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Chapter 41:

  • Departure from Jamaica
  • -- capture of the golden rule -- coasting the island of Hayti -- capture of the Chastelaine -- the old city of St. Domingo, and its reminiscences -- the Dominican Convent, and the palace of Diego Columbus -- the capture of the Palmetto, the Olive Jane, and the golden Eagle -- how the Roads are Lazed out upon the sea -- Captain Maury.

On the 25th of January, 1863, or just five days after our arrival at Jamaica, we had completed all our preparations for sea, and at half-past 8 P. M. steamed out of the harbor of Port Royal, bound to the coast of Brazil, and thence to the Cape of Good Hope. We had made many friends during our short stay, and mutual regrets were expressed at departure. My gallant young officers had not been idle, whilst I had been visiting the mountains. Many little missives, put up in the tiniest and prettiest of envelopes, were discovered among the mail, as our last mail-bag was prepared for the shore, and as a good deal of damage may be done in five days, there were probably some heart-beatings among the fair islanders, as those P. P. Cs. were perused. There is no lover so susceptible, or so devoted, or whose heart is so capacious, as that of the young seaman. His very life upon the sea is a poem, and his habitual absence from the sex prepares him to see loveliness in every female form.

Though it was night when we emerged from the harbor, and when we ought to have met with the blandest and gentlest of land breezes, laden with the perfume of shrub and flower, we passed at once into a heavy head sea, with a stiff north-easter blowing. With yards pointed to the wind, and a laboring engine, we steamed along past Point Mayrant light, off which, the [564] reader may recollect, we discharged the Ariel, some weeks before, and the morning's light found us in the passage be tween Jamaica and St. Domingo. The sun rose brightly, the wind moderated, and the day proved to be very fine.

My first duty, after the usual morning's muster at quarters, was to hold a court of general sessions, for the discharge of my vagabonds, many of whom, the reader will recollect, were still in irons; and a beautiful-looking set of fellows they were, when their irons were removed, and they were brought on deck for this purpose. They were now all sober, but the effects of their late debauches were visible upon the persons of all of them. Soiled clothing, blackened eyes, and broken noses, frowsy, uncombed hair, and matted and disordered beard, with reddened eyes that looked as if sleep had long been a stranger to them—these were the principal features. Poor Jack! how much he is to be pitied! Cut loose early from the gentle restraints of home, and brought into contact with every description of social vice, at an age when it is so difficult to resist temptation, what wonder is it, that we find him a grown — up child of nature, subject to no other restraint than such as the discipline of his ship imposes upon him?

‘When wine is in, wit is out,’ was the proverb I always acted upon, on occasions similar to the present; that is to say, when the ‘wine’ had any business to be ‘in.’ I expected, as a matter of course, when I sent my sailors on shore, ‘on liberty,’ that the result was to be a frolic, and I was always lenient to the mere concomitants of a frolic; but I never permitted them to abuse or maltreat the inhabitants, or perpetrate any malicious mischief. But if they got drunk on board, in violation of the discipline of the ship, or, in other words, if the wine had no business to be ‘in,’ I considered that the wit had no business to be ‘out.’ And so I listened to their penitential excuses, one by one, and restored them to duty, retaining one or two of the greatest culprits for trial by court-martial, as an example to the rest. Having disposed of the other cases, I turned to Tom Bowse and Bill Bower, the heroes of the moonlight-chase, and said to them, ‘And so you are a pretty set of fellows; you not only tried to desert your ship and flag, but you endeavored to commit murder, in your attempt to [565] escape!’ ‘Murder!’ replied Bowse, with a start of horror, that I could see was entirely honest, ‘we never thought of such a thing, sir; them Jamaica niggers, they take to the water as natural as South-Sea Islanders, and there's no such thing as drowning them, sir.’ ‘That was it, your honor,’ now put in Bowse; ‘it was only a bit of a joke, you see, sir, played upon the officer of the cutter. We knew he'd stop to pick 'em up, and so give us the weathergauge of him.’ ‘That may do very well for the murder,’ I now rejoined, ‘but what about the desertion?’ ‘Nary-a-bit of it, your honor,’ again replied Bowse; ‘we only meant to have another bit of a frolic, and come back all in good time, before the ship sailed.’ ‘Just so,’ added Bower; ‘the fact is, your honor, we were hardly responsible for what we did that night; for we had a small drop aboard, and then the moon was so bright, and Moll Riggs she had sent us such a kind message!’ The moonlight and Moll clinched the argument, and turning to the master-at-arms, with an ill-suppressed smile, I directed him to turn the prisoners loose.

I had scarcely gotten through with this jail-delivery, before the cry of ‘sail ho!’ rang out upon the clear morning air, from the mast-head. There was no necessity to alter our course, for the sail was nearly ahead. In an hour more, a very pretty, newly-painted bark, with her sails flapping idly in the calm which was now prevailing, arose to view from the deck. She had the usual Yankee ear-marks, tapering masts and cotton sails, and we felt sure of another prize. We showed her the United States colors as we approached, and a very bright ‘old flag’ soon afterward ascended to her peak, drooping despondently for want of wind to blow it out. The cat did not torture the mouse long, for we soon changed flags, and gave the master of the doomed ship the same satisfaction that Jacob Faithful received, when he found his missing son's shirt in the maw of the shark—the satisfaction of being put out of doubt, and knowing that his ship would be burned. The prize proved, upon being boarded, to be the Golden Rule, from New York, for Aspinwall. She belonged to the Atlantic and Pacific Steamship Company, and was filled with an assorted Cargo—having on board, among other things, masts, and a [566] complete set of rigging for the United States brig Bainbridge, which had recently had everything swept by the board, in a gale at Aspinwall.

Judging from the bills of lading found on board, some small portions of the cargo appeared to be neutral, but there being no sworn evidence to vouch for the fact, in the way of Consular, or other certificates, I applied the well-known rule of prize law to the case, viz., that everything found on board an enemy's ship is presumed to belong to the enemy, until the contrary is shown by proper evidence; and at about six P. M. applied the torch. The islands of St. Domingo and Jamaica were both sufficiently near for their inhabitants to witness the splendid bonfire, which lighted up the heavens far and near, soon after dark. A looker — on upon that conflagration would have seen a beautiful picture, for besides the burning ship, there were the two islands mentioned, sleeping in the dreamy moonlight, on the calm bosom of a tropical sea, and the rakishlooking ‘British Pirate’ steaming in for the land, with every spar, and line of cordage brought out in bold relief, by the bright flame—nay, with the very ‘pirates’ themselves visible, handling the boxes, and bales of merchandise, which they had ‘robbed’ from this innocent Yankee, whose countrymen at home were engaged in the Christain occupation of burning our houses and desolating our fields.

One of the pleasant recollections connected with the picture, was that I had tied up for a while longer, one of the enemy's gun-brigs, for want of an outfit. It must have been some months before the Bainbridge put to sea. There was another good act performed. Lots of patent medicines, with which the enemy was about inundating the South American coast, for the benefit of the livers of their fellow-democrats, were consigned to the flames. The reader had an opportunity to observe, when we captured the Dunkirk, how zealously our pious brethren of the North were looking out for the religion, and morals of the Portuguese, in a sly way. He now sees what a regard they have for the health of the atrabilious South Americans. Both operations paid, of course, and whether it was a tract, or a pill that was sold, could make but little difference to the manufacturers of the merchandise. [567]

We steamed along the coast, at a distance of seven or eight miles, the remainder of that night without further adventure; and the next morning dawned clear, with a slight change of programme as to weather. There were clouds hurrying past us, wetting our jackets, now, and then, without interrupting the sunshine, and a stiff northeaster blowing. This was a headwind, and we labored against it all day, with diminished speed. At three P. M. we made the remarkable island, or rather, mountain of rock, called in the beautiful Spanish, Alta Vela, or Tall Sail, from its resemblance to a ship under sail, at a distance. It rises, at a distance of ten or twelve miles from the main island of St. Domingo, with almost perpendicular sides, to the height of several hundred feet, and affords a foothold for no living creature, but the sea-gull, the gannet, and other water-fowl. Soon after nightfall, we boarded a Spanish brig from Montevideo, bound for Havana; and at eleven P. M., Alta Vela bearing north, and being distant from us, about five miles, we hove to, with a shot, another sail, that was running down the coast. She was a rakish-looking hermaphrodite brig, and in the bright moonlight looked Yankee. The report of our heavy gun, reverberated by a hundred echoes from Alta Vela, had a magical effect upon the little craft. Flying like a sea-gull before a gale only a moment before, she became, in an instant, like the same sea-gull with its wings folded, and riding upon the wave, without other motion than such as the wave gave it. Ranging within a convenient distance, we lowered, and sent a boat on board of her. She proved to be American, as we had suspected. She was the Chastelaine of Boston, last from the island of Guadeloupe, whither she had been to deliver a cargo of staves, and was now on her way to Cienfuegos, in the island of Cuba, in quest of sugar and rum for the Boston folks. We applied the torch to her, lighting up the sea-girt walls of Alta Vela with the unusual spectacle of a burning ship, and disturbing the slumber of the sea-gulls and gannets for the balance of the night.

The next morning found us still steaming to the eastward, along the Haytian coast. Having now the crews of two ships on board, as prisoners, I hauled in closer to the coast, with the intention of running into the old town of St. Domingo, [568] and landing them. We got sight of this old city early in the afternoon, and at about four P. M. ran in and anchored. The anchorage is an open roadstead, formed by the debouchement of the picturesque little river Ozama, which seems to have burst through the rocky barrier of the coast, to find its way to the sea. We found but two vessels anchored here—one of them being a New York brig, recently put under English colors. She had a ‘bran-new’ English ensign flying. Admiral Milne having failed to respond to the frantic cries of the New York Commercial Advertiser, to protect the Yankee flag, the Yankee ship-owners, with many loathings and contortions, were at last forced t6 gulp the English flag. There was no other way of coaxing England to protect them. Being in a neutral port, I had no opportunity, of course, of testing the verity of this ‘cross of St. George,’ as the Yankees were fond of calling the hated emblem of England—hated, but hugged at the same time, for the protection which it gave ship and cargo.

It will be recollected that, at the time of my visit, Spain had repossessed herself of the eastern, or Dominican end of the island of St. Domingo; and a Spanish naval commander now came on board to visit me. I had no difficulty in arranging with him for the landing of my prisoners. I sent them to the guard-ship, and he sent them thence to the shore. This done, and arrangements being made for some fresh provisions and other refreshments, to be sent off to the crew in the morning, I landed for a stroll, on this most classical of all American soil.

The old city of St. Domingo! How many recollections does it not call up! It was a large and flourishing city a hundred years before that pestiferous little craft, called the Mayflower, brought over the cockatrice's egg that hatched out the Puritan. It was mentioned, incidentally, as the reader may remember, whilst we were running down the north side of the island, on our way to catch Mr. Vanderbilt's California steamer, that the little town of Isabella, on that side of the island, was the first city founded in the New World; and that the new settlement was soon broken up, and transferred to the city of St. Domingo. The latter city grew apace, and flourished, and was, for many years, the chief seat of the Spanish empire in the [569] New World. It is, to-day, in its ruins, the most interesting city in all the Americas. Columbus himself lived here, and hither his remains were brought from Spain, and reposed for many years, until they were transferred to Cuba, with great pomp and ceremony. The names of Las Casas, Diego Columbus, the son and successor of the admiral, Oviedo, Hernando Cortez, and a host of others, are bound up in its history. The latter, the renowned conqueror of Mexico, was for several years a notary in an adjoining province.

We have not much time to spare, reader, as the Alabama will be on the wing, again, with the morning's light, but I cannot forbear pointing out to you two of the principal ruins of this famous old city. One of them is the Dominican Convent, and the other the Palacio, or residence of Diego Columbus. The old city being named in honor of St. Dominic, great pains were evidently bestowed upon the church and convent that were to bear his name; and so substantially was the former built, that it stands entire, and is still used as a place of worship, after the lapse of three hundred and fifty years. The altars are all standing, though faded and worm-eaten, and see! there is a lamp still burning before the altar of the Holy Eucharist. That lamp was lighted in the days of Columbus, and has been burning continuously ever since! Observe these marble slabs over which we are walking. The entire floor is paved with them. They are the tombstones of the dead, that were distinguished in their day, but who have long since been forgotten. Here is a date of 1532, on one of them. It is much defaced and worn by the footsteps of the generations that have passed over it, but we can see by the mitre and crozier, that have been sculptured on it, in bas-relief, that the remains of a bishop lie beneath. His name? We cannot make it out. The record of a bishop, carved upon the enduring marble, and placed upon the floor of his own cathedral, has been lost. What a sermon is here in this stone! Raise your eyes now from the floor, and cast them on the wall opposite. In that niche, in the great cathedral wall, sang the choir of ancient days. These vaulted roofs have resounded with music from the lips of many generations of beauties, that have faded like the butterfly of the field, leaving no more trace of their [570] names and lineage than that little wanderer of an hour. There stands the silent organ, whose last note was sounded a century or more ago, with its gilding all tarnished, its stately carving tumbled down and lying in debris at its feet, and the bat and the spider building their nests in the cylinders that once mimicked the thunder, and sent thrills of devotion through the hearts of the multitude. There are remains of frescoes on the walls, but the damp and the mildew, in this humid climate, have so effectually performed their office, that the bright colors have disappeared, and only a dim outline of their design is visible.

Let us step over from the cathedral, to the conventual portion of the massive block. The walls, as you see, are extensive, and are standing, in a sufficient state of preservation, to enable us to trace out the ground-plan, and reconstruct, in imagination, the ancient edifice. Its design is that of a hollow square, after the fashion prevalent in Spain. On all four sides of the square are arrayed the cells of the monks, the colonnades in front of which are still standing. In the centre of the square, occupying the space, which, in a private house, would have been appropriated to a jet d'eau, and flowers in vases, is an oblong hall, connected at either end with the main building. This was the refectory of the ancient establishment. What scenes does not the very sight of this refectory present to the imagination? We see the table spread, with its naked board, humble service, and still more humble food; we hear the dinner-signal sound; and we see long lines of bearded and hooded monks, with crosses and beads pendent from their girdles, enter, and seat themselves to partake of the wonted refreshment. We hear the subdued hum of many voices— the quiet joke, and half-suppressed merriment. There, at the head of the board, sits the venerable abbot, whilst the chaplain reads his Latin text, from his stand, during the repast. Let now the years begin to roll by. We shall miss, first one familiar face from the humble board, and then another, until finally they all disappear, being carried away, one by one, to their silent tombs! The abbots repose beneath those marble slabs in the cathedral that we so lately wandered over, with lightened footfall, and subdued breath; but the brothers are [571] carried to the common burial-ground of the order, in the outskirts of the town. New generations enter, occupy the same seats, go through the same routine of convent life, and in turn disappear, to give place to newer comers still; and thus is ever swollen the holocaust of the mighty dead! ‘What is man, O Lord! that thou shouldst be mindful of him?’

The dead— the honored dead are here—
     For whom, behind the sable bier,
Through many a long-forgotten year,
     Forgotten crowds have come,
With solemn step and falling tear,
     Bearing their brethren home.

Beneath these boughs, athwart this grass,
     I see a dark and moving mass,
Like Banquo's shades across the glass,
     By wizard hands displayed;
Stand back, and let these hearses pass,
     Along the trampled glade.

The Convent of St. Dominic being situated in the southern part of the old city, in the angle formed by the river Ozama, and the sea, observe what a delightful sea-breeze meets us, as we emerge from the ruined refectory. Let us pause a while, to lift our hats, from our heated brows, and refresh ourselves, while we listen to the unceasing roar of the surf, as it beats against the rocky cliff below, and throws its spray half-way to our feet. What a charming view we have of the sea, as it lies in its blue expanse, dotted here and there with a sail; and of the coasts of the island east and west of us —those blackened, rock-bound shores that seem hoary with age, and so much in unison with the train of thought we have been pursuing.

There are but three crafts anchored in the roadstead, where formerly fleets used to lie. Of two of these, we have already spoken. The third is the Alabama. There is a little current setting out of the river, and she lies, in consequence, broadside to the sea, which is setting in to the beach. She is rolling gently to this sea, displaying every now and then, bright streaks of the copper on her bottom. She is full of men, and a strange flag is flying from her peak —not only strange to the dead generations of whom we have been speaking, but new even to our own times and history. It is the flag of a nation which has [572] just risen above the horizon, and is but repeating the history of the world. The oppressed has struggled against the oppressor since time began. The struggle is going on still. It will go on forever, for the nature of man will always be the same. The cockatrice's egg has been hatched, and swarms of the Puritan have come forth to overrun the fair fields of the South that they may possess them; just as the wild Germans overran the plains of Italy centuries before.

But away with such thoughts for the present. We came on shore to get rid of them. They madden the brain, and quicken the pulse. The little craft, with the strange flag, has borne her captain hither, on a pilgrimage to the shrine of the great discoverer, whose history may be written in a single couplet.

A Castilla, y Leon
Nuevo Mundo, dio Colon.

On her way hither, her keel has crossed the very track of the three little vessels from Palos—two of them mere open caravels—that first ventured across the vast Atlantic; and now her commander is standing where the great admiral himself once stood—on the very theatre of his early glory. And alas! for Spain, on the theatre of his shame, or rather of her shame, too; for there stands the fortress still, in which are exhibited to the curious spectator the rings in the solid masonry of the wall, to which Columbus was chained!

A short walk will take us to the ruins of the palace of Diego Columbus. We must ascend the river a few hundred yards. Here it is, a little below the port of the present day. When built it stood alone, and we may remember that the townspeople complained of it, on this account—saying that it was intended as a fortress, to keep them in subjection. It is now surrounded, as you see, by the ruins of many houses. If you have read Oviedo's description of it, you are disappointed in its appearance; for that historian tells us, that ‘no man in Spain had a house to compare with it.’ Its form is that of two quadrangles connected by a colonnade, but it, by no means, comes up to the modern idea of a palace. The roof has entirely disappeared, and the quadrangles are mere shells filled with the accumulating debris of centuries, amid which [573] large forest-trees have taken root and are flourishing. It was built of solid and substantial blocks of stone, and in any other country but the tropics, would have scarcely shown signs of age in three centuries. But here the fierce rays of a perpendicular sun, the torrents of rain in the wet season, and the occasional hurricanes and earthquakes, that desolate and destroy everything in their path, soon beat down the stanchest buildings—the very blocks of granite being disintegrated, by the alternate rain and sunshine, and crumbling away beneath their influence. It is situated on a rising ground, commanding a fine view of the sea, and the surrounding country. It is surrounded by walls and battlements, but the most imposing feature about it, must have been the approach to it from the city—the visitor passing through a wide avenue of shadetrees, and gaining admission to it by a majestic flight of stone steps. The shade-trees have disappeared, and the stone steps have been removed to be worked up into other buildings.

We have called this house, the palace of Diego Columbus, but it must have been constructed either by his father, the admiral, or his uncle Bartholomew, the Adelantado, as we read that when Diego came out, after his father's death, to assume the viceroyalty, he found it ready built at his hand. Its blackened walls and dirt-filled saloons, now in the midst of a squalid purlieu of the modern city, must have witnessed many a scene of revelry in its day, as Oviedo tells us, that when the young admiral was restored to the honors and command of his father, he brought out to his new government, with him, some of the most elegant young women of Spain, as a sort of maids of honor to his own beautiful young wife—the marriage portions of all of whom he undertook to provide. And that in due time these young women were all happily bestowed upon gallant knights and wealthy planters.

There, now, reader, we have taken a stroll through the classical old city of St. Domingo—a piece of good fortune, which falls to the lot of very few. Its romantic history seems to have been forgotten; it has fallen into the hands of a mongrel race of blacks and whites, and is rarely visited for any other purpose than that of trade. The negro and the mulatto in this oldest of American cities are thought rather more of [574] than the white man, and the Yankee skipper finds in it, a con genial mart, in which to vend his cheese and his codfish, and distribute his tracts—political and moral —and put forth his patent medicines!

We did not get under way, the next morning, until eight o'clock, as the supplies from the butchers and fruiterers could not be gotten on board at an earlier hour. Bartelli came off from the market, loaded as usual, bringing with him a bunch of wild pigeons, very similar to those found in our forests, and some excellent cigars. The flavor of the latter is not quite equal to those of the Havana, but they are mild and pleasant smokers. He brought off, also, a specimen of the Haytian paper money, worth five cents on the dollar. Like the American greenback, it is the offshoot of revolution and political corruption.

As eight o'clock struck, turning out of the ship the motley crowd of negroes and mulattoes who had come off to trade with the sailors, we tripped our anchor, and turning the ship's head again to the eastward, gave her the steam. The day was fine, and the sea smooth, and we had a picturesque run along the Haytian coast, for the rest of the day. The coast is generally clean, what few dangers there are being all visible. The only sails sighted were fishing-boats and small coasters laden with farm produce, running down to St. Domingo for a market. At times a number of these were in sight, and the effect was very pleasing. The coasts of Hayti abound in fish, and as there is a succession of fruits all the year round, it is the paradise of the negro. A canoe and a fishing-line, or castnet, and a few plantain and mango-trees supply his table; and two or three times a year, he cuts a mahogany log, and floats it down the little mountain streams, to the coast, where he sells it for paper money enough to buy him a few yards of cotton cloth, or calico. Voila tout!

We entered the Mona Passage at half-past 8 P. M. It was unguarded as before. During the night, we let our steam go down, to give the engineer an opportunity of screwing up the cylinder-head. Under way again before daylight. The weather continued fine, and we began again to fall in with sails. They were all neutral, however. We spoke a Spanish schooner, among the rest, and gave her the longitude. As [575] soon as we had well cleared the passage, we banked fires, and lowering the propeller, put the ship under sail. On Sunday, February 1st, we had our first muster since leaving Jamaica. We had been out now a week, and in that time I had gotten my crew straightened up again. The rum had been pretty well worked out of them; most of the black rings around the eyes had disappeared, and beards had been trimmed, and heads combed. The court-martial which had been trying the few culprits, that had been retained for trial, had gotten through its labors, and been dissolved, and Jack, as he answered to his name, and walked around the capstan, was ‘himself again,’ in all the glory of white ‘ducks,’ polished shoes, straw hats, and streaming ribbons. No more than two or three desertions had occurred, out of the whole crew, and this was very gratifying.

The next day, we had an alarm of fire on board. It was near twelve o'clock. I happened to be standing on the horse-block, at the time, observing the sun for latitude, when suddenly I heard a confusion of voices below, and simultaneously the officer of the deck, with evident alarm depicted in his countenance, came running to me, and said, ‘The ship is on fire, sir!’ This is an alarm that always startles the seaman. The ‘fire-bell in the night’ is sufficiently alarming to the landsman, but the cry of fire at sea imports a matter of life and death —especially in a ship of war, whose boats are always insufficient to carry off her crew, and whose magazine and shell-rooms are filled with powder, and the loaded missiles of death. The firebell on board a ship of war, whose crew is always organized as a fire company, points out the duty of every officer and man in such an emergency. The first thing to be done is to ‘beat to quarters,’ and accordingly I gave this order to the officer; but before the drummer could brace his drum for the operation, it was announced that all danger had disappeared. When we had a little leisure to look into the facts, it appeared, that the alarm had arisen from the carelessness of the ‘captain of the hold,’ who, in violation of the orders of the ship, had taken a naked light below with him, into the spirit-room, to pump off the grog by. The candle had ignited some of the escaping gas, but the flame was suppressed almost immediately. The captain of the hold, who is a petty officer, paid the penalty [576] of his disobedience, by being dismissed from his office; and in half an hour, the thing was forgotten.

Since leaving the Mona Passage, we had been steering about N. N. W., or as near north as the trade-wind would permit us. We expected, as a matter of course, to meet with the usual calms, as we came up with the Tropic of Cancer, but the north-east trade, instead of dying away, as we had expected, hauled to the south-east, and shot us across the calm-belt, with a fine breeze all the way. We carried this wind to the twentyseventh parallel, when we took, with scarcely any intermission, a fresh north-wester. This does not often happen in the experience of the navigator, as the reader has seen, when he has before been crossing the calm-belts with us.

On the 3d of February, we made our first capture since leaving St. Domingo. It was the schooner Palmetto, bound from New York to St. John's, in the island of Porto Rico. We gave chase to her, soon after breakfast, and came up with her about half-past 1 P. M. It was a fair trial of heels, with a fine breeze and a smooth sea; both vessels being on a wind; and it was beautiful to see how the Alabama performed her task, working up into the wind's eye, and overhauling her enemy, with the ease of a trained courser coming up with a saddle-nag. There was no attempt to cover the cargo of the Palmetto. The enemy merchants seemed to have come to the conclusion, that it was no longer of any use to prepare bogus certificates, and that they might as well let their cargoes run the chances of war, without them. Upon examination of the papers of the schooner, it appeared that the cargo was shipped by the Spanish house of Harques & Maseras, domiciled, and doing business in New York, to Vincent Brothers, in San Juan, Porto Rico, on joint account; the shippers owning one third, and the consignee two thirds. The case came, therefore, under the rule applied in a former case, viz., that when partners reside, some in a belligerent, and some in a neutral country, the property of all of them, which has any connection with the house in the belligerent country, is liable to confiscation. (3 Phillimore, 605, and 1 Robinson, 1, 14, 19. Also, The Susa, ib. 255.) Getting on board from the Palmetto, such articles of provisions—and she was chiefly provision-laden—as [577] we needed, we applied the torch to her about sunset, and filled away, and made sail.

The next afternoon we sighted a sail on our weather-bow, close hauled, like ourselves, and continued to gain upon her, until night shut her out from view, when we discontinued the chase. We were satisfied from her appearance, that she was neutral, or we should, probably, have expended a little steam upon her. At night the weather set in thick, and the wind blew so fresh from the north-east, that we took a single reef in the topsails. This bad weather continued for the next two or three days, reducing us, a part of the time, to close reefs. The reader is probably aware, that a ship bound from the West Indies to the coast of Brazil, is compelled to run up into the ‘variables,’ and make sufficient easting, to enable her to weather Cape St. Roque. This is what the Alabama is now doing—working her way to the eastward, on the parallel of about 30°. We observed on the 20th of February, in latitude 28° 32′; the longitude being 45° 05′.

The next day, the weather being very fine, with the wind light from the southward and eastward, a sail was descried from aloft, and soon afterward another, and another, until four were seen. We gave chase to the first sail announced; standing to the eastward, in pursuit of her, for an hour or two, but she being a long distance ahead, and to windward, and the chase being likely, in consequence, to be long, and to draw us away from the other three sail, besides, we abandoned it, and gave chase to two of the latter. These were fine, tall ships, under a cloud of canvas, steering, one to the eastward, and the other to the westward. Being quite sure that they were Americans, and the wind falling light, we got up steam for the chase. Coming up with the eastwardbound ship, we hove her to, but not until we had thrown a couple of shot at her, in succession—the latter whizzing over the master's head on the quarter-deck. She was evidently endeavoring to draw us after her, as far to the eastward as possible, to give her consort, with whom she had spoken, and who was running, as the reader has seen, to the westward, an opportunity to escape. Throwing a boat's crew hastily on board of her, and directing the prize-master to follow us, we [578] now wheeled in pursuit of the other fugitive. The latter was, by this time, fifteen miles distant—being hull down— and was running before the wind with studding sails, ‘alow and aloft.’ Fortunately for the Alabama, as before remarked, the wind was light, or the chase might have put darkness between us, before we came up with her. As it was, it was three P. M. before-we overhauled her, and we had run our other prize nearly out of sight. She was less obstinate than her consort, and shortened sail, and hove to, at the first gun, hoisting the United States colors at her peak. She proved to be the bark Olive Jane, of New York, from Bordeaux, bound to New York, with an assorted cargo of French wines, and brandies, canned meats, fruits, and other delicacies. There was no attempt to cover the cargo. There were a great many shippers. Some few of these had consigned their goods to their own order, but most of the consignments were to New York houses. It is possible that some of the consignments, ‘to order,’ really belonged to French owners, but if so, I was relieved from the necessity of making the investigation, by the carelessness of the owners themselves, who had taken no pains to protect their property, by proper documentary evidence of its neutral character. In the absence of sworn proof, as before remarked, the rule of law is imperative, that all property found on board of an enemy's ship, is presumed to belong to the enemy. I acted upon this presumption, and set fire to the Olive Jane. What a splendid libation was here to old Neptune! I did not permit so much as a bottle of brandy, or a basket of champagne to be brought on board the Alabama, though, I doubt not, the throats of some of my vagabonds, who had so recently cooled off, from the big frolic they had had in Jamaica, were as dry as powder-horns. There were the richest of olives, and pates de fois gras, going to tickle the palates of the New York shoddyites, and other nouveau-riche plebeians, destroyed in that terrible conflagration. I should have permitted Bartelli, and the other stewards to have a short run among these delicacies, but for the wine and the brandy. A Fouche could not have prevented the boats' crews from smuggling some of it on board, and then I might have had another Martinique grog-watering on my hands. [579]

Amid the crackling of flames, the bursting of brandy casks, the shrivelling of sails, as they were touched by the fire, and the tumbling of the lighter spars of the Olive Jane from aloft, we turned our head to the eastward again, and rejoined our first prize, coming up with her just as the shades of evening were closing in. I had now a little leisure to look into her character. She, like the Olive Jane, had shown me the ‘old flag,’ and that, of course, had set at rest all doubts as to the nationality of the ship. There was as little doubt, as soon appeared, about the cargo. The ship was the Golden Eagle, and I had overhauled her near the termination of a long voyage. She had sailed from San Francisco, in ballast, for Howland's Island, in the Pacific; a guano island of which some adventurous Yankees had taken possession. There she had taken in a cargo of guano, for Cork and a market; the guano being owned by, and consigned to the order of the American Guano Company. This ship had buffeted the gales of the frozen latitudes of Cape Horn, threaded her pathway among its icebergs, been parched with the heats of the tropic, and drenched with the rains of the equator, to fall into the hands of her enemy, only a few hundred miles from her port. But such is the fortune of war. It seemed a pity, too, to destroy so large a cargo of a fertilizer, that would else have made fields stagger under a wealth of grain. But those fields would be the fields of the enemy; or if it did not fertilize his fields, its sale would pour a stream of gold into his coffers; and it was my business upon the high seas, to cut off, or dry up this stream of gold. The torch followed the examination of the papers. The reader may, perhaps, by this time have remarked, how fond the Yankees had become of the qualifying adjective, ‘golden,’ as a prefix to the names of their ships. I had burned the Golden Rocket, the Golden Rule, and the Golden Eagle.

We were now in latitude 30°, and longitude 40°, and if the curious reader will refer to a map, or chart of the North Atlantic Ocean, he will see that we are on the charmed ‘crossing,’ leading to the coast of Brazil. By ‘crossing’ is meant the point at which the ship's course crosses a given parallel of latitude. We must not, for instance, cross the thirtieth parallel, going southward, until we have reached a certain meridian [580] —say that of 40° W. If we do, the north-east trade-wind will pinch us, and perhaps prevent us from weathering Cape St. Roque.

And when we reach the equator, there is another crossing recommended to the mariner, as being most appropriate to his purpose. Thus it is, that the roads upon the sea have been blazed out, as it were—the blazes not being exactly cut upon the forest-trees, but upon parallels and meridians. The chief blazer of these roads, is an American, of whom all Americans should be proud—Captain Maury, before mentioned in these pages. He has so effectually performed his task, in his ‘Wind and Current Charts,’ that there is little left to be desired. The most unscientific and practical navigator, may, by the aid of these charts, find the road he is in quest of. Maury has been, in an eminent degree, the benefactor of the very men who became most abusive of him, when they found that he, like other Southern statesmen—for he is a statesman as well as sailor— was obliged to preserve his self-respect, by spitting upon the ‘old flag.’ He has saved every Yankee ship, by shortening her route, on every distant voyage she makes, thousands of dollars. The greedy ship-owners pocket the dollars, and abuse the philosopher.1

1 ‘Now let us make a calculation of the annual saving to the commerce of the United States, effected by these charts, and sailing directions. According to Mr. Maury, the average freight from the United States to Rio Janeiro, is 17.7 cents per ton, per day; to Australia, 20 cents; to California, 20 cents. The mean of this is a little over 19 cents per ton, per day; but to be within the mark, we will take it at 15 cents, and include all the ports of South America, China, and the East Indies. The ‘Sailing Directions’ have shortened the passage to California, thirty days; to Australia, twenty days; and to Rio Janeiro, ten days. The mean of this is twenty, but we will take it at fifteen, and also include the above-named ports of South America, China, and the East Indies. We estimate the tonnage of the United States, engaged in trade with these places, at 1,000,000 tons per annum. With these data, we see that there has been effected, a saving for each one of those tons, of 15 cents per day, for a period of fifteen days, which will give an aggregate of $2,250,000 saved per annum. This is on the outward voyage alone, and the tonnage trading with all other parts of the world is also left out of the calculation. Take these into consideration, and also the fact that there is a vast amount of foreign tonnage, trading between those places and the United States, and it will be seen that the annual sum saved will swell to an enormous amount.’—Hunt's Merchants' Magazine, May, 1854.

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