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Chapter 16:

  • Steaming along the coast of Venezuela
  • -- the coral insect, and the wonders of the deep -- the Andes and the rainy season -- the Sumter enters the port of Spain, in the British island of Trinidad, and Coals, and sails again.

There was a fresh trade-wind blowing, and some sea on, as the Sumter brought her head around to the eastward, and commenced buffeting her way, again, to windward. She had, in addition, a current to contend with, which sets along this coast in the direction of the trade-wind, at the rate of about a knot an hour. We were steaming at a distance of seven or eight miles from the land, and, as the shades of evening closed in, we descried a Federal brigantine, running down the coast—probably for the port we had just left-hugging the bold shore very affectionately, to keep within the charmed marine league, within which she knew she was safe from capture. We did not, of course, molest her, as I made it a point always to respect the jurisdiction of neutrals, though never so weak. I might have offended against the sovereignty of Venezuela, by capturing this vessel, with impunity, so far as Venezuela was herself concerned, but then I should have committed an offence against the laws of nations, and it was these laws that I was, myself, looking to, for protection. Besides, the Secretary of the Navy, in preparing my instructions, had been particular to enjoin upon me, not only to respect the rights of neutrals, but to conciliate their good will.

As we were running along the land, sufficiently near for its influence to be felt upon the trade-winds, it became nearly calm during the night, the land and sea breezes, each struggling for the mastery, and thus neutralizing each other's forces. The [171] steamer sprang forward with renewed speed, and when the day dawned the next morning, we were far to windward of Laguayra. The sun rose in a sky, without a cloud, and the wind did not freshen, as the day advanced, so much as it had done the day before. The mountains of Venezuela lay sleeping in the distance, robed in a mantle of heavenly blue, numerous sea-birds were on the wing, and the sail of a fishing-boat, here and there, added picturesqueness to the scene. At half-past 9, we gave chase to a fore-and-aft schooner, which proved to be a Venezuela coaster.

In the afternoon, we passed sufficiently near the island of Tortuga, to run over some of its coral banks. The sun was declining behind the yet visible mountains, and the sea breeze had died away to nearly a calm, leaving the bright, and sparkling waters, with a mirrored surface. We now entered upon a scene of transcendent beauty, but the beauty was that of the deep, and not of the surface landscape. The reader is familiar with the history of the coral insect, that patient little stone-mason of the deep, which, though scarcely visible through the microscope, lays the foundations of islands, and of continents. The little coralline sometimes commences its work, hundreds of fathoms down in the deep sea, and working patiently, and laboriously, day and night, night and day, week after week, month after month, year after year, and century after century, finally brings its structure to the surface.

When its tiny blocks of lime-stone, which it has secreted from the salts of the sea, have been piled so high, that the tides now cover the structure, and now leave it dry, the little toiler of the sea, having performed the functions prescribed to it by its Creator, dies, and is entombed in a mausoleum more proud than any that could be reared by human hands. The winds, and the clouds now take charge of the new island, or continent, and begin to prepare it for vegetation, and the habitation of man, and animals. The Pacific Ocean, within the tropics is, par excellence, the coral sea, and the navigator of that ocean is familiar with the phenomenon, which I am about to describe. In the midst of a clear sky, the mariner sometimes discovers on the verge of the horizon, a light, fleecy cloud, and as he sails toward it, he is surprised to find that it scarcely alters its [172] position. It rises a little, and a little higher, as he approaches it, pretty much as the land would appear to rise, if he were sailing toward it, but that is all. He sails on, and on, and when he has come near the cloud, he is surprised to see under it, a white line of foam, or, maybe a breaker, if there is any undulation in the sea, in a spot where all is represented as deep water on his chart. Examining with his telescope, he now discovers, in the intervals of the foam, caused by the rising and falling of the long, lazy swell, a coral bank, so white as scarcely to be distinguished from the seething and boiling foam. He has discovered the germ of a new island, which in the course of time, and the decrees of Providence, will be covered with forests, and inhabited by men, and animals.

The cloud, as a sort of ‘pillar by day,’ has conducted him to the spot, whilst it has, at the same time, warned him of his danger. But the cloud—how came it there, why does it remain so faithfully at its post, and what are its functions? One of the most beautiful of the phenomena of tropical countries is the alternation, with the regularity of clock-work, of the land and sea breezes; by day, the sea breeze blowing toward the land, and by night the land breeze blowing toward the sea. The reason of this is as follows. The land absorbs heat, and radiates it, more rapidly than the sea. The consequence is, that when the sun has risen, an hour or two, the land becomes warmer than the surrounding sea, and there is an in-draught toward it; in other words, the sea breeze begins to blow. When, on the contrary, the sun has set, and withdrawn his rays from both land and sea, and radiation begins, the land, parting with its absorbed heat, more rapidly than the sea, soon becomes cooler than the sea. As a consequence, there is an out-draught from the land; in other words, the land breeze has commenced to blow. The reader now sees how it is, that the ‘pillar by day’ hangs over the little coral island; the bank of coral absorbing heat by day more rapidly than the surrounding sea, there is an in-draught setting toward it, and as the lazy trade-winds approach it, they themselves become heated, and ascend into the upper air. There is thus a constantly ascending column of heated atmosphere over these [173] banks. This ascending column of atmosphere, when it reaches a certain point, is condensed into cumuli of beautiful, fleecy clouds, often piled up in the most fantastic and gorgeous shapes. It is thus that the cloud becomes stationary. It is ever forming, and ever passing off; retaining, it may be, its original form, but its nebulae constantly changing.

When a cooler blast of trade-wind than usual comes along, the condensation is more rapid, and perfect, and showers of rain fall. The sea-birds are already hovering, in clouds, over the inchoate little island, fishing, and wading in its shallow waters, and roosting on it, when they can get a sufficient foothold. Vegetation soon ensues, and, in the course of a few more ages, nature completes her work.

But to return from this digression, into which we were led by a view of the coral bank over which we were passing. The little insect, which is at work under our feet, has not yet brought its structure sufficiently near the surface, to obstruct our passage over it. We are in five or six fathoms of water, but this water is so clear, that we are enabled to see the most minute object, quite distinctly. We have. ‘slowed’ the engine the better to enjoy the beautiful sub-marine landscape; and look! we are passing over a miniature forest, instinct with life. There are beautifully branching trees of madrepores, whose prongs are from one to two feet in length, and sometimes curiously interlaced. Each one of the branches, as well as the trunk, has a number of little notches in it. These are the cells in which the little stone-mason is at work. Adhering to the branches of these miniature trees, like mosses, and lichens, you see sundry formations that you might mistake for leaves. These are also cellular, and are the workshops of the little masons. Scattered around, among the trees, are waving the most gorgeous of fans, and, what we might call sea-ferns, and palms. These are of a variety of brilliant colors, purple predominating.

Lying on the smooth, white sand, are boulders of coral in a variety of shapes—some, like the domes of miniature cathedrals; some, perfectly spherical; some, cylindrical. These, and the trees, are mostly of a creamy white, though occasionally, pink, violet, and green are discovered. As the passage [174] of the steamer gives motion to the otherwise smooth sea, the fans, ferns, and palms wave, gracefully, changing their tints as the light flashes upon them, through the pellucid waters The beholder looks entranced, as though he were gazing upon a fairy scene, by moonlight; and to add to the illusion, there is a movement of life, all new to the eye, in every direction. The beautiful star-fish, with its five points, as equally, and regularly arranged, as though it had been done by the rule of the mathematician, with great worm-like molluscs, lie torpid on the white sand. Jelly-fish, polypi, and other nondescript shapes, float about in the miniature forest; and darting hither and thither, among the many-tinted ferns, some apparently in sport, and some in pursuit of their prey, are hundreds of little fishes, sparkling, and gleaming in silver, and gold, and green, and scarlet.

The most curious of these is the parrot-fish, whose head is shaped like the beak of the parrot, and whose color is light green. How wonderfully full is the sea of animal life! All this picture is animal life; for what appears to be the vegetable portion of this sub-marine landscape, is scarcely vegetable at all. The waving ferns, fans, and palms are all instinct with animal life. The patient little toiler of the sea, the coralline insect, is busy with them, as he is with his limestone trees. He is helping on their formation by his secretions, and it is difficult to say what portion of them is vegetable, what, mineral, and what, animal.

I had been an hour, and more, entranced by the fairy submarine forest, and its denizens, which I have so imperfectly described, when the sun sank behind the Andes, and night threw her mantle upon the waters, changing all the sparkling colors of forest, and fish, to sombre gray, and admonishing me, that it was time to return to every-day life, and the duties of the ship. ‘Let her have the steam,’ said I to the officer of the deck as I arose from my bent posture over the ship's rail; and, in a moment more, the propeller was thundering us along at our usual speed.

At eleven P. M., we were up with the island of Margarita, and as I designed to run the passage between it, and the main land, I preferred daylight for the operation; and so, sounding [175] in thirty-two fathoms of water, I hove the ship to, under her try sails for the night, permitting her steam to go down. The next day, the weather still continued clear and pleasant, the trade-wind being sufficiently light not to impede our headway, for we were steaming, as the reader will recollect, nearly head to wind. We had experienced but little adverse current during the last twenty-four hours, and were making very satisfactory progress. I was now making a passage, rather than cruising, as a sail is a rare sight, in the part of the ocean I was traversing.

At meridian we passed that singular group of islands called the Frayles—Anglice, friars—jutting up from the sea in cones of different shapes, and looking, at a distance, not unlike so many hooded monks. With the exception of a transient fisherman, who now and then hauls up his boat out of the reach of the surf, on these harborless islands, and pitches his tent, made of his boat's sail, for a few days of rest and refreshment, they have no inhabitants.

July 30th.—‘Thick, cloudy weather, with incessant, and heavy rains; hauling in for the coast of Venezuela, near the entrance to the Gulf of Paria. So thick is the weather, that to “hold on to the land,” I am obliged to run the coast within a mile, and this is close running on a coast not minutely surveyed.’ So said my journal. Indeed the day in question was a memorable one, from its scenery, and surroundings. Few landscapes present so bold, and imposing a picture as this part of the South American coast. The Andes here rise abruptly out of the sea, to a great height. Our little craft running along their base, in the bluest and deepest of water, looked like a mere cockle-shell, or nautilus. Besides the torrents of rain, that were coming down upon our decks, and through which, at times, we could barely catch a glimpse of the majestic, and sombre-looking mountains, we were blinded by the most vivid flashes of lightning, simultaneously with which, the rolling and crashing of the thunder deafened our ears. I had stood on the banks of the Lake of Geneva, and witnessed a storm in the Alps, during which Byron's celebrated lines occurred to me. They occurred to me more forcibly here, for literally— [176]

Far along
     From peak to peak, the rattling crags among,
Leaps the live thunder! Not from one cloud,
     But every mountain now had found a tongue,
And Jura answers, through her misty shroud,
     Back to the joyous Alps, who call to her aloud!

That word ‘joyous’ was well chosen by the poet, for the mountains did indeed seem to rejoice in this grand display of nature. Of wind there was scarcely any—what little there was, was frequently off the land, and even blew in the direction opposite to that of the trade-wind. We were in the rainy season, along this coast, and all the vegetable kingdom was in full luxuriance. The cocoanut, and other palms, giving an Eastern aspect to the scenery, waved the greenest of feathery branches, and every shrub, and almost every tree rejoiced in its flower. It was delightful to inhale the fragrance, as the whirling aerial current brought us an occasional puff from the land.

On board the ship, we looked like so many half-drowned rats. The officer of the deck, trumpet in hand, was ensconced, to his ears, in his india-rubber pea jacket, his long beard looking like a wet mop, and little rills of rain trickling down his neck, and shoulders, from his slouched ‘Sou'wester.’ The midshipman of the watch had taken off his shoes, and rolled up his trousers, and was paddling about in the pools on deck, as well pleased as a young duck. And as for the old salt, he was in his element. There was plenty of fresh water to wash his clothes in, and accordingly the decks were filled with industrious washers, or rather scrubbers, each with his scrubbing-brush, and bit of soap, and a little pile of soiled duck frocks and trousers by his side.

The reader has been informed, that we were running along the coast, within a mile of it, to enable us to keep sight of the land. The object of this was to make the proper landfall for running into the Gulf of Paria, on which is situated the Port of Spain, in the island of Trinidad, to which we were bound. We opened the gulf as early as nine A. M., and soon afterward identified the three islands that form the Bocas del Drago, or dragon's mouth. The scenery is remarkably bold and striking at the entrance of this gulf or bay. The islands rise to the [177] height of mountains, in abrupt and sheer precipices, out of the now muddy waters—for the great Orinoco, traversing its thousands of miles of alluvial soil, disembogues near by. Indeed, we may be said to have been already within the delta of that great stream.

Memory was busy with me, as the Sumter passed through the Dragon's Mouth. I had made my first cruise to this identical island of Trinidad, when a green midshipman in the Federal Navy. A few years before, the elder Commodore Perry—he of Lake Erie memory—had died of yellow fever, when on a visit, in one of the small schooners of his squadron, up the Orinoco. The old sloop-of-war Lexington, under the command of Commander, now Rear-Admiral Shubrick, was sent to the Port of Spain to bring home his remains. I was one of the midshipmen of that ship. A generation had since elapsed. An infant people had, in that short space of time, grown old and decrepid, and its government had broken in twain. But there stood the everlasting mountains, as I remembered them, unchanged! I could not help again recurring to the poet:—

Man has another day to swell the past,
And lead him near to little but his last;
But mighty Nature bounds as from her birth.
The sun is in the heavens, and life on earth;
Flowers in the valley, splendor in the beam,
Health on the gale, and freshness in the stream.
Immortal man! behold her glories shine,
And cry, exulting inly, “they are thine!”
Gaze on, while yet thy gladdened eye may see;
A morrow comes when they are not for thee:
And grieve what may above thy senseless bier,
Nor earth, nor sky shall yield a single tear;
Nor cloud shall gather more, nor leaf shall fall,
Nor gale breathe forth one sigh for thee, for all;
But creeping things shall revel in their spoil,
And fit thy clay to fertilize the soil.

We entered through the Huevo passage—named from its egg-shaped island—and striking soundings, pretty soon afterward, ran up by our chart and lead-line, there being no pilotboat in sight. We anchored off the Port of Spain a little after [178] mid-day—an English merchant brig paying us the compliment of a salute.

I dispatched a lieutenant to call on the Governor. The orders of neutrality of the English government had already been received, and his Excellency informed me that, in accordance therewith, he would extend to me the same hospitality that he would show, in similar circumstances, to the enemy; which was nothing more, of course, than I had a right to expect. The Paymaster was dispatched to the shore, to see about getting a supply of coal, and send off some fresh provisions and fruit for the crew; and such of the officers as desired went on liberty.

The first thing to be thought of was the discharge of our prisoners, for, with the exception of the Captain, whom I had permitted to land in Puerto Cabello, with his wife, I had the crew of the Joseph Maxwell, prize-ship, still on board. I had given these men, eight in number, to understand that they were hostages, and that their discharge, their close confinement, or their execution, as the case might be, depended upon the action of their own Government, in the case of the Savannah prisoners. The reader will probably recollect the case to which I allude. President Lincoln, of the Federal States, in issuing his proclamation of the 15th of April, 1861, calling out 75,000 troops to revenge the disaster of Fort Sumter, inserted the following paragraph:—

‘And I hereby proclaim, and declare, that, if any person, under the pretended authority of said States, or under any other pretence, shall molest a vessel of the United States, or the persons, or cargo on board of her, such persons will be held amenable to the laws of the United States, for the prevention, and punishment of piracy.’

On the 6th of May following, the Congress of the Confederate States, passed the following act, in reply, as it were, to this manifesto of Mr. Lincoln:—

Whereas, The earnest efforts made by this Government, to establish friendly relations between the Government of the United States, and the Confederate States, and to settle all questions of disagreement between the two Governments, upon principles of right, equity, justice, and good faith, have proved unavailing, by reason of the refusal of the Government of the United States to hold any intercourse [179] with the Commissioners appointed by this Government, for the purposes aforesaid, or to listen to any proposal they had to make, for the peaceful solution of all causes of difficulty between the two Governments; and whereas, the President of the United States of America has issued his proclamation, making requisition upon the States of the American Union, for 75,000 men, for the purpose, as therein indicated, of capturing forts, and other strongholds within the jurisdiction of, and belonging to the Confederate States of America, and raised, organized, and equipped a large military force, to execute the purpose aforesaid, and has issued his other proclamation, announcing his purpose to set on foot a blockade of the ports of the Confederate States; and whereas, the State of Virginia has seceded from the Federal Union, and entered into a convention of alliance, offensive and defensive, with the Confederate States, and has adopted the Provisional Constitution of said States, and the States of Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas and Missouri have refused, and it is believed, that the State of Delaware, and the inhabitants of the Territories of Arizona, and New Mexico, and the Indian Territory, south of Kansas will refuse to co-operate with the Government of the United States, in these acts of hostility, and wanton aggression, which are plainly intended to overawe, oppress, and finally subjugate the people of the Confederate States; and whereas, by the acts, and means aforesaid, war exists between the Confederate States, and the Government of the United States, and the States and Territories thereof, excepting the States of Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, and Delaware, and the Territories of Arizona, and New Mexico, and the Indian Territory south of Kansas: therefore,

Sec. I. The Congress of the Confederate States of America do enact, That the President of the Confederate States is hereby authorized to use the whole land, and naval force of the Confederate States, to meet the war thus commenced, and to issue to private armed vessels, commissions, or letters-of-marque, and general reprisal, in such form, as he shall think proper, under the seal of the Confederate States, against the vessels, goods, and effects of the Government of the United States, and of the citizens, or inhabitants of the States, and Territories thereof, except the States and Territories hereinbefore named. Provided, however, that the property of the enemy, (unless it be contraband of war,) laden on board a neutral vessel, shall not be subject to seizure, under this Act; and provided further, that the vessels of the citizens, or inhabitants of the United States, now in the ports of the Confederate States, except such as have been since the 15th of April last, or may hereafter be, in the service of the Government of the United States, shall be allowed thirty days, after the publication of this Act, to leave said ports, and reach their destination; and such vessels, and their cargoes, excepting articles contraband of war, shall not be subject to capture, under this Act, during said period, unless they shall previously have reached the destination for which they were bound, on leaving said ports.’


Among the private armed vessels which took out commissions under this Act, was the schooner Savannah, formerly a pilot-boat out of Charleston. She carried one small gun, and about twenty men. During the month of June, this adventurous little cruiser was captured by the U. S. brig Bainbridge, and her crew were hurried off to New York, confined in cells, like convicted felons, and afterward brought to trial, and convicted of piracy, under Mr. Lincoln's proclamation. I had informed myself of these proceedings from newspapers captured on board the enemy's ships, and hence the announcement I had made to the prisoners of the Joseph Maxwell. The reader may imagine the delight of those men, and my own satisfaction, as well, when my lieutenant brought back with him, from the shore, after his visit to the Governor, an American newspaper, of late date, stating that the Savannah prisoners had been released from close confinement, and were to be treated as prisoners of war. I was stretching a point, in undertaking retaliation of this serious character without instructions from my Government, but the case was pressing, and we of the Sumter were vitally interested in the issue. The commission of the Savannah, though she was only a privateer, was as lawful as our own, and, judging by the abuse that had already been heaped upon us, by the Northern newspapers, we had no reason to expect any better treatment, at the hands of well-paid New York District-Attorneys, and well-packed New York juries.

I was gratified to learn, as I did soon afterward, that my Government had taken a proper stand on this question. President Davis, as soon as he heard of the treatment to which the Savannah prisoners had been subjected, wrote a letter of remonstrance to President Lincoln, threatening retaliation, if he dared execute his threat of treating them as pirates. In that letter so worthy of the Christian statesman, and so opposite to the coarse fulminations of the enemy, Mr. Davis used the following expressions: ‘It is the desire of this Government so to conduct the war, now existing, as to mitigate its horrors, as far as may be possible; and with this intent, its treatment of the prisoners captured by its forces has been marked, by the greatest humanity, and leniency, consistent with public obligation. Some have been permitted to return home, on parole, others to [181] remain at large, under similar conditions, within the Confederacy, and all have been furnished with rations for their subsistence, such as are allowed to our own troops. It is only since the news has been received, of the treatment of the prisoners taken on the Savannah, that I have been compelled to withdraw those indulgences, and to hold the prisoners taken by us, in strict confinement. A just regard to humanity, and to the honor of this Government, now requires me to state, explicitly, that, painful as will be the necessity, this Government will deal out to the prisoners held by it, the same treatment, and the same fate, as shall be experienced by those captured on the Savannah; and if driven to the terrible necessity of retaliation, by your execution of any of the officers, or crew of the Savannah, that retaliation will be extended so far, as shall be requisite to secure the abandonment of a practice, unknown to the warfare of civilized men, and so barbarous, as to disgrace the nation which shall be guilty of inaugurating it.’

Shortly before the conviction of the Savannah prisoners, a seaman named Smith, captured on board the privateer Jefferson Davis, was tried, and convicted of piracy, in Philadelphia. There were fourteen of these men, in all, and the following order from Mr. Benjamin, the Acting Secretary of War of the Confederate States, to General Winder, in charge of Federal prisoners, in Richmond, will show how much in earnest President Davis was, when he wrote the above letter to President Lincoln:—

Sir:—You are hereby instructed to choose, by lot, from among the prisoners of war, of highest rank, one who is to be confined in a cell appropriated to convicted felons, and who is to be treated, in all respects, as if such convict, and to be held for execution, in the same manner as may be adopted by the enemy for the execution of the prisoner of war, Smith, recently condemned to death in Philadelphia.

You will, also, select thirteen other prisoners of war, the highest in rank of those captured by our forces, to be confined in cells, reserved for prisoners accused of infamous crimes, and will treat them as such, so long as the enemy shall continue so to treat the like number of prisoners of war, captured by them at sea, and now held for trial in New York as pirates.

‘As these measures are intended to repress the infamous attempt now made by the enemy, to commit judicial murder on prisoners of war, you will execute them, strictly, as the mode best calculated to prevent the commission of so heinous a crime.’


The list of hostages, as returned by General Winder, was as follows: Colonels Corcoran, Lee, Cogswell, Wilcox, Woodruff, and Wood; Lieutenant-Colonels Bowman, and Neff; Majors Potter, Revere, and Vogdes, and Captains Ricketts, McQuade, and Rockwood. These measures had the desired effect; the necessity, that the Federal Government was under of conciliating the Irish interest, contributing powerfully thereto—Colonel Cor coran, the first hostage named, being an Irishman of some note and influence, in New York. President Lincoln was accordingly obliged to take back his proclamation, and the Savannah prisoners, and Smith, were put on the footing of prisoners of war. But this recantation of an attempted barbarism had not been honestly made. It was not the generous taking back of a wrong principle, by a high-minded people. The tiger, which had come out of his jungle, in quest of blood, had only been driven back by fear; his feline, and bloodthirsty disposition would, of course, crop out again, as soon as he ceased to dread the huntsman's rifle. Whilst we were strong, but little more was heard of ‘pirates,’ and ‘piracy,’ except through Mr. Seward's long-winded and frantic despatches to the British Government, on the subject of the Alabama, but when we became weak, the slogan was taken up again, and rung, in all its changes, by an infuriated people.

To return now to the Sumter. Our decks were crowded with visitors, on the afternoon of our arrival; some of these coming off to shake us warmly by the hand, out of genuine sympathy, whilst others had no higher motive than that of mere curiosity. The officers of the garrison were very civil to us, but we were amused at their diplomatic precaution, in coming to visit us in citizens' dress. There are no people in the world, perhaps, who attach so much importance to matters of mere form and ceremony, bluff and hearty as John Bull is, as the English people. Lord Russell had dubbed us a ‘so-called’ government, and this expression had become a law to all his subordinates; no official visits could be exchanged, no salutes reciprocated, and none other of the thousand and one courtesies of red-tapedom observed toward us; and, strange to say, whilst all this nonsense of form was being practised, the substance of nationality, that is to say, the acknowledgment [183] that we possessed belligerent rights, had been frankly and freely accorded to us. It was like saying to a man, ‘I should like, above all things, to have you come and dine with me, but as you hav n't got the right sort of a dining-dress, you can't come, you know!’ Some ridiculous consequences resulted from this etiquette of nations. Important matters of business frequently remained unattended to, because the parties could not address each other officially. An informal note would take the place of an official despatch.

The advent of the Sumter invariably caused more, or less commotion, in official circles; the small colonial officials fearing lest she might complicate them with their governments. There was now another important council to be held. The opinion of the ‘law-officers of the crown’ was to be taken by his Excellency, upon the question, whether the Sumter was entitled to be coaled in her Majesty's dominions. The paymaster had found a lot of indifferent coal, on shore, which could be purchased at about double its value, but nothing could be done until the ‘council’ moved; and it is proverbial that large bodies like provincial councils, move slowly. The Attorney-General of the Colony, and other big wigs got together, however, after due ceremony, and, thanks to the fact, that the steamer is an infernal machine of modern invention, they were not very long in coming to a decision. If there had been anything about a steamer, in Coke upon Littleton, Bacon, or Bracton, or any other of those old fellows who deal in black letter, I am afraid the Sumter would have been blockaded by the enemy, before she could have gotten to sea. The pros and cons being discussed—I had too much respect for the calibre of certain guns on shore, to throw any shells across the windows of the council-chamber—it was decided that coal was not contraband of war, and that the Sumter might purchase the necessary article in the market.

But though she might purchase it, it was not so easy to get it on board. It was hard to move the good people on shore. The climate was relaxing, the rainy season had set in, and there was only negro labor to be had, about the wharves and quays. We were four tedious days in filling our coal-bunkers. It had rained, off and on, the whole time. I did not visit the [184] shore, but I amused myself frequently by inspecting the magnificent scenery by which I was surrounded, through an excellent telescope. The vegetation of Trinidad is varied, and luxuriant beyond description. As the clouds would break away, and the sun light up the wilderness of waving palms, and other tropical trees and plants of strange and rich foliage, amid which the little town lay embowered, the imagination was enchanted with the picture.

The emancipation of the slave ruined this, as it did the other West India islands. As a predial laborer, the freedman was nearly worthless, and the sugar crop, which is the staple, went down to zero. In despair, the planters resorted to the introduction of the coolie; large numbers of them have been imported, and under their skilful and industrious cultivation, the island is regaining a share of its lost prosperity.

A day or two after my arrival, I had a visit from the master of a Baltimore brig, lying in the port. He was ready for sea, he said, and had come on board, to learn whether I would capture him. I told him to make himself easy, that I should not molest him, and referred him to the act of the Confederate Congress, declaring that aa state of war existed, to show him that, as yet, we regarded Maryland as a friend. He went away rejoicing, and sailed the next day.

We had, as usual, some little refitting of the ship to do. Off Puerto Cabello, we had carried away our main yard, by coming in contact with the Abby Bradford, and the first lieutenant having ordered another on our arrival, it was now towed off, and gotten on board, fitted, and sent aloft.

Sunday, August 4th.—Morning calm and clear. The chimes of the church-bells fall pleasantly and suggestively on the ear. An American schooner came in from some point, up the bay, and anchored well in shore, some distance from us, as though distrustful of our good faith, and of our respect for British neutrality. Being all ready for sea, at half-past 10 A. M., I gave the order to get up steam; but the paymaster reporting to me that his vouchers were not all complete, the order was countermanded, and we remained another day.

Her Majesty's steam-frigate Cadmus having come in, from one of the neighboring islands, I sent a lieutenant on board to [185] call on her captain. This was the first foreign ship of war to which I had extended the courtesy of a visit, and, in a few hours afterward, my visit was returned. I had, from this time onward, much agreeable intercourse with the naval officers of the several nations, with whom I came in contact. I found them much more independent, than the civil, and military officers. They did not seem to care a straw, about defactos, or de jures, and had a sailor's contempt for red tape and unmeaning forms. They invariably received my officers, and myself, when we visited their ships, with the honors of the side, appropriate to our rank, without stopping to ask, in the jargon of Lord Russell, whether we were ‘So-Called,’ or Simon Pure. After the usual courtesies had passed between the lieutenant of the Cadmus and myself, I invited him into my cabin, when, upon being seated, he said his captain had desired him to say to me, that, as the Sumter was the first ship of the Confederate States he had fallen in with, he would take it, as a favor, if I would show him my commission. I replied, ‘Certainly, but there is a little ceremony to be complied with, on your part, first.’ ‘What is that?’ said he. ‘How do I know,’ I rejoined, ‘that you have any authority to demand a sight of my commission —the flag at your peak may be a cheat, and you may be no better than you take me for, a ship of war of some hitherto unknown government—you must show me your commission first.’ This was said, pleasantly, on my part, for the idea was quite ludicrous, that a large, and stately steam-frigate, bearing the proud cross of St. George, could be such as I had hypothetically described her. But I was right as to the point I had made, to wit, that one ship of war has no right to demand a sight of the commission of another, without first showing her own. Indeed, this principle is so well known among naval men, that the lieutenant had come prepared for my demand, having brought his commission with him. Smiling, himself, now, in return, he said: ‘Certainly, your request is but reasonable; here is her Majesty's commission,’ unrolling, at the same time, a large square parchment, beautifully engraved with nautical devices, and with sundry seals, pendent therefrom. In return, I handed him a small piece of coarse, and rather dingy Confederate paper, at the bottom of which was inscribed [186] the name of Jefferson Davis. He read the commission carefully, and when he had done, remarked, as he handed it back to me, ‘Mr. Davis's is a smooth, bold signature.’ I replied ‘You are an observer of signatures, and you have hit it exactly, in the present instance. I could not describe his character to you more correctly, if I were to try-our President has all the smoothness, and polish of the ripe scholar and refined gentleman, with the boldness of a man, who dares strike for the right, against odds.’

Monday, August 5th.—Weather clear, and fine. Flocks of parrots are flying overhead, and all nature is rejoicing in the sunshine, after the long, drenching rains. Far as the eye can reach, there is but one sea of verdure, giving evidence, at once, of the fruitfulness of the soil, and the ardor of the sun. At eleven A. M., Captain Hillyar, of the Cadmus, came on board, to visit me, and we had a long and pleasant conversation on American affairs. He considerately brought me a New York newspaper, of as late a date, as the 12th of July. ‘I must confess,’ said he, as he handed me this paper, ‘that your American war puzzles me—it cannot possibly last long.’ ‘You are probably mistaken, as to its duration,’ I replied; ‘I fear it will be long and bloody. As to its being a puzzle, it should puzzle every honest man. If our late co-partners had practised toward us the most common rules of honesty, we should not have quarrelled with them; but we are only defending ourselves against robbers, with knives at our throats.’ ‘You surprise me,’ rejoined the Captain; ‘how is that?’ ‘Simply, that the machinery of the Federal Government, under which we have lived, and which was designed for the common benefit, has been made the means of despoiling the South, to enrich the North;’ and I explained to him the workings of the iniquitous tariffs, under the operation of which the South had, in effect, been reduced to a dependent colonial condition, almost as abject, as that of the Roman provinces, under their proconsuls; the only difference being, that smooth-faced hypocrisy had been added to robbery, inasmuch as we had been plundered under the forms of law.

‘All this is new to me, I assure you,’ replied the Captain; ‘I thought that your war had arisen out of the slavery question.’ [187] ‘That is a common mistake of foreigners. The enemy has taken pains to impress foreign nations with this false view of the case. With the exception of a few honest zealots, the canting, hypocritical Yankee cares as little for our slaves, as he does for our draught animals. The war which he has been making upon slavery, for the last forty years, is only an interlude, or by-play, to help on the main action of the drama, which is Empire; and it is a curious coincidence, that it was commenced about the time the North began to rob the South, by means of its tariffs. When a burglar designs to enter a dwelling, for the purpose of robbery, he provides himself with the necessary implements. The slavery question was one of the implements employed, to help on the robbery of the South. It strengthened the Northern party, and enabled them to get their tariffs through Congress; and when, at length, the South, driven to the wall, turned, as even the crushed worm will turn, it was cunningly perceived by the Northern men, that “No slavery” would be a popular war-cry, and hence they used it. It is true, we are defending our slave property, but we are defending it no more than any other species of our property— it is all endangered, under a general system of robbery. We are, in fact, fighting for independence. Our forefathers made a great mistake, when they warmed the Puritan serpent in their bosom; and we, their descendants, are endeavoring to remedy it.’

The Captain now rose to depart. I accompanied him on deck, and when he had shoved off, I ordered the ship to be gotten under way—the fires having been started some time before, the steam was already up. The Sumter, as she moved out of the harbor of the Port of Spain, looked more like a comfortable passenger steamer, bound on a voyage, than a ship of war, her stern nettings, and stern and quarter boats being filled with oranges, and bananas, and all the other luscious fruits that are produced so abundantly in this rich tropical island. Other luxuries were added, for Jack had brought, on board, one or two more sad-looking old monkeys, and a score more of squalling parrots.

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