previous next

Chapter 44:

  • The Alabama leaves Fernando de Noronha for a cruise on the coast of Brazil
  • -- enters the great highway and begins to overhaul the travellers -- capture of the whaler Nye; of the Dorcas Prince; of the Union Jack; of the sea Lark -- a reverend Consul taken prisoner -- Alabama goes into Bahia -- what occurred there -- arrival of the Georgia -- Alabama proceeds to sea again -- captures the following ships: the Gilderslieve; the Justina; the Jabez Snow; the Amazonian, and the talisman.

The 22d of April having arrived, we gave up all further hopes of the Agrippina, and went to sea. As we passed out of the roadstead, we cut adrift the four whale-boats which we had brought in from the captured whalers, rather than destroy them. They would be valuable to the islanders, who had treated us kindly, and it was amusing to see the struggle which took place for the possession of them. The good people seemed to have some anticipation of what was to take place, and all the boatmen of the island had assembled to contest the prizes, in every description of craft that would float, from the dug-out to the tidy cutter. The boatmen stripped themselves like athletes for the fray, and as whale-boat after boat was cut adrift, there was a pulling and splashing, a paddling and a screaming that defy all description; the victors waving their hats, and shouting their victory and their good-bye to us, in the same breath.

We steamed due east from the island some forty miles, when we let our steam go down, raised the propeller, and put the [611] ship under sail. The Alabama, with full coal-bunkers and a refreshed crew, was again in pursuit of the enemy's commerce. I had at last accomplished my cherished design—which had been frustrated in the Sumterof a cruise on the coast of Brazil. In my stanch and fleet little ship, I was in a condition to defy both winds and currents. On the day after leaving Fernando de Noronha, I observed in latitude 5° 45′ S., and had thus run entirely from under the Cloud Ring. We were met by a bright sky, and the first gentle breathings of the south-east trade. This change in the weather had an electric effect upon my people. Cheerfulness returned to their countenances, and elasticity to their step. It took us some time to dry and ventilate the ship, the rigging being filled, for a day or two, with wet pea-jackets and mattresses, and the decks strewed with mouldy boots and shoes.

Before we had been twenty-four hours at sea, the usual buglenote was sounded from the mast-head, and the Alabama had pricked up her ears in chase. It was another unfortunate whaler. The fates seemed to have a grudge against these New England fishermen, and would persist in throwing them in my way, although I was not on a whaling-ground. This was the sixteenth I had captured — a greater number than had been captured from the English by Commodore David Porter, in his famous cruise in the Pacific, in the frigate Essex, during the war of 1812. The prize proved to be the bark Nye, of New Bedford. This bluff old whaler was returning home from a cruise of thirty-one months in the far-off Pacific, during which her crew had become almost as much Sandwich Islanders, as Americans in appearance, with their garments so saturated with oil that they would have been quite valuable to the soap-boiler. She had sent ‘home’ one or two cargoes of oil, and had now on board 425 barrels more. It seemed a pity to break in upon the menage of these old salts, who had weathered so many gales, and chased the whale through so many latitudes, but there was no alternative. The New England wolf was still howling for Southern blood, and the least return we could make for the howl, was to spill a little ‘ile.’ Everything about the Nye being greased to saturation, she made a splendid conflagration. [612]

The next day the wind freshened, and we might now be said to be in the well-pronounced south-east trades. Indeed, it blew so fresh at nightfall, that we took the single reefs in the topsails. We were jogging along leisurely on the great Brazilian highway, waiting for the passengers, rather than hunting them up. Presently another came along—a fine, taunt ship, that represented the boxes and bales of merchandise, rather than harpoons and whale-oil. We gave chase under the enemy's colors, but the chase was coy and shy, and refused to show colors in return, until she was commanded to do so by a gun. The stars and stripes, which now fluttered to the breeze, sufficiently explained her reluctance. Upon being boarded she proved to be the Dorcas Prince, of New York, bound for Shanghai. Her cargo consisted chiefly of coal. She had been fourty-four days out, an unusually long passage, and what was quite wonderful for an American ship, she had no documents on board from the college, either of the political or religious propaganda, and only three or four old newspapers. When we learned she was from New York, we had been in hopes of capturing a mail. We burned her as soon as we could transfer her crew, there being no claim of neutral cargo found among her papers. Her master had his wife on board, which resulted, as usual, in sending one of my young lieutenants into the ‘country.’

Reducing sail again, we jogged along as before, but for the next few days we overhauled nothing but neutrals. A St. John's, New Brunswick, ship, brought us the mail we had expected to receive by the Dorcas Prince, but it contained nothing of interest. On the 3d of May, the weather being fine, though interrupted occasionally by a rain-squall, we gave chase, about eleven A. M., to a clipper-ship, with square yards, white canvas, and long mast-heads—and the reader must be enough of an expert, by this time, to know what these mean. In an hour and a half of fine sailing, we came near enough to the chase, to make her show the Federal colors, and heave to. She proved to be the Union Jack, of Boston, bound for Shanghai. Whilst we had been pursuing the Union Jack, another ‘suspicious’ sail hove in sight, and as soon as we could throw a prize-crew on board of the former, we started off in pursuit [613] of the latter. This second sail proved also to be a prize, being the Sea Lark, of New York, bound for San Francisco. Here were two prizes, in as many hours.

There was no attempt to cover the cargo of the Sea Lark, and the only attempt that was made in the case of the Union Jack, was made by one Allen Hay, who was anxious to save five cases of crackers, and ten barrels of butter from capture. In this case, a Mr. Thomas W. Lillie, made oath before the British Consul in New York, that the said articles were shipped ‘for and on account of subjects of her Britannic Majesty.’ The reader has seen me burn several other ships, with similar certificates, the reasons for which burnings were assigned at the time. I will not stop, therefore, to discuss this. In due time both ships were consigned to the flames. I was sorry to find three more women, and two small children on board of the Union Jack. That ship was, in fact, about to expatriate herself for several years, after the fashion of many of the Yankee ships in the Chinese coasting-trade, and the master was taking his family out to domicile it somewhere in China. There were several male passengers also on board this ship, among them an ex-New-England parson, the Rev. Franklin Wright, who was going out as Consul to Foo Chow. The Rev. Mr. Wright had been editor of a religious paper for some years, in one of the New England villages, and probably owed his promotion to the good services he had rendered in hurrying on the war. He had Puritan written all over his lugubrious countenance, and looked so solemn, that one wondered how he came to exchange the clergyman's garb for the garb of Belial. But so it was; Franklin was actually going out to India, in quest of the dollars. We deprived him of his Consular seal and commission, though we did not molest his private papers, and of sundry very pretty Consular flags, that had been carefully prepared for him by Mr. Seward, fils, at the State Department, in Washington. I am pained to see, by that ‘little bill’ of Mr. Seward, pere, against the British Government, for ‘depredations of the Alabama,’ before referred to, that the Rev. Mr. Wright puts his damages down at $10,015. I had no idea that a New England parson carried so much plunder about with him. [614]

We received large mails from these two last ships, and had our ‘moral ideas’ considerably expanded, for the next few days, by the perusal of Yankee newspapers. We found among other interesting items, a vivid synopsis of the war news, in a speech of Governor Wright, of Indiana, who, if I mistake not, had been charge to Berlin, where he had been in the habit of holding conventicles and prayer-meetings. The Governor is addressing a meeting of the ‘truly loil’ at Philadelphia, and among other things, said:—

The stars and stripes now wave over half the slave grounds. I believe in less than thirty days we will open the Mississippi and take Charleston. [Loud applause.] Leave Virginia alone, that can't sprout a black-eyed pea. [Laughter.] Scripture teaches us that no people can live long where there is no grass. The question then is only, whether they can live thirty or sixty days.

Thus, amid the laughter and jeers of an unwashed rabble, did an ex-Governor, and ex-U. S. Minister, gloat over the prospect of starving an entire people, women and children included. Did we need other incitement on board the Alabama, to apply a well-lighted torch to the enemy's ships?

There were copious extracts from the English papers found in this mail, and I trust the reader will excuse me, while I give a portion of a speech made to his constituents, by a member of the British Parliament, who was also a member of the cabinet. The speaker is Mr. Milner Gibson, President of the Board of Trade. A great war, which covered a continent with the fire and smoke of battle, was raging between a people, who were the near kinsmen of the speaker. Battles were being fought daily, that dwarfed all the battles that had gone before them. Feats of brilliant courage were being performed, on both sides, that should have made the blood of the speaker course more rapidly through his veins, and stir to their depths the feelings of humanity and brotherhood. Under such circumstances, what think you, reader, was the subject of Mr. Gibson's discourse? It was bacon and eggs! Listen:—

‘Now;’ continues Mr. Gibson, ‘these large importations of foreign wheat and flour, and other provisions, into this country, must, to some extent, have tended to mitigate the distress, and [615] have enabled many to provide for the wants of others out of their own surplus means. But supposing that the Government of this country had been induced, as they were urged frequently, to involve themselves in interference in the affairs of the United States; supposing, by some rash and precipitate recognition of those who are conducting hostilities against the United States—called the Confederate States of America—we had brought ourselves into collision with the United States, where would have been this flour, and ham, and bacon, and eggs? I suppose, if we had been compelled to take up arms against the United States, by any unfortunate policy, blockading would have been resorted to, and we should have been obliged to establish a blockade of the coast of America, for the very purpose of keeping out of this country all this wheat, flour, and eggs which have gone to mitigate the distress of the cotton industry in the present alarming state of affairs. We have from the commencement carried out the doctrine of non-intervention. We have endeavored to preserve a strict neutrality between the two contending parties. It was impossible to avoid recognizing the belligerent rights of the South at the outset of the contest, because it was a contest of such magnitude, and the insurgents, as they were called, were so numerous and so powerful, that it would have been impossible to recognize them in any other capacity but as persons entitled to bear arms; and if we had not done so, and if their armed vessels found on the seas were treated as pirates, it must be obvious to every one that this would have been an unparalleled course of action. We were compelled to recognize the belligerent rights of the South, but there has been no desire on the part of the Government to favor either the one side or the other. My earnest desire is to preserve strict neutrality; and, whatever may be my individual feelings—for we must have our sympathies on the one side or the other—whatever may be my feelings as a member of Parliament and the executive administration, I believe it to be for the interest of England that this neutrality should be observed.’

Poor old John Bull! What a descent have we here, from the Plantagenets to Mr. Milner Gibson? From Coeur de Leon, ‘striking for the right,’ to Mr. Milner Gibson, of the Board of Trade, advising his countrymen to smother all their more noble and generous impulses, that they might continue to fry cheap bacon and eggs!

We had been working our way, for the last few days, toward Bahia, in Brazil, and being now pretty well crowded with prisoners, having no less than the crews of four captured ships on board, I resolved to run in and land them. We anchored about five P. M., on the 11th of May. Bahia is the [616] second city, in size and commercial importance, in the Brazilian empire. We found a large number of ships at anchor in the harbor, but no Yankees among them. The only man-of-war present was a Portuguese. We were struck with the spaciousness of the bay, and the beauty of the city as we approached. The latter crowns a crescent-shaped eminence, and its white houses peep cosily from beneath forest-trees, of the richest and greenest foliage. The business part of the city lies at the foot of the crescent, near the water's edge. It, too, looks picturesque, with its quays, and shipping, and tugs, and wherries. But, as is the case with most Portuguese towns— for the Brazilians are only a better class of Portuguese—the illusion of beauty is dispelled, as soon as you enter its narrow and crooked streets, and get sight of its swarthy population, the chief features of which are somrbreros and garlic. We were boarded by the health-officer just at dark and admitted to pratique.

The next morning, the weather set in gloomy and rainy. The requisite permission having been obtained, we landed our prisoners, there being upward of a hundred of them. Parson Wright here took the back track, I believe. Whether, after stating his grievances at the State Department in Washington, he renewed his commission, and proceeded, in some more fortunate Yankee ship to Foo Chow, or went back to his religious paper, and his exhortations against the Southern heathen, I have never learned. The reverend gentleman forgot his Christian charity, and did not come to say ‘good-bye,’ when he landed, though we had treated him with all due consideration.

I had now another little diplomatic matter on my hands. I had scarcely risen from the breakfast-table, on the morning after my arrival, when an aide-de-camp of the Governor, or rather President of the Department, came off to see me on official business. He brought on board with him a copy of the ‘Diario de Bahia,’ a newspaper very respectable for its size and typography, containing an article, which I was requested to read, and answer in writing. This I promised to do, and the messenger departed. I found, upon glancing over the article, which filled a couple of columns, that it was a Yankee production done into very good Portuguese—the joint work, [617] probably, of the Yankee Consul at Pernambuco, where the article had originated—for it had been copied into the Bahia paper—and the President of that province. It was written after the style of a proclamation, was signed by the President, and strangely enough addressed to myself—supposed to be still at Fernando de Noronha, with the Alabama. After charging me with sundry violations of the neutrality of Brazil, it ordered me to depart the island, within twenty-four hours.

Instead of sending a ship of war, to examine into the facts, and enforce his order, if necessary, the President had been satisfied to send this paper bullet after me. It reminded me very much of the ‘stink-pots,’ which the Chinese are in the habit of throwing at their enemies, and I could not restrain a smile, as I called upon Bartelli to produce my writing materials. The aide-de-camp who had brought me the paper, had brought off a message, along with it, from the President, to the effect that he desired I would hold no communication with the shore, until I had answered the article; which was tantamount to informing me, that he was somewhat in doubt whether he would permit me to communicate at all or not. I really wanted nothing—though I afterward took in a few boat-loads of coal, merely to show the President that I was disposed to be civil— and this consideration, along with the fact, that I had the heaviest guns in the harbor, induced me to be rather careless, I am afraid, in the choice of phraseology, as I penned my despatch. I simply charged that the whole proclamation was a budget of lies, and claimed that I had been insulted by the Government of Brazil, by the lies having been put into an official shape by it, without first communicating with me.

The Brazilians are a very polite people, and my reply was ‘perfectly satisfactory.’ Jack went on shore, and had his frolic, and the Alabama remained a week in the port, enjoying the hospitalities of the numerous English, and other foreign residents. Among other entertainments, we had a splendid ball given us by Mr. Ogilvie, a British merchant, at which much of the foreign and native beauty was present. Mr. Ogilvie's tasteful residence overlooked the bay from the top of the crescent I have described; his grounds, redolent of the perfumes of tropical flowers, were brilliantly illuminated, and a [618] fine band of music charmed not only the revellers, but the numerous ships in the Bay. Several Brazilian dignitaries and foreign Consuls were present. I took all my young gentlemen on shore with me, who could be spared from the ship, and they did their ‘devoirs’ as only gallant knights can, and carried on board with them, in the ‘wee smaa’ hours of the morning, several tiny kid gloves and scarfs, as mementos to accompany them on their cruises—every villain of them swearing to return at some future day. So it is always with the sailor. As before remarked, his very life is a poem, and his heart is capacious enough to take in the whole sex.

On the morning after this brilliant entertainment, an officer came below to inform me that a strange steamer of war had entered during the night, which, as yet, had shown no colors. I directed our own colors to be shown to the stranger—for the regular hour of hoisting them had not yet arrived—and the reader may judge of our delight, when we saw the Confederate States flag thrown to the breeze in reply, by the newcomer. It was the Georgia, Commander Lewis F. Maury, on a cruise, like ourselves, against the enemy's commerce. She had come in to meet her coal-ship, the Castor, which had been ordered to rendezvous here. We had now other troubles with the authorities. The President, seeing another Confederate steamer arrive, became nervous, lest he should be compromised in some way, and be called to account by the Emperor. The little gad-fly of a Yankee Consul was, besides, constantly buzzing around him. He declined to permit the Georgia to receive coal from her transport, though he was forced to admit that the transport had the right to land it, and that, when landed, the Georgia might receive it on board, like any other coal. Still it must be landed. The gad-fly had buzzed in his ear, that there was a ‘cat in the meal tub;’ the Castor having, as he alleged, some guns and ammunition covered up in her coal! His Excellency then wanted to see my commission— the gad-fly having buzzed ‘pirate! pirate!’ To add to the. complication, news now came in that the Florida also had arrived at Pernambuco! Diablo! what was to be done? An aide-de-camp now came off with a letter from his Excellency, telling me, that I had already tarried too long in the port of [619] Bahia, and that he desired me to be off. I wrote him word that I was not ready, and sent another batch of liberty men on shore. Presently another missive came. His Excellency had learned from the gad-fly, that I had enlisted one of my late prisoners, after setting him on shore, which, as he said, was a grave breach of the laws of nations. I replied that I had not only not enlisted one of my late prisoners, after setting him on shore, but that, my crew being full, I had refused to enlist a good many of my late prisoners, who had applied to me before being set on shore, which was the literal fact. I mention these occurrences to show what a troublesome little insect I found the gad-fly in Brazil.

We had a few days of very pleasant intercourse with the Georgia. Maury had been my shipmate in the old service, and two of my old Sumter lieutenants, Chapman and Evans, were serving on board of her. In company with her officers, we made a railroad excursion into the interior, upon the invitation of the English company which owned the road. A splendid collation was prepared in one of the cars, decorated and furnished for the occasion, and a variety of choice wines broke down the barrier between strangers, and drew men of the same blood closer together.

At length, when I was entirely ready for sea, I delighted the President one evening, by sending him word that I should go to sea the next morning. The Georgia was nearly through coaling, and would follow me in a day or two. The poor President of the province of Bahia! The Yankees treated him, afterward, as they do everybody else with whom they have to do. They first endeavored to use him, and then kicked him. The Florida coming into Bahia, a few months afterward, as related in a former page, a Federal ship of war violated the neutrality of the port, by seizing her, and carrying her off; and the Yankee nation, rather than make the amends which all the world decided it was bound to make, by delivering back the captured ship to Brazil, ordered her to be sunk by accident in Hampton Roads! The ‘trick’ was eminently Yankee, and I presume could not possibly have been practised in any other civilized nation of the earth.

Whilst the Alabama is heaving up her anchor, I deem it [620] proper to say a word or two, about emigration to Brazil; a subject which has been a good deal canvassed by our people. Brazil is an immense Empire, and has almost all the known climates and soils of the world. Nature has bestowed upon her her choicest gifts, and there is perhaps no more delightful country to reside in than Brazil. But men live for society, as well as for climate and soil. The effete Portuguese race has been ingrafted upon a stupid, stolid, Indian stock, in that country. The freed negro is, besides, the equal of the white man, and as there seems to be no repugnance, on the part of the white race-so called — to mix with the black race, and with the Indian, amalgamation will go on in that country, until a mongrel set of curs will cover the whole land. This might be a suitable field enough for the New England schoolma'am, and carpet-bagger, but no Southern gentleman should think of mixing his blood or casting his lot with such a race of people.

Sail ho! was shouted from the mast-head of the Alabama, on the afternoon of the 25th of May, a few days after she had put to sea from Bahia. We had regained the track of commerce, and were again looking out for our friends. We immediately gave chase, and had scarcely gotten the canvas on the ship, before the look-out announced a second sail, in the same direction. The wind was fresh, there was a heavy sea on, and the Alabama darted forward, making her eleven, and twelve knots. As we began to raise the fugitives above the horizon from the deck, it was plain to see, that they were both American. We overhauled them rapidly, making them show their colors, and heaving them to, with the accustomed guns. By the time we had gotten up with them, the sun had set, and it was blowing half a gale of wind. Our boats had a rough job before them, but they undertook it with a will. The first ship boarded was the Gilderslieve, and the second, the Justina. The former was a New York ship, last from London, with a cargo of coal, purporting to be shipped for the service of the ‘Peninsular, and Oriental Steam Navigation Company,’ but there was no certificate of neutral ownership on board. Ship and cargo were therefore condemned. The Justina was a Baltimore ship, with some neutral property, not amounting to a [621] full cargo, on board. I converted her into a cartel, and throwing the prisoners from the Gilderslieve on board of her, released her on ransom-bond. I then burned the Gilderslieve. The sea was so rough, and the boating so difficult, that it was eleven P. M. before the torch could be applied to the doomed ship. We lay to during the remainder of the night, under reefed topsails.

The next day the weather moderated somewhat, though the wind still continued fresh from about S. S. E. At about half-past 8 P. M., the night being quite light, we gave chase to an exceedingly rakish-looking ship, whose canvas showed white under the rays of the moon, and which was carrying a press of sail. We, too, crowded sail, and for a long time it was doubtful which ship was the faster. The Alabama seemed to have found her match at last. Our pride was aroused, and we put our best foot foremost. We saw all the sheets snugly home, the sails well hoisted, and properly trimmed, and put the most skilful seamen at the wheel. Little by little we began to crawl upon the chase, but hour after hour passed, and still we were almost as far astern as ever. Midnight came, and the watch was relieved, and still the fugitive was beyond our grasp. Four A. M. arrived, and the old watch came back on deck again, only to wonder that the chase still continued. At last the day dawned and still the ship, with the square yards, and white canvas, was four or five miles ahead of us. We had been all night in chase of a single ship—a thing which had never happened to us before. When daylight appeared, I went below, and turned in, handing the chase over to the first lieutenant. At half past 7—my usual time for rising—I heard the report of a gun, and pretty soon afterward an officer came below to say, that the chase proved to be a Dutchman! I must have looked a little sour at the breakfast-table, that morning, as Bartelli was evidently a little nervous and fidgety.

Forty-eight hours after this night-chase, we had another, though with better success, as a prize rewarded me for my loss of rest. The chase commenced about two A. M., and it was half-past 7 A. M., before we were near enough to heave the fugitive to, with a gun. She proved to be the Jabez Snow, of [622] Buckport, Maine, last from Cardiff, with a cargo of coal, for Montevideo. On the back of the bill of lading was the following certificate: ‘We certify that the cargo of coals per Jabez Snow, for which this is the bill of lading, is the bonafide property of Messrs. Wilson, Helt, Lane & Co., and that the same are British subjects, and merchants, and also that the coals are for their own use.’ This certificate was signed by ‘John Powell & Sons,’ but unfortunately for the owners of the ‘coals’ was not sworn to, and was therefore of no more validity as evidence, than the bill of lading itself. Having gotten on board from the prize, a quantity of provisions, and cordage, of both of which we were in need, we consigned her to the flames. We found on board this ship, from the sober ‘State of Maine,’ a woman who passed under the sobriquet of ‘chamber-maid.’ These shameless Yankee skippers make a common practice of converting their ships into brothels, and taking their mistresses to sea with them. For decency's sake, I was obliged to turn the junior lieutenant out of his state-room for her accommodation.

There were some letters found on board the Snow not intended for our eyes, inasmuch as they informed us of the damage we were doing the Yankee commerce. Here is one of them from the owner to the master. It is dated Boston, November 25th, 1862. ‘We hope you may arrive safely, and in good season, but we think you will find business rather flat at Liverpool, as American ships especially are under a cloud, owing to dangers from pirates, more politely styled privateers, which our kind friends in England are so willing should slip out of their ports, to prey on our commerce.’ Our torches always grew brighter as we read such effusions of joint stupidity and malice.

Here is another wail from Buckport, Maine, under date of January 16th, 1863. It instructs the master as to the best mode of employing his ship. ‘In the first place, it will not do to come this way with the ship; as New York business for ships is flat enough—a large fleet in that port, and nothing for them to do, that will pay expenses, and more arriving daily.’

And another from the same place. ‘I hope you will be as prudent and economical as possible in managing your ship [623] matters, as your owners want all the money they can get hold of, to aid in putting down this terrible rebellion of ours. The progress our war is making, I shall leave for you to gather from the papers, for it makes me sick to think of it, much more to talk about it.’ No doubt—the ships were being laid up, and no freights were coming in. We knew very well, on board the Alabama, the use to which all the ‘money the shipowners could get hold of’ was being put. It was to purchase ‘gold bonds’ at half price, and push on the war. Hence our diligence in scouring the seas, and applying the torch. Whenever we heard a Yankee howl go up over a burned ship, we knew that there were fewer dollars left, with which to hire the canaille of Europe to throttle liberty on the American continent.

We captured the Jabez Snow, on the 29th of May. On the 2d of June, being in latitude 15° 01′, and longitude 34° 56′ at half-past 3 A. M., or just before daylight, we passed a large ship on the opposite tack. We were under topsails only, standing leisurely across the great highway. We immediately wore ship, and gave chase, crowding all sail. When day dawned, the fugitive was some six or seven miles ahead of us, and as the chase was likely to be long, I fired a gun, and hoisted the Confederate colors, to intimate to the stranger, that I would like him to be polite, and save me the trouble of catching him, by heaving to. Pretty soon, I fired a second gun—blank cartridge—with the same intent. But the stranger had faith in his heels, and instead of heaving to, threw out a few more kites to the balmy morning breeze. But it was of no use. Both ships were on a wind, and the Alabama could, in consequence, use her monster trysails. My large double glasses—themselves captured from a Yankee ship, the captain of which had probably bought them to look out for the ‘pirate’—soon told the tale. We were gaining, but not very rapidly. Still anxious to save time, when we had approached within about four miles of the stranger, we cleared away our pivot rifle, and let him have a bolt. We did not quite reach him, but these rifle-bolts make such an ugly whizzing, and hissing, and humming as they pass along, that their commands are not often disobeyed. The stranger [624] clewed up, and backed his main yard, and hoisted the Federal colors. We were alongside of him about half-past 11 A. M.—the chase having lasted eight hours.

The prize proved to be the bark Amazonian of Boston, from New York, with an assorted cargo, for Montevideo. There was an attempt to cover two of the consignments of this ship, in favor of French citizens, but the ‘hash’ being evidently Yankee, the certificates were disregarded. The prisoners, and such ‘plunder’ as we desired, being brought on board the Alabama, the ship was consigned to the flames. The following letter from a merchant in New York, to his correspondent in Buenos Ayres, was found among a very large commercial and literary mail—the literature being from the college of the Republican Propaganda—on board the Amazonian. ‘When you ship in American vessels, it would be well to have the British Consul's certificate of English property attached to bill of lading and invoice, as in the event of falling in with the numerous privateers, it would save both cargo and vessel in all probability. An American ship recently fallen in with, was released by the Alabama, on account of British Consul's certificate, showing greater part of cargo to be English property. If you ship in a neutral vessel, we save five per cent. war insurance.’

On the day after capturing the Amazonian, we boarded an English brig, and I made an arrangement with the master to take my prisoners—forty-one in number—to Rio Janeiro, whither he was bound. The consideration was, twice as many provisions as the prisoners could consume, and a chronometer. The master had been afraid of offending Earl Russell, until the chronometer was named to him, when his scruples were at once removed. Virtuous Briton! thou wert near akin to the Yankee.

On the following night, a little before daylight, whilst we were lying to, with the main-topsail to the mast, a large, tall ship suddenly loomed up in close proximity to us, and as suddenly passed away into the gloom, gliding past us like a ghost. We filled away and made chase on the instant, and being still within gun-shot, fired a blank cartridge. The chase at once hove to, and we ranged up, just as day was breaking, alongside of the clipper-ship Talisman, from New York, with an assorted [625] cargo, for Shanghai. There was no claim of neutral cargo among her papers, and as soon as we could remove the crew, and some necessary articles, we consigned her also, to that torch which Yankee malice had kept burning so brightly in our hands.

The rebellion of the Taepings was still going on in China, and we found a nice little ‘speculation’ in-connection with it, embarked on board the Talisman. The speculators had put on board four very pretty rifled 12-pounder brass guns, and steam boilers and machinery for a gun-boat; the design being to build, and equip one of this class of vessels in the East, and take part in the Chinese war. I am afraid I spoiled a ‘good thing.’ With a Yankee Mandarin on board, and a good supply of opium, and tracts, what a smashing business this little cruiser might have done? We took a couple of these brass pieces on board the Alabama, and in due time, sent them afloat after the Yankee commerce, as the reader will see.

The next vessel that we overhauled was a ‘converted’ ship —that is, a Yankee turned into an Englishman. I desired very much to burn her, but was prevented by the regularity of her papers and the circumstances surrounding her. She was a Maine-built ship, but had evidently been bona fide transfeared, as her master and crew were all Englishmen, and she was then on a voyage from London to Calcutta. She received on board from us, a couple of the passengers—an Irishman and his wife—captured on board of the Talisman, who were anxious to go to Calcutta. For the next two or three days, we had a series of blows, amounting almost to gales of wind. We had arrived off the Abrolhos Shoals—a sort of Brazilian Cape Hatteras, for bad weather. On the 9th and 10th of June, we were reduced to close reefs; and, which was remarkable, we had a high barometer all the time. We had, for some days, experienced a northerly current. The whole coast of Brazil is coral-bound, and it is, for this reason, very dangerous. The coral shoals rise abruptly, from great depths, and are sometimes found in very small patches, with deep water all around them. Many of these patches have been missed by the surveyor, and are not laid down on any charts, in consequence. Hence it behooves the prudent mariner, to give the banks that fringe the coasts of Brazil, a pretty wide berth.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide People (automatically extracted)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
January 16th, 1863 AD (1)
November 25th, 1862 AD (1)
1812 AD (1)
June 10th (1)
June 9th (1)
June 2nd (1)
May 29th (1)
May 25th (1)
May 11th (1)
May 3rd (1)
April 22nd (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: