Chasing ships without making any captures was getting to be a little monotonous. Some of the vessels we halted had captains who were cross and ugly about being detained while we examined their papers; while others seemed to enjoy the adventure of being held up by a 'pirate,' and showed our boarding officers every hospitality in the way of wines, liquors, and cigars. Whenever we passed close to a man-of-war, we showed her our true colors, an attention which she reciprocated by running up the British flag and dipping it to us. Every time this occurred we would congratulate ourselves, insisting that the mere courtesy constituted a recognition of the Confederate States.
Exactly where we were, the captain and the navigator alone knew. The old sailors told me that we were in the Doldrums, as they call that portion of the Atlantic Ocean which lies in the equatorial belt extending from about ten degrees north of the Equator to the same distance south of it: this they knew by the baffling winds, squalls from every point of the compass, and Irishmen's hurricanes, as they call dead calms. Another unfailing sign to them were the many great waterspouts whirling around in every direction. To see one of these spouts in process of formation is indeed a wonderful sight: first, the whirlwind on the surface of the sea, and the eddying of the cloud above; then the formation of the column of water twisting and swaying like the body of some huge serpent as it rises out of the sea, the loud roaring sound, and the great commotion of the water around it, until it has ascended to a great height; and then, the most extraordinary part of all, when the cloud above sends down a similar column of whirling water, and the two, with unerring accuracy, join and complete the awe-inspiring funnel. On one occasion one of these spouts was making so straight for us that we fired one shot to break it, for had it come aboard the little Georgia, it would have swamped her instantly.
One night, in the morning watch, just before daylight, an old sailor said to me, 'We are near land, sir.' I asked him how he knew, and he told me to feel how wet the deck was with dew. Sure enough, although the sea was smooth, the stars shining brightly, and the ship becalmed, I found the deck as wet as though water had been poured over it. The old 'shellback' then informed me that dew never extended more than thirty miles from land. This was news to me, but I found that the jack tar was right.
In the middle of the night, May 13-14, we entered the great bay of Todos os Santos, or All Saints' Bay, and dropped anchor in front of the Brazilian city of Bahia, a picturesque place situated on a high bluff overlooking the bay. There were many vessels anchored near us, and the practiced eyes of our senior lieutenants pronounced two of them to be men-of-war; but of course their nationality could not be made out in the darkness. It turned out later that we had good reason for feeling anxious about them, for it was in this same harbor, a few months after our visit, that the Confederate cruiser Florida was lying, as her commander thought, in peaceful security. So much at ease was he that he had given half his crew liberty, which they were enjoying on shore, when the U.S.S. Wachusett, disregarding Brazilian neutrality, rammed, boarded, and captured her in the middle of the night, carrying her to Hampton Roads, where she was sunk to avoid having to give her up on the demand of Brazil that she be returned to Bahia.
There was little sleep on the Georgia the night of our arrival. Day broke and we found ourselves very near the two men-of-war. What was their nationality? It seemed an age before the hour for colors arrived, but when it did, to our great delight, the most rakish-looking of the two warships broke out the Stars and Bars'! 'It is the Alabama!' we gasped, and commenced to dance with delight. The officers hugged each other, each embracing a man of his own rank, except the captain and myself. Like the commander, I was the only one of my rank, so I hugged myself.
The Confederate government had changed its flag since we had left home, and the Stars and Bars had given way to the white field with a St. Andrew's cross which we fondly believed represented the Southern Cross. The Alabama had not yet heard of the change, and we furnished the anomalous and embarrassing spectacle of two warships belonging to the same government and flying flags which bore no resemblance to each other! Fortunately the new flag was not a difficult one to make, and the Alabama's sailors soon had the new colors proudly fluttering from her peak.
Captain Semmes of the Alabama being the ranking officer, our captain quickly got into his gig and went on board the famous ship to pay his respects. The other man-of-war proved to be a Portuguese sloop, very small, and carrying sixteen little popguns.
As soon as we arrived in neutral waters, our prisoners, the captain and the first mate of the Dictator, were told that they were free, and were sent ashore in the first boat. The American consul demanded that the rest of the crew of the burned ship should be delivered up to him, and, rather than have trouble with the Brazilian government, we told the men they could go ashore. This they did, and some of the rascals went to the American consul and told him a tale of woe and got everything possible out of him. With the prisoners landed from the Alabama they had a royal time ashore for several days; but, strange to say, when we got to sea, there they all were on our decks! They had smuggled themselves aboard the Georgia, and with the connivance of our crew had remained hidden until we were outside of Brazilian jurisdiction.
The Alabama had recently fought and sunk the U.S.S. Hatteras off Galveston, and, as soon as possible, I went on board the pride of the Confederate navy to see the midshipmen. There were four of them - Irving Bulloch, an uncle of Theodore Roosevelt, and Eugene Malfitt, son of that captain of the Florida, who, while ill with yellow fever, ran her through the blockading fleet off Mobile in broad daylight, taking their broadsides as he passed, and finally anchoring his much-cut-up ship under the protecting guns of Fort Morgan. There was also William St. Clair, and my dear friend, Edward M. Anderson, who is still living (1916). The holes in the Alabama's side and the scars on her deck where the shot from the Hatteras had ripped them were still fresh, and I heard the story of the battle at first-hand. Of course the midshipmen's account of the fight was the one which interested me most. When one has heard their story, one wonders why Captain Homer Blake of the Hatteras never received more credit for his gallant fight. He fought his ship until the muzzles of his guns were almost on a level with the sea and she was about to disappear beneath the waves forever.
Captain Semmes was a fine Spanish scholar, but did not speak Portuguese, the national language of Brazil. As I could speak French fluently, he borrowed me from Captain Maury to carry communications to the Governor of Bahia, who, like most educated South Americans, spoke French perfectly. The American consul protested against our being allowed to replenish our coal-bunkers from the British bark Castor which lay near us. To-day the meeting of colliers and warships at appointed rendezvous is supposed to be an invention of the Germans; but colliers followed, or were supposed to be, where the Alabama and Georgia would need them. I am sorry to say that they were rarely on time, but, as they were sailing vessels, there was some excuse for them. The Castor was under contract to deliver us the coal, and the coal was our property, paid for by the Confederate agent in England; on the protest of the United States consul, however, the governor refused to allow us to coal from her. We then made a sale of part of the cargo to a native merchant, had it put ashore, and then 'bought' it from him. Of course the native was well paid for his trouble, and the probability is that the officials got their rake-off from the transaction.
Brazil was a slave-owning country at that time, but the natives seemed to fear and avoid us, and as we passed through the streets, we could hear the negro nurses threaten crying children that they would be carried off by the corsairos if they were not good. An English engineer who was building a railroad into the interior was the only person in Bahia who showed us any attention or hospitality. He invited the officers of the Alabama and Georgia to go on an excursion on his unfinished railroad. The country through which it passed was rich and beautiful, and at the end of the finished line our officers were regaled with all sorts of good things to eat and drink. On returning to Bahia, he invited us to a dance to be given at his residence that night, and, naturally, as many of the officers as could be spared from duty accepted. The ball was quite a brilliant affair; all the British colony were there, of course, and many Brazilian ladies. They came from curiosity, but nothing could induce them to risk dancing with the corsairos. This, of course, made us youngsters think that we looked rather formidable.
Shortly after midnight, we said goodnight to our host and hostess, and such of the guests as were not afraid to speak to us, and proceeded to the quay, where Captain Semmes's gig was waiting for him. The cutters from the Alabama and Georgia, which were to take the officers to their respective ships, had not yet come for us, and we thought we saw a long wait ahead; but Captain Semmes very kindly invited us to crowd into his boat, saying that after she put him aboard the Alabama she would take those of us belonging to the Georgia to our ship. On our way to the Alabama, Midshipman Anderson, the captain's personal aide, who had had rather a strenuous day, fell asleep. He was seated alongside his commanding officer, and his head fell on the captain's shoulder. Lieutenant Armstrong who was seated opposite him was about reach over and awaken Anderson, but Captain Semmes by a gesture stopped him, saying, 'Let the boy sleep: he is tired out.' Had Anderson been awake, he would rather have dropped his head in the ship's furnace than on Captain Semmes's shoulder, for the captain was not a man with whom any one would care to take liberties. As it was however, Ned had the honor of being the only man who ever made a pillow out of 'Old Beeswax,' as Semmes was called behind his back.
Captain Semmes was an austere and formal man, and, with the exception of Doctor Galt, the surgeon, and Mr. Kell, his first lieutenant, he rarely held any intercourse with his officers except officially. He waxed the ends of his moustache (which the sailors called his 'stunsail booms') and he would pace his quarterdeck alone, twisting and twisting those long ends, reminding one of Byron's description of the captain of a man-of-war in Childe Harold: -
Silent and feared by all, not oft he talks
With aught beneath him if he would preserve
That strict restraint which broken ever balks
Conquest and fame.
Captain Semmes was a past master in the art of dealing with Latin-Americans. When the Alabama entered the port of Bahia, the governor sent an aide, attired in mufti, to demand that Captain Semmes show his commission. Captain Semmes fixed his steely eyes on the visitor, and then quietly demanded that the gentleman first show his own, and his authority for making the demand. Naturally the aide-decamp had not had the forethought to provide himself with either, so he took his departure. As he left the cabin, Captain Semmes kindly suggested that, if the gentleman wished to be treated courteously on his next visit, it would be advisable to wear his uniform. Of course, the aide shortly came back properly costumed, with his commission in his pocket and a courteous request that Captain Semmes would call at the palace and show his commission to the governor in person. No man knew better than Captain Semmes that he who attempts to enter into a bowing contest with a Latin-American is lost.
Shortly before we left Bahia a coasting steamer entered the port, bringing the news that the United States ships Niagara and Mohican were either at Pernambuco, a short run to the north, or else on their way south in search of us. Whether this information had any influence on our movements or not, of course a midshipman could not be expected to know; but all the same we got ready to depart. The Niagara was designed by Steers on the lines of the famous yacht America, of which also he was the designer; and, though a steamer, she had shown marvelous speed under sail. She accompanied the British fleet across the Atlantic when the first transoceanic cable was laid, and it was of her that Admiral Mime spoke when he wrote to the British Admiralty from on board his seventy-two-gun line-of-battle ship that he was in company with a sloop-of-war which carried only twelve guns, but could outrun his line-ofbattle ship and whip her when caught. Consequently, there was no doubt on the part of any of us that the Niagara could clear the South Atlantic Ocean full of Alabamas and Georgias.
When this news concerning the Niagara and her consort reached the port we had not finished coaling, and the natives who had seemed so anxious to be rid of our presence now appeared to seek for excuses to delay our departure. Having transferred some five hundred pounds of powder from the Georgia to the Alabama, as the latter ship had used up some of her very short supply in her fight with the Hatteras, in the forenoon of May 22 Captain Semmes sent me with a verbal message to the governor, informing him that he would sail at half-past four that afternoon. While I was standing respectfully before the governor awaiting his answer, the captain of the little white Portuguese sloop was striding up and down the room with a fierce expression on his face. Finally the governor told me to tell Captain Semmes that the Alabama would not be permitted to depart at that hour, as the port regulations did not allow vessels to depart after four o'clock; and the Portuguese captain said to the governor, in French (evidently for my benefit), that if the governor wanted the corsairos stopped, he would stop them for him. When I repeated this remark to Captain Semmes, he only smiled and said, 'Does he want his pretty white paint spoiled?'
Captain Semmes then sent me back to the governor with a message to the effect that the port regulation applied only to merchant vessels and that the Alabama and Georgia were men-ofwar. At 4 P.M. the Alabama fired a gun as a signal to one of her boats to come aboard, and at once began to weigh anchor. We could see from our deck a company of soldiers trotting at the doublequick down to an obsolete waterbattery, where the old-fashioned, rust-eaten cannon were mostly mounted in an extraordinary fashion, their muzzles resting on the parapet and their breeches supported on logs of wood. On board the Portuguese corvette there also seemed to be great excitement, as they beat to quarters with such a racket that every man aboard seemed to be giving orders or directions to some one else.
At exactly half-past four the Alabama hoisted her boat, weighed anchor, and slowly got under way; then, turning around and hoisting her flag at the main, she steered for the Portuguese. She passed so close to that vessel that I thought for a moment their yards would crash together, but the Portuguese allowed her to pass by without molestation. What business was it of hers, anyhow? When we followed the Alabama out, we passed very close to the water-battery, where the men were standing at their guns, but not a shot was fired until we were at least a mile and a half away, when we saw a puff of smoke, and immediately afterwards a shot skipped over the placid waters of the bay, falling half a mile short of us. We wondered how many men in the fort had been killed, for it was a brave and reckless act to fire one of those guns. We did not reply, as we did not know how soon it might be necessary for us again to enter a Brazilian port.
As we passed out of the bay of Todos os Santos, it was wrapped in the golden splendors of the most gorgeous sunset it has ever been my good fortune to behold.
Day after day passed, and not a single prize came our way. We were beginning to think that the Alabama had cleared up all the Yankee merchantmen in that part of the ocean, when one morning we spied a ship with the unmistakable long skysail poles, and brought her to. She proved to be the American ship Prince of Wales, but as she had a neutral cargo aboard, we had to bond her. These bonds were given by the master in the name of his owners, and stipulated that, in consideration of our not burning his vessel, they would be paid six months after the ratification of a treaty of peace between the United States and the Confederate States governments.
On June 8, at daylight, we found ourselves off the entrance to the harbor of Rio de Janeiro and in plain sight of the famous mountain called Sugar Loaf. We also saw a splendid big clipper ship making her way toward the port. Putting on a full head of steam and setting all sail that would draw, we started in chase of her. The stranger evidently had no doubt as to our character, for she immediately set all of her kites and studding-sails, and hurried toward her haven of refuge, which lay within the charmed three-mile limit. Some thought that she had made it, but Mr. Ingraham, our youthful navigator, announced that in his opinion she was a few inches outside of it. There was no time to be lost, so we cast loose our guns, and, after a few shots, brought her to. The prize proved to be the clipper ship George Griswold of New York, manned by a negro crew with the exception of her captain and mates.
There was great rejoicing on the Georgia over this capture, as the Griswold was the ship which had carried a cargo of flour and wheat, a gift from the people of the United States, to the starving factory operatives of Lancashire, whose means of earning a livelihood had been interfered with by our war. Some of the bread made from this cargo had been distributed at Birkenhead, opposite Liverpool, by a distinguished committee at the head of which was the celebrated preacher, Henry Ward Beecher, who, from a stand on which had been placed a model of the Alabama, made a speech strongly denouncing the South in general and the Alabama in particular. At the conclusion of his oration the loaves of bread were tossed to the crowd, who, instead of eating it, used it to pelt the unoffending effigy of the Alabama. It did not look as if they were so very hungry; but there can be no doubt that this gift of breadstuff changed the sympathies of the working classes of England, and converted them into ardent adherents of the cause of the North.
The captain of the Griswold had no trouble in proving that she carried a neutral cargo, so we had reluctantly to bond her for her own value of one hundred thousand dollars, and let her go. In the meanwhile, the booming of our guns had evidently been heard in Rio, as Brazilian men-of-war and battleships of other nationalities began to send great columns of black smoke out of their funnels in their haste to get up steam. We thought it advisable to leave the locality, and drew out to sea. Soon we saw the warships coming after us, and they followed us all day; shortly after dark, however, we put out our lights - doused our gums, as the sailors say - and had the satisfaction of seeing the pursuers 'pass in the night.'
On June 13, after a long chase, we captured a very fast clipper bark, the Good Hope of Boston, bound for Cape Town, whose crew asserted that they had escaped from the Alabama the day before, and insisted that if the wind had held we could not have caught them. The Good Hope's cargo was composed of Yankee notions, as her mate called it consisting of every imaginable thing, from a portable country villa to a cough-lozenge, and including carriages, pianos, parlororgans, sewing-machines, furniture, dry-goods, and so forth. On boarding her we were informed that her captain - Gordon by name - had died on the voyage, and that his son, a youth of eighteen, who was a member of the crew, had objected so strenuously to his father's being buried at sea that, in deference to his wishes, the carpenter had made a rough oblong box and partly filled it with brine from the beef-casks; the ship's steward had slashed the body in every conceivable way, and into these gaping wounds had stuck slices of ship's pickles, the better to preserve it. The body had then been put into the briny improvised coffin and the cover tightly nailed down.
It was late in the afternoon when we made the capture, and Lieutenant Evans went on board as prize-master. We had expected to lie by the Good Hope all night, with the object of taking provisions out of her in the morning; but Lieutenant Smith, who had the midwatch on the Georgia, allowed the prize to drift out of sight, and when daylight came, she was not be to seen. Naturally we were very anxious, as Mr. Evans had only five of our men with him and the Good Hope's crew numbered over twenty. Shortly after sunrise, we were greatly relieved again to catch sight of her, and soon we were near enough to begin transferring her provisions to our own ship.
When we had got all we wanted, Captain Maury ordered the coffin containing the dead captain to be brought aboard the Georgia. This was no easy thing to do in a small boat with the sea running quite high, but the feat was accomplished, and it was safely hoisted out of the boat by means of a 'whip' sent down from our mainyard, and the coffin was reverently placed on two carpenter's 'horses' which awaited it just in front of the entrance to the cabin, where it was covered with the Stars and Stripes, the flag the dead man sailed under, and which we were told he loved so well in life. Several of our heaviest projectiles were made fast to the foot of the coffin, and when all was ready the ship's bell was tolled for divine service, the prisoners were relieved of their irons (the dead captain's son had never had them put on him), and all hands were summoned to bury the dead. The prisoners and our crew mingled together as they gathered around the coffin, at the head of which stood Captain Maury, prayer-book in hand, with the son of the dead man standing beside him, while our officers reverently took their places behind. Captain Maury then read the beautiful ritual of the Episcopal church for the burial of the dead at sea.
I was in charge of the deck while the service was going on. It was a bright, sunny Sunday morning, a fresh breeze blowing, and from the burning prize, which had been set on fire when our last boat left her, a great column of smoke, hundreds of feet in height, soared toward the sky. Just over our maintruck, all through the service, two white sea-birds (the superstitious sailors called them angel-birds) circled round and round. The solemnity of the occasion was somewhat marred when suddenly the lookout on the foretopmast sang out, 'Sail ho!' Not wishing further to disturb the impressive ceremony by asking the usual questions, 'Where away?' I tiptoed forward and went aloft to see for myself, and beheld a strange craft rising on the horizon very rapidly. She appeared to be coming directly for us; she was close-hauled and it was impossible to tell whether or not a smokestack was hidden by her foresail, especially as United States cruisers used anthracite coal and made little or no smoke.
As the stranger approached, I noticed the unusual whiteness of her sails (sure sign of a man-of-war); next I noticed a long pennant flying gayly from the top of her main-skysail pole, (another sure sign), and as she came still nearer, she broke out the Stars and Stripes. I waited no longer, but scampered down from aloft, and softly stealing up behind Captain Maury, who was still reading from his prayer-book, said in a whisper, 'American man-of-war bearing down on us rapidly!' Never a muscle did he move, nor was there the slightest change in his solemn voice until he finished, and the prisoners lifted the coffin and committed the body to the care of the deep blue sea. Then he ordered me to beat to quarters and cast loose the guns.
By the time this was done, it was discovered that the stranger was not a man-of-war, but an innocent merchant-man. What could be her object in thus courting her doom, when she must have seen the burning Good Hope only a few cables'-length from us? Nearer and nearer she came, while our gunners, lanyards in hand, kept their pieces trained on her. When within about a hundred and fifty yards of us, she was suddenly thrown up into the wind, her mainsail thrown aback, and, as she hove to, she lowered a whale-boat and her captain came over to the Georgia.
We lowered a 'Jacob's ladder' over the side, and the captain of the bark, jumping out of his boat, ran up it like the true sailor he was. As he leaped on to our deck, he exclaimed, 'This is dreadful! Can I be of any assistance?' Captain Maury stepped forward and told him that the Good Hope had been burned by his orders. The man for a moment looked aghast, and then an expression of indignation passed over his features as he asked, 'Are you a pirate?' Captain Maury quietly replied, 'That is what your people call me.' He then took the skipper into his cabin and heard his story.
He had sailed from the United States before the war began, and had made the long voyage around Cape Horn into the Pacific, where he had wandered about until he had got as far north as the Behring Sea. On his return, he had stopped at one of the South Sea Islands, overhauled and painted his ship and whitewashed his sails, and had then hoisted a homeward-bound pennant. He was well on his way when that morning he saw a dense column of smoke which he felt sure could come only from some unfortunate ship that had caught fire in the middle of the South Atlantic, and at once left his course to go to her assistance.
The first lieutenant of the Georgia went on board the bark, whose name was the J. W. Seaver, and searched her, finding many old newspapers, but none of later date than October, 1860. Although her cargo was American, Captain Maury let her go, saying that he would stand a court martial before he would burn the ship of a man who had come on an errand of mercy to help fellow seamen in distress. We put our prisoners, as many as wanted to go, on board of the Seaver; we also put sufficient of the provisions we had taken from the Good Hope to last them for the voyage. There were not many of them, as most of the crew expressed a desire to ship with us, and they proved to be among the best men we had.
On June 18, 1863, we sighted the barren island of Trinidad, situated in the middle of the South Atlantic, about 20° south of the Equator. The island is some six miles in circumference, and its precipitous sides rise out of the ocean to a height of about eight hundred feet. A few hundred feet from the island, and towering several hundred feet above it, a natural monument about two hundred and fifty feet in circumference at the base, and perfectly round, rears its head skyward. It is a natural beacon, and very useful to navigators who wish to sight it after coming around the Horn, to see if their chronometers are correct before shaping their courses for Europe or North America. One of the most magnificent spectacles in the world can be seen here when a storm is raging. The huge waves, with the sweep of the whole Atlantic, strike this rock with their full force, bursting into spray that flies hundreds of feet into the air before it comes tumbling down like a waterfall.
From daylight until dark a cloud of sea-birds could be seen whirling round the top of the crag, where we supposed, they had their nests. Great numbers of them seemed also to resent the presence of the ship and took no pains to conceal their feelings, flying very close to us while screaming their protest. One day a sixteen-year-old lad by the name of Cox was on the lookout on the fore-topgallant yard when he was savagely attacked by a huge frigate, or man-of-war bird. The ship was rolling slightly, and, to maintain his footing, the lad had to hold on to a backstay with one hand while with the other he defended himself with his jack-knife. Suddenly, the bird got a hold with both beak and claws on the boy's clothes and was furiously beating him with his great powerful wings. It looked for a moment as though the combatants would both fall from that lofty height, when a fortunate jab of Cox's knife disabled a wing, and down came the feathered fighter to the deck, where he stood off the whole crew for some little time before they succeeded in killing him.
One day, several of our officers in a small boat rowed around the island; but we could find only one spot where a landing could be made, just opposite to where our ship lay. After great effort, a few of us climbed to the top. There were signs that at some previous time men had lived on the island - probably some shipwrecked crew: but the only signs of animal life we saw were one or two wild hogs. How did they come there?
We had lain at Trinidad for several days when one morning our lookout reported a sail on the horizon. Our fires were banked, and it took but little time to get up steam, slip our cable, and start in pursuit. We did not want to waste coal, so we fired a blank cartridge as a signal for the stranger to heave to, but it only had the effect of making him crack on more sail. Getting nearer to him, we tried the effect of a solid shot across his bows, with no better result. We then sent one so close to him that his nerve failed, and he hove to. The stranger proved to be the Constitution, a big full-rigged ship, hailing from New York, and bound from Philadelphia to Shanghai with a cargo of coal and missionaries: She was forty-eight days out and carried a crew of twenty-six men. Half a dozen of us were put on board the prize and, as there were several other sail in sight, the Georgia went off in chase, leaving us to work the big Constitution to the island, where we expected our cruiser to rejoin us. The wind was very light and we made but slow progress. In the meanwhile, the Georgia disappeared below the horizon and we commenced to feel lonesome. For safety's sake we placed one half of the crew in irons and put them down below; the other half we kept on deck, making them work the ship for us until night came, and then confining them all on the lower deck.
The Georgia had not returned by dark, and neither had we succeeded in making the island, so we stood 'off and on' all through the night. The next morning was fair and clear, but still there was no sign of our ship. The only restriction put upon the missionaries and passengers was that they were not allowed to communicate with the crew or go forward of the mainmast. The captain was confined in his cabin and the mates in their staterooms, but not in irons. Among the passengers were a lady, and her daughter of fifteen or sixteen years of age; and if there is anything in this world that can make a boy feel more miserable than a girl of that age, I should like to know what it is. The young lady would be seated by her mother, sunning herself, while in all my dignity, with my sword by my side and my pistol in my belt, I paced the quarter-deck. As I passed this couple on one occasion I heard (and it was intended that I should hear) the mischievous thing say, 'Mamma, all the pirates 1 ever read about were at least seven feet tall and had huge beards reaching down to their waists. That child is not as tall as I am, and he hasn't even any fuzz on his upper lip.' On another occasion, she observed as I passed that she did not believe my mamma knew I was with those wicked men. How I hated that pretty girl! The hour of my revenge was at hand, however.
We had almost come to the conclusion that the Georgia had been captured and that we would have to work our way to some European port in the big Constitution, with only six men, and all those prisoners aboard. We were lying at anchor in the cove, the ship rolling slightly with the swell of the sea; night had fallen and the time for extinguishing all lights had arrived, when we noticed that there was a great deal of whispering going on in the staterooms. An order for silence was given, to which very little attention was paid. A boatswain's mate came aft and reported that the prisoners forward seemed to be very uneasy and none of them was asleep. They were cautioned by telling them that, if they did not keep quiet, the hatches would be covered (which would have made it very uncomfortable for them); and by way of extra precaution an armed sentry stood at the hatchway with orders to shoot any man who showed his head above the combings.
While I was in the saloon, trying to overhear what was going on among the passengers in their staterooms, the captain, contrary to positive orders, came out of his cabin, holding in his hand a bottle. He offered me a drink; I put my hand on the butt of my revolver and ordered him to return to his room - which he did.
The night was very dark, and the rising sea caused the ship to roll more than ever. Toward midnight a large vase became loosened from its fastenings and fell to the deck with a crash: then pandemonium did break loose. The women, screaming that the pirates were going to murder them, rushed out of their rooms in their nightclothes and prostrated themselves on the deck, begging for mercy. My especial friend, the young lady who amused herself making fun of me, selected me for her especial executioner, and threw her arms around my knees as she pleaded for her life. Just then - to add to the terrors of the situation - the cries of the women were drowned by the boom of a cannon and the shrieking of a rifle-shell as it passed over us. I rushed on deck and shouted through the speaking trumpet to our unseen foe, 'Ship ahoy! Don't fire, we surrender!' A hail came out of the darkness, asking what ship we were? I was going to answer that it was the United States ship Constitution, prize to the Georgia, but as the words 'United States' came out of my mouth, there was some more banging of the great guns. Things were too serious for further conversation, so hastily ordering a boat lowered, I rowed over to the strange craft, and it proved to be the Georgia!
It seemed that, after leaving us, she chased first one vessel and then another until she had got a long way from us; then, as frequently happened, the wooden cogs of her engine had broken and injured several people, and it had taken some time to make repairs. As soon as possible she had returned in search of us, and was nearing the anchorage in the darkness, when the officer of the deck thought he heard cheers which sounded as if they were being given by a man-of-war's crew about to go into action. He also said that, when he asked what ship it was, he was sure the answer he heard was, 'The United States sloop-of-war Niagara.' There was so much talk about the Niagara on board of the Georgia that she evidently had taken possession of his imagination. I have often wondered if those poor women on the Constitution ever realized the fact that they had given us a greater scare than we had given them.
Several days were spent in coaling the Georgia from the Constitution - a weary job, as our boats were small; then the passengers and crew of the prize were transferred to the Georgia, and our officers had to give up their staterooms to the ladies. They themselves slept in cots and hammocks crowded together and swung in the space between the rooms. We treated the women with the most respectful consideration, but nothing we could say or do seemed to allay their apprehensions. They were so very miserable that we felt sorry for them and prayed for a prize on board of which we could put them. On June 7, we chased and boarded a neutral ship which gave us the sad news of the death of 'Stonewall' Jackson - and in that lonely part of the ocean, we paid his memory a last tribute of respect by lowering our flag to half-mast. After a few more days of great discomfort, we captured the American ship City of Bath and hastily made preparations to transfer our unhappy guests to her. We sent boatload after boatload of provisions, which we had taken out of the Constitution, to her, and exacted from her captain a promise that he would take our unwilling and unwelcome guests to an American port.
When the time came to transfer the women to the City of Bath the sea was so high that it would have been dangerous for them to attempt to climb down the ladder to get into the boats. Both ships were hove to out on the open sea and were rolling heavily, so we rigged a 'whip' on the main yardarm, and placing the poor, frightened creatures in a boatswain's chair, first hoisted them up and over the rail, and then lowered them into the waiting boat. When it came to the turn of my sixteen-year-old tormentor, she was evidently very badly frightened - so much so that she actually condescended to ask me if there was any danger; and on my assuring her that there was none, she intimated that she was sorry she had made fun of me. For a moment my heart softened toward the helpless child who had so suddenly found herself amid such strange surroundings; I wished her a pleasant voyage as she seated herself in the chair, and the order was given, 'Haul well taut! Hoist away!' Up she went; the ship rolled to leeward, and she was landed safely in the boat, The oars splashed into the sea and a laughing young voice called out to me across the waves, 'You will be hanged before the down grows on your upper lip!'
Ungallantly, I replied, 'If we ever catch you again, you surely will walk the plank.'
We afterwards learned that the captain of the City of Bath had not kept the promise which had saved his ship from destruction, but had taken the unfortunate passengers and such of the crew as had not enlisted on the Georgia to Pernambuco, the nearest port, and left them stranded there while he went on to Boston with the provisions. The wife of the captain of the Constitution could not have suffered from want, as a few months afterwards we saw in a newspaper an interview in which she gave a very uncomplimentary account of her experiences with the pirates, but consoled herself by saying that she had saved from their clutches sixteen thousand dollars in gold of the ship's money by sewing the coins into her petticoats, and safely left the corsair with her treasure. When we read this, we felt that we had been robbed.
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