do not like you and will not answer any more questions." I
must say I was staggered at this reply and I suspect showed
it. The "medium" then said to the spirit: "Is there any person


158

in the room you will answer?" The reply was indicated by the
table moving sharply up against my breast! The "medium"
directed me to ask a question and I confess that the whole
proceeding had astonished me so much that I could scarcely
keep my hand from trembling. However, I asked a question,
and it being by this time very late I thought it well to break
up the séance; so I put my foot under the table and tilted it.
The "medium" instantly rose and said there would be no
more communications, that some one had tilted the table. I
"acknowledged the corn" (no pun-ish-ment), and we all engaged
in conversation again. The "medium" now turned
her attention especially to me; she said I could become a first-class
medium; that she knew I was sceptical then, but that
if I would only have faith I would become a far better medium
than she; that my appearance indicated it; (by the way, considering
the appearance of the young lady, and that of Mr.
Leroy Sunderland himself, this was not so much of a compliment
as one might suppose), and gave many other good reasons
for her belief. So earnest was she in this that after we had
left the room she called me back and said the "spirits" would
do almost anything to make me a "true believer," and that
if I wished it they would rap on the head of my bed that
night! I assured her that I would come again to see the
"spirits" and that I did not wish them to rap on the head of
my bed; I was most impressive on this point. I felt nervous
enough without that.

We returned to the hotel and I went to bed. I was
awakened by hearing a spirit talking to me. I opened my
eyes and saw a dim outline of something clothed in white robes.,
Although I could not exactly hear the words I knew that the
spirit said: "We are anxious to convert you; get up and you
will see something wonderful;" I rose in bed and saw directly
in front of me a cross of fire! I lay down again completely
dazed, and convinced that this was a revelation. Just then I
heard the "boots" in the passage, and this gave me courage.
I rose again and at first saw the cross of fire as before—gazing


159

steadily at it I rose and walked towards it. The inside shutters
of my room were in two parts, and the first gleam of the
rising sun shining on them had made the burning cross. It
was not until I had actually touched the shutter that the illusion
was dispelled, and if I had not risen the second time I
suppose I should have become a spiritualist. I went many
times after this to see them, and I observed that while my
friend Hare's questions were always answered correctly, mine
never were. I thought that perhaps the "mediums" were expert
physiognomists—they watched the face of the questioner
as he rested his pencil on the letter, and remembered that "the
wish is father to the thought."

I reported for the Princeton as ordered. She was a long,
narrow vessel with a great shear, and not at all adapted to the
naval service. We were towed to Baltimore by the Mississippi
to take in the machinery, which had been contracted for. Commander
Sidney Smith Lee was ordered to command her, and
my dear friend and mentor, Frank Murray, was one of the
lieutenants. I should have been charmed to sail with them,
but finding there was no chance of the ship getting to sea became
impatient and exchanged into the sloop-of-war Cyane,
Captain George N. Hollins, at Norfolk, bound to the West
Indies. I may say here that the Princeton never did get to
sea; she was a miserable failure in every respect, and was
finally sent to Philadelphia to end her days as a receiving ship.


160

CHAPTER XV.
JOIN THE "CYANE"—BAD NAVIGATION—HAVANA—THE LOPEZ EXPEDITION
—KEY WEST—THE DRY TORTUGAS—PENSACOLA—COMMODORE J. T. NEWTON
—GREYTOWN—THE NICARAGUA ROUTE—A TRIP UP THE SAN JUAN
DEL NORTE—CASTILLO—JOIN A FLYING SQUADRON AT PORTSMOUTH,
N. H.—EASTPORT—ST. JOHNS—THE BAY OF FUNDY—CAPTAIN GEO. N.
HOLLINS—A SUNKEN ROCK—AN OLD TIME DUTCH COMMANDER—THE
GULF OF ST. LAWRENCE—DETACHED FROM THE "CYANE"—THE "CYANE"
BOMBARDS GREYTOWN—THE ISTHMUS OF DARIEN—STRAIN'S EXPEDITION
—CAPTAIN PREVOST'S EXPERIENCE—THE DARIEN AND MOSQUITO INDIANS.

I REPORTED on board the Cyane in July, 1852, and did not
much fancy going into the steerage again after having been
sailing master of a ship for two years; but my rank did not
entitle me to be detailed as such from the navy department, so
I had to take my chance of an acting appointment as I had
done in going to the coast of Africa. We went from Norfolk
to New York for a draft of men to complete our crew, and in
the Fall sailed for Havana. Our master was not by any means
an expert in the art of navigating a ship, and in attempting to
go through the Hole in the Wall came very near plumping us
on Abaco Island; however we got to Havana without further
mishap and after remaining there a few days sailed for Pensacola.
Here we found orders to return to Havana. On this
trip our master got entirely out of his reckoning; we made
the land on the fourth day out, and at sunset hove to off what
he said was Havana. We thought it very strange that the
light could not be seen; but there is always much delicacy
observed in such cases in the navy, and no one had a word to
say. That night I had the mid watch, and at 12 o'clock relieved
the master who told me the orders were to keep the beach
in sight.
The ship was under topsails, foresail and jib and


161

was sailing along the land with a light breeze, instead of being
hove to with her head off shore as she should have been. Not
liking the look of things I made the master write the orders
on the log slate.

About 1 o'clock the lookout in the lee gangway reported
a boat in sight, and stepping to leeward I saw a fishing boat at
anchor. Knowing we must be pretty close to the land I wore
ship close around the boat, and stood off shore. At 3 A. M. I
tacked ship and stood in shore again for the purpose of putting
the ship as near the position in which I took charge of her as
possible. At 4 when the watch was called we were nearly as
close to the land as at 12, and when my relief (who was a slow
coach) came up we just had the beach in sight as directed. I
told my relief that he had better tack ship at once, stand off
shore for an hour, and by that time it would be light enough
for him to see. He said he would do so. I went below and
waited anxiously to hear the order "ready about," which at last
came. As the ship went round I commenced to undress, but
just as she came head to wind she struck and was soon hard
and fast aground. All hands were soon on deck and the
stream anchor was carried out astern. The ship did not make
any water, and by 8 o'clock we had her afloat again without
having had to start the water or throw anything overboard;
but it was a narrow escape. We found upon inquiring of
some fishermen who came off that we were near Bahia Honda,
45 miles west of Havana!

Captain Hollins was a very cool, prompt seaman, and
handled his ship well on this occasion. I was much struck
with his manner upon reaching the deck. He did not ask any
unnecessary questions; he recognized the fact that the vessel
was on shore and must be gotten off, and he proceeded to take
steps to accomplish it. Indeed he never did call the master to
account either for being so much out in his reckoning, or for
not heaving the ship to with her head off shore as he had
ordered him to do. I thought myself he should not have overlooked
this latter point.


162

Upon our arrival at Havana our third lieutenant was invalided
which promoted me to master, and a few days afterwards
the Fulton came in with Vice President King on board,
short of officers. Our former master was sent to her, and I
became an acting lieutenant, and Passed Midshipman Van
Zandt was made master.

Our stay at Havana was not marked by any incidents of
importance. The relations between the United States and
Spain were rather strained in consequence of the expedition of
Lopez in 1850. In April of that year Lopez landed at Cardenas
with about six hundred men, and after an obstinate
engagement succeeded in taking the town. He was afterwards
forced to fly, and with some others escaped to the United
States. The Cubans treated the prisoners with unnecessary
cruelty, not to say barbarity; and the feeling against Americans
was very bitter at this time.

It will be remembered that Lopez made another attempt in
the summer of 1851 with 480 men. On the 11th of August
he landed on the northern coast of Cuba, where he left Colonel
Crittenden and 100 men, and started to the interior expecting
to be joined by the people. He was disappointed. His army
was attacked and dispersed. Crittenden and his party were
captured and shot. Lopez and six of his companions were
also captured, and afterwards executed at Havana by the garrote.
The recent attempts of the Cubans to attain their independence,
and the shooting of Captain Fry and others need
not be repeated here. These expeditions cannot be justified
by any international laws or customs.

We gave a ball during our stay, but it was principally attended
by Americans and English, and we saw but little of
Cuban society in any of our subsequent visits. We managed
to enjoy ourselves riding about the neighborhood in volantes,
visiting the Tacon theatre and the café Dominica, the most
charming café I have ever seen in any country.

From Havana we went to Key West where we spent two
weeks very pleasantly. The citizens we found very kind and


163

hospitable and several balls were given us. The Cyane had
now been several years in commission and was overrun by rats.
The men were so much annoyed by them that they could find
no comfort in their hammocks. Reinforcements joined them
at every port in spite of all our precautions, and it had come
to such a point that we had to take steps to get rid of them;
so Captain Hollins decided to go to the Tortugas islands and
"smoke" the ship. The Tortugas were surveyed in 1829 by
the late Commodore Tattnall and the following year the Government
commenced extensive fortifications on them. At the
time of our visit the fort was not garrisoned, an ordnance
sergeant being in charge.

We ran the ship alongside the coral reef and made her fast
as though alongside a wharf. The air ports and hatches being
carefully caulked in, charcoal fires were lit along the berth
deck and in the holds, on platforms of sand. The carbonic
acid gas formed, being heavier than the air, sinks and the rats
are driven up from below. Tubs of water were placed along
the deck, and as the gas makes the rats thirsty they are found
around these tubs. The officers and the crew bivouacked on
the island for two days and nights. We then returned to the
ship and removed the hatches. I am afraid to tell how many
dead rats we took from the berth deck and store rooms; but we
were not troubled with them again during the cruise, nor did
any seem to have died in the hold of the ship.

From the Tortugas we went to Pensacola where we found
the frigate Columbia, bearing the flag of Commodore John T.
Newton. Commodore Newton, though brave and intrepid,
met with almost as much ill fortune at sea as Admiral Byron
who was nicknamed by his sailors "Foul-weather Jack." He
was a lieutenant on board the Hornet when she took the Penguin
in 1815; and a sword presented to him for his gallantry
on this occasion bore the inscription, "Fortune favors the
brave
." It did not apply in his case, however. He was unfortunate
enough to once lose an officer and boat's crew off
Havana; he commanded the old steamer Fulton which blew


164

up at the New York Navy Yard by the explosion of her
magazine; in 1852 he was ordered to command the steamer
Missouri, a sister ship to the Mississippi; in her he went to
Washington—the ship got ashore in the Potomac, and a lieutenant
and some men were drowned in carrying out an anchor in
the launch; finally the Missouri was burned at Gibraltar.
The commodore was a remarkably handsome man, of tall,
elegant figure and graceful carriage. He was extremely
courteous to his officers.

At this time (March, 1853,) the Nicaragua route between
New York and San Francisco was doing a good business; the
trip between the two places was sometimes made in nineteen
days, which was shorter than via Panama. The steamer from
New York went to Greytown (San Juan de Nicaragua) and there
the passengers were put on board light-draft, stern-wheel steamboats,
which went up the San Juan river to Lake Nicaragua.
Here, at a village called Fort San Carlos, they were transferred
to commodious side-wheel steamboats in which they crossed the
lake to Virgin Bay, and from Virgin Bay they crossed in a
conveyance of some kind to San Juan del Sur, a distance of
ten miles, and went on board the ocean steamer for San Francisco.

Greytown on the Mosquito coast claimed to be under the
protection of England, though this was a matter of dispute.
The whole Mosquito coast had been under the protection of
the British for many years; but in 1850 the jealousy of the
United States having long existed on this subject, the two
governments covenanted "not to occupy, or fortify, or colonize,
or assume or exercise any dominion over any part of Central
America." The matter was finally settled in 1857 by Nicaragua
taking possession of it.

The town at the time of our visit in the spring of 1853 was
inhabited by a lawless set of desperadoes, of all nations, who
had organized some kind of a city government. The mayor
was said to have been an escaped convict from Sing Sing,
and I believe it was so, for the others were evidently tarred


165

with the same brush. They resembled the old buccaneers in
everything save courage.

These people made a living by preying upon the passengers
passing to and from California, of whom large numbers were
detained at Greytown a day or two at a time on their passage:
more by design than by accident. Nearly every house in town
was a hotel. The harbor here is formed by an island at the
mouth of the river lying opposite Greytown; on this island
the steamship company had its store-houses, and as long as the
passengers were detained occasionally and sent ashore in the
town to pass a night or two everything went smoothly; but
finally the company decided to build a hotel on the island to
keep the passengers on their side of the river during the transit
and to prohibit their landing at Greytown at all; to do all the
"skinning" itself in fact. This was more than the Greytowners
could stand and they declared war to the knife. Getting wind
of this state of affairs the Cyane went there to keep the peace.
We arrived the very night the island was to be stormed and
sacked, and landed a force to protect it. The Greytown gentlemen
decided to postpone the attack until our departure.
We kept our men on the island for a few days and the captain
then issued a proclamation which he had posted in Greytown
forbidding the inhabitants going there without first obtaining
permission from the Cyane. He was soundly abused by them
for this, but bore it philosophically; especially as the proclamation
was obeyed. We remained here seventy mortal days, the
dreariest time I ever passed in any foreign port, and that is
saying a good deal. Our only excitement was caused by the
arrival of the steamers from New York and New Orleans which
made fortnightly trips and brought us our mails, and the
arrival of the steamers from Lake Nicaragua with the San
Francisco passengers.

I noticed a difference in the deportment of the outgoing and
incoming passengers; those going out were full of fun and
frolic, while those returning were more quiet, I suppose because
they had either lost all hope or had made small fortunes


166

which they carried about their persons and were careful not
to exhibit. In company with some of our officers I made a
trip up the river as far as Castillo in one of the company's
boats. Castillo, so called from an old Spanish fort built here
to command the river, is about 15 miles from the lake. It was
once taken by the English under Lord Nelson (then a post
captain) and he lost a large number of men by fever. It is
situated on a high hill overlooking a bend in the river and
presents a most romantic appearance—all ruins do. In traveling
in these countries one is surprised to see so many solidly
built fortifications. The old saying is: "The Spanish build
forts, the French take them, and the English hold them."
We remained in Castillo a week and then went down the river
in a crowded boat with the California passengers which we had
not bargained for—there was no distinction made between cabin
and steerage passengers, and as the latter made a practice of
shooting across the deck at alligators on the banks, promenading
was unhealthy—so we had to sit huddled together for three
days. The man next me had the small-pox.

To add to our discomfort on board the Cyane we would occasionally
find snakes; they would come floating down the
river on drift wood, &c., and run up our cables. This was a
thing I never could become used to, though they were said to
be harmless. Our amusements consisted in fishing, and shooting
alligators, or I should say of shooting at alligators—for I
never saw one killed. We caught one in our seine once, and
wild work he made of it. The men towed him off to the ship,
and we hoisted him on board with the yard-tackle. The seine
was about ruined; but we got the alligator! I here first eat
the Iguana, cooked by a Mosquito Indian, and found it very
palatable.

At last the time came when we were getting out of provisions,
so we sailed for Pensacola. Here we found orders to sail
for Portsmouth, N. H., there to join a flying squadron under
Commodore W. B. Shubrick. We met the squadron at Portsmouth,
having touched at Norfolk on our way up. The object


167

of this flying squadron, which consisted of four vessels, was to
protect the fisheries.

The vessels now separated, each to visit different ports. We
went first to Eastport, Maine, and thence to St. Johns, N. B.
The tide rises and falls from twenty to twenty-five feet at these
places and it is necessary to bear this in mind in selecting an
anchorage. St. Johns, as seen from a vessel, presents at high
water quite a different appearance from what it does at low
water. We sailed from this place with a southwesterly wind,
and proceeded to beat out of the Bay of Fundy. The night
following was one of the most disagreeable I have ever passed
at sea. I was navigating the ship again, and we were trying
to make the light on Seal island. It was blowing and raining:
thick as mud; the tide running four or five miles an
hour, and no soundings to be had. Take it all in all it was
a most trying night. The Seal islands are marked by the
wrecks of many vessels, and no wonder—the frequent fogs
alone are enough to account for it, to say nothing of the tides
and the absence of soundings. We made the light at 4 A. M.
and shortly after, I shaped a course for Cape Sable and turned
in. I had a good joke on the captain a little later in the
day. We were running along the land, about seven miles off,
and steering due south. While I was breakfasting, the captain
(who was a very bold navigator but much given to
"chaffing") looked down the hatchway and inquired why I
kept so far from the land, and "what I was afraid of?" I
replied that I would explain, and going to his cabin I pointed
out to him on the chart a rock marked with twelve feet water
on it, about four miles off the land and directly in our track.
It was marked "doubtful," and was not on all the charts, but
as I said, the sea was so smooth it would not break on it and
there would be nothing to indicate it; that it might be there,
and I thought it better to "guard against all precautions," to
use a slang of his own. The captain laughed at it, said there
was no rock there, and compared me to old Bainbridge who
"went forty miles out of his way to avoid a fly-speck," etc., etc.,


168

and directed me to haul the ship in to within three or four
miles of the land. This I did, and soon forgot all about the
matter. At meridian I observed the latitude and reported
the result to the captain as usual, and then went to my room
to compute the longitude. I had hardly reached it when the
orderly came down and said the captain wanted me immedidiately.
I hurried up to the cabin and found Captain Hollins
plotting our position, from the latitude and estimated distance
from the land, and it put us right on fop of the rock!

He had consulted some other charts which had the rock
marked down, and I found him somewhat disturbed. We
were under starboard studding-sails and royals, and not knowing
what better to do—for he knew we would strike the rock
before seeing it if it were really there he took in all sail and
hove the ship to. This extraordinary proceeding on a fine,
clear day, with a fair wind, no doubt caused "Jack" much
surprise: but we gave no explanation, and "Jack" is not
much given to asking one. About 2 o'clock we filled away
and made all sail without seeing any signs of the rock;
whether it exists or not I do not know, but it was a long time
before the captain said "rocks" or "fly-specks" to me again.

Captain Hollins was one of the most agreeable men I have
ever sailed with; a prime seaman, he did not bother himself
about trifles; but in a time of danger all under his command
looked up to him and depended upon him. As an example of
his readiness I may mention one incident, although it occurred
after I had left the ship. The Cyane was running along the
coast of New Jersey, in thick weather, and getting too close
in struck on one of the dangerous shoals off Little Egg harbor.
Captain H. sprang up on deck, clewed up everything,
and let go the anchor. The weather clearing up just at this
time several boats were seen making for the ship (which
was then afloat and riding to her anchor) in great haste. As
the first boat got alongside a man sprung up the ship's side
and called out in an excited manner: "I'll wreck this ship;
I claim her," etc., etc. Captain H. in a quiet manner asked


169

him what he meant. "Why I thought you were on shore
and wanted assistance," said the man. "Oh no," said Hollins
—" I've only come in to take a look at the harbor." After
some conversation of the same kind the man agreed to pilot
the Cyane out through the shoals for the sum of ten dollars!

The captain used to relate a conversation he once had with
a Dutch captain who took part in the bombardment of Algiers
under Lord Exmouth in 1816. Three Dutch frigates which
happened to be lying at Gibraltar when the English squadron
arrived asked for and obtained permission to join it in the proposed
expedition and they rendered good service. The Dutchman
was complaining to Captain Hollins that the English
papers did not give them proper credit for their action, &c.,
&c. "But," said Captain H., "the Dutch papers mentioned
it, did they not?" "Oh yes!" was the reply, "de Dutch papers
mentioned it, but who de debble ever reads de Dutch papers?"

It used to be said when I was a midshipman that one of our
vessels once killed a man on board a Dutch frigate while firing
a salute—the gunner had neglected to draw the shot from one
of the guns. The American captain was much mortified and
distressed at the occurrence and sent a lieutenant on board to
express his regrets. The lieutenant found the Dutch captain
coolly smoking his pipe and made the proper explanations, &c.
"Oh!" said the captain: "There are plenty more Dutchmen
in Holland!"

We rounded Cape Sable, and passing by Halifax went
through the Straits of Canso into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
We saw here some of the grandest scenery I have ever beheld;
Cape Breton island on one side and Nova Scotia on the
other. I really had no expectation of it as I had never seen
it mentioned. It only proves, what is often said, that Americans
need not leave their own continent for magnificent scenery. I
should like to describe the appearance of these straits as we
entered them in the Cyane in September, 1853. I have the
idea, but cannot find words to express it. I am, in point of
fact, somewhat in the condition of Mr. Toots' tailor "who had


170

a pair of pantaloons in his mind, but couldn't cut them out."
Not the first author who has found himself in the same predicament.

Our orders were to "sight" the Magdalen islands, and then
sail around Cape Breton island on our way home. We had a
fair wind and shaped a course directly for these islands which
we expected to see about 11 p. M. I had read in the sailing
directions that the "light" was very carelessly kept and sometimes
not lighted at all, and as the night was very dark I could
not help feeling uneasy and I several times remarked to the
captain that perhaps he had better heave to until daylight.
But he was anxious to get home and did not wish to lose any
time; he told me that all he wanted was to "make the light,"
and he would then bear away for Cape North. I went forward
and told the boatswain, whom I found on the forecastle this,
and remarked that all we wanted was to make the light which
we should do at 11 o'clock. The boatswain said he would
keep a lookout himself, and that he had no doubt but that we
would make the light very soon!
Singular to say just as the
bell struck for 11 the lookout forward reported a light right
ahead!
"Hard aport" said the captain, and directing me to
set the course he went below and turned in, and I shortly after
followed his example. We returned to Portsmouth where we
found the commodore and reported the particulars of our
cruise. We then went to Philadelphia where I was detached
and ordered to the Naval Academy, Annapolis, as an Assistant
Professor of Mathematics.

The Cyane returned to Greytown in 1854 and bombarded
it. I have really forgotten on what grounds Captain Hollins
did this; but it was a nest of pirates, and the pity is he did
not destroy the inhabitants and spare the houses. We often
hear by the way of a man-of-war knocking towns down, blowing
them to pieces, &c.; but it is easier said than done, and
this I have always held to. Greytown was built entirely of
wood, yet it stood a fire of shot and shell for four or five hours,
and then a landing party had to be sent to set it on fire!


171

In the years 1853–4 great interest was felt in the explorations
of the Isthmus of Darien, the object being to find a suitable
place for a canal between the two oceans. Not that the
idea of a canal was a new one by any means, for the Emperor
Charles V sent a peremptory order to his governors on the
isthmus to "cut a canal," and this was not many years after
the discovery of the Pacific ocean or South sea as it was then
called. It had long been thought that the Darien Indians
knew of a short route across the isthmus if they could be gotten
to reveal it. But these Indians were known to be jealous
of strangers and very warlike in their disposition. They remain
unconquered to the present day. Dampier who knew
them well, having crossed the isthmus from the Gulf of San
Miguel in 1681, says in speaking of a tribe living on the Atrato
river: "They are very dreadful to the Spaniards and will not
have any commerce with them nor with any white people.
They use tubes about eight feet long out of which they blow
poisoned darts."

Several travelers about this time (1853) professed to have
crossed the isthmus in a few days time, and to have met with no
very high elevations. These stories are now known to be false.
In reading the accounts of Davis, Ringrose, Wafer, Dampier and
others—all buccaneers, and who were frequently crossing in
the latter part of the 17th century—I observe that the journey
occupied from twelve to twenty days. The Indians did not
know of a shorter route then or they would have shown it, because
they were friendly to the buccaneers who they knew
were crossing to the South sea to make war upon the Spaniards
whom they held in deadly enmity. Lieutenant Isaac G. Strain
of the navy got permission to organize a party and attempt to
cross. The Cyane took him and his companions to Caledonia
Bay in January, 1854. Captain Hollins called a council of the
Indians in his cabin and finally they consented to allow the party
to cross and to furnish guides. We all know the fate of this expedition.
They started with 12 officers and 13 men on the 20th
of January with ten days provisions—their guides left them the


172

second day after starting and they wandered helplessly in the
woods until the men commenced to fall down and die of hunger.
They were searching for the Savanna river to lead them into
the Gulf of San Miguel and they struck the Chuquinaque
which leads there by a much longer route. February 13th,
Strain seeing that he would lose his entire party if help was
not obtained took two of his strongest men and pushed on
ahead leaving the others to follow under Passed Midshipman
W. T. Truxtun (the present Commodore Truxtun.) Strain
succeeded in getting to the Gulf of San Miguel on the 9th of
March, and there fortunately found the English man-of-war
Virago. A boat expedition was immediately fitted out and
sent up the river with the necessary supplies. It found the
party, March 23d, on the banks, in a half starved condition. It
arrived just in time. Had it not been for the indomitable
courage and perseverance of Truxtun and Jack Maury (an
assistant engineer in the navy) the whole party would have
died of starvation. Messrs. Polanco and Castilla, the Columbian
commissioners, and six men perished. The survivors were
taken to Panama, and finally returned to the United States in
the Cyane, sailing from Panama April 25th.

The mistake made by Strain was in taking sailors for a land
exploration; he might as well have taken a party of children.
These men, with arms in their hands, were starving in a country
abounding in game! Had he taken a few western hunters
the fate of the expedition would have been different. The
history (so called) of this expedition was written by Headley,
and published in Harper's Magazine. It is much to be
regretted that Commodore Truxtun, almost the only survivor,
cannot be prevailed upon to write out a full account
of it.

In 1858 I met in the Pacific a Lieutenant Moore of the
British Navy who gave me an interesting account of his
experience on the Isthmus. He set out with Captain Prevost
and a number of men to cross from the Pacific to the Atlantic
side. They went up to the head of the Gulf of San Miguel (I


173

think) in boats and there, hiding a portion of their provisions,
they left four men to guard the boats, and started for the
interior. They met with such difficulties that they made but
slow progress, and finally had to return. When they got
back to the boats they found the four men lying dead, shot
by the Indians with poisoned arrows. The rest of the party
got back safely to their ship. These Indians told Captain
Prevost afterward they would not have killed these men had
they known they were English. They thought they were
Spaniards, for whom they have an undying hatred. It is
curious to note how this feeling has been handed down among
them by tradition. They still remember that the English
crossed the Isthmus in the early days to fight the Spaniards,
who at the time held their ancestors in the most cruel servitude
wherever they could lay hands upon them.

The same friendship for the English exists at this day among
the Mosquito Indians, the foundation of which was laid by
these same buccaneers. Dampier says of them: "They are
tall, well made, raw-boned, lusty, strong and nimble of foot,
long visaged, lank black hair, look stern, hard favored, and
of a dark copper-color complexion. They are but a small
nation, and not one hundred men of them in number, inhabiting
on the main near Cape Gratias à Dios. They are very
ingenious at throwing the lance, fishgig, and harpoon. They
have extraordinary good eyes, and will descry a sail at sea
farther, and see anything better than we. Their chief employment
in their own country is to strike fish and turtle. For this
they are esteemed and coveted by all privateers; for one or
two of them in a ship will maintain a hundred men; and it
is very, rare to find privateers destitute of one or more of them
when the commander or most of the men are English. But
they do not love the French, and the Spanish they hate mortally."


174

CHAPTER XVI.
REPORT FOR DUTY AT THE NAVAL ACADEMY—ORDERED TO THE "MERRIMAC"
—AUXILIARY STEAM POWER—SAIL FROM BOSTON—ARRIVAL AT
RIO—THE "GANGES" 74—DOUBLE CAPE HORN AND ARRIVE AT TALCAHUANA
—BRILLIANT PERFORMANCE AT VALPARAISO—CHINCHA
ISLANDS—THE CHINESE COOLIE AND THE PERUVIAN CHOLO —FIRST INHABITANTS
OF NORTH AMERICA—CALLAO—LIMA—THE SPANISH AMERICAN
REPUBLICS AND POPULATION—PAYTA—THE BUCCANEERS—ALEXANDER
SELKIRK—JUAN FERNANDEZ—DAMPIER—CIRCUMNAVIGATORS—
MAGELLAN—DRAKE—THE EARLY SPANISH VOYAGERS.

I REPORTED for duty at the Naval Academy in October,
1853, and remained there until June, 1857. For the first two
years I was an instructor in mathematics, and afterwards, in
navigation and astronomy. In the summer of 1855 I made a
cruise in the practice ship Preble with the midshipmen, as instructor
in navigation and watch officer; we visited Eastport,
Portland, Cape Cod and Boston. I found the Academy much
improved since my examination; the curriculum more expansive;
the grounds greatly enlarged; and many new buildings
erected. In September, 1855, I received my commission of
lieutenant; having served just fourteen years for it. In the
fall of 1857 I was ordered to the screw frigate Merrimac, fitting
out at Boston for the Pacific. She bore the flag of Commodore
J. C. Long, and was commanded by Commander Hitchcock.
The Merrimac was one of a class of steam frigates just built.
She was over 3,000 tons, and carried a battery of 9 inch Dahlgren
guns on her main deck; and on the spar deck two 11 inch
Dahlgren guns as bow and stern chasers, and sixty-four pounder
shell guns. She and her sister ships were much the largest
frigates of their time. She was a fine-looking ship, and her main
deck with its powerful battery was a picture for a sailor to behold;
but I cannot say much for either her sailing or steaming


175

qualities. She was very long (for those days) and correspondingly
sluggish in her movements. She would "tack," however,
and in that had the advantage of some of the men-of-war
of the present day; but I believe that with a smart breeze an
old time line-of-battle ship would have worked round her in
spite of her "auxiliary" steam power. Before I joined her
she had made a six months trial cruise and her officers gave
fabulous accounts of her speed under sail. I never discovered
it myself though I was in her more than two years. I recollect we
made the passage from Panama to Callao in company with the
Decatur, and she beat us in all the weather we experienced on
the trip, yet she was the ship that Joe Watkins said, one
morning got under the shade of a large tree while sailing along
the coast of Africa, and did not get out of it though she had
a fair wind all day!

"I cannot tell how the truth may be;
I say the tale as 'twas said to me."

As for her speed under steam, 7 knots was the maximum
when we left Boston; at the end of the cruise 5 knots was all
she could keep up for 24 hours. The fact is the "auxiliary"
steam power was an absurdity; the ships would neither steam
nor sail. It has always seemed to me that men-of-war should
be provided with engines and boilers calculated to give them
very great speed; they need not use steam in cruising unless in
a case of emergency, and the exercise of a ship under sail would
be of inconceivable benefit to the younger officers. While
the "naval officer" is really a soldier, that is a military man,
and must not be confounded with the merchant captain who
simply follows a mercantile pursuit, yet it must be borne in
mind that it is just as essential that he should know how to
manage a ship as it is that a dragoon should know how to ride;
therefore too much attention cannot be paid to this important
point in the education of the young officers of the navy.

The Merrimac had a full complement of officers and men
and we mustered about six hundred souls. On the 17th


176

of October we sailed from Boston on what was to prove a
dull uninteresting cruise. We had on board the Hon. R.
Kidder Meade who had just been appointed Minister to
Brazil. We had fine weather on our way out, and arrived
at Rio Janeiro in December. Here we found the English 74,
Ganges, Admiral Baynes, on her way to the Pacific. We
frequently fell in with her afterwards and knew her officers
well. Burgoyne, who was lost with most of his crew in the
iron clad ship Captain in 1870 was her commander. He
was a bright, pleasant fellow, and I remember was very popular
with his messmates though he had been promoted (for his
services in the Crimea) over most of their heads.

We sailed from Rio towards the latter part of December for
the Pacific ocean. We had intended going through the Straits
of Magellan, but for some reason the idea was abandoned
when we got near the entrance; so passing through the Straits
of Le Maire we rounded the much dreaded Cape Horn
without encountering any bad weather, and arrived safely at
Talcahuana, Chili, early in February, 1858. We remained
here a couple of weeks to refit and paint ship. It is the seaport
of the more important town of Concepcion, situated a few
miles inland, and is a large and safe harbor. We gave our
men liberty here—a watch at a time. They got into a row
with the native police, or vigilantes, and many came off with
cracked skulls.

We sailed from Talcahuana for Valparaiso, where news
had been received of our being on the coast, and where our
arrival was anxiously looked for. They had heard of the
splendid new steam frigate Merrimac, and expected to see us
dash into the port at the rate of twenty miles an hour; consequently
when we were signalled every man, woman and child
made haste to arrive at a point where they could view this
magnificent spectacle. They feared the ship would arrive before
they could reach the points selected. It is to be hoped
they carried their dinners with them. We "slowed down" to
about ("our knots an hour as soon as we made the land, and towards


177

sunset crept in, and after making a "Judy Fitzsimmons"
of ourselves, anchored so far out that if it had been at all
hazy our arrival would not have been known in town.

This was our usual method of taking up an anchorage: but
I have seen the Ganges, a ship of reasonable length and beam,
run a half-mile inside of us under all sail and make a "flying
moor," somewhat after the manner of the "ancients."

From Valparaiso we sailed for the Chincha islands. These
islands lie a few miles off Pisco on the Peruvian coast, about
120 miles southeast of Callao. The custom house is at Pisco and
all vessels going to the islands for guano enter and clear there.

The use of guano was known to the ancient Peruvians.
Humboldt was one of the first by whom it was brought into
notice in Europe, and its importation into England commenced
about 1839. At the time of our visit there were forty
or fifty American vessels here—all large, fine ships and all of
which we boarded.

Nothing can be more dismal than the appearance of these
islands, and nothing more horrible than living on them. Not
a green thing to be seen—nothing but guano; the men live
in it; they smell it, breathe it, and I suppose taste it in their
food. The laborers were Chinese coolies, in charge of a
few Peruvian soldiers. I was told that they would become
so desperate that gangs of them would commit suicide together
by joining hands and leaping from the cliffs into the
sea. I could well believe it after a brief visit to the islands;
and when a Chinaman once makes up his mind to take his
life nothing will stop him. It is well known that when the
Panama railroad was being built the Chinese would drown
themselves in two feet of water by sticking their heads in the
mud and keeping them there until life was extinct.

The coolies in Chili and Peru are (or at least were at this
time) little better than slaves. They are brought over from
China, where they are bought or kidnapped, and bound for
a term of years. Very few live to return to their own country.
I have been on board the Spanish vessels engaged in the coolie


178

trade, and with their armed officers, iron gratings over the
hatchways, etc., they are fac-similes of the African slavers.

By the way, I frequently heard while on the coast that the
first Chinese taken to Peru could communicate with the native
Indian or Cholo. I do not know if this be true, but I heard
it from several sources. That a point of so much importance
should not excite much attention will not surprise those who
know the very little interest these South Americans attach
to anything relative to the former history of their country.
Now I have very little doubt that North America was peopled
by tribes coming from Asia by the way of Behring's
Straits. They could have crossed in their canoes without
trouble, and the climate probably modified the type of the
North American Indian. More than one traveler has noticed
the similarity of the Indians on different sides of the Straits;
their customs, some of which are very peculiar, are the same.
There is absolutely no reason for looking any further than this
for the actual peopling of the continent.

But the Aztecs of Mexico, and the Children of the Sun in
Peru, who were they? Chinese or Japanese in all probability.
Chinese and Japanese junks have been wrecked and cast
away on the coast of Oregon, we know; they are brought over
by the Kuro Siwo, or Japan current, and a vessel could be
drifted down the coast towards Mexico by the coast current.
Supposing such to have been the case would it not be just
like a Chinaman, with his intelligence and cunning, to take
advantage of an ignorant tribe and announce himself as a
superior being? This is my theory in regard to the matter:
and it need not interfere with the theory that Yucatan was a
Phoenician colony, as its monuments, etc., would seem to indicate.
The equatorial current would carry a vessel there fast
enough from the Canary Islands, which were known to the
ancients certainly as far back as 140 B. c. Columbus found
the mast or rudder of an European vessel at one of the West
India islands!

When the Merrimae got to Callao, we found a revolution in


179

progress. The Peruvians had two fine screw frigates, the
Apurimac and the Amazonia, and the party holding these
commanded the coast. At this time Montero commanded the
Apurimac and we heard much of him. The rumor was that
he would attack Callao, so we were on the look-out for him.
One fine morning I was surprised to see the frigate steaming
quietly into port. Montero landed and went to Lima. There
was no excitement—Cosa de España, I suppose. He gave
up the ship, and no doubt got his reward. I expect it is the
same Montero who now claims to be the President of Peru.
He was considered an enterprising officer, and would have
been a good one in a navy under proper discipline.

Lima, the City of the Kings, has been often described. I
believe the name is a corruption of the Peruvian word Rimac,
a river. It was founded by Pizarro, in 1535, who gave it the
name of Ciudad de los Reyes. It has frequently suffered from
earthquakes; in that of 1746 not more than twenty houses out
of three thousand were left standing, and of twenty-three ships
in the harbor of Callao nineteen were sunk. The town of
Callao was utterly destroyed by a tidal wave during this
earthquake; of four thousand inhabitants but two hundred
escaped. The town was rebuilt farther back from the old site.
Vessels now anchor where the first city stood. Lima is 700
feet above the sea and is to be seen from Callao, from which
it is distant six or eight miles. A railroad connects the two
cities. The city of Lima is beautifully laid out, and small
streams of water, conducted from the river Rimac, contribute
to its cleanliness. It has many fine public buildings, and
on the plaza are situated the magnificent cathedral, the
government house (once the vice-regal palace, where Pizarro
was assassinated), and the hall of independence. The convent
of the Franciscans, the mint, the palace of the inquisition, and
the cabildo are all worthy of notice. Under the cathedral I
saw the skeleton of Pizarro,, at least the priest said it was
Pizarro; and Mr. Clay, our minister, who had been a long
time in the country said he saw no reason to doubt it. The


180

bones of the hands and feet had been carried off by visitors,
and I am afraid that one of our party imitated this abominable
example. There is much of interest to be seen in Lima,
and I spent many hours in endeavoring to identify the places
mentioned by Prescott and other writers, such as the stream
the conspirators had to cross on their way to assassinate
Pizarro, his palace, etc.

A friend told me he one day met a well-dressed man on the
plaza and inquired of him if he could tell him where the
palace of Pizarro formerly stood. "What Pizarro?" said the
gentleman. "Why, the great Pizarro, the grand conqueror,"
replied my friend. "I do not know him," said the man, and,
bowing politely, he walked off. In my visits to different parts
of Central and South America and Mexico I have observed
much ignorance exhibited by the inhabitants of the early history
of their country. They not only do not know, but they
seem to take no interest in learning anything about it. One
can readily account for this. It is caused by the frequent revolutions.
The schools are broken up; and the people, children
included, are kept in a constant state of excitement.
Why, what must be the condition of affairs in Peru at the
present time?

The Chilians are better informed than most of these people.
They are much better men; not on account of the climate, as
some suppose, but because they have not intermarried to so
great an extent with the negro and Indian. It is this which
causes the degeneration of the white man. We hear a great deal
of the regeneration of Mexico. It is all nonsense; it is an
absurdity if applied to the present inhabitants, because it isn't
in them!
, What is a Mexican? Is he a Spaniard, or an
Indian, or does the fact of a man's being born in Mexico,
be he white, red or black, make him a Mexican? The best
man in Mexico is the man of pure Spanish descent (very
hard to find); the next best man is the pure Indian, and the
next the pure negro. The mixed race is the worst and
unfortunately by far the most numerous; and this applies to


181

every country on the continent south of the United States.
The only regeneration of Mexico will be by throwing open the
doors and introducing some millions of pure-blooded white
men.

None of the Spanish American Republics, save perhaps
Chili, are in as prosperous a condition as they were under the
old Spanish rule. They want a strong government to keep
them in order. Brazil is kept quiet by it; and Brazil has the
most detestable population of all these countries.

We sailed from Callao in March and first stopped at Payta,
some 480 miles up the coast. Payta is the site of an old Peruvian
village, and I think Pizarro landed here in 1526 on his
way to Cuzco. It is the seaport of the town of Piura, which
lies in the midst of a fertile country; but Payta not only has
no vegetation, but there is absolutely no fresh water within ten
miles of it. All the water is brought from a river at that
distance; and the road to it is strewed with the bones of dead
donkeys: Sam Weller, to the contrary, notwithstanding.
The dogs here have a hard time of it; they are forced to
go to the river to drink, and by the time they get back home
are so thirsty they have immediately to start back again; so
that their lives are spent in travelling. I believe the English
Steam Navigation Company have works here now and distil
water for the inhabitants as well as for their steamers. Payta
has a fine harbor and a good climate. It was taken and
burned by Lord Anson in 1742, and before his time was
several times sacked by the buccaneers.

Speaking of the buccaneers, I know of no more interesting
reading than is to be found in the pages of Dampier, Ringrose,
Wafer, Woods Rogers and others giving an account of their
exploits on the western coast of North and South America in
the latter part of the seventeenth century and the beginning
of the next. Alexander Selkirk was a buccaneer who sailed
with Captain Stradling in the Cinque Ports in 1703. Quarrelling
with his captain he requested to be put on shore at the
island of Juan Fernandez, which lies about 375 miles due west


182

of Valparaiso. He was landed in 1705 and remained solitary
and alone until 1709, when he was taken off by Woods Rogers.
He must have been a good hater; for it is said that when
Captain Rogers sent a boat for him the first question he asked
was whether Stradling was on board, for if he was he would
remain on the island. Selkirk's adventure gave De Foe the
idea of his romance of Robinson Crusoe, published in 1719,
and Juan Fernandez is generally known as Crusoe's island;
but in point of fact De Foe places his hero on one of the
Windward or Carib islands; for his ship sailed from Brazil
for the coast of Africa and was blown off her course by contrary
winds. N'importe.

Dampier tells of a Mosquito Indian who passed three years
alone on the island twenty years before Selkirk's time. He
says: "March 22, 1684, we came in sight of Juan Fernandez
and presently got out our canoe and went ashore to seek for a
Mosquito Indian, whom we left here when chased hence by
three Spanish ships in 1681, a little before we went to Arica.
This Indian lived here alone above three years and although
he was several times sought after by the Spaniards, who knew
he was left on the island, yet they could never find him."
After describing the manner in which this Indian contrived
to live he says: "He saw our ship and came to the sea side to
congratulate our safe arrival. And when we landed, a Mosquito
Indian named Robin first leaped on shore and running to his
brother Mosquitoman threw himself flat on his face at his feet,
who helping him up and embracing him fell flat with his face
on the ground at Robin's feet, and was by him taken up also.
We stood with pleasure to behold the surprise, tenderness and
solemnity of this interview which was exceedingly affectionate
on both sides."

Juan Fernandez was discovered in 1567, and is named for
its discoverer. It is at present a penal settlement belonging
to Chili. It has no harbor. Dana in his "Two Years Before
the Mast" gives a good description of it. Of all the buccaneers
this man Dampier was the most remarkable. He wrote


183

a full account of his voyages, and his book not only abounds
in nautical information, but is full of philosophical remarks.
Nothing seemed to escape him, and his chapters on winds and
currents may be read to advantage at the present day. He
was born in Somersetshire, England, in 1652; served in the
Dutch war in 1673; was an overseer of a plantation in
Jamaica; and in 1675 was a logwood cutter in Campeachy.
He gives an excellent description of the country and this trade.
We then hear of him in Virginia, from whence he sailed to the
coast of Africa, and thence to the South sea—from the South
sea he went overland to the Caribbean sea, and home to England.
He sailed again for the South sea, and gives a most interesting
account of his operations on the west coast from
Chiloe island, Chili, to Acapulco in Mexico. He then crossed
the Pacific ocean to Nicobar and New Holland where he made
valuable discoveries, and after remaining some time in the
East Indies he returned to England, having been absent on
his last voyage more than eight years.

The first circumnavigator of the globe was Magalhaens or
Magellan as he is generally called, a Portuguese in the service
of Spain. He sailed in 1519 and discovered the straits which
bear his name. He sailed with a squadron of five ships, but
only one succeeded in making the voyage. An account of the
voyage was written by the Chevalier Pigafetta, an Italian, who
accompanied Magellan as a volunteer. It is in this voyage
that the first mention is made of the log line. Pigafetta gives
an amusing account of the origin of the name Patagonia. He
says that the natives with whom they communicated had their
feet bound up in hides which made them so awkward in their
movements that the sailors called them patagones (clumsy-footed)
—hence Patagonia. The island of Tierra del Fuego
was named from the large number of fires observed on the
land.

The straits of Magellan were used by all the first circumnavigators,
for Cape Horn was not discovered by Le Maire
until 1616, nearly a hundred years after Magellan. The


184

Spaniards had a fort here, called Fort Famine, because
the garrison perished for want. Magellan proceeded across
the Pacific (which he so named from its smoothness) until
he arrived at the Philippine islands. He remained there
some time and taking sides with the natives in their wars
was killed. His ship finally reached Spain under one of the
subordinate officers by the way of the Cape of Good Hope,
having been absent just three years and twenty-nine days.
They had been long given up, and when they stated that
they had "sailed round the world" were not believed. Upon
examining the log-book it was found they were a day behind
in their "reckoning," and this was to the scientific the
best proof of their assertion, for as they sailed to the westward
and had not corrected the "reckoning" by dropping a day
at the 180th meridian (as is now the custom) they naturally
were a day behind the time in Spain, or as sailors say had lost
a day.

The first Englishman to sail round the world was Sir Francis
Drake, in 1577–80, and to read the English accounts of him
one would suppose he was really the first circumnavigator.
The fact is the Spaniards sent many vessels to the Pacific ocean
between Magellan's time and Drake's. One has only to read Navarrete's
"Collection of Spanish Voyages" to be assured of this;
and by the way, interesting as the books of Irving and Prescott
are, they do not in my opinion compare with Navarrete's accounts
of the early Spanish voyages to the South Sea and East
Indies.

Some time after Magellan sailed the Spanish government
commenced to send out vessels to look for him; and even
Cortez, who had just completed the conquest of Mexico, actually
built vessels at Tehuantepec and sent them to the East
Indies on the same errand.

The Portuguese it will be remembered were prosecuting
their discoveries by the way of the Cape of Good Hope, which
had been doubled by Vasco de Gama in 1497. Vasco de
Gama went to Goa on the west coast of Hindostan; and as I


185

have mentioned that Columbus found the rudder of a European
ship in the West Indies, I will also mention that the
natives of Goa told Vasco de Gama they had been visited by
three ships similar to his before his arrival. Where did they
come from and what became of them?

As the navigators of those days did not correct their
"reckoning" at the 180th meridian, instances are known of
islands in the East Indies where the people on the western
end are a day ahead in their computation of those on the
eastern end: the western end being discovered by the Portuguese
sailing east, and the eastern end by the Spaniards sailing
west.

I confess that in reading of the performances of the
Spaniards in those early days I am filled with surprise.
Cortez completed the conquest of Mexico in 1520, and a few
years after we find him fitting out vessels to look for Magellan.
The rapidity with which Cortez, Pizarro and their companions
spread over the countries conquered by them is marvellous to
read of. Alvarado, having conquered Guatemala, thinks
nothing of going to Peru to join Pizarro. A few years after,
we hear of his building ships and sailing for Navidad, in
Mexico, to assist in suppressing an insurrection in Guadalajara.
This is a long voyage for sailing ships at the present
time.

He was killed near Colima by his horse rolling over a
precipice. As for traveling across the country for hundreds
of miles these men thought nothing of it. There were no
roads, and any one who has seen an Indian cutting his way
with his machete wonders how an armed man could ever pass.
Acosta says that soon after the conquest of Peru the Spaniards
were constantly crossing the isthmus of Darien, and
penetrating the country towards Bogota. He says that men
in armor and on horseback crossed the mountains by paths
which a naked Indian of the present day can hardly travel
on foot.

Whatever the old Boatswain may have said of iron men, the


186

old Spaniards were iron if ever men were. But after all it
was the search for gold that made them iron.

As Hood sings:

"Gold! gold! gold! gold!
Bright and yellow, hard and cold;
Molten, graven, hammered and rolled;
Heavy to get, and light to hold;
Hoarded, bartered, bought, and sold,
Stolen, borrowed, squandered, doled:
Spurned by the young, but hugged by the old
To the very verge of the church-yard mould;
Price of many a crime untold:
Gold! gold! gold! gold!
Good or bad a thousand fold!
How widely its agencies vary"——

187

CHAPTER XVII.
COOK'S VOYAGES AND DISCOVERIES—ANSON'S VOYAGE AROUND THE WORLD
—THE MUTINY OF THE BOUNTY—PANAMA—INDIAN NAMES AND THEIR
SIGNIFICATION—TUMBEZ—CALLAO AGAIN—LIEUTENANT DENNY, R. N.—
THE SANDWICH ISLANDS—REALEJO—NICARAGUA — CHINANDEGUA—A
VOYAGE IN A BUNGO—PANAMA AGAIN - COMMODORE J. B. MONTGOMERY
—VALPARAISO—THE "LEVANT"—THE "LANCASTER" —SAIL FOR HOME
—RIO JANEIRO—JOHN BROWN'S RAID—THE FRIGATE CONGRESS—ARRIVAL
AT NORFOLK.

THE first English circumnavigator was Drake; and he was
followed by Cavendish, Cowley, Clipperton, Anson, Byron,
Wallace, Carteret and Cook. The last was the most celebrated,
and made three voyages. He made many important
geographical discoveries; but of all his discoveries the most
important was his establishing the fact that it was possible for
a ship to make a long voyage without losing half her crew by
the scurvy; such had been the case up to his time. He was
killed by the natives of Owhyhee, Sandwich Islands, in 1779.

But of all these early voyages, commend me to the history of
Lord Anson's voyage, as related by the Chaplain of the Centurion.
It is simply a romance from beginning to end. Anson
left England September 18th, 1740, with eight vessels—the
Centurion, Severn, Gloucester, Wager, Pearl, Tryal, and two
store-ships,—the object of the expedition being to attack the
Spanish vessels in the South Sea.

The vessels separated off Cape Horn, where they experienced
frightful weather. Here the Severn and Pearl put back
to England, and the Wager was wrecked on the coast of Patagonia,
north of the Straits of Magellan. Byron, afterwards a
commodore and a circumnavigator, was a midshipman on board,
and wrote an account of the shipwreck and subsequent sufferings
of the crew. His book, called "Byron's Narrative," is a


188

poem in itself. The survivors were conducted by the Indians
to Chili, and got back to England in 1745. The shipwreck
and sufferings of Byron and his companions are commemorated
by Campbell in his "Pleasures of Hope:"

"And such thy strength-inspiring aid that bore
The hardy Byron to his native shore.
In horrid climes, whence Chiloe's tempests sweep
Tumultuous murmurs o'er the troubled deep,
'Twas his to mourn misfortune's rudest shock,
Scourged by the winds and cradled on the rock,
To wake each joyless morn, and search again
The famished haunts of solitary men,
Whose race, unyielding as their native storm,
Knows not a trace of Nature but the form;
Yet, at thy call, the hardy tar pursued,
Pale, but intrepid,—sad, but unsubdued,
Pierced the deep woods, and, hailing from afar
The moon's pale planet and the northern star;*
Paused at each dreary cry, unheard before,
Hyenas in the wild, and mermaids on the shore,
Till, led by thee o'er many a cliff sublime,
He found a warmer world, a milder clime,
A home to rest, a shelter to defend,
Peace and repose, a Briton and a friend!"

The Centurion was three months trying to double Cape
Horn, and finally succeeded in doing so, and made her way
to Juan Fernandez with the loss of half her crew. The remainder
were in so enfeebled a condition that it was with the
utmost difficulty the vessel could be brought to an anchor.
Though many had died from the effects of the unheard-of
weather, yet the most fell by that fearful scourge of the early
navigators, scurvy.

The commodore and most of his men were landed and
buried up to their necks in the earth, this being the treatment
for scurvy at that time. Indeed, I have known officers in my
time who had experienced this treatment.


189

Bad as was the condition of the Centurion that of the Gloucester
was worse, and when she made her appearance off Juan
Fernandez men had to be sent to her to bring her in. The Tryal
and one store-ship arrived in like condition. Having refitted
his ships, Anson with his two frigates cruised along the coast of
Peru. The Tryal was burned, and the store-ship sent back to
England. He burned Payta, and then stood to the northward
to Acapulco, in Mexico, with the intention to intercept the
royal galleon, sailing between that port and the Philippine
Islands.

The trade between Spain and the Philippines was at that
time carried on by the way of Vera Cruz and Acapulco; the
goods being shipped to Vera Cruz, and then sent overland to
Acapulco. The Royal galleon sailed yearly, leaving Acapulco
in April and arriving at Manilla in June, and leaving Manilla
so as to arrive at Acapulco about Christmas— "never more
than eight or ten days before or after," as old Dampier observes.
The old Spanish books give very quaint descriptions of the
galleons and their voyages, and their cargoes being immensely
valuable great care was taken in selecting their commanders.
The sailing directions for making the voyage to and fro were
minutely drawn up and required to be strictly adhered to.
In going to Manilla they had only to get into the "trades"
and run them down to the Ladrone islands (where they stopped
a few days to refresh), and thence to Manilla; but in returning
it was far different, as it was necessary to stand to the
northward to about the fortieth parallel in order to get the
westerly winds. They then stood to the eastward until they
made the coast of California which they ran down to Cape St.
Lucas. Here they communicated with the shore to learn if
any enemy were on the coast and so to Acapulco.

Dampier says that before reaching, Acapulco they stopped
off Sallagua to land the passengers for the city of Mexico; this
I take to be what is now known as Navidad bay. This was
before the days of chronometers which have only been in general
use since the beginning of the present century; and the


190

longitude was found by lunar observations. It was often two
or more degrees in error; so that the instructions to the returning
galleons required them to be very careful to notice
the color of the water, appearance of the sea-weed, and even a
particular kind of fish in approaching the coast of California.
Cuts of these vessels show that they carried large jars of water
suspended from their rigging to lengthen their supply. The
route from Manilla to Acapulco was first followed by Urdaneta
in 1654, and was called for many years after "Urdaneta's
Passage."

Anson arrived off Acapulco and saw the galleon in the
harbor; but she was moored close to the shore, and the entrance
being defended by a strong fort (another of those grand works
of the early Spaniards which I have often visited) did not
think it prudent to attack her. From the chaplain's narrative
it is easy to locate, as I have myself done, the exact spot where
the galleon was moored. After blockading the port for some
time he went up the coast to Point Tejupan to water ship; he
then returned to Acapulco and finding the galleon would not
come out he at last bore away with his two ships for China.
To show the fearful ravages made by the scurvy among his
men he was actually forced to burn the frigate Gloucester on
the passage to get men enough to handle the Centurion!

The Centurion stopped at Tinian, one of the Ladrone islands,
and here again landed most of her officers and men for treatment
against the scurvy. Whilst here it was discovered that
an attendant of one of the officers was a female. She may
have been the heroine of the old sailor-song of Billee-i-Taylor
which says:

"Then she took a sword and pistols,
Took a pistol in each hand;
And she fell to shooting on Billee-i-Taylor
As he was walking along the strand.
"Which the captain when he heard it,
"Very much approv'd what she had done,
And straightway made her First Lieutenant
Of the gallant Thunder Bomb."

191

If Captain Luce has omitted this elegant production in
his "Naval Songs" it is à su disposicion.

The Centurion being left with but few men on board was
blown to sea in a gale of wind. The party on shore waited
anxiously for her return and she not making her appearance
they commenced building a schooner, on which the commodore
worked with his own hands, to carry them to China.
Fortunately the ship got back and they all embarked for Macao,
where the ship arrived in 1743. The English flag was
then hardly known in the East, and the authorities at Canton
refused to furnish the ship with provisions, of which they
stood in great need. When the Mandarins visited the ship,
Anson to make a show had the marines drawn up on the
quarter-deck; and so many of the guard had died that he
supplied the deficiency by dressing some of his sailors in marines'
uniform, much to their disgust no doubt. Upon the
Mandarins refusing to furnish provisions, Anson told them he
regretted their decision as his men must have meat; and if
they could not obtain it in any other way they would seize the
Chinese in their boats, and eat them! This brought them to
terms and the supplies were forthcoming. It must be remembered
that at this time the Portuguese had the trade with
China, as the Dutch had with Japan.

After remaining a month Anson announced his intention
to sail for England, via Batavia, and he actually took the
mails on board. He sailed accordingly, and after getting
out of sight of land he called up his crew and announced his
intention to cruise off the Philippine islands and try to intercept
the galleon from Acapulco. The men responded with
three hearty cheers and the Centurion proceeded to cruise off
Espiritu Santo in the hope of encountering her. To show how
sanguine all hands were as to the result of an engagement it
is recorded that the commodore having asked his steward why
he did not have a certain turkey, or something of the sort, for
dinner, he replied that he was keeping it to entertain the
captain of the galleon when he dined with the commodore.


192

The galleon at last made her appearance, and although superior
to the Centurion, was captured, and with her the largest
sum of prize money ever taken in a single bottom.

The Centurion having sold her prize (worth two million
dollars) in Macao, sailed for England, where she arrived
June 15, 1744, after an absence of three years and nine
months. Prize money to the amount of five million dollars
was divided among her crew. The freaks of her discharged
sailors, the reckless scattering of money, etc., were long remembered
in England, and have been preserved in the songs
of Dibdin and others.

What romance exceeds in interest the story of the Mutiny
of the Bounty? Lady Becher has written a full and interesting
account of it; but I believe I can add a few particulars
not to be found in her book. The brig Bounty, Lieutenant
Commanding Bligh, sailed from England in December,
1787, for the Society Islands, the object of the voyage
being to take a number of bread-fruit trees to the West
India Islands. [This was afterwards done.] The vessel
met with unusually rough weather off Cape Horn, and Captain
Bligh finally determined to proceed by the way of
the Cape of Good Hope, which he did, and arrived safely
at Otaheite. Here he took on board the trees and sailed for
the West Indies in April, 1789. Three weeks after sailing the
crew mutinied under the officer next in command to Bligh—
one Christian, a mate. Captain Bligh and eighteen men were
put in an open boat, with a scant allowance of food and water,
and set adrift. He made a most remarkable voyage. The
most remarkable boat voyage probably ever made. He sailed
from the Friendly Islands to the island of Timor, a distance
of nearly 4000 miles, and arrived without the loss of a man.
It was only by the utmost firmnesss in keeping his men on a
proper allowance of food and water, and refusing to land on
unknown and probably unfriendly islands that he accomplished
this. From Timor he got back to England with his
party. In the meantime the mutineers under Christian,


193

twenty-five in number, returned in the Bounty to Otaheite,
and here most of the men determined to remain, among them
a young midshipman named Heywood. Christian, Midshipman
Young and eight men took on board a number of Otaheitan
men and women (four men and eleven women) and
sailed away to the eastward. For some years nothing was
heard of them.

As soon as Captain Bligh reported the facts to the ministry
the frigate Pandora, Captain Edwards, was sent to look for
the mutineers. She proceeded to Otaheite and there took on
board Mr. Heywood and thirteen others; but all search for
the Bounty proved ineffectual. The mutineers were treated
with unnecessary severity on board the Pandora, (their place
of confinement was afterward called the "Pandora's Box,")
and to add to their sufferings the vessel was wrecked and some
of them were drowned. The others finally arrived in England
and were brought to trial in 1792. Captain Bligh who was a
tyrant and one of the last men who should have been put in
authority over others, (he was afterwards made Governor of
Australia, and for his tyranny was deposed by an insurrection
in 1808), was also one of the most vindictive of men. He did
his utmost to have every man, old or young, hanged. Midshipman
Heywood was a mere lad—he knew nothing of the
projected mutiny; but when in the morning he was offered the
choice to remain on board or go in the boat he elected to remain:
no doubt because he did not fully comprehend the situation.
His youth and ignorance of the plans of Christian and
his associates would account for this. He was, however, condemned
to be hanged with the rest, and Captain Bligh tried
to have it carried into effect. Fortunately he had influential
friends, and his case being properly presented to the throne
he was pardoned with two of the men—the others were hanged.
Heywood lived to become a captain in the navy, and devoted
his whole life to expiating what he considered his crime; but
what others considered an error of judgment. He was at sea
twenty-five years out of twenty-seven years in the service, and


194

I was told by an officer who knew him that never was a man so
passionately loved by his officers and crew. One of the men
pardoned with him never left him afterward; he went with him
on all his cruises as his coxswain, and at the end of the cruise
lived at the captain's home. Captain Heywood died universally
beloved and esteemed, which is more than can be said of
Captain Bligh.

Nothing more was heard of the Bounty until 1808 when
Captain Folger of Boston touched at Pitcairn's island in the
Pacific expecting to find it uninhabited. As he approached it
he was much surprised at seeing a canoe coming off with two
men in it, and still more surprised at hearing one of the men
exclaim as he got alongside the ship, in good English, "throw
us a rope." When he came on board the captain asked him
his name, and he replied: "Thursday October Christian."

Captain Folger found upon the island one of the mutineers
who called himself John Adams, but who is supposed to have
been Alexander Smith, who gave an account of the colony.
He was the only survivor of the Bounty's crew. Christian had
destroyed the vessel soon after their arrival. A few years
afterwards the English were all killed by the Otaheitans except
three who concealed themselves. The Otaheitan men quarreled
among themselves and were all killed or died of their wounds.
Two of the Englishmen died soon after, and Adams or Smith
with several women and children remained the only inhabitants
of the island. Adams described Christian's remorse to have
been extreme. The whole story is most agreeably told by Lady
Becher, who is a grand-daughter of the late Captain Heywood.

In 1814 the island was visited by the British frigates Briton
and Tagus. The visitors thus described the inhabitants at
that time: "This interesting new colony consists of forty-six
persons, mostly grown up young people, besides a number of
infants. Their native modesty, assisted by a proper sense of
religion and morality, instilled into their youthful minds by
John Adams, has hitherto preserved these interesting people
perfectly chaste."


195

An English officer who had visited Pitcairn's island told me
that when the British frigates arrived there in 1814, old
Adams thought they had come for him, and that he would be
taken to England and hanged. When the captain of the
frigate landed, Adams stood on one side with his hat off, as is
the custom of English sailors in the presence of an officer, and
his long, white hair flowing over his shoulders. The government,
however, if it did not pardon him, never took any notice
of his crime. He died in 1830. The officer told me that
Adams kept a journal which he had read—after telling of the
killing of the Otaheitans, and there being but three white men
left—it went on to say: "It was observed of Jack B. that his
conduct was strange, and we feared he might kill us in our
sleep; it was therefore decided to put him to death, which we
accordingly did with an axe!" The Pitcairn islanders were
removed to Norfolk Island in 1856. A few years after, some
of them returned to Pitcairn's Island, where they still are.

But avast! Should I go on with these reminiscences I will
exhaust the patience of my reader. The truth is, that being
very fond of this kind of reading I had, during my four years'
stay at the naval academy, taken advantage of an excellent
library to read up the early voyages of the Spanish, English,
and French in these seas; and now, being on the spot, I was
in the habit of recalling these incidents during many a weary
night's watch.

We left the Merrimac in Payta. From Payta we went to
Panama, and here, being within eight days' sail of New York,
we felt almost like returning home after our long voyage around
Cape Horn. Old Panama was founded soon after the discovery
of the Pacific. It was built principally of cedar. About 1673
it was sacked and burned by the buccaneers under Morgan.
The present city is situated about four miles west of the old
town. It is a walled city, and was in its day strongly fortified.
The bay of Panama, in spite of what the "sailing directions"
usually say, affords good anchorage. Vessels cannot lie very
near the shore, 'tis true, and southerly gales sometimes blow.


196

I have known it well for twenty-five years, and have never in
that time heard of a ship dragging on shore.

Should Lesseps succeed with his canal (and I think he
will), he will find no difficulty as to making a harbor at
Panama. The anchorage under Perico Island is now a perfectly
safe one; and a moderate sum spent in building breakwaters
will make a basin large enough to hold all the vessels
that will ever want to use it.

The name Panama, it is said, means in the Indian language
"a place abounding in fish;" (it should be filth). I confess
I have no great faith as to the rendering of these Indian
names into English. When Cordova, in 1517, landed on an
unknown coast he asked the name of the country, and was
answered by the natives: "Tectetan;" meaning "I do not
understand you;" and this the Spaniards corrupted into Yucatan!
And on the same voyage Bernal Diaz says the natives
came off to the ship in their canoes, and tried to induce
them to land, saying: "Con Escotoch," meaning "Come to
our town:" and from this we get Cape Catoche! It has long
been a wonder to me how Mungo Park managed to translate
the touching song of the negro woman in Africa: considering
that he did not understand the language! Verbum sap.

From Panama the Merrimac went to the south coast again,
touching at Tumbez, on the Guayaquil river, and Payta, on the
way. At Callao I met my friends Moore and Denny of the English
steamer Vixen. Moore had accompanied Captain Prevost
in his attempt to cross the isthmus. Denny had served in the
Baltic under Admiral Napier during the Crimean war, and
used to relate many interesting particulars of it. He was telling
me one day of their raising a torpedo (or "infernal machine"
as we called them then) and taking it aboard Vice Admiral
Seymour's ship. The admiral who was walking the deck with
a cane professed to "know all about it;" so he attempted to
explain how it was made, and in so doing gave it a rap. It
exploded; killed some men, and the admiral lost an eye.
"What a dreadful thing!" said I; "Oh no! not at all," said


197

Denny: "He gets a pension; he is laying back in Greenwich
hospital—two-six a day!" "but," he continued in the same
breath, "There was a poor beggar of a marine officer had his
shin knocked off; he didn't get anything." I could have said
to Denny "a pension covers a multitude of shins;" but I regret
to say I did not. It was one of those vexatious arrière-pensées.

This was the same Denny who told me of the fight at Simonoseki,
where he was wounded. He was not promoted as he
thought he should have been and this was his "grievance;"
"for," he would say in a melancholy tone, "perhaps I shall
never have another chance to get hit!"

In September, 1858, we sailed from Callao for the Sandwich
islands, and arrived at Honolulu in October. Here our commodore
went on shore for the first time since leaving Boston.
In inspecting the ship there he fell down a hatchway and injured
his leg. During the entire cruise he passed his days
seated in a chair with his leg propped up. The Sandwich
islands were named by Cook for Lord Sandwich. The English
claim that Cook discovered this group, but the Spaniards
knew them a century before his time. The islanders were
an amiable race, and though they have been accused of
being cannibals it is not probable. The early voyagers
were very fond of scoring men down as man-eaters; in
some cases—notably the Indians of Alaska—because it was
the custom to keep the bones of their ancestors in their huts.
There are few pure-blooded islanders to be seen now, and the
decrease in the population since Cook's time is simply frightful
—in another century there will be none left to tell the tale.
The natural result of the intermixture of races. The little
Dolphin, Captain Percival, was the first American man-of-war
to visit these islands, I have been told.

We had expected to remain some time at Honolulu; but
the unsatisfactory relations existing between the United States
and Nicaragua called us there. One cannot wonder that the
expeditions of the filibusters under Walker had caused bad
feeling in Nicaragua. Indeed Nicaragua and Costa Rica


198

appealed to the great European powers for protection in May
of this year. We arrived at Realejo in December. We
anchored off what is now called Corinto, Realejo being in fact
situated on a small creek seven miles distant. It shows the
terror caused by the buccaneers on this coast—most of the
towns were located away from the shore. The squadron
assembled here in January, 1859; and we had a visit from the
President of Nicaragua and his cabinet. We were here about
three months. The harbor is an excellent one and the climate
tolerably good. We took advantage of our long stay to land
our battalion of small-arm men frequently, and have what the
marine officer in Cooper's "Pilot" so often longed for: "a good
steady drill." The Merrimac's crew were the smartest men at
their guns, great and small, I have ever seen. The ship passed
an excellent ordnance inspection upon her return home, and I
doubt if her "time" in transporting, dismounting, and general
handling of guns has ever been equalled.

The town of Realejo is small, and is now an insignificant
place, though one can see the ruins of an old stone cathedral
and other public buildings. We used to go to the town of
Chinandegua occasionally for a few days' stay. I met there
an American doctor, from Tennessee, who kept a hotel or
boarding-house; he had married a native and had a large
family. Asking him how he happened to find himself in the
place, he told me his history. In 1849 he started for California
to dig gold. Upon reaching Panama he found it crowded
with "gold searchers," and no vessels in port to carry them on
their way. He and a number of others bought a bungo (a
large canoe), and in it actually started for San Francisco, a
distance of more than three thousand miles. The party chose
for leader one Chris. Lilly, a pugilist, who had just before
killed a man named McCoy in the prize ring. They coasted
along the shore, landing frequently for provisions and water.
Upon landing at Realejo the doctor left; he said he had
enough, and I suppose he is in Chinandegua now. Inquiring
about this bungo subsequently, I was told that she got past


199

Cape St. Lucas, and was wrecked. The party, still under
Lilly, made their way to San Francisco on foot. This voyage
of over two thousand miles in a bungo almost, if not quite,
equals Captain Bligh's.

About March, 1859, we went to Panama, and here Commodore
Long was relieved by Commodore John B. Montgomery
—a most estimable man and gallant officer. He served with
distinction on the lakes in the war of 1812. In the summer
the Merrimac went to Valparaiso to await the arrival of her
relief—the new ship Lancaster. We found here the Levant,
Commander Wm. E. Hunt. She was afterwards lost at sea,
as I have before mentioned. She had a fine set of officers, and
not a vacancy in her complement when lost.

In October the Lancaster arrived, and we sailed for home.
Our captain made great preparations for rounding Cape Horn;
he considered the ship "top heavy," and everything was sent
below that could be stowed there, even the oars of the boats!
At my earnest solicitation the oars were kept in one boat, in
case of a man falling overboard! We had a good passage to
Rio de Janeiro, and no bad weather off the Cape. In fact we
did not experience a gale of wind during the entire cruise.
We heard in Rio of John Brown's raid against Harper's
Ferry. It created great excitement and some warm discussion,
but not an officer on board justified it.

We found in Rio the frigate Congress. The Merrimac was
to meet this vessel in Hampton Roads not many months after,
under far different circumstances. We arrived at Norfolk
in December, 1859, after a monotonous cruise of 26 months.
I wrote "Naval Light Artillery" during this cruise, which
was adopted by the Navy Department, and has ever since been
the text-book at the Naval Academy. I also translated the
French "Tactique Navale," which was also used at the
Academy.


200

CHAPTER XVIII.
ORDERED TO THE NAVAL ACADEMY—SECESSION OF THE COTTON STATES—
OCCUPATION OF ANNAPOLIS BY TROOPS UNDER GENERAL BUTLER—
SECESSION OF VIRGINIA—RESIGN MY COMMISSION IN THE U. S. NAVY
AND ENTER THE CONFEDERATE NAVY—GOVERNOR HICKS AND THE
STATE OF MARYLAND—SECESSION OF THE BORDER STATES—THE NORTHERN
DEMOCRATS—HARPER'S FERRY—GENERAL HARNEY—THE APPEARANCE
OF RICHMOND AT THE BEGINNING OF THE WAR—THE "PAWNEE"
WAR—ARRIVAL OF TROOPS—A NAVAL HOWITZER BATTERY—EVACUATION
OF NORFOLK—CAPTAIN A. B. FAIRFAX—THE "PATRICK HENRY"—
LIEUTENANT POWELL—OUR FIRST IRON-CLAD—THE BATTLE OF MANASSAS
—AFFAIR AT ACQUIA CREEK.

IN the summer of 1860 I was ordered to the Naval Academy
for the second time, and in September reported for duty as an
instructor of seamanship and naval tactics, and entered upon
my duties. Captain George S. Blake was at this time Superintendent
of the Academy, Lieutenant C. R. P. Rodgers
the Commandant of Midshipmen.

Instructors in the strictly professional branches at the Academy
at the present time, with text-books, models and apparatus
at their command, can scarcely understand how extremely
arduous we found our duties in 1860. There were no books
on seamanship or naval tactics exactly adapted to the wants
of the Midshipmen, so that the instructor had to do a good
deal of compiling and translating. I wrote the Seamanship
used by the senior class, and translated Chopart's Naval
Tactics for them also; and as the class had to copy the manuscript
it gave them much additional labor.

My book on Naval Light Artillery being adopted as a textbook,
I was put in charge of that branch in addition to my
other duties, and found I had my hands full.

The secession of South Carolina in December, quickly followed


201

by that of Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia,
Louisiana and Texas, convinced all reflecting minds that a
civil war was impending; indeed I had long been of that
opinion myself. I was satisfied in 1857 that the subjects in
dispute between the Northern and Southern states would finally.
be decided by an appeal to arms. I have my opinion as to the
cause of the war—and a pretty decided one it is—but it is
not my intention in this book, which is simply a memoir of
what I saw myself of the war, to obtrude it. At some future
time I may bring up some points which have not yet been
considered—contenting myself with saying that the men who
suffered most by the war (the Southern army and navy officers
inasmuch as they lost a profession) had less to do with bringing
it about than any other class of citizens.

It may well be imagined that the constant state of excitement
in which we were kept was not conducive to hard study;
yet so good was the discipline that everything went on as
usual, and the midshipmen were kept closely to their duties.
As the states seceded, the students appointed from them generally
resigned with the consent of their parents; but their
departures were very quietly taken, and the friendships they
had contracted at the school remained unimpaired. Affairs
remained in this state until the bombardment of Fort Sumter,
April 11-13; but after that, as war was now certain, the scholastic
duties were discontinued and the place assumed more the
appearance of a garrison.

I resigned my commission on the 19th of April, 1861, upon
hearing of the secession of Virginia. On the afternoon of that
day a collision occurred in Baltimore between a Massachusetts
regiment and a mob, and the railroads in the vicinity of the
city were torn up to interrupt travel. Troops were sent to
Annapolis on their way to Washington which was supposed
to be threatened by the Confederates. The first troops to
arrive were the New York 7th regiment, a Rhode Island regiment
and battery, and a Massachusetts regiment all under the
command of General B. F. Butler.


202

The authorities of the Academy were under the impression
that an attack upon the school and the frigate Constitution
was projected by the secessionists in the neighborhood; but I
think there never was any serious foundation for their fears.
While waiting to hear of the acceptance of my resignation I
remained on duty, and was one night placed in a most unpleasant
position. An alarm was given that the secessionists were
coming up the river to attack us; the long roll was beaten, and
all hands were sent to their stations. I was in charge of the
howitzer battery, and like many of the midshipmen manning
it who had resigned and were waiting to hear from Washington,
had either to refuse to do duty or fire on our friends.

The alarm was a false one; I do not hesitate to say, however,
that had we been attacked I should have stood by my
guns and performed my duty by the school. I was still an
officer of the navy; and, moreover, Maryland had not seceded,
and if it had, war had not been declared.

It was now determined to remove the school to Newport, R.
I., and preparations were made accordingly. About the 23d of
the month (April) I received private information from a friend
in Baltimore that a steamboat would be at the wharf that night
at 9 o'clock to take Governor Hicks to Baltimore, and was
advised to seize the opportunity to leave. I did so, and many
of my brother officers were at the boat to see me off. As we
approached Baltimore the boat sheered in to a wharf near
Fell's Point, landed the Governor and his friends, and then
went on to her usual wharf. This was done to prevent the
secessionists from getting hold of the governor. Not very long
before, they had done so in Baltimore, and he had on that
occasion made a very good secession speech. The object of
Governor Hicks was to get to Frederick where he had called
the Legislature to assemble, and where those members professing
southern sympathies were arrested and cast into prison a
short time after. Thus was the State of Maryland seized by
the throat by the United States government before the beginning
of hostilities.


203

The State of Virginia seceded on the 17th of April, and was
soon followed by Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee.
This action was precipitated by President Lincoln's call for
75,000 troops on the 15th of April. I confess I could never
see the philosophy of it. The Union men of these States by
their persistently voting against secession, in convention and
otherwise, induced President Lincoln and his advisers to
believe that they would not consent to it under any circumstances,
and they strengthened his hands to that extent. In a
measure they invited him to issue his call for 75,000 men!
After, as I say, voting against secession and thus preventing
their States from making preparations for war they suddenly
turned round and voted for it when the U. S. government had
taken the action their attitude had seemed to approve! This
inconsistency was rivalled by the action of the northern Democrats.
They had generally supported the attitude of the seceding
States, and were patting them on the back with the advice
"to go in and win;" but as soon as the "flag was fired on" (to
use the expression of the day) they jumped over the fence.
Why? The South had only done what the northern Democrats
had encouraged it to do! Did they not see that everything
was tending to an appeal to arms, and that they were inciting
the South to it? or did they suppose that "war" meant
throwing oyster shells at each other? I think I could give a
pretty good reason for their action if this were the place for it!
I suspect that at the meeting of the northern governors the
manner in which the war was to be precipitated was all arranged.
Not the only thing of the kind concocted by "the party," both
before and after the war, if I am not mistaken.

Whatever our wise statesmen may say, I thought then, as I
think now, that after the action of the six extreme Southern
States and the formation by them of a Southern Confederacy,
the Border States—if they held the ground that a State could
not be lawfully coerced,—and if, also, they were opposed to
the abolition of slavery—had no choice but to join their sister
States; and true statesmanship should have shown them this,


204

and their action should have been united and prompt. It
might have averted the civil war.

To return to my narrative. Upon my arrival in Baltimore
I found it would not be prudent to attempt to reach Norfolk
by the Bay Line, and I decided to go to Richmond via Harper's
Ferry, which was then occupied by the confederates.
As we approached the bridge at the Ferry the cars were
stopped and several confederate officers walked through the
cars and gravely inspected the passengers. I am sure I do
not know what for, nor did they probably. In fact the whole
proceedings at this time—in Virginia at least—seemed so like
a comedy that were it not for the fearful tragedy which followed
one would be tempted to indulge in a hearty laugh over
them. I stopped at Harper's Ferry and took the cars for Win
chester; they were crowded with colonels and majors, but few
privates were to be seen. I learned to my surprise that they
were either going off on leave or were "bearers of dispatches."
The carrying of dispatches—no matter of how little importance
—seemed to attach a certain dignity to the carrier.
Accustomed as I had been all my life to order and discipline
I was somewhat depressed at the absence of it, as well as by
the total ignorance of military affairs everywhere observed
while on my way to Richmond. How little could I foresee
that these men were to fight and gain battles which were to
be immortalized in history! I found in the cars next day
General Harney of the army, who had been made prisoner at
Harper's Ferry, while on his way to Washington. There
was of course no reason in this, as war had not been proclaimed,
and he was promptly released upon his arrival in Richmond.
We stopped a night at Manassas Junction and here, as in
every other town through which we passed, we saw the people
drilling—in companies, however. At this time the State had
not one organized regiment. Where we had companies, the
North had regiments.

Upon my arrival in Richmond I reported to Governor Letcher,
and was immediately commissioned a lieutenant in the


205

Virginia State Navy; and I may as well say here that as
soon as the State was regularly entered into the Confederacy
I was commissioned a Lieutenant in the Confederate Navy.
Richmond at this time was in a state difficult to describe.
The hotels were thronged, troops were coming in, messengers
were riding to and fro, and everybody was in motion. I particularly
noticed this fact: even at the hotels the seats were
not occupied; no one could sit still. I suppose the great excitement
accounted for this. The dispatches coming in hourly,
the reports spread from mouth to mouth, the news contained
in the daily papers even, were enough to drive a reasonable
man crazy. We heard the most wonderful rumors; nothing
was too absurd or ridiculous for belief, and men's time seemed
to be taken up in spreading stories that would have put Gulliver
to shame and made Munchausen hide his diminished head.
The emanations from the brain of a maniac were logical in
comparison!

Only the Sunday before my arrival there had been what was
afterwards called the "Pawnee War." The steamer Pawnee was
reported to be coming up the river, and all Richmond went to
arms. What they thought the Pawnee with her few guns and
men could do with the city of Richmond, or what they expected
to do by arming themselves with shot-guns, horse-pistols and
broad-swords and going down to Rockett's wharf to meet her,
I could never discover. No doubt they only regretted that they
could not arm themselves, in addition, with a few culverines,
falconets
and sakers (whatever they may be)! Hector's arming
at the siege of Troy was nothing in comparison. But the
Pawnee did not come up the river and the good citizens returned
to their homes to lay aside their arms and anxiously
await new "reports."

The companies coming in from the country were dressed in
the most extraordinary uniforms the eye ever rested on; but
they were full of fight. As they arrived they were sent to a
camp near the city to be drilled. It is useless to say they
stood in need of it. "What," said a drill-master to a captain


206

who was speaking of his ignorance of the company drill,
"What, then, do you propose to do with your men in time of
battle?" "Just turn them loose," was his reply, and this appeared
to be the general idea as to how the impending war
was to be fought. Men insisted upon carrying a bowie-knife
and revolver in addition to a musket, in the belief that a
battle was a scrimmage; but they soon knew better, and after
the first campaign our generals could say with Moliére's mock
doctor, nous avons changé tout cela.

I was ordered to organize a battery of howitzers, to be
manned by sailors to serve with the army, and as I had to
have the guns cast at the Tredegar works, the carriages made,
etc., I was kept in Richmond some months, and had an opportunity
of seeing all that was going on.

Soon after Virginia seceded the Southern troops commenced
coming in, and were sent to the front as they arrived. I recollect
that when the first regiment arrived from South Carolina
the men announced that they "had come to fight the battles of
old Virginia;" and the city papers inculcated about the same
idea. One would have supposed that South Carolina was not
at war with the United States and had had nothing to do with
bringing it about! Nothing was said about "old Virginia"
bearing the brunt of it, as she was about to do! There was
no use in trying to combat the nonsensical ideas that were put
in circulation; the fact is that about this time one half of the
people were crazy and the other half non compos mentis, both
north and south.

The evacuation of Norfolk by the Federals was a most
fortunate thing for the Confederates. Why the Federal
authorities did this was always beyond my comprehension.
They had the place, and with the force at their command
could not have been driven out. No batteries could have been
put up by the Confederates in the face of the broadsides of
their ships, and it being only twelve miles from Fortress
Monroe (Old Point Comfort) it could have been reinforced to
any extent. But they did give it up, and had hardly done


207

so when they commenced making preparations to retake it.
The navy-yard contained a large number of heavy cannon,
and these guns were used not only to fortify Norfolk and the
batteries on the York, Potomac, James, and Rappahannock
rivers; but were sent to North and South Carolina, Georgia,
Florida, Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana. They were to
be found at Roanoke Island, Wilmington, Charleston, Mobile,
New Orleans, Vicksburg, and many other places.

Soon after our occupation of the Yard Commander Archibald
B. Fairfax was put in charge of the ordnance department,
and he immediately turned his attention to the banding
and rifling of the 32-pounders of 57 and 63 cwt. I do not
know* who invented the machine for rifling the guns (the banding
was taken from the Parrott gun probably), but the work
was done under the supervision of Captain Fairfax, and was,
in my opinion, the most important improvement made in our
ordnance during the war. I well remember that when the
first gun was finished he mounted it on the small steamer
Harmony and experimented with it on a frigate lying off Newport's
News: taking a position outside the range of her guns,
he succeeded in hitting her several times. Large numbers
of these banded and rifled guns were prepared for the ships
and batteries. I never heard of any of them bursting,
though I saw them fired many times; the charge was
eight pounds, and the projectile weighed about 70 pounds.
After the battles of Roanoke island and Elizabeth City,
Admiral Louis Goldsborough, U. S. N., in his report to the
Secretary of the Navy, says: "His (the confederate's) favorite
gun is the 32-pounder of 57 and 63 cwt., beautifully fortified
at the breech-end by a long and massive wrought-iron cylindrical
ring, and so rifled in the bore as to admit of the use of
round shot and grape as well as shells by the simple interposition
of a junk wad between the charge of powder and the
shot or stand of grape. His ordnance arrangements throughout
exhibit great skill and ingenuity." Our vessels in these
battles were fitted out by Captain Fairfax. I am glad to


208

render him this tribute as he never received the credit due
him.

Whilst I was organizing my battery the steamer Patrick
Henry
was fitting out at Richmond for a cruise on the coast;
she had been called the Yorktown, and belonged to the Old
Dominion line running between New York and Richmond.
She was not at all fitted for a man-of-war, but we had to take what
we could get, and by taking off her upper cabins, strengthening
her decks, etc., made her answer pretty well. She carried a bow
and stern pivot, and ten guns in broadside, 32 and 64-pounders.
Lieutenant William Llewellyn Powell was her executive
officer. He was, from the very beginning of the war, impressed
with the necessity of having iron-clad vessels. I had
many conversations with him on this subject. He was certainly
the first man I met in the Confederate navy who saw
that all navies must eventually come to it. He communicated
his views to the Secretary of the Navy and got permission to
try iron on the Patrick Henry. She was our first iron clad!

Powell put one-inch iron on her hull abreast the boilers—it
extended a foot or so below the water line, and ran a few feet
forward and abaft her engines and boilers. One inch was not
much protection, but it was all she would bear. On the spar
deck he put iron shields, in the form of a V, forward and abaft
her engines. These shields were of heavy timber and covered
with one or two inches of iron. In fighting head or stern on,
they afforded good protection against a raking shot, and it
must be remembered that as the Patrick Henry was a side-wheel
boat with a walking-beam engine this protection was very
important to her. It must not be understood by the non-professional
reader that the use of iron to protect ships was original
with either the Federals or Confederates. The French had
iron-clad gunboats or batteries in the Crimean war, 1854; and
at the beginning of our civil war they had the powerful ironclad
frigate Gloire, and the English had the Warrior. For
the matter of that, Haydn in his dictionary of dates, says:
"The Santa Anna, the property of the knights of St. John, of


209

about 1700 tons, sheathed with had, was built at Nice about
1530. It was literally a floating fortress, and aided Charles
V in taking Tunis in 1535. It contained a crew of 300 men
and 50 pieces of artillery."

Lieutenant Powell seeing no chance of distinction in the
navy resigned to enter the army. He was made a brigadier
general and ordered to command Fort Morgan at Mobile.
Here he put everything in a good state of defence; but he died
of fever before the place was attacked by the fleet under Farragut.
He was one of the purest of men and a most reliable
and accomplished officer.

July 21, 1861, the battle of Bull Run or Manassas was
fought. We in Richmond knew very little of it until the
next day; but when the news did come we had the most
marvelous accounts of it. The regiments decimated were
innumerable, and the meaning of this word was as little
understood then as it is now. The men-of-war (?) on the
James river at this time were the Patrick Henry, Jamestown
and Teaser. The Jamestown was a sister ship to the Patrick
Henry
, but not so strong. She mounted two 32 pounder rifled
guns. She was christened the Thomas Jefferson by the Confederate
government; but she was always known by her old
name of Jamestown. The Teaser was a tug boat mounting one
gun. It was found impossible to ship crews for these vessels;
there was a great scarcity of sailors at the South, and the landsmen
naturally preferred the army. About the time I had my
guns ready and the men enlisted, they were taken for the Patrick
Henry
, and Commodore Samuel Barron who had been put
in command of the squadron destined to operate in the waters
of North Carolina offered me the command of the gunboat
Beaufort. I gladly accepted the offer as I had given up all
hope of getting my howitzers into action with the army after
the battle of Manassas. I saw soon after I commenced drilling
the men, that guns drawn by hand cannot operate with
troops to advantage unless very near their base of supplies. It
was wise in the Secretary to send my men back to their legitimate


210

sphere, and I cheerfully consented to it. They were a
fine set of fellows, and Captain Tucker stationed them together
at the bow gun of the Patrick Henry where they never failed
to give a good account of themselves afterwards.

The first hostile shot I saw fired in the war was at Acquia
Creek, where I went in June or July simply to see what was going
on. Upon arriving there I found several small steamers bombarding
our Fort at Cockpit Point. Captain William F.
Lynch commanded the battery, and General Ruggles the
department. He had quite a force assembled to resist an
invasion; but I thought any one might have seen that the
enemy had no idea of landing troops—indeed there were no
transports in sight. The bombardment was, I suspect, only
for the purpose of drawing our fire, that they might see the
strength of the battery. It was carried on at long range and
there was nobody hurt. Upon my return to Richmond the
next day I met at a "turnout" a train conveying the 1st
Arkansas regiment to the seat of war. The men were greatly
excited and eager for the fray. I gave them the news as the
trains stopped side by side. When their train moved off
every man who could get his arm out at a window did so, and
the flourishing of bowie-knives made it look like a steel-clad!

The result of the battle of Manassas which filled our
people with joy and gladness was, I confess, a disappointment
to me, and though it may seem a strange thing to say I lost hope
of our final success at the time of our first great victory. I do
not care to enter into my reasons for this impression; but that
such was the case a few of my most intimate friends know.
I trust I did not exhibit this feeling in my after career, but
the results of our after victories only tended to confirm it.
Ay de mi, Alhama!


211

CHAPTER XIX.
THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE NAVY—I JOIN THE REINFORCEMENT FOR
HATTERAS—CAPTURE OF CAPE HATTERAS—COMMODORE SAMUEL BARRON
—LIEUTENANT WM. H. MURDAUGH—ROANOKE ISLAND—OREGON
INLET — I ASSUME COMMAND OF THE "BEAUFORT"—FORT MACON—
COLONEL BRIDGES AND HIS COMMAND—A PLEASANT DAY—READING
UNDER DIFFICULTIES—PUBLIC SCHOOL EDUCATION—THE "BEAUFORT'S"
CREW—MY CABIN BOY—THE NEUSE RIVER—TEACH, THE PIRATE—A
PILOT'S YARN—VISIT TO JACKSONVILLE—A FALSE ALARM — WASHINGTON,
N. C.,—A CRUISE ON A CANAL—ARRIVAL AT NORFOLK.

THE Governor of North Carolina had, before the state regularly
joined the Confederacy, been going it on his own hook, as
it were. He fitted out privateers, sent out blockade-runners,
etc., and got in so many stores, that it was observed at the
beginning of the war that the North Carolina troops were the
best armed, and best clothed men that passed through Richmond.
The steamer Winslow, a small side-wheel boat, under Captain
Thomas M. Crossan, formerly of the Navy, was very active in
cruising outside of Cape Hatteras as a privateer, and captured
some valuable prizes. The men found in them were generally
foreigners and many of them entered our service, as I have
reason to know. When the State became one of the Confederate
States, her vessels were all turned over to the navy and became
men-of-war, and not privateers. The vessels thus turned over
were: the Winslow, Commander Arthur Sinclair; the Ellis, Commander
W. B. Muse; the Raleigh, Lieutenant commanding
Alexander; and the Beaufort. The Winslow and Ellis were
at Hatteras; the Raleigh at Oregon Inlet, and the Beaufort at
Newbern.

Commodore Barron being in Norfolk, I went there early
in August to report. He directed me to remain and fit out a


212

launch for service in Albemarle and Pamlico Sounds, and
when ready to take her to Cape Hatteras and leave her. The
three entrances into Pamlico Sound,—Oregon, Hatteras and
Ocracoke inlets,—were guarded by fortifications and garrisoned
by North Carolina troops. Hatteras, being the principal
entrance, was especially well fortified. I had the launch well
fitted out with sails and a howitzer and when ready to start,
began to consider how I was to get to Hatteras, as I had no
men. About the 24th of August we heard that a squadron
under Flag Officer Stringham, with troops under General
Butler, had appeared off the place; and the 3d Georgia regiment,
which up to this time had been stationed at Norfolk,
was ordered to reinforce the garrison there. Captain Thomas
Hunter of the navy was put in command of the expedition.
The 3d Georgia was a remarkably fine regiment, commanded
by Colonel Wright, and was afterwards highly distinguished.
Up to this time it had never been in action, and the men were
very eager for one.

Captain Hunter offered to tow me down, and I gladly
accepted his offer. We had one small steamer for the officers,
and the men were towed in canal boats. We left Norfolk
about the 27th of August, and went through the Chesapeake
and Albemarle canal. We stopped at several places along the
canal, and at landings on the Croatan river, but got no news.
I think it was on the afternoon of the 30th that, as we were
making the best of our way down Albemarle Sound, we met a
schooner under full sail for Edenton. Upon hailing her, we
were told that Hatteras had fallen the day before, and all but
a few of the garrison were prisoners. There were a few officers
on board who had escaped in small boats. I never knew much
about this affair; but it seems that after the ships had bombarded
the two forts for a day or two, a force was landed. Our
men abandoned the upper fort, and retreated to the lower one,
seeing which the enemy took possession of it. Commodore
Barron who arrived at this time landed with his Flag Lieutenant
William Sharpe, and Lieutenant W. H. Murdaugh,


213

and was earnestly solicited by Colonel Martin, who commanded
the fort, to assume the supreme command. This he
unwisely did, in his great desire to render all the aid and
assistance in his power. The Federals in the upper fort now
opened a fire with their rifles in addition to the fire from the
ships, and on the 29th the place surrendered. The steamers
Winslow and Ellis got away, the former to Newbern and the
latter to Washington on the Pamlico river, after taking off the
garrison at Ocracoke inlet.

Lieutenant Murdaugh was badly wounded while serving a
gun by the explosion of a shell; but was gotten off to the
Winslow and escaped being made prisoner. The officer who
gave us the information spoke of his gallantry in the highest
terms as well as of that of Commodore Barron. Murdaugh
who resembled Somers, inasmuch as he "had no more dodge in
him than the mainmast," suffered for some months from his
wound; but he did gallant service to the end of the war. He
as well as Powell were midshipmen with me in the old Potomac.
Our papers were loud in their remarks about the Hatteras
affair (of course) and Commodore Barron's action was the subject
of much unkind and unjust criticism. The fact is the gallant
commodore in his desire (as I have said) to do all he
could for the cause, acted as nine out of ten men of spirit would
have done under the circumstances. I have spoken of it as
unwise for the reason that his command was afloat; and it was
a thankless task to have the command ashore forced upon him
at the eleventh hour. The commodore had the satisfaction of
knowing that Colonel Martin and his men highly appreciated
his services and the department approved his action. If the
attack on Hatteras had been made a few months later in the
war, when our men had learned how little damage the fire of
ships does to earthworks, the fort would not have fallen—witness
the defence of Fort McAllister March, 1863.

Upon our receiving the news of the fall of Hatteras we landed
the Georgians on Roanoke island and proceeded in the small
steamer to Oregon Inlet, which was still held by its garrison.


214

Upon our arrival, a council was held and it was resolved to evacuate
the place and remove the guns, &c. to Roanoke Island; this
was done, and Alexander in the Raleigh rendered great assistance
in it. There was really a strong and very well constructed
fortification at Oregon Inlet, and some objection was made to
evacuating it—among others the engineer who constructed it
was very loth to abandon it—but after the fall of Hatteras it
became of absolutely no importance. The principal entrance
to the sound being open what earthly reason could there be for
holding the other two? I do not think the Federals occupied
the forts at either Oregon or Ocracoke Inlets during the war—
they had no occasion to! I returned to Roanoke Island with
Captain Hunter and was sent by him to Norfolk with dispatches
to Commodore Forrest. The launch, I left in charge
of Boatswain Hasker—afterward Lieutenant Hasker, an energetic,
valuable officer—to be used in landing stores for the
troops on the island. Upon my reporting to the commodore
he insisted upon my going immediately by rail to Newbern
and taking charge of the Beaufort, which I proceeded to do.
Upon my arrival there I found the Beaufort at the wharf with
a few officers on board, but no crew. She had been commanded
by Captain Duval while in the State service, and he and his
officers and men had left. The Beaufort was a small iron propeller,
built for service on the canal. She was 94 feet long and
17 feet broad; her iron was one-fourth of an inch in thickness.
Her deck had been strengthened and shored up, and forward she
carried a, long 32 pounder which was soon afterwards exchanged
for a banded and rifled 57 cwt. 32 pounder. Her magazine
was just forward of the boiler, and both magazine and boiler
were above the water line and exposed to shot. She carried
35 officers and men.

From Hatteras the Federals could advance on Norfolk by
the way of Albemarle Sound, attack Newbern on the Neuse,
or Washington on the Pamlico river. The entrance to Albemarle
Sound was defended by batteries on Roanoke Island,
then being hastily constructed. Newbern was defended by a


215

small fort on the river, a few miles below, and Washington in
the same manner. The enemy made a great mistake in not
taking possession of the sounds immediately after capturing
Hatteras; there was nothing to prevent it but two small gunboats
carrying one gun each. Two of the small steamers under
Flag Officer Stringham should have swept the sounds, and a
force should have occupied Roanoke island. This at least could
have been done had the Federals seized their opportunity; but,
as is so often the case in war, they failed to make use of it.
A striking instance of this occurred when General Butler
landed at Bermuda Hundred, on the James river, in the summer
of 1864: he advanced cautiously in the direction of Howletts.
Had he advanced promptly and boldly he could have
taken Drury's Bluff (Fort Darling), and even Richmond itself.
But, as the soldier said: "our hind sights are better than our
fore sights!"

While I was getting the Beaufort ready, Commodore
W. F. Lynch, who was appointed to succeed Commodore Barron
(then a prisoner) in the command, arrived at Newbern; and,
as great anxiety was felt concerning Fort Macon which it was
thought would soon be attacked, General Gatlin, who commanded
the department, and the Governor of the State met
him for consultation. I had gone to my room and was about
retiring when a rap at the door announced Lieutenant Pat
M. who said the Commodore desired to see me immediately.
"What does he want?" said I. "Well," said M., "he wants
you to go into Fort Macon as chief ordnance officer." "Why
does he send me," growled I, "when he knows I'm fitting out
my vessel, and there are plenty of other officers about, doing
nothing?" "Well," said M., "we talked it over, and decided
you were the man for the place." Now be it known that
after Commodore Barron's experience at Cape Hatteras we
of the Navy had no particular desire to follow his example;
but there was no appeal: so when I presented myself before
the council and was told by Commodore Lynch that he had
offered my services to General Gatlin, I thanked him for the


216

honor and said how extremely happy I should be to render
any service, etc., etc. It was arranged that I should go down
in a special train next morning at daylight, and I made my
preparations; growling to myself all the time like a quarter
gunner, and then turned in for a few hours' sleep.

Upon reaching the depot the next morning, I found Commodore
Lynch and all the naval officers there, with the crew
of the Winslow, the only vessel in port. I learned to my great
satisfaction that the Commodore had determined to go into the
fort with his entire force; information having been received
during the night that it would probably be attacked that day.
This pleased me very much; for though I strongly objected to
"going it alone," being inclined rather "to pass," I had no objection
to being "ordered up" with the entire party.

Most of the naval officers present, objected to going though,
of course, not in the commodore's hearing; it was not that
they would not gladly have gone in their ships (had they had
any), but the impression made by the harsh reflections upon
Commodore Barron was too strong to be removed. Just
as the cars were about to start, Pat M —— made his appearance
—his face as red as fire, a carbine over his shoulder, and
a jug of pelos cochos in his hand—and said he had been ordered
to remain in Newbern to take charge of the few men
left behind. He growled about it so much that one of the
officers (upon what we all considered good grounds) offered to
take his place and let him go. "No," says M——, "I'll obey
orders." "Well give us your jug" said the officer, and off
we went.

Upon our arrival at Fort Macon we were received with
great joy by Colonel Bridges, the officer in command. The
colonel had distinguished himself at the battle of Bethel as a
captain, had been promoted, and placed in command of Fort
Macon. As he said himself he knew nothing about heavy
artillery or the defence of fortified places. "I only know,"
said he, "that that flag must not come down" and no one
who knew this gallant man could doubt that it would only be


217

lowered after a desperate defence, if at all. The colonel received
me as the ordnance officer most cordially. "Now,"
he remarked, "my mind is at rest;" and I am sure that as
soon as he felt that his men had been properly instructed and
that his ammunition was all right, he would have welcomed
the presence of an attacking force.

We found in Fort Macon Mr. Ruffin, who had fired the
first gun at Fort Sumter. He was an old man, an Englishman
by birth, and I thought, was very much out of place.

The first thing I did upon assuming my duties was to send a
few crews to their guns and direct them to fire at a target
which had been already placed. I had previously made up
my mind not to openly correct any small mistakes, fearing to
discourage the garrison on the eve of an engagement; but I
was glad to see that the men did their work very well, and
made some fair shots. I expressed myself to the colonel
as very well pleased, but my pleasure was nothing compared to
that exhibited by the other naval officers. Their delight,
surprise and admiration were loudly expressed; they said that
the sailors were not wanted, that they could not do as well as
the soldiers, and in fact, that they might as well return to
Newbern. So by the afternoon train the whole "kit and
boodle" of them (so to speak) left, and I was alone in my
glory.

Fort Macon was garrisoned by six companies of North
Carolina troops, recruited in the neighborhood; and a more
orderly, obedient, well-behaved set of men I did not fall in
with during the war. Lieutenant Colonel Sloan was the
second in command, and Lieutenant Coleman was the ordnance
officer. I only wish I could recall the names of more of the
officers, the adjutant's especially, for their hospitality to me
was unbounded. The spirit of the colonel was reflected by
the men. All hands wore full of enterprise and pluck; and I
had been with them but a few days when I felt ready to go
into an engagement with them with pleasure. Fort Macon at
that time would not have fallen without a brave defence.


218

The fort is on a strip of sand lying about two miles off the
main land, and is reached from Beaufort and Morehead City
by boat. On the beach below the fort was encamped a regiment
commanded by Colonel Zebulon Vance, afterwards Governor
of the State, and at present U. S. Senator. I recall a
very pleasant day sailing over to his camp from Morehead
City, in company with Commodore Lynch, of the Dead Sea
Expedition, Colonel Vance, and Mr. Burgwyn, of North Carolina,
all brilliant conversationalists. Mr. Burgwyn's son was
the Lieutenant-Colonel of Vance's regiment—he was killed at
Gettysburg, while in command of it.

I could never account for the feeling of confinement I used
to experience in the fort. It is true I had never lived in casemates
before; but I had passed years in small vessels, in apartments
ten feet square. Yet when the gates were closed at
night I always had a "shut up" feeling—I could not seem to
breathe freely—and as soon as they were thrown open in the
morning I was the first man out, and many were the long
walks I took with Colonel Bridges on the beach.

On one occasion I had to pass some days alone at the tavern
in Morehead City. I do not recollect now why I was there,
but I not only had no companions, but no books. Not a book
was to be had on the premises. One afternoon after walking
wearily about the village looking in vain for reading matter
I went to my room, and my eye happening to rest on my trunk
I observed that it was lined with newspapers; it was what is
known as a "shoe trunk." I took out the clothing, held the
trunk up in a good light, and read everything I could get at
without twisting my head off! This was not the only time
during the war when, if I did not regret knowing how to
read, I did regret being fond of it. I have always held
the opinion that it is of more importance to a man who
has to make a living by making boots, (for example), to
know how to make a good one than to know how to read
and write; and it would be well if our wiseacres in their
howl for more public-school education would pause to reflect


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whether the country is not feeling the want of skilled labor,
and our streets are not being filled with idle young men—
whether, in fact, the public schools are not teaching the working
classes everything but how to make an honest living! It
is not all of education to know how to read and write. I have
seen many a man-of-war's man who could do neither, and yet
be quick of apprehension, prompt to execute, truthful, brave
and self-denying; and as far superior to the city hoodlum or
country bumpkin in all the qualities that go to make a man, as
it is possible for one man to excel another.

During the dreary time I was watching the movements of
the enemy at Hatteras in the Beaufort whilst I was bored to
death for the want of something to read—there being little else
to do after the morning exercise—my pilot, who had passed
his life on these waters, managed to pass his time very pleasantly,
every bird that flew overhead, or fish that swam alongside
gave him some occupation or food for thought. He was a
philosopher, inasmuch as he had learned to live in the present.
It is a mistake to say that education (understood in its ordinary
sense) cannot injure a man. It depends upon his manner
of living, and in many cases it renders his life unhappy,
and to that extent injures him. "Oh," said the keeper of a
lock on the canal when I remarked upon the loneliness of the
place: "I don't know, sometimes we have as many as five or
six boats passing in a day!" So after all every man looks
upon life from a different standpoint and all happiness is comparative.

But all this philosophizing has nothing to do with Fort
Macon! During my two weeks' stay the U. S. steamer
Susquehanna arrived to blockade the port. She anchored out
of gunshot of the fort, though near enough to the beach to have
shelled Vance's regiment if Captain Lardner had felt so inclined.
Beaufort which is 25 miles from Newbern has an excellent
harbor, and I wonder that more blockade runners did
not use it the first year of the war. The Nashville, Captain
Pegram, was the only one I knew to go there. The fort was


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taken and the town occupied by the Federals in April,
1862.

Upon the arrival of an army officer to relieve me I left the
fort and returned to Newbern to resume the fitting out of the
Beaufort. I made up a crew principally of men who had been
in the prizes captured by the Winslow. I had but one American
in the crew—a green hand who shipped as a coal