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Narrative of a Voyage to Senegal in 1816 by J. B. Henry Savigny and Alexander Correard

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[Transcriber's Note: The spelling inconsistencies of the original
are retained in this etext.]

IN 1816.

_No person can read this Interesting Narrative without being deeply
affected by the perils and misfortunes to which the small remnant of
persons, who were saved from this deplorable Shipwreck, were exposed. Of
one hundred and fifty persons embarked upon the raft, and left to their
fate, only fifteen remained alive thirteen days afterwards; but of these
fifteen, so miraculously saved, life constituted the sole possession, being
literally stripped of every thing. At Paris, some benevolent individuals
have recently opened a subscription for their relief. Should any persons,
in this country, feel disposed to contribute to this humane object, Mr.
Colburn will feel great pleasure in becoming the medium for transmitting
their subscriptions to the unfortunate sufferers._

IN 1816;

Shipwreck of the Medusa,




At the moment that we publish a Second Edition of our Narrative, we learn
that Mr. Sevigny [A] is going to publish a pretended Account, by Mr.
Richefort, an auxiliary Ex-Officer of the French Marine.

Our readers will not have forgotten a certain pretended sea-officer who was
partly the cause of our misfortunes, and who, when on board the Medusa,
gave such unhappy advice to the captain, who still more unhappily, followed
it too closely; well; this _ex-officer_, this fatal _auxiliary_, who
conducted the frigate upon the bank of Arguin, is no other than Mr.

Having gone on board the governor's boat, he remained a stranger to the
disasters which he had partly caused, and consequently, knew nothing of
what passed, either upon the raft, or on board the boats which stranded, or
in the desert.

We make no farther remarks; the public will judge of his account and ours.


[A] This Mr. Sevigny must not be confounded with Mr. Savigny, one of the
authors of this narrative.

This Mr. Sevigny is one of the directors of an anonymous company, which one
of the King's Ministers has recommended in the following manner:

"The keeper of the seals has informed the magistrates, that an anonymous
company, which had formed itself under the name of the _Colonial
Philanthropic Society of Senegambia_, and which announced the project of
procuring for all those who should confide in it, colonial establishments
on the coasts near Cape Verd, has received no authority from the
government, and that, on the steps which it has taken, to obtain such
authority, it has been found that it was not in a condition to fulfil its
promises, which, therefore, were a kind of snare, for those whom they might
have seduced. It has been, consequently, prohibited from making any
enterprise, or any expedition. The agents of this Society having no other
object than to deceive the public credulity, must be denounced to his
Majesty's Attorney-General, who will take against them the measures
prescribed by the law."

(_Journal des Debats, Novembre _24, 1817.)


The annals of the marine, record no example of a shipwreck so terrible as
that of the Medusa frigate. Two of the unfortunate crew, who have
miraculously escaped from the catastrophe, impose upon themselves the
painful and delicate task, of describing all the circumstances which
attended it.

It was in the midst of the most cruel sufferings that we took the solemn
resolution, to make known, to the civilized world, all the details of our
unhappy adventure, if heaven permitted us again to see our dear country. We
should believe that we failed in our duty to ourselves, and to our fellow
citizens, if we left buried in oblivion facts which the public must be
desirous to know. All the details of the events at which we were not
present, have been communicated to us by respectable persons, who have
warranted their authenticity. We shall, besides, advance nothing which
cannot be proved.

Here, we hear some voices ask, what right we have to make known to the
government, men who are, perhaps, guilty, but whom their places, and their
rank, entitle to more respect. They are ready to make it a crime in us,
that we have dared to say, that officers of the marine had abandoned us.
But what interest, we ask, in our turn, should cause a fatal indulgence to
be claimed for those, who have failed in their duties; while the
destruction of a hundred and fifty wretches, left to the most cruel fate,
scarcely excited a murmur of disapprobation? Are we still in those times,
when men and things were sacrificed to the caprices of favour? Are the
resources and the dignities of the State, still the exclusive patrimony of
a privileged class? and are there other titles to places and honours,
besides merit and talents?

Let us venture to advance another truth, a truth useful to the Minister
himself. There exists among the officers of the Marine, an intractable
_esprit de corps_, a pretended point of honour, equally false and arrogant,
which leads them to consider as an insult to the whole navy, the discovery
of one guilty individual. This inadmissible principle, which is useful only
to insignificance, to intrigue, to people the least worthy to call on the
name of honour, has the most ruinous consequences for the State, and the
public service. By this, incapacity and baseness are always covered with a
guilty veil, which they dare to attempt to render sacred; by this, the
favours of government are bestowed at random, upon persons, who impose upon
it the strange obligation of being perpetually in the dark respecting them.
Under the protection of this obligation of officious silence, hitherto
seconded by the slavery of the press, men without talents survive every
revolution, exhibit in every antichamber their privileged incapacity, and
braving public opinion, even that of their comrades, who are the first
victims of a foolish and arrogant prejudice, which deceives them, shew
themselves more eager to monopolise favours and honours, in proportion as
they are less able to render themselves worthy of them.

We shall believe that we have deserved well of our government, if our
faithful narrative can make it sensible how much its confidence is abused.
Just, besides, and not animated by passion, it is with real pleasure that
we shall make those known, who, by their conduct in our shipwreck, have
acquired a right to general esteem. Others will doubtless complain of the
severity of our accusing language; but honest men will grant us their
approbation. If we hear it said, that our frankness may have been useful to
our country, this success will be, at once, our justification and our

We have questioned, concerning the nautical details, several gentlemen of
the navy who were on board; we confess, however, that on comparing their
accounts, we have observed that they did not always entirely agree; but we
have taken those facts which had the most witnesses in their favour. We
shall be sometimes obliged to record cruel truths; they will, however, be
directed only to those, whose unskilfulness, or pusillanimity have caused
these dreadful events. We venture to affirm, that the numerous
observations, which we have collected, will give to our work all the
accuracy rigorously required in so interesting a narrative.

We must observe to our readers that it has been impossible for us to avoid
the use of naval terms, which will, perhaps, give a great degree of
roughness to our narrative, but we hope that the public who are always
indulgent, will be so on this occasion, to two unfortunate men, who pretend
only to make them acquainted with the truth, and not to give them a
superior work. Besides, as we in a manner, submit these events, to the
judgment of the gentlemen of the French Navy, it was necessary to make use
of the technical terms, that they might be able to understand us.

This second edition is enriched with notes, which will give the reader
interesting details on many points, which in the former we could only
slightly touch upon. He will have nothing more to desire, particularly
respecting the march in the desert after the stranding of the long-boat.

These notes begin with the moment that the frigate stranded, and terminate
with the arrival at St. Louis.

They were communicated to us by Mr. Landry, an officer of the Royal
University, Professor Emeritus of the Academy of Paris, and at present at
the head of a school or Academy, in the Rue Cerisaye, No. 2, quarter of the
Arsenal, at Paris. He has had the kindness to extract them for us from a
narrative, written by his nephew, Mr. Bredif, Engineer of Mines, belonging
to the expedition to Senegal.

The Narrator sent this account to his family above a year ago, addressing
it to his sister. The reader will, therefore, not be surprised at the tone
of simplicity which prevails in this recital. Mr. Landry would not take
away any part for fear of injuring the truth of the circumstances, by
meddling with it. If Mr. Bredif, is always placed in the fore-ground, that
is not surprising; in a sister, a brother is the principal object which she
cannot lose sight of for a moment.

He who loves to observe men, in all the circumstances, in which they may be
placed, will easily judge, after what Mr. Bredif did or felt, what may have
been done or felt by the sharers in the same misfortunes, who are, besides,
never forgotten.

Mr. Bredif is now in the interior of Africa, employed upon the Mission
which the government has entrusted to him; the last accounts from him are
of the 14th of October, 1817. The manner in which he knows how to give an
account of the facts which he has observed, and still more the courage, the
prudence, and humanity, which he displayed in the disaster of the Medusa,
and in all that followed it, give reason to hope, and this hope cannot be
deceived, that be will duly execute his Mission, and render himself worthy
of his Majesty's favours.

[Illustration: PLAN of the RAFT of the MEDUSA, at the moment of its being
abandoned. 150 Frenchmen were placed on this Machine. 15 only were saved 13
days after.]



The French settlements, situated on the western coast of Africa, from Cape
Blanco to the mouth of the river Gambia, have been alternately possessed by
France and England, and have remained definitively in the hands of the
French, whose ancestors laid the foundations of them previously to the
fourteenth century, when they discovered this country.

The English made themselves masters in 1758 of the Isle of St Louis, the
seat of the general government of all the settlements which the French have
on that part of the coast; we recovered it twenty years after, in 1779 and
our possessions were again confirmed to us by the treaty of peace between
France and England, concluded on the 3d of September, 1783. In 1808, our
possessions fell again into the power of the English, less by the
superiority of their arms, than by the treachery of some individuals
unworthy of bearing the name of Frenchmen. They were finally restored to us
by the treaties of peace of 1814, and 1815, which confirmed that of 1783 in
its whole extent.

The stipulations of this treaty regulate the respective rights of the two
nations on the Western coast of Africa; they fix the possessions of France
as follows:--from Cape Blanco situated in longitude 19 deg. 30', and
latitude 20 deg. 55' 30", to the mouth of the river Gambia in longitude 19 deg. 9',
and latitude 13 deg.; they guarantee this property exclusively to our country,
and only permit the English to trade together with the French, for gum,
from the river St. John to Fort Portendick inclusive, on condition, that
they shall not form establishments of any kind whatsoever in this river, or
upon any point of this coast. Only it is said, that the possession of the
factory of Albreda, situated at the month of the river Gambia, and that of
fort James, are confirmed to England.

The rights of the two nations being thus regulated, France thought of
resuming her possessions and the enjoyment of her rights. The minister of
the marine after having long meditated, and taken two years to prepare an
expedition of four vessels, at last gave orders that it should sail for
Senegal. The following is a list of the persons who composed the

A Colonel, to command in chief for the king on the whole
coast from Cape Blanco to the mouth of the river Gambia, and
charged with the superior direction of the administration... 1

A Lieutenant-Colonel, (chef de bataillon) commandant of
Goree....................................................... 1

A Lieutenant-Colonel commanding the African battalion,
composed of three companies of 84 men each.................. 253

A Lieutenant of Artillery, inspector of the powder magazines
and batteries, and commanding ten workmen of his arm........ 11

A Commissary, inspector of the marine, chief of the
administration.............................................. 1

Four Store-keepers.......................................... 4

Six Clerks.................................................. 6

Four Scouts (guetteurs)..................................... 4

Two Cures................................................... 2

Two Schoolmasters (instituteurs)............................ 2

Two Writers (greffiers, they supply the place of the
notaries and even of the mayors)............................ 2

Two Hospital Directors...................................... 2

Two Apothecaries............................................ 2

Five Surgeons............................................... 5

Two Port Captains........................................... 2

Three Pilots................................................ 3

A Gardener.................................................. 1

Eighteen Women.............................................. 18

Eight Children.............................................. 8

Four Bakers................................................. 4

Farther for an intended expedition into the country of

An Engineer of mines........................................ 1

A Geographical Engineer..................................... 1

A Naturalist (cultivateur naturaliste)...................... 1

Farther for an expedition which was to seek upon Cape Verd,
or in its neighbourhood for a spot proper for the foundation
of a colony.

A Physician................................................. 1

An Agriculturist for European productions................... 1

An Agriculturist for colonial productions................... 1

Two Geographical Engineers.................................. 2

A Naturalist................................................ 1

An officer of the marine.................................... 1

Twenty workmen.............................................. 20

Three Women................................................. 3

Total 365

This expedition consisted therefore of 365 persons, of whom about 240 were
embarked on board the _Medusa_ frigate.

NARRATIVE, &c. &c.

On the 17th of June, 1816, at seven in the morning, the expedition for
Senegal sailed from the roads of the Island of Aix, under the command of
Captain Chaumareys; the vessels composing it were the _Medusa_[1] frigate
of 44 guns, Captain Chaumareys; the _Echo_[2] corvette, Captain Cornet de
Venancourt; the flute _La Loire_, commanded by Lieutenant Giquel
Destouches; and the _Argus_[3] brig, commanded by Lieutenant Parnajon. The
wind was northerly, blowing a fresh breeze; we carried all our sails; but
had hardly cleared the port when the wind scanted a little, and we tacked
to double the Tower of Chassiron, which is placed at the extremity of the
Isle of Oleron.[4] After having plied to windward the whole day, in the
evening about five o'clock, the _Loire_ being unable to stem the currents
which were at that time contrary, and hindered her from entering the
_passes_, desired leave to cast anchor; M. de Chaumareys granted it, and
ordered the whole squadron to anchor. We were then half a league from the
Isle of Rhe, within what is called the _"Pertuis d'Antioche."_ We cast
anchor the first, and all the other vessels came and placed themselves near
us. The _Loire _being a dull sailer, was the last which came to an anchor.
The weather was fine: the wind N.W. and consequently too near to allow us
to double Chassiron, with a contrary current. At seven in the evening, at
the beginning of the ebb, we weighed anchor, and hoisted our sails; all the
other vessels did the same: the signal to get under way had been given them
a few minutes before. At night we found ourselves between the lights of
Chassiron and La Baleine.[5] A few moments sufficed to double them; we were
scarcely clear, when the wind became almost calm; the vessels no longer
obeyed the helm, the sky grew dark, the sea was very hollow, in short every
thing announced a storm; the wind threatened to blow from the west, and
consequently to become contrary; it was variable and squally; towards ten
o'clock it was perceived that we were running directly upon a danger,
called _Les Roches Bonnes_.[6] We tacked to escape certain destruction;
between eleven and twelve at night, a storm arose in the north, and brought
on wind from that quarter; we were then able to advance; the clouds
dispersed, and the next day the weather was very fine, with a breeze from
the N.E. but very faint; for some days we made but very little progress.

On the 21st or 22d we doubled Cape Finisterre; beyond this point which
bounds the Gulph of Gascony, the _Loire_ and the _Argus_ parted company;
these vessels sailing very ill, it was impossible for them to keep up with
the frigate, which to enable them to do so, would have been obliged to take
in her top-gallant sails and studding sails.

The _Echo_ alone was in sight, but at a great distance, and carrying a
press of sail not to lose sight of us. The frigate was so much a better
sailer than the corvette, that with a small quantity of sail, she not only
kept up with her, but even got a-head of her in a surprising manner; the
wind had freshened and we were going at the rate of nine knots.[7]

An unfortunate accident disturbed the pleasure we felt at being so favoured
by the wind; a sailor lad 15 years of age, fell into the sea, through one
of the fore port-holes, on the larboard side; a great many persons were at
the time, on the poop and the breast work, looking at the gambols of the
porpoises.[8] The exclamations of pleasure at beholding the sports of these
animals, were succeeded by cries of pity; for some moments the unfortunate
youth held by the end of a rope, which he caught hold of in his fall; but
the rapidity with which the frigate sailed, soon forced him to let go; a
signal was made to acquaint the _Echo_ with this accident; that vessel was
at a considerable distance, and we were going to fire a gun to second the
signal, but there was not one loaded, however we threw out the life
buoy.[9] The sails were clewed up, and the ship hove to. This manoeuvre was
long; we should have come to the wind, as soon as they cried, "a man
overboard," it is true that somebody cried aloud from the poop, that he was
saved; and a sailor had indeed caught him by the arm, but he had been
obliged to let him go, because he would have been pulled overboard himself:
a boat was however let down; it was a six-oared barge in which there were
only three men: it was all in vain; and after having looked for some time,
the boat came on board again without having found even the buoy. If the
unfortunate youth, who seemed to swim pretty well, had strength to reach
it, he doubtless perished on it, after having experienced the most cruel
sufferings. The ship was trimmed, and we resumed our course.

The _Echo_ rejoined us, and for some time she kept within hail; but we soon
lost her. On the 26th, we plied to windward during the night, fearing lest
we should strike on the eight rocks, which are situated the most
_Northerly_, in 34 deg. 45', Latitude, and the most _Southerly_ in latitude,
34 deg. 30', so that the extent of this danger is about five leagues from
_North_ to _South_ and about four leagues from _East_ to _West_: the most
southerly rock is distant about forty leagues to the _North_, 5 deg. East, from
the East point of Madeira.

On the 27th, in the morning we expected to see the island of Madeira, we
however proceeded to no purpose till noon, at which hour we made an
observation to ascertain our situation. The solar observation made us East,
and West of Porto Santo; we continued on the same tack, and in the evening
at sunset, the man at the mast head discovered, land.[10] This error in the
arrival, was at least thirty leagues in the East. It was attributed to the
currents of the straits of Gibraltar; if this error really arises from the
currents of the strait, it merits the attention of vessels which frequent
these seas. The whole night we proceeded with few sails up; at midnight we
tacked, in order not to approach too near to the land.[A1]

The next morning at day break we saw very distinctly the islands of Madeira
Porto Santo; on the larboard, were those called Desert; Madeira was at
least twelve leagues off: sailing before the wind we made nine knots, and
in a few hours we were very near it. For a considerable time we ran along
the coast of the island at a small distance from shore: we passed before
the principal towns, Funchal and Do Sob.[A2]

Madeira appears like an amphitheatre; the country houses which cover it
seem to be in a very good taste, and give it a charming appearance. All
these delightful habitations are surrounded by fine gardens, and fields
covered with orange and lemon trees, which when the wind blows from the
shore, diffuse for full half a league in the open sea, the most agreeable
perfume. The hills are covered with vineyards, bordered with banian trees:
in short every thing is combined to render Madeira one of the most
beautiful islands of Africa. Its soil is only a vegetable sand, mixed with
an ash, which gives it astonishing fertility; it shews every where nothing
but the remains of a volcanised earth, the colour of which is that of the
element, by which it was long consumed. Funchal, the capital town of the
islands is situated in long. 19 deg.. 20'. 30." in lat. 32 deg. 37'. 40". This town
is far from handsome, the streets are narrow and the houses in general ill
built: the highest part of the island is the Pic de Ruvio, which rises
about two hundred metres above the level of the sea. The population of
Madeira is from 85,000 to 90,000, inhabitants as we are assured by a person
worthy of credit, who has resided for some time in that fine colony.

We sailed in this manner along the coast of Madeira, because the intention
of the commander was to send a boat on shore for refreshments; but being
surprised by a calm under the land, we were afraid of approaching too near,
lest we should not be able to stem the strong currents which set towards
it. A gentle breeze arising, enabled us to get out to sea, where the wind
became favorable, and pretty brisk; it was resolved that the boat should
not go on shore: and we resumed our course going at eight knots. We had
remained three hours opposite Funchal bay. At nightfall Madeira was in full
sight: the next morning at sun-rise we saw the islands called Salvages, and
in the evening we descried the Pico of Teneriffe, on the island of that
name. This lofty mountain, behind which the sun had just set, presented a
sight truly magnificent; its summit seemed to be crowned with fire: its
elevation above the level of the sea, is 3711 metres; it is situated in
lat. 28 deg. 17' and in long. 19 deg.. Several persons on board affirmed that they
saw the Pico at eight o'clock in the morning; and yet we were at least
thirty leagues distant from it; the sky it is true, was extremely clear.

The commander resolved to send a boat to St. Croix, one of the principal
towns in the island, to fetch fruits, and some filtering stones, which are
made in that town; they are only a kind of mortar, made of the volcanic
stone of the country. In consequence, during the whole night we made short
tacks; the next morning we coasted the island, at the distance of two
musket shot, and passed under the guns of a little fort, called _Fort
Francais_. One of our companions leaped for joy, at the sight of this
little fort, which was raised in haste by a few Frenchmen, when the
English, under Admiral Nelson, attempted to take possession of the Colony.
It was there, said he, that a numerous fleet, commanded by one of the
bravest Admirals of the English navy, failed before a handful of French,
who covered themselves with glory and saved Teneriffe; the Admiral was
obliged to take flight, after having lost an arm in the contest, which was
long and obstinate.

Having doubled a point which extends into the sea, we entered the bay, at
the bottom of which is the town of St. Croix. The appearance of Teneriffe
is majestic: the whole island is composed of mountains, which are extremely
high, and crowned with rocks terrifying from their size, which on the north
side, seem to rise perpendicularly above the surface of the ocean, and to
threaten every moment to crush by their fall, the vessels which pass near
their base. Above them all rises the Pico, the summit of which is lost in
the clouds. We did not perceive that the Pic was constantly covered with
snow as some voyagers affirm, nor that it vomits forth lava of melted
metal; for when we observed it, its summit seemed intirely destitute of
snow and of volcanic eruptions. At the foot of the mountain, and up to a
certain elevation excavations filled with sulphur are observed; and in its
neighbourhood several of the sepulchral caverns of the Guanches, the
ancient inhabitants of the island.

Towards noon the _Echo_ corvette, which had parted company, rejoined us,
and passed under the stern of the frigate: she was ordered to imitate our
manoeuvres, which she instantly did; she did not send any boat on shore.
Thus united, we lay to together in the bay of St. Croix. About four o'clock
in the afternoon, the boat having returned on board we directed our course
for Senegal. They had bought in the town some earthen jars of a large size,
precious wines, oranges, lemons, banian figs, and vegetables of all kinds.

Several unfortunate Frenchmen were on the island who had been long
prisoners of war; they lived upon what the Spaniards chose to give them.
They had been restored to liberty on the conclusion of peace, and waited
only for a favorable opportunity to return to France. Their entreaties to
the officer who commanded the boat were useless; he had the cruelty to
refuse to restore them to their country and their families. In this boat
there was another officer M. Laperere, who strongly insisted on bringing
away these unfortunate persons; his entreaties could not move him who
commanded the boat.

The depravity of morals at St. Croix is extreme; so much so that when the
women heard that some Frenchmen were arrived in the town, they placed
themselves at their doors, and when they passed, urged them to enter. All
this is usually done in the presence of the husbands, who have no right to
oppose it, because the Holy Inquisition will have it so, and because the
monks who are very numerous in the island take care that this custom is
observed. They possess the art of blinding the husbands, by means of the
_prestiges_ of religion, which they abuse in the highest degree; they cure
them of their jealousy, to which they are much inclined, by assuring them
that their passion, which they call ridiculous, or conjugal mania, is
nothing but the persecution of Satan which torments them, and from which
they alone are able to deliver them, by inspiring their dear consorts with
some religious sentiments. These abuses are almost inevitable in a burning
climate, where the passion of love is often stronger than reason, and
sometimes breaks through the barriers which religion attempts to oppose to
it: this depravity of morals must therefore be attributed to inflamed
passions, and not to abuses facilitated by a religion so sublime as ours.

The Island of Teneriffe is not equal to that of Madeira: one cannot even
compare their agricultural productions, on account of the great difference
of their soils: but in a commercial view, Teneriffe has the advantage of
Madeira. Its geographical position in the middle of the Canaries, enables
it to carry on an extensive trade, while Madeira is confined to the sale
and exchange of its wines for articles of European manufacture.

The soil of Teneriffe is much drier; a great part of it is too volcanic to
be used for agriculture: every part of it however, which is capable of
producing anything is very well cultivated, which should seem to prove,
that the Spaniards of this country are naturally much less indolent than
they have been represented.[A3]

When we were in the open sea we had favorable winds from the N.N.E.

In the night of the 29th of June the frigate caught fire between decks, by
the negligence of the master baker; but being discovered in time, the fire
was extinguished. In the following night the same accident was repeated;
but this time it was necessary, in order to stop the progress of the fire,
to pull down the oven which was rebuilt the next day.

On the 1st of July we descried Cape Bayados, situated in latitude 26 deg. 12'
30", and in longitude 16 deg. 47'. We then saw the skirts of the immense desert
of Zaara, and we thought we perceived the mouth of the river St. John [A4],
which is very little known. We passed the tropic at ten o'clock in the
morning; the usual ceremony was there performed with a certain pomp; the
jokes of the sailors amused us for some moments; we were far from thinking
of the cruel event which was soon to deprive of their lives a third of the
persons who were on board the frigate. This custom of tropical baptism is
strange enough; the chief object of it, is, to procure the sailors some

From St. Croix, we had constantly steered to the S.S.W. During the ceremony
at the tropic we doubled Cape Barbas, situated in lat. 22 deg. 6', and long.
19 deg. 8': two officers suddenly had the course changed, without informing the
captain; this led to a pretty warm dispute, which however had no serious
consequences. These two officers affirmed that we were running upon a group
of rocks, and that we were already very near to the breakers. We had sailed
the whole morning in the Gulph of St. Cyprian, the bottom of which is
strewed with rocks, so that at low water, brigantines cannot frequent these
seas, as we were told at Senegal by M. Valentin, senior, who is perfectly
acquainted with this whole coast, and could not conceive how the frigate
could have passed amidst all these reefs without striking. The shore was
within half a cannon shot, and we clearly saw enormous rocks over which the
sea broke violently.[11] If it had fallen calm, there is no doubt but the
strong currents which set, in-shore, would have infallibly carried us into

In the evening we thought we descried Cape Blanco[A5], and according to
the instructions given by the Navy Office, we steered W.S.W. During a part
of the night the _Echo_, with which we had constantly kept company since we
left Madeira, burnt several charges of powder and hung a lanthorn at the
mizen-mast; her signals were not answered in the same manner; only a
lanthorn was hung for a few moments to the fore-mast; it went out soon
after, and was not replaced by another light. M. Savigny was on deck where
he remained a part of the night: he had full opportunity to perceive the
negligence of the officer of the watch, who did not even deign to answer
the signals made by the _Echo_[A6]. Why, in the neighbourhood of so
formidable a danger, not compare the points of the two ships, as is usual
when vessels sail in company? The captain of the frigate was not even
informed of the signals of the corvette. At eleven o'clock, she bore off
the larboard bow; and soon after he perceived that the direction of her
course made a pretty large angle with ours, and that it tended to cross us
passing a-head; he soon perceived her on the starboard: it is affirmed that
her journal states that she sailed the whole night W.S.W. ours does the
same. We must necessarily have hauled to the larboard, or she to the
starboard, since at day-break the corvette was no longer in sight.

At sea a vessel may easily be perceived at the distance of six leagues.
From midnight till six in the morning, she must have gained above six
leagues of us, which is not to be imagined, for she sailed much slower than
we and stopped every two hours to take soundings. To explain this
separation we must necessarily admit either that the frigate steered more
south, or the corvette more west, if the two vessels had run on the same
tack it would be impossible to explain it.

Every two hours the frigate brought-to, to sound; every half hour the lead
was cast without lowering the sails; we were always upon shallows, and
stood out to sea, to find a greater quantity of water: at length about six
o'clock in the morning we had above a hundred fathoms; we then stood-to the
S.S.E.; this course made almost a right angle with that which we had
followed in the night: it bore directly in-shore, the approach to which, in
this place, is rendered terrible by a very long reef, called Arguin, which
according to instructions we had on board extends above thirty leagues in
breadth.[12] According to the instructions given by the Minister of the
Marine, this danger is avoided by running only twenty-two leagues in the
open sea; it is true they recommend not to approach the shore but with the
greatest precaution, and with the sounding line in the hand: the other
ships of the expedition which sailed according to those instructions all
arrived at St. Louis without any accident, which is a certain proof of
their exactness.[13] Besides it is said, that one must make W.S.W., when
one has discerned Cape Blanco; and it is probable we had not got sight of
it in the evening, as was supposed. We therefore had an uncertain point of
departure; hence the error which was so fatal to us.

According to my Comrade Correard, we cannot pass over in silence, a scene
which took place in the morning. The Captain was deceived in the most
singular manner; about five or six o'clock he was called up; some persons
who were on deck persuaded him that a great cloud which was in the
direction of Cape Blanco and in truth very near it, was that Cape itself.
My companion in misfortune, who sees clearly, and who knows how to
distinguish between a rock and a cloud, because he has seen enough of them
in the Alps, where he was born, told those gentlemen that it was only a
cape of vapour; he was answered that the instructions which the minister
had given to the captain prescribed to him to make this cape; but that we
had passed it above ten leagues; that at this moment the question was, to
make the captain believe that the instructions of the minister had been
punctually followed, and that they desired to persuade him, which was not
difficult, that this cloud was the Cape. Many have deposed, as we have been
told, that Cape Blanco, had been seen in the evening of the 1st of July: we
venture to affirm that that rock was not seen at all.

After this pretended reconnaissance of the 2d July, if we were persuaded
that we had seen that Cape, we should have steered west, to double the bank
of Arguin; the danger once passed, the course should have been again
directed to the south which is the route to Senegal; but he who for some
days past had guided the course of the ship, thought proper to persuade the
captain, to take immediately the southerly course, and to steer for
Portendic. We are ignorant of the reasons which induced the commander of
the frigate to give his confidence to a man who did not belong to the
staff. He was an ex-officer of the marine, who had just left an English
prison, where he had been for ten years; he certainly had not acquired
there knowledge superior to that of the officers on board, whom this mark
of deference could not but offend. M. de Chaumareys, while we were doubling
Cape Barbas, presided at the farce performed in passing the Tropic, while
he who had gained his confidence, was walking up and down the deck of the
frigate, coolly observing the numerous dangers, spread along the coast.
Several persons remonstrated against this management of the vessel,
particularly Mr. Picard the greffier of Senegal, who had struck upon the
bank of Arguin eight years before; this enlightened man declared at that
time that we were running into danger.

As soon as the sun's altitude was observed to ascertain our position, we
saw, on the quarter deck, Mr. Maudet, ensign of the watch, working the
day's work, (making out the reckoning) upon a chicken coop; this officer
who knows all the duties of his profession, affirmed that we were on the
edge of the reef; he communicated this to the person who for some days past
had given his counsel to the commander respecting the course to be steered;
he received for answer; never mind, we are in eighty fathoms.[14]

If our course during the night had partly averted all our dangers, that
which was taken in the morning led us into them again. Mr. Maudet,
convinced that we were upon the reef, took upon him, to have soundings
taken; the colour of the water was intirely changed, which was observed
even by those who were the least used to recognise the depth of the sea, by
the appearance of the water; we even thought that we saw sand roll amid the
little waves that rose; numerous sea weeds were seen by the ship's side,
and a great many fish were caught. All these facts proved indubitably that
we were on shallow water: in fact the lead announced only eighteen fathoms;
the officer of the watch immediately informed the captain, who gave orders
to come a little more to the wind; we were going before the wind the
studding sails on the larboard; these sails were immediately lowered; the
lead was again cast, and showed six fathoms; the captain gave orders to
haul the wind as close as possible, but unhappily it was too late.[A7][B1]

The frigate luffing, almost immediately gave a heel; it proceeded a moment
longer; gave a second and then a third; it stopped at a place where the
sounding line showed only a depth of five metres sixty centimetres, and it
was the time of high water.

Unhappily we were in the season of the high tides, which was the most
unfavorable time for us because they were going to decline, and we ran a
ground just when the water was at the highest; for the rest, the tides do
not much differ in these seas; at the time of full moon they do not rise
more than fifty centimetres more than usual; in the spring tides the water
does not rise above one hundred and twenty centimetres on the reef. We have
already said that when we grounded, the sounding line marked only five
metres, and sixty centimetres; and at low water it marked, four metres
sixty centimetres, the frigate therefore saved by a metre: however, as soon
as we had stranded, the boats which went out to sound, met with places
deeper than that, where we struck, and many others not so deep; which made
us suppose that the reef is very uneven and covered with little elevations.
All the different manoeuvres which had been performed since the moment when
we found ourselves in eighteen fathoms, to that in which we struck,
succeeded each other with extraordinary rapidity: not above ten minutes
passed. Several persons have assured us that, if the ship had come entirely
to the wind, when we were in eighteen fathoms, the frigate might perhaps
have got clean, for she did not run wholly aground till she got to the west
part of the reef, and upon its edge.

We stranded on the 2d of July, at a quarter after three p.m. in 19 deg. 36'
north latitude, and 19 deg. 45' west longitude. This event spread the most
profound consternation; if in the midst of this disorder, there were any
men who remained collected enough to make observations, they must have been
struck with the extraordinary changes impressed on every countenance; some
persons were not to be recognised. Here you might see features become
shrunk and hideous; there a countenance which had assumed a yellow and even
a greenish hue, some men seemed thunderstruck and chained down to their
places, without strength to move. When they had recovered from the
stupefaction, with which they were at first seized, numbers gave themselves
up to excess of despair; while others uttered imprecations upon those whose
ignorance had been so fatal to us. An officer going upon deck, immediately
after the accident, spoke with energy to him, who, as we have already said,
had directed for some days the course of the ship, and said to him, "_See,
Sir, to what your obstinacy has brought us; I had warned you of it_." Two
women alone seemed insensible to this disaster; they were the wife and
daughter of the governor. What a shocking contrast! men who for twenty or
twenty-five years, had been exposed to a thousand dangers, were, profoundly
affected, while Madame and Mademoiselle Chemals, appeared insensible, and
as if unconcerned in these events.

As soon as the frigate stranded, the sails were hastily lowered, the top
gallant masts got down, the top masts lowered, and every thing necessary
arranged to get her off the reef. After numerous efforts, night being come,
they were suspended to give some repose to the crew, who had displayed
extreme activity. The next day, the third, the top masts were got down, the
yards lowered, and they heaved at the capstern upon an anchor which had
been fixed the evening before, at a cable's length a-stern of the frigate.
This operation was fruitless; for the anchor, which was too weak, could not
make sufficient resistance and gave way: a bower anchor was then used,
which, after infinite pains, was carried out to a considerable distance, to
a place where there was only a depth of five metres sixty centimetres; in
order to carry it so far, it was fixed behind a boat, under which was
placed a number of empty barrels fastened together because the boat was not
able to carry so considerable a weight.[15] The sea ran very high, and the
current was extremely strong.

This boat, when it reached the spot where it was to cast the anchor, could
not place it in the proper position to make the flukes fix in the sand, for
one of the extremities already touched the bottom, while the other was
still put of the water: being thus ill fixed, it could not answer the
purpose intended; when they began to heave upon it, it made very little
resistance, and would have been dragged on board again if they had
continued to work at the capstern.[16] In the course of the day, we staved
several water butts which were in the hold, and pumped immediately, the top
masts, except the small one which could not be got down, were thrown into
the sea; the yards, the boom, and all the pieces of wood which afterwards

If the loss of the vessel was certain, it was proper to secure the escape
of the crew: a council was called, at which the governor of Senegal gave
the plan of a raft, capable, it was said, of carrying two hundred men, with
provisions.[17] It was necessary to have recourse to an expedient of this
nature, because our six boats were judged to be incapable of taking on
board four hundred men, which was our number. The provisions were to be
deposited on the raft, and at the hours of meals, the crews of the boats
would have come to receive their rations: we were to reach all together the
sandy coast of the desert, and there furnished with arms and ammunition,
which were to be taken in by the boats before we left the frigate, we were
to form a caravan, and proceed to the Island of St. Louis. The events which
happened in the sequel, proved that this plan was perfectly well laid, and
that it might have been crowned with success: unhappily these decisions
were traced upon a loose sand, which was dispersed by the breath of

In the evening another anchor was cast, at a pretty considerable distance
from the frigate: just before high water, we began to work at the capstern,
but in vain. The work was put off till the next morning's tide; during all
this time, the operations were performed with the greatest difficulty; the
sea was hollow, the winds strong, the boats which had to go to a distance
either to sound or fix: anchors, could not attain their object, without the
greatest efforts; rapid currents, added to the difficulties. If the weather
had not been so extremely unfavorable to us, perhaps the frigate might have
been got afloat the next day, for it had been resolved to carry out very
long warps, but the violence of the wind, and the sea, baffled these
arrangements which nothing but a calm could favor. The weather was bad
during the whole night; about four or five o'clock, at the morning tide,
all our efforts to raise her were still fruitless; we began to despair of
even being able to save her from this danger; the boats were repaired, and
the construction of the raft diligently prosecuted: during the day of the
4. several barrels of flour were thrown into the sea, some water casks
staved; some barrels of powder, intended as articles to trade with Segenal,
were also got overboard.

In the evening, a few minutes before high water, the labours at the
capstern recommenced; this time the anchors did not deceive our
expectations; for, after a few moments labour, the frigate moved on the
larboard; this motion was effected by means of an anchor fixed on the north
west; the stream cable which was bent to its ring, came by the head of the
ship and tended to make it swing; while another much stronger one, the
cable of which passed through one of the stern ports, tended to prevent it
from running a-head, by supporting its quarters the motions of which were
commanded by means of this force. This first success gave us great hopes;
we worked with ardor.

After some further efforts, the _Medusa_ began to swing sensibly; we
redoubled our efforts, she swung intirely and then had her head turned, to
the open sea. She was almost afloat, only her stern touched a little; the
work could not be continued, because the anchor was too near, and it would
have been hove up. If a warp had been carried out in the open sea, by
continuing to haul upon it, the frigate would have been got wholly afloat
that evening. All the things which had been thrown overboard had lightened
her, by twenty or thirty centimetres at the most, her draught of water
might certainly have been lessened still more; but it was not done because
the Governor of Senegal objected to throwing the barrels of flour into the
sea, alledging that the greatest scarcity prevailed in the European
factories. These considerations, however, should not have caused it to be
overlooked that we had on board fourteen twenty-four pounders, and that it
would have been easy to throw them overboard, and send them even to a
considerable distance from the frigate, by means of the yard tackle;
besides, the flour barrels might have been carefully fastened together, and
when we were once out of danger, it would have been easy for us to remove
them. This plan might have been executed without any fear of doing much
damage to the flour, which when it is plunged in the water forms round the
inside of the barrel a pretty thick crust, in consequence of the moisture,
so that the interior is preserved from injury: this method was indeed
attempted, but it was given up, because the means employed were
insufficient. More care should have been used, and all the difficulties
would have been conquered; only half measures were adopted, and in all the
manoeuvres great want of decision prevailed.[B2]

If the frigate had been lightened as soon as we struck, perhaps she might
have been saved.[18] The weather, however, as we have already said, was
almost always unfavourable, and often hindered the operations.

Some persons expected to see the frigate got afloat the next day, and their
joy shewed that they were fully persuaded of it: there were indeed some
probabilities, but they were very slight; for the vessel had been merely
got out of its bed. We had hardly succeeded in changing its place to a
distance of about two hundred metres, when the sea began to ebb: the
frigate rested on the sand, which obliged us to suspend for ever our last
operations. If it had been possible to hold her this night to two or three
cables more in the open sea, still lightening her, perhaps, we repeat it,
she might have been placed out of danger.

At night the sky became cloudy, the winds came from the sea, and blew
violently. The sea ran high, and the frigate began to heel with more and
more violence, every moment we expected to see her bulge; consternation
again spread, and we soon felt the cruel certainty that she was
irrecoverably lost.[B3] She bulged in the middle of the night, the keel
broke in two, the helm was unship'd, and held to the stern only by the
chains, which caused it to do dreadful damage; it produced the effect of a
strong horizontal ram, which violently impelled by the waves, continually
struck the poop of the ship; the whole back part of the captain's cabin was
beat in, the water entered in an alarming manner. About eleven o'clock
there was a kind of mutiny, which was afterwards checked by the presence of
the governor and the officers; it was excited by some soldiers, who
persuaded their comrades that it was intended to abandon them on board the
frigate, while the crew escaped in the boats; these alarms were excited by
the imprudence of a young man; some soldiers had already taken their arms,
and had ranged themselves on the deck, all the avenues to which they

The raft, impelled by the strength of the current and of the sea, broke the
cable which fastened it to the frigate and began to drive; those who beheld
this accident announced it by their cries, and a boat was immediately sent
after it, which brought it back. This was a distressing night for us all;
agitated by the idea that our frigate was totally lost, and alarmed by the
violent shocks which it received from the waves, we were unable to take a
moment's repose.

At day-break, on the 5th, there were two metres seventy centimetres water
in the hold, and the pumps could no longer work with effect: it was decided
we ought to quit the vessel as soon as possible. The frigate, it was said,
threatened to upset; a childish fear, doubtless; but, what particularly
made it absolutely necessary to abandon her, was, that the water had
already penetrated between decks. A quantity of biscuit was hastily taken
from the store-room; wine and fresh water were also got out; these
provisions were intended to be placed in the boats and on the raft. To
preserve the biscuit from the salt water it was put into strong iron hooped
barrels, which were perfectly fit for the purpose. We are ignorant why
these provisions, so carefully prepared were not embarked either on the
raft or in the boats; the precipitation with which we embarked was the
cause of this negligence, so that some boats did not save above twenty-four
pounds of biscuit, a small cask of water and very little wine: the rest was
abandoned on the deck of the frigate or thrown into the sea during the
tumult of the evacuation. The raft alone had a pretty large quantity of
wine, but not a single barrel of biscuit, and if any was put upon it, it
was thrown off by the soldiers when they placed themselves upon it. To
avoid confusion, there was made, the day before, a list of the persons who
were to embark, assigning to every one the post he was to occupy; but no
attention was paid to this wise arrangement; every one took the means which
he thought the most favorable to reach the shore; those who executed the
orders which they had received to place themselves on the raft, had
certainly reason to repent it. Mr. Savigny was unfortunately of this
number; he might have stopped on board a boat, but an invincible attachment
to his duty made him forget the danger of the part which was allotted him.

At length, the moment when we were to abandon the frigate arrived. First,
the soldiers were embarked, who were almost all placed upon the raft: they
wanted to take their muskets and some cartridges: this was formally
opposed.[19] They left them on the deck, and preserved only their sabres:
some few, however, saved their carbines, and, almost all the officers,
their fowling pieces and pistols. In all, we were about one hundred and
forty-seven or one hundred and fifty; such is pretty nearly the account of
the persons who embarked on this fatal machine, one hundred and twenty
soldiers, including the officers of the army, twenty-nine men, sailors and
passengers, and one woman. The barge, commanded by a lieutenant, on board
of which were the governor and his family, took in thirty-five persons in
all: this large fourteen-oared vessel, could certainly have carried a
larger number: besides the people, there were three trunks; another
fourteen-oared boat took in forty-two persons; the captain's barge took
twenty-eight; the long boat, though in a very bad condition, destitute of
oars, took in, however, eighty-eight; an eight-oared boat which was to be
left at Senegal, for the service of the port, took twenty-five sailors; the
smallest of the boats had fifteen persons on board; among whom were the
interesting family of Mr. Picard, of whom we have spoken above: it was
composed of three young ladies, his wife, and four young children. All
these numbers added together, form a total of three hundred and
ninety-seven persons;[20] there were on board the frigate, near four
hundred sailors and soldiers: thus it appears that several poor wretches
were abandoned; when the Medusa was again found, fifty-two days after, it
was ascertained that the number of those, who had been abandoned, was
seventeen; which proves to us, that there were more than one hundred and
forty seven of us on the raft, and that it is more correct to fix the
number of the men at a hundred and fifty. It is said, that when the last
boat, which was the long boat, left the frigate, several men refused to
embark in her; the others were too much intoxicated to think of their
safety. A man of the name of Dales, one of the seventeen who remained on
board the frigate, deposed in the council, that fourteen men had left the
long boat, because they did not think it capable of carrying so many, and
that he, with two others hid themselves, that they might not be compelled
to go on board. We are ignorant of the depositions of his two companions.

What a sight was it to behold a multitude of wretches, who all wanted to
escape death, and all sought to save themselves, either in the boats or
upon the rafts! The frigate's ladder was insufficient for so many: some
threw themselves from the vessels, trusting to the end of a rope, which was
scarcely able to bear a man's weight; some fell into the sea, and were
recovered; what is surprising is, that amidst all this confusion, there was
not a single serious accident.

Though in so terrible a situation, on our fatal raft, we cast our eyes upon
the frigate, and deeply regretted this fine vessel, which, a few days
before, seemed to command the waves, which it cut through with astonishing
rapidity. The masts, which had supported immense sails, no longer existed,
the barricade was entirely destroyed: the vessel itself was cast on the
larboard quarter.

All the boats, after they had sheered off, proceeded in different manners,
as we shall afterwards relate; but the men on board, when they reached the
shore, had to contend with a thousand causes of destruction. We will first
exactly relate all the operations that were executed till the moment when
the raft was abandoned.

About seven o'clock, the signal for departure was given; four of the boats
stood out to sea, the raft was still along side of the frigate, where it
was moored: the captain's barge was under the bowsprit and the barge near
our machine, on which it had just embarked some men. At length we were
ordered to depart; but whether from a presentiment of what was to happen to
us, or whether Mr. Correard entertained just fears, which the event proved
to be but too well founded, he would not depart, till he had convinced
himself that our raft was provided with all the necessary instruments and
charts, to navigate with some degree of safety in case bad weather should
oblige the boats to separate from us. As it was impossible to move upon the
raft, because we were so crowded together he thought it the easiest to call
to Mr. ---- who immediately answered to his call. Coming to the larboard,
he asked what we wanted? The following questions were then put to him:
"Are we in a condition to depart? Have we instruments and charts?" Yes,
yes, replied he, "I have provided you with every thing that can be
necessary for you." He was then asked, what naval officer was to come and
command us? he answered: "It is I; in a moment I shall be with you." After
saying this he disappeared, and went on board one of the boats.

How is it possible that a French sea officer should be guilty of such bad
faith to his unhappy countrymen, who placed all their confidence in him?

At last, the barge came to the head of the frigate, and the governor caused
himself to be let down in an arm chair; it then threw a tow rope to our
raft, and we stood off with this one boat; the second boat then gave a tow
line to the first; the Senegal boat came afterwards, and did the same;
there remained three boats, the captain's, which was still at the head of
the frigate, on board of which last there were above eighty men, who
uttered cries of despair, when they saw the boats and the raft stand off.
The three boats which towed us, soon brought us to a distance from the
vessel; they had a good wind, and the sailors rowed like men who were
resolved to save themselves from the imminent danger which threatened us.
The long-boat, and the pinnace were at some distance, and attempted to
return on board; lastly, M. De Chaumareys embarked in his barge, by one of
the ropes a-head: some sailors threw themselves into it, and loosened the
ropes, by which it was lashed to the frigate. Immediately the cries of the
people who remained on board redoubled, and an officer of the troops even
took up a carbine to fire at the captain: but was prevented. We soon saw
that this man was not equal to his duty; from the manner in which he
abandoned his people. We regretted that the arm of the officer had been
withheld when he wished to prevent the captain's design; but, our regret
was unavailing; the mischief was done; it was irreparable; he had no idea
of repairing it, and he could not return on board, for he was sure to meet
there with that death, which he sought to avoid, at the expence of honor.

M. de Chaumareys, however, went on board the long-boat, and gave order that
it should take in the men who remained on board the frigate.[B4] Some
persons belonging to this boat have informed us, that they were told there
were, at the most, about twenty who could not embark; but, the long-boat,
destitute of oars, attempted, to no purpose, to get back to the frigate; a
boat tried, without success, to tow it; it could not attain the object,
till it sent the pinnace to fetch some long ropes, one end of which was
lashed to the frigate, and the other brought on board the long-boat, which
was thus towed to the larboard side of the ship. Lieutenant Espiau, who
commanded this large boat, was surprised at finding above sixty soldiers
and sailors, instead of twenty. This officer went on board with Mr. Bredif,
engineer of mines, who tried to recall to their reason, those whose
intellectual faculties had been impaired by the presence of danger. Mr.
Espiau, embarked with proper order, the men who were on the deck; seventeen
only as we have said, refused; some fearing that the boat would founder
before she could reach the raft, and the other boats, which left it more
and more behind; some others, because they were too much intoxicated as we
have stated, to think of their safety.[B5] The fears of the former, (and
they are probably those who, according to the deposition of Dales, returned
on board the frigate) were founded on the bad condition of the long-boat,
which let in the water on every side. After promising the men who persisted
in remaining, that assistance should be sent them, as soon as the others
arrived at Senegal, the long-boat stood off to join the little division.
Before he left the frigate, Mr. Espiau had the grand national flag

When this boat left the frigate to join us, we were, at least, a league and
a half distant; the captain's barge had come some time before to take the
towrope, and was at the head of the line; the smallest of the boats (the
pinnace) did not take the towline; it preceded the little division,
probably to take soundings.

As soon as all the boats had taken their post, cries of "_Vive le Roi!_"
were a thousand times repeated by the men upon the raft, and a little white
flag was hoisted at the top of a musket. Such was the order of the boats
and the raft. The chiefs of the little division which was to conduct us to
the land, had sworn not to abandon us: we are far from accusing all those
gentlemen of having violated the laws of honor; but a series of
circumstances obliged them to renounce the generous plan which they had
formed to save us, or to perish with us. These circumstances deserve to be
scrupulously examined; but our pen, guided by truth, must not fear to
record facts which truth itself dictates. It is true they are of so strange
a nature, that it is unpleasant to make them known. It is painful to us, to
have to recount such events: we have to shew to what a degree the
imagination of man is susceptible of being struck by the presence of
danger, so as to make him even forget the duties which honour imposes on
him. We, doubtless, admit that in forsaking the raft, the minds of those
who did so, were greatly agitated, and that the desire of withdrawing
themselves from danger, made them forget that a hundred and fifty
unfortunate men were going to be abandoned to the most cruel sufferings. We
shall relate the facts as we observed them, and as they have been
communicated to us, by some of our companions in misfortune.

Before we proceed, we will describe the construction of this raft, to which
a hundred and fifty persons were entrusted.

It was composed of the top-masts of the frigate, yards, fishes, boom, &c.
These different pieces joined together by very strong ropes, were perfectly
solid; the two principal pieces were two top-masts, which were placed at
the extremity of the two sides; four other masts, two of which were of the
same length and strength as the first, joined two by two, at the center of
the machine, added to its solidity. The other pieces were placed within
these four first but were not equal to them in length. Boards were nailed
on this first foundation, and formed a kind of parapet, which would have
been of great service to us if it had been higher. To render our raft still
more solid, long pieces of wood had been placed across, which projected at
least three metres: on the sides, there was a kind of railing, but it was
not above forty centimetres in height: it would have been easy to add some
crotches to it, which would have formed a breast-work of sufficient height;
but it was not done, probably because those who had the machine built, were
not to be exposed upon it. To the ends of the top-masts, two top-gallant
yards were lashed, the farther ends of which were bound by a very strong
cord, and thus formed the front part of the raft. The angular space, formed
by the two yards, was filled with pieces of wood laid across, and planks
ill adjusted. This fore part, which was at least two metres in length, had
very little solidity, and was continually submerged. The hinder part did
not terminate in a point like the fore part, but a considerable length of
this part was not more solid, so that in fact, there was only the center
which was really to be depended upon: an example will enable the reader to
judge of its dimensions. When we were no more than fifteen in it, we had
not space enough to lie down, and yet we were extremely close together. The
raft, from one extremity, to the other was at least twenty metres in
length, and about seven in breadth; this length might induce one to think,
at the first sight, that it was able to carry two hundred men, but we soon
had cruel proofs of its weakness. It was without sails or mast. As we left
the frigate they threw us the fore-top-gallant and the main-top-gallant
sails; but they did it with such precipitation, that, some persons who were
at their post, were in danger of being wounded by the fall of these sails,
which were bent to the yards. They did not give us any ropes to set up our

There was on board the raft a great quantity of barrels of flour, which had
been deposited there the preceding day, not to serve for provisions during
the passage, from the frigate to the coast, but because the raft, formed of
the barrels, not having succeeded, they were deposited on the machine, that
they might not be carried away by the sea, there were also six barrels of
wine and two small casks of water, which had been put there for the use of
the people.

Scarcely fifty men had got upon the raft, when it sunk at least seventy
centimetres under water; so that to facilitate the embarkation of the other
soldiers it was necessary to throw into the sea all the flour barrels,
which lifted by the waves, began to float and were violently driven against
the men who were at their post; if they had been fixed, perhaps some of
them might have been saved: as it was, we saved only the wine and the
water, because several persons united to preserve them, and had much
difficulty to hinder them from being thrown into the sea like the flour
barrels. The raft, lightened by throwing away these barrels, was able to
receive more men; we were at length a hundred and fifty. The machine was
submerged at least a metre: we were so crowded together that it was
impossible to take a single step; at the back and the front, we were in
water up to the middle. At the moment that we were; putting off, from the
frigate, a bag with twenty-five pounds of biscuit was thrown us, which fell
into the sea; we got it up with difficulty; it was converted into a paste,
but we preserved it in that condition. Several considerate persons fastened
the casks of wine and water to the cross pieces of the raft, and we kept a
strict watch over them. Thus we have faithfully described the nature of our
situation when we put off from the vessel.

The Commander of the raft was named Coudin who was, what is called in the
French marine an _Aspirant_ of the first class. Some days before our
departure from the roads of the Isle of Aix, he had received a severe
contusion on the fore part of the right leg, which was not approaching to
its cure, when we stranded and wholly incapacitated him from moving. One of
his comrades, moved by his situation, offered to take his place, but Mr.
Coudin, though wounded, preferred repairing to the dangerous post which was
assigned him, because he was the oldest officer of his class on board. He
was hardly on board the raft, when the sea water so increased the pain in
his leg, that he nearly fainted; we gave notice of his situation to the
nearest boat, we were answered that a boat would come and fetch this
officer. I do not know whether the order was given, but it is certain that
Mr. Coudin was obliged to remain on the fatal raft.

The long-boat, which we have been forced to lose sight of for a moment, in
order to give these necessary details, at length rallied; it was, as we
have stated, the last that left the frigate. The lieutenant who commanded
her, justly fearing that he should not be able to keep the sea, in a crazy
boat destitute of oars, badly rigged, and making much water, ran along-side
of the first boat, begging it to take in some men; they refused. This long
boat was to leave us some ropes to fix our mast; which an instant before
had been hauled to us, by the first boat, which we had before us: we do not
know what reason hindered it from leaving us these ropes, but it passed on,
and ran along-side the second boat, which equally refused to take any body
on board. The officer, who commanded the long-boat, seeing that they
refused to take any of his men, and falling more and more under the wind,
because his sails were badly trimmed, and the currents drove him, made up
to the third-boat, commanded by a sub-lieutenant named Maudet; this
officer, commanding a slight boat which the day before had a plank beat in,
by one of the cross pieces of the raft, (an accident which had been
remedied by covering the hole with a large piece of lead,) and being
besides heavily laden, in order to avoid the shock of the long-boat, which
might have been fatal to him, was forced to let loose the tow-rope, which
held him to the barge, and thus broke in two the line formed by the boats
before the craft, by separating himself from it with the captains boat
which was at the head: when the captain and Mr. Maudet had disengaged
themselves they hauled the wind, and then put about to come and take their
post; Mr. Maudet even hailed M. de Chaumareys, "_Captain take your towrope
again_," he received for answer, _yes my friend_. Two boats were still at
their post, but before the other two were able to rejoin them, the barge
separated itself; the officer who commanded it, expressed himself as
follows respecting his thus abandoning us. "The towrope was not let go from
my boat, but from that behind me." This second desertion was the forerunner
of another still more cruel; for the officer who commanded the last boat in
which was the governor, after having towed us alone, for a moment, caused
the rope to be loosened which held it to the raft. When the towropes were
let go, we were two leagues from the frigate; the breeze came from the sea,
which was as favorable as could be desired. This last tow-rope did not
break, as the governor has tried to persuade the minister of the marine,
and several persons who escaped from the raft. Walking on the terrace of a
French merchant at Senegal, in the presence of Messrs. Savigny and Coudin,
the governor explained the affair as follows: "Some men were on the front
of the raft, at the place where the tow-rope was fixed; which they pulled
so as to draw the boat nearer to them; they had already pulled several
fathoms of it to them, but a wave coming, gave a violent shock; these men
were obliged to let go; the boats then proceeded more rapidly, till the
rope was stretched; at the moment when the boats effected this tension the
effort was such, that the rope broke." This manner of explaining this last
desertion is very adroit, and might easily deceive those who were not on
the spot, but it is not possible for us to accede to it, since we could
even name the person who loosened it.

Some persons belonging to the other boats have assured us, that all the
boats were coming to resume their post, when a cry of "_we forsake them_,"
was heard: we have this fact from many of our companions in misfortune. The
whole line was thrown into disorder, and no measures were taken to remedy
it: it is probable, that if one of the first officers had set the example,
order would have been restored; but every one was left to himself; hence
there was no concert in the little division; every one thought of escaping
from personal danger.

Let us here do justice to the courage of Mr. Clanet, pay-master of the
frigate, who was on board the governor's boat; if he had been listened to,
this tow-rope would not have been let go; every moment an officer who was
in the governor's boat cried out aloud, "_shall I let go?_" Mr. Clanet
opposed it, answering with firmness, "_No no_!" Some persons joined him,
but could obtain nothing, the tow-rope was let go: we considered it as
certain, that the commander of the other boats, on seeing the chief of the
expedition courageously devote himself, would have come and resumed their
posts: but it may be said that each individual boat was abandoned by all
the others: there was wanting, on this occasion, a man of great coolness:
and ought not this man to have been found among the chief officers? How
shall their conduct be justified? There are, certainly, some reasons to be
alledged. Impartial judges of events, we will describe them, not as unhappy
victims of the consequences of this desertion, but as men free from all
personal resentment, and who listen only to the voice of truth.

The raft, drawn by all the boats united, dragged them a little back; it is
true that we just had the ebb, and the currents set from shore. To be in
the open sea with undecked vessels, might well inspire some apprehensions:
but, in a few hours, the currents would change and favor us; we ought to
have waited for this moment, which would have infallibly demonstrated the
possibility of drawing us to the coast, which was not above twelve or
fifteen leagues distant: this is so true that the boats discovered the
coast, the same evening, before sunset. Perhaps they would have been forced
to forsake us the second night after our departure, if indeed more than
thirty-six hours had been required to tow us to land; for the weather was
very bad; but we should then have been very near to the coast, and it would
have been very easy to save us: at least we should have had only the
elements to accuse!--We are persuaded that a short time would have sufficed
to tow us within sight of land, for, the evening of our being deserted, the
raft was precisely in the direction which the boats had followed between
the frigates and the coast, and, at least, five leagues from the former.
The next morning, at daybreak, we could no longer see the Medusa.[A9]

At the first moment we did not really believe that we had been so cruelly
abandoned. We imagined that the boats had let loose, because they had
perceived a vessel, and hastened towards it to ask assistance. The
long-boat was pretty near us to leeward on the starboard. She lowered her
foresail half way down: her manoeuvre made us think that she was going to
take the first tow-rope: she remained so a moment, lowered her foresail
entirely, setup her main-mast, hoisted her sails, and followed the rest of
the division. Some men in this boat, seeing that the others deserted us,
threatened to fire upon them, but were stopped by Lieutenant Espiau. Many
persons have assured us that it was the intention of this officer to come
and take the tow-rope; but his crew opposed it; had he done so, he would
certainly have acted with great imprudence. His efforts would have been of
little use to us, and his devotedness would but have increased the number
of victims.[B6] As soon as this boat was gone, we had no doubt but that we
were abandoned; yet we were not fully convinced of it till the boats had

It was now that we had need of all our courage, which, however, forsook us
more than once: we really believed that we were sacrificed, and with one
accord, we cried that this desertion was premeditated. We all swore to
revenge ourselves if we had the good fortune to reach the shore, and there
is no doubt but that, if we could have overtaken, the next day, those who
had fled in the boats, an obstinate combat would have taken place between,
them and us.

It was then that some persons who had been marked out for the boats, deeply
regretted that they had preferred the raft, because duty and honor had
pointed out this post to them. We could mention some persons: for example,
Mr. Correard, among others, was to go in one of the boats; but twelve of
the workmen, whom we commanded, had been set down for the raft; he thought
that in his quality of commander of engineers, it was his duty not to
separate from the majority of those who had been confided to him, and who
had promised to follow him wherever the exigencies of the service might
require; from that moment his fate became inseparable from theirs, and he
exerted himself to the utmost to obtain the governor's permission to have
his men embarked in the same boat as himself; but seeing that he could
obtain nothing to ameliorate the fate of these brave men, he told the
governor that he was incapable of committing an act of baseness: that since
he would not put his workmen in the same boat with him, he begged him to
allow him to go on the raft with them, which was granted.

Several military officers imitated their example; only two of those who
were to command the troops did not think fit to place themselves upon the
raft, the equipment of which, in truth, could not inspire much confidence.

One of them, Captain Beiniere, placed himself in the long-boat with 36 of
his soldiers. We had been told that these troops had been charged to
superintend the proceedings of the other boats, and to fire upon those who
should attempt to abandon the raft. It is true, as we have seen above, that
some brave soldiers listening, perhaps, more to the voice of humanity and
French honor, than to the strict maxims of discipline, were desirous of
employing their arms against those who basely abandoned us, but, that their
will and their actions were paralized by the passive obedience which they
owed to their officers, who opposed this resolution.

The other, Mr. Danglas, a lieutenant, who had lately left the
_gardes-du-corps_, had at first embarked with us upon the raft, where his
post was assigned him, but when he saw the danger which he incurred on this
unstable machine, he made haste to quit it, on the pretext that he had
forgotten something on board the frigate, and did not return. It was he
whom we saw, armed with a carbine, threaten to fire on the barge of the
governor, when it began to move from the frigate. This movement, and some
other actions which were taken for madness, nearly cost him his life; for
while he was thus giving himself up to a kind of extravagance, the captain
took flight, and abandoned him on board the frigate with the sixty-three
men whom he left there. When M. Danglas saw himself treated in this manner,
he gave marks of the most furious despair. They were obliged to hinder him
from attempting his own life. With loud cries he invoked death, which he
believed inevitable in the midst of perils so imminent. It is certain that
if Mr. Espiau, who had his long-boat already full, had not returned to take
from on board the frigate, the forty-six men, among whom, was Mr. Danglas,
he and all his companions would not, perhaps, have experienced a better
fate than the seventeen who were finally left on board the Medusa.

After the disappearance of the boats, the consternation was extreme: all
the terrors of thirst and famine arose before our imaginations, and we had
besides to contend with a perfidious element, which already covered the
half of our bodies: when recovered from their stupefaction, the sailors and
soldiers gave themselves up to despair; all saw inevitable destruction
before them, and gave vent in lamentations to the gloomy thoughts which
agitated them. All we said did not at first avail to calm their fears, in
which we however participated, but which a greater degree of strength of
mind enabled us to dissemble. At last, a firm countenance and consoling
words succeeded in calming them by degrees, but could not wholly dispel the
terror with which they were struck; for according to the judicious
reflection, made after reading our deplorable story, by Mr. Jay, whose
authority we quote with pleasure, "To support extreme misfortunes, and what
is worthy of remark, to bear great fatigues, moral energy is much more
necessary than corporeal strength, nay, than the habit of privations and
hard labour. On this narrow theatre where so many sufferings are united,
where the most cruel extremes of hunger and thirst are experienced, strong
and indefatigable men who have been brought up to the most laborious
professions, sink in succession under the weight of the common destiny,
while men of a weak constitution, and not inured to fatigue, find in their
minds the strength which their bodies want, endure with courage unheard-of
trials, and issue victorious from their struggle with the most horrible
afflictions. It is to the education they have received, to the exercise of
their intellectual faculties, that they owe this astonishing superiority
and their deliverance," When tranquillity was a little restored, we began
to look upon the raft for the charts, the compass and the anchor, which we
presumed had been placed there, from what had been said to us at the time
we quitted the frigate. These highly necessary articles had not been put
upon our machine. The want of a compass in particular, greatly alarmed us,
and we uttered cries of rage and vengeance. Mr. Correard then recollected,
that he had seen one in the hands of one of the chief workmen under his
command, and enquired of this man about it: "Yes, yes," said he, "I have it
with me." This news transported us with joy, and we thought that our safety
depended on this feeble resource. This little compass was about the size of
a crown-piece, and far from correct. He who has not been exposed to events,
in which his existence was in imminent peril, can form but a faint idea of
the value which one then sets upon the most common and simple objects, with
what avidity one seizes the slightest means, that are capable of softening
the rigour of the fate with which one has to contend. This compass was
given to the commander of the raft; but an accident deprived us of it for
ever: it fell, and was lost between the pieces of wood which composed our
machine: we had kept it only for a few hours; after this loss, we had
nothing to guide us but the rising and setting of the sun.

We had all left the frigate without taking any food: hunger began to be
severely felt; we mixed our biscuit-paste (which had fallen into the sea)
with a little wine, and we distributed it thus prepared: such was our first
meal, and the best we had the whole time we were on the raft.

An order, according to numbers, was fixed for the distribution of our
miserable provisions. The ration of wine was fixed at three quarters[21] a
day: we shall say no more of the biscuit: the first distribution consumed
it entirely. The day passed over pretty quietly: we conversed on the means
which we should employ to save ourselves; we spoke of it as a certainty,
which animated our courage: and we kept up that of the soldiers, by
cherishing the hope of being soon able to revenge ourselves upon those who
had so basely abandoned us. This hope of vengeance inspired us all equally,
and we uttered a thousand imprecations against those who had left us a prey
to so many misfortunes and dangers. The officer who commanded, the raft
being unable to move, Mr. Savigny took on himself the care of setting up
the mast; he caused the pole of one of the frigate's masts to be cut in
two; we employed the main-top-gallant sail; the mast was kept up by the
rope which had served to tow us, of which we made shrouds and stays: it was
fixed on the anterior third of the raft. The sail trimmed very well, but
the effect of it was of very little use to us; it served only when the wind
came from behind, and to make the raft preserve this direction it was
necessary to trim the sail, as if the wind came athwart. We think that the
cross position which our raft always retained, may be attributed to the too
great length of the pieces of wood which projected on each side.

In the evening, our hearts and our prayers, with the impulse natural to the
unfortunate, were directed towards heaven; we invoked it with fervour, and
we derived from our prayers the advantage of hoping in our safety: one must
have experienced cruel situations, to imagine what a soothing charm, in the
midst of misfortune, is afforded by the sublime idea of a God, the
protector of the unfortunate. One consoling idea still pleased our
imaginations; we presumed that the little division had sailed for the Isle
of Arguin, and that after having landed there a part of its people, would
return to our assistance: this idea, which we tried to inspire into our
soldiers and sailors, checked their clamours. The night came, and our hopes
were not yet fulfilled: the wind freshened, the sea rose considerably. What
a dreadful night! Nothing but the idea of seeing the boats the next day,
gave some consolation to our people; who being most of them unused to the
motion of a vessel,[22] at every shock of the sea, fell upon each other.
Mr. Savigny, assisted by some persons, who, in the midst of this disorder,
still retained their presence of mind, fastened some ropes to the pieces of
the raft: the men took hold of them, and by means of this support, were
better able to resist the force of the waves: some were obliged to fasten
themselves. In the middle of the night the weather was very bad; very heavy
waves rolled upon us, and often threw us down with great violence; the
cries of the people were mingled with the roaring of the billows; a
dreadful sea lifted us every moment from the raft, and threatened to carry
us away. This scene was rendered still more awful by the horrors of a very
dark night; for some moments we thought that we saw fires at a distance. We
had taken the precaution to hang, at the top of the mast, some gun-powder
and pistols, with which we had provided ourselves on board the frigate: we
made signals by burning a great many charges of powder; we even fired some
pistol-shot, but it seems that these fires were only an illusion of the
eyesight, or perhaps they were nothing but the dashing of the breakers.

This whole night we contended against death, holding fast by the ropes
which were strongly fastened. Rolled by the waves from the back to the
front, and from the front to the back, and sometimes precipitated into the
sea, suspended between life and death, lamenting our misfortune, certain to
perish, yet still struggling for a fragment of existence with the cruel
element which threatened to swallow us up. Such was our situation till
day-break; every moment were heard the lamentable cries of the soldiers and
sailors; they prepared themselves for death; they bid farewell to each
other, imploring the protection of Heaven, and addressing fervent prayers
to God: all made vows to him, notwithstanding the certainty that they
should never be able to fulfil them. Dreadful situation! How is it possible
to form an idea of it, which is not below the truth!

About seven o'clock, in the morning, the sea fell a little, the wind blew
with less fury; but what a sight presented itself to our view! Ten or
twelve unhappy wretches, having their lower extremities entangled in the
openings between the pieces of the raft, had not been able to disengage
themselves, and had lost their lives; several others had been carried off
by the violence of the sea. At the hour of repast we took fresh numbers, in
order to leave no break in the series: we missed twenty men: we will not
affirm that this number is very exact, for we found that some soldiers, in
order to have more than their ration, took two, and even three numbers. We
were so many persons crowded together, that it was absolutely impossible to
prevent these abuses.

Amidst these horrors, an affecting scene of filial piety forced us to shed
tears: two young men raised and recognised, for their father, an
unfortunate man who was stretched senseless under the feet of the people;
at first, they thought he was dead, and their despair expressed itself by
the most affecting lamentations; it was perceived, however, that this
almost inanimate body still had breath; we lavished on him all the
assistance in our power; he recovered by degrees, and was restored to life
and to the prayers of his sons, who held him fast embraced in their arms.
While the rights of nature resumed their empire in this affecting episode
of our sad adventures, we had soon the afflicting sight of a melancholy
contrast. Two young lads, and a baker, did not fear to seek death, by
throwing themselves into the sea, after having taken leave of their
companions in misfortune. Already the faculties of our men were singularly
impaired; some fancied they saw the land; others, vessels which were coming
to save us; all announced to us by their cries these fallacious visions.

We deplored the loss of our unhappy companions; we did not presage, at this
moment, the still more terrible scene which was to take place the following
night; far from that, we enjoyed a degree of satisfaction, so fully were we
persuaded that the boats would come to our relief. The day was fine, and
the most perfect tranquillity prevailed on our raft. The evening came, and
the boats did not appear. Despondency began again to seize all our people,
and a mutinous spirit manifested itself by cries of fury; the voice of the
officers was wholly disregarded. When the night came, the sky was covered
with thick clouds; the wind, which during the day had been rather high, now
became furious, and agitated the sea, which, in an instant, grew very

If the preceding night had been terrible, this was still more horrible.
Mountains of water covered us every moment, and broke, with violence, in
the midst of us; very happily we had the wind behind us, and the fury of
the waves was a little checked by the rapidity of our progress; we drove
towards the land. From the violence of the sea, the men passed rapidly from
the back to the front of the raft, we were obliged to keep in the centre,
the most solid part of the raft; those who could not get there, almost all
perished. Before and behind the waves dashed with fury, and carried off the
men in spite of all their resistance. At the centre, the crowd was such
that some poor men were stifled by the weight of their comrades, who fell
upon them every moment; the officers kept themselves at the foot of the
little mast, obliged, every instant, to avoid the waves, to call to those
who surrounded them to go on the one or the other side, for the waves which
came upon us, nearly athwart, gave our raft a position almost
perpendicular, so that, in order to counterbalance it, we were obliged to
run to that side which was raised up by the sea.[A10]

The soldiers and sailors, terrified by the presence of an almost inevitable
danger, gave themselves up for lost. Firmly believing that they were going
to be swallowed up, they resolved to soothe their last moments by drinking
till they lost the use of their reason; we had not strength to oppose this
disorder; they fell upon a cask which was at the middle of the raft, made a
large hole at one end, and with little tin cups which they had brought from
on board the frigate, they each took a pretty large quantity, but they were
soon obliged to desist, because the sea water entered by the hole which
they had made.

The fumes of the wine soon disordered their brains, already affected by the
presence of danger and want of food. Thus inflamed, these men, become deaf
to the voice of reason, desired to implicate, in one common destruction,
their companions in misfortune; they openly expressed their intention to
rid themselves of the officers, who they said, wished to oppose their
design, and then to destroy the raft by cutting the ropes which united the
different parts that composed it. A moment after, they were proceeding to
put this plan in execution. One of them advanced to the edge of the raft
with a boarding-axe, and began to strike the cords: this was the signal for
revolt: we advanced in order to stop these madmen: he who was armed with
the axe, with which he even threatened an officer, was the first victim: a
blow with a sabre put an end to his existence. This man was an Asiatic, and
soldier in a colonial regiment: a colossal stature, short curled hair, an
extremely large nose, an enormous mouth, a sallow complexion, gave him a
hideous air. He had placed himself, at first, in the middle of the raft,
and at every blow of his fist he overthrew those who stood in his way; he
inspired the greatest terror, and nobody dared to approach him. If there
had been half-a-dozen like him, our destruction would have been inevitable.

Some persons, desirous of prolonging their existence, joined those who
wished to preserve the raft, and armed themselves: of this number were some
subaltern officers and many passengers. The mutineers drew their sabres,
and those who had none, armed themselves with knives: they advanced
resolutely against us; we put ourselves on our defence: the attack was
going to begin. Animated by despair, one of the mutineers lifted his sabre
against an officer; he immediately fell, pierced with wounds. This firmness
awed them a moment; but did not at all diminish their rage. They ceased to
threaten us, and presenting a front bristling with sabres and bayonets,
they retired to the back part, to execute their plan. One of them pretended
to rest himself on the little railing which formed the sides of the raft,
and with a knife began to cut the cords. Being informed by a servant, we
rushed upon him--a soldier attempted to defend him--threatened an officer
with his knife, and in attempting to strike him, only pierced his coat--the
officer turned round--overpowered his adversary, and threw both him and his
comrade into the sea!

After this there were no more partial affairs: the combat became general.
Some cried lower the sail; a crowd of madmen instantly threw themselves on
the yards and the shrouds, and cut the stays, and let the mast fall, and
nearly broke the thigh of a captain of foot, who fell senseless. He was
seized by the soldiers, who threw him into the sea: we perceived it--saved
him, and placed him on a barrel, from which he was taken by the seditious;
who were going to cut out his eyes with a penknife. Exasperated by so many
cruelties, we no longer kept any measures, and charged them furiously. With
our sabres drawn we traversed the lines which the soldiers formed, and many
atoned with their lives for a moment of delusion. Several passengers
displayed much courage and coolness in these cruel moments.

Mr. Correard was fallen into a kind of trance, but hearing every moment
cries of "_To arms! To us, comrades! We are undone_!" joined to the cries
and imprecations of the wounded and the dying, he was soon roused from his
lethargy. The increasing confusion made him sensible that it was necessary
to be upon his guard. Armed with his sabre, he assembled some of his
workmen on the front of the raft, and forbid them to hurt any one unless
they were attacked. He remained almost always with them, and they had
several times to defend themselves against the attacks of the mutineers;
who falling into the sea, returned by the front of the raft; which placed
Mr. Correard and his little troop between two dangers, and rendered their
position very difficult to be defended. Every moment men presented
themselves, armed with knives, sabres and bayonets; many had carbines,
which they used as clubs. The workmen did their utmost to stop them, by
presenting the point of their sabres; and, notwithstanding the repugnance
they felt to combat their unhappy countrymen, they were however obliged to
use their arms without reserve; because many of the mutineers attacked them
with fury, it was necessary to repulse them in the same manner. In this
action some of the workmen received large wounds; he who commanded them
reckons a great number, which he received in the various combats they had
to maintain. At last their united efforts succeeded in dispersing the
masses that advanced furiously against them.

During this combat, Mr. Correard was informed, by one of his workmen who
remained faithful, that one of their comrades, named Dominique, had taken
part with the mutineers, and that he had just been thrown into the sea.
Immediately forgetting the fault and the treachery of this man, he threw
himself in after him, at the place where the voice of the wretch had just
been heard calling for assistance; he seized him by the hair, and had the
good fortune to get him on board. Dominique had received, in a charge,
several sabre wounds, one of which had laid open his head. Notwithstanding
the darkness we found the wound, which appeared to us to be very
considerable. One of the workmen gave his handkerchief to bind it up and
stanch the blood. Our care revived this wretch; but as soon as he recovered
his strength, the ungrateful Dominique, again forgetting his duty and the
signal service that he had just received from us, went to rejoin the
mutineers. So much baseness and fury did not go unpunished; and soon
afterwards, while combating us anew, he met with his death, from which he,
in fact, did not merit to be rescued, but which he would probably have
avoided, if faithful to honor and to gratitude, he had remained among us.

Just when we had almost finished applying a kind of dressing to the wounds
of Dominique, another voice was heard; it was that of the unfortunate woman
who was on the raft with us, and whom the madmen had thrown into the sea,
as well as her husband, who defended her with courage. Mr. Correard, in
despair at seeing two poor wretches perish, whose lamentable cries,
especially those of the woman, pierced his heart, seized a large rope which
was on the front of the raft, which he fastened round the middle of his
body, and threw himself, a second time, into the sea, whence he was so
happy as to rescue the woman, who invoked, with all her might, the aid of
Our Lady of Laux, while her husband was likewise saved by the chief
workman, Lavillette. We seated these two poor people upon dead bodies, with
their backs leaning against a barrel. In a few minutes they had recovered
their senses. The first thought of the woman was to enquire the name of him
who had saved her, and to testify to him the warmest gratitude. Thinking,
doubtless, that her words did not sufficiently express her sentiments, she
recollected that she had, in her pocket, a little snuff, and immediately
offered it to him--it was all she possessed. Touched by this present, but
not making use of this antiscorbutic, Mr. Correard, in turn, made a present
of it to a poor sailor, who used it three or four days. But a more
affecting scene, which it is impossible for us to describe, is the joy
which this unfortunate couple displayed when they had sufficiently
recovered their senses to see that they were saved.

The mutineers being repulsed, as we have said above, left us at this moment
a little repose. The moon with her sad beams, illumined this fatal raft,
this narrow space, in which were united so many heart-rending afflictions,
so many cruel distresses, a fury so insensate, a courage so heroic, the
most pleasing and generous sentiments of nature and humanity.

The man and his wife, who just before had seen themselves attacked with
sabres and bayonets, and thrown at the same moment into the waves of a
stormy sea, could hardly believe their senses when they found themselves in
each others arms. They felt, they expressed, so fervently, the happiness
which they were alas, to enjoy for so short a time, that this affecting
sight might have drawn tears from the most insensible heart; but in this
terrible moment, when we were but just breathing after the most furious
attack, when we were forced to be constantly on our guard, not only against
the attacks of the men, but also against the fury of the waves: few of us
had time, if we may say so, to suffer ourselves to be moved by this scene
of conjugal friendship.

Mr. Correard, one of those whom it had most agreeably affected, hearing the
woman still recommend herself, as she had done when in the sea, to our Lady
of Laux, exclaiming every instant, "our good Lady of Laux do not forsake
us," recollected that there was, in fact, in the Department of the Upper
Alps, a place of devotion so called,[23] and asked her if she came from
that country. She replied in the affirmative, and said she had quitted it
24 years before, and that since that time she had been in the Campaigns in
Italy, &c. as a sutler; that she had never quitted our armies. "Therefore,"
said she, "preserve my life, you see that I am a useful woman." "Oh! if you
knew how often I also have braved death on the field of battle, to carry
assistance to our brave men." Then she amused herself with giving some
account of her campaigns. She mentioned those she had assisted, the
provisions which she had provided them, the brandy with which she had
treated them. "Whether they had money or not," said she, "I always let them
have my goods. Sometimes a battle made me lose some of my poor debtors; but
then, after the victory, others paid me double or triple the value of the
provisions which they had consumed before the battle. Thus I had a share in
their victory." The idea of owing her life to Frenchmen, at this moment,
seemed still to add to her happiness. Unfortunate woman! she did not
foresee the dreadful fate that awaited her among us! Let us return to our

After this second check, the fury of the soldiers suddenly abated, and gave
place to extreme cowardice: many of them fell at our feet and asked pardon,
which was instantly granted them. It is here, the place to observe and to
proclaim aloud for the honour of the French army, which has shewn itself as
great, as courageous, under reverses, as formidable in battle, that most of
these wretches were not worthy to wear its uniform. They were the scum of
all countries, the refuse of the prisons, where they had been collected to
make up the force charged with the defence and the protection of the
colony. When, for the sake of health, they were made to bathe in the sea, a
ceremony from which some of them had the modesty to endeavour to excuse
themselves, the whole crew had ocular demonstration that it was not upon
the _breast_ that these heroes wore the insignia of the exploits, which had
led them to serve the state in the Ports of Toulon, Brest or Rochefort.

This is not the moment, and perhaps we are not competent to examine whether
the penalty of branding, as it is re-established in our present code, is
compatible with the true object of all good legislation, that of correcting
while punishing, of striking only as far as is necessary to prevent and
preserve; in short, of producing the greatest good to all with the least
possible evil to individuals. Reason at least seems to demonstrate, and
what has passed before our own eyes authorises us to believe that it is as
dangerous, as inconsistent, to entrust arms for the protection of society,
to the hands of those whom society has itself rejected from its bosom; that
it implies a contradiction to require courage, generosity, and that
devotedness which commands a noble heart to sacrifice itself for its
country and fellow creatures, from wretches branded, degraded by
corruption, in whom every moral energy is destroyed, or eternally
compressed by the weight of the indelible opprobrium which renders them
aliens to their country, which separates them for ever from the rest of

We soon had on board our raft a fresh proof of the impossibility of
depending on the permanence of any honorable sentiment in the hearts of
beings of this description.

Thinking that order was restored, we had returned to our post at the center
of the raft, only we took the precaution to retain our arms. It was nearly
midnight: after an hours apparent tranquillity, the soldiers rose again:
their senses were entirely deranged; they rushed upon us like madmen, with
their knives or sabres in their hands. As they were in full possession of
their bodily strength, and were also armed, we were forced again to put
ourselves on our defence. Their revolt was the more dangerous, as in their
delirium they were entirely deaf to the cries of reason. They attacked us;
we charged them in our turn, and soon the raft was covered with their dead
bodies. Those among our adversaries who had no arms, attempted to tear us
with their teeth; several of us were cruelly bitten; Mr. Savigny was
himself bitten in the legs and the shoulder; he received also a wound with
a knife in his right arm which deprived him, for a long time, of the use of
the fourth and little fingers of that hand; many others were wounded; our
clothes were pierced in many places by knives and sabres. One of our
workmen was also seized by four of the mutineers, who were going to throw
him into the sea. One of them had seized him by the right leg, and was
biting him cruelly in the sinew above the heel. The others were beating him
severely with their sabres and the but end of their carbines; his cries
made us fly to his aid. On this occasion, the brave Lavillette, ex-serjeant
of the artillery on foot, of the old guard, behaved with courage worthy of
the highest praise: we rushed on these desperadoes, after the example of
Mr. Correard, and soon rescued the workman from the danger which threatened
him. A few moments after, the mutineers, in another charge, seized on the
sub-lieutenant Lozach, whom they took, in their delirium, for Lieutenant
Danglas, of whom we have spoken above, and who had abandoned the raft when
we were on the point of putting off from the frigate. The soldiers, in
general, bore much ill will to this officer, who had seen little service,
and whom they reproached with having treated them harshly while they were
in garrison in the Isle of Rhe. It would have been a favorable opportunity
for them to satiate their rage upon him, and the thirst of vengeance and
destruction which animated them to fancy that they had found him in the
person of Mr. Lozach, they were going to throw him into the sea. In truth,
the soldiers almost equally disliked the latter, who had served only in the
Vendean bands of Saint Pol de Leon. We believed this officer lost, when his
voice being heard, informed us that it was still possible to save him.
Immediately Messrs. Clairet, Savigny, l'Heureux, Lavillette, Coudin,
Correard, and some workmen, having formed themselves into little parties,
fell upon the insurgents with so much impetuosity that they overthrew all
who opposed them, recovered Mr. Lozach, and brought him back to the center
of the raft.

The preservation of this officer cost us infinite trouble. Every moment the
soldiers demanded that he should be given up to them, always calling him by
the name of Danglas. It was in vain we attempted to make them sensible of
their mistake, and to recal to their memory, that he, whom they demanded,
had returned on board the frigate, as they had themselves seen; their cries
drowned the voice of reason; every thing was in their eyes Danglas; they
saw him every where, they furiously and unceasingly demanded his head, and
it was only by force of arms, that we succeeded in repressing their rage,
and in silencing their frightful cries.

On this occasion we had also reason to be alarmed for the safety of Mr.
Coudin. Wounded and fatigued by the attacks which we had sustained with the
disaffected, and in which he had displayed the most dauntless courage, he
was reposing on a barrel, holding in his arms a sailor boy, of twelve years
of age, to whom he had attached himself. The mutineers seized him with his
barrel, and threw him into the sea with the boy, whom he still held fast;
notwithstanding this burden, he had the presence of mind to catch hold of
the raft, and to save himself from this extreme danger. Dreadful night! thy
gloomy veil covered these cruel combats, instigated by the most terrible

We cannot conceive how a handful of individuals could resist such a
considerable number of madmen. There were, certainly, not more than twenty
of us to resist all these furious wretches. Let it, however, not be
imagined, that we preserved our reason unimpaired amidst all this disorder;
terror, alarm, the most cruel privations had greatly affected our
intellectual faculties; but being a little less deranged than the
unfortunate soldiers, we energetically opposed their determination to cut
the cords of the raft. Let us be allowed to make some reflections on the
various sensations with which we were affected.

The very first day, Mr. Griffon lost his senses so entirely, that he threw
himself into the sea, intending to drown himself. Mr. Savigny saved him
with his own hand. His discourse was vague and unconnected. He threw
himself into the water a second time, but by a kind of instinct he kept
hold of one of the cross pieces of the raft: and was again rescued.

The following is an account of what Mr. Savigny experienced in the
beginning of the night. His eyes closed in spite of himself, and he felt a
general lethargy; in this situation the most agreeable images played before
his fancy; he saw around him, a country covered with fine plantations, and
he found himself in the presence of objects which delighted all his senses;
yet he reasoned on his situation, and felt that courage alone would recover
him from this species of trance; he asked the master gunner of the frigate
for some wine: who procured him a little; and he recovered in a degree from
this state of torpor. If the unfortunate men, when they were attacked by
these first symptoms, had not had resolution to struggle against them,
their death was certain. Some became furious; others threw themselves into
the sea, taking leave of their comrades with great coolness; some said
"Fear nothing, I am going to fetch you assistance: in a short time you will
see me again." In the midst of this general madness, some unfortunate
wretches were seen to rush upon their comrades with their sabres drawn,
demanding the _wing of a chicken_, or _bread_ to appease the hunger which
devoured them; others called for their hammocks, "_to go_," they said,
"_between the decks of the frigate and take some moments' repose_." Many
fancied themselves still on board the Medusa, surrounded with the same
objects which they saw there every day. Some saw ships, and called them to
their assistance, or a harbour, in the back ground of which there was a
magnificent city.

Mr. Correard fancied he was travelling through the fine plains of Italy;
one of the officers said to him, gravely, "_I remember that we have been
deserted by the boats; but fear nothing; I have just written to the
governor, and in a few hours we shall be saved._" Mr. Correard replied in
the same tone, and as if he had been in an ordinary situation, "_Have you a
pigeon to carry your orders with as much celerity?_" The cries and the
tumult soon roused us from the state in which we were plunged; but scarcely
was tranquillity restored, when we sunk back into the same species of
trance: so that the next day we seemed to awake from a painful dream, and
asked our companions if, during their sleep, they had seen combats and
heard cries of despair. Some of them replied that they had been continually
disturbed by the same visions, and that they were exhausted with fatigue:
all thought themselves deceived by the illusions of a frightful dream.

When we recal to our minds those terrible scenes, they present themselves
to our imagination like those frightful dreams which sometimes make a
profound impression on us; so that, when we awake, we remember the
different circumstances which rendered our sleep so agitated. All these
horrible events, from which we have escaped by a miracle, appear to us like
a point in our existence: we compare them with the fits of a burning fever,
which has been accompanied by a delirium: a thousand objects appear before
the imagination of the patient: when restored to health, he sometimes
recollects the visions that have tormented him during the fever which
consumed him, and exalted his imagination. We were really seized with a
fever on the brain, the consequence of a mental exaltation carried to the
extreme. As soon as daylight beamed upon us, we were much more calm:
darkness brought with it a renewal of the disorder in our weakened
intellects. We observed in ourselves that the natural terror, inspired by
the cruel situation in which we were, greatly increased in the silence of
the night: then all objects seemed to us much more terrible.

After these different combats, worn out with fatigue, want of food and of
sleep, we endeavoured to take a few moments' repose, at length daylight
came, and disclosed all the horrors of the scene. A great number had, in
their delirium, thrown themselves into the sea: we found that between sixty
and sixty-five men had perished during the night; we calculated that, at
least, a fourth part had drowned themselves in despair. We had lost only
two on our side, neither of whom was an officer. The deepest despondency
was painted on every face; every one, now that he was come to himself, was
sensible of his situation; some of us, shedding tears of despair, bitterly
deplored the rigour of our fate.

We soon discovered a new misfortune; the rebels, during the tumult, had
thrown into the sea two barrels of wine, and the only two casks of water
that we had on the raft.[24] As soon as Mr. Correard perceived that they
were going to throw the wine into the sea, and that the barrels were almost
entirely made loose, he resolved to place himself on one of them; where he
was continually thrown to and fro by the impulse of the waves; but he did
not let go his hold. His example was followed by some others, who seized
the second cask, and remained some hours at that dangerous post. After much
trouble they had succeeded in saving these two casks; which being every
moment violently driven against their legs had bruised them severely. Being
unable to hold out any longer, they made some representations to those who,
with Mr. Savigny, employed all their efforts to maintain order and preserve
the raft. One of them took his (Mr. Correard) place; others relieved the
rest: but finding this service too difficult, and being assaulted by the
mutineers, they forsook this post. Then the barrels were thrown into the

Two casks of wine had been consumed the preceding day; we had only one
left, and we were above sixty in number; so that it was necessary to put
ourselves on half allowance.

At daybreak the sea grew calm, which enabled us to put up our mast again;
we then did our utmost to direct our course towards the coast. Whether it
were an illusion or reality we thought we saw it, and that we distinguished
the burning air of the Zaara Desert. It is, in fact, very probable that we
were not very distant from it, for we had had winds from the sea which had
blown violently. In the sequel we spread the sail indifferently to every
wind that blew, so that one day we approached the coast, on the next ran
into the open sea.

As soon as our mast was replaced, we made a distribution of wine; the
unhappy soldiers murmured and accused us for privations, which we bore as
well as they: they fell down with fatigue. For forty-eight hours we had
taken nothing, and had been obliged to struggle incessantly against a
stormy sea; like them we could hardly support ourselves; courage alone
still made us act. We resolved to employ all possible means to procure
fish. We collected all the tags from the soldiers, and made little hooks of
them; we bent a bayonet to catch sharks: all this availed us nothing; the
currents carried our hooks under the raft, where they got entangled. A
shark bit at the bayonet, and straightened it. We gave up our project. But
an extreme resource was necessary to preserve our wretched existence. We
tremble with horror at being obliged to mention that which we made use of!
we feel our pen drop from our hand; a deathlike chill pervades all our
limbs; our hair stands erect on our heads!--Reader, we beseech you, do not
feel indignation towards men who are already too unfortunate; but have
compassion on them, and shed some tears of pity on their unhappy fate.

Those whom death had spared in the disastrous night which we have just
described, fell upon the dead bodies with which the raft was covered, and
cut off pieces, which some instantly devoured. Many did not touch them;
almost all the officers were of this number. Seeing that this horrid
nourishment had given strength to those who had made use of it, it was
proposed to dry it, in order to render it a little less disgusting. Those
who had firmness enough to abstain from it took a larger quantity of wine.
We tried to eat sword-belts and cartouch-boxes. We succeeded in swallowing
some little morsels. Some eat linen. Others pieces of leather from the
hats, on which there was a little grease, or rather dirt. We were obliged
to give up these last means. A sailor attempted to eat excrements, but he
could not succeed.

The day was calm and fine: a ray of hope allayed our uneasiness for a
moment. We still expected to see the boats or some vessels; we addressed
our prayers to the Eternal, and placed our confidence in him. The half of
our men were very weak, and bore on all their features the stamp of
approaching dissolution. The evening passed over, and no assistance came.
The darkness of this third night increased our alarm; but the wind was
slight, and the sea less agitated. We took some moment's repose: a repose
which was still more terrible than our situation the preceding day; cruel
dreams added to the horrors of our situation. Tormented by hunger and
thirst, our plaintive cries sometimes awakened from his sleep, the wretch
who was reposing close to us. We were even now up to our knees in the
water, so that we could only repose standing, pressed against each other to
form a solid mass. The fourth morning's sun, after our departure, at length
rose on our disaster, and shewed us ten or twelve of our companions
extended lifeless on the rail. This sight affected us the more as it
announced to us that our bodies, deprived of existence, would soon be
stretched on the same place. We gave their bodies to the sea for a grave;
reserving only one, destined to feed those who, the day before, had clasped
his trembling hands, vowing him an eternal friendship. This day was fine;
our minds, longing for more agreeable sensations, were harmonized by the
soothing aspect of nature, and admitted a ray of hope. About four in the
afternoon a circumstance occurred which afforded us some consolation: a
shoal of flying fish passed under the raft, and as the extremities left an
infinite number of vacancies between the pieces which composed it, the fish
got entangled in great numbers. We threw ourselves upon them, and caught a
considerable quantity: we took near two hundred and put them in an empty
cask;[25] as we caught them we opened them to take out what is called the
milt. This food seemed delicious to us; but one man would have wanted a
thousand. Our first impulse was to address new thanksgivings to God for
this unexpected benefit.

An ounce of gunpowder had been found in the morning, and dried in the sun,
during the day, which was very fine; a steel, some gun-flints and tinder
were also found in the same parcel. After infinite trouble we succeeded in
setting fire to some pieces of dry linen. We made a large hole in one side
of an empty cask, and placed at the bottom of it several things which we
wetted, and on this kind of scaffolding we made our fire: we placed it on a
barrel that the seawater might not put out our fire. We dressed some fish,
which we devoured with extreme avidity; but our hunger was so great and our
portion of fish so small, that we added to it some human flesh, which
dressing rendered less disgusting; it was this which the officers touched,
for the first time. From this day we continued to use it; but we could not
dress it any more, as we were entirely deprived of the means; our barrel
catching fire we extinguished it without being able to save any thing
whereby to light it again next day. The powder and the tinder were entirely
consumed. This repast gave us all fresh strength to bear new fatigues. The
night was tolerable, and would have appeared happy had it not been
signalised by a new massacre.

Some Spaniards, Italians, and Negroes, who had remained neuter in the first
mutiny, and some of whom had even ranged themselves on our side,[26] formed
a plot to throw us all into the sea, hoping to execute their design by
falling on us by surprise. These wretches suffered themselves to be
persuaded by the negroes, who assured them that the coast was extremely
near, and promised, that when they were once on shore, they would enable
them to traverse Africa without danger. The desire of saving themselves, or
perhaps the wish to seize on the money and valuables, which had been put
into a bag, hung to the mast,[27] had inflamed the imagination of these
unfortunate wretches. We were obliged to take our arms again; but how were
we to discover the guilty? they were pointed out to us, by our sailors, who
remained faithful, and ranged themselves near us; one of them had refused
to engage in the plot. The first signal, for combat, was given by a
Spaniard, who, placing himself behind the mast, laid fast hold of it, made
the sign of the Cross with one hand, invoking the name of God, and held a
knife in the other: the sailors seized him, and threw him into the sea. The
servant of an officer of the troops on board was in the plot. He was an
Italian from the light artillery of the Ex-King of his country. When he
perceived that the plot was discovered, he armed himself with the last
boarding-axe that there was on the raft, wrapped himself in a piece of
drapery, which he wore folded over his breast, and, of his own accord,
threw himself into the sea. The mutineers rushed forward to avenge their
comrades, a terrible combat again ensued, and both sides fought with
desperate fury. Soon the fatal raft was covered with dead bodies, and
flowing with blood which, ought to have been shed in another cause, and by
other hands. In this tumult cries, with which we were familiar, were
renewed, and we heard the imprecations of the horrid rage which demanded
the head of Lieutenant Danglas! Our readers know that we could not satisfy
this mad rage, because the victim, demanded, had fled the dangers to which
we were exposed; but even if this officer had remained among us, we should
most certainly have defended his life at the expence of our own, as we did
that of Lieutenant Lozach. But it was not for him that we were reduced to
exert, against these madmen, all the courage we possessed.

We again replied to the cries of the assailants, that he whom they demanded

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