- The Sumter at Curacoa -- her Surroundingspreparations for sea, and departure -- the capture of other prizes -- Puerto Cabello, and what occurred there.
The Sumter had scarcely swung to her anchors, in the small land-locked harbor described, before she was surrounded by a fleet of bum-boats, laden with a profusion of tropical fruits, and filled with men, and women, indifferently —the women rather preponderating. These bum-boat women are an institution in Curacoa; the profession descends from mother to daughter, and time seems to operate no change among them. It had been nearly a generation since I was last at Curacoa. I was then a gay, rollicking young midshipman, in the ‘old’ Navy, and it seemed as though I were looking upon the same faces, and listening to the same confusion of voices as before. The individual women had passed away, of course, but the bum-boat women remained. They wore the same parti-colored handkerchiefs wound gracefully around their heads, the same gingham or muslin dresses, and exposed similar, if not the same, bare arms, and unstockinged legs. They were admitted freely on board, with their stocks in trade, and pretty soon Jack was on capital terms with them, converting his small change into fragrant bananas, and blood-red oranges, and replenishing his tobacco-pouch for the next cruise. As Jack is a gallant fellow, a little flirtation was going on too with the purchasing, and I was occasionally highly amused at these joint efforts at trade and love-making. No one but a bum-boat woman is ever a sailor's blanchiseuse, et par consequence a number of well-filled clothes'-bags soon made their appearance, on deck, from the different apartments of the ship, and were passed into the boats alongside.  These people all speak excellent English, though with a drawl, which is not unmusical, when the speaker is a sprightly young woman. Jack has a great fondness for pets, and no wonder, poor fellow, debarred, as he is, from all family ties, and with no place he can call his home, but his ship; and pretty soon my good-natured first lieutenant had been seduced into giving him leave to bring sundry monkeys, and parrots on board, the former of which were now gambolling about the rigging, and the latter waking the echoes of the harbor with their squalling. Such was the crowd upon our decks, and so serious was the interruption to business, that we were soon obliged to lay restrictions upon the bum-boat fleet, by prohibiting it from coming alongside, except at meal-hours, which we always designated by hoisting a red pennant, at the mizzen. It was curious to watch the movements of the fleet, as these hours approached. Some twenty or thirty boats would be lying upon their oars, a few yards from the ship, each with from two to half a dozen inmates, eagerly watching the old quartermaster, whose duty it was to hoist the pennant; the women chattering, and the parrots squalling, whilst the oarsmen were poising their oars, that they might get the first stroke over their competitors in the race. At length, away goes the flag! and then what a rushing and clattering, and bespattering until the boats are alongside. In an hour after our anchor had been let go, the business of the ship, for the next few days, had all been arranged. The first lieutenant had visited a neighboring ship-yard, and contracted for a new foretop-mast, to supply the place of the old one which had been sprung; the paymaster had contracted for a supply of coal, and fresh provisions, daily, for the crew, and for having the ship watered; the latter no unimportant matter, in this rainless region, and I had sent an officer to call on the Governor, with my card, being too unwell to make the visit, in person. Upon visiting the shore the next day, I found that we were in a quasi enemy's territory, for besides the Federal Consul before spoken of, a Boston man had intrenched himself in the best hotel in the place, as proprietor, and was doing a thriving business, far away from ‘war's alarms,’ and a New Yorker had the monopoly of taking all the phizes of the staid old Dutchmen  —‘John Smith, of New York, Photographer,’ hanging high above the artist's windows, on a sign-board that evidently had not been painted by a Curacoan. Mr. Smith had already taken an excellent photograph of the Sumter, which he naively enough told me, was intended for the New York illustrated papers. If I had had ever so much objection, to having the likeness of my ship hung up in such a ‘rogues' gallery,’ I had no means of preventing it. Besides, it could do us but little damage, in the way of identification, as we had the art of disguising the Sumter so that we would not know her, ourselves, at half a dozen miles distance. I was surprised, one morning, during our stay here, whilst I was lounging, listlessly, in my cabin, making a vain attempt to read, under the infliction of the caulkers overhead, who were striking their caulking-irons with a vigor, and rapidity, that made the tympanum of my ears ring again, at the announcement that Don somebody or other, the private secretary of President Castro, desired to see me. The caulkers were sent away, and his Excellency's private secretary brought below. President Castro was one of those unfortunate South American chiefs, who had been beaten in a battle of ragamuffins, and compelled to fly his country. He was President of Venezuela, and had been deprived of his office, before the expiration of his term, by some military aspirant, who had seated himself in the presidential chair, instead, and was now in exile in Curacoa, with four of the members of his cabinet. The object of the visit of his secretary was to propose to me to reinstate the exiled President, in his lost position, by engaging in a military expedition, with him, to the mainland. Here was a chance, now, for an ambitious man! I might become the Warwick of Venezuela, and put the crown on another's head, if I might not wear it myself. I might hoist my admiral's flag, on board the Sumter, and take charge of all the piraguas, and canoes, that composed the Venezuelan navy, whilst my colleague mustered those men in buckram, so graphically described by Sir John Falstaff, and made an onslaught upon his despoiler. But unfortunately for friend Castro, I was like one of those damsels who had already plighted her faith to another, before the new wooer appeared—I was not in the  market. I listened courteously, however, to what the secretary had to say; told him, that I felt flattered by the offer of his chief, but that I was unable to accept it. ‘I cannot,’ I continue. ‘consistently with my obligations to my own country, engage in any of the revolutionary movements of other countries.’ ‘But,’ said he, ‘Señor Castro is the de jure President of Venezuela, and you would be upholding the right in assisting him;—can you not, at least, land us, with some arms and ammunition, on the main land?’ I replied that, ‘as a Confederate States officer, I could not look into de jure claims. These questions were for the Venezuelans, themselves, to decide. The only government I could know in Venezuela was the de facto. government, for the time being, and that, by his own showing, was in the hands of his antagonists.’ Here the conversation closed, and my visitor, who had the bearing and speech of a cultivated gentleman, departed. The jottings of my diary for the next few days, will perhaps now inform the reader, of our movements, better than any other form of narrative. July 19th.—Wind unusually blustering this morning, with partial obscuration of the heavens. The engineers are busy, overhauling and repairing damages to their engine and boilers; the gunner is at work, polishing up his battery and ventilating his magazine, and the sailors are busy renewing ratlines and tarring down their rigging. An English bark entered the harbor to-day from Liverpool. July 20th.—Painting and refitting ship; got off the new foretopmast from the shore. It is a good pine stick, evidently from our Southern States, and has been well fashioned. The monthly packet from the island of St. Thomas arrived, to-day, bringing newspapers from the enemy's county as late as the 26th of June. We get nothing new from these papers, except that the Northern bee-hive is all agog, with the marching and countermarching of troops. July 21st.—Fresh trade-winds, with flying clouds—atmosphere highly charged with moisture, but no rain. This being Sunday, we mustered and inspected the crew. The washerwomen have decidedly improved the appearance of the young officers, the glistening of white shirt-bosoms and collars having been somewhat unusual on board of the Sumter, of late.  The crew look improved too, by their change of diet, and the use of antiscorbutics, which have been supplied to them, at the request of the surgeon; though some of them, having been on shore, ‘on liberty,’ have brought off a blackened eye. No matter—the more frequently Jack settles his accounts, on shore, the fewer he will have to settle on board ship, in breach of discipline. We read, at the muster, to-day, the finding and sentence of the first court-martial, that has sat on board the Sumter, since she reached the high seas. July 22d.—Warped alongside a wharf, in the edge of the town, and commenced receiving coal on board. Refitting, and repainting ship. In the afternoon, I took a lonely stroll through the town, mainly in the suburbs. It is a quaint, picturesque old place, with some few modern houses, but the general air is that of dilapidation, and a decay of trade. The lower classes are simple, and primitive in their habits, and but little suffices to supply their wants. The St. Thomas packet sailed, to-day, and, as a consequence, the Federal cruisers, in and about that island, will have intelligence of our whereabouts, in four or five days. To mislead them, I have told the pilot, and several gentlemen from the shore, in great confidence, that I am going back to cruise on the coast of Cuba. The packet will of course take that intelligence to St. Thomas. July 23d.—Still coaling, refitting and painting. Weather more cloudy, and wind not so constantly fresh, within the last few days. Having taken sights for our chronometers, on the morning after our arrival, and again to-day, I have been enabled to verify their rates. They are running very well. The chronometer of the Golden Rocket proves to be a good instrument. We fix the longitude of Curacoa to be 68° 58′ 80″, west of Greenwich. July 24th.—Sky occasionally obscured, with a moderate trade-wind. Our men have all returned from their visits to the shore, except one, a simple lad named Orr, who, as I learn, has been seduced away, by a Yankee skipper, in port, aided by the Boston hotel-keeper, and our particular friend, the consul. As these persons have tampered with my whole crew, I am gratified to know, that there has been but one traitor found among them.  We had now been a week in Curacoa, during which time, besides recruiting, and refreshing my crew, I had made all the necessary preparations for another cruise. The ship had been thoroughly overhauled, inside and out, and her coal-bunkers were full of good English coal. It only remained for us to put to sea. Accordingly, at twelve o'clock precisely, on the day last above mentioned, as had been previously appointed, the Sumter, bidding farewell to her new-made friends, moved gracefully out of the harbor—this time, amid the waving of handkerchiefs, in female hands, as well as of hats in the hands of the males; the quay being lined, as before, to see us depart. The photographer took a last shot at the ship, as she glided past his sanctum, and we looked with some little interest to the future numbers of that ‘Journal of Civilization,’ vulgarly yclept ‘Harper's Weekly,’ for the interesting portrait; which came along in due time, accompanied by a lengthy description, veracious, of course, of the ‘Pirate.’ Curacoa lies a short distance off the coast of Venezuela, between Laguayra, and Puerto Cabello, and as both of these places had some commerce with the United States, I resolved to look into them. The morning after our departure found us on a smooth sea, with a light breeze off the land. The mountains, back of Laguayra, loomed up blue, mystic, and majestic, at a distance of about thirty miles and the lookout, at the mast-head, was on the qui vive for strange sails. He had not to wait long. In the tropics, there is very little of that bewitching portion of the twenty-four hours, which, in other parts of the world, is called twilight. Day passes into night, and night into day, almost at a single bound. The rapidly approaching dawn had scarcely revealed to us the bold outline of the coast, above mentioned, when sail ho! resounded from the mast-head. The sail bore on our port-bow, and was standing obliquely toward us. We at once gave chase, and at half-past 6 A. M., came up with, and captured the schooner Abby Bradford, from New York, bound for Puerto Cabello. We knew our prize to be American, long before she showed us her colors. She was a ‘down-East,’ fore-and-aft schooner, and there are no other such vessels in the world. They are  as thoroughly marked, as the Puritans who build them, and there is no more mistaking the ‘cut of their jib.’ The little schooner was provision laden, and there was no attempt to cover her cargo. The news of the escape of the Sumter had not reached New York, at the date of her sailing, and the few privateers that we had put afloat, at the beginning of the war, had confined their operations to our own, and the enemy's coasts. Hence the neglect of the owners of the Bradford, in not providing her with some good English, or Spanish certificates, protesting that her cargo was neutral. The ‘old flag’ was treated very tenderly on the present occasion. The ‘flaunting lie,’ which Mr. Horace Greeley had told us, should ‘insult no sunny sky,’ was hauled down, and stowed away in the quartermaster's bag described a few pages back. The Bradford being bound for Puerto Cabello, and that port being but a short distance, under my lee, I resolved to run down, with the prize, and try my hand with my friend Castro's opponent, the de facto President of Venezuela, to see whether I could not prevail upon him, to admit my prizes into his ports. I thought, surely, an arrangement could be made with some of these beggarly South American republics, the revenue of which did not amount to a cargo of provisions, annually, and which were too weak, besides, to be worth kicking by the stronger powers. What right had they, thought I, to be putting on the airs of nations, and talking about acknowledging other people, when they had lived a whole generation, themselves, without the acknowledgment of Spain. But, as the reader will see, I reckoned without my host. I found that they had a wholesome fear of the Federal gunboats, and that even their cupidity could not tempt them to be just, or generous. If they had admitted my prizes into their ports, I could, in the course of a few months, have made those same ports more busy with the hum and thrift of commerce, than they had ever been before; I could have given a new impulse to their revolutions, and made them rich enough to indulge in the luxury of a pronunciamiento, once a week. The bait was tempting, but there stood the great lion in their path—the model Republic. The fact is, I must do this model Republic the justice to say, that it not only bullied the little  South American republics, but all the world besides. Even old John Bull, grown rich, and plethoric, and asthmatic and gouty, trembled when he thought of his rich argosies, and of the possibility of Yankee privateers chasing them. Taking the Bradford in tow, then, we squared away for Puerto Cabello, but darkness came on before we could reach the entrance of the harbor, and we were compelled to stand off and on, during the night—the schooner being cast off, and taking care of herself, under sail. The Sumter lay on the still waters, all night, like a huge monster asleep, with the light from the light-house, on the battlements of the fort, glaring full upon her, and in plaina hearing of the shrill cry of ‘Alerta!’ from the sentinels. So quietly did she repose, with banked fires, being fanned, but not moved, by the gentle land-breeze that was blowing, that she scarcely needed to turn over her propeller during the night, to preserve her relative position with the light. There was no occasion to be in a hurry to run in, the next morning, as no business could be transacted before ten, or eleven o'clock, and so I waited until the sun, with his broad disk glaring upon us, like an angry furnace, had rolled away the mists of the morning, and the first lieutenant had holy-stoned his decks, and arranged his hammock-nettings, with his neat, white hammocks stowed in them, before we put the ship in motion. We had, some time before, hoisted the Confederate States flag, and the Venezuelan colors were flying from the fort in response. The prize accompanied us in, and we both anchored, within a stone's throw of the town, the latter looking like some old Moorish city, that had been transported by magic to the new world, gallinazos, and all. Whilst my clerk was copying my despatch to the Governor, and the lieutenant was preparing himself and his boat's crew, to take it on shore, I made a hasty reconnoissance of the fort, which had a few iron pieces, of small calibre mounted on it, well eaten by rust, and whose carriages had rotted from under them. The following is a copy of my letter to his Excellency. 
When the Sumter entered Puerto Cabello, with her prize, she found an empty harbor, there being only two or three coasting schooners anchored along the coast; there was a general dearth of business, and the quiet little city was panting for an excitement. A bomb-shell, thrown into the midst of the stagnant commercial community, could not have startled them more, than the rattling of the chain cable of the Sumter through her hawse-hole, as she let go her anchor; and when my missive was handed to the Governor, there was a racing, and chasing of bare-footed orderlies, that indicated a prospective gathering of the clans, similar to the one which had occurred at Curacoa. A grand council was held, at which the Confederate States had not the honor to be represented. That the reader may understand the odds against which we now had to struggle, he must recollect, that all these small South American towns are, more or less, dependent upon American trade. The New England States, and New York supply them with their domestic cottons, flour, bacon, and notions; sell them all their worthless old muskets, and damaged ammunition, and now and then, smuggle out a small craft to them, for naval purposes. The American Consul, who is also a merchant, represents not only those ‘grand moral ideas,’ that characterize our Northern people, but Sand's sarsaparilla, and Smith's wooden clocks. He is, par excellence, the big dog of the village. The big dog was present on the present occasion, looking portentous, and savage, and when he ope'd his mouth, all the little dogs were silent. Of course, the poor Sumter, anchored away off in the bay, could have no chance before so august an assemblage, and, pretty soon, an orderly came down to the boat, where my patient lieutenant was waiting, bearing a most ominous-looking letter, put up in true South American style, about a foot square, and bearing on it, ‘Dios y Libertad.’ When I came to break the seal of this letter, I found it to purport, that the Governor had not the necessary funciones, to reply to me, diplomatically, but that he would elevate my despatch,  to the Supreme Government; and that, in the mean time, I had better take the Abby Bradford and get out of Puerto Cabello, as soon as possible! This was all said, very politely, for your petty South American chieftain is
As mild a mannered man, as ever cut a throat,but it was none the less strong for all that. The missive of the Governor reached me early, in the afternoon, but I paid not the least attention to it. I sent the paymaster on shore, to purchase some fresh provisions, and fruits, for the crew, and gave such of the officers ‘liberty,’ as desired it. The next morning I sent a prize crew on board the Bradford, and determined to send her to New Orleans. Being loth to part with any more of my officers, after the experience I had had, with the prize brig Cuba, I selected an intelligent quartermaster, who had been mate of a merchantman, as prize-master. My men I could replace—my officers I could not. The following letter of instructions was prepared for the guidance of the prizemaster:
I availed myself of this opportunity, to address the following letter to Mr. Mallory, the Secretary of the Navy; having nothing very important to communicate, I did not resort to the use of the cipher, that had been established between us. 
The Bradford reached the coast of Louisiana, in due time, but approaching too near to the principal passes of the Mississippi, against which I had warned her, she was re-captured, by one of the enemy's steamers, and my prize crew were made prisoners, but soon afterward released, though they did not  rejoin me. I am thus particular, in giving the reader an account of these, my first transactions, for the purpose of showing him, that I made every effort to avoid the necessity of destroying my prizes, at sea; and that I only resorted to this practice, when it became evident that there was nothing else to be done. Not that I had not the right to burn them, under the laws of war, when there was no dispute about the property— as was the case with the Golden Rocket, she having had no cargo on board—but because I desired to avoid all possible complication with neutrals. Having dispatched the Bradford, we got under way, in the Sumter, to continue our cruise. We had scarcely gotten clear of the harbor, before a sail was discovered, in plain sight, from the deck. The breeze was light, and she was running down the coast, with all her studding sails set. Her taunt and graceful spars, and her whitest of cotton sails, glistening in the morning's sun, revealed at once the secret of her nationality. We chased, and, at the distance of full seven miles from the land, came up with, and captured her. She proved to be the bark Joseph Maxwell, of Philadelphia, last from Laguayra, where she had touched, to land a part of her cargo. The remainder she was bringing to Puerto Cabello. Upon inspection of her papers, I ascertained that one-half of the cargo, remaining on board of her, belonged to a neutral owner, doing business in Puerto Cabello. Heaving the bark to, in charge of a prize crew, beyond the marine league, I took her master on board the Sumter, and steaming back into the harbor, sent Paymaster Myers on shore with him, to see if some arrangement could not be made, by which the interests of the neutral half-owner of the cargo could be protected; to see, in other words, whether this prize, in which a Venezuelan citizen was interested, would not be permitted to enter, and remain until she could be adjudicated. Much to my surprise, upon the return of my boat, the paymaster handed me a written command from the Governor, to bring the Maxwell in, and deliver her to him, until the Venezuelan courts could determine whether she had been captured within the marine league, or not I This insolence was refreshing. I scarcely knew whether to laugh, or be angry at it. I  believe I indulged in both emotions. The Sumter had not let go her anchor, but had been waiting for the return of her boat, under steam. She was lying close under the guns of the fort, and we could see that the tompions had been taken out of the guns, and that they were manned by some half-naked soldiers. Not knowing but the foolish Governor might order his commandant to fire upon me, in case I should attempt to proceed to sea, in my ship, before I had sent a boat out to bring in the Maxwell, I beat to quarters, and with my crew standing by my guns, steamed out to rejoin my prize. When I had a little leisure to converse with my paymaster, he told me, that the Federal consul had been consulted, on the occasion, and that the nice little ruse of the Governor's order had been resorted to in the hope of intimidating me. I would have burned the Maxwell, on the spot, but, unfortunately, as the reader has seen, she had some neutral cargo on board, and this I had no right to destroy. I resolved, therefore, to send her in; not to the Confederate States, for she drew too much water to enter any, except the principal ports, and these being all blockaded, by steamers, it was useless for her to make the attempt. The following letter of instructions to her prize-master, will show what disposition was made of her.
I had not yet seen the proclamation of neutrality by Spain, and the reader will perceive, from the above letter, that I still clung to the hope that that Power would dare to be just, even in the face of the truckling of England and France. The master of the Maxwell had his wife on board, and the sea being smooth, I made him a present of one of the best of his boats, and sent him and his wife on shore in her. He repaid my kindness by stealing the ship's chronometer, which he falsely told the midshipman in charge of the prize I had given him leave to take with him. At three P. M., taking a final leave of Puerto Cabello, there being neither waving of hats or handkerchiefs, or regrets on either side, we shaped our course to the eastward, and put our ship under a full head of steam.