Part 5 out of 8
Rain--rain--rain, the sun sometimes showing himself for an hour or two,
just a few minutes too early, or a few minutes too late, for any
purposes of observation, and then again retiring behind the dense masses
of cloud that hid the whole horizon in one drenching down-pour. And all
this while every mile of latitude of the last importance, as the Alabama
groped her way slowly to the southward and eastward in search of the
little island at which she was to take in her supplies, and which she
might at any moment run past in the darkness altogether! Trying work,
indeed, for the patience of men cooped up in their narrow floating
prison, and longing to be at work again.
Too trying, at last, to be borne any longer without an effort at action;
so a bold attempt was made at coaling while under way upon the open sea!
Steam was got up, and the prize taken in tow, and then two boats were
lowered, and set to work. But the scheme, bold and ingenious as it was,
was soon found to be impracticable. The boats managed to get loaded from
the captured collier, but they had then to be warped up alongside the
Alabama, and the lowest speed that could be given her was too great for
them to be hauled up against it. So each time, as they were filled, it
was necessary to stop the engine, and thus occasion another difficulty.
We now--says Captain Semmes--began to part our tow lines by these
stoppages and startings, and it took a long time to get the line fast
again; so after a sleepless night, during which, as I lay in my cot
trying to sleep, it seemed as if a dozen stentors on deck were rivaling
each other in making the night hideous, I sent word to get the boats run
up again, and to continue our course to Fernando de Noronha without
At daylight we made the peak of the island a long way off, some
thirty-eight or forty miles, and in the afternoon at 2.30 came to, with
the peak bearing S.W. 1/2 S. and the N.E. end of the Rat Island N.E. by
E. 1/2 E., depth of water thirteen and a half fathoms. Anchored the
prize near us. But for our steam we should have been still drifting to
the S.W., as the day has been nearly calm throughout. Fernando de
Noronha, in the wayside of the commerce of all the world, is sighted by
more ships, and visited by fewer, than any other spot of earth. It is a
broken, picturesque, volcanic rock, in mid ocean, covered with a
pleasing coat of verdure, including trees of some size, and the top of
the main island is cultivated in small farms, &c. Awfully hot when the
sun shines, and indeed, when he does not shine. Just after dark hauled
the prize alongside, and commenced coaling.
_An official "in trouble"--On shore again--A breakfast party--On
horseback--Blowing hard--Taken in the net--Easy captures--The Kate
Cory--The Lafayette--A polite Governor--The Louisa Hatch burned, and
Kate Cory burned--Landing prisoners--Tired of waiting--A scramble--Out
of harbour again._
_April 11th._--Light and variable airs; misty from the southward and
eastward, and oppressive; ther. 83 deg.. Last night the two vessels lay
alongside of each other so roughly, and we received so much damage (our
forechannels being crushed in, and our topsail mainyard being carried
away) that we were compelled to haul the prize off, and continue coaling
by means of our boats.
The authorities on shore having hoisted no colours, we have not set ours
to-day. We were visited this morning by a couple of gentlemen from the
shore, bearing a letter from the Governor in reply to an inquiry I had
caused the Paymaster to address to him on the subject of supplies. Their
interpreter very naively informed me that he was a German, who had been
sentenced to banishment here from Rio, and that he had a year and a-half
to serve. This was said while my servant was drawing the cork of a
champagne bottle. The forger (for such was his offence) taking his glass
of wine with the rest! The Governor informed me that I could procure
supplies of beef, fresh pork, fowls, &c., and that he would be glad to
exchange these articles with me for flour, wine, sugar, coffee, &c. I
was glad to find that he raised no question of neutrality, though he
had, no doubt, been informed by a boat's crew from the shore that got
the information on board, of the ship in my company being a prize. He
kindly invited me to visit the shore. During the night (one o'clock) we
had a surprise in the way of a strange steamer making her appearance,
coming round the point of Rat Island. I had all hands called to
quarters, and the battery made ready, fires extinguished, and chains got
right for slipping. Although she came within a mile of us, with the
intention, as we thought, of coming to anchor, she kept on her course
to the southward and we piped down, the men, much fagged from coaling,
not having lost more than half an hour's rest by the operation.
_Sunday, April 12th._--The exigencies of war compel me to work to-day in
coaling ship. Weather clear and very hot during morning, clouding about
noon and raining for several hours.
I visited the island this morning in company with the Surgeon, and
called on the Governor. The surf was too heavy to land, but we found a
bolsa moored at some distance from the shore, and transferring ourselves
to this we were very skillfully put through the surf by three or four
naked fellows, two of them not having even a breech-cloth about their
loins. Fine, well-made fellows they were too. We found horses in
waiting, and rode about a mile to the village and residence of the
Governor--a Major in the Brazilian army; passing an immense sand-drift,
which we had not expected to find on this volcanic rock.
We found the Governor at breakfast, and he insisted on our seating
ourselves, and making a second breakfast with him in company with his
wife--a sprightly, bright mulatto--and a pretty girl, quite white, of
about sixteen, and the _padre_. After breakfast we were introduced to a
number of what appeared to be the gentry of the island, and who had
assembled thus early to meet us. Having smoked and chatted awhile, we
remounted for a ride over the island.
We were not in the saddle more than twenty minutes when one of those
showers, so sudden in this climate, overtook us, and gave us a complete
drenching; we had other showers during the day, but were compensated by
the sun hiding himself during the entire ride. We passed under the
shadow of the gigantic peak, and soon reached the summit of the island,
which spreads out into a most beautiful and productive plain of some two
or three hundred acres. The soil is a ferruginous clay of the richest
description, and covered with the choicest vegetation of wild grapes,
Indian corn, the cotton plant, the castor bean, &c., &c. We stopped a
few minutes to examine a manioc manufactory. Continuing our ride, we
passed through a small but dense forest, to a cocoa-nut plantation on
the south-west part of the island, where we found the water-melon
growing in its choice soil--sand. Here we took shelter again from
another heavy rain, and got some fine grapes. Whilst waiting for the
shower to pass, I had quite a talk with the Governor on various topics;
among others, on the state of the mixed races in the Brazils, &c., &c.
The island, at the season at which we visited it, was a gem of
picturesque beauty--exceedingly broken and diversified with dells and
rocks, and small streams, &c., &c. It was the middle of the rainy
season. The little mountain paths as we returned became small brooks
that hummed and purled in their rapid course. I took occasion to inform
his Excellency that my tender was a prize, so that he might be under no
apprehension. Number of convicts 1000. Whole number of population, 2000.
The Governor expressed himself our very good friend, &c., &c. Got on
board at 5 P.M.
_Monday, April 13th._--Another rainy day. Showers very heavy, but still
we continue our coaling. Wind from northward and westward, and though
light, there is considerable sea on. The bad weather continued all day,
and the night having set in with threatening appearances, I caused
everybody to be brought on board from the prize, to guard against the
possibility of her being driven on shore, and endangering life. I had
the steam got up, and the chain ready for slipping, and was fearful that
I should be obliged to slip; but we held on during the night. Night very
dark, with heavy rain, and much sea on.
_Tuesday, April 14th._--Wind this morning from about W.S.W.; weather
still louring. Our friends came off from the shore again this morning,
bringing the fresh provisions ordered for the crew. Every thing is very
dear here. Meat forty cents per pound; but still my crew has been so
long on salt diet that flesh is an anti-scorbutic necessity for them. I
have arranged to sell forty or more tons of coal for a Brazilian
schooner there is in the harbour, and had a proposition for purchasing
the prize, which I offered to sell as low as 20,000 dollars; but this
sum seemed to alarm them, they saying there was not so much money in
Fernando de Noronha. Continued our coaling.
_Wednesday, April 15th._--Weather clear, and light wind from the
eastward. Finished coaling ship this morning. At about 11 A.M. a couple
of whale-boats from two vessels in the offing pulled into the harbour;
went on board our prize, and thence to the shore. Although the two
masters were told that we were the Iroquois, they seemed at once to have
comprehended the true state of the case, and to make haste to put
themselves out of harm's way. We were an hour and more getting up steam
and weighing our anchor for the chase; and if in the meantime these
whaling captains had pulled out to their ships, and run into shore so as
to get within the league, they might have saved them. We gave chase, and
came up with both of them on the south side of the island, about
half-past 3 P.M., and captured them--both of them being without the
league. One the hermaphrodite brig Kate Cory, of Westport, and the other
the barque Lafayette, of New Bedford; the barque we burned, and the
brig we brought into the anchorage, arriving after dark, about 7 A.M. We
sounded in thirteen fathoms on a bank on the south side, on the southern
extremity of which there is a breaker lying out from two and a half to
three miles. There is also a reef off Tobacco Point running out half a
mile. We saw no other dangers.
* * * * *
With reference to these captures, the following amusing account is
extracted from the private journal of the officer of the Alabama who was
prize-master on board the Louisa Hatch:--
'At noon, on the 15th of April, two vessels were descried to the south,
standing off and on, under reduced sail. At 12:30 two boats were
observed pulling towards us, asking my ship's name, the port I hailed
from, &c. I answered correctly. The person in charge of the other boat
then inquired if the war-steamer was the Alabama. I replied, 'Certainly
not, she was the Iroquois U.S. steamer.' 'Have you any news of the
Alabama?' 'Yes, we had heard of her being in the West Indies, at Jamaica
or Costa Rica, &c.' A conversation ensued, by which I learned that the
boats belonged to the two vessels in the distance, that they were both
whalers put in for supplies, and that seeing the steamer they were
rather dubious as to her nationality, and had therefore spoke me, to
gain the required information. A brisk conversation was then kept up; my
object in engaging them in it was to enable the Alabama to get under way
ere the whalers took the alarm, feeling certain that the preparations
were being made to go after them.
'I then invited the masters to come on board my ship, which they
cheerfully consented to do, and were within a boat's length, when a cry
of alarm broke from the steersman in the foremost boat. Shouting to his
crew to 'Give way, men; give way for your lives!' he with a few
well-directed, vigorous strokes, turned his boat's head round, and made
for the shore, the other boat following, blank astonishment being
depicted on the face of each member of the crews. To the frantic
inquiries of the person in charge of the other boat as to the cause of
his (the steersman's) extraordinary conduct, his only reply was,
'There!' pointing to a small Confederate flag of about fifteen inches
long and six inches broad, which I had inadvertently left flying at the
gaff; the gaff being lowered down, the little flag having been used as a
dog-vane, in order to tell the direction of the wind, &c. No sooner did
the men perceive it than they redoubled their exertions to gain the
shore; one of the masters calling out that they had spoken a ship a week
ago, from whom they had obtained news of peace. No credence, however,
could be, or was placed in this statement.
'Immediately after they left I despatched a boat to the Alabama
informing them of the character of my visitors. At 9.15 the Alabama was
observed to get under way, steaming out of the anchorage after the two
'The larger island being between the scene of the Alabama's operations
and the Louisa Hatch, I was not, of course, an eye witness of the
captures. But at 5.30 I observed a dense column of smoke, which, as it
grew later, turned into a ruddy glare, leaving no doubt in our minds as
to the fate of the whalers. At 7 P.M. observed the Alabama coming round
the northern part of the island with a vessel in tow, both anchoring at
7.30. The next morning I learnt that the captures were the barque
Lafayette, of New Bedford, and the brig Kate Cory, of Westport. The
barque was burnt and the brig kept, it being our intention to send off
all the prisoners we had on board, consisting of 140, including the
women stewardesses, in her; but on communicating with the authorities,
it was resolved to land them on the island, a Brazilian schooner
engaging to convey them to Pernambuco. For this purpose provisions for
twenty-one days were sent ashore, the prisoners, after being paroled,
The remainder of the day was spent in transferring provisions, &c., for
ship's use. The next evening the prizes, the Louisa Hatch and Kate Cory,
slipped cables, and stood seaward. When about five miles from land both
vessels were set fire to; Mr. Evans, the officer in charge of the brig,
returning on board long before me, the strong westerly current rendering
it extremely difficult to stem it.
'We remained painting and cleaning ship until the 22nd. At 9.30 A.M. we
got under way, steering and cruising towards Bahia, at which place we
arrived on the 11th of May, having captured and burnt four vessels
between Fernando and Bahia.
'The news of our doings off the islands had preceded us, of course with
additions and manipulations _ad lib._, the schooner having left Noronha
the day previous to our departure. The Governor of Pernambuco had sent
three war vessels to the islands to enforce the neutrality of the place,
which, according to Yankee representations, had been infringed. Not
content with this, the American representatives had succeeded in
procuring the recall of the Governor, whose only crime was that he had
let us anchor off the place--a crime of which he was necessarily
guiltless, because he had no power to prevent our anchoring if we
insisted on it.
'Whilst at Bahia I was shown a letter from the master of one of the
whaling barques to an agent, in which he wrote that he would spare no
money or time to follow to the uttermost ends of the earth, and bring to
justice, the man who had so cruelly deceived him. This sentence had
reference to my denial of the Alabama and the substitution of the U.S.
steamer Iroquois for that of C.S. steamer Alabama. The ingratitude of
On the 16th April Captain Semmes resumes his diary as follows:--Weather
clear; wind light from the southward and eastward. Our banner, last
night a lurid flame, is a tall column of smoke advertising us for
twenty-five or thirty miles round. My first intention was to ship all my
prisoners, amounting to about one hundred and ten, in the prize brig,
but the Governor having consented to my landing them, I am busy to-day
getting them on shore, with their baggage and provisions, and receiving
prisoners from the Louisa Hatch. Sun very warm. The Governor paid me a
visit this morning, and requested that I would write him on the subject
of the captures yesterday, stating the fact (with which he was
satisfied, or at least, to which he made no objection) that they were
captured beyond the league from the land, and requesting leave to land
the prisoners, in order that our understanding should assume an official
shape, which I did.
_Friday, April 17th._--The weather still continues very warm; wind light
from the S.E., and cloudy. Busy receiving and stowing away provisions,
replacing the coal consumed, and getting ready for sea generally. The
landing of so many prisoners amid so small a population has created a
very great stir, and the excitable Brazilians are discussing among
themselves and with the Yankee captains the question of the American war
with great vehemence. Several sail have been reported as usual. The
afternoon set in rainy, and the rain continued all night. Towards
nightfall sent the prizes, Louisa Hatch and Kate Cory, a league outside
the island, and burned them. Received four recruits from the Louisa
Hatch, and more volunteered, but I am full.
_Saturday, April 18th._--Morning cloudy, with wind light from the S.E.
Loosed sails to-day. I am anxiously expecting the arrival of the
Agrippina, my store ship, from England, which was ordered to rendezvous
here--not so anxiously, however, as if my coal-bunkers were empty. But
she has a couple of additional guns on board, that would make an
important addition to my battery.
_Sunday, April 19th._--Rain in the morning, with light airs. Our
steam-tubes leak badly, and I am afraid the leaks will increase so as to
give us trouble. Every time we get up steam, even a few pounds for
condensing water, we find that large quantities of hot water flow into
the hold; eight inches escaped in about twelve hours yesterday.
Unfortunately, too, this tubing is laid so low in the bottom of the
ship, as to be out of reach for examination or repairs without being
taken up. The Governor sent me off a fine turkey and some fruit, and his
lady a bouquet of roses. The roses were very sweet, and made me
home-sick for a while.
_Monday, April 20th._--A dull, heavy, rainy day--the rain coming down at
intervals in torrents, as it is wont to do in these regions. Still
laying at our anchors, waiting for the Agrippina. She should be out
thirty-five days, to-day, from Cardiff. In the afternoon the rain
ceased, except an occasional light sprinkle, but the dull canopy of
clouds did not break, and we had a strong breeze from the S.E. for four
or five hours, indicating the approach of the trades to this latitude.
_Tuesday, April 21st._--Morning clear, wind light from S.E. The Island
after the rain is blooming in freshness and verdure, and as my eye roams
over its green slopes I long for repose and the quiet of peace in my own
land: I do not think it can be far off. Fresh "trade" in the afternoon.
Towards night the Brazilian steamer sailed with a load of our prisoners.
_Wednesday, April 22nd._--Cloudy, with squalls for rain. At 9.30 got
under way under steam, and stood to the eastward. Cut away four
whale-boats that the islanders might have a scramble for them. They soon
started in chase! Steamed due east, about forty-five miles, let the
steam go down, and put the ship under sail. No sail seen.
_A curious prize--The Nye--The Dorcas Prince--An anniversary--The Union
Jack and-the Sea Lark--In the harbour of Bahia--Explanations--Unexpected
meeting--The Georgia--A little holiday--Diplomacy--More
A curious prize was the next that fell into the clutches of the
all-devouring Alabama. A whaling barque, the Nye, of New Bedford, eleven
months out, without having once put into port! Three whole months before
the launching of the Alabama, had that patient little vessel been
ploughing the seas, gathering, as it turned out, only additional fuel
for her own funeral pyre. A weary voyage to have so sad a termination!
Among her crew, transferred as prisoners to her captor, was a
Lieutenant of Marines from the Quaker State, serving on board the
whaler in the capacity of steward!
Next came the Dorcas Prince, of and from New York, for Shanghai. Cargo
chiefly coal, probably intended for United States ships of war in the
East Indies--a supposition that undoubtedly gave additional zest to the
bonfire, which--no claim to neutrality being found among her papers--in
due course followed on her capture.
_Saturday, May 2nd._--An anniversary with me--writes Captain Semmes--my
marriage-day. Alas! this is the third anniversary since I was separated
from my family by this Yankee war! And the destruction of fifty of their
ships has been but a small revenge for this great privation.
On that day two more were added to the long list, and the barque Union
Jack, of Boston, and ship Sea Lark, of New York, shared the fate of
their fifty predecessors. The former of these two vessels added three
women and two infants to the already far too numerous colony of the
weaker sex, by which the Alabama was now encumbered.
There was no claim of neutral property among the papers of either of
these ships, except in the case of one Allen Hay, who was the shipper of
five cases of crackers, and ten barrels of butter, on board the Union
Jack. In this case, a Thomas W. Lielie made oath before the British
Consul at New York, that the said articles were shipped "for and on
account of Her Britannic Majesty." This certificate was of no force or
effect, for its _indefiniteness_, as decided in other cases. A claim of
property must point out the owner or owners, and not aver that it
belongs to the subjects of a nation generally. There must be some one
designated who has a right to the possession of the property under the
bill of lading. The certificate was accordingly set aside, and the ship
and cargo condemned.
Besides the women and children, the Union Jack furnished also another
prisoner of a somewhat unusual character, in the person of the Rev.
Franklin Wright, late editor of a religious paper, and newly-appointed
consul at Foo Chow. The worthy clergyman's entry, however, upon his new
duties was for the time indefinitely postponed by the confiscation of
his appointment, along with the other public papers in his charge. So,
for a time, Foo Chow had to exist without the advantages arising from
the presence of a functionary from the United States.
* * * * *
_Monday, May 11th._--Showed the United States colours to a Spanish
brig. In the afternoon ran in and anchored in the harbour of Bahia. A
Portuguese steamer, the only vessel of war found here. No Yankee
man-of-war had been here for some months. The health officer came on
board, just at nightfall. The Agrippina not here, and I begin to fear
that some disaster has befallen her.
_Tuesday, May 12th._--This morning the President sent a messenger to me
with a copy of the _Diario de Bahia_ of the 8th May, in which appears a
sort of proclamation or request, addressed to me by the President of
Pernambuco, desiring that I should leave Fernando de Noronha in
twenty-four hours after the receipt of the same. This paper seems to be
based on certain false statements carried to Pernambuco by the Yankee
prisoners whom I had sent to this place. It is alleged that I violated
the neutrality of the island, &c. I replied to the President, that there
was no truth in this statement; but that, on the contrary, I had paid
respect to the neutrality of Brazil. In reply to my communication, the
President informed me that I should be admitted to the usual
hospitalities of the port; but the bearer of his despatch took occasion
to say that he hoped I would not stop more than three or four days, as
the President was afraid of being compromised in some way. The master of
an English barque came on board and informed me that he had coal and
provisions for the Confederate steamer Japan, which was to meet him here
on the 6th instant.
_Wednesday, May 13th_.--Early this morning a strange steamer was
discovered at anchor about half a mile from us; and at 8 A.M., when we
hoisted our colours, to our great surprise and delight, she too hoisted
the Confederate flag. We then exchanged the established signals; and on
sending a boat on board of her, we ascertained that she was the Georgia,
Lieut. Commanding Maury. Chapman and Evans, two of my Sumter
Lieutenants, were on board of her. The Georgia sailed from England about
the 2nd of April, and armed off Ushant. Our ship has been crowded with
visitors ever since we came in.
_Thursday, May 14th._--At 12.15 P.M. with a party of officers from the
Georgia and my own ship, I took a steam-tug and proceeded up the harbour
to the railroad depot, at the invitation of the manager of the road, for
an excursion into the country, which proved to be very pleasant. We
passed along the whole port of Bahia, the lower town skirting the water,
and the upper town the crests of a semicircular height, the intermediate
space being filled with trees and shrubbery. The houses are mostly
white, and many of them very picturesque. The terminus of the road is a
beautiful and spacious iron building, situated in the middle of a great
square; and the road itself is a very substantial job. We rode out
twenty-four miles through a picturesque country, the road bordered for
most of the way by the bay and lagoons, with beautiful little valleys
occasionally opening on either hand, with their patches of sugar-cane
and cotton. On our return we sat down to a beautiful lunch, with
champagne. Our hosts were attentive and agreeable, and we returned on
board at dusk, after a very pleasant day. The English residents here
have been very attentive to us. Our tug-man, who was a Thames waterman,
dodged in and out among the launches and vessels in a way that only a
Thames man can do. The French mail came in to-day, and brought us news
that the Florida was at Pernambuco.
_Friday, May 15th._--This morning a person in citizen's dress came on
board and said that the President had requested him to ask me to show
him my commission. I replied that I could have no objection to show my
commission, but it must be to an officer of my own rank, and that this
officer must come on board in his uniform for the purpose; that I could
not show my commission to any person who might come on board in
citizen's dress, bringing me a mere verbal message, and without any
credentials of his rank, &c. I remarked, however, that it would give me
very great pleasure to call on the President myself and exhibit it. To
this he readily assented; and having appointed an hour for the
interview, I went on shore, accompanied by my _aide_, and had a long and
agreeable chat with his Excellency, who was a man of about thirty-five
years of age, tall and delicate-looking, with black eyes and hair.
We discussed various points relating to the subject of neutral and
belligerent rights, &c.; and I took occasion to repeat the assurances I
had previously given him in my letter, that I had paid due attention to
the neutral rights of Brazil during my visit to Fernando de Noronha, &c.
I told him I only desired him to extend to me and to the Georgia the
same hospitality as he would extend to a Federal cruiser; but that I
might say to him as an individual, that we were entitled to the warm
sympathies of Brazil, &c.
I arranged about coaling the Georgia and this ship by means of launches,
as there were port objections to the ship being hauled alongside. He
seemed anxious that our stay should be as short as possible, lest our
delay might compromise his neutrality in some way. He said my sailors
had been behaving very badly on shore, and indeed I knew they had. I
told him he would oblige me by securing the rioters and putting them in
prison. This evening we were entertained very handsomely at the
residence of Mr. Ogilvie, where we met all the English society of the
_Saturday, May 16th._--This day the ship (Castor), from which the
Georgia was coaling, was ordered to be hauled off, and the operation
suspended, the Yankee Consul having alleged to the Government that she
had munitions of war on board.
_Sunday, May 17th.--_In the morning an officer came on board and read
me a despatch from the President, expressing displeasure at my remaining
so long in the port, and directing me to proceed to sea in twenty-four
hours. The same paper was read on board the Georgia. I replied that the
Government itself had caused our delay, by prohibiting us from coaling
from the ship from which we had purchased our coal; and that I could go
to sea in twenty-four hours after this prohibition was removed, &c., &c.
A party of English ladies and gentlemen visited the ship this afternoon.
We were crowded all day, besides, with miscellaneous visitors.
_Tuesday, May 19th._--This morning, at the request of the President, I
went on shore to see him, and we had a long and animated discussion, in
which he stated he had certain proofs, adduced by the United States
Consul, to the effect that the coal-ship Castor had been sent here to
meet us, &c.; and that under these circumstances (the ship being
charged, besides, with having munitions of war on board), he felt it his
duty to prevent us from coaling from her, but that we might have free
access to the market, &c. The Consul, too, had told him that I had
shipped one of the prisoners after landing him: the fact being that,
although many of them volunteered, I refused to receive any of them,
having already a full crew on board. In the afternoon addressed a letter
to the President, insisting upon the right to coal from the Castor.
_Wednesday, May 20th._--We were promised lighters with coal from the
shore this morning; but not one has yet come off--half-past twelve. Just
at nightfall a lighter came alongside, and during the night we filled
up. The next day we got under way and steamed out of the harbour.
_Sunday, May 24th._--I am quite home-sick this quiet Sunday morning. I
am now two _long, long_ years away from my family, and there are no
signs of an abatement of the war; on the contrary, the Yankees seem to
become more and more infuriated, and nothing short of a war of invasion
is likely to bring them to terms, unless indeed it be the destruction of
their commerce; and for this, I fear, we are as yet too weak. If we can
get and hold Kentucky, the case may be different. Well, we must
sacrifice our natural yearnings on the altar of our country, for without
a country we can have no home.
_Two more!--The Gildersliene and Justina--Case of the Jabez Snow--The
barque Amazonian--Relieved of prisoners--A hint--The Talisman--Under
false colours--The Conrad--A nobler fate--Re-christened--The Tuscaloosa
commissioned--Short of provisions._
The 25th May witnessed the capture of the ship Gildersliene and the
barque Justina. The latter having a neutral cargo, was ransomed on a
bond for 7000 dollars; the former condemned and burned, after an
investigation terminating in the following decision:--
CASE OF THE GILDERSLIENE.
Ship under the United States colours and register. Charter-party with
Messrs. Halliday, Fox, and Co., of London, who describe themselves as
merchants and freighters, to make a voyage to Calcutta and back to
London or Liverpool. Cargo taken in at Sunderland, and consisting of
coal, said to be shipped for the "service of the Peninsular and Oriental
Steam Navigation Company," but not even averred to be on "their account
and risk." No certificate or other evidence of property; ship and cargo
condemned. Master knows nothing of property except what appears by the
* * * * *
_Friday, May 29th._--We had another chase last night from about 2 A.M.,
but with better success than the two previous nights, since at 7.30 A.M.
we came up with and captured the ship Jabez Snow, of Rockport, Maine.
Just at daylight, being within about four miles of her, we hoisted our
own colours, and fired a gun. She did not show any colours in return,
and stood a second gun before heaving to; she finally showed her
colours. Got on board from the prize a quantity of provisions and
cordage; transhipped the crew, and about sunset set her on fire. Found a
letter on board, the writer of which referred to American ships being
under a cloud "owing to dangers from pirates, more politely styled
privateers," which our kind friends in England are so willing "should
slip out of their ports to prey on our commerce." This letter was dated
Boston, November 25th, 1862.
CASE OF THE JABEZ SNOW.
Ship under United States colours, cargo coals, from Cardiff for Monte
Video. On the face of the bill of lading is the following: "We certify
that the cargo of coals per Jabez Snow, for which this is the bill of
lading, is the _bona fide_ property of Messrs. Wilson, Holt, Lane, &
Co., and that the same are British subjects and merchants; And also that
the coals are for their own use.
"JNO. POWELL & SONS."
As this certificate was not sworn to, it added no force to the bill of
lading, as every bill of lading is an unsworn certificate of the facts
it recites. There being no legal proof among the papers to contradict
the presumption that all property found under the enemy's flag is
enemy's property, and as the Master, who was the charterer and agent of
the ship, and whose duty it was to know about all the transactions in
which he was engaged, swore that he had no personal knowledge of the
owner of the cargo, except such as he derived from the ship's papers,
the cargo, as well as the ship, is condemned as prize of war. The
following significant extract from a letter of the Master to his owners,
dated Penrith Roads, April 19th, 1863, was found on board, though not
produced by the Master:--
"I have my bills of lading certified by the Mayor, that the cargo is
_bona fide_ English property. Whether this will be of any service to me
in the event of my being overhauled by a Southern pirate, remains to be
The certificate above recited seems, therefore, to have been procured by
the Master to protect his ship from capture, and not to have been a
spontaneous act of the pretended neutral owners to protect the cargo.
The cargo and advance freight were insured against war-risk, the ship
paying the premium. No effort was made by Wilson, Holt, Lane, & Co., to
protect the cargo, and they were the proper parties to make the oath.
The agent who shipped the coal for this firm, and who wrote the
above-quoted certificate, could only know, of course, that he had
shipped them by order of his principal. Why, then, did Wilson, Holt,
Lane, & Co., decline to make the necessary oath to protect the cargo?
They should have taken the necessary steps to protect either themselves
or the insurers, but they did no such thing. It would seem, probably,
that they were the agents of some American house, and that they could
not, in conscience, take the oath required by law.
* * * * *
The next prize was the Amazonian, of Boston, from New York to Monte
Video, captured, after a long chase, on the 2d of June, but not until
two blank shots had failed to bring her to, and the stronger hint of a
round from the rifled gun had convinced her of the impossibility of
* * * * *
CASE OF THE BARQUE AMAZONIAN.
Ship under United States colours; has an assorted cargo on board, and is
bound from New York to Monte Video. There are two claims of neutral
property--one for twenty cases of varnish and fifty casks of oil,
claimed as shipped on "account of Messrs. Galli & Co., French subjects."
This claim is sworn to by a Mr. Craig, before a notary. It does not aver
that the property is in Messrs. Galli & Co., but simply that it was
shipped "on their account." There is no outside evidence of the truth of
this transaction, as the master knows nothing about it.
* * * * *
Right glad was the Alabama to fall in, on the day after this last
capture, with an English brigantine, the master of which proved willing,
in consideration of a gift from Captain Semmes of one of his noble
collection of captured chronometers, to relieve him of the crowd of
prisoners with which he was encumbered. To the number of forty-one they
were forthwith transferred, along with a stock of provisions sufficient
for a fortnight's consumption; and the Alabama breathed freely again,
relieved of her disagreeable charge.
It may not be an uninstructive, and it is most assuredly an amusing
comment, upon the claims of neutrality so loudly insisted upon, to quote
the following extract from a New York letter, captured on board one of
the recent prizes. It is dated April 7th, and addressed to a
correspondent in Buenos Ayres:--
"When you ship in American vessels, it would be as well to have the
British Consul's certificate of English property attached to the bill of
lading and invoices; as in the event of falling in with the numerous
privateers, it would save both cargo and vessel, in all probability. An
American ship, recently fallen in with, was released by the Alabama on
account of a British Consul's certificate showing the greater part of
the cargo to be English property. If you ship in a neutral vessel, we
save five per cent, war insurances."
Another prize. The Talisman, a fine ship of 1100 tons, under United
States colours and register, with no claim of neutral property in cargo;
and before the glare of her funeral pyre had faded from the horizon,
another hove in sight, so evidently American, that notwithstanding the
English ensign flying at her peak, she was at once brought to and
boarded. And American she proved to be in her origin; but her owners had
been wise, and, so far as her papers went, she had been regularly
transferred to the protection of the British flag--humiliating, perhaps,
to the proud "Yankee nation," but effective as a precaution against
capture; though, had the Confederate cruiser been able to send her into
port for adjudication, the transfer might very possibly, when the
evidence came to be sifted, have proved but a "bogus transaction" after
So the "Englishman" had to be released, consenting, however, to relieve
the Alabama of a prisoner and his wife, recently captured on board the
Talisman. A week passed away, and then came another instance of a
similar transfer under the strong pressure of fear, the whilom Yankee
barque Joseph Hall, of Portland, Maine, now seeking a humiliating safety
as the "British" Azzopadi, of Port Lewis, Isle of France!
Alas! for the Stars and Stripes, the Azzopadi was not hull down on the
horizon ere the once-renowned Yankee clipper Challenger lay humbly, with
her maintopsail to the mast, in the very place in which her countryman
had just been performing a similar penance, claiming, as the
British-owned Queen of Beauty, a similar immunity.
At last, however, as the impatient crew of the Alabama were beginning to
think that their enemy's flag had finally vanished from the face of the
ocean, an adventurous barque hove in sight, with the old familiar
bunting at her peak. She proved to be the Conrad, of Philadelphia, from
Buenos Ayres for New York, partly laden with wool, the ownership of
which was, as usual, claimed as neutral. On investigation, the claim
proved an evident-fabrication, the facts of the case being as follows:--
CASE OF THE CONRAD.
Ship under American colours and register. A Mr. Thomas Armstrong, who
describes himself as a British subject doing business at Buenos Ayres,
makes oath before the British Consul that a part of this wool belongs to
him and a part to Don Frederico Elortando, a subject of the Argentine
Republic. This may or may not be true, but the master is unable to
verify the document, he not having been present when it was prepared,
and not knowing any thing about it. There is, besides, so strong a
current of American trade with Buenos Ayres, that the presumption is,
from the very fact that this wool was going to New York in an American
barque, under the imminency of capture, which our presence in these
seas--well known at Buenos Ayres when the barque sailed--must have
shown, that the property is American, and that the certificate is an
attempt to cover it; Mr. Armstrong probably being a brother or a partner
in the transaction with some American house. Ship and cargo condemned.
* * * * *
FURTHER EXAMINATION OF CASE OF CONRAD.
From an examination of the correspondence in this case, brought on board
after the ship's papers had been examined, it appeared that Mr.
Armstrong, the party shipping a part of the cargo, swears before _his_
consul that he and one Don Frederico Elortando, are the _owners_ of the
property, and swears before the United States Consul that he is the sole
_owner_ of the property. Both of these oaths cannot be true. It further
appears that, whilst the property in the bill of lading is consigned to
Simon de Visser, Esq., in the letters of Messrs. Kirkland and Von Sachs
it is spoken of as consigned to them. The letters make no mention of any
joint-ownership with Armstrong, but treat the consignment as his sole
property. But though, like so many of her countrymen, condemned, the
Conrad was not to die. A nobler fate was in store for her--no less a
destiny than that of carrying the proud young flag to which she had
succumbed, and taking the sea, under a new name, as the consort of her
captor. Accordingly, Acting-Lieutenant Low was appointed to the command,
assisted by Acting-Master Sinclair and two master's mates. The two
rifled pounders captured in the Talisman were mounted on board, a due
complement of rifles, revolvers, ammunition, &c., supplied, and then the
transformed barque fired her first gun, ran up the Confederate ensign to
her peak, and amid a burst of cheering from her own crew and that of her
consort, made a fresh start in life as the Confederate States
The Alabama was now bound for the Cape of Good Hope, where her faithful
tender, the Agrippina, was again to meet her. On the 27th of June,
however, when in lat. 20.01 S., long. 28.29 W., it was discovered that a
great portion of the supposed month's supply of bread had been destroyed
by weevils, and that there was not enough left for the run. A visit to
some port nearer at hand thus became inevitable, and the ship's course
was accordingly shaped for Rio Janeiro.
_An insult to the Yankee flag--Fine weather--The Anna F. Schmidt--"What
ship's that?"--The Express--A supply of bread--Saldanha Bay--Visitors
from the country--A funeral--The Tuscaloosa's prize--The capture off
Cape Town--The Sea Bride won--Ship crowded--Sympathy_.
_Sunday, June 28th._--At 4.30 this evening brought-to a heavy ship with
a blank cartridge; or rather she seemed to come-to of her own accord, as
she was evidently outsailing us, and was, when we fired, at very long
range. Soon after heaving-to she burned a blue light, and whilst our
boat, with a light in it, was pulling towards her, she burned another.
She afterwards said she would not have hove-to but that she thought we
might be in distress. The boarding officer reported us as the United
States ship Dacotah, and demanded to see the ship's papers, which were
refused, the Master stating that we had no right to see his papers. The
boarding officer having been informed of her name (the Vernon), and that
she was from Melbourne, for London, and being satisfied, from
observation, that she was really an English ship, she being one of the
well-known frigate-built Melbourne packets, returned on board, and the
ship filled away; and she was already at considerable distance from us
when I received the boarding officer's report. Under all these
circumstances, I did not chase him afresh to enforce my belligerent
right of search. _Cui bono_, the vessel being really English? Although,
indeed, the resistance to search by a neutral is good cause of capture,
I could only capture to destroy; and I would not burn an English ship
(being satisfied of her nationality) if the Master persisted to the law
in not showing his papers. Nor did I feel that the Confederate States
flag had any insult to revenge, as the insult, if any, was intended for
the Yankee flag. Most probably, however, the ship being a packet-ship,
and a mail-packet, the Master erred from ignorance.
Lat. 26.35, long. 32.59.30, current S.E. thirty miles; ship rolling and
tumbling about, to my great discomfort. The fact is, I am getting too
old to relish the rough usage of the sea. Youth sometimes loves to be
rocked by the gale, but when we have passed the middle stage of life, we
love quiet and repose.
_Tuesday, June 30th._--The bad weather of the past week seems at length
to have blown itself out; and this morning we have the genial sunshine
again, and a clear, bracing atmosphere. With a solitary exception, the
Cape pigeons, true to their natures, have departed. There is still some
roughness of the sea left, however, and the ship is rolling and creaking
her bulk-heads, as usual. Wind moderate from about East.
Another prize on the 2nd of July, the Anna, F. Schmidt, of Maine, from
Boston for San Francisco; and another cautious Yankee transformed into
an Englishman; and then came a large ship flying before the wind, with
all sail set to her royals, and answering the Alabama's challenge with a
gun from her own bow port.
A man-of-war this, from her fashion of replying, even had the fact not
been sufficiently apparent from the cut of her heavy yards and lofty
spars. An enemy, perhaps! And wild with the hope of a fight, though it
be with an enemy not much less than double her size, away flies the
Alabama, at top speed of sail and steam, in chase. The sea was smooth,
though with a strong breeze; and ere long the saucy little cruiser
ranged up alongside of the fine frigate, with ten black muzzles grinning
through his ports on either side.
"This is the Confederate States ship Alabama!" rang out from the
quarter-deck, as the two ships flew through the water, side by
side:--"What ship's that?"
But there was to be no fight that day. The chase contented herself with
the laconic reply, "Her Britannic Majesty's ship Diomede;" and went
tearing along upon her course under the tremendous press of canvas,
beneath which her spars were bending like a whip, and was soon out of
sight, evidently bound on some errand that would not brook delay.
Some small compensation for this disappointment was found two days
afterwards in the capture of the fine ship Express, of Boston, from
Callao for Antwerp, loaded with guano, the particulars of which are
recorded as follows:--
CASE OF THE SHIP EXPRESS.
Ship under United States colours and register; cargo guano, shipped by
Senan, Valdeavellano and Co., at Callao, and consigned to J. Sescau and
Co., at Antwerp. On the back of this bill of lading is the following
endorsement: "Nous soussignes charge d'affaires et consul general de
France a Lima, certifions que la chargement de mille soixante douze de
register de Huano specifie au present connaissement, est propriete
Fait a Lima, le 27 Janvier, 1863.
(Signed and impressed with the Consular seal.)
This certificate fails to be of any value as proof, for two reasons:
first, it is not sworn to; and secondly, it simply avers the property to
be neutral (the greater part of it, for it does not touch the guano in
sacks), instead of pointing out the owner or owners. A Consul may
authenticate evidence by his seal, but when he departs from the usual
functions of a Consul, and becomes a witness, he must give his testimony
under oath, like other witnesses. This certificate, therefore, does not
even amount to an _ex parte_ affidavit. If the property had been in the
shipper's or consignee's name, it would have been quite as easy to say
so as to put the certificate in its present shape. Why, then, was the
simple declaration that the property was neutral made use of?--the law
with which every Consul, and more especially a charge d'affaires, is
supposed to be acquainted with, declaring them to be insufficient? The
conclusion from these two facts--viz., that there was no oath taken, and
that there was no owner named--seemed to be that the Consul gave a sort
of matter-of-course certificate, upon the application of some one who
declared the property to be neutral, perhaps with a knowledge to the
fact, or contrary to the fact, neither party taking any oath. Now, the
presumption of law being, that goods found in an enemy's ship belong to
the enemy, unless a distinct neutral character be given to them, by
pointing out the _real owner_, by proper documentary proof, as neither
the bill of lading nor the certificate, which is a mere statement of a
fact, like the bill of lading, not under oath, nor the Master's
testimony, who knows nothing (see his deposition) except as he has been
told by the shipper, amounts to proper documentary proof, the ship and
cargo are both condemned. It must be admitted that this is a case in
which, perhaps, a prize court would grant "further proof;" but as I
cannot do this, and as a distinct neutral character is not impressed
upon the property by former evidence, I must act under the presumption
of law. Sect. 3rd, Phillimore, 596. The charter-party in this case
describes the charterers, J. Sescau and Co., of Antwerp, as agents of
the supreme Peruvian Government. But if so, why was it not certificated
by the government, as was done in the case of the Washington, captured
and released on bond by this ship? And then the master swears that _the
shippers told him_ that the cargo belonged to them; and if the Peruvian
Government must resort to a French official for a certificate, why not,
then, on oath made before him? and why did he not state the fact that it
so belonged, which would have protected it?
* * * * *
The Alabama was now again heading for the Cape, the Anna Schmidt having
yielded a supply of bread sufficient, with strict economy, to last out
the passage. There she arrived on the 29th July, anchoring in Saldanha
Bay, at about 1.45 P.M.
_Thursday, July 30th._--Last night the sky and atmosphere were
singularly brilliant. Landed this morning at eight, to get sight for my
chronometers, this being the first time that I ever set foot on the
Continent of Africa. Saldanha is a gloomy, desert-looking place, the
shore comprised of sand and rock, without trees, but with green patches
here and there. There are three or four farm-houses in sight, scattered
over the hills. The farmers here are mostly graziers. The cattle are
fine and good; a great number of goats graze on the hills, and
sheep-raising is extensive, the mutton being particularly fine. Small
deer are abundant. We had a venison steak for breakfast. The little
islands in the bay abound in rabbits, and there is good
pheasant-shooting in the valleys. Already a party of officers has gone
out to stretch their limbs, and enjoy the luxury of shooting.
_July 31st._--Took a stroll on shore, and walked round some fine
oat-fields. The soil resembles our hummock land in Florida, and produces
finely. Engaged caulking, painting, &c. An abundance of wild-flowers in
bloom. Huge blocks of granite lie about the sand, and from the tops of
_Saturday, Aug. 1st._--I returned on board, after a stroll on shore, at
2 P.M. During my walk I met some farmers in a four-horse waggon coming
to see the ship. They brought me a wild peacock--not quite so large as
our wild turkey. It was without the gorgeous plumage of the domestic
bird. The schooner Atlas came in this afternoon, with letters for me
from some merchants at Cape Town, offering their services to supply me
with coal, &c., and expressing their good-will, &c., &c. I took occasion
by this vessel, which returned immediately, to write to the Governor,
Sir Philip B. Wodehouse, informing him of my presence here.
_Sunday, Aug. 2nd._--The inhabitants say that this winter has been
remarkable for its general good weather, and for the few gales they have
had. Crowds of country people, from far and near, came on board to look
at the ship to-day.
_Monday, Aug. 3rd._--Another crowd of visitors to-day, who came in their
country waggons and on horseback. They all speak Dutch, and it is rare
to find one among them who speaks English. Although it is nearly half a
century since England took final possession of the colony, the English
language has made but little progress, the children being taught by a
Dutch schoolmaster, and the papers being, many of them, printed in
Dutch. There was an intelligent young _boer_ (about twenty-three) among
them, who had never been on board a ship before. He was quite excited by
the novelty of everything he saw. Some of the female visitors were
plump, ruddy, Dutch girls, whose large rough hands, and awkward bows and
curtsies, showed them to be honest lasses from the neighboring farms,
accustomed to milking the cows and churning the butter. I found the
geranium growing wild in my rambles to-day. Just as we were going to
sun-down quarters, a boat came alongside with the body of Third
Assistant-engineer Cummings, who accidentally shot himself with his gun.
_Tuesday, Aug. 4th._--In the afternoon, at three, the funeral procession
started from shore with the body of the deceased engineer. He was taken
to a private cemetery about a mile and a half distant, and interred with
the honours due to his grade, the First Lieutenant reading the funeral
service. This is the first burial we have had from the ship.
_Wednesday, Aug. 5th._--At 6 A.M. got up the anchor, and getting under
way, steamed out of the bay and shaped our course for Cape Town. At 9.30
descried a sail a point on the starboard bow, and at 10.30 came up with
and sent a boat on board of the Confederate barque Tuscaloosa, and
brought Lieutenant Lowe on board. He reported having captured, on the
31st July the American ship Santee, from the eastward, laden with rice,
certificated as British property, and bound for Falmouth. He released
her on ransom for 150,000 dollars. I directed Lieutenant Lowe to proceed
to Simons Bay for supplies. Steamed in for the town. At 12.30 made a
barque, two points on starboard bow; gave chase, and at about 2 P.M.
came up with and hove the chase, she having up United States colours.
This was a close pursuit, as the barque was not more than five or six
miles from the shore when we came up with her. The Master might have
saved himself if he had stood directly in for the land; but we ran down
upon him under English colours, and he had no suspicion of our character
until it was too late. The United States consul at once protested
against our violation of British waters (!). The Governor telegraphed to
the Admiral (Walker), at Simon's Bay, to send a man-of-war round; and
about 10 P.M. her Majesty's steamship Valorous, Captain Forsyth, came in
and anchored. Some correspondence has passed between the Governor and
myself on the subject of the capture, and I believe he is satisfied as
to distance, &c. Put a prize crew on board the prize (Sea Bride), and
directed her to stand off and on until further orders. The moment our
anchor was dropped we were crowded with visitors.
_Thursday, Aug. 6th._--Notwithstanding the bad weather, the ship has
been crowded with visitors all the morning, and my cabin has been
constantly filled with people pressing to shake hands with me, and to
express sympathy for my cause. During the night we had some thunder and
lightning, first from the S.E., and then from the N.W.; and the wind
springing up, very gently at first, freshened to a gale by morning, with
showers of rain and hail. Communicated with the prize, and directed the
Prizemaster, in case he should be blown off by a gale, to rendezvous at
Saldanha Bay by the fifteenth of the month. Captain Forsyth, of the
Valorous, came on board. Returned his visit.
_Friday, Aug. 7th._--I should have been under way for Simons Bay this
morning but for the gale. The wind is blowing very fresh from northward
and westward, with dense clouds climbing up and over the Table, Lion's
head, &c.--presenting a very fine spectacle, with the rough waters, the
ships with struck upper yards, and the town half enveloped with flying
mists, &c. The bold watermen in all the gale are cruising about the bay
under reefed sails, some of them with anchors and cables, ready to
assist any ships that may require it. Last night, in the first watch, a
sail was reported to be on the shore near the lighthouse and firing
signal guns. Very soon we saw two or three boats put out to her
assistance. In the morning we heard that it was a Brazilian brig, and
that the crew was saved. The brig is fast breaking up in the gale.
_Wrecked!--A narrow escape--Respect for neutral waters--The Martha
Wenzell--At the Cape--Dense fogs--Heavy weather--"Are you a vessel of
war?"---Firmness and obstinacy--Simon's Town--Misrepresentations--A
little rest--Land-sharks--A night scene--To the Indian Ocean--The barque
_Saturday, August 8th,_ 1863.--The gale broke last night, but there is
still some breeze blowing, and the sea is quite rough. Last night a
Bremen brig was wrecked off Point Monille. We heard her firing guns, and
I feared at first it was our prize; and yet I could not conceive how my
Prizemaster, who was acquainted with the soundings, could have made such
a mistake. The weather has checked the throng of visitors, and yet a few
get off to us, asking for autographs, and looking curiously at the ship.
We are finishing our repairs, and getting supplies on board. Our prize
has not made her appearance to-day. She will rendezvous at Saldanha Bay
on the 15th inst.
_Sunday, August 9th,_ 1863.--Weather has again become fine. At 6 A.M.
precisely, we moved out of the bay, and steamed along the coast towards
the Cape. We gave chase to two sail off the mouth of False Bay, and
overhauling them, one proved to be an English, and the other an American
barque. The latter we boarded; but when I came to get bearings and plot
my position, it unfortunately turned out that I was within a mile, or a
mile and a quarter, of a line drawn from the Cape Lighthouse to the
opposite headland of the bay, and therefore within the prescribed limit
of jurisdiction. The master of the barque, in the meantime, having come
on board, I informed him of those facts, and told him to return to, and
take possession of his ship, as I had no authority to exercise any
control over him; which he did, and in a few minutes more, we were under
steam standing up the bay. What a scene for the grim old Cape to look
down upon. The vessel boarded was the Martha Wenzell, of Boston, from
Akyab for Falmouth. At 2 P.M. anchored in Simon's Bay, and was boarded
by a Lieutenant from the flag-ship of Admiral Walker.
_Monday, August 10th._--Weather fine. I called on Admiral Walker at his
residence, and was presented by him to his family, and spent an
agreeable half hour with them, giving them a brief outline of our
quarrel and war. Dined on board the Chinese gunboat Kwang-Tung,
Commander Young. This is one of Laird's side-wheel steamers, built for
Captain Sherrard Osborne's fleet. Capt. Bickford, of the Narcissus, and
Lieut. Wood, flag Lieutenant, dined with us.
_Tuesday, August 11th._--Weather fine. Visited the flag-ship of
Rear-Admiral Sir Baldwin W. Walker and the Kwang-Tung. Employed caulking
and refitting ship. Many visitors on board.
_Wednesday, August 12th._--Wind fresh from the southward and eastward.
Photographers and visitors on board. The Kwang-Tung made a trial trip of
her engines, after having repaired them, with the Admiral's family on
board. Wind freshened to a gale towards night.
_Thursday, August 13th.-_--Weather cloudy; blowing a moderate gale from
the S.E. The Tuscaloosa is ready for sea, but is detained by the
weather. Dined with Rear-Admiral Walker; Governor Sir Philip Wodehouse
and lady were of the party. My sailors are playing the devil as usual.
They manage to get liquor on board the ship, and then become
insubordinate and unruly. We have to force some of them into irons. The
man Weir, whom I made a Quartermaster, has run off; also two of the
Stewards, and two dingy boys; the latter were apprehended and brought on
_Friday, August 14th._--We have a dense fog to-day and calm. The
Tuscaloosa, which went out at daylight, anchored some four or five miles
outside the harbour. The mail steamer from England arrived at Cape Town
to-day, bringing us news of Lee's invasion of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Finished our repairs this evening.
_Saturday, August 15th._--We were ready to get under way at daylight
this morning, but were delayed by the dense fog until eleven o'clock,
when we moved out of the harbour. As we neared the Cape another fog bank
rolled over and enveloped us for a couple of hours. At 2.30, boarded an
English barque. At 3, let the steam go down, and raised the propeller.
Weather threatening. Barometer 29.80. Took single reefs in the topsails.
At 11 P.M. a steamer passed close, to leeward of us.
Light winds and thick weather now for rather more than a week, varied by
a stiff northwester on the 22nd August, lasting over the greater part of
_Tuesday, August 25th._--Dense, cloudy morning. Got a glimpse of the sun
and latitude at twelve o'clock. Our freshwater condenser is about giving
out, the last supply of water being so salt as to be scarcely drinkable.
This will be a serious disaster for us if we cannot remedy it at Cape
Town, for we have no tank room for more than eight days' supply, and no
place to store casks except on deck, where they would interfere with the
guns. And so I have borne up to run for Angra Pequena, where I expect to
pick up my prize-crew that I may return to Simon's Bay to see what can
be done, without further delay. I am quite knocked up with cold and
fever, but sick as I may be, I can never lie by and be quiet, the
demands of duty being inexorable and incessant.
_Thursday, August 27th._--Morning fine; made all sail at early daylight
and stood in for the land, having every promise of getting latitude at
meridian for position, and running in to an anchor early in the
afternoon. But an ominous fog-bank, that we had noticed hanging over the
land for a short time before, suddenly enveloped us at eight, and shut
us in so completely as to render it difficult to see a hundred yards in
any direction; the wind the while blowing fresh from the south; weather
cool and uncomfortable, and the rigging dripping rain. Hove to, and
awaited anxiously the disappearance of the fog; but hour after hour
passed, and still no change--six, seven bells struck, and the fog
appeared to grow more dense, and the wind to increase; wore ship, and
put her head off shore; went below, and turned in, in supreme disgust.
At 1.30 aroused by the report that there was a topsail schooner close
aboard. She ran down for us, when we backed main topsail, and sent a
boat and brought the Master on board. Being like ourselves bound for
Angra, he consented to pilot us in. Filled away, and made sail. We were
to-day, at noon, by computation, W.S.W. from Pedestal Point (Angra);
distance about ten miles. The fog continued most relentlessly until 4
P.M., when it disappeared, and we wore ship for the land, and were
probably on the point of making it just at sunset, when the fog came on
again, and enveloped everything in impenetrable darkness. Wore ship
seaward, and stood off and on during the night: the weather blustering.
_Friday, August 28th._--Morning cloudy, wind blowing half a gale. At
8.50 took a single reef in the topsail--the schooner in sight to
leeward. At 9.30 made the land, and soon came in full view of it. My
would-be pilot could not recognise it, until the schooner, having run in
ahead of us, ran down, to leeward, by which we knew that she had made
out our position. I followed her, and ran in, and anchored in Sheerwater
Bay; my pilot being of no sort of assistance to me, he seeming to have a
very imperfect knowledge of the locality. Soon after anchoring, a boat
came out of the lagoon to us, and we recognised some of our prize-crew
of the Sea Bride in her.
In effect the Tuscaloosa and the prize had both been three days in the
harbour of Angra Pequena. In the afternoon we got up our anchor again,
and ran into the lagoon, and anchored near the Sea Bride in seven
fathoms of water. A number of the officers are off this evening to visit
the Tuscaloosa--no doubt to get a _good drink of fresh water_. I have
sent my pitcher for some, being nearly parched up with the salt-water we
have been drinking for the last three days. We are lying in _smooth
water_, in a snug harbour, and I hope to get what I have not had for
several nights--a good night's rest. A more bleak and comfortless
prospect, in the way of landscape, could scarcely present itself to the
eye. Nothing but land and rock--not a sprig of vegetation of any kind to
be seen. In fact it never rains here, and this is consequently a guano
region. We passed a bank of guano in Halifax island, a shanty, a few
labourers, and a large army of penguins spread out with much solemnity
on the island.
_Saturday, August 29th._--Getting on board flour, &c., from the Sea
Bride, and water from the schooner--1500 gallons, which will enable us
to cruise some twenty days. Hauled a borrowed sieve in the afternoon,
and caught a fine lot of fish.
_Sunday, August 30th._--At 10.30 mustered the crew, and landed James
Adams, O.S., discharged by sentence of court-martial, with forfeiture of
pay and prize-money.
_Monday, August 31st,_--At 7 A.M. got under way, and stood out of the
* * * * *
The Alabama was now visited by a succession of the heavy gales prevalent
during winter time in the neighbourhood of the Cape. On the 7th
Sept.--Captain Semmes writes--we had a rough, ugly night of it, with a
continuance, and even increase of the gale, and a short and abrupt sea,
in which the ship occasionally rolled and pitched with violence,
frequently thumping my cot against the beams overhead and awaking me.
Shipped large quantities of water through the propeller well; cabin-deck
_Tuesday, September 8th._--Weather cloudy, the sun shining faintly
through the grey mass. Gale continues; the wind (E.S.E.) not having
varied a hair for the last sixteen hours. Barometer gradually falling;
ship rolling and pitching in the sea, and all things dreary-looking and
uncomfortable. I am supremely disgusted with the sea and all its
belongings; the fact is, I am past the age when men ought to be
subjected to the hardships and discomforts of the sea. Seagoing is one
of those constant strifes which none but the vigorous, the hardy, and
the hopeful--in short, the youthful, or at most, the middle-aged--should
be engaged in. The very roar of the wind through the rigging, with its
accompaniments of rolling and tumbling, hard, overcast skies, gives me
the blues. This is a double anniversary with me. It was on the 8th of
September that I received my first order for sea-service (1826); and it
was on the 8th of September that Norton's Division fought the battle of
Moline del Ray (1847). What a history of the United States has to be
written since the last event! How much of human weakness and wickedness
and folly has been developed in these years! But the North will receive
their reward, under the inevitable and rigorous laws of a just
government of the world.
Another week passed with a solitary excitement in the shape of an
obstinate English skipper, who stoutly refused to heave to. The
following account of this affair is extracted from the journal of one of
the Alabama's officers:--
Towards evening of the 10th of September the wind fell considerably. At
8.30 P.M. a sail in sight on weather bow. Immediately we turned to
windward, and stood in chase. At 9.45 fired a gun to heave chase to.
Chase, however, still kept on her course. At 10.35 we ran up alongside,
and the officer of the deck hailed her--"Ship ahoy!" "Halloa! heave to,
and I will send a boat on board." "What do you want me to heave to
for?" "That's my business." "Are you a vessel of war?" Captain Semmes
then waxing wroth, replied, "I'll give you five minutes to heave to in."
"You have no right to heave me to unless you tell me who you are." "I'll
let you know who I am." To officer of the deck--"Load that gun with
shot, sir, and rain on that fellow--he's stupid enough to be a
foreigner." "Tell me who you are," yelled out the master of the ship.
"If you are not hove to in five minutes I'll fire into you." Addressing
the officer of the watch, Captain Semmes asked, "Is that gun ready for
firing, sir?" "All ready, sir." "Then stand by to fire."
The Captain of the ship beginning to realize the fact that we were in
earnest, rolled out a volley of oaths, not only loud, but deep also.
That little ebullition being finished, he hauled his mainsail up and lay
to. Captain Semmes then gave me orders to board and ascertain who the
vessel was, as the reluctance to heave to was suspicious in itself.
On boarding, the Mate met me at the gangway and introduced me to a tall,
burly man, who proved to be the Master. With the utmost suavity I
inquired, "What ship is this?" "Who are you?" he blurted out. "What ship
is this, captain?" I repeated. "I sha'n't tell you," was the polite
reply. "Captain, what vessel is this?" "Are you a man-of-war?" asked he.
"Of course we are," replied I. "Who are you?" queried he.
With the greatest distinctness possible, and with the utmost sternness,
I said, "We are--we are the United States steamer Iroquois, Captain
Palmer, on a cruise; and now, having told you this, I have something
more to tell you--namely, that I am come on board to ask questions, not
to answer them; further, I have asked you three times who you are, and
have not yet received an answer. So just step down into the cabin, and
produce the ship's papers."
With a very ill grace he descended into the cabin, I following, and I
had just removed my cap when he roared out, "Who are you? Are you
English? Say you are an English man-of-war, and I will let you look at
my papers." Said I, "Captain, either you are crazy or else you think I
am. Here we fire a gun, and any man with a grain of sense would have
understood that it was meant for a ship to heave to, more especially
when a nation is at war. You are told to heave to, are boarded, and
asked a question. Instead of replying, you ask, perfectly savagely, 'Who
are you?' I tell you we are the United States ship Iroquois, and then
you ask, 'Are you English? Tell me you are an English man-of-war!' It's
absurd, I tell you."
"Mr. Officer," yelled he, "'crazy!' 'sense!' 'absurd!' By G--d, sir, if
an English man-of-war were here, no Yankee dare set foot on this deck,
sir. Who are you?" "Captain," I said to the man, "it is time this piece
of folly were ended. Now understand me. Look at that clock: it wants
twelve minutes to eleven; I want to see your papers; I give you two
minutes to produce them in. If, at ten minutes to eleven, the papers are
not forthcoming, I shall adopt measures to place them in my possession."
I then sat down. Question after question did the worthy skipper ask, but
no reply did I deign to give. At length it wanted but a few seconds to
the time specified, when with a bad grace the irate Master produced his
key, unlocked his safe, and brought forth his papers. Upon examination I
found it was the ship Flora, of and to Liverpool, from Manilla, with a
While looking over his papers, a ceaseless string of interrogations was
kept up by the Master, to which I returned no answer, merely returning
the papers, and remarking that he had given himself and us also, some
really causeless detention. "Have you any news, captain?" I asked. "Yes,
I have some news; news that some three or four of you would like to be
acquainted with, but news that one of you would rather not know. But I'd
see you Yankees sunk forty fathoms deep before I would tell you it."
"Come, captain, don't be uncharitable; you know what is written in the
He then went on to state what a bad passage he had made so far, having
met with a succession of baffling winds ever since he had left Manilla;
that he had made all sail for a fair wind, and which had only lasted for
a few hours, the wind coming ahead again; and it looking threatening, he
had reduced sail considerably, and was making but slow progress when he
was stopped by us.
"Stopped by a Yankee, too! That's something I won't forget in a hurry,"
I could not help laughing at the "offended majesty" air he assumed, and
wishing him a speedy passage, returned on board. From one of my boat's
crew I learnt that the Flora had either seen or been boarded a couple of
days ago by a two-masted long-funnelled steamer, supposed by the Master
to have been a Confederate, though showing Yankee colours.
* * * * *
_Wednesday, September 16th._--At 3 P.M. doubled the Cape of Good Hope and
steamed into the anchorage at Simon's Town, which we reached at about
4.30 P.M. The Vanderbilt had left on Friday last, and was reported to
have hovered near the Cape for a day or two. Greatly disarranged by the
news from home--Vicksburg and Port Hudson fallen; Rosecrans' army
marching southwards; and Lee having recrossed the Potomac. Our poor
people seem to be terribly pressed by the Northern hordes.
But we shall fight it out to the end, and the end will be what an
all-wise Providence shall decree.
_Thursday, September 17th._--Called on the Admiral, and received a visit
from the Captain of the Narcissus.
Various misrepresentations had been made to the Admiral as to my
proceedings since I left, &c., by the United States Consul, which I
explained away. Spent an agreeable half-hour with the Admiral and his
lady. There being no coal here--the Vanderbilt having taken it all--I
made arrangements for it to be sent to me from Cape Town.
_Saturday, September 19._--The steamer Kadie arrived with coals for me
from Cape Town. Hauled her alongside, and commenced coaling. Walked on
shore, and lunched with Captain Bickford. Dispatched letters for the
mail-steamer for England. Liberty-men drunk, and few returning. Dined
with the Admiral. A very pleasant party, composed entirely of naval
officers, including the Captains of the ships present, the
Captain-superintendent of the dockyard, &c. After dinner the young
ladies made their appearance in the drawing-room, and we had some music.
_Sunday, September 20th._--Hauled the ship over to get at the copper
around the blow-pipe, which was worn off. Visited the shore at half-past
nine, took a long walk, dropped in upon the Post-captain, and went to
church--Father Kiernan saying mass. He is an earnest, simple-minded
Irish priest, with a picturesque little church on the hill-side, and a
small congregation composed chiefly of soldiers and sailors--a seaman
serving mass. Captain Coxon and a couple of the Lieutenants of the
squadron being present. Liberty-men returning in greater numbers
to-day--the money is giving out.
_Monday, September 21st._--At daylight, hauled the steamer alongside
again, and recommenced coaling. Called to see the ladies at the
Admiral's after dinner, and walked through their quite extensive garden,
winding up a ravine with a rapid little stream of water passing through
_Tuesday, September 22nd._--A large number of liberty-men on shore yet.
The Yankee Consul, with his usual unscrupulousness, is trying to
persuade them to desert. With one or two exceptions, the whole crew have
broken their liberty--petty officers and all. With many improvements in
the character of the seaman of the present day, in regard to
intelligence, he is, in some respects, as bad as ever. Finished coaling
_Wednesday, September 23rd._--Refitting the fore-topmasts. Some twenty
men still absent. A few are picked up by the Simon's Town police for the
sake of the reward. And the sailor-landlords, those pests of all
sea-ports, are coming on board and presenting bills for board, &c. Of
course these claims are not listened to. It is a common contrivance with
Jack and these sharks, to endeavor to extort money out of their ships.
The process is simple enough. The landlord gives Jack a glass or two of
bad liquor, and it may be, a meal or two, and it is agreed between them
that a bill of twenty times the value received shall be acknowledged.
The land-shark charges in this exorbitant way for the risk he runs of
not being able to get anything, so he has nothing to complain of when he
happens to come across a captain who is disposed to protect his seamen
from such extortion. Knowing the villains well, I did not permit them to
impose upon me.
_Thursday, September 24th._--Waiting for the chance of getting over my
deserters from Cape Town. Informed by telegraph, in the afternoon, that
it was useless to wait longer, as the police declined to act. It thus
appears that the authorities declined to enable me to recover my
men--fourteen in number, enough to cripple my crew. This is another of
those remarkable interpretations of neutrality in which John Bull seems
to be so particularly fertile. Informed by telegrams from Cape Town that
vessels had arrived reporting the Vanderbilt on two successive days off
Cape Aguthas and Point Danger. The moon being near its full, I preferred
not to have her blockade me in Simon's Bay, as it might detain me until
I should have a "dark moon," and being all ready for sea, this would
have been irksome; so the gale having lulled somewhat, towards 9 P.M., I
ordered steam to be got up, and at half-past eleven, we moved out from
The lull only deceived us, as we had scarcely gotten under way, before
the gale raged with increased violence, and we were obliged to buffet it
with all the force of our four boilers. The wind blew fiercely; but
still we drove her between five and six knots per hour in the very teeth
Nothing could exceed the peculiar weird-like aspect of the scene, as we
struggled under the full moonlight with the midnight gale. The
surrounding mountains and high lands, seemingly at a great distance in
the hazy atmosphere, had their tops piled with banks of fleecy clouds,
remaining as motionless as snow-banks, which they very much
resembled--the cold south wind assisting the illusion; the angry waters
of the bay breaking in every direction, occasionally dashing on board of
us; the perfectly clear sky, with no sign of a cloud anywhere to be
seen, except those piled on the mountains already mentioned;--the bright
full moon, shedding her mysterious rays on all surrounding
objects--illuminating, yet distancing them--all these were things to be
remembered. And last, the revolving light on the Cape, at regular
intervals, lighting up the renowned old headland.
We passed the Cape at about 3 A.M., and bearing away gave her the
trysails reduced by their bonnets, and close-reefed topsails; and I
turned in to snatch a brief repose, before the trials of another day
_Friday, September 25th.--Delivered the jail_, as usual, upon getting to
sea. It will take several days, I am afraid, to work the grog out of the
crew, before they are likely to settle down into good habits and
The next fortnight's run through the heavy gales that prevail almost
incessantly in the higher latitudes of the Indian Ocean, brought the
Alabama some 2400 miles upon her course. Two days more brought her off
the Island of St. Paul's, a distance of 2840 miles. Another couple of
days, and she had made about sufficient easting, and began to shape her
course towards the north--the "sunny north."
A few short extracts from the journal will give sufficient idea of the
period thus passed through:--
_October 16th._--Lat. 35.23; Long. 89.55; no observations for current;
distance some 135 miles. The gale in which we lay-to ten hours, having
broken in upon our day's work. Bar. 29.57, and on a stand; running
before the wind, under close-reef and reefed foresail. Afternoon gale
increased, and between twelve and one it blew furiously, the whole sea
being a sheet of foam, the air rendered misty by the spray, and the
heavy seas threatening to jump on board of us, although we were scudding
at the rate of very little less than fifteen knots--the whole
accompanied by an occasional snow-squall from dark, threatening-looking
clouds. It is not often that a wilder scene is beheld: in the meantime
the Cape pigeons are whirling around us, occasionally poising themselves
against the stern, as serenely, apparently, as if the elements were at
rest. The barometer has remained perfectly stationary at 29.57 during
this blow for seven hours (from morning to 7 P.M.), without varying a
single hair's breadth, during all of which time the gale was raging with
unmitigated violence from about S.W. by W. to S.W. During this period,
we were travelling about on an average speed of eleven knots; and of
course this must have been the rate of speed of the vortex--distant from
us probably 150 to 200 miles. At 7 P.M. the mercury began to rise
slowly, and at 8 was at 27.60, the weather looking less angry, and the
squalls not so frequent or violent. Verily, our good ship, as she is
darted ahead on the top of one of those huge, long Indian Ocean waves
that pursue her, seems like a mere cock-boat.
It is remarkable that this is the anniversary of the cyclone we took off
the banks of Newfoundland.
_October 18th_--Observing has been particularly vexatious during the
past week. What with the heavy seas constantly rising between the
observer and the horizon, preventing him from producing a contact at the
very instant, it may be, that he is ready for it, the passage of a
flying cloud under the sun when his horizon is all right, and the heavy
rolling of the ship requiring him to pay the utmost care to the
preservation of his balance, and sometimes even to "lose his
sight"--from the necessity of withdrawing one hand suddenly from his
instrument to grasp the rail or the rigging to prevent himself from
falling--what with all these things, the patience of even as patient a
man as myself is sorely tried. Perhaps this stormy tumbling about at sea
is the reason why seamen are so calm and quiet on shore. We come to hate
all sorts of commotion, whether physical or moral.
At last the region of endless gales was passed, and escaping entirely
the southern belt of calms, the Alabama dashed along in the S.E. trade.
On the 26th October, as she was nearing the Line, news reached her from
an English barque, that the United States sloop Wyoming was on guard in
the Sunda Straits, accompanied by a three-masted schooner. This sloop
being about the Alabama's own size, hopes of a fight were again rife
among both officers and men; and great was their impatience when the
trade at length parted from them, and light, variable winds again began
to baffle the eager ship.
Drawing slowly nearer to the Straits, news still came from passing ships
of the enemy's presence there, reports going at length so far as to
state, that she had been specially dispatched thither by the United
States consul at Batavia, in search of the Alabama herself.
At last, on the 6th November, came another prize, the first since
leaving the Cape of Good Hope, nearly six weeks before. She proved to be
the barque Amanda, from Manilla to Queenstown for orders, the following
being the particulars of her case:--
CASE OF THE BARQUE AMANDA.
Ship under U.S. colours and register. Cargo, sugar and hemp.
Charter-party to proceed to Europe or the United States. On the face of
each of the three bills of lading appears the following certificate for
the British Vice-consul at Manilla:--
"I hereby certify that Messrs. Ker and Co., the shippers of the
merchandize specified in this bill of lading, are British subjects
established in Manilla, and that according to invoices produced, the
said merchandize is shipped by order, and for account of Messrs.
Halliday, Fox, and Co., British subjects of London, in Great Britain."
As nobody swears to anything, of course this certificate is valueless,
and the presumption of law prevails, viz., "that all property found
under the enemy's flag is enemy's property," until the contrary be shown
by competent and credible testimony under oath, duly certified to by a
Consul or another officer. Ship and cargo condemned.
_New cruising-ground--Case of the Winged Racer--A good chase--The
Contest--On the look-out--Not to be deceived--No prizes--Condore--A
French settlement--Kindly greetings--Monkey Island--Far from
home--Whistling Locusts--Instinct--Why no one sees a dead
monkey--Homewards--Yankee ships scarce._
The 8th of November saw the Alabama again in sight of land, and after
anchoring for a night off Flat Point, and sending a boat ashore, in the
vain hope of finding in the Malay villages a supply of some sort of
fresh provision, she again lifted her anchor and proceeded to sea under
* * * * *
_Tuesday, November 10th._--Passed between the islands of Beezee and
Sonbooko, both high and picturesque, the channel about a mile wide, some
villages under the groves of cocoa-nut trees on the former. The naked
natives coming down to the beach to gaze at us. We ran through the
Strait of Sunda about 2 P.M., passing to the westward of Thwart-the-Way.
Soon after passing out of the Strait and shaping our course, we
discovered a clipper-looking ship, under topsails, standing towards
North Island. Gave chase, although we were in the midst of a rain
squall, and in the course of fifteen or twenty minutes we were near
enough to him to make him show his colours. They were United States, and
upon being boarded he proved to be the Winged Racer, a vessel for which
we had been hunting outside the Strait. We captured him and sent him to
anchor about three miles from North Island (the Island bearing about
W.S.W.), and ran up and anchored near him ourselves. By working hard we
were enabled to get everything we wanted out of him by 2 o'clock A.M.;
and having despatched her crew, together with the crew of the Amanda, in
the boats of the prize, at their own request, we got under way at 4
A.M., and steamed out of sight of the coast by daylight. We were
fortunate enough to get some fowls, fruits, and vegetables from a
bum-boat of Malays, who made a business of supplying ships. The boat
reported that, when she left Angra about two days before, the Wyoming
was there. Fired the ship.
* * * * *
CASE OF THE WINGED RACER.
Ship under United States colours and register, and no claim of the
neutrality of the cargo among the papers; ship bound to New York. Ship
and cargo condemned.
* * * * *
_Wednesday, November 11th._--Made the North Watcher soon after daylight,
and finding that if I continued on at the same speed, I should be up
with Gasper Strait early in the night, and should be obliged to anchor
until daylight, I ordered the steam to be let down, and we were about
making arrangements for getting up the propeller, when a sail was
descried on the port bow, close hauled on the starboard tack. She soon
proved to be a rakish-looking ship, evidently United States. Kept away
from her from time to time as she passed towards our bow, and when we
came near enough we showed her the United States colours. She replied
with the same. I then fired a gun and hoisted our own colours (new
flag). Instead of obeying this signal to heave to, she made sail and
ran. We at once started the fires afresh, the steam having gone entirely
down, and made all sail in pursuit. The chase at this time was about
four miles from us, and for a long time we gained scarcely any thing
upon her. We threw a rifleshot astern him, but he disregarded this also.
Finally, after an exciting chase of one hour and a half (shifting guns,
and sending men aft to trim ship, and giving her a full head of steam),
we came near enough to him to throw a 32 pound shot between his masts,
when he shortened sail, came to the wind, and hove to. If the wind had
been _very_ fresh (it was blowing a good breeze) he would probably have
ran away from us. He proved to be the clipper ship Contest, from
Yokohama (Japan) for New York Captured him, and anchored in the open sea
in fourteen fathoms of water, and took from the prize such supplies as
we wanted. All our people having returned on board about nightfall, it
was discovered soon after that the prize was dragging her anchor, which
she did so fast in the freshened breeze that a boat which was sent to
board and fire her sculled until the officer nearly lost sight of us,
and fearing that if he continued he might lose sight of us altogether in
a rain squall, returned. Got up steam immediately and weighed anchor,
and ran down to the prize, sent a boat crew on board of her and burned
* * * * *
CASE OF THE CONTEST.
Ship under United States colours and register, and no claim for cargo;
ship and cargo condemned.
* * * * *
Concluding, that on receiving intelligence of the Alabama's arrival, the
Wyoming, if, in truth, she was near the Strait, would run at once for
Gaspar Passage in search of her, Captain Semmes now determined to double
upon his enemy, and gave her the start of him, holding himself for a few
days in the Java Sea, a little east of the Strait. A week passed by
without any incident worthy of record. At length a change came.
_Thursday, November 19th_.--At 3.30 P.M. boarded the English ship
Avalanche (transferred) two or three days from Singapore, with
newspapers from England of the 10th of October--only forty days!
Gratified at the general good aspect of the news, and particularly at
our victory at Chicamauga. Reports several American ships laid up at
Singapore, and a general stagnation of American trade. This ship came to
anchor some two miles astern of us, and we sent off the prisoners of the
Contest by her, the Master consenting to take them for a chronometer
which I sent him. He will probably put them on shore at Angra Point. We
first hoisted the Dutch flag, and sent a German, Master's Mate we had,
on board of him; but the Master, when told that we were a Dutch ship of
war, said, "Oh! that won't do; I was on board of her in Liverpool, when
she was launched!"
_Friday, November 20th_.--Lowered and rigged the cutter, and sent her to
board a couple of barques, which reported four American ships at
Bankok; there about to lay up, lest they should fall in with us, and one
American ship at Manilla.
_Saturday, November 21st_.--At 3 P.M. got under way under sail, with the
wind from the south-west.
_Sunday, Nov. 22nd_.--At 3 A.M. lowered the propeller, and went ahead
under steam. Passed within about four miles of Direction Island at 5.15
_Monday, Nov. 23rd_.--At 8 A.M. made Seraia.
_Thursday, Nov. 26th_.--Lat. 5.36; Long. 111.42, or within fifty miles
of dangerous ground, towards which the current is setting us. No
anchoring ground. 47 fathoms. After noon, the calm still continuing, let
go a kedge in 50 fathoms of water--mud--and veered to 150 fathoms.
_Friday, Nov. 27th_.--Noon. The struggle against the current is hopeless
in the death-like calm that prevails, and so we have come-to again with
_Sunday, Nov. 29th_.--After five days of dead calm, we took the monsoon
this morning at daylight, settling in lightly, and at 9 A.M. we got
under way, and stood to the northward and westward.
_Thursday, Dec, 3rd_.--At daylight we discovered a small vessel at
anchor near the head of the harbour of the Island of Condore, with
French colours, and awnings and other indications of her being a vessel
of war. Sent a boat in to examine water. Boat returned at 1 P.M. with
the commander of the vessel--a French vessel of war--and I was quite
surprised to learn that we had arrived in civilized waters, and that the
Island of Condore was in the possession of the French. There was a small
garrison of 50 or 60 at the village on the east side. There had been a
recent revolt of the natives, the French officers said; and for this
reason there were few vegetables or fruits to be had, and most of the
natives had betaken themselves to the mountains. Got underway and ran
into the harbour, the Frenchman politely showing me the way, and
anchored in nine fathoms. Got a spring out, so as to present our port
broadside to any enemy that might be disposed to violate neutrality,
and, to save coal, permitted all the fires to go out. A couple of ships,
running before the wind, passed in sight during the day--the ships
prudently running a little out of the track to sight the island in this
_Friday, December 4th._--The harbour is picturesque, with mountains
rising abruptly from the water to the height of 1800 feet, clothed with
dense verdure from water's edge to top, many of the trees being of large
size. The soil is very rich, but there is little cultivated land, the
mountain-sides being too steep. The French have constructed two or three
huts on the northern shore, and a couple of rude jetties, or landing
places of loose stone. Landed on one of these to get sight for the
chronometers. Found a Frenchman overseeing three or four Chinese seamen
chopping wood and thatching a hut. The French make slaves, both here and
on the mainland, of prisoners of war. The island is under the government
of an _Enseign de Vaisseau._
The Commander of the Junk is a Midshipman, so that we have gotten among
high dignitaries. Landed at noon, at an inviting little sand-beach on
the south shore, to get latitude--8 deg. 39' 10". Found the ruined hut of a
Frenchman, with his grave close by, and his name carved on the bark of a
tree on the beach. A picturesque burial spot, amid eternal shades, with
the lullaby of the ocean.
_Saturday, December 5th._--Amused this morning, watching some sedate old
baboons sitting on the sand-beach opposite, and apparently observing the
ship very attentively. Large numbers of these caricatures of humanity
inhabit these islands; yesterday, when a boat landed, great numbers of
young ones were seen gamboling about; but one of the old ones having
called out to them, they soon all disappeared in the thick wood.
Returned the visit of the Frenchman. He is on board a miserable country
craft, of about 40 tons burthen. Sent a boat to the village on the east
side to call on the Governor, and see if we could get some fruit and
vegetables. Boat returned at nightfall. The village is a mere military
port, the native inhabitants, except a few prisoners or slaves, having
fled to the mountains, and no supplies were to be had. The Governor's
residence is a _thatched_ hut, as are all the other houses, with no
industry or taste displayed in their structure. A few patches of
cultivation were visible--rice, fruit, and cotton--the latter looking
rather unpromising. The destroyers of their rice were the monkeys. There
are several varieties of fine large pigeons here, and in abundance. They
are beautiful in feather and fat. A common variety has a green back and
golden tail. This must be a paradise for monkeys, so abundant is their
food in the forests, almost every tree bearing a fruit or nut of some
sort. These French officers had heard and believed that we sunk or
burned every ship we took, _with all on board_, and received the
Paymaster rather coolly at first, but became quite cordial when they
observed we were _Christians_, and did not commit this wholesale murder.
_Sunday, December 6th_.--Another lonely Sabbath-day--lonely, though in
the midst of one hundred and fifty people. Away, away from home, by half
the circumference of the globe! One of the most frequent and unpleasant
of my experiences since I entered the China Sea, is an _oppressive_
sense of _great_ distance from home, and the utter strangeness of
everything around me, almost as though I had entered another planet.
_Monday, December 7th_.--The commander of the island, M. Bizot, visited
me to-day. He is an agreeable and intelligent young man of twenty-four
or five years of age, and appeared very friendly and expressed sympathy
for our cause. His position is a flattering one for a man of his age and
rank, and he seems to have entered upon his duties with pride and zeal.
He brought me a chart of the island, surveyed last year. The French have
been in possession two years and a half. He spoke of my having hoisted
the English flag upon first anchoring, and seemed surprised that we had
not heard of the possession of the island by the French, which, he said,
had been notified to all the Powers. I pleasantly told him that I had
had some notion of taking possession of it myself, but that I had found
the French ahead of me. He brought down for me the welcome present of a
_pig_ and some little fruit, and told me he had a _potato patch_ on
shore, which he would share with me. Fresh provisions of all kinds are
so scarce here that I fear my generous friend has been robbing himself.
He told me that he had one hundred and forty _forcats_--slave-prisoners
--at the village, whom he meant to put to good use in constructing store
and dwelling-houses, &c. The hunters brought on board to-day an East India
bat, or vampire, measuring two feet ten inches from tip to tip of wing. Its
head resembled that of a dog or wolf more than any other animal, its teeth
being very sharp and strong. Among the curiosities of the island is a locust,
that has a whistle almost as loud as that of a railroad.
_Tuesday, Dec. 8th_.--The Commander of the Junk came on board, and
brought me a couple of fowls. The apes here are very large, and quite
fierce. They will not run from you, but come around you, and grin and
chatter at you. An officer shot one, and he died like a human being,
throwing his hands over his wound and uttering piercing cries! This
monkey was afterwards buried in the sand by his comrades, though the
interment was not quite complete when the operators were interrupted.
This is the reason why nobody ever sees a dead monkey, any more, as the
Singhalese proverb says, than a white crow or a straight cocoa-nut tree.
A curious vegetable product was brought on board to-day, it being to all
appearance a finely-made Havana cigar. The fibre is woody, covered with
a smooth bark, and the colour of dark tobacco. It comes from the tree
perfect in shape, and is not a seed-pod or fruit. One is at a loss to
conceive its use or functions. The illusion caused by its appearance is
perfect. We had no success with the sieve, the fish here being all
jumpers, and jumping out of the net.
_Wednesday, Dec. 9th_.--The excessive heat and moisture of the climate
here is very enervating. We begin to feel its effects already. It weighs
upon us like a vapour-bath, and we feel indisposed to take the least
exercise; a walk on shore of half a mile or so quite overcomes us.
_Thursday, Dec. 10th_.--At about 2.30 P.M. a French steamer passed the
Gap, going to the southward. Afterwards informed by the Commander that
it was the mail steamer from Saigon, for Singapore. The Saigon people
are expecting us there.
_Friday, Dec. 11th_.--In the afternoon the Commander and Surgeon came on
board, bringing us a _bullock_! and some vegetables.
_Sunday, Dec. 13th_.--The crew dined off the Commander's bullock to-day,
being the first meal of fresh meat since leaving Simon's Town, nearly
three months ago; and yet we have _no one_ on the sick list!
Causes--good water, temperance, strict government, and, as a
consequence, a reasonable degree of contentment, and moderate and
constant employment. The crew has had several runs on shore, too,
without the possibility of getting drunk. A present of cocoa-nuts this
morning from the Commander. This young Frenchman is very attentive to
_Monday, Dec. 14th_.--To-day we applied the principle of the coffer-dam
to the replacement of the copper around our delivery or blow-pipe, some
three feet below water. The operation proved quite simple and easy of
accomplishment. Getting ready for sea. The news of our "whereabouts"
probably reached Singapore on the evening of Saturday, and it is only
two days from Singapore here, for a fast steamer; and so, whilst the
enemy, should there be one at Singapore, is coming hitherward, we must
be going thitherward to seek coal and provisions.
_Tuesday, Dec. 15th_.--At daylight got under way, under sail, and stood
out of the harbour--lighting and banking the fires. On account of our
proximity to the shore, and the very light breeze, we had barely room to
pass the point--not more than a ship's length to spare, in case we had
been obliged to let go our anchor. I felt quite nervous for a few
minutes, but held on, and we caught a light breeze that soon sent us
ahead out of danger.
Well, we are on the sea once more, with our head turned _westward_, or
_homeward_. Shall we ever reach that dear home which we left three years
ago, and which we have yearned after so frequently since? Will it be
battle, or shipwreck, or both, or neither? And when we reach the North
Atlantic, will it still be war, or peace? When will the demon-like
passions of the North be stilled? These are solemn and interesting
questions for us, and an all-wise Providence has kindly hidden the
answers behind the curtain of Fate. A lengthened cruise would not be
politic in these warm seas. The homeward trade of the enemy is now quite
small--reduced probably to twenty or thirty ships per year; and these
may easily evade us by taking the different passages to the Indian
Ocean, of which there are so many, and so widely separated. The foreign
coasting trade (as between one port in China and another, and the trade
to and from Calcutta and to and from Australia), besides facilities for
escape, are almost beyond our reach--at least we could only ransom the
ship, the cargoes being all neutral--that is to say, _such of them as
get cargoes, now not many_. And then there is no cruising or chasing to
be done here successfully, or with safety to oneself, without plenty of
coal; and we can only rely upon coaling once in three months at some
English port. At the other ports there would probably be combinations
made against us, through the influence of the Yankee Consuls. So I will
try my luck around the Cape of Good Hope once more; then to the coast of
Borneo; and thence perhaps to Barbadoes, for coal; and thence---? If the
war be not ended, my ship will need to go into dock, to have much of her
copper replaced, now nearly destroyed by such constant cruising, and to
have her boilers overhauled and repaired; and this can only be properly
done in Europe. Our young officers, who had had so agreeable a change
from the cramped ship to the shores and forests of Condore, with their
guns and their books, had become so attached to the island that they
left it with some regret.
_In the East--Aor--Marine nomads--Suspicious--At Singapore--A busy
city--Chinese merchants--Whampoa and Co.--Calculating machines--Under
way--The Martaban of Maulmain--Transformation--The Texan
Star--Evasive--Getting at the truth.--Sonora--To the Cape._
The Alabama was now steering for Singapore, and for three or four days
kept her course without the occurrence of anything particularly
noteworthy. On the 19th December she anchored for a time in the bay on
the south-east side of the island of Aor, with its lofty hills clothed
with green to their summits, and its little sandhills and groves of
cocoa-nut trees. The island is unclaimed by any European nation.
_Sunday, Dec, 20th_.--To-day being Sunday, and the weather being still
thick, and blowing, I have resolved to remain until to-morrow before
making the run for Singapore. Weather improved this morning, however,
and the barometer going up. Several islands visible that were hid from
us yesterday. Pulo Aor looking beautiful and picturesque. Some of the
natives on board with their scant stores of fowls, eggs, and cocoa-nuts.
They are larger than the natives of Condore, and stouter, and more
developed, but with countenances not very prepossessing. The Governor, a
rough-looking, middle-aged fellow, above the common height, pulled out
some greasy papers, the recommendations of former visitors, and desired
that I also would give him one, which I declined, as I knew nothing
about him. Their canoes are light and graceful, and occasionally they
present quite a picture with their gaily-dressed or half-dressed
occupants. We heard their tom-toms and banjoes last night as evening set
in, but a music much sweeter to our ears was a chorus from some _frogs_,
with notes somewhat finer than their relatives on our side of the earth.
These islanders are nothing more than marine nomads, that lead an idle,
vagabond life, intermixed with a good deal of roguery. They have a fine
_physique_, as might be supposed from their open-air mode of life, in
which they have plenty of healthful exercise without being overworked,
as Mother Nature feeds them spontaneously, and they require little more
clothing than they brought into the world with them.
In the afternoon some of the officers visited the shore, and were
hospitably received. There were from ninety to one hundred natives, men,
women, and children, visible, and there were probably as many more on
the other side of the island, as they have a S.W. monsoon village there.
They seemed to have plenty of fowls, and they are very expert fishermen.
They were gambling--such a thing as labour being out of the question.
The island seems originally to have been a solid mass of rock, the rocky
walls of the mountains peeping out in many places from the midst of the
dense forest, and gradually as time and the elements disintegrated
portions of it, plants and trees took root, until the island became what
it is now, a mass of luxuriant vegetation. There were some fine large
boats carefully hauled up on the beach, quite large enough for piratical
purposes, for which they were probably intended, and some swivels were
lying near the chief man's door. The cocoa-nut tree has climbed the
mountain sides, and waves its feathery foliage from the crests of the
ridges. It is food, and cordage, and light to the natives. Several
delightful little valleys presented themselves, upon which, and on the
adjacent steeps or the mountains, were thatched huts. Probably to the
mere animal part of our nature, the life that these people lead is
happier than any other; wants few and easily supplied, labour not too
pressing, and the simple tastes satisfied with such pleasures as they
Rain, rain, in the afternoon. Most of the moisture is deposited on the
mountain-tops, and the clouds sweep over it. And now for Singapore, God
_Monday, Dec. 21st_--At 3.30 A.M. we got under way, under steam and
sail, and steered S. by E. 32 1/2 miles, South 18 miles, and S. by W. 14
miles; and the weather setting in very thick, with heavy rain, obscuring
all things, we were obliged to come to in 10 1/2 fathoms, with the north
point of Bintang island bearing, and within 11 miles by computation of
the Pedra Branca lighthouse. We have thus to war against the weather as
well as our enemies. Soon after daylight we made a ship-rigged steamer
on our port bow, bound also for Singapore. She anchored near us astern.
It clearing a little at noon, we got hold of the marks and got under
way, and taking a Malay pilot, anchored off Singapore at 5.30 P.M.
_Tuesday, Dec. 22d_.--At 9.30 A.M. the pilot came on board, and we ran
up into New Harbour alongside of the coaling depot, and commenced
coaling. Singapore is quite a large town, with an air of prosperity--a
large number of ships in the harbour. The country is beautiful, and
green, with an abundance of fine fruit, &c.; the country around highly
improved with tasteful houses and well-laid-out grounds. The English
residents call it the Madeira of the East, in allusion to its
healthfulness. Some twenty-two American merchant ships here, most of
them laid up! The Wyoming was here twenty days ago, and left for Rhio
Strait, where she remained for some days. Finished coaling last night,
the operation having occupied no more than ten hours. Received
_Wednesday, Dec. 23rd_.--Weather variable, with occasional showers of
rain--raining heavily in the afternoon. Visited the city, and was
astonished at its amount of population and business. There are from
eighty to one hundred thousand Chinese on Singapore island, nearly all
of them in the city, from twelve to fifteen thousand Malays, and about
fifteen hundred Europeans. Singapore being a free port, it is a great
_entrepot_ of trade. Great quantities of Eastern produce reach it from
all quarters, whence it is shipped to Europe.
The business is almost exclusively in the hands of the Chinese, who are
also the artisans and labourers of the place. The streets are thronged
with foot-passengers and vehicles, among which are prominent the ox, or
rather the buffalo cart, and the hacks for hire, of which latter there
are nine hundred licensed. The canal is filled with country boats of
excellent model, and the warehouses are crammed with goods. Money seems
to be abundant and things dear. They are just finishing a tasteful
Gothic church, with a tall spire, which is a notable landmark as you
approach; they are also completing officers' quarters on a hill which
commands the town. Barracks for three or four regiments lie unoccupied a
couple of miles outside the city, and a large court-house.
The moving multitude in the streets comprises every variety of the human
race, every shade of colour, and every variety of dress, among which are
prominent the gay turbans and fancy jackets of the Mahomedan, Hindu, &c.
Almost all the artisans and labourers were naked, except a cloth or a
pair of short trousers tucked about the waist. The finest dressed part
of the population was decidedly the _jet-black_, with his white flowing
mantle and spotted turban. The upper class of Chinese merchants are
exceeding polite, and seem intelligent. I visited the establishment of
Whampoa and Co. Whampoa was above the middle height, stout, and with a
large, well-developed head. I was told that his profits some years
amounted to forty or fifty thousand pounds! He was sitting in a small,
dingy, ill-lighted little office on the ground floor, and had before him
a Chinese calculating machine, over the numerous small balls of which,
strung on wires, he was running his hands for amusement, as a gambler
will sometimes do with his checks. At the suggestion of the gentleman
who was with me, I requested him to multiply four places of figures by
three places, naming the figures, and the operation was done about as
rapidly as I could write down the result. Their shaved heads, and long
queues, sometimes nearly touching the ground, are curious features of
their personal appearance. The workshops front upon the streets, and in
them busy, half-naked creatures may be seen, working away as
industriously as so many beavers all day long, seeming never to tire of
their ceaseless toil.
Amid all this busy population I saw but one female in the streets, and
she was of the lower class. Dined in the country with Mr. Beaver. The
ride out was over good roads flanked by large forests and ornamental
trees, among which was the tall, slender, graceful palm of the
betel-nut. The Botanical Gardens are on an elevation commanding a fine
view of the town and the sea, and are laid out with taste, ornamented
with flowering trees and shrubs, and flowers. Hither a band of music
comes to play several times a week, when the townspeople turn out to
enjoy the scene. A few miles beyond the town the whole island is a
jungle, in which abounds the ferocious Bengal tiger. It is said that one
man and a half per day is the average destruction of human life by these
animals. Visited opium-preparation shop. It pays an enormous licence.
All this beauty fails to reconcile the European lady to this country, I
was told. The eternal sameness of summer, and the heat and moisture,
weigh upon them, and their husbands being away all day on business, they
pine for their European homes. The life seems agreeable enough to the
men. The Governor of the "Straits Settlement" is a Colonel.
_Thursday, Dec. 24._--Cloudy; five of my men deserted last night. The
Kwang-tung got under way at 8 1/2 A.M., and we followed her and steered
for the strait of Malacca. Several sails in sight; Malay pilot on board.
Passed the Kwang-tung very rapidly. At about 1 P.M. we fired a gun and
hove to an American-looking barque, under English colours, with the
name, "Martaban, of Maulmain," on her stern. Sent a boat on board; and
the officer reporting that she was an American-built ship, with English
register, and that the Master refused to come on board, I went on board
myself to examine the case. There being no bill of sale, the transaction
being recent, the Master and Mate, &c., being Americans, I had no doubt
that the transfer was fraudulent, and captured and burned her. The cargo
had no paper on board connected with it, except the ordinary bill of
lading. It consisted of rice, and was shipped in Maulmain by a Mr.
Cohen, and consigned to his order at Singapore, whither the ship was
bound. Of course, the cargo followed the fate of the ship under such
circumstances. Upon examination of the Master (Pike), under oath, he
admitted that the transfer was a sham, and made to protect the ship from
capture. At 11.30 P.M. came to anchor about four miles distant from
Malacca, bearing N., in fifteen fathoms water, for the purpose of
landing our prisoners.
* * * * *
The boarding officer's journal furnishes the annexed description of the
interview with the Master of the prize:--
I was sent on board to examine her papers. The barque was American
built, had a new English flag, and on her stern was painted "Martaban,
of Maulmain." We knew that many Yankee vessels had been transferred to
English owners, and of course had to have an English flag; but the
question arose--Was there not some jobbery in this case? Nearing the
Martaban I saw that she was newly painted; pulling round and under the
stern, I saw that a name had been painted over, but could not see what
the name was. I further observed that the last four letters of Maulmain
had been painted much more recently than the other ones, so I determined