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Chapter 35:

  • Capricious weather of the Gulf Stream
  • -- capture of the packet-ship Tonawanda, the Manchester, and the Lamplighter -- a cyclone

Though the month of October is remarkable for its fine weather, along the American coast, yet here in the Gulf Stream, we had a constant succession of changes, the wind going regularly around the compass every two or three days, and thick, rainy weather predominating. We were now, besides, experiencing a south-easterly current of about two knots per hour, and as we were bound to the north-west, and frequently had the wind, as well as the current ahead, we made but slow progress. On the second day after capturing the Dunkirk, the familiar cry of ‘sail ho!’ again came ringing from the mast-head, and pretty soon a large ship loomed up above the horizon. We gave chase, and, just before sunset, came up with a fine packet-ship, whose deck, we could see, was crowded with passengers. This was a somewhat unusual spectacle—a sailing ship filled with passengers for Europe, during the month of October. Since the introduction of the steam-packet, but few passengers, except emigrants, take passage in a sailing ship, and the current of emigration sets the other way.

Upon being boarded, the ship proved to be the Tonawanda, of, and from Philadelphia, bound to Liverpool. Some of the passengers were foreigners, fleeing from the tyranny, and outrages of person and property, which had overtaken them, under the reign of the Puritan, in the ‘land of the free, and the home of the brave,’ and others were patriotic Puritans themselves running away from the ‘City of Brotherly Love,’ to escape the draft. We captured the Tonawanda, and the question immediately presented itself what should we do with her? [464] There being no claim, by any neutral, for the cargo, both ship and cargo were good prize of war, but unfortunately we could not burn the ship, without encumbering ourselves with the passengers; and thirty of the sixty of these were women and children! The men we might have disposed of, without much inconvenience, but it was not possible to convert the Alabama into a nursery, and set the stewards to serving pap to the babies. Although I made it a rule never to bond a ship if I could burn her, I released the Tonawanda on bond, though there was no legal impediment to her being burned. I kept her cruising in company with me, however, for a day or two, hoping that I might fall in with some other ship of the enemy, that might be less valuable, or might have a neutral cargo on board, to which I could transfer the passengers, and thus be enabled to burn her. But here, again, her owners were in luck, for the finest, and most valuable ships, with cargoes entirely uncovered, would persist in crossing my path.

On the second day after the capture of the Tonawanda— that ship being still in our company, with a prize crew on board—the weather inclining to be overcast, and the breeze light—a ship was reported, at early daylight, on our weatherquarter. It was another heavy ship of the ‘junk fleet,’ and as we were lying right across her path, we had nothing to do but await her approach. She came along under a cloud of canvas, though, as the wind was light, it took her some three or four hours to come up with us. To disarm her of suspicion, I hoisted the American colors, and caused my prize to do the same. She naturally concluded that the two ships were ‘visiting,’ which ships sometimes do at sea, when the wind is light, and there is not much time lost by the operation, and came on without so much as shifting her helm, or stirring tack or sheet. When she had approached sufficiently near, I invited her; too, to visit me; my card of invitation being a blank cartridge, and a change of flags. She hove to at once, and, upon being boarded, proved to be the ship Manchester from New York, bound to Liverpool. I now threw the Manchester's crew, together with the crews of the Wave Crest, and Dunkirk, on board the Tonawanda, as being the less valuable ship of the two, and permitted the latter to depart; but [465] before doing so, I took from on board of her, one of her passengers. This was a likely negro lad of about seventeen years of age—a slave until he was twenty-one, under the laws of Delaware. This little State, all of whose sympathies were with us, had been ridden over, rough-shod, by the Vandals north of her, as Maryland afterward was, and was arrayed on the side of the enemy. I was obliged, therefore, to treat her as such. The slave was on his way to Europe, in company with his master. He came necessarily under the laws of war, and I brought him on board the Alabama, where we were in want of good servants, and sent him to wait on the ward-room mess.

The boy was a little alarmed at first, but, when he saw kindly faces beaming upon him, and heard from his new masters, and the servants of the mess, some words of encouragement, he became reassured, and, in the course of a few days, was not only at home, but congratulated himself on the exchange he had made. He became, more especially, the servant of Dr. Gait, and there at once arose, between the Virginia gentleman and the slave boy, that sympathy of master and servant, which our ruder people of the North find it so impossible to comprehend. Faithful service, respect, and attachment followed protection and kind treatment, and the slave was as happy as the day was long. David soon became to Galt what Bartelli was to me—indispensable—and the former was really as free as the latter, except only in the circumstance that he could not change masters. I caused his name to be entered on the books of the ship, as one of the crew, and allowed him the pay of his grade. In short, no difference was made between him and the white waiters of the mess. His condition was in every respect bettered; though, I doubt not, a howl went up over his capture, as soon as it became known to the pseudo-philanthropists of the North, who know as little about the negro and his nature, as they do about the people of the South.

It was pleasant to regard the affection which this boy conceived for Galt, and the pride he took in serving him. As he brought the doctor's camp-stool for him to the ‘bridge,’ placed it in the cosiest corner he could find, and ran off to [466] bring him a light for his cigar, his eyes would dilate, and his ‘ivories’ shine. Dave served us during the whole cruise. He went on shore in all parts of the world, knew that the moment he touched the shore he was at liberty to depart, if he pleased, and was tampered with by sundry Yankee Consuls, but always came back to us. He seemed to have the instinct of deciding between his friends and his enemies.

The following correspondence took place between the Liverpool Chamber of Commerce, and Earl Russell, the British Foreign Secretary, on the occasion of the two last captures:—

to the Rt. Hon. Earl Russell, Etc., Etc.:—
my Lord:—I have been requested by the Council of this Chamber to inform you that they have had brought before them the facts of the destruction at sea, in one case, and of seizure and release under ransom-bond in another case, of British property on board Federal vessels, (the Manchester and the Tonawanda,) by an armed cruiser sailing under the Confederate flag, the particulars of which have been already laid before your Lordship. As the question is one of serious importance to the commerce of this country, the Council wish me most respectfully to solicit the favor of your Lordship's acquainting them, for the information of the mercantile community, what, in the opinion of her Majesty's Government, is the position of the owners of such property, in these and other similar cases. Submitting this question with every respect to your Lordship, I have the honor to be, my Lord, your most obedient humble servant,

Thomas Chilton, President Chamber of Commerce. Liverpool, 8th Nov., 1862.

to Thomas Chilton, Esq., Chamber of commerce, Liverpool.
Sir:—I am directed by Earl Russell to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 8th inst., calling attention to the recent proceedings of the armed vessel Alabama, with regard to British property on board the Federal vessels Manchester and Tonawanda, and requesting the opinion of her Majesty's Government with regard to the position of the owners of such property in those and other similar cases which may arise; and I am to request that you will inform the Council of the Chamber of Commerce that the matter is under the consideration of her Majesty's Government.

I am, sir, your most obedient, humble servant,

E. Hammond. Foreign office, Nov. 7th, 1862.

After the usual period of gestation, Earl Russell informed his questioners, that British owners of property, on board of [467] Federal ships, alleged to have been wrongfully captured by Confederate cruisers, were in the same position as any other neutral owners shipping in enemy's bottoms during a war; they must look for redress to the country of the captor. But these British owners did what was more sensible—they withdrew, in due time, their freights from the enemy's ships; and British and other neutral ships soon became the carriers of the American trade. It is claimed in the above correspondence, that there was British property destroyed on board the Manchester. If so, it was the fault of the British owner, in failing to document his property properly, for there was no certificate or other paper found on board that ship, claiming that any part of the cargo belonged to neutrals.

The Manchester brought us a batch of late New York papers, and I was much obliged to the editors of the New York Herald, for valuable information. I learned from them where all the enemy's gunboats were, and what they were doing; which; of course, enabled me to take better care of the Alabama, than I should otherwise have been enabled to do. The Americans effected many reforms in the art of war during our late struggle. Perhaps this was the only war in which the newspapers ever explained, beforehand, all the movements of armies, and fleets, to the enemy.

The reader will observe, that I received my mails quite regularly, now, from the United States. They were sometimes daily, and rarely less frequent than tri-weekly. I appointed my excellent clerk, Mr. Breedlove Smith, whom I am glad to have this opportunity of introducing to the reader, postmaster, and he delivered the mail regularly to the officers and crew—that is to say, the newspaper and periodical mail— the letters I considered as addressed to myself personally. They might give valuable information of the objects and designs of the enemy, and throw some light upon the true ownership of cargoes, falsely documented. I therefore took the liberty, which the laws of war gave me, of breaking the seals. There were some curious developments made in some of these letters, nor were they all written on business. Sometimes, as I would break a seal, a photograph would tumble out, and the first few lines of the letter would inform me of a tender passion [468] that was raging in the heart of the writer. These epistles, photographs, and all, were always pitched, with a pshaw! into the waste-paper basket, and were soon afterward consigned by Bartelli to the sea. So that the fair writers—and some of the writers were fair if I might judge by their portraitsmay rest satisfied that their secrets are safe. My young officers became so accustomed to their morning's newspaper, as they sat down to the breakfast-table, that if it was not forthcoming, they would wonder ‘what the d—l Alabama had been about, the past night, that she had not gotten hold of a mail?’

For two or three days after capturing the Manchester, we fell in with nothing but neutral vessels. When the nationality of these was distinctly marked, as generally it was, we forbore to chase them. The weather began now to give unmistakable signs, of a general disturbance of the atmospheric machine. On the 15th of October, we captured our next ship. It was blowing half a gale of wind, with a thick atmosphere, and rain-squalls. We were lying to, under topsails, when she was reported. As in the case of the Manchester, we had only to await her approach, for we were still in the beaten track of these lone travellers upon the sea. She came along quite fast, before the gale, and when within reach, we hove her to, with the accustomed gun. She proved, upon being boarded, to be the bark Lamplighter, of Boston, from New York, for Gibraltar, with a cargo of tobacco. There was no attempt to cover the cargo, and when we had removed the crew to the Alabama, we burned her.

From the frequent mention which has been made of ‘uncovered cargoes,’ the reader will see how careless the enemy's merchants were, and how little they dreamed of disaster. They had not yet heard of the Alabama, except only that she had escaped from Liverpool, as the ‘290.’ They looked upon her, yet, as a mere myth, which it was not necessary to take any precautions against. But the reader will see how soon their course will change, and in what demand British Consular certificates, vouching for the neutrality of good American cargoes, will be, in the good city of Gotham, toward which, the Alabama is slowly working her way.

We captured the Lamplighter early in the day, and it was well for us she came along when she did. If she had delayed [469] her arrival a few hours, we should probably not have been able to board her, so much had the gale increased, and the sea risen. For the next few days, as the reader will speedily see, we had as much as we could do to take care of ourselves, without thinking of the enemy, or his ships. We had a fearful gale to encounter. As this gale was a cyclone, and the first really severe gale that the Alabama had met with, it is worthy of a brief description. We begin, in our generation, to have some definite knowledge of the atmospheric laws. To our ancestors, of only a generation or two back, these laws were almost a sealed book. It is now well ascertained, that all the great hurricanes which sweep over the seas, are cyclones; that is, circular gales, revolving around an axis, or vortex, at the same time that they are travelling in a given direction. These gales all have their origin in warm latitudes, or, as has been prettily said, by an officer of the Dutch Navy writing on the subject, they ‘prefer to place their feet in warm water.’ They do not, however, confine themselves to the places of their origin, but, passing out of the tropics, sweep over large tracts of extra-tropical seas. These circular gales are the great regulators, or balancewheels, as it were, of the atmospheric machine. They arise in seasons of atmospheric disturbance, and seem necessary to the restoration of the atmospheric equilibrium.

In the East Indian and China seas, the cyclone is called a typhoon. It prevails there with even more destructive effect than in the western hemisphere. It takes its origin during the change of the monsoons. Monsoons are periodical winds, which blow one half of the year from one direction—the north-east for example—and then change, and blow the other half of the year, from the opposite direction, the south-west. When these monsoons are changing, there is great disturbance in the atmospheric equilibrium. A battle of the winds, as it were, takes place; the out-going wind struggling for existence, and the in-coming wind endeavoring to throttle it, and take its place. Calms, whirlwinds, water-spouts, and heavy and drenching rains set in; the black, wild-looking clouds, sometimes rent and torn, sweeping with their heavy burdens of vapor over the very surface of the sea. Now, the out-going, [470] or dying monsoon will recede, for days together, its enemy, the in-coming monsoon, greedily advancing to occupy the space left vacant. The retreating wind will then rally, regain its courage, and drive back, at least for a part of the way, the pursuing wind. In this way, the two will alternate for weeks, each watching the other as warily, as if they were opposing armies. It is during these struggles, when the atmosphere is unhinged, as it were, that the typhoon makes its awful appearance. Every reader is familiar with the phenomenon of the miniature whirlwind, which he has so often seen sweep along a street or road, for a short distance, and then disappear; the want of local equilibrium in the atmosphere, which gave rise to it, having been restored.

These little whirlwinds generally occur at street-corners, or at cross-roads, and are produced by the meeting of two winds. When these winds meet, the stronger will bend the weaker, and a whirl will ensue. The two winds still coming on, the whirl will be increased, and thus a whirlwind is formed, which immediately begins to travel—not at random, of course, but in the direction of least pressure. The meeting of two currents of water, which form a whirlpool, may be used as another illustration. It is just so, that the typhoon is formed. It steps in as a great conservator of the peace, to put an end to the atmospherical strife which has been going on, and to restore harmony to nature. It is a terrible scourge whilst it lasts; the whole heavens seem to be in disorder, and that which was only a partial battle between outposts of the aerial armies, has now become a general engagement. The great whirl sweeps over a thousand miles or more, and when it has ceased, nature smiles again; the old monsoon has given up the ghost, and the new monsoon has taken its place. All will be peace now until the next change—the storms that will occur in the interval, being more or less local. We have monsoons in the western hemisphere, as well as in the eastern, though they are much more partial, both in space and duration.

The cyclones which sweep over the North Atlantic are generated, as has been remarked, to the eastward of the West India Islands—somewhere between them and the coast of Brazil. They occur in August, September, and October—sometimes, [471] indeed, as early as the latter part of July. In these months, the sun has drawn after him, into the northern hemisphere, the south-east trade-winds of the South Atlantic. These tradewinds are now struggling with the north-east trade-winds, which prevail in these seas, for three fourths of the year, for the mastery. We have, thus, another monsoon struggle going on; and the consequence of this struggle is the cyclone. The reader may recollect the appearances of the weather, noted by me, some chapters back, when we were in these seas, in the Sumter, in July and August, of 1861; to wit, the calms, light, baffling winds, water-spouts, and heavy rains.

If the reader will pay a little attention to the diagram on page 473, it will assist him, materially, in comprehending the nature of the storm into which the Alabama had now entered. The outer circle represents the extent of the storm; the inner circle, the centre or vortex; the arrows along the inner edge of the outer circle represent the direction, or gyration of the wind, and the dotted line represents the course travelled by the storm. The figures marked, 1, 2, and 3, represent the position of the Alabama, in the different stages of the storm, as it passed over her; the arrow-heads on the figures representing the head of the ship.

If the reader, being in the northern hemisphere, will turn his face toward the sun, at his rising, and watch his course for a short time, he will observe that this course is from left to right. As the course of the arrows in the figure is from right to left, the reader observes that the gyration of the wind, in the storm, is against the course of the sun. This is an invariable law in both hemispheres; but, in the southern hemisphere, the reader will not fail to remark, that the gyration of the wind is in the opposite direction from its gyration in the northern hemisphere, for the reason, that, to an observer in the southern hemisphere the sun appears to be moving, not from left to right, but from right to left. Whilst, therefore, the storm, in the northern hemisphere, gyrates from right to left, in the southern hemisphere, it gyrates from left to right; both gyrations being against the course of the sun.

This is a curious phenomenon, which has, thus far, puzzled all the philosophers. It is a double puzzle; first, why the [472] storm should gyrate always in the same direction, and secondly, why this gyration should be different in the two hemispheres. The law seems to be so subtle, as utterly to elude investigation. There is a curious phenomenon, in the vegetable world, which seems to obey this law of storms, and which I do not recollect ever to have seen alluded to by any writer. It may be well known to horticulturists, for aught that I know, but it attracted my attention, in my own garden, for the first time, since the war. It is, that all creeping vines, and tendrils, when they wind themselves around a pole, invariably wind themselves from right to left, or against the course of the sun! I was first struck with the fact, by watching, from day to day, the tender unfolding of the Lira bean—each little creeper, as it came forth, feeling, as with the instinct of animal life, for the pole, and then invariably bending around it, in the direction mentioned. I have a long avenue of these plants, numbering several hundred poles, and upon examining them all, I invariably found the same result. I tried the experiment with some of these little creepers, of endeavoring to compel them to embrace the pole from left to right, or with the course of the sun, but in vain. In the afternoon I would gather blades of grass, and tie some of the tendrils to the poles, in a way to force them to disobey the law, but when I went to inspect them, the following morning, I would invariably find, that the obedient little plants had turned back, and taken the accustomed track! What is the subtle influence which produces this wonderful result? May it not be the same law which rides on the whirlwind, and directs the storm?

The cyclone, of which I am writing, must have travelled a couple of thousand miles, before it reached the Alabama. Its approach had been heralded, as the reader has seen, by several days of bad weather; and, on the morning of the gale, which was on the 16th of October, the barometer—that faithful sentinel of the seaman—began to settle very rapidly. We had been under short sail before, but we now took the close reefs in the topsails, which tied them down to about one third of their original size, got up, and bent the main storm-staysail, which was made of the stoutest No. 1 canvas, and scarcely larger than a pocket-handkerchief, swung in the quarter-boats, [473]

Diagram of the cyclone experienced by the Alabama on the 16th of October, 1862.

[474] and passed additional lashings around them; and, in short, made all the requisite preparations for the battle with the elements which awaited us. If the reader will east his eye upon the diagram, at Alabama, No. 1, he will see that the ship has her head to the eastward, that her yards are braced up on the starboard tack, and that she took the wind, as indicated by the arrows, from S. to S. S. E.

The ship is lying still, and the storm, which the reader sees, by the dotted line, is travelling to the north-east, is approaching her. She was soon enveloped in its folds; and the winds, running around the circle, in that mad career represented by the arrows, howled, and whistled, and screeched around her like a thousand demons. She was thrown over, several streaks, and the waves began to assault her with sledge-hammer blows, and occasionally to leap on board of her, flooding her decks, and compelling us to stand knee-deep in water. By this time, we had furled the fore-topsail; the fore-staysail had been split into ribbons; and whilst I was anxiously debating with myself, whether I should hold on to the main-topsail, a little longer, or start its sheets, and let it blow to pieces—for it would have been folly to think of sending men aloft in such a gale, to furl it—the iron bolt on the weather-quarter, to which the standing part of the main-brace was made fast, gave way; away went the main-yard, parted at the slings, and, in a trice, the main-topsail was whipped into fragments, and tied into a hundred curious knots. We were now under nothing but the small storm-staysail, described; the topgallant yards had been sent down from aloft, there was very little top-hamper exposed to the wind, and yet the ship was pressed over and over, until I feared she would be thrown upon her beam-ends, or her masts swept by the board. The lee-quarter-boat was wrenched from the davits, and dashed in pieces; and, as the sea would strike the ship, forward or aft, she would tremble in every fibre, as if she had been a living thing, in fear of momentary dissolution.

But she behaved nobly, and I breathed easier after the first half hour of the storm. All hands were, of course, on deck, with the hatches battened down, and there was but little left for us to do, but to watch the course of the storm, and to ease the [475] ship, all it was possible to ease her, with the helm. Life-lines had been rove, fore and aft the decks, by my careful first lieutenant, to prevent the crew from being washed overboard, and it was almost as much as each man could do, to look out for his own personal safety.

The storm raged thus violently for two hours, the barometer settling all the while, until it reached 28.64. It then fell suddenly calm. Landsmen have heard of an ‘ominous’ calm, but this calm seemed to us almost like the fiat of death. We knew, at once, that we were in the terrible vortex of a cyclone, from which so few mariners have ever escaped to tell the tale! Nothing else could account for the suddenness of the calm, coupled with the lowness of the barometer. We knew that when the vortex should pass, the gale would be renewed, as suddenly as it had ceased, and with increased fury, and that the frail little Alabama—for indeed she looked frail and small, now, amid the giant seas that were rising in a confused mass around her, and threatening, every moment, to topple on board of her, with an avalanche of water that would bury her a hundred fathoms deep—might be dashed in a thousand pieces in an instant. I pulled out my watch, and noted the time of the occurrence of the calm, and causing one of the cabin-doors to be unclosed, I sent an officer below to look at the barometer. He reported the height already mentioned—28.64. If the reader will cast his eye upon the diagram again—at figure No. 2—he will see where we were at this moment. The Alabama's head now lies to the south-east—she having ‘come up’ gradually to the wind, as it hauled—and she is in the south-eastern hemisphere of the vortex. The scene was the most remarkable I had ever witnessed. The ship, which had been pressed over, only a moment before, by the fury of the gale as described, had now righted, and the heavy storm staysail, which, notwithstanding its diminutive size, had required two stout tackles to confine it to the deck, was now, for want of wind to keep it steady, jerking these tackles about as though it would snap them in pieces, as the ship rolled to and fro! The aspect of the heavens was appalling. The clouds were writhing and twisting, like so many huge serpents engaged in combat, and hung so low, in the thin air of the vortex, as almost [476] to touch our mast-heads. The best description I can give of the sea, is that of a number of huge watery cones—for the waves seemed now in the diminished pressure of the atmosphere in the vortex to jut up into the sky, and assume a conical shape— that were dancing an infernal reel, played by some necromancer. They were not running in any given direction, there being no longer any wind to drive them, but were jostling each other, like drunken men in a crowd, and threatening, every moment, to topple, one upon the other.

With watch in hand I noticed the passage of the vortex. It was just thirty minutes in passing. The gale had left us, with the wind from the south-west; the ship, the moment she emerged from the vortex, took the wind from the north-west. We could see it coming upon the waters. The disorderly seas were now no longer jostling each other; the infernal reel had ended; the cones had lowered their late rebellious heads, as they felt the renewed pressure of the atmosphere, and were being driven, like so many obedient slaves, before the raging blast. The tops of the waves were literally cut off by the force of the wind, and dashed hundreds of yards, in blinding spray. The wind now struck us ‘butt and foremost,’ throwing the ship over in an instant, as before, and threatening to jerk the little storm-sail from its bolt-ropes. It was impossible to raise one's head above the rail, and difficult to breathe for a few seconds. We could do nothing but cower under the weather bulwarks, and hold on to the belaying pins, or whatever other objects presented themselves, to prevent being dashed to leeward, or swept overboard. The gale raged, now, precisely as long as it had done before we entered the vortex —two hours—showing how accurately Nature had drawn her circle.

At the end of this time, the Alabama found herself in position No. 3. The reader will observe that she is still on the starboard tack, and that from east, she has brought her head around to nearly west. The storm is upon the point of passing away from her. I now again sent an officer below, to inspect the barometer, and he reported 29. 70; the instrument having risen a little more than an inch in two hours! This, alone, is evidence of the violence of the storm. During the [477] whole course of the storm, a good deal of rain had fallen. It is the rain which adds such fury to the wind. These storms come to us, as has been said, from the tropics, and the winds, by which they are engendered, are highly charged with vapor. In the course of taking up this vapor from the sea, the winds take up, along with it, a large quantity of latent heat, or heat whose presence is not indicated by the thermometer. As the raging cyclone is moving onward in its path, the winds begin to part with their burden—it begins to rain. The moment the vapor is condensed into rain, the latent heat, which was taken up with the vapor, is liberated, and the consequence is, the formation of a furnace in the sky, as it were, overhanging the raging storm, and travelling along with it. The more rain there falls, the more latent heat there escapes; the more latent heat there escapes, the hotter the furnace becomes; and the hotter the furnace, the more furiously the wind races around the circle, and rushes into the upper air to fill the vacuum, and restore the equilibrium.

In four hours and a half, from the commencement of the gale, the Alabama was left rolling, and tumbling about in the confused sea, which the gale had left behind it, with scarcely wind enough to fill the sails, which, by this time, we had gotten upon her, to keep her steady. Little more remains to be said of the cyclone. If the reader will take a last look at the diagram, he will see how it is, that the wind, which appears to him to change, has not changed in reality. The wind, from first to the last, is travelling around the circle, changing not at all. It is the passage of the circle over the ship—or over the observer upon the land—which causes it apparently to change. The Alabama lay still during the whole gale, not changing her position, perhaps, half a mile. As the circle touched her, she took the wind from S. to S. S. E., and when it had passed over her, she had the wind at north-west. In the intermediate time, the wind had apparently hauled first to one, and then to the other, of all the intermediate points of the compass, and yet it had not changed a hair's breadth.

The weather did not become fine, for several days after the gale. On the following night, it again became thick and cloudy, and the wind blew very fresh from the south-west. [478] The sea, though it had somewhat subsided, was still very rough, and the night was so dark, that the officer of the deck could not see half the length of the ship in any direction. The south-west wind was a fair wind from the enemy's ports, to Europe, and we kept a very bright look-out, to prevent ourselves from being run over, by some heavy ship of commerce, hurrying, with lightning speed, before wind and sea.

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