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Chapter 45:

  • The Alabama continues her cruise on the coast of Brazil
  • -- American ships under English colors -- the enemy's carrying-trade in neutral bottoms -- the capture of the Conrad -- she is commissioned as a Confederate States cruiser -- the highways of the sea, and the tactics of the Federal Secretary of the Navy -- the phenomenon of the winds in the Southern hemisphere -- arrival at Saldanha Bay, on the coast of Africa.

We captured our last ship off the Abrolhos, as related in the last chapter. We have since worked our way as far south, as latitude 22° 38′, and it is the middle of June— equivalent in the southern hemisphere, to the middle of December, in the northern. Hence the blows, and other bad weather we are beginning to meet with. On the 16th of June, we overhauled two more American ships, under English colors. One of these was the Azzapadi of Port Louis, in the Mauritius. She was formerly the Joseph Hale, and was built at Portland, Maine. Having put into Port Louis, in distress, she had been sold for the benefit of ‘whom it might concern,’ and purchased by English parties, two years before. The other was the Queen of Beauty, formerly the Challenger. Under her new colors and nationality, she was now running as a packet between London, and Melbourne in Australia. These were both bona fide transfers, and were evidence of the straits to which Yankee commerce was being put. Many more ships disappeared from under the ‘flaunting lie’ by sale, than by capture, their owners not being able to employ them.

The day after we overhauled these ships, we boarded a Bremen bark, from Buenos Ayres, for New York, with hides and tallow, [627] on Yankee account. The correspondents of the New York merchants were taking the advice of the latter, and shipping in neutral bottoms to avoid paying the premium on the war risk.

On the 20th of June, we observed in latitude 25° 48′, and found the weather so cool, as to compel us to put on our thick coats. On that day we made another capture. It was the Conrad, of Philadelphia, from Buenos Ayres, for New York, with part of a cargo of wool. There were certificates found on board claiming the property as British, but as there were abundant circumstances in the res geste, pointing to American ownership, I disregarded the certificates, and condemned both ship and cargo as good prize. The Conrad being a tidy little bark, of about three hundred and fifty tons, with good sailing qualities, I resolved to commission her as a cruiser. Three or four officers, and ten or a dozen men would be a sufficient crew for her, and this small number I could spare from the Alabama, without putting myself to material inconvenience. Never, perhaps, was a ship of war fitted out so promptly before. The Conrad was a commissioned ship, with armament, crew, and provisions on board, flying her pennant, and with sailing orders signed, sealed, and delivered, before sunset on the day of her capture. I sent Acting-Lieutenant Low on board to command her, and gave him Midshipman George T. Sinclair, as his first lieutenant; and promoted a couple of active and intelligent young seamen, as master's mates, to serve with Mr. Sinclair, as watch officers. Her armament consisted of the two 12-pounder brass rifled guns, which we had captured from the Yankee mandarin, who was going out, as the reader has seen, on board of the Talisman, to join the Taepings; twenty rifles, and half a dozen revolvers. I called the new cruiser, the Tuscaloosa, after the pretty little town of that name, on the Black Warrior River in the State of Alabama. It was meet that a child of the Alabama should be named after one of the towns of the State. The baptismal ceremony was not very elaborate. When all was ready—it being now about five P. M.—at a concerted signal, the Tuscaloosa ran up the Confederate colors, and the crew of the Alabama leaped into the rigging; and taking off their hats, gave three hearty cheers! The cheers were answered by the small crew of the newly commissioned ship, [628] and the ceremony was over. Captain Low had now only to fill away, and make sail, on his cruise. Our first meeting was to be at the Cape of Good Hope. My bantling was thus born upon the high seas, in the South Atlantic Ocean, and no power could gainsay the legitimacy of its birth. As the reader will see, England was afterward compelled to acknowledge it, though an ill-informed cabinet minister—the Duke of Newcastle—at first objected to it.

On the same evening that we parted with the Tuscaloosa, we boarded the English bark, Mary Kendall, from Cardiff for Point de Galle, but which having met with heavy weather, and sprung a leak, was putting back to Rio Janeiro for repairs. At the request of her master I sent my surgeon on board to visit a seaman who had been badly injured by a fall. As we were within a few days' sail of Rio, I prevailed upon the master of this ship to receive my prisoners on board, to be landed. There were thirty-one of them, and among the rest, a woman from the Conrad, who claimed to be a passenger.

The time had now arrived for me to stretch over to the Cape of Good Hope. I had been three months near the equator, and on the coast of Brazil, and it was about time that some of Mr. Welles' ships of war, in pursuance of the tactics of that slow old gentleman, should be making their appearance on the coast in pursuit of me. I was more than ever astonished at the culpable neglect or want of sagacity of the head of the Federal Navy Department, when I arrived on the coast of Brazil, and found no Federal ship of war there. Ever since I had left the island of Jamaica, early in January, I had been working my way, gradually, to my present cruising ground. My ship had been constantly reported, and any one of his clerks could have plotted my track, from these reports, so as to show him, past all peradventure, where I was bound. But even independently of any positive evidence, he might have been sure, that sooner or later I would make my way to that great thoroughfare.

As has been frequently remarked in the course of these pages, the sea has its highways and byways, as well as the land. Every seaman, now, knows where these highways are, and when he is about to make a voyage, can plot his track in advance. None of these highways are better defined, or perhaps [629] so well defined, as the great public road that leads along the coast of Brazil. All the commerce of Europe and America, bound to the Far East or the Far West, takes this road. The reader has seen a constant stream of ships passing the toll-gate we established at the crossing of the thirtieth parallel, north, all bound in this direction. And he has seen how this stream sweeps along by the island of Fernando de Noronha, on its way to the great highway on the coast of Brazil. The road thus far is wide—the ships having a large discretion. But when the road has crossed the equator, and struck into the region of the south-east trades, its limits become much circumscribed. It is as much as a ship can do now, to stretch by the coast of Brazil without tacking. The south-east trades push her so close down upon the coast, that it is touch and go with her. The road, in consequence, becomes very narrow. The more narrow the road, the more the stream of ships is condensed. A cruiser, under easy sail, stretching backward and forward across this road, must necessarily get sight of nearly everything that passes. If Mr. Welles had stationed a heavier and faster ship than the Alabamaand he had a number of both heavier and faster ships—at the crossing of the 30th parallel; another at or near the equator, a little to the eastward of Fernando de Noronha, and a third off Bahia, he must have driven me off, or greatly crippled me in my movements. A few more ships in the other chief highways, and his commerce would have been pretty well protected. But the old gentleman does not seem once to have thought of so simple a policy as stationing a ship anywhere.

The reader who has followed the Alabama in her career thus far, has seen how many vital points he left unguarded. His plan seemed to be, first to wait until he heard of the Alabama being somewhere, and then to send off a number of cruisers, post-haste, in pursuit of her, as though he expected her to stand still, and wait for her pursuers! This method of his left the game entirely in my own hands. My safety depended upon a simple calculation of times and distances. For instance, when I arrived off the coast of Brazil, I would take up my pencil, and make some such an estimate as this: I discharged my prisoners from the first ship captured, on such a [630] day. It will take these prisoners a certain number of days to reach a given port. It will take a certain other number of days, for the news of the capture to travel thence to Washington. And it will take a certain other number still, for a ship of war of the enemy to reach the coast of Brazil. Just before this aggregate of days elapses, I haul aft my trysail sheets, and stretch over to the Cape of Good Hope. I find no enemy's ship of war awaiting me here. I go to work on the stream of commerce doubling the Cape. And by the time, I think, that the ships which have arrived on the coast of Brazil in pursuit of me, have heard of my being at the Cape, and started in fresh chase; I quietly stretch back to the coast of Brazil, and go to work as before. Voila tout! The reader will have occasion to remark, by the time we get through with our cruises, how well this system worked for me; as he will have observed, that I did not fall in with a single enemy's cruiser at sea, at any time during my whole career!

We had, some days since, crossed the tropic of Capricorn, and entered the ‘variables’ of the southern hemisphere; and having reached the forks of the great Brazilian highway, that is to say, the point at which the stream of commerce separates into two principal branches, one passing around Cape Horn, and the other around the Cape of Good Hope, we had taken the left-hand fork. We had not proceeded far on this road, however, before we found upon examination of our bread-room, that the weevil, that pestilent little destroyer of bread-stuffs in southern climates, had rendered almost our entire supply of bread useless! It was impossible to proceeded on a voyage of such length, as that to the Cape of Good Hope, in such a dilemma, and I put back for Rio Janeiro, to obtain a fresh supply; unless I could capture it by the way. We were now in latitude 28° 01′, and longitude 28° 29′, or about 825 miles from Rio; some little distance to travel to a baker's shop. We were saved this journey, however, as the reader will presently see, by a Yankee ship which came very considerately to our relief.

For the next few days, the weather was boisterous and unpleasant—wind generally from the north-west, with a southeasterly current. Ships were frequently in sight, but they all proved to be neutral. On the 30th of June, the weather [631] moderated, and became fine for a few days. On the 1st of July, after overhauling as many as eleven neutral ships, we gave chase, at eleven P. M., to a twelfth sail looming up on the horizon. She looked American, and had heels, and the chase continued all night. As the day dawned, a fine, tall ship, with taper spars, and white canvas, was only a few miles ahead of us: A blank cartridge brought the United States colors to her peak, but still she kept on. She was as yet three miles distant, and probably had some hope of escape. At all events, her captain had pluck, and held on to his canvas until the last moment. It was not until we had approached him near enough to send a shot whizzing across his bow, that he consented to clew up, and heave to. She proved to be the Anna F. Schmidt, of Maine, from Boston, for San Francisco, with a valuable cargo of assorted merchandise; much of it consisting of ready-made clothing, hats, boots, and shoes. Here was a haul for the paymaster But unfortunately for Jack, the coats were too fine, and the tails too long. The trousers and undergarments were all right, however, and of these we got a large supply on board. The Schmidt had on board, too, the very article of bread, and in the proper quantity, that we were in want of. We received on board from her thirty days supply, put up in the nicest kind of air-tight casks. Crockery, china-ware, glass, lamps, clocks, sewing-machines, patent medicines, clothespins, and the latest invention for killing bed-bugs, completed her cargo. No Englishman or Frenchman could possibly own such a cargo, and there was, consequently, no attempt among the papers to protect it. It took us nearly the entire day to do the requisite amount of ‘robbing’ on board the Schmidt, and the torch was not applied to her until near nightfall. We then wheeled about, and took the fork of the road again, for the Cape of Good Hope.

Whilst we were yet busy with the prize, another American ship passed us, but she proved, upon being boarded, to have been sold, by her patriotic Yankee owners, to an Englishman, and was now profitably engaged in assisting the other ships of John Bull in taking away from the enemy his carrying-trade. I examined the papers and surroundings of all these ships, with great care, being anxious, if possible, to find a peg on [632] which I might hang a doubt large enough to enable me to burn them. But, thus far, all the transfers had been bonafide. In the present instance, the papers were evidently genuine, and there was a Scotch master and English crew on board. At about nine P. M., on the same evening, the Schmidt being in flames, and the Alabama in the act of making sail from her, a large, taunt ship, with exceedingly square yards, passed us at rapid speed, under a cloud of canvas, from rail to truck, and from her course seemed to be bound either to Europe or the United States. She had paid no attention to the burning ship, but flew past it as though she were anxious to get out of harm's way as soon as possible. I conceived thence the idea, that she must be one of the enemy's large clipper-ships, from ‘round the Horn,’ and immediately gave chase, adding, in my eagerness to seize so valuable a prize, steam to sail. It was blowing half a gale of wind, but the phantom ship, for such she looked by moonlight, was carrying her royals and top-gallant studding-sails. This confirmed my suspicion, for surely, I thought, no ship would risk carrying away her spars, under such a press of sail, unless she were endeavoring to escape from an enemy. By the time we were well under way in pursuit, the stranger was about three miles ahead of us. I fired a gun to command him to halt. In a moment or two, to my astonishment, the sound of a gun from the stranger came booming back over the waters in response. I now felt quite sure that I had gotten hold of a New York and California clipper-ship. She had fired a gun to make me believe, probably, that she was a ship of war, and thus induce me to desist from the pur suit. But a ship of war would not carry such a press of sail, or appear to be in such a hurry to get out of the way—unless, indeed, she were an enemy's ship of inferior force; and the size of the fugitive, in the present instance, forbade such a supposition. So I sent orders below to the engineer, to stir up his fires, and put the Alabama at the top of her speed. My crew had all become so much excited by the chase, some of the sailors thinking we had scared up the Flying Dutchman, who was known to cruise in these seas, and others expecting a fight, that the watch had forgotten to go below to their hammocks. About midnight we overhauled the stranger near enough to [633] speak her. She loomed up terribly large as we approached. She was painted black, with a white streak around her waist, man-of-war fashion, and we could count, with the aid of our night-glasses, five guns of a side frowning through her ports. ‘What ship is that?’ now thundered my first lieutenant through his trumpet. ‘This is her Britannic Majesty's ship, Diomede!’ came back in reply very quietly. ‘What ship is that?’ now asked the Diomede. ‘This is the Confederate States steamer Alabama.’ ‘I suspected as much,’ said the officer, ‘when I saw you making sail, by the light of the burning ship.’ A little friendly chat now ensued, when we sheared off, and permitted her Britannic Majesty's frigate to proceed, without insisting upon an examination of ‘her papers;’ and the sailors slunk below, one by one, to their hammocks, disappointed that they had neither caught the Flying Dutchman, a California clipper, or a fight.

The next day, and for several days, the weather proved fine. We were running to the eastward on the average parallel of about 30°, with the wind from N. N. E. to the N. W. Saturday, July 4th, 1863, is thus recorded in my journal:—‘This is “Independence day” in the “old concern;” a holiday, which I feel half inclined to throw overboard, because it was established in such bad company, and because we have to fight the battle of independence over again, against a greater tyranny than before. Still, old feelings are strong, and it will not hurt Jack to give him an extra glass of grog.’

The morning of the 6th proved cloudy and squally, and we had some showers of rain, though the barometer kept steadily up. At thirty minutes past midnight, an officer came below to inform me, that there was a large sail in sight, not a great way off. I sent word to the officer of the deck to chase, and repaired on deck pretty soon myself. In about three hours, we had approached the chase sufficiently near, to heave her to, with a shot, she having previously disregarded two blank cartridges. She proved to be another prize, the ship Express, of Boston, from Callao, for Antwerp, with a cargo of guano from the Chincha Islands. This cargo probably belonged to the Peruvian Government, for the guano of the Chincha Islands is a government monopoly, but our Peruvian friends had been [634] unfortunate in their attempts to cover it. It had been shipped by Messrs. Sescau, Valdeavellano & Co., and consigned to J. Sescau & Co., at Antwerp. On the back of the bill of lading was the following indorsement:—‘Nous soussigne, Charge d'affairs, et Consul General de France, a Lima, certifions que la chargement de mille soixante deuze tonneaux, de register, de Huano, specifie au present connaissement, est propriete neutre. Fait a Lima, le 27 Janvier, 1863.’ This certificate was no better than so much waste paper, for two reasons. First, it was not sworn to, and secondly, it simply averred the property to be neutral, without stating who the owners were. I was sorry to burn so much property belonging, in all probability, to Peru, but I could make no distinction between that government and an individual. I had the right to burn the enemy's ship, and if a neutral government chose to put its property on board of her, it was its duty to document it according to the laws of war, or abide the consequences of the neglect. The certificate would not have secured individual property, and I could not permit it to screen that of a government, which was presumed to know the law better than an individual. As the case stood, I was bound to presume that the property, being in an enemy's bottom, was enemy's. The torch followed this decision.

The Express had had a long and boisterous passage around Cape Horn, and gave signs of being much weather-beaten— some of her spars and sails were gone, and her sides were defaced with iron rust. The master had his wife on board, a gentle English woman, with her servant-maid, or rather humble companion, and it seemed quite hard that these two females, after having braved the dangers of Cape Horn, should be carried off to brave other dangers at the Cape of Good Hope.

We were now in mid-winter, July 15th, when the storms run riot over these two prominent head-lands of our globe. We were fast changing our skies as we proceeded southward. Many of the northern constellations had been buried beneath the horizon, to rise no more, until we should recross the equator, and other new and brilliant ones had risen in their places. We had not seen the familiar North Star for months. The Southern Cross had arisen to attract our gaze to the opposite [635] pole instead. The mysterious Magellan clouds hovered over the same pole, by day, and caused the mariner to dream of faroff worlds. They were even visible on very bright nights. The reader will perhaps remember the meteorological phenomena which we met with in the Gulf Stream—how regularly the winds went around the compass, from left to right, or with the course of the sun, obeying the laws of storms. Similar phenomena are occurring to us now. The winds are still going round with the sun, but they no longer go from left to right, but from right to left; for this is now the motion of the sun. Instead of watching the winds haul from northeast to east; from east to south-east; from south-east to south, as we were wont to do in the northern hemisphere, we now watch them haul from north-east to north; from north to north-west; and from north-west to west. And when we get on shore, in the gardens, and vineyards, at the Cape of Good Hope, we shall see the tendrils of the vine, and the creeping plants, twining around their respective supports, in the opposite direction, from left to right, instead of from right to left, as the reader has seen them do in the writer's garden in Alabama.

After capturing the Express, we passed into one of the byways of the sea. The fork of the road which we had been hitherto pursuing, now bore off to the south—east — the Indiabound ships running well to the southward of the Cape. We turned out of the road to the left, and drew in nearer to the coast of Africa. With the exception of an occasional African trader, or a chance whaler, we were entirely out of the track of commerce. In the space of seven or eight hundred miles, we sighted but a single ship.

As we drew down toward the Cape, that singular bird, the Cape pigeon came to visit us. It is of about the size of a small sea-gull, and not unlike it in appearance. Like the petrel, it is a storm-bird, and seems to delight in the commotion of the elements. It is quite gentle, wheeling around the ship, and uttering, from time to time, its cheerful scream, or rather whistle. A peculiarity of this bird is, that it is entirely unknown in the northern hemisphere; from which it would appear, that, like the ‘right’ whale, it is incapable of enduring [636] the tropical heats. It would probably be death to it, to attempt to cross the equator.

On the 28th of July, we observed in latitude 33° 46′, and longitude 17° 31′, and the next day, at about nine A. M., we made Daffen Island, with its remarkable breaker, lying a short distance to the northward of the Cape of Good Hope. Instead of running into Cape Town, I deemed it more prudent to go first to Saldanha Bay, and reconnoitre. There might be enemy's ships of war off the Cape, and if so, I desired to get news of them, before they should hear of my being in these seas. As we were running in for the bay, we overhauled a small coasting schooner, the master of which volunteered to take us in to the anchorage; and early in the afternoon, we came to, in five and three quarter fathoms of water, in a cosy little nook of the bay, sheltered from all winds. There was no Yankee man-of-war at the Cape, nor had there been any there for some months! Mr. Welles was asleep, the coast was all clear, and I could renew my ‘depredations’ upon the enemy's commerce whenever I pleased.

There is no finer sheet of land-locked water in the world than Saldanha Bay. Its anchorage is bold, and clean, and spacious enough to accommodate the largest fleets. It is within a few hours' sail of the cape, which is the halfway mile-post, as it were, between the extreme east, and the extreme west, and yet commerce, with a strange caprice, has established its relayhouse at Cape Town, whose anchorage is open to all the winter gales, from which a ship is in constant danger of being wrecked. We did not find so much as a coaster at anchor, in this splendid harbor. The country around was wild and picturesque in appearance; the substratum being of solid rock, and nature having played some strange freaks, when chaos was being reduced to order. Rocky precipices and palisades meet the beholder at every turn, and immense boulders of granite lie scattered on the coast and over the hills, as if giants had been amusing themselves at a game of marbles. A few farmhouses are in sight from the ship, surrounded by patches of cultivation, but all the rest of the landscape is a semi-barren waste of straggling rocks, and coarse grass. The country improves, however, a short distance back from the coast, and [637] the grazing becomes fine. Beef cattle are numerous, and of fair size, and the sheep flourishes in great perfection—wool being one of the staple products of the colony. The cereals are also produced, and, as every one knows, the Cape has long been famous for its delicate wines.

My first care was to send the paymaster on shore, to contract for supplying the crew with fresh provisions, during our stay, and my next to inform the Governor at the Cape of my arrival. As I turned into my cot that night, with a still ship, in a land-locked harbor, with no strange sails, or storms to disturb my repose, I felt like a weary traveller, who had laid down, for the time, a heavy burden. The morning after our arrival—the 30th of July—was bright and beautiful, and I landed early to get sights for my chronometers. It was the first time I had ever set foot on the continent of Africa, and I looked forth, from the eminence on which I stood, upon a wild, desolate, and yet picturesque scene. The ocean was slumbering in the distance, huge rocky precipices were around me, the newly risen sun was scattering the mists from the hills, and the only signs of life save the Alabama at my feet, and the oxteam of a boer which was creeping along the beach, were the screams of the sea-fowl, as they whirled around me, and, from time to time, made plunge into the still waters in quest of their prey. A profusion of wild flowers bloomed in little parterres among the rocks, and among others, I plucked the geranium, in several varieties. This was evidently its native home.

Returning on board at the usual breakfast hour, I found that Bartelli had made excellent use of his time. There was a hut or two on the beach, to which a market-boat had been sent from the ship, to bring off the fresh beef and vegetables for the crew, which the paymaster had contracted for on the previous evening. Bartelli had accompanied it, and the result was a venison steak, cut fresh from a spring-bok that a hunter had just brought in, simmering in his chafing dish. There were some fine pan-fish on the table, too; for my first lieutenant, ever mindful of the comfort of his people, had sent a party on shore with the seine, which had had fine success, and reported the bay full of fish. Jack, after having been nearly three months on a diet of salted beef and pork, was once more [638] in clover, and my young officers were greatly excited by the reports that came off to them from the shore, of the variety and abundance of game, in the neighborhood. Besides the curlew, snipe, and plover, that were to be found on the beach, and in the salt marshes adjacent, the quail, pheasant deer in several varieties, and even the ostrich, the lion, and the tiger, awaited them, if they should think proper to go a little distance inland. The small islands in the bay abounded in rabbits, which might be chased and knocked on the head with sticks. Hunting-parties were soon organized, and there was a great cleaning and burnishing of fowling-pieces, and adjusting and filling of powder-flasks and shot-pouches going on.

But all was not to be pleasure; there was duty to be thought of as well. The Alabama required considerable overhauling after her late cruise, both in her machinery, and hull, and rigging. Among other things, it was quite necessary that she should be re-caulked, inside and out, and re-painted. There were working-parties organized, therefore, as well as hunting and fishing-parties. We soon found, too, that we had the duties of hospitality to attend to. The fame of the ‘British Pirate’ had preceded her. Every ship which had touched at the Cape, had had more or less to say of the Alabama. Mr. Seward and Mr. Adams, Lord Russell and the London Times had made her famous, and the people manifested great curiosity to see her. We were, in a measure, too, among our own kinsmen. The Cape of Good Hope, as all the world knows, had been a Dutch colony, and was now inhabited by a mixed population of Dutch and English. The African had met the usual fate of the savage, when he comes in contact with civilized man. He had been thrust aside, and was only to be seen as a straggler and stranger in his native land.

From far and near, the country-people flocked in to see us, in every description of vehicle, from the tidy spring-wagon, with its pair of sleek ponies, to the ox-cart. The vehicles, containing mostly women and children, were preceded or followed by men on horseback, by twos and threes, and sometimes by the dozen. The men brought along with them their shot-guns and rifles, thus converting their journey into a hunting-party, as well as one of curiosity. Those from a distance [639] came provided with tents and camp-equipage. Almost every one had some present of game or curiosity to offer, as he came on board. One would bring me a wild-peacock for dinner, which he had shot on the wayside; another a brace of pheasants; others ostrich-eggs fresh from the nest, plumes of ostrichfeathers, spikes from the head of the spring-bok three and four feet in length, &c. We showed them around the ship—the young boers lifting our hundred-pound rifle-shot, and looking over the sights of our guns, and the young women looking at the moustaches of my young officers.

The Saldanha settlement is almost exclusively Dutch, notwithstanding it has been fifty years and more in possession of the English. Dutch is the language universally spoken; all the newspapers are published in that melodious tongue, and the ‘young idea’ is being taught to ‘shoot’ in it. One young man among our visitors, though he was twenty-three years of age, and lived within twenty miles of the sea, told me he had never been on board of a ship before. He became very much excited, and went into ecstasies at everything he saw, particularly at the size and weight of the guns, which seemed to transcend all his philosophy—the largest gun which he had hitherto seen, being his own rifle, with which he was in the habit of bringing down the ostrich or the tiger. The climate seemed to be well suited to these descendants of the Hollanders. The men were athletic and well-proportioned, and the young women chubby, and blooming with the blended tints of the lily and the rose—the rose rather preponderating. The beauty of these lasses—and some of them were quite pretty—was due entirely to mother Nature, as their large and somewhat rough hands, and awkward courtesies showed that they were rather more familiar with milking the cows and churning the butter, than with the airs and graces of the saloon.

We remained a week in Saldanha Bay, during the whole of which, we had exceedingly fine weather; the wind generally prevailing from the south-east, and the sky being clear, with now and then a film of gray clouds. This was quite remarkable for the first days of August—this month being equivalent, at the ‘stormy Cape,’ to the month of February, in the northern hemisphere. The natives told us that so gentle a [640] winter had not been known for years before. The temperature was delightful. Although we were in the latitude of about 34°—say the equivalent latitude to that of south-western Virginia—we did not feel the want of fires. Indeed, the grasses were green, and vegetation seemed to have been scarcely suspended. The graziers had no need to feed their cattle.

A schooner came in while we lay here, bringing us some letters from merchants at Cape Town, welcoming us to the colony, and offering to supply us with coal, or whatever else we might need. I had left orders both at Fernando de Noronha, and Bahia, for the Agrippina, if she should arrive at either of those places, after my departure, to make the best of her way to Saldanha Bay, and await me there. She should have preceded me several weeks. She was not here—the old Scotchman, as before remarked, having played me false.

When Kell had put his ship in order, he took a little recreation himself, and in company with one or two of his messmates went off into the interior, on an ostrich hunt. Horses and dogs, and hunters awaited them, at the country-seat of the gentleman who had invited them to partake of this peculiarly African sport. They had a grand hunt, and put up several fine birds, at which some of the party—Kell among the number, got shots—but they did not bring any ‘plumes’ on board; at least of their own capturing. The devilish birds, as big as horses, and running twice as fast, as some of the young officers described them, refused to ‘heave to,’ they said, though they had sent sundry whistlers around their heads, in the shape of buck-shot.

A sad accident occurred to one of our young hunters before we left the bay. One afternoon, just at sunset, I was shocked to receive the intelligence that one of the cutters had returned alongside, with a dead officer in it. Third Assistant Engineer Cummings was the unfortunate officer. He had been hunting with a party of his messmates. They had all returned with well-filled game-bags to the boat, at sunset, and Cummings was in the act of stepping into her, when the cock of his gun striking against the gunwale, a whole load of buck-shot passed through his chest in the region of the heart, and he fell dead, in an instant, upon the sands. The body was lifted tenderly [641] into the boat, and taken on board, and prepared by careful and affectionate hands for interment on the morrow. This young gentleman had been very popular, with both officers and crew, and his sudden death cast a gloom over the ship. All amusements were suspended, and men walked about with softened foot-fall, as though fearing to disturb the slumbers of the dead. Arrangements were made for interring him in the grave-yard of a neighboring farmer, and the next morning, the colors of the ship were half-masted, and all the boats—each with its colors also at half-mast—formed in line, and as many of the officers and crew as could be spared from duty, followed the deceased to his last resting-place. There were six boats in the procession, and as they pulled in for the shore, with the wellknown funeral stroke and drooping flags, the spectacle was one to sadden the heart. A young life had been suddenly cut short in a far distant land. A subscription was taken up to place a proper tomb over his remains, and the curious visitor to Saldanha Bay may read on a simple, but enduring marble slab, this mournful little episode in the history of the cruise of the Alabama.

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