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Chapter 34:

  • The Yankee colony in the island of Flores
  • -- what the captains of the Virginia and Elisha Dunbar said of the Alabama, when they got back to the land of the ‘Saints’ -- the whaling season at the Azores at an end -- the Alabama changes her cruising ground -- what she saw and did.

The reader has seen how rapidly we had been peopling the little island of Flores. I had thrown ashore there, nearly as many Yankee sailors as there were original inhabitants. I should now have gone back with the crews of two more ships, but for the bad weather. Jack, suddenly released from the labors and confinement of his ship, must have run riot in this verdant little paradise, where the law was too weak to restrain him. With his swagger, devil-may-care air, and propensity for fun and frolic, when he has a drop in his eye, the simple inhabitants must have been a good deal puzzled to fix the genus of the bird that had so suddenly dropped down upon them. The history of my colony would, no doubt, be highly interesting; and I trust that some future traveller will disinter it from the archives of the island, for the benefit of mankind. The police reports would be of especial interest. In due time the Federal Consul at Fayal chartered a vessel, and removed the colony back to the New England States.

The gale which was described in the last chapter, did not prove to be very violent, though it blew sufficiently fresh to reduce the Alabama to close-reefed topsails, with the bonnets off her trysails. It was but the forerunner of a series of gales, occurring about the period of the equinox. The bad weather [446] had the effect to put an end to the whaling season, a little in advance of the regular time. From the 19th to the 23d of September, we were constantly under reefed sails, and the wind being from the northward, we drifted as far south as the 34th degree of latitude. We were now in a comparatively unfrequented part of the ocean, and had not seen a sail since the capture of the Elisha Dunbar. During the prevalence of this bad weather, our prisoners necessarily suffered some inconvenience, and were obliged to submit to some discomforts. I need not say that these were greatly magnified by the Northern press. The masters of the captured ships took this mode of revenging themselves upon me. The captains of the last two ships captured, made long complaints against the Alabama, when they got back to New England, and I will here give them the benefit of their own stories, that the reader may see what they amount to. It is the master of the Virginia who speaks first—a Captain Tilton. He says:—

‘I went on the quarter-deck, with my son, when they ordered me into the lee waist, with my crew, and all of us were put in irons, with the exception of the two boys, and the cook and steward. I asked if I was to be put in irons? The reply of Captain Semmes was, that his purser had been put in irons, and had his head shaved by us, and that he meant to retaliate. We were put in the lee waist, with an old sail over us, and a few planks to lie upon. The steamer was cruising to the west, and the next day, they took the Elisha Dunbar, her crew receiving the same treatment as ourselves. The steamer's guns being kept run out, the side ports could not be shut, and when the sea was a little rough, or the vessel rolled, the water was continually coming in on both sides, and washing across the deck where we were, so that our feet and clothing were wet all the time, either from the water below, or the rain above. We were obliged to sleep in the place where we were, and often waked up in the night nearly under water. Our fare consisted of beef and pork, rice, beans, tea, and coffee, and bread. Only one of my irons was allowed to be taken off at a time, and we had to wash in salt water. We kept on deck all the time, night and day, and a guard was placed over us.’

The above statement is substantially correct, with the exception that the prisoners were not drenched with sea-water. or with the rain, all the time, as is pretended. It is quite true that they were compelled to live, and sleep on deck. We had nowhere else to put them. My berth-deck was filled with my [447] own crew, and it was not possible to berth prisoners there, without turning my own men out of their hammocks. To remedy this difficulty, we spread a tent, made of spare sails, and which was quite tight, in the lee waist, and laid gratings upon the deck, to keep the men and their bedding as dry as possible. Ordinarily they were very comfortable, but sometimes, during the prevalence of gales, they were, no doubt, a little disturbed in their slumbers by the water, as Captain Tilton says. But I discharged them all in good physical condition, and this is the best evidence I could give, that they were well cared for. It was certainly a hardship that Captain Tilton should have nothing better to eat than my own crew, and should be obliged, like them, to wash in salt water, but he was waited upon by his own cook and steward, and the reader can see from his own bill of fare, that he was in no danger of starving. He was, as he says, ordered off the quarter-deck. That is a place sacred to the officers of the ship, where even their own crew are not permitted to come, except on duty, and much less a prisoner. He explains, himself, as I had previously explained to the reader, how he came to be put in irons. The ‘good book’ says that we must have ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ The enemy had put one of my officers in irons, and I had followed the rule of the ‘good book.’ Now let us hear from Captain Gifford, of the Dunbar. This witness says:—

‘On the morning of the 18th of September, in latitude 39° 50′, longitude 35° 20′, with the wind from the south-west, and the bark heading south-east, saw a steamer on our port-quarter, standing to the north-west. Soon after, found she had altered her course, and was steering for the bark. We soon made all sail to get out of her reach, and were going ten knots at the time; but the steamer, gaining on us, under canvas alone, soon came up with us, and fired a gun under our stern, with the St. George's cross flying at the time. Our colors were set, when she displayed the Confederate flag. Being near us, we hove to, and a boat, with armed officers and crew, came alongside, and upon coming on board, stated to me that my vessel was a prize to the Confederate steamer Alabama, Captain Semmes. I was then ordered on board the steamer with my papers, and the crew to follow me with a bag of clothing each. On getting on board, the captain claimed me as a prize, and said that my vessel would be burned. Not having any clothes with me, he allowed me to return for a small trunk of clothes;—the officer [448] on board asked me what I was coming back for, and tried to prevent me from coming on board. I told him I came after a few clothes, which I took, and returned to the steamer. It blowing very hard at the time, and very squally, nothing but the chronometer, sextant, charts, &c., were taken, when the vessel was set fire to, and burnt; there were sixty-five barrels of sperm oil on deck, taken on the passage, which were consumed. We were all put in irons, and received the same treatment that Captain Tilton's officers and crew did, who had been taken the day before. While on board, we understood that the steamer would cruise off the Grand Banks, for a few weeks, to destroy the large American ships, to and from the Channel ports. They had knowledge of two ships being loaded with arms for the United States, and were in hopes to capture them. They were particularly anxious to fall in with the clippership Dreadnought, and destroy her, as she was celebrated for speed; and they were confident of their ability to capture, or run away from any vessel in the United States. The steamer being in the track of outward and homeward-bound vessels, and more or less being in sight, every day, she will make great havoc among them.’

Captain Gifford does not seem to have anything to complain of, in particular, except that the sailors had to put their clothes in bags, and that his trunk was ‘small;’ but both he and his sailors got their clothing, which was more than some of our women and children, in the South, did, when the gallant Sherman, and the gallant Wilson, and the gallant Stoneman, and a host of other gallant fellows, were making their ‘grand marches,’ and ‘raids’ in the South, merely for the love of ‘grand moral ideas.’ The terrible drenchings, that Captain Tilton got, did not seem to have made the same impression upon Captain Gifford.

Few of the masters, whose ships I burned, ever told the whole truth, when they got back among their countrymen. Some of them forgot, entirely, to mention how they had implored me to save their ships from destruction, professing to be the best of Democrats, and deprecating the war which their countrymen were making upon us! How they had come to sea, bringing their New England cousins with them, to get rid of the draft, and how abhorrent to them the sainted Abraham was. ‘Why, Captain,’ they would say, ‘it is hard that I should have my ship burned; I have voted the Democratic ticket all my life; I was a Breckinridge man in the last Presidential zontest; and as for the “nigger,” if we except a few ancient spinsters, [449] who pet the darkey, on the same principle that they pet a lap-dog, having nothing else to pet, and a few of our deacons and “church-members,” who have never been out of New England—all of whom are honest people enough in their wayand some cunning political rascals, who expect to rise into fame and fortune on the negro's back, we, New England people, care nothing about him.’ ‘That may be all very true,’ I would reply; ‘but, unfortunately, the “political rascals,” of whom you speak, have been strong enough to get up this war, and you are in the same boat with the “political rascals,” whatever may be your individual opinions. Every whale you strike will put money into the Federal treasury, and strengthen the hands of your people to carry on the war. I am afraid I must burn your ship.’ ‘But, Captain, can't we arrange the matter in some way? I will give you a ransom-bond, which my owners and myself will regard as a debt of honor.’ (By the way, I have some of these debts of honor in my possession, now, which I will sell cheap.) And so they would continue to remonstrate with me, until I cut short the conversation, by ordering the torch applied to their ships. They would then revenge themselves in the manner I have mentioned; and historians of the Boynton class would record their testimony as truth, and thus Yankee history would be made.

The whaling season at the Azores being at an end, as remarked, I resolved to change my cruising-ground, and stretch over to the Banks of Newfoundland, and the coast of the United States, in quest (as some of my young officers, who had served in the China seas, playfully remarked) of the great American junk-fleet. In China, the expression ‘junk-fleet’ means, more particularly, the grain-ships, that swarm all the seas and rivers in that populous empire, in the autumn, carrying their rich cargoes of grain to market. It was now the beginning of October. There was no cotton crop available, with which to freight the ships of our loving Northern brethren, and conduct their exchanges. They were forced to rely upon the grain crop of the great Northwest; the ‘political rascals’ having been cunning enough to wheedle these natural allies of ours into this New England war. They needed gold abroad, with which to pay for arms, and military [450] supplies of various kinds, shiploads of which were, every day, passing into New York and Boston, in violation of those English neutrality laws, which, as we have seen, Mr. Seward and Mr. Adams had been so persistently contending should be enforced against ourselves. Western New York, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa had gathered in the rich harvests from their teeming grain-fields; and it was this grain, laden in Yankee ships, which it was my object now to strike at.

The change from one cruising-ground to another, during which no vessels were sighted, afforded my crew a muchneeded relaxation of a few days, for they had been much fagged and worn during the last month, by a succession of captures. That which had been but a pleasurable excitement, in the beginning, soon became a wearing and exhausting labor, and they were glad to be relieved, for a time, from the chasing and burning of ships, hard service in boats during all kinds of weather, and the wet jackets and sleepless nights, which had sometimes been the consequences of these. I will avail myself of this comparative calm, in the moral atmosphere on board the Alabama, to introduce the reader, more particularly, to our interior life. Thus far, he has only seen the ship of war, in her outward garb, engaged in her vocation. I propose to give him a sight of my military family, and show him how my children played as well as worked; how I governed them, and with what toys I amused them.

From the very beginning of our captures, an order had been issued, that no sailor should lay his hand on any article of property, to appropriate it to his own use, unless by permission of an officer; and especially that no spirituous liquors should be brought on board the Alabama. It was made the duty of every boarding-officer, upon getting on board a prize, to demand possession of the keys of the liquor-lockers, and either to cause the liquor to be destroyed, or thrown overboard. To the rigid enforcement of this rule, I attribute much of the good order which prevailed on board my ship. It was enforced against the officers, as well the men, and no officer's mess was allowed to supply itself with liquor, by purchase, or otherwise, unless by my consent; and I never gave this consent [451] to the midshipmen's mess. We burned, on one occasion, a ship, whose entire cargo consisted of French brandies, and champagne, and other wines, without allowing a bottle of it to be brought on board. But whilst I used these precautions, I caused a regular allowance of ‘grog’ to be served out to the crew, twice in each day. I was quite willing that Jack should drink, but I undertook to be the judge of how much he should drink.

Such articles of clothing and supplies as were captured, were turned over to the paymaster, to be credited to the Government, and duly issued and charged to the crew, as if they had been purchased in the market. In spite of all these precautions, however, a sailor would now and then be brought on board from a prize, drunk, would manage to smuggle liquor to his comrades, and would be found arrayed in all sorts of strange garbs, from whaler's boots, and red flannel shirts and comforters, to longtailed coats and beaver hats. Notwithstanding the discipline of the ship, the gravity of the crew would sometimes give way to merriment, as one of these fellows, thus ludicruously apparelled, would have to be hoisted or lifted on board, being too comfortably drunk to attend to his own locomotion. Each offender knew that he would have to walk straight into the ‘Brig,’ upon being thus detected in the violation of these orders, and that punishment would speedily follow the offence; and yet I found it one of the most difficult parts of my duty, to convince some of these free-and-easy fellows, who had mistaken the Alabama, when they signed the articles off Terceira, (after that stump speech before referred to,) for what Mr. Seward and Mr. Adams insisted she was, a ‘privateer,’ that everything was captured in the name of the Confederate States, and that nothing belonged to them personally. The California-bound ships frequently had on board boxes and bales of fine clothing, boots, shoes, and hats, but not a garment was allowed to be brought on board except such as the paymaster might need for issue. It seemed hard to consign all these tempting articles to the flames, without permitting the sailors to help themselves, but if such license had been permitted, disorder and demoralization would have been the consequence.

I had no chaplain on board, but Sunday was always kept as [452] a day of abstinence from labor, when the exigencies of war and weather would permit, and it was my uniform practice on this day, to have the ship thoroughly cleansed, in every part, for inspection—particularly the sleeping apartments, and the engineroom—and to require the officers and seamen to appear on the quarter-deck for muster; the former in their appropriate uniforms, and the latter in clean duck frocks and trousers, or other clothing adapted to the latitude and climate. The reader has already been present at several of these musters. The boys of the ship, of whom I had quite a number on board, were placed under the special charge of the master-at-arms— a subordinate officer, with police-powers, in charge of the berth-deck—whose duty it was to inspect them, in every morning watch, with reference to personal cleanliness; turning down the collars, and rolling up the trousers of the youngsters, to see that they had duly performed their ablutions. These boys had been taken from the stews, and haunts of vice about Liverpool, and were as great a set of scamps as any disciplinarian could desire to ‘lick into shape,’ but it is astonishing what a reformation soap and water and the master-at-arms effected in them, in a short time. Many of them became very respectable young fellows, for which they were indebted almost entirely to the free use of soap and water.

As a hygienic precaution, when we were cruising in warm latitudes, where the dews were heavy, the whole crew was required to appear, every evening, at sunset muster, in blue flannel shirts and trousers. They could then sleep in the dews, without the fear of colds or rheumatisms. We were always supplied with the best of provisions, for, being at war with a provision-producing people, almost every ship we captured afforded us a greater or less supply; and all the water that was drank on board the Alabama was condensed by the engine from the vapor of sea-water. The consequence of all this care was highly gratifying to me, as, in the three years I was afloat, I did not lose a man by disease, in either of my ships! When it is recollected that I cruised in all parts of the world, now fencing out the cold, and battling with the storms of the North Atlantic and South Indian Oceans, and now being fried, and baked, and stewed within the tropics, [453] and on the equator, and that, besides my own crews, some two thousand of the enemy's sailors passed through my hands, first and last, as prisoners, this is a remarkable statement to be able to make. My excellent surgeon, Dr. Galt, and, after him, Dr. Llewellyn, ably seconded me by their skill and experience.

On week days we mustered the crew at their quarters twice a day—at nine A. M., and at sunset, and when the weather was suitable, one division, or about one fourth of the crew, was exercised, either at the battery, or with small arms. This not only gave them efficiency in the use of their weapons, but kept them employed—the constant employment of my men being a fundamental article of my philosophy. I found the old adage, that ‘Idleness is the parent of vice,’ as true upon the sea as upon the land. My crew were never so happy as when they had plenty to do, and but little to think about. Indeed, as to the thinking, I allowed them to do very little of that. Whenever I found I had a sea-lawyer among them, I got rid of him as soon as possible—giving him a chance to desert. I reserved the quids, and quos, and pros and cons, exclusively for myself.

But though I took good care to see that my men had plenty of employment, it was not all work with them. They had their pastimes and pleasures, as well as labors. After the duties of the day were over, they would generally assemble on the forecastle, and, with violin, and tambourine—and I always kept them supplied with these and other musical instruments—they would extemporize a ball-room, by moving the shot-racks, coils of rope, and other impediments, out of the way, and, with handkerchiefs tied around the waists of some of them, to indicate who were to be the ladies of the party, they would get up a dance with all due form and ceremony; the ladies, in particular, endeavoring to imitate all the airs and graces of the sex—the only drawback being a little hoarseness of the voice, and now and then the use of an expletive, which would escape them when something went wrong in the dance, and they forgot they had the aprons on. The favorite dancingtunes were those of Wapping and Wide Water Street, and when I speak of the airs and graces, I must be understood to [454] mean those rather demonstrative airs and graces, of which Poll and Peggy would be likely to be mistresses of. On these occasions, the discipline of the ship was wont to be purposely relaxed, and roars of laughter, and other evidences of the rapid flight of the jocund hours, at other times entirely inadmissible, would come resounding aft on the quarter-deck.

Sometimes the recreation of the dance would be varied, and songs and story-telling would be the amusements of the evening. The sea is a wide net, which catches all kinds of fish, and in a man-of-war's crew a great many odd characters are always to be found. Broken-down gentlemen, who have spent all the money they have been able to raise, upon their own credit, or that of their friends; defaulting clerks and cashiers; actors who have been playing to empty houses; third-class musicians and poets, are all not unfrequently found in the same ship's company. These gentlemen play a very unimportant role in seamanship, but they take a high rank among the crew, when fun and frolic, and not seamanship, are the order of the day—or rather night. In the Alabama, we had a capital Falstaff, though Jack's capacious pouch was not often with ‘fat capon lined;’ and as for ‘sherry-sack,’ if he now and then got a good glass of ‘red-eye’ instead, he was quite content. We had several Hals, who had defied their harsh old papas, and given them the slip, to keep Falstaff company; and as for raconteurs, we had them by the score. Some of these latter were equal to the Italian lazzaroni, and could extemporize yarns by the hour; and there is nothing of which a sailor is half so fond as a yarn.

It was my custom, on these occasions, to go forward on the bridge—a light structure spanning the deck, near amidships —which, in the twilight hours, was a sort of lounging-place for the officers, and smoke my single cigar, and listen to whatever might be going on, almost as much amused as the sailors themselves. So rigid is the discipline of a ship of war, that the captain is necessarily much isolated from his officers. He messes alone, walks the quarter-deck alone, and rarely, during the hours of duty, exchanges, even with his first lieutenant, or officer of the deck, other conversation than such as relates to the ship, or the service she is upon. I felt exceedingly the [455] irksomeness of my position, and was always glad of an opportunity to escape from it. On the ‘bridge,’ I could lay aside the ‘captain,’ gather my young officers around me, and indulge in some of the pleasures of social intercourse; taking care to tighten the reins, gently, again, the next morning. When song was the order of the evening, after the more ambitious of the amateurs had delivered themselves of their solos and cantatas, the entertainment generally wound up with Dixie, when the whole ship would be in an uproar of enthusiasm, sometimes as many as a hundred voices joining in the chorus; the unenthusiastic Englishman, the stolid Dutchman, the mercurial Frenchman, the grave Spaniard, and even the serious Malayan, all joining in the inspiring refrain,—

‘We'll live and die in Dixie!’

and astonishing old Neptune by the fervor and novelty of their music.

Eight o'clock was the hour at which the night-watches were set, when, of course, all merriment came to an end. When the officer of the deck reported this hour to the captain, and was told by the latter, to ‘make it so,’ he put the trumpet to his mouth, and sang out in a loud voice, ‘Strike the bell eight— call the watch!’ In an instant, the most profound silence fell upon the late uproarious scene. The witches did not disappear more magically, in that famous revel of Tam O'Shanter, when Tam sang out, ‘Weel dune, Cutty Sark!’ than the sailors dispersed at this ominous voice of authority. The violinist was arrested with half-drawn bow; the raconteur suddenly ceased his yarn in the most interesting part of his story, and even the inspiring chorus of ‘Dixie’ died a premature death, upon the lips of the singers. The shrill call of the boatswain's whistle, followed by his hoarse voice, calling ‘All the starboard watch!’ or ‘All the port watch!’ as the case might be, would now be heard, and pretty soon, the watch, which was off duty, would ‘tumble’ below to their hammocks, and the midshipman would be seen coming forward from the quarterdeck, with lantern and watch-bill in hand, to muster the watch whose turn it was to be on deck. The most profound stillness now reigned on board during the remainder of the night, only [456] broken by the necessary orders and movements, in making or taking in sail, or it may be, by the whistling of the gale, and the surging of the sea, or the cry of the look-outs at their posts, every half hour.

To return now to our cruise. We are passing, the reader will recollect, from the Azores to the Banks of Newfoundland. On the 1st of October, the following record is found upon my journal: ‘The gale moderated during the last night, but the weather, to-day, has been thick and rainy, with the wind from the north-west, and a confused, rough sea. No observation for latitude. The barometer, which had gone down to 29.8 is rising, and stands at nine P. M. at 29.9. The ship being about two hundred miles only, from the Banks of Newfoundland, we are trying the temperature of the air and water every hour. At nine P. M. we found the temperature of the former to be 63°, and of the latter 70°, indicating that we have passed into the Gulf Stream.’ The thick, rainy weather is almost as unerring a sign of the presence of this stream as the thermometer.

The stream into which we have now passed is, literally, an immense salt-water river in the sea. Coming out of the Gulf of Mexico, it has brought the temperature of the tropics, all the way to the Banks of Newfoundland, in the latitude of 50° north, and it has run this distance between banks, or walls of cold water, on either side, parting with very little of its warmth, by the way. When it is recollected that this salt-water river in the sea is about three thousand times larger than the Mississippi River, that is to say, that it brings out of the Gulf of Mexico, three thousand times as much water, as that river empties into it, and that all this great body of water is carried up into the hyperborean regions of Newfoundland, at a temperature, even in mid-winter, ranging from 73 to 78 degrees, it will be seen at once what a powerful weather-breeder it must be. Accordingly, no port of the world is more stormy than the Gulf Stream, off the north-eastern coast of the United States, and the Banks of Newfoundland. Such is the quantity of heat brought daily by this stream, and placed in juxtaposition with the rigors of a Northern winter, that it is estimated, that if it were suddenly stricken from it, it would [457] be sufficient to make the column of superincumbent atmosphere hotter than melted iron! With such an element of atmospheric disturbance, it is not wonderful that the most terrific gales, that rage on the ocean, are wont to sweep over the surface of this stream.

Indeed, this stream not only generates hurricanes of its own, it seems to attract to it such as are engendered in the most distant parts of our hemisphere; for hurricanes known to have originated near Cape St. Roque, in Brazil, have made their way straight for the Gulf Stream, and followed it, in its course, for a thousand miles and more, spreading shipwreck and disaster, broadcast, in their track. The violence of these gales is inconceivable by those who have not witnessed them. The great hurricane of 1780 originated to the eastward of the island of Barbadoes, and made straight for the Gulf Stream. As it passed over the West India Islands, trees were uprooted, and the bark literally blown from them. The very bottom and depths of the sea, in the vicinity of some of the islands, were uncovered, and rocks torn up, and new channels formed. The waves rose to such a height, that forts, and castles, removed, as it was thought, far out of the reach of the water, were washed away, and the storm, taking hold of their heavy artillery, played with it, as with so many straws, throwing it to considerable distances. Houses were razed, and ships wrecked, and the bodies of men and beasts were lifted up into the air and dashed to pieces in the storm. Still, the European-bound ships defy all the bad weather, so prevalent in this stream, on account of the easterly current which accelerates their passage, at the rate of from two, to three miles, per hour. The stream, therefore, has been literally bearded by commerce, and has become one of its principal highways. It is because it is a highway of commerce that the Alabama now finds herself in it. Nor was she long in it, before the travellers on the highway began to come along.

Early on the morning of the 3d of October, two sail were simultaneously reported by the look-out at the mast-head— one right ahead, and the other on the lee-bow. As both the ships were standing in our direction, there was no necessity for a chase. We had nothing to do but await their approach. As [458] their hulls were lifted above the horizon, we could see that they were fine, large ships, with a profusion of tapering spars and white canvas. We at once pronounced them American; and so, after a little, they proved to be. They were, in fact, the avant courriers of the ‘unk fleet,’ for which we had come to look. The wind was light, and they came on, with all their sails set, from truck to rail. We, on our part, put on an air of perfect indifference. We made no change in our sail, and it was not necessary to alter our course, as the strangers would pass sufficiently near us, unless they altered their own courses, which they did not seem inclined to do. They apparently had no suspicion of our real character. We did not hoist any colors, until the vessels were nearly abreast of us, and only a few hundred yards distant, when, suddenly wheeling, we fired a gun, and hoisted the Confederate flag. The capture of these two ships must have been a perfect surprise to them, judging by the confusion that was visible on board. There was a running about the decks, and an evident indecision for a few moments, as to what was best to be done; but it did not take the masters long to take an intelligent view of the ‘situation.’ There was nothing to be done, but surrender; and this they did, by hoisting their colors, and heaving to their ships.

We now shortened sail, and laying the maintopsail to the mast, lowered a couple of quarter boats, and boarded the prizes. One of them proved to be the Brilliant, from New York, for London, laden with flour and grain; and the other, the Emily Farnum, from New York, for Liverpool, with a similar cargo. The cargo of the Farnum being properly documented as neutral property, I released her on ransom-bond, and converting her into a cartel, sent on board of her all my prisoners, of whom I had fifty or sixty on board the Alabama, besides those just captured in the Brilliant. The latter ship was burned, and her destruction must have disappointed a good many holders of bills of exchange, drawn against her cargo, as this was large and valuable. The owners of the ship have since put in a claim, in that little bill, which Mr. Seward has pressed with so little effect hitherto against the British Government, for indemnity for the ‘depredations of the Alabama,’ [459] for the ship alone, and the freight-moneys which they lost by her destruction, to the amount of $93,000. The cargo was probably even more valuable than the ship.

I made a positive stipulation with the Farnum, upon releasing her, that she should continue her voyage to Liverpool, and not put back into any American port; the master pledging me his word that he would comply with it. My object was, of course, to prevent him from giving news of me to the enemy. He had no sooner passed out of sight, however, steering his course for Liverpool, than he dodged and put into Boston, and reported me. This being nothing more than a clever ‘Yankee trick,’ of course there was no harm done the master's honor.

I was much moved by the entreaties of the master of the Brilliant to spare his ship. He was a hard-working seaman, who owned a one third interest in her. He had built her, and was attached to her, and she represented all his worldly goods. But I was forced again to steel my heart. He was, like the other masters who had remonstrated with me, in the same boat with the ‘political rascals,’ who had egged on the war; and I told him he must look to those rascals for redress. The ship made a brilliant bonfire, lighting up the Gulf Stream, for many miles around. Having been set on fire near night, and the wind falling to nearly a calm, we remained in sight of the burning wreck nearly all night.

Among the many slanders against me, to which the Northern press gave currency during the war, it was stated, that I decoyed ships into my power, by setting fire to my prizes at night, and remaining by them in ambuscade. Of course, when seamen discover a ship on fire at sea they rush, with all their manly sympathies aroused, to the rescue of their comrades, who are supposed to be in danger; but if they should find, it was said, that they were waylaid, and captured, none would go to the rescue in future, and thus many seamen would perish. It can scarcely be necessary for me to say, that I never purposely lay by a burning ship, by night, or by day, longer than to see her well on fire. The substantial answer to the slander is, that I never captured a ship, under the circumstances stated.

For the next few days we had fine, clear weather, and chased and overhauled a number of neutral ships, most of them out of [460] New York, and bound for Europe, laden with grain. The English, French, Prussian, Hamburg, Oldenham, and other flags were fast monopolizing the enemy's carrying trade, and enjoying a rich harvest. These were not the sort of ‘junks’ that we were in quest of, but they compensated us, somewhat, for the time and labor lost in chasing and boarding them, by supplying us with late newspapers of the enemy, and giving us valuable information concerning the progress of the war.

On the afternoon of the 7th of October, the weather being fine, and the breeze light, we chased and captured the American bark, Wave Crest, from New York, bound for Cardiff, in Wales, with flour and grain. In the language of the enemy, we ‘plundered her,’ that is, we received on board from her, such articles as we needed, and after having made use of her for a while, as a target, at which to practise the men at the battery, we burned her.

Filing away, we again made sail to the north-west. We were now, in about latitude 41°, and longitude 54°, and were working our way, under easy sail, toward the coasts of the United States. Just before nightfall, on the same afternoon, another sail was cried from aloft, and we made all sail in pursuit, immediately, anxious to draw sufficiently near the chase before dark, to prevent losing sight of her. By this time, the wind, which had been very light all day, had freshened to a stiff breeze, and the chase, soon perceiving our object, spread a cloud of canvas, with studding-sails ‘alow and aloft,’ in the effort to escape. She had seen the fire of the burning Wave Crest, and knew full well the doom that awaited her, if she were overtaken. As night threw her mantle over the scene, the moon, nearly at the full, rose with unusual splendor and lighted up the sea for the chase; and a beautiful, picturesque chase it was. Although it lasted several hours, our anxiety as to the result was relieved, in a very short time, for we could see, from the first, that we gained upon the fleeing ship, although her master practised every stratagem known to the skilful seaman. As soon as we approached sufficiently near to get a good view of her through our excellent night-glasses, which, in the bright moonlight, brought out all her features almost as distinctly as if we had been viewing them by the rays of the sun, we discovered [461] that she was one of those light, and graceful hermaphrodite brigs, that is, a rig between the brig and the schooner, so peculiarly American. Her sails were beautifully cut, well hoisted, and the clews well spread; her masts were long and tapering, and her yards more square than usual. There was just sea enough on, to give her, now and then, a gentle motion, as she rose upon a wave, and scudded forward with renewed impulse. Her sails looked not unlike so many silver wings, in the weird moonlight, and with a little effort of the imagination, it would not have been difficult to think of her as some immense water-fowl, which had been scared from its roost and flown seaward for safety.

I sat astride of the hammock-cloth on the weather-quarter, and watched the beautiful apparition during the whole chase, only taking off my eye, now and then, to give some order to the officer of the deck, or to cast it admiringly upon the buckling and bending masts and spars of my own beautiful ship, as she sped forward, with all the animation of a living thing, in pursuit. The poor little, affrighted fawn ahead of us, how its heart must have gone pit-a-pat, as it cast its timid eyes behind it, and saw its terrible pursuer looming up larger, and larger, and coming nearer and nearer! Still there might be some hope. The pursuing vessel might be some peaceful merchantship, bound on the same errand of commerce with herself, and only trying heels with her, in sport, over these dancing waves, and by this bright moonlight. Alas! the hope was short-lived; for presently, in the stillness of near midnight, a flash was seen, followed by the sound of a booming gun, and there could no longer be any doubt, that the pursuer was a ship of war, and most likely a Confederate. Halliards and tacks, and sheets were let fly on board the brigantine, and as soon as her seamen could gather in the folds of the flapping sails, and haul up clew-garnets, her helm was put down, and she rounded gracefully to the now whistling wind, with fore-topsail aback. So rapidly had this been done, and so close was the Alabama upon the chase, that we had just time to sheer clear of her by a little trick of the helm. Our own sail was now shortened, and the boarding-officer dispatched on board the prize.

She proved to be the Dunkirk, from New York, with a cargo [462] of grain for Lisbon. There being no evidence of neutral ownership of the cargo, among the papers, she was burned, as soon as her crew could be transferred to the Alabama. We made two novel captures on board this ship—one was a deserter from the Sumter, a worthless sailor out of one of the Northern States, whom we afterward discharged from the Confederate Naval service, in disgrace, instead of hanging him, as we might have done under our Articles of War; and the other a number of very neatly put up tracts in the Portuguese language; our Northern brethren dealing in a little piety as well as trade. These tracts had been issued by that pious corporation, the ‘American Tract Society,’ of New York, whose fine fat offices are filled with sleek, well-fed parsons, of the Boynton stripe, whose business it is to prey upon the credulity of kind-hearted American women, and make a pretence of converting the heathen! On the cover of these tracts was printed the following directions, as to how the doses were to be taken. ‘Portuguese tracts, from the “American tract society,” for distribution among Portuguese passengers, and to give, upon the coast, to visitors from the shore, &c. When in port, please keep conspicuously on the cabin-table, for all comers to read: but be very careful not to take any ashore, as the laws do not allow it.’ A pen had been run through the last injunction, as though the propagandists of ‘grand moral ideas’ had become a little bolder since the war, and were determined to thrust their piety down the throats of the Portuguese, whether they would or not. If there should be any attempt now, on the part of poor old Portugal, to seize the unlawful distributor of the tracts, a gunboat or two would set the matter right. A little farther on, on the same cover, was the following instruction: ‘As may be convenient, please report, (by letter if necessary,) anything of interest which may occur, in connection with the distribution; also take any orders for Bibles, and forward to John S. Pierson, Marine Agent, New York Bible Society, No. 7 Beekman Street.’

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