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Chapter 17:

  • On the way to Maranham
  • -- the weather and the winds -- the Sumter runs short of coal, and is obliged to ‘bear up’ -- Cayenne and Paramaribo, in French and Dutch Guiana -- sails again, and arrives in Maranham, Brazil.

We passed out of the Gulf of Paria, through the eastern, or Mona passage, a deep strait, not more than a third of a mile in width, with the land rising, on both sides, to a great height, almost perpendicularly. The water of the Orinoco here begins to mix with the sea-water, and the two waters, as they come into unwilling contact, carry on a perpetual struggle, whirling about in small circles, and writhing and twisting like a serpent in pain.

We met the first heave of the sea at about two o'clock in the afternoon, and turning our head again to the eastward, we continued to run along the mountainous and picturesque coast of Trinidad, until an hour or two after nightfall. The coast is quite precipitous, but, steep as it is, a number of negro cabins had climbed the hill-sides, and now revealed their presence to us by the twinkle of their lights, as the shades of evening fell over the scene. These cabins were quite invisible, by daylight, so dense was the foliage of the trees amid which they nestled. This must, indeed, be the very paradise of the negro. The climate is so genial, that he requires little or no clothing, and bountiful Nature supplies him with food, all the year round, almost unasked. In this land of the sun, a constant succession of fruits is pendent from the trees, and the dwellers in the huts beneath their sheltering arms, have only to reach out their hands when hunger presses. I was reminded, by this scene, of a visit I had once made to the island of St. Domingo, and of the indolence in which the negro lives in [189] that soft and voluptuous climate. I landed at the bay of Samana, from the ship of war to which I was attached, and taking a stroll, one evening, I came upon the hut of an American negress. Some years before, Boyer, the President of the island, had invited the immigration of free negroes, from the United States. A colony from the city of Baltimore had accepted his invitation, and settled at Samana. In the course of a very few years, all the men of the colony had run off, and found their way back, in various capacities, on board of trading vessels, to the land of their birth; leaving their wives and daughters behind to shift for themselves. The negro woman, whose hut I had stumbled upon, was one of these grass widows. She had become quite old, but was living without apparent effort. The cocoanut waved its feathery branches over her humble domicil, and the juicy mango and fragrant banana hung within tempting reach. A little plot of ground had been picketed in with crooked sticks, and in this primitive garden were growing some squashes and watermelons, barely visible under the rank weeds. I said to her, ‘My good woman, you don't seem to have much use for the plough or the hoe in your garden.’ ‘La! master,’ said she, ‘no need of much work in this country—we have only to put in the seed, and the Lord, he gives the increase.’

In time, no doubt, all the West India islands will lapse into just such luxuriant wildernesses, as we were now coasting along, in the Sumter. Amalgamation, by slow, but sure processes, will corrupt what little of European blood remains in them, until every trace of the white man shall disappear. The first process will be the mulatto; but the mulatto, as the name imports, is a mule, and must finally die out; and the mass of the population will become pure African. This is the fate which England has prepared, for some of her own blood, in her colonies. I will not stop here to moralize on it. If we are beaten in this war, what will be our fate in the Southern States? Shall we, too, become mongrelized, and disappear from the face of the earth? Can this be the ultimate design of the Yankee? The night was quite light, and taking a fresh departure, at about ten P. M., from the east end of Trinidad, we passed through the strait between it and the island [190] of Tobago, and soon afterward emerged from the Caribbean Sea, upon the broad bosom of the South Atlantic. Judging by the tide rips, that were quite visible in the moonlight there must have been considerable current setting through this strait, to the westward. The next day the weather was still fine, and the wind light from about E. N. E., and the Sumter made good speed through the smooth sea. At about ten A. M. a sail was descried, some twelve or fourteen miles distant. She was away off on our port beam, running before the trade-wind, and I forbore to chase. As before remarked, I was not now cruising, but anxious to make a passage, and could not afford the fuel to chase, away from the track I was pursuing, the few straggling sail I might discover in this lonely sea. Once in the track of commerce, where the sails would come fast and thick, I could make up for lost time. At noon, we observed in latitude 9° 14′; the longitude, by chronometer, being 59° 10′.

Wednesday, August 7th.—Weather clear, and delightful, and the sea smooth. Nothing but the broad expanse of the ocean visible, except, indeed, numerous flocks of flying-fish, which we are flushing, now and then like so many flocks of partridges, as we disturb the still waters. These little creatures have about the flight of the partridge, and it is a pretty sight to see them skim away over the billows with their transparent finny wings glistening in the sun, until they drop again into their ‘cover,’ as suddenly as they rose. Our crew having been somewhat broken in upon, by the sending away of so many prize crews, the first lieutenant is re-arranging his watch and quarter-bills, and the men are being exercised at the guns, to accustom them to the changes which have become necessary, in their stations. Officers and men are enjoying, alike, the fine weather. With the fore-castle, and quarter-deck awnings spread, we do not feel the heat, though the sun is nearly perpendicular at noon. Jack is ‘overhauling’ his clothes'-bag, and busy with his needle and thread, stopping, now and then, to have a ‘lark’ with his monkey, or to listen to the prattle of his parrot. The boys of the ship are taking lessons, in knotting, and splicing, and listening to the ‘yarn’ of some old salt, as he indoctrinates them in these mysteries. The midshipmen [191] have their books of navigation spread out before them, and slate in hand, are discussing sine and tangent, base, and hypothenuse. The only place in which a lounger is not seen is the quarter-deck. This precinct is always sacred to duty, and etiquette. No one ever presumes to seat himself upon it, not even the Commander. Here the officer of the deck is pacing, to and fro, swinging his trumpet idly about, for the want of something to do. But hold a moment! he has at last found a job. It is seven bells (half-past 11) and the ship's cook has come to the mast, to report dinner. The cook is a darkey, and see how he grins, as the officer of the deck, having tasted of the fat pork, in his tin pan, and mashed some of his beans, with a spoon, to see if they are done, tells him, ‘that will do.’ The Commander now comes on deck, with his sextant, having been informed that it is time to ‘look out for the sun.’ See, he gathers the midshipmen around him, each also with his instrument, and, from time to time, asks them what ‘altitude they have on,’ and compares the altitude which they give him with his own, to see if they are making satisfactory progress as observers. The latitude being obtained, and reported to the officer of the deck, that officer now comes up to the Commander, and touching his hat, reports twelve o'clock, as though the Commander didn't know it already. The Cornmander says to him, sententiously, ‘make it so,’ as though the sun could not make it so, without the Commander's leave. See, now what a stir there is about the hitherto silent decks. Since we last cast a glance at them, Jack has put up his clothes'-bag, and the sweepers have ‘swept down,’ fore and aft, and the boatswain having piped to dinner, the cooks of the different messes are spreading their ‘mess-cloths’ on the deck, and arranging their viands. The drum has rolled, ‘to grog,’ and the master's mate of the spirit-room, muster-book in hand, is calling over the names of the crew, each man as his name is called, waddling up to the tub, and taking the ‘tot’ that is handed to him, by the ‘Jack-of-the-dust,’ who is the master-mate's assistant. Dinner now proceeds with somewhat noisy jest and joke, and the hands are not ‘turned to,’ that is, set to work again, until one o'clock.

We have averaged, in the last twenty-four hours, eight knots [192] and a half, and have not, as yet, experienced any adverse current, though we are daily on the lookout for this enemy; latitude 8° 31′; longitude 56° 12′. In the course of the afternoon, a brigantine passing near us, we hove her to, with a blank cartridge, when she showed us the Dutch colors. She was from Dutch Surinam, bound for Europe. Toward nightfall, it became quite calm, and naught was heard but the thumping of the ship's propeller, as she urged her ceaseless way through the vast expanse of waters.

August 8th.—Weather still beautifully clear, with an occasional rain squall enclosing us as in a gauze veil, and shutting out from view for a few minutes, at a time, the distant horizon. The wind is light, and variable, but always from the Eastern board; following the sun as the chariot follows the steed. We are making good speed through the water, but we have at length encountered our dreaded enemy, the great equatorial current, which sets, with such regularity, along this coast. Its set is about W. N. W., and its drift about one knot per hour. Nothing has been seen to-day. The water has changed its deep blue color, to green, indicating that we are on soundings. We are about ninety miles from the coast of Guiana. The sun went down behind banks, or rather cumuli of pink and lilac clouds. We are fast sinking the north polar star, and new constellations arise, nightly, above the southern horizon. Amid other starry wonders, we had a fine view this evening, of the southern cross; latitude 7° 19′; longitude 53° 04′.

The next day was cloudy, and the direction of the current was somewhat changed, for its set was now N. W., half N. This current is proving a serious drawback, and I begin to fear, that I shall not be able to make the run to Maranham, as I had hoped. Not only are the elements adverse, but my engineer tells me, that we were badly cheated, in our coal measure, at Trinidad, the sharp coal-dealer having failed to put on board of us as many tons as he had been paid for; for which the said engineer got a rowing. We observed, to-day, in latitude 6° 01′ and longitude 50° 48′.

August 10th.—Weather clear, with a deep blue sea, and a fresh breeze, from the south-east. The south-east trade-winds [193] have thus crossed the equator, and reached us in latitude 5° north, which is our latitude to-day. I was apprehensive of this, for we are in the middle of August, and in this month these winds frequently drive back the north-east trades, and usurp their place, to a considerable extent, until the sun crosses back into the southern hemisphere. We thus have both wind, and current ahead; the current alone has retarded us fifty miles, or a fraction over two knots an hour; which is about equal to the drift of the Gulf Stream off Cape Hatteras.

Things were beginning now to look decidedly serious. I had but three days of fuel on board, and, upon consulting my chart, I found that I was still 550 miles from my port, current taken into account. It was not possible for the dull little Summer to make this distance, in the given time, if the wind, and current should continue of the same strength. I resolved to try her, however, another night, hoping that some change for the better might take place. My journal tells the tale of that night as follows:—

August 11th.—‘The morning has dawned with a fresh breeze, and rather tough sea, into which we have been plunging all night, making but little headway. The genius of the east wind refuses to permit even steam to invade his domain, and drives us back, with disdain. His ally, the current, has retarded us sixty miles in the last twenty-four hours!’ I now no longer hesitated, but directing the engineer to let his fires go down, turned my ship's head, to the westward, and made sail; it being my intention to run down the coast to Cayenne in French Guiana, with the hope of obtaining a fresh supply of fuel at that place. We soon had the studding sails on the ship, and were rolling along to the northward and westward, with more grace than speed, our rate of sailing being only four knots. The afternoon proved to be remarkably fine, and we should have enjoyed this far niente change, but for our disappointment. Our chief regret was that we were losing so much valuable time, in the midst of the stirring events of the war.

Hauling in for the coast, in the vicinity of Cape Orange, we struck soundings about nightfall. The sea now became quite smooth, and the wind fell very light during the night—the [194] current, however, is hurrying us on, though its set is not exactly in the right direction. Its tendency is to drive us too far from the coast. The next day, it became perfectly calm, and so continued all day. We were in twenty-three fathoms of water, and could see by the lead line that we were drifting over the bottom at the rate of about two knots an hour. We got out our fishing-lines, and caught some deep sea-fish, of the grouper species. The sea was alive with the nautilus, and the curious sea-nettle, with its warps and hawsers thrown out, and its semi-transparent, gelatinous disc contracting and expanding, as the little animal extracted its food from the water. Schools of fish, large and small, were playing about in every direction, and flocks of sea-gulls, and other marine birds of prey, were hovering over them, and making occasional forays in their midst. During the day, a sail was descried, far in shore, but we were unable to make it out; indeed sails were of the least importance to us now, as we were unable to chase. Just before sunset, we had a fine view of the Silver Mountains, some forty or fifty miles distant, in the south-west.

August 15th.—During the past night, we made the ‘Great Constable,’ a small island, off the coast, and one of the landmarks for Cayenne. The night was fine, and moonlit, and we ran in, and anchored about midnight, in fourteen fathoms of water. At daylight, the next morning, after waiting for the passage of a rain-squall, we got under way, and proceeding along the coast, came up with the Remize Islands, in the course of the afternoon, where we found a French pilot-lugger lying to, waiting for us. We were off Cayenne, and the lugger had come out to show us the way into the anchorage. A pilot jumping on board, we ran in, and anchored to the north-west of the ‘Child’—a small island—in three and a quarter fathoms of water. I could scarcely realize, that this was the famous penal settlement of Cayenne, painted in French history, as the very abode of death, and fraught with all other human horrors, so beautiful, and picturesque did it appear. The outlying islands are high, rising, generally, in a conical form, and are densely wooded, to their very summits. Sweet little nooks and coves, overhung by the waving foliage of strange-looking tropical trees, indent their shores, and invite the fisherman, or [195] pleasure-seeker to explore their recesses. The main land is equally rich in vegetation, and though the sea-coast is low, distant ranges of mountains, inland, break in, agreeably, upon the monotony. A perennial summer prevails, and storms, and hurricanes are unknown. It was here that some of the most desperate and bloodthirsty of the French revolutionists of 1790, were banished. Many of them died of yellow fever; others escaped, and wandered off to find inhospitable graves, in other countries; few of them ever returned to France. Shortly after we came to anchor, the batteries of the town, and some small French steamers of war, that lay in the harbor, fired salutes in honor of the birthday of Louis Napoleon—this being the 15th of August.

The next morning, at daylight, I dispatched Lieutenant Evans, and Paymaster Myers, to the town—the former to call on the Governor, and the latter to see if any coal could be had. Their errand was fruitless. Not only was there no coal to be purchased, but my officers thought that they had been received rather ungraciously. The fact is, we found here, as in Curacoa, that the enemy was in possession of the neutral territory. There was a Federal Consul resident in the place, who was the principal contractor, for supplying the French garrison with fresh beef! and there were three, or four Yankee schooners in the harbor, whose skippers had a monopoly of the trade in flour and notions. What could the Sumter effect against such odds?

In the course of an hour after my boat returned, we were again under way, running down the coast, in the direction of Surinam, to see if the Dutchmen would prove more propitious, than the Frenchmen had done. About six P. M., we passed the ‘Salut’ Islands, three in number, on the summit of one of which shone the white walls of a French military hospital, contrasting prettily with the deep-green foliage of the shadetrees around it. It was surrounded by low walls, on which were mounted some small guns en barbette. Hither are sent all the sick sailors, and soldiers from Cayenne.

August 17th.—Morning clear, and beautiful, as usual, in this delightful climate, with a fresh breeze from the south-east. We are now in latitude 6° north, and still the south-east tradewind is following us—the calm belt having been pushed [196] farther and farther to the northward. We are running along in ten fathoms of water, at an average distance of seven, or eight miles, from the land, with the soundings surprisingly regular. Passed the mouth of the small river Maroni, at noon. At four P. M., ran across a bank, in very muddy water, some fifteen miles to the northward and eastward, of the entrance of this river, with only three fathoms of water on it; rather close shaving on a strange coast, having but six feet of water under our keel. Becoming a little nervous, we ‘hauled out,’ and soon deepened into five fathoms. There is little danger of shipwreck, on this coast, however, owing to the regularity of the soundings, and the almost perpetual smoothness of the sea. The bars off the mouths of the rivers, too, are, for the most part, of mud, where a ship sticks, rather than thumps. Hence, the temerity with which we ran into shallow waters.

Sunday, August 18th.—The south-east wind came to us, as softly, and almost as sweetly, this morning, as if it were ‘breathing o'er a bed of violets;’ but it freshened as the day advanced, in obedience to the mandate of its master, the sun, and we had a fresh breeze, toward nightfall. After passing Post Orange, we ran over another three-fathom bank, the water deepening beyond, and enabling us to haul in toward the coast, as we approached Bram's Point, at the mouth of the Surinam River, off which we anchored, (near the buoy on the bar,) at twenty minutes past five P. M., in four fathoms of water. This being Sunday, as we were running along the coast, we had mustered and inspected the crew, and caused the clerk to read the articles ‘for the better government of the Navy’ to them—the same old articles, though not read under the same old flag, as formerly. This was my invariable practice on the Sabbath. It broke in, pleasantly, and agreeably, upon the routine duties of the week, pretty much as churchgoing does, on shore, and had a capital effect, besides, upon discipline, reminding the sailor of his responsibility to the laws, and that there were such merciless tribunals, as Courts-Martial, for their enforcement. The very shaving, and washing, and dressing, of a Sunday morning, contributed to the sailor's selfrespect. The ‘muster’ gratified, too, one of his passions, as it gave him the opportunity of displaying all those anchors, [197] and stars, which he had so industriously embroidered, in floss silk, on his ample shirt collar, and on the sleeve of his jacket. We had some dandies on board the Sumter, and it was amusing to witness the self-complacent air, with which these gentlemen would move around the capstan, with the blackest, and most carefully polished of pumps, and the whitest, and finest of sinnott hats, from which would be streaming yards enough of ribbon, to make the ship a pennant.

I had had considerable difficulty in identifying the mouth of the Surinam River, so low and uniform in appearance was the coast, as seen from the distance at which we had been compelled to run along it, by the shallowness of the water. There is great similarity between these shelving banks, running off to a great distance, at sea, and the banks on the coast of West Florida. The rule of soundings, on some parts of the latter coast, is a foot to the mile, so that, when the navigator is in ten feet of water, he is ten miles from the land. This is not quite the case, on the coast of Guiana, but on some parts of it, a large ship can scarcely come within sight of the land. A small craft, drawing but a few feet of water, has no need of making a harbor, on either coast, for the whole coast is a harbor—the sea, in bad weather, breaking in from three to five fathoms of water, miles outside of her, leaving all smooth and calm within. There is a difference, however, between the two coasts—the Florida coast is scourged by the hurricane, whilst the Guiana coast is entirely free from storms.

Soon after we came to anchor, as related, we descried a steamer in the west, steering for the mouth of the river. Nothing was more likely than that, by this time, the enemy should have sent some of his fast gun-boats in pursuit of us, and the smoke of a steamer on the horizon, therefore, caused me some uneasiness. I knew that I had not a chivalrous enemy to deal with, who would be likely to give me a fair fight. The captures made by the Sumter had not only touched the Yankee in a very tender spot—his pocket—they had administered, also, a well-merited rebuke to his ridiculous selfconceit. It was monstrous, indeed, in his estimation, that any one should have the audacity, in the face of Mr. Lincoln's proclamation of prompt vengeance, to molest one of his ships. [198] A malignant press, from Maine to Maryland, had denounced the Sumter as a pirate, and no quarter was to be shown her. The steamer, now approaching, having been descried, at a great distance, by the curling of her black smoke high into the still air, night set in before she was near enough to be made out. We could see her form indistinctly, in the darkness, but no certain conclusion could be arrived at as to her size or nationality. I, at once, caused my fires to be lighted, and, beating to quarters, prepared my ship for action. We stood at our guns for some time, but seeing, about ten P. M., that the strange steamer came to anchor, some three or four miles outside of us, I permitted the men to leave their quarters, cautioning the officer of the watch, however, to keep a bright lookout, during the night, for the approach of boats, and to call me if there should be any cause for alarm. As I turned in, I thought things looked a little squally. If the strange vessel were a mail-steamer, she would, of course, be familiar with the waters in which she plied, and, instead of anchoring outside, would have run boldly into the river without waiting for daylight. Besides, she had no lights about her, as she approached, and packet steamers always go well lighted up. That she was a steamer of war, therefore, appeared quite certain; but, of course, it was of no use to speculate upon the chances of her being an enemy; daylight only could reveal that. In the meantime, the best thing we could do would be to get a good night's rest, so as to rise refreshed for the morning's work, if work there should be.

At daylight, all hands were again summoned to their quarters; and pretty soon the strange steamer was observed to be under way, and standing toward us. We got up our own anchor in a trice—the men running around the capstan in ‘double-quick,’—and putting the ship under steam, started to meet her. Neither of us had, as yet, any colors hoisted. We soon perceived that the stranger was no heavier than ourselves. This greatly encouraged me, and [could see a corresponding lighting up of the faces of my crew, all standing silently at their guns. Desiring to make the stranger reveal her nationality to me first, I now hoisted the French colors— a fine new flag, that I had had made in New Orleans. To my [199] astonishment, and no little perplexity, up went the same colors, on board the stranger! I was alongside of a French ship of war, pretending to be a Frenchman myself! Of course, there was but one thing to be done, and that was, to haul down the French flag and hoist my own, which was done in an instant, when we mutually hailed. A colloquy ensued, when the names of the two ships were interchanged, and we ascertained that the stranger was bound into the Surinam, like ourselves. We now both ran in for the light-ship, and the Frenchman receiving a pilot on board from her, I permitted him to take the lead, and we followed him up the long and narrow channel, having sometimes scarcely a foot of water to spare under our keel.

After we had passed inside of Bram's Point, the tide being out, both ships anchored to wait for the returning flood. I took advantage of the opportunity, and sent a lieutenant to visit the French ship. The Vulture, for such was her name, was one of the old-fashioned, side-wheel steamers, mounting only carronades, and was last from Martinique, with convicts on board, for Cayenne. Running short of coal, she was putting into Paramaribo, for a supply. Getting under way again, soon after mid-day, we continued our course up the river. We were much reminded, by the scenery of the Surinam, of that of some of our Southern rivers—the Mississippi, for instance, after the voyager from the Gulf has left the marshes behind him, and is approaching New Orleans. The bottom lands, near the river, are cleared, and occupied by sugar, and other plantations, the back-ground of the picture presenting a dense, and unbroken forest. As we passed the well-known sugar-house, with its tall chimney, emitting volumes of black smoke, and saw gangs of slaves, cutting, and hauling in the cane, the illusion was quite perfect. Nothing can exceed the fertility of these alluvial lands. They are absolutely inexhaustible, yielding crop after crop, in continual succession, without rest or interval; there being no frosts to interfere with vegetation, in this genial climate. Some of the planters' dwellings were tasteful, and even elegant, surrounded by galleries whose green Venetian blinds gave promise of coolness within, and sheltered besides by the umbrageous arms of giant forest-trees. Cattle wandered over the pasture lands, the negroes were well clothed, and [200] there was a general air of abundance, and contentment. Slavery is held by a very precarious tenure, here, and will doubtless soon disappear, there being a strong party, in Holland, in favor of its abolition. Our consort, the Vulture, and ourselves anchored almost at the same moment, off the town of Paramaribo, in the middle of the afternoon. There were two, or three American brigantines in the harbor, and a couple of Dutch ships of war. I sent a lieutenant to call on the Governor, and to request permission to coal, and refit; both of which requests were granted, with the usual conditions, viz.: that I should not increase my crew or armament, or receive ammunition on board. The Captain of the Vulture now came on board, to return the visit I had made him, through my lieutenant, and the commanding Dutch naval officer also called. But, what was more important, several coal merchants came off to negotiate with my paymaster, about supplying the ship with the very necessary article in which they dealt. The successful bidder for our contract was a ‘gentleman of color,’ that is to say, a quadroon, who talked freely about whites, and blacks, always putting himself, of course, in the former category, by the use of the pronoun ‘we,’ and seemed to have no sort of objection to our flag, or the cause it was supposed to represent. I wined this ‘gentleman,’ along with my other visitors, and though I paid him a remunerative price for his coal, I am under many obligations to him, for his kindness, and assistance to us, during our stay. I take great pleasure in contrasting the conduct and bearing of this person, with those of the Federal Consul, at Paramaribo. This latter gentleman was a Connecticut man, who had probably worn white cravats, and delivered quarter-dollar lectures, in his native village, against slavery, as a means of obtaining an ‘honest living.’ Coming to Paramaribo, he had married a mulatto wife, and through her, become a slave-holder. This virtuous representative of ‘great moral ideas,’ at once threw himself into the breach, between the Sumter, and the coal-market, and did all he could to prevent her from coaling. He was one of Mr. Seward's men, and taking up the refrain about ‘piracy,’ went first to the Governor, to see what could be effected, in that quarter. Being told that Holland had followed the lead of the great powers, and [201] recognized the Confederates as belligerents, he next went to our quadroon contractor, and endeavored to bluff him off, by threatening him with the loss of any Yankee trade, that he might possess. Being equally unsuccessful here, he next tried to seduce the lightermen, to prevent them from delivering the coal to us. All would not do, however, the Sumter, or what is more likely, the Sumter's gold—that talisman that works so many miracles in this virtuous world of ours— was too strong for him, and, pretty soon, the black diamonds —the most precious of jewels to men in our condition-came tumbling into our coal-bunkers. Failing to prevent us from coaling, the little Connecticut official next tampered with the pilot, and endeavored to prevail on him, to refuse to take us to sea. But the pilot was a sailor, with all the generous instincts that belong to his class, and he not only refused to be seduced, but presented me with some local charts of the coast, which I found very useful.

The Consul had his triumph at last, however. When I was fitting out the Sumter in New Orleans, a friend, and relative resident in that city, had kindly permitted me to take with me, as my steward, a valuable slave of his who had been brought up as a dining-room servant. Ned was as black as the ace of spades, and being a good-tempered, docile lad, had become my right-hand man, taking the best of care of my cabin, and keeping my table supplied with all the delicacies of the different markets, to which we had had access. He was as happy as the days were long, a great favorite with the crew, and when there was any fun going on, on the forecastle, he was sure to be in the midst of it. But the tempter came along. The Connecticut miscegenist (and slave-holder, at the same time) had seen Ned's shining and happy face going to market, of mornings, and, like the serpent of old, whispered in his ear. One morning Ned was missing, but the market-basket came off, piled up as usual with luxuries for dinner. The lad had been bred in an honest household, and though his poor brain had been bewildered, he was still above theft. His market-basket fully balanced his account. Poor Ned! his after-fate was a sad one. He was taken to the country, by his Mephistophiles, and set at work, with the slaves of that pious Puritan, on a small plantation that [202] belonged to his negro wife. Ned's head was rather too woolly, to enable him to understand much about the abstractions of freedom and slavery, but he had sense enough to see, ere long. that he had been beguiled, and cheated, by the smooth Yankee; and when, in course of time, he saw himself reduced to yam diet, and ragged clothing, he began, like the prodigal child, to remember the abundance of his master's house, and to long to return to it. Accordingly, he was missing, again, one fine morning, and was heard of no more in Paramaribo. He had embarked on board a vessel bound to Europe, and next turned up in Southampton. The poor negro had wandered off at a hazard in quest of the Sumter, but hearing nothing of her, and learning that the Confederate States steamer Nashville, Commander Pegram, was at Southampton, he made his way on board of that ship, and told his tale to the officers. He afterward found his way to the United States, and died miserably, of cholera, in some of the negro suburbs of Washington City

August 23d.—Weather clear, during the day, but we had some heavy showers of rain, with thunder, and lightning during the night. We are receiving coal rather slowly—a small lighter-load at a time. We are making some changes in the internal arrangements of the ship. Finding, by experience, that we have more tank-room, for water, than is requisite, we are landing a couple of our larger tanks, and extending the bulkheads of the coal-bunkers. By this means, we shall be enabled to increase our coal-carrying capacity by at least a third, carrying twelve days of fuel, instead of eight. Still the Sumter remains fundamentally defective, as a cruiser, in her inability to lift her screw.

August 24th.—Weather clear, and pleasant, with some passing clouds, and light showers of rain. The Dutch mailsteamer, from Demerara, arrived, to-day. We are looking anxiously for news from home, as, at last accounts—July 20th from New York—a battle near Manassas Junction, seemed imminent. Demerara papers of the 19th of August contain nothing, except that some skirmishing had taken place, between the two armies. The French steamer-of-war Abeille arrived, and anchored near us.

Sunday, August 26th.—Morning cloudy. At half-past 8 [203] I went on shore to church. The good old Mother has her churches, and clergymen, even in this remote Dutch colony. The music of her choirs is like the ‘drum-beat’ of England; it encircles the earth, with its never-ending melody. As the sun, ‘keeping company with the hours,’ lights up, with his newly risen beams, one degree of longitude after another, he awakens the priest to the performance of the never-ending mass. The church was a neat, well-arranged wooden building, of large dimensions, and filled to overflowing with devout worshippers. All the shades of color, from ‘snowy white to sooty’ were there, and there did not seem to be any order in the seating of the congregation, the shades being promiscuously mixed. The preacher was fluent, and earnest in action, but his sermon, which seemed to impress the congregation, being in that beautiful and harmonious language, which we call ‘low Dutch,’ was entirely unintelligible to me. The Latin mass, and ceremonies—which are the same all over the world —were, of course, quite familiar, and awoke many tender reminiscences. I had heard, and seen them, in my own country, under the domes of grand cathedrals, and in the quiet retreat of the country house, where the good wife herself had improvised the altar. A detachment of the Government troops was present.

Some Dutch naval lieutenants visited the ship to-day. We learn, by late papers from Barbadoes, politely brought us by these gentlemen, that the enemy's steamer, Keystone State, was in that island, in search of us, on the 21st of July. She probably heard, there, of my intention to go back to cruise off the island of Cuba, which, as the reader has seen, I confidentially communicated to my friends at Curacoa, and has turned back herself. If she were on the right track she should be here before this. There was great commotion, too, as we learn by these papers, at Key West, on the 8th of July, when the news reached there of our being at Cienfuegos. Consul Shufeldt, at Havana, had been prompt, as I had foreseen. We entered Cienfuegos on the 6th, and on the 8th, he had two heavy and fast steamers, the Niagara and the Crusader, in pursuit of us. They, too, seem to have lost the trail.

August 28th.—Bright, elastic morning, with a gentle breeze [204] from the south-east. There was a grand fandango, on shore, last night, at which some of my officers were present. The fun grew ‘fast and furious,’ as the night waned, and what with the popping of champagne-corks, and the flashing of the bright eyes of the waltzers, as they were whirled in the giddy dance, my young fellows have come off looking a little red about the eyes, and inclined to be poetical.

Rumors have been rife, for some days past, of a Confederate victory at Manassas. There seems now to be no longer any doubt about the fact. Private letters have been received, from Demerara, which state that the enemy was not only beaten, but shamefully routed, flying in confusion and dismay from the battle-field, and seeking refuge, pell-mell, in the Federal capital. With the exception of the Federal Consul, and Yankee skippers in the port, and a small knot of shop-keepers, interested in the American trade, all countenances are beaming with joy at this intelligence. This splendid victory was won by General Beauregard. McDowell was the commander of the enemy's forces, assisted, as it would seem, by the poor old superannuated Winfield Scott—this renegade soldier lending his now feeble intellect to the Northern Vandal, to assist in stabbing to the heart his mother State—Virginia! Alas! what an ignoble end of a once proud and honored soldier.

August 29th.—We have, at length, finished coaling, after a tedious delay of ten days. A rumor prevailed in the town, yesterday, that there were two enemy's ships of war off the bar—keeping themselves cunningly out of sight, to waylay the Sumter. The rumor comes with circumstance, for it is said that the fisherman, who brought the news, supplied one of the ships with fish, and said that the other ship was getting water on board from one of the coast plantations. To-day, the rumor dwindles; but one ship, it seems, has been seen, and she a merchant ship. The story is probably like that of the three white crows.

August 30th.—The pilot having come on board, we got under way, at two P. M., and steamed down to the mouth of the river, where we came to anchor. A ship, going to sea, is like a woman going on a journey—many last things remaining to be attended to, at the moment of departure. I have always [205] found it best, to shove off shore-boats, expel all visitors, ‘drop down’ out of the influences of the port, and send an officer or two back, to arrange these last things. A boat was now ac cordingly dispatched back to the town, for this purpose, and as she would not return until late in the night, inviting the surgeon and paymaster, and my clerk to accompany me, I pulled on shore, in my gig, to make a visit to an adjoining sugar plantation, that lay close by, tempting us to a stroll under its fine avenues of cocoanut and acacia trees. We were received very hospitably at the planter's mansion, where we found some agreeable ladies, and with whom we stayed late enough, to take tea, at their pressing solicitation. It was a Hollandese household, but all the inmates spoke excellent English. Whilst tea was being prepared, we wandered over the premises, the sugar-house included, where we witnessed all the processes of sugar making, from the expression of the juice from the cane, to the crystallization of the syrup. There were crowds of negroes on the place, old and young, male and female—some at work, and some at play; the players being rather the more numerous of the two classes. The grounds around the dwelling were tastefully laid out, in serpentine walks, winding through a wilderness of rare tropical shrubbery, redolent of the most exquisite of perfumes. True to the Dutch instinct for the water, the river, or rather the bay, for the river has now disembogued into an arm of the sea, washed the very walls of the flower-garden, and the plash, or rather the monotonous fretting of the tiny waves, at their base, formed no unmusical accompaniment to the hum of conversation, as the evening wore away. Among other plants, we noticed the giant maguey, and a great variety of the cactus, that favorite child of the sun. Our visit being over, we took a warm leave of our hospitable entertainers, and pulled on board the Sumter, by moonlight, deeply impressed, and softened as well by the harmonies of nature, and feeling as little like ‘pirates,’ as possible.

The next morning, having run up our boats, and taken a final leave of the waters of the Surinam, we steamed out to sea, crossing the bar about meridian; the weather being fine, and the wind fresh from the north-east. Having given it out that we were, bound to Barbadoes, to look for the Keystone State, [206] we stood north, until we had run the land out of sight, to give color to this idea, when we changed our course to E., half S. We ran along, for the next two or three days, on soundings, with a view to break the force of the current, doubling Cape Orange, on the 2d of September, and hauling more to the southward, with the trending of the coast. On the next day, we had regained the position from which we had been compelled to bear up, and my journal remarks:—‘We have thus lost three days and a half of steaming, or about fifty tons of coal, but what is worse, we have lost twenty-three days of valuable time,—but this time can scarcely be said to have been wholly lost, either, since the display of the flag of our young republic, in Cayenne and Paramaribo, has had a most excellent effect.’

Sept. 4th.—Weather fine, with a fresh breeze, from about E. by S. During most of the day, we have carried fore and aft sails, and have made an excellent run, for a dull ship—175 miles. We have experienced no current. We passed the mouths of the great Amazon, to-day, bearing on its bosom the waters of a continent. We were running along in the deepest and bluest of sea-water, whilst at no great distance from us, we could plainly perceive, through our telescopes, the turbid waters of the great stream, mixing and mingling, by slow degrees, with the ocean. Numerous tide rips marked the uncongenial meeting of the waters, and the sea-gull and penguin were busy diving in them, as though this neutral ground, or rather I should say, battle-ground, was a favorite resort for the small fish, on which they prey. A drift log with sedate water-fowl seated upon it, would now and then come along, and schools of porpoises were disporting themselves, now in the blue, now in the muddy waters. Unlike the mouths of the Mississippi, there were no white sails of commerce dotting the waters, in the offing, and no giant tow-boats throwing their volumes of black smoke into the air, and, with their huge side-wheels, beating time to the pulsations of the steam-engine. All was nature. The giant stream ran through a wilderness, scarcely yet opened to civilization. It disembogues a little south of the equator, and runs from west to east, nearly entirely across the continent. [207]

We crossed the equator in the Sumter, on the meridian of 46° 40′, and sounded in twenty fathoms of water, bringing up from the bottom of the sea, for the first time, some of the sand, and shells of the Southern Hemisphere. We hoisted the Confederate flag, though there were no eyes to look upon it outside of our ship, to vindicate, symbolically, our right to enter this new domain of Neptune, in spite of Abraham Lincoln, and the Federal gun-boats.

September 5th.—Wind fresh from E. S. E. Doubled Cape Garupi, during the early morning, and sounded, at meridian, in eight fathoms of water, without any land in sight, though the day was clear. Hauled out from the coast a little. At halfpast three P. M., made the island of San Joao, for which we had been running, a little on the starboard bow. We now hauled in close with this island, and running along its white sand beach, which reminded us much of the Florida coast, about Pensacola, we doubled its north-eastern end, in six, and seven fathoms of water. Night now set in, and, shaping our course S. E. by S., we ran into some very broken ground—the soundings frequently changing, in a single cast of the lead, from seven to four fathoms. Four fathoms being rather uncomfortably shoal, on an open coast, we again hauled out, until we deepened our water to eight fathoms, in which we ran along, still in very equal soundings, until we made the light on Mount Itacolomi, nearly ahead. In half an hour afterward, we anchored in six and a half fathoms of water, to wait for daylight.

When I afterward told some Brazilian officers, who came on board, to visit me, in Marauham, of this eventful night's run, they held up their hands in astonishment, telling me that the chances were a hundred to one, that I had been wrecked, for, many parts of the broken ground over which I had run, were almost dry, at low water. Their steamers never attempt it, they said, with the best pilots on board. It is a pity this coast is not better surveyed, for the charts by which I was running, represented it free from danger. The Brazilian is a coral coast, and, as before remarked, all coral coasts are dangerous. The inequality of soundings was due to the greater industry of the little stonemason, of which we read some pages back, in some spots than in others. This little worker of the sea will sometimes pierce [208] a ship's bottom, with a cone, which it has brought near the surface, from surrounding deep waters. As it is constantly at work, the bottom of the sea is constantly changing, and hence, on coral coasts, surveying steamers should be almost always at work. Having anchored in the open sea, and the sea being a little rough, we found, when we came to heave up our anchor, the next morning, that we brought up only the ring, and a small piece of the shank. It had probably been caught in the rocky bottom, and broken by the force of the windlass, aided by the pitching of the ship.

There was, much to my regret, no pilot-boat in sight. The entrance to Maranham is quite difficult, but difficult as it was, I was forced to attempt it. We rounded safely, the shoals of Mount Itacolomi, and passed the middle ground of the Meio, and I was already congratulating myself that the danger was past, when the ship ran plump upon a sand-bank, and stopped! She went on, at full speed, and the shock, to those standing on deck, was almost sufficient to throw them off their feet. We had a skilful leadsman in the chains, and at his last cast, he had found no bottom, with eight fathoms of line—all that the speed of the ship would allow him to sink. Here was a catastrophe! Were the bones of the Sumter to be laid to rest, on the coast of Brazil, and her Commander, and crew to return to the Confederate States, and report to the Government, that they had lost its only ship of war! This idea flashed through my mind for an instant, but only for an instant, for the work of the moment pressed. The engineer on duty had stopped his engine, without waiting for orders, as soon as he felt the ship strike, and I now ordered it reversed. In a moment more the screw was revolving in the opposite direction, and the strong tide, which was running out, catching the ship, on the port bow, at the same time, she swung round to starboard, and slid off the almost perpendicular edge of the bank into deep water, pretty much as a turtle will drop off a log. The first thing I did was to draw a long breath, and the second was to put on an air of indifference, as if nothing had happened, and tell the officer of the deck, in the coolest manner possible, to ‘let her go ahead.’ We now proceeded more cautiously, under low steam, giving the leadsman plenty of time to get his soundings, [209] accurately. These soon proving very irregular, and there being some fishermen on the coast, half a mile distant, throwing up their arms, and gesticulating to us, as though to warn us of danger, we anchored, and sending a boat on shore, brought one of them off, who volunteered to pilot us up to the town. Upon sounding the pumps, we found that the ship had suffered no damage from the concussion. We anchored in the port of Maranham, in three or four hours afterward, and the Confederate States flag waved in the Empire of Brazil. The Port Admiral sent a lieutenant to call on us, soon after anchoring, and I dispatched one of my own lieutenants, to call on the Governor; returning the Admiral's visit, myself, in the course of the afternoon, at his place of business on shore.

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