Hurricane Hurry, by W.H.G. Kingston.
This rather long book is definitely an historical novel. In the edition used there are 470 pages, not above size for one of Kingston's books, but the text on the pages is tall and wide, while the font is small. All this builds up to 1.1 megabytes of text. In addition the inking was not always good, though the type in the corners of the page was not particularly damaged, as is common in Victorian printings. As a result producing this e-text was rather difficult, and there may still remain some errors, though not, we hope, many.
The main action takes place in the years around 1780.
There are some rather strange aspects to the narration. For example, the hero's name is Hurry, except that on two occasions in Chapter 8 and one in Chapter 9, his name is mysteriously change to Poynder. Also in Chapter 9, the young Miss Carlyon is referred to as having gone to live with her aunt, Mrs Tarleton, on the death of her father. Yet the latter figures strongly in the later stages of the book, so we conclude that Kingston wrote the book with parts being pulled in from previous notes, but that he did not go back and re-read the book with a critical eye.
However, those are but passing observations which it is necessary to make. The book is about the war between the British and the American Royalists on the one hand, and the American rebels on the other. The author is probably sympathetic to the rebels, but certainly to the cause of Freedom, and he makes his hero, Hurry, sympathetic to their cause, yet always observant of his duty as an officer of the King's Navy. While there are the usual fights between ship and ship, or between ship and weather, as always so beautifully expressed by Kingston's pen, we find that by chapter 9 Hurry has fallen in love with an American young lady, and the rest of the book contains episodes in which he is in contact with her, though she is the daughter of a Colonel active on the Rebel side. It won't spoil the story if we say that they marry in the last paragraph, five lines from the end.
Slightly annoying is the fact that we are made interested in the fate of Harry Sumner, a very young midshipman, alone in the world, who is wounded in a minor skirmish, and by Chapter 8 is met with in a sick-berth, fully expecting to die. But does he die, or was that but a childish fancy? We never find out.
This book is probably one of the very best historical novels about the American Rebellion, seen from the naval point of view, and as such is well worth reading by both British and American subjects.
HURRICANE HURRY, BY W.H.G. KINGSTON.
MY BIRTH, PARENTAGE, AND EDUCATION.—MAKE THE ACQUAINTANCE OF TOM ROCKETS.—SENT TO SEA ON BOARD THE FOLKSTONE CUTTER, ANNO 1764.— NUMEROUS VOYAGES.—MY FRIENDS AND I APPEAR ON THE QUARTER-DECK OF THE TORBAY, 74.—JOIN THE FALCON.—MY ONLY DUEL.—ADVENTURES IN THE WEST INDIES.—THE CARIB WAR.—BOAT CAPSIZED.—FATE OF HER CREW.—APPOINTED TO THE WOLF.
On the north-east side of the street, about midway between the fish and flesh markets in the seaport town of Falmouth, and at about the silent and solemn hour of thirty-six minutes past one by my father's watch, on the morning of the 28th day of December, of the year of grace 1752, His Gracious Majesty George the Second being King of Great Britain and Ireland, (it is necessary in important matters to be particular). I was introduced with the usual forms and ceremonies into the ancient family of the Hurrys, as the undoubted child of my father Richard and my mother Joan, the ninth, and as it subsequently proved, the last of their promising offspring. On the 29th day of the January following, the Reverend Edward Walmsley, rector of the parish, baptised me by the names of Hurricane, with the addition of Tempest, which were selected by my parents, after numberless consultations, in compliment to my maternal grand-uncle, Sir Hurricane Tempest, Alderman of Bristol, though it did not appear from his remark when informed of the occurrence that it was likely to benefit in the remotest manner from the delicate attention which had been paid him.
My early days were not remarkable, I got through the complaints incident to childhood in a manner satisfactory to my mother and the doctor, while my elder brothers and sisters took very good care that I should not be spoilt by over-indulgence. My brothers, as they advanced towards manhood, were sent into various professions, and as none of them had chosen the sea, it was decided, without my opinion being asked, that I should be made an offering to Neptune.
That I might be prepared for my future calling, I was sent to reside with my brother-in-law Jack Hayfield, in the neighbourhood of Bideford, North Devon, to allow me the vast benefit of attending the school of worthy Jeremiah Sinclair, kept over the marketplace in that far-famed maritime town. I still love the recollection of the old place, with its steep streets, its broad quays, and its bridge of many arches; to my mind a more picturesque bridge does not exist in all the world, nor, when the tide is in, a prettier river. On the bosom of that river I gained my first practical experience of affairs nautical, and many a trip I made down to Appledore with my schoolfellow Ned Treggellis, in a boat which, had not a special providence watched over us, would speedily have consigned us to the muddy bottom of the stream. An oar served us as a rudder, another as a mast, with a piece of sacking as a sail spread on a condemned boat-hook, while one of us was constantly employed in baling out the water which came in through leaks unnumbered—a state of affairs we had learned to consider normal to our craft.
From Sinclair's school, in order to receive the finishing-touches to my education, I was removed to old Allen's well-known Mathematical Academy in Cold Harbour.
It is just possible that I might have reaped some amount of benefit from the mental provender served out in those nurseries of genius, but unfortunately for me Jack's appreciation of the advantages of knowledge was such that he considered the time squandered devoted to its acquisition. Frequently, therefore, when I was supposed by my good sister Mary, his wife, to be on my way to school, I had been waylaid by him, and was employed with another boy in setting springles, marking woodcocks, or in some other equally intellectual pastime. Whatever I may now think about the matter, I was then convinced that Brother Jack was one of the kindest and best fellows in the world; and when I fell asleep in my chair during the evening, my somnolency was attributed to the assiduity with which I had applied to my studies during the day. I have since then had not a little reason to regret honest Jack's ignorance and my own folly in listening to his persuasions.
My frequent companion on the occasions I have spoken of was Tommy Rockets, the son of a poor widow who lived near Jack's house. He was somewhat younger than myself and small for his age, but a sharp, intelligent little fellow, though amusingly ignorant of affairs in general. His chief employment was acting the part of a scarecrow by frightening birds from the cornfields, and running on errands into Bideford for any of the neighbours, by which means he enabled his mother to eke out her scanty pittance. I used to share with him my school pasty, and now and then I saved a piece of bread and cheese, or I would bring him a cake or a roll from Bideford. He never failed to carry a portion to his mother, sharp-set as he always was himself. The poor fellow soon conceived a strong affection for me; and when I was going off to sea he cried bitterly at the thoughts of parting from me. I also had a regard for him, and, forgetting how small and young he was, I took it into my head that I would carry him with me. We were sitting on a grassy bank under a tree, with a series of undulating hills and the blue ocean beyond, when I broached the subject.
"Would'st like to come to sea with me, Tom?" said I broadly.
"What, to them furrin parts across the water?" he asked, pointing seaward with his chin. "No; I'd bee afeared, Master Hurricane, I would. What makes you go now?"
"To fight the Frenchmen, of course," I replied. "It's peace just now, they say, though I thought we were always at war with the French; but it won't last long, that's one comfort."
"Well, now, I'd rather stay at home with mother than go and fight the furriners—that I would," said Tommy, with much simplicity.
"Oh, you've no spirit, boy!" I replied, with a look of contempt. "Wouldn't you like, now, to be sailing round the world with Commodore Byron, who'll fill his ships with rubies, and pearls, and gold, and precious stones, and all sorts of things. Why, Tommy, you would come back with more riches in your waistcoat-pocket than you ever thought to possess in your life."
Tommy's eyes sparkled as I spoke. "What, enough to make my mother a lady!" he exclaimed. "Well, then, Master Hurricane, if so be you can take me to them parts, when I'm big enough I'll go with ye."
"Well, we'll see about it," said I, with a patronising air; "but it is not all gold-picking, remember. There's plenty of fighting and prize-taking besides. You've heard speak of Admiral Hawke?"
"No," said Tommy, "I ne'er did."
"I'd have given my right hand to have been with him when he beat the French in Quiberon Bay. That was a glorious day for old England, let me tell you." I was able to expatiate on the subject, as the last time I was at home my father read me a full account of the battle which took place in 1759, the year preceding the death of his Majesty George the Second, and about five years before the time of which I am now speaking. It was the most memorable action of my early days. The French fleet was commanded by Monsieur de Conflans, whom a short time before a violent gale had compelled to take shelter in Brest harbour, while the English had anchored in Torbay. The two fleets were about equal. After cruising for some time the enemy again took shelter in Quiberon Bay, on the coast of Bretagne, in France, where they were pursued by the English. A strong gale had sprung up and a heavy sea was running, but, undaunted, the brave Hawke stood on. The Frenchmen hoped to lead his fleet to destruction among the rocks and shoals of that dangerous coast. Unwilling to fight, yet too late to escape, the French admiral, when he saw the English approach, was compelled to make sail. Hawke pursued them and ordered his pilots to lay him alongside the Soleil Royal, which bore the flag of the French admiral. The Thesee, a seventy-four-gun ship, ran between them, and a heavy sea entering her ports, she foundered. The Superbe, another Frenchman, shared the same fate. Several other French ships struck their colours; many were driven on shore, among which was the flag-ship, which was set on fire and destroyed. A great number of the French were killed, but the English lost only one lieutenant and thirty-nine men killed, and about two hundred wounded. But I must not stop to describe the gallant actions which occurred during my boyhood. Lord Anson, one of the most experienced of navigators, died two years only before I went to sea. Captain Byron sailed that same memorable year, when my country first had the benefit of my services, on his voyage of discovery into the pacific, and returned in 1766. Captains Wallis and Carteret sailed on exploring voyages at the same time. I happened to have heard of Mr Cook, but it was not till many years after this that he became known to fame as one of the most talented and scientific of English navigators; indeed, he did not return from his great voyage till eleven years after this. He lost his life in his last voyage in 1779.
A number of gallant actions were fought at the end of the war, sufficient to fire the ardour of any youth of spirit to whom they were recounted. Captain Hood's capture of the Warwick, a sixty-gun ship, which had been taken from the English, was one of the most celebrated. At this time, however, she carried but thirty-six guns, with 300 men, including a company of soldiers. Captain Hood attacked her in the Minerva frigate of thirty-two guns and 220 men, and after an hour's fight, with a heavy sea running, both ships having lost their masts, he captured her and took her to Spithead. A still more remarkable action was that of the Bellona and Brilliant, Captains Faulkner and Loggie, and a French ship of the line and two heavy frigates, which resulted in the capture of the first and the flight of the latter. There were also numerous actions fought between packets and privateers, and other small craft, with the enemy, which seldom failed to add to the honour and glory of our country. Though ignorant of other lore, I greedily devoured all the accounts I could find of these events, and having once made up my mind that the sea was to be my profession, I resolved, when opportunities should occur, to imitate them to the best of my power.
But to return to my friend Tommy. Just before I sailed I went to pay his mother a visit. I found the widow sitting, as was her wont, knitting at her window, waiting for her son's return. I went not empty-handed, for besides my pasty, which I had saved, I had bought a loaf and a lump of cheese and a bundle of lollipops at Bideford. First presenting her with these treasures and emptying my pockets of the very small amount of cash they contained, I opened the business I had at heart. Poor Mrs Rockets burst into tears when I asked her to let her Tommy go to sea with me.
"Oh, Master Hurricane!" said she, "I feel all your kindness to a poor creature like me and my boy, and I would not deny you anything, but, oh, sir, he is my only child, my only comfort in life, and I cannot part with him!"
All the arguments I could use and the brilliant hopes I held out were of no avail for a long time, till at last, with a sad voice, she consented, when he grew bigger, should he then show a strong wish to go to sea, to allow him to accompany me.
I met Tommy on my way home and told him that he must make haste and grow big that he might go to sea and fill his pockets with pearls and diamonds for his widowed mother. In many a dream which I had thus conjured up, both by day and night, did the poor lad indulge as he was scaring off the crows in the fields or lying on his humble pallet in his thatched-roof hut near Bideford.
It was at Whitsuntide of the year 1764, I then numbering eleven summers, that I was placed on the books of the Folkstone cutter, commanded by a particular friend of my father's, Lieutenant Clover; the amount of learning I possessed on quitting school just enabling me to read a chapter in the Bible to my old blind grandmother (on my mother's side), who lived with us, and to tell my father how many times a coachwheel of any diameter would turn round in going to Penryn. Having received my father's and mother's blessing and a sea-chest, which contained a somewhat scanty supply of clothes, a concise epitome of navigation, an English dictionary, and my grandmother's Bible—the only gift of value the kind old lady had it in her power to bestow—I was launched forth into the wide world to take my chance with the bustling, hard-hearted crowd which fills it. I was speedily removed from the cutter into his Majesty's packet the Duncannon, Captain Charles Edwards, in which vessel I crossed the Atlantic for the first time; and after visiting Madeira and several of the West India Islands I returned to Falmouth on the eve of Christmas, 1767. I next joined the Duke of York, Captain Dickenson, in which vessel I made no less than sixteen voyages to Lisbon. As, however, I had grown very weary of the packet service, I was not sorry to be paid off and to return once more home, if not with a fuller purse, at all events, a better sailor than when I left it. I was not long allowed to enjoy the luxury of idleness before my father got me appointed to the Torbay, seventy-four, commanded by Captain Walls, who was considered one of the smartest officers in the service, and I was taught to expect a very different sort of life to that which I had been accustomed to in the slow-going packet service. There were several youngsters from the neighbourhood of Falmouth, who had never before been to sea, who were appointed to the same ship. One of them, my old messmate poor Dick Martingall, used to speak of the unsophisticated joy with which his old mother, in her happy simplicity, announced to him the fact of his appointment. She came to his bedside long before the usual hour of rising and awoke him.
"Richard, my dear son, Richard!" she said; "get up, thou art made for ever!"
"What am I made, mother?" he asked with astonishment, rubbing his eyes, which were still full of sleep.
"Oh, my boy, my dear boy!" replied the good lady, her countenance beaming with satisfaction, "thou art made a midshipman!"
Alas! little did his poor old mother dream of the sea of troubles into which her darling boy was about to be launched, what hardships and difficulties he was doomed to encounter, "the snubs that patient raids from their superiors take," or she would not have congratulated herself on the event, or supposed that by his being made a midshipman he was made for ever. Yet in his case it was so far true, poor fellow, that he was never made anything else, as he was carried out of the world by fever before he had gained a higher step in rank.
The tailors in Falmouth and its neighbourhood who were employed in fitting us out were delightfully innocent of all notion of what a midshipman's uniform should really be, and each one seemed to fancy that he was at liberty to give full scope to the exuberance of his taste. Their models might have been taken from the days of Benbow, or rather, perhaps, from the costumes of those groups who go about disguised at Christmas-time enacting plays in the halls of the gentry and nobility, and are called by us west-country folks "geese-dancers." As we met on board the cutter which was to carry us to Plymouth we were not, I will allow, altogether satisfied with our personal appearance, and still less so when we stepped on the quarter-deck of the seventy-four, commanded by one of the proudest, most punctilious men in the service, surrounded by a body of well-dressed, dashing-looking officers.
Tom Peard first advanced, as chief and oldest of our gang, with a bob-wig on his head surmounted by a high hat bound by narrow gold lace, white lapels to his coat, a white waistcoat, and light-blue inexpressibles with midshipman's buttons. By his side hung a large brass-mounted hanger, while his legs were encased in a huge pair of waterproof boots. I followed next, habited in a coat all sides radius, as old Allen would have said, the skirt actually sweeping the deck, and so wide that it would button down to the very bottom. My white cuffs reached half way up the arm to the elbow; my waistcoat, which was of the same snowy hue, reached to my knees, but was fortunately concealed from sight by the ample folds of my coat, as were also my smallclothes. I had on white thread stockings, high shoes and buckles, and a plain cocked hat—a prodigiously long silver-handled sword completing my costume.
Dick Martingall's and Tom Paynter's dresses wore not much less out of order, giving them more the appearance of gentlemen of the highway than of naval officers of respectability. One had a large brass-mounted sword once belonging to his great-grandfather, a trooper in the army of the Prince of Orange; the other, a green-handled hanger, which had done service with Sir Cloudesley Shovel.
Often have I seen a set of geese-dancers compelled to make a hurried flight before the hot poker of some irate housekeeper disturbed in her culinary operations, and much in the same way did we four aspirants for naval honours beat a precipitate retreat from the deck of the Torbay as, with a stamp of his foot, our future captain ordered us to be gone and instantly to get cut down and reduced into ordinary proportions by the Plymouth tailors.
As may be supposed, the operation was almost beyond the skill of even the most experienced master of the shears, and we were all of us compelled, much to our dismay, to furnish ourselves for the most part with new suits. On our return on board, however, we were complimented on our appearance; and as our tailor agreed to receive payment from our first instalment of prize-money, we were perfectly content with the arrangement.
After spending a few months in channel cruising—the Torbay being ordered to lay as guard-ship at Plymouth—such a life not suiting my fancy, I quitted her and joined his Majesty's sloop of war Falcon, captain Cuthbert Baines, fitting out for the West India station.
As in those days I kept no regular journal, I have only a few scattered notes written in an old log-book to guide me in my account of the events of that period of my career. A few are still vivid in my memory as when they first occurred, but many have escaped me altogether, or appear like the fleeting phantoms of a dream of which it is impossible to describe the details. I must therefore be allowed to pass rapidly over that early portion of my naval life and go on to the time when I had passed my examination for a lieutenant's commission and trod the quarter-deck as a master's mate.
On the Falcon's leaving Portsmouth we touched at Falmouth or our way down channel, when I had the opportunity of taking leave of my family— with some of them, alas! it was an eternal farewell. This is one of the seaman's severest trials; he knows from sad experience that of the many smiling faces he sees collected round the domestic hearth some will too surely be missing on his return, wanderers, like himself, far, far away, or gone to their final resting-place.
We made a stay of a few days at Madeira, and without any occurrence worthy of note reached English Harbour, Antigua, October 21st, 1771, where we found lying several ships of war under the flag of Rear-Admiral Mann.
I have not hitherto mentioned the names of my messmates. Among others, there were William Wilkins, John Motto, Israel Pellew [see note], and Alexander Dick. We were a jovial set and generally pulled well together; but on one occasion the apple of discord was thrown in among us, and Alexander Dick, the surgeon's mate, and I fell to loggerheads in consequence of some reflections I thoughtlessly cast on the land of his nativity—to the effect, as far as my recollection serves me, that nothing better was to be found there as food for the people than sheeps' heads and boiled bagpipes; to which he retorted by asserting that we west-country folks were little better than heathens and had no more manners than blackamoors. As neither of us would retract what we had said, it was decided that our dispute could alone be settled by mortal combat. Pistols, we were aware, were the most gentlemanly weapons to be employed on such occasions; but we found that it would be impossible to obtain them in a hurry without to a certainty betraying our intentions. It was therefore settled by our seconds and ourselves that we should decide the knotty question with our hangers as soon as we could manage to get on shore after reaching port. All four of us therefore, having got leave the morning after our arrival, left the ship soon after daybreak in a shore-boat and pulled off to a retired part of the harbour. Here we landed, and telling our black boatmen to wait our return, we walked away arm-in-arm to a spot where we thought no one would observe us. Having thrown off our coats and tucked up our shirt-sleeves, the word was given, and, drawing our hangers, we advanced towards each other with furious passes, as if nothing but the death of one of us could satisfy the rancour of our enmity, and yet at that very moment I believe neither of us recollected the origin of our quarrel. Dick first gave me a cut on the shoulder, which so excited my fury that I was not long in returning the compliment by bestowing a slash across his arm, which made him wince not a little, but before I could follow it up he had recovered his guard. In a moment I was at him again, and as we were neither of us great masters of the noble art of self-defence, we kept hewing and slashing away at each other in a most unscientific manner for several minutes, till we were both of us covered with gashes from head to foot, and the blood was flowing copiously down into our very shoes. At last, from very weariness and loss of blood, we dropped the points of our swords as if by mutual consent. Our seconds now stepped forward.
"Hurry, my good fellow," said my second, "one thing I see clearly. This matter cannot be settled satisfactorily with cold steel—it's too much like the custom of piccarooners. We must wait till we can get hold of pistols, and arrange the affair in a gentlemanly way. That's my opinion, and I daresay you and Mr Dick will agree with me." In honest truth, both my antagonist and I were in such a condition that we were perfectly ready to agree to any arrangement which would prevent the necessity of continuing the painful operation we had both been inflicting on each other. All four of us therefore sat down on the sands, and Dick, pulling out some lint and bandages from his pockets, our seconds, under his directions, bound up our wounds. When this at length was done we found it, however, impossible to get on our coats again. We were therefore obliged to carry them over our shoulders as we walked to the boats. When the Negro boatmen saw our pale faces and halting gait, as with difficulty we stepped into the boat, they grinned from ear to ear, full well guessing what had occurred, and doubtlessly thinking, as will, I suspect, my readers, that we were very great fools for our pains. Ay, truly we were far worse than fools, for in obedience to the customs of sinful men we had been disobeying the laws of God, and committing a very great crime as well as a very great folly, but we did not think so then, nor did I till very many years afterwards.
Our intentions had not been kept so secret but that they had become known on board, and, our appearance on our return fully corroborating the truth of the reports which had been going about, we were put under arrest by Captain Baines, who then sent for us, to know the cause of our quarrel. We explained it as well as we could; but, as may be supposed, we neither of us had a very good case to make out. "Well, gentlemen," said our commander, "this is a point I do not wish to decide myself, but I shall leave it to the arbitration of the gun-room officers, and to their decision you must bow." The next day, therefore, the gun-room officers held a court, and, feeling very stiff and very sore, and looking, I doubt not, very foolish—though we did our best to appear like heroes—we stood before them. Having both of us pleaded our cause, it was decided that we had no business to use the language we had employed, and that we were both in the wrong. We were in consequence ordered to shake hands, and be friends, or else to look out for squalls. Had we possessed more sense, this we might have done before we had cut each other half to pieces, not to speak of spoiling a shirt and a pair of breeches apiece. Thus ended the first and only duel in which I was ever engaged, and Dick and I from that time forward became very good friends.
About this time, some serious disputes having arisen with the Caribs of Saint Vincent, who had become very troublesome to the settlers, the British Government formed the design of removing them altogether from the island and of placing them on some part of the mainland, where they might enjoy their own manner of life without interfering with civilised people. To effect this object an expedition was sent to the island under the command of Major-General Dalrymple, consisting of two regiments from America and various bodies of troops collected from the other islands and from on board all his Majesty's ships of war on the station. At this distance of time of course I cannot pretend to be able to give any minute description of the details of the affair. I know that there were some gentlemen who acted as commissioners who went on shore to try and arrange matters with the Caribs; but the savages, after agreeing to terms, not showing any intention to abide by them, the troops were ordered to land. It was very easy to give the order, but not so easy to execute it, for at the time there happened to be an unusually heavy surf breaking on the shore. It would have been wiser in my humble opinion to have waited till the surf had gone down, or to have selected some other spot for disembarkation to that fixed on; but, strange to say, the authorities did not happen to ask my opinion, simply, I suppose, because I was a midshipman, and the landing commenced. The boats, pulled by the seamen and crowded with soldiers, made for the shore. Some reached it in safety by taking the proper moment to dash through the surf, but others were not so fortunate. One boat from our ship had put off; the men in high spirits at the thought of a brush with the Niggers, as they called the unfortunate Caribs. I was watching them from the deck as they approached the shore, when a heavy roller went tumbling in after them. The men saw it coming and pulled for their lives, but it was too quick for them, and catching the boat turned her over as if she had been a mere cockleshell. In an instant some thirty poor fellows were struggling in the surf. Many sunk at once, others made way for the shore, but they had a remorseless enemy on the watch for them, and several, with a shriek of agony which reached almost to the ears of those on board the Falcon, were drawn under by those monsters of the deep, the voracious sharks. Others, when nearly touching the sand, were washed out again by the reflux of another roller following up the first. It was doubly sad, because before it was possible to send any help to them their fate was sealed. Several other boats met with a like accident, and before the troops were all landed a large number both of seamen and soldiers were lost. The survivors formed on the beach and then advanced rapidly into the country, where the Caribs were drawn up in strong force to receive them.
The enemy, having the advantage of a knowledge of the country, chose their own ground for encountering our troops, and, truth to say, generally had the best of it. I do not wish to enlarge on the subject. I know that we gained very little honour and glory, but, after losing a considerable number of men, some from the bullets of the enemy and others from sunstrokes, the troops were ordered to embark again. Afterwards we heard that the Caribs were allowed to remain in possession of their rights. I suspect, however, that they did not retain them for any long period after this time.
I remember nothing of any particular importance happening to me till August, 1772, when we were lying in English Harbour, Antigua, in company with his Majesty's ships Chatham, Sea-horse, and Active. I have good reason to remember the harbour well. It is small, but very pretty. The inner part is encircled by hills of various shapes and sizes, the outer is formed by a rocky ridge, with a fort on it guarding the narrow entrance. The capital, Saint Johns, is at the other side of the island, so that we were not able to get there as often as we wished. With little or no warning one of the most terrific hurricanes I ever encountered came down upon us, and before we could get our topmasts housed our masts went by the board, and at the same instant breaking from our anchors we were all driven on shore together. It was a case in which seamanship was of no avail, for before we could make any preparations to avert the evil the catastrophe had occurred. The same blast levelled with the ground all the stores and houses in the dockyard, as also the Naval Hospital and all the dwelling-houses and other buildings which it encountered in its course. Before we could attempt to heave the ships off we were obliged to clear them of everything, down to the very kelson, and even then we could not move them till we applied the most powerful purchases which could be invented. The Falcon had received so much injury that we were compelled to heave her down to repair her before she was fit for sea. While this operation was going forward I had the misfortune to break my right knee-pan, and for very long it was doubtful whether I should ever again have the free use of my leg. For sixteen weeks I remained in hospital, but at length, to my great satisfaction, was pronounced fit for duty.
I was now no longer a mere youngster, and had seen already a considerable amount of service. Early in 1773 I was appointed acting-lieutenant of the Falcon by Vice-Admiral Parry, who had superseded Admiral Mann. I now assumed the lieutenant's uniform and walked the deck with no little amount of pride, hoping to be confirmed in my rank when at the expiration of her time on the station my ship should return to England. The change from a midshipman's berth to the gun-room was very considerable, and as I shone away in what the Orlopians term white boot-tops, I was looked upon by them, with no little amount of envy. I was doomed, however, in this respect to suffer disappointment. In August, 1774, the Falcon returned home, the captain, the lieutenant of marines, another midshipman, and myself, being the only officers on board who had left England in her—the rest having died or changed into other ships. I must mention the kindness I ever received from Captain Baines while I remained with him. After I left the Falcon I served in the Folkstone cutter stationed at Bideford, and then joined the Wolf sloop of war, Captain Hayward. In the space of a few months I attended the funerals of his wife, his child, and lastly of himself. On quitting the Wolf I began what I may look upon as a new era in my life, and it is therefore a fitting period to commence a fresh chapter.
Note. Afterwards Sir Israel Pellew, the brother of the famous Lord Exmouth.
COMMENCEMENT OF THE AMERICAN WAR OF INDEPENDENCE.—APPOINTED TO THE ORPHEUS FRIGATE.—CAUSES OF THE WAR.—SAIL IN COMPANY WITH THE CHATHAM FOR HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA.—STORMY PASSAGE IN MID-WINTER.—LOSE SIGHT OF CHATHAM.—LOSE MASTS.—THE CAPTAIN KEEPS AT IT.—RIG JURY-MASTS.—A SUCCESSION OF GALES.—GET IN AT LAST.—OUR CAPTAIN GAINS GREAT CREDIT.
I had enjoyed the otium cum dignitate of a midshipman's life on shore scarcely more than six weeks when, in September, 1775, the shrill bugle-blast of war sounded the knell of the piping tunes of peace; and I received the very satisfactory intelligence that I was rated as master's mate on board the Orpheus frigate, of fifty-two guns, Captain Hudson, then fitting for sea with all possible despatch at Plymouth, and destined for the North American station. I had hoped to have been confirmed in my rank as a lieutenant; but, disappointed in this, I was too glad under present circumstances to get afloat on any terms.
The peace which had now lasted for nearly ten years was thus abruptly terminated by the outbreak into open rebellion of the North American colonies, which led on to their Declaration of Independence. I was never anything of a politician, and I must confess that at that period of my existence I troubled myself very little about the rights of the case, though even then I had a lurking idea that the colonists were not quite the ragamuffins some people would have had us suppose. They had no fancy, it appeared, to pay taxes without having a voice as to the employment of their money or interest in the objects on which it was expended. The British Government and the upper classes generally at home had always treated the inhabitants of the colonies as if they considered them an inferior race, and almost beyond the pale of civilisation. This conduct had naturally caused much discontent and ill feeling, and made the colonists more ready to resent and oppose any attempt to curtail their rights and privileges. What was called the Stamp Act met with the first organised opposition. The Government offices were in many places pulled down, while the Governor of New York and other promoters of the Act were burnt in effigy. Many influential colonists then bound themselves to make use of no articles on which duties had been levied; while the people of Boston, proceeding a step farther, rather than pay the duty imposed by the British Government, threw into the sea the cargoes of several ships sent there by the East India Company laden with tea. This proceeding of the inhabitants of Boston induced the British Government to send General Gage, with an army, to take up his quarters there, with the intention of coercing them.
The belief that arbitrary Government was about to be established throughout the colonies made the people in every direction rise in arms. A rebel force, consisting of several thousand men, began to collect in the neighbourhood of the above-mentioned city. Petition after petition and remonstrance after remonstrance had been sent over to England in vain. The great Lord Chatham and the famous Mr Edmund Burke had pleaded the cause of the patriots with all the mighty eloquence they possessed; but without altering the resolution of the King or the Government. The celebrated Dr Franklin, already well known in England and America as a philosopher as well as a statesman, had come over to England to plead the cause of his countrymen, but had returned hopeless of effecting his object. What treatment, after this, could the colonists expect, if they yielded to the dictates of the mother-country?
The crisis at length arrived. There was at Concord, near Boston, a large magazine of military stores. General Gage sent a force to destroy it. The patriots collected in considerable numbers to oppose the British troops, and drove them back, with a heavy loss, into the city. This engagement, though little more than a skirmish, was called the Battle of Lexington. If its results were to be taken into consideration, few battles have been of more importance. Brethren had shed each other's blood. Both parties were exasperated beyond control. The patriots felt their power; the royalists burned to wipe out the disgrace their arms had received. General Gage now regularly fortified Boston, which was in its turn besieged by the rebels. The whole continent was up in arms. Another successful enterprise had been undertaken by a leader of irregulars, who had seized the Ports of Ticonderoga and Crown Point, which gave the patriots the command of Lake George and the head of Lake Champlain, always recognised as the keys of Canada.
The patriots had by this time formed a regular Government. Each of the colonies had sent delegates to a general assembly held at Philadelphia, to which the name of the Congress was given. The Congress had authorised the formation of an army and had appointed as Commander-in-chief a gentleman of Virginia of good repute, Colonel George Washington. He was well known as a bold leader in frontier warfare against the Indians, and had also seen service against the French; besides this, he was a man of the highest moral qualities, which had gained him the respect of his fellow-colonists.
The event which had induced the Government to despatch my ship and others so hurriedly to the North American station was the battle of Bunker's Hill, the news of which had just been received. The engagement itself would not have been of much consequence had it not proved that the rebels were resolved to fight it out to the last. The Americans, besieging Boston, had fortified a height above the city called Bunker's Hill. General Gage resolved to dislodge them and to endeavour to raise the siege. Our troops, after much hard fighting and considerable loss, claimed the victory, having driven the enemy from the heights; but the Americans quickly rallied, and, many reinforcements coming up, the city was more closely invested than ever.
I frequently heard the subject of the rebellion discussed by my friends during my stay at home, and I cannot say that generally their sympathies were in favour of the colonists. A few took the view of the case entertained by Lord Chatham, Mr Burke, and a small band of enlightened men in advance of their age; but they mostly sided with the King and the Tories, and considered that the presumption of the colonists must be put down with a high hand. They little knew of what stuff the descendants of the Pilgrim Fathers—the sturdy Puritans, the dashing Cavaliers, the prim Quakers, and of many other classes whom persecution, poverty, or their crimes, had driven from Europe—were made, as I had full many opportunities afterwards of discovering. A just and judicious policy which at once would have granted all the rights the colonists demanded would have preserved the dignity of the mother-country and saved oceans of bloodshed; but it was ordained otherwise. The falsehood of traitors had taught our too credulous King to disbelieve in the loyalty as well as the courage of his trans-Atlantic subjects; and his ministers, in spite of all the warnings and the earnest entreaties of the colonists, persisted in forcing on them their obnoxious measures. I must again repeat, that at the time I allude to I did not see things in the serious light in which I have described them. It would never do if midshipmen were to turn politicians; still, I could not help hearing what others said on the subject, and I had plenty of time to think of what I had heard. The general cry was—"Crush the audacious rascals! Put down the traitorous villains with a strong hand! What, venture to disobey the authority of their lawful master and sovereign, King George? They will soon learn reason at the point of the sword!" Such were the sentiments shared by most on board, as well as throughout the army and fleet.
Had it not been for this outbreak of war, I had proposed volunteering to sail with Captain Cook, who had just then returned from his famous voyage in the Resolution with Captain Furneaux, who commanded the Adventure; and it was reported that he was about to start on another and still more important expedition, which he actually did on the following year.
During my stay on shore I had gone over to see my sister Mary and my brother-in-law, Jack Hayfield. Jack was the same good-natured, thoughtless creature as before, and had done as little to better himself as he had to improve me. I made inquiries for Tommy Rockets, whom I found was still at home, so I set out to see him and his mother, not forgetting what I knew would prove a welcome present to the poor woman. I found her looking more careworn and poverty-stricken than ever. She did not know me when I entered her cottage, for I was much grown and thoroughly sun-burnt.
"Well, dame," said I, "how goes the world with you?" She looked at me hard, surprised that a stranger should make such an inquiry; then, suddenly recognising me, she sprang up, and in her joy was about, I believe, to kiss me as she would have done Tommy, when, recollecting herself, she took my hand, which I put out, and pressed it warmly. After I had told her somewhat of my adventures I asked her whether she would allow Tommy to accompany me the next time I went to sea. The poor woman turned pale at the question, but at last gasped out—
"If the lad wishes it, if it's for his good, I dare not say him nay— but, oh, Master Hurricane, you'll look after him—you'll befriend him— you'll protect him—he's my only child, and he's very simple and ignorant of the world's ways." I promised her that I would do my best for him, though I warned her he must trust to his own good conduct; and soon after Tommy came in. I saw at a glance that he had the stuff in him to make a sailor. He had grown into a stout, broad-shouldered lad, though still rather short, with fists big enough to fell an ox, a round, bullet head covered with curly hair, and a thoroughly honest, good-natured countenance, not wanting in intelligence, though a snubby nose, small eyes, and thickish lips formed his features. He had a strong struggle in his bosom, I saw, before he could make up his mind to tell his mother that he would accept my offer; but he could do little for their mutual support while he remained on shore, and I left him attempting to comfort her by telling her of the wealth with which he would ere long return to her.
As soon as I got my appointment I sent directions to Tom to join me at Plymouth, with a small sum to fit him out, being very certain that he would at once be taken on board. I had a wide round of farewell visits to pay to numerous friends who had been kind to me during my stay on shore. They all wished me plenty of prize-money and rapid promotion, but I cannot say that I had much expectation of getting either. I was much concerned at this time at observing the state of my father's spirits. His worldly affairs were, I suspected, not flourishing, though, as he did not speak to me about them, I could not venture to make any inquiries of him on the subject. I could only cherish the hope that if I did realise a sailor's dream and make any prize-money I might be able to render him some assistance. My poor mother's health also was failing, weakened, as it long ago had been, by cares and responsibilities of her numerous family. With a heart therefore more full of misgivings than usual, I bade them and those of my brothers and sisters who remained at home farewell, and, with a chest rather more amply supplied with necessaries than when I first went to sea, I set off for my ship then lying at Hamoze, and joined her on the 15th of October, 1775. I was, as I fully expected, successful in getting Tommy Rockets rated as a landsman on board, and though, poor fellow, he at first looked very much like a fish out of water, and a very odd fish too, I saw that it would not be long before he would be perfectly at home on his new element.
As soon as he had been entered and had become one of the ship's company, I told him to go aloft, to give him some experience before we got to sea. "What, to the top of them big sticks that grow out of the ship? They be plaguey high, Master Hurricane!" said he, looking up doubtingly, at the same time preparing to swarm up by the foremast itself. When he found that he might go up by the shrouds he seemed to think it a very easy matter, and before many days were over he could go aloft as quickly as any lad in the ship. I got an old seaman, Nol Grampus, who had sailed with me in two ships before, to look after him and to put him up to his duty, which, to do him justice, he was very anxious to learn. A little help of this sort to a lad when he first goes to sea is of great service to him in many ways; it gives him encouragement, it saves him from many a cuff and harsh word, and makes a seaman of him much sooner than he would otherwise become. On the 16th of the month we went into the Sound, where the remainder of the officers joined. By frequently sending press-gangs on shore we got together our ship's company, but we had yet to learn the stuff they were made of. I was truly glad to find two or three old shipmates on board. One of them was Gerrard Delisle, my greatest friend. We had gone afloat at the same time and were exactly the same age and standing, though, I must confess, he was vastly my superior in education and ability. He had all the gallantry and impetuosity of an Irishman, with a warm heart full of generous feelings, and at the same time the polish of a man of the world, not always to be obtained in a cock-pit. Another friend of mine was Noel Kennedy, also a master's mate. He was a Scotchman of good family, of which he was not a little proud. His pride in this respect was an amiable failing, if failing it was, for his great anxiety was to shed honour on his name. Among my other messmates were John Harris Nicholas, Richard Ragget, John Drew. A great pet of ours was little Harry Sumner—one of the smallest midshipmen who ever came to sea. Left an orphan, without a connexion bound to him by the ties of blood, the poor child had been sent afloat by his guardians as the simplest mode they could devise of disposing of him. The event was happy for him, for he soon found many more friends on board than he ever would on shore, and in a short time there was not a man of the ship's company who would not have risked his life to shield him from injury. As I shall have to mention the officers and my other messmates in the course of my narrative I need not here describe them.
On the 30th, the moment we had cast off the lighters from alongside, we sailed for North America in company with the Chatham, bearing the flag of Rear-Admiral Shouldham, who was going out to take the chief command on that station. The wind continuing fair and the weather fine, we, on the following day, lost sight of the English shore, which many on board were destined never to see again—none of us, until months and months had passed by.
Things had begun to shake a little into their places and the officers and ship's company to know something of each other by the time that we had got about three hundred leagues to the westward of Scilly. Instead, however, of keeping to the southward, where we might have found a continuance of fine weather, our captain, in his anxiety quickly to reach the scene of action, notwithstanding the advanced season of the year, ordered a northerly course to be steered. The consequence was that we had soon work to try the mettle of all hands. By noon on the 6th of November we fell in with a gale of wind which would as effectually have blown up the Houses of Parliament as would Guido Faulks and his barrels of gunpowder, if it could have got under them. Sail was shortened and all was made snug aloft in time, hat below many an article took a voyage which terminated in total shipwreck to itself or neighbours.
"Here comes a combing sea in a vengeance!" exclaimed Delisle, seizing hold of little Harry to save him from being by chance washed away. We were standing aft on the quarter-deck. On came the watery mountain with its curling crest of snowy foam, and, striking the ship with terrific force and with a noise like thunder, broke over the starboard chesstree, deluging the decks forward and carrying away a fine cutter off the larboard skidds, with some of the rails and carlings of the head.
"Where are we going to, Mr Delisle?" exclaimed little Harry, as he clung to his arm with a look of very natural terror in his countenance.
"To Halifax, in Nova Scotia, I hope," answered Gerrard, laughing. "Where else should you think?"
"I thought we might be going to the bottom," answered the poor boy with perfect simplicity; "but I'm not afraid, you know."
"No reason why you should be, Harry," answered Delisle. "The old barkie will have to swim through many a worse sea than this, let me tell you— so remember, my boy, you are never in future to begin to be afraid till you see the rest of us turn pale."
Little Harry promised obedience, and he had before long ample opportunities of proving his nerves. The seamen, as they hurried about the decks, shook the water in showers, like Newfoundland dogs from their shaggy coats; and in a short time we had things put as much to rights as circumstances would allow.
The gale continued all night, but ceased on the following evening without having committed further damage, and from that time till the morning of the tenth we had tolerably fine weather. It then fell a stark calm, but there was an ominous cold-grey silky look in the sky which I did not like. The captain was constantly on deck, anxiously scanning the horizon, and Jonathan Flood, our old master, kept his weather-eye open, as if apprehensive of evil.
"Vary fine weather this, Mr Hurry," said Andrew Macallan, our surgeon's mate, who had come to sea for the first time. "Just a wee bit more wind to waft us on our way to the scene of action, and we may well be content."
"Wait a bit, doctor, and we shall have wind enough and to spare," replied I.
It was not long before my words were verified—though just after that the appearance of coming bad weather wore off, and even the captain and master seemed to think that a moderate breeze was all we had to look for. We were lying with our topsails on the caps and courses hauled up, when, without a moment's warning, a gust of wind with the force of a hurricane laid the ship on her beam-ends.
"Up with the helm!" shouted the captain, who had that instant come on deck. "Brace round the foreyards—trice up—brail up the after sails!"
The helm was put up, but before the canvas could be handed, with claps like thunder, the main-topmast-staysail and jib were blown from the bolt-ropes, the topsails and courses were flying in shreds from the yards, the topsail sheets, clew-lines and bunt-lines were carried away, as were also the main-clew garnets, bunt-lines and leech-lines, while a more tremendous sea than I had ever before beheld got up as if by magic.
The ship, however, happily answered her helm and flew before the gale, which at the same time kept freshening and shifting round to every point of the compass.
All we could now do was to scud, and that every instant, as the wind and sea increased, became more and more dangerous. To bring her to under present circumstances was impossible—indeed, deprived of all means of handing the sails, we were helpless; and by this time every one of them was flying aloft in tattered streamers, adding not a little to the impetuous rate at which the gale drove us onward.
The seas, each apparently overtopping the other, kept following up astern, and before long one broke aboard us, deluging the decks and sweeping everything before it.
"Hold on! hold on for your lives, my men!" shouted the captain as he saw it coming.
Few needed the warning. When for a short time all was again clear we looked round anxiously to ascertain that none of our shipmates had been carried overboard. By next to a miracle all were safe. The carpenter and his crew were called aft to secure the stern ports and to barricade the poop with all the planks and shores they could employ, but to little purpose. The huge dark-green seas, like vast mountains upheaved from their base by some Titan's power, came following up after us, roaring and hissing and curling over as if in eager haste to overwhelm us, their crests one mass of boiling foam. As I stood aft I could not help admiring the bold sweep of the curve they made from our rudder-post upwards, as high it seemed as our mizen-top, the whole a bank of solid water, with weight and force enough in it to send to the bottom the stoutest line-of-battle-ship in the Navy. The taste we got occasionally of their crests, as they now and then caught us up, was quite enough to make me pray that we might not have the full flavour of their whole body.
No one on board had thought all this time of the Chatham, and when at length we did look out for her she was nowhere to be seen. It was probable that she was in as bad a plight as ourselves, so that neither of us could have rendered the other assistance. Hour after hour passed without any improvement in the weather. Every instant we expected something worse to befall us. To remain below was out of the question, as at any moment we might be wanted. To keep the deck was scarcely possible, without the risk of being frozen to death or carried overboard. Matters were bad enough in the daytime, but when darkness came on and we went plunging away amid showers of snow and sleet and bitter frost, with the cold north-west wind howling after us, I thought of what the friends of some of our delicately-nurtured young gentlemen would say if they could see us, and, for my own part, often wished myself by the quiet fireside of the humblest cottage in old England. We did our best to look after little Harry Sumner, and got him stowed away carefully in his hammock, where we told him to lie still till he was wanted. There was no object in allowing him to remain on deck, where he could not be of use and was very likely to get injured.
"I'll do as you tell me, Mr Hurry," said he. "But I'm not afraid of the sea or the wind—if it were not for the bitter, bitter cold I would rather be on deck, I would indeed."
"You're a brave little fellow, Harry, but we must take care of you for some nobler work, and then I've no doubt you'll give a good account of yourself," said I. "So now go to sleep and try and get warm."
Of my own immediate follower and protege, Tom Rockets, I have said nothing since we came to sea. By the courage and activity he displayed on the present occasion he showed that he was made of the right stuff to form a first-rate seaman, and I had no reason to be ashamed of him.
The whole of that long, weary night did we run on, the gale rather increasing than falling, and when daylight broke over the waste of tumultuous waters the prospect seemed as unpromising as ever. Nothing could be done to get in any of our tattered canvas. The ship remained tight, and that was our chief comfort. At length, on the evening of the 11th, the wind began to drop a little. Everyone was on deck ready to take advantage of any opportunity which might occur for getting the ship into a better condition. Suddenly the wind shifted round to the north-east and dropped considerably. The hands were called aft. A fore-staysail was set on the mizen-mast—the helm was put down and the ship brought-to under it. The most necessary part of the rigging being also replaced, the ship's company was divided into four watches, and all but the watch on deck were sent below to sleep. Never did weary seamen turn in with a greater good-will, or more require rest.
All hands had ample occupation the next day in unbending the remnants of our tattered canvas from the yards and in replacing it with a new suit of sails fore and aft, in reeving new running rigging, and in repairing the stern frame. All this was done with a tolerably fresh breeze blowing and a pretty heavy sea running, though moderate in comparison to what we had had and to what we were to encounter. This sort of weather continued till the 15th, during which interval we contrived to get things a little to rights. Gale number three now sprung up, and during the whole of it we lay under a balanced mizen. We did not escape, however, without damage, losing the bumkins and the remaining part of the carlings and rails of the head, and a part of the starboard quarter-gallery. The wind lulled again in the evening and continued moderate till the 19th, when it breezed up once more for the fourth time, and by the 21st we were in the centre of a perfect hurricane. Still nothing would induce our captain to run back or to endeavour to make his way across the Atlantic in a more southerly latitude. He had made up his mind that this northerly route was the right one to take, and he was not a man to be diverted from his purpose. The gale had been blowing for some hours, when at about one o'clock in the morning watch, the night being dark as Erebus, the ship pitching heavily into the seas and straining terrifically, Delisle and I were on deck together, endeavouring to pierce with our eyes the thick obscurity into which we were driving. It was much of a time for moralising, considering the showers of snow which ever and anon beat into our faces, the sheets of spray which came aboard and froze as it fell over us, and the biting wind which blew down our throats.
"No unapt picture this, of the life of many of us, Hurry," said my companion. "Here have we been knocking about for some weeks very much the worse for wear—no nearer our voyage's end, and utterly unable to say whither we are driving. I doubt much that we have seen the worst yet." Scarcely had he spoken when a gust stronger than ever struck the ship. We felt her quiver and shake all over, and at the same instant there was a terrific crash forward. I hurried to see what had occurred. The foremast had been carried away about twenty feet above the forecastle, and lay over the lee fore-chains. The captain was on deck in a moment, and all hands were called to clear the wreck. In doing this the main-topmast-stay was cut, and thereby the main-topmast was carried away, severely wounding in its fall nine men. The poor fellows were borne below and placed under the surgeon's care. The morning came and showed us our sad condition; but the gale had not yet sufficiently shorn us of our pride or tried to the full our captain's perseverance, for soon after daybreak another gust struck us. I looked up to see what was next to happen. Before me stood our stout mainmast. Then, as if wrenched by a giant's grasp, the shrouds and stays were torn away, and with a loud crash down it came by the board, crushing the booms, gallows, bits, gangway-rails, and the fore part of the quarter-deck, and staving in the long-boat and a large cutter so as to destroy them completely. The daylight enabled those on deck to stand from under in time to escape injury; but it was a work of time, danger, and difficulty to clear the ship of the wreck, for while we were engaged in it the sea was constantly breaking over us fore and aft, threatening every instant to engulph the ship. At the same time we were in momentary expectation of seeing the mizen-mast share the fate of the other masts. At length, having cleared the wreck, we hoisted a fore-topgallant-sail to the stump of the foremast, which we stayed up as well as we could, and were thereby able to keep the ship once more before the wind, though even then the heavy seas which followed us threatened every moment to break aboard. We were truly in a forlorn condition—with our fore and mainmasts gone, two suits of sails carried away with the exception of the sails on the mizen-mast, the remainder required for jury-sails whenever the weather would allow us to erect jury-masts—with numbers of the crew falling sick from exposure and excessive fatigue, and with a ship strained and battered in every direction. At length, the wind getting round to the westward, with unequivocal reluctance Captain Hudson resolved to bear up, to the very great satisfaction of everybody else on board. We were then four hundred and sixty leagues from the Lizard. For several days more the gale continued, and we were all in expectation of shortly reaching England and getting a thorough refit, when the weather suddenly became more moderate than heretofore. The opportunity was immediately taken of erecting jury-masts, and all hands were employed on this important work. To do this we had to use all the studden-sail-booms and spare spars on board. When completed and set up, they were pronounced to be equal if not superior to any ever before under similar circumstances fitted at sea. The captain looked at them with no little satisfaction, and complimenting the ship's company on what had been done, called the officers aft, and informed them that he was resolved to attempt once more to reach the coast of America. Had there been a war with France, we should have been eager to get to our station, but as we expected to have little enough to do in putting down the American rebellion, I cannot say that our captain's announcement was received with any great satisfaction. For several days we made tolerably fair progress, but on the 2nd of December a gale of wind sprang up, and carried away our jury-main-topmast and top-yard, and split the sail from clew to earing. During the whole of this month the weather continued as boisterous as at the commencement. Disaster followed disaster in quick succession. Among others, we lost four top-masts, six topsail-yards, one mainsail and one foresail, two topsails and one fore-topsail, besides which the cover of the arm-chest fell out of the mizen-top, and, striking the gunner, knocked out four of his teeth, broke his shoulder in two places, and cut his right eye in the most shocking manner. He was carried below in great agony, and his life was despaired of. I need not mention any more of the accidents we encountered. It may be supposed that by this time we were in a tolerably forlorn condition, with nearly every yard of our spare canvas expended, and with scarcely a spar remaining to replace our jury-masts, should they be carried away. Unpleasant, however, as was our position, I must say that we respected our captain for his perseverance, though it had become the pretty generally received opinion on board, both fore and aft, that we were destined never to reach our station. All sorts of stories were going the round of the decks. An old woman near Plymouth, Mother Adder-fang she was called, had been heard to declare, two nights before the ship went out of harbour, that not a stick of the Orpheus would ever boil a kettle on English ground. Another was said to have cursed the ship and all on board. Then we had a fine variety of Flying Dutchman's tales, till the men began to look upon the captain as a sort of Vanderdecken himself, and to fancy, I verily believe, that we were destined ourselves to box about till the day of judgment. Now of course a man of calm sense should be uninfluenced by these sort of tales—we should be well assured that God only knows the future, and that words of anger, uttered by a wicked, ignorant old woman, cannot possibly alter His determination; still, when a man is worn out with fatigue, hardship and hunger, when the gale howls fiercely, and the raging seas appear every instant ready to engulph the ship, he cannot help thinking of the words he has heard and the stories which have been told him, and looking forward with sad forebodings to the future.
In spite, however, of the raging storm, the battered condition of the ship, and the predictions of disaster, we jolly Orlopians resolved not to be baffled in keeping our Christmas dinner in the accustomed manner as far as circumstances would allow. Our means for so doing were certainly not very extensive, either with regard to our condiments or the utensils for serving them in. The greater part of our crockery had been broken in the previous gales, and all our luxuries had long been consumed. We managed, however, to exhibit a dish of boiled beef at one end of the table, and one of boiled pork at the other, and a tureen of peas-soup and a peas-pudding; while our second course was a plum-pudding of huge dimensions, and solid as a round-shot—the whole washed down with a bowl of punch. Our seats were secured to the deck, and the dishes were lashed to the table, while it required no small amount of ingenuity and rapidity to convey each mouthful from our plates to our mouths. Never did the good ship tumble and roll about more violently than she did on that 25th of December, while we young gentlemen were drinking "sweet-hearts and wives," and other appropriate toasts. Let my readers picture us to themselves, if they can, as we sat, each member of the mess holding on like grim death to either a dish, or bowl, or can, or mug, endeavouring, often in vain, to keep the contents from spilling, and then to carry a portion of them to his mouth, our voices now clattering away together, now one of us breaking forth into a song, and joined in chorus by the rest, the ship rolling and pitching, the bulkheads creaking and groaning, and the wind howling overhead. The contrast between the picture we presented and the dining-room of a comfortable, well-lighted country-house in England on the same day was not small.
Our condition was not improved when at length the year 1776 commenced. We had expended all our sails with the exception of those actually bent to the yards; of spars we had scarcely one remaining. In consequence also of the great expenditure of provisions and stores, the ship had become so light that she rolled excessively and with so quick and rapid a motion that some of the guns in the galley, drawing their ring-bolts from the side, broke loose, and before they could be secured committed much damage. Added to all this it was announced that our supply of water was very short, and we were put on an allowance of a pint for each person. On these occasions the captain and the smallest boy share alike. If any of us breakfasted or dined in the gun-room or cabin, we carried with us our allowance of water to help make the tea. We were still fully four hundred leagues from the coast, and to all appearances as little likely to make it as we had been a month back. The officers were unanimous in their opinion that we should bear up for the West Indies, but Captain Hudson still resolved to persevere and to endeavour to gain our intended port. Though I, like the rest, was heartily sick of the life we had been enduring, and longed as much as anybody to get into port, I could not help admiring the perseverance and determination of our captain. Grave and anxious as he could not help appearing at times, he did his utmost generally to assume a cheerful countenance, and by words of encouragement to keep up the spirits of the men. As, however, one after the other the people fell sick, and disaster upon disaster overtook us, I more than once, when I went into the cabin, found him sitting pale and silent at the table, with his head resting on his hand, evidently meditating on the responsibilities of his position.
Meantime the men forward were grumbling and evincing no slight mutinous disposition. "Here, old ship, do ye see, have we been boxing about for the best parts of two months, and for what we knows to the contrary, farther off from our port than ever we were," I heard one of the quartermasters, Jos Lizard, observing to a messmate, another old salt of the same kidney. Old Jos, as he was called, was somewhat of a sea lawyer in his way, though not the less superstitious on that account.
"Well, what's to be done, mate?" asked his chum, Ben Goff.
"Done!" exclaimed old Jos; "why, I axes, are we to go knocking our heads against Providence, so to speak, till we've no water and no grub, and then to rot away, as I've heard of a ship's company doing, and one left to tell about it!"
"No, old salt, I wouldn't for one wish to do that same; but how's it to be helped?" asked Goff.
"Helped!" said Lizard, with a look of scorn, "helped! why, let's go aft to the captain, and tell him our mind. Either we bears up for a port, or let the ship sink at once; it's only what we must come to at last. We'll get the rum casks on deck, and have a regular jollification of it first. Then no matter what turns up, we sha'n't know much about it."
I well knew the horrible folly seamen are capable of, so I thought it best to put a stopper at once on the precious notion old Jos had got into his head. I therefore presented myself suddenly before the two men. "You're a couple of donkeys, to talk such nonsense as you've just been doing!" I exclaimed, in a contemptuous tone. "Do you think two ignorant old fellows like you know better than the captain what ought to be done? Let me hear no more about it. I am not going to report what I overheard, and if you catch any of the other men talking the game sort of stuff, just let them know what fools they are." I felt that it would not do to reason with the men, but that I should have a better chance of putting them off this notion by making them feel ashamed of themselves, and this I think I succeeded in doing. I cannot say, however, that I felt very sanguine as to the termination of the voyage.
What the temper of the crew might at length have led to, I don't know, but at last we got a slant of fair wind and moderate weather, and it was announced that we were within twelve leagues of Cape Sambro, near the entrance of the harbour of Halifax. As may be supposed, there was great rejoicing on board; all our troubles and misfortunes were forgotten, and we fully expected to be in harbour the next day. That night Delisle and I were on deck together. Kennedy also was there, and little Harry Sumner. Mr Gaston, the third lieutenant, had charge of the watch. We were congratulating ourselves on the turn which fortune had made in our favour, when Delisle called my attention to a thick gloom which was gathering over the land. We pointed it out to Mr Gaston, and asked him what it signified.
"That we are going to have another gale, which may drive us farther to the southward than we have hitherto been," he replied.
Scarcely had he spoken than the first indications of the coming wind reached us—a rising sea and a driving shower of sleet—the helm was put up, and the ship kept before the wind, and then down came the gale upon us, and once more we were driving before it, surrounded by dense sheets of snow, which prevented us from seeing a yard beyond our bowsprit end. Away we went during the whole of the next day and night and the following day, driving madly before the gale. If the ship's company had before this been full of forebodings of coming ill, it is not surprising that they should now have entirely abandoned all hope of ever again seeing land. On the 25th of January we were eighty leagues from the Cape, and more distressed than ever for masts, spars, sails, provisions, and water. So short, indeed, was our store of the latter necessary that we were now put on an allowance of half a pint a day; so severe also was the frost that we were compelled to throw hot water on the sails when they were furled before we could set them. The men more rapidly than before fell sick day after day, and completely lost their spirits, and it became the fashion when the watch turned out for them to inquire what fresh accident had occurred.
At length one night, as I lay sleeping in my hammock, I was awoke by a terrific noise. I found that the ship was on her beam-ends. There was a rushing of water, a crashing of timbers, a splitting of sails, the howling of wind, the cries and shrieks and stamping of men. I felt certain that the fatal and long-expected stroke had been given, and that I and all on board were about to be hurried into eternity. I have been since in many a hard-fought battle, I have seen death in every form, but I never felt its horrors so vividly as I did on that night. I remained in my hammock without attempting to dress, for I thought that I might as well drown as I was, and I had not the remotest expectation of being saved. Still the water did not reach me, and at length I heard Kennedy's voice rousing up the idlers to go on deck, and help take the canvas off the ship.
"We've been in very great danger, and for some minutes I thought it was all over with us," he observed: "we've brought her to, however, and she may ride out this gale as she has done many others."
"I hope so," said I, springing up and putting on my clothes, while Kennedy hurried on deck. I found that the chief noise had been caused by a number of shot boxes breaking loose from the mainmast, and as the ship heeled over, they came rushing under my hammock and crushing everything before them. I had no little difficulty in getting them secured. This appeared to be the last piece of malice those winter gales had to play us. The next day the weather moderated, and we were able to lay a course for Halifax. We could scarcely believe our senses as we found ourselves entering that magnificent harbour, after our protracted and disastrous voyage. We had been out ninety seven days, ten weeks of which time we had been under jury-masts. Our only squaresail was a spritsail at the main-yard to serve as a mainsail. The whole ship was covered with ice, and a most complete wreck she looked in every respect. We had the second lieutenant, gunner, and seventy-three men sick, twenty of whom were suffering from frost-bites. No wonder that such was our condition when we had encountered no less than forty-five heavy gales of wind, and it spoke well for the soundness of the hull of our ship that she had held together so perfectly. Our captain, officers, and ship's company received the thanks of the commander-in-chief for their perseverance and resolution, and certainly no one deserved more credit than did our captain, for the determined way in which he held on and succeeded in bringing his ship into harbour.
The next Sunday we all repaired to church, to return public thanks to Almighty God for preserving us from the perils and hardships of the sea, to which we had been so long exposed. It was a solemn and touching occasion. Two and two, the captain at our head, and the officers following with the ship's company, we all marched up together to the church. Thoughtless and careless about our spiritual being as we generally were, I believe very few among us did not feel our hearts swell with gratitude to the Great Being who had so mercifully watched over and preserved us from the dangers to which we had been exposed, when the minister gave forth the words of that beautiful hymn of thanksgiving,—"The sea roared, and the stormy wind lifted up the waves thereof. We were carried up as it were to heaven, and then down again to the deep; our soul melted within us because of trouble. Then cried we unto Thee, O Lord, and Thou didst deliver us out of our distress. Blessed be Thy name, who didst not despise the prayer of Thy servants, but didst hear our cry, and hast saved us. Thou didst send forth Thy commandment, and the windy storm ceased, and was turned into a calm." The minister also gave us a sermon appropriate to the occasion, and most deeply attentive to it were the greater part of the ship's company. There is as much religious feeling about seamen as in any class of men, though they are in general grossly ignorant of the doctrine of the Gospel. This is owing entirely to the wicked neglect of those of the upper classes who ought to have seen that they were properly instructed. I have, however, only to remark that it is the duty of the rising generation, not to sit idly down, and with upturned eyes to abuse their ancestors, but to arouse themselves, and by every means in their power to remedy the neglect of which they were guilty. The people seemed very soon to forget the hardships they had endured, and I fear likewise that the recollection of the mercies vouchsafed to us speedily passed from our memories.
HALIFAX HARBOUR.—LIFE IN THE BACKWOODS.—DANGEROUS EXPEDITION THROUGH THE ICE.—LORD SHOULDHAM'S FLEET WITH LORD HOWE'S ARMY ARRIVES.—SAIL FOR NANTUCKET ROADS.—BOSTON CANNONADED.—WATERING-PARTY ON SHORE.— CAPTURE WHALING SLOOP RANGER.—CRUISE IN HER WITH GRAMPUS AND TOM ROCKETS.—HER SKIPPER'S TRICK DEFEATED.—REACH HALIFAX.—ORDERED ON BOARD CHATHAM.—SAIL FOR NEW YORK.—GENERAL WASHINGTON HOLDS POSSESSION OF THE CITY.
The harbour of Halifax is a very fine one. A thousand ships may anchor there in safety. It is our chief naval station in North America. The town, which is a handsome one, stands on a peninsula, and rises gradually from the water's edge, where there are numerous wharves, alongside which ships can lie to discharge their cargoes. We found in the harbour the Cerberus frigate, Captain Symonds, (see Note 1), hove down alongside the wharf, as also the Savage sloop of war, wearing Commodore Arbuthnot's broad pennant.
The inhabitants cordially welcomed our arrival, as they were in hourly expectation of an attack from a body of rebels who were said to be marching on the town, while the organised force existing for its defence was very small. At length an express arrived from the interior, stating that the enemy were at the distance of about twenty miles, at a small village of which they had taken possession. We were instantly ordered under arms to protect the dockyard, and fully expected to have warm work. The people who formed the rebel bands had been instigated to revolt by the revolutionists of the southern colonies, who had formed a plan at this time to invade Canada, which happily proved abortive. They themselves, as far as I could learn, had no real cause of complaint.
After we had waited for some time in expectation of an attack, notice was brought us that the rebels had plundered and burned the village where they had quartered themselves, and then retired. We were therefore able to employ all hands in refitting the ship, a work to us of the greatest importance. The cold, however, was so great that we suffered no little inconvenience from exposure to it. All the meat, I remember, which came on board, was frozen so hard that we were invariably obliged to cut it up into pieces with a cross-saw, to serve it out to the messes. Quantities of fish also of a peculiarly fine flavour were to be picked up daily, frozen to death, on the surface of the ice, thrown up by the united action of the tide and sea. As there were no masts and spars in the dockyard, we found that we should be obliged to send a party into the woods, fully ten miles from the town, to cut down trees suitable for the purpose. I was ordered to accompany the party appointed for this object. My friend Delisle was with me, and Tom Rockets went as my servant.
Having provided ourselves with blankets, provisions, cooking utensils, and other means of making ourselves comfortable, away we trudged over the snow, following our guide, John Nobs by name, who was to show us where we might find the sort of timber we required. It was the first time I had ever been in an American forest. The deep silence which reigned around, and the perfect solitude were very impressive. The tall leafless trees, springing up out of the sheet of snow which covered the whole face of nature, were the only objects to be seen.
We were merry enough as we tramped away in the keen, pure air over the crisp snow. As some thirty pair of feet, stepping out together, went crunch—crunch—crunch—the noise was so loud, that we were obliged to raise our voices to make ourselves heard. Delisle and I marched directly after our leader old Nobs, our men following, laughing, talking, and singing, as the mood seized them.
At length, having gone some way through the forest, Nobs began to look about him attentively. He was not a man of many words.
"That's 'um," said he, pointing with his chin to some tall, straight fir-trees, up to which he had led us. We saw also that a considerable number of the same description grew in the neighbourhood.
"I suppose, then, we may call a halt?" said I.
Nobs nodded. We had been told that he would show us how to build some huts for sheltering our party.
"Some on you with axes come along," said he, turning to the men, and away he trudged till we reached a clump of graceful, white-stemmed birch-trees. Scoring down the stems, he quickly ripped off huge sheets of bark, some five and six feet long, and two and three broad. The men followed his example, and we soon had as much as the whole party could carry.
"Stay, that won't do alone," observed Nobs; and he commenced cutting some thin poles, seven or eight feet long, from saplings growing in the neighbourhood. With these we returned to the spot we had fixed on for an encampment. Scarcely uttering a word, having got some men to assist him, he erected a framework of a cone-shape, with about eight of the poles, fastening the upper ends together with a piece of rope. He then covered the framework with sheets of bark, leaving a doorway and a small space open at the top.
"There you have an Indian wigwam," said he.
From the pattern he had thus formed, the men very soon erected wigwams enough to shelter the whole party. He then collected some dried wood, of which there was an abundance about, and lighted a fire in the middle of his hut. The hole left at the top of it allowed the smoke to escape. The snow, which had first been cleared away in the interior, was piled-up round the hut outside, and the ground was then beaten hard. He showed us how to make our couches of dried leaves; and at night, wrapped in our blankets lying round the fire, we found that we could sleep most luxuriously.
Having thus speedily made all these necessary arrangements, we set to work to select the trees fit for our purpose. As soon as we had fixed on them, Nobs threw off all his outer clothing, and with his gleaming axe began chopping away like a true backwoodsman at one of the largest of the trees. The carpenter's crew followed his example. The air was so calm that while the men were actively employed they felt not the slightest sensation of cold. The moment they ceased, however we made them put on their clothing.
Nobs was thoroughly versed in all the customs of backwoodsmen, so he was able to show us how to make ourselves comfortable, and I learned many lessons from him which I, on many subsequent occasions, found very useful. Among other things he showed us how to roast our meat by spitting bits of it on a long thin stick, which rested on two forked sticks stuck in the ground. Indeed, we enjoyed ourselves far more than we expected.
Tom Rockets and another lad slept in our wigwam, to assist in keeping up the fire. I lay awake for a short time, when my ears were saluted with the sound of a long, low howl. I presently heard Tom stir himself.
"Oh, Jim, sure them be the ghostesses we heard tell of," said he. "I hope they won't be coming this way now."
"I hopes not," replied his companion. "Them be dreadful things I do think, by the noise they makes."
Just then there was a louder howl than before.
"Oh, they be coming!" cried Tom. "I'll rouse up Mr Hurry. Maybe he'll know how to tackle 'em."
Highly diverted with the opinion my followers had formed of my prowess against not only mortal but spiritual enemies, I lay still, wishing to hear what he would next say. The hideous howl approached still nearer.
"I can't stand it!" he exclaimed. "Muster Hurry! Muster Hurry! there be ghostesses, or devils, or some such things abroad, a-playing of their pranks, and they be coming to eat us up, Muster Hurry, I be sure!"
I burst into a fit of laughter, so loud that it woke Delisle. It was responded to, it seemed, by so unearthly a cry from the depths of the forest, that even he for a moment was startled. Then there was the report of firearms, and looking out of our wigwam, I saw old Nobs standing in front of his, with a musket in his hand.
"I've druve the varmints away," he said, in his usual laconic style. "You may turn in, mister."
I took his advice, for it was very cold outside.
"The wolves will not probably disturb us again," said I, as I lay down.
"Wolves! be them wolves?" I heard Tom remark; but as I soon fell asleep, I do not know what more he said.
Towards the morning I was again awoke by loud shouts, and growls, and cries, and the sound of a tremendous tussle.
"I've caught ye, my bo!" I heard Tom exclaim. "If ye be a ghost or a devil, ye shall just show yourself to Muster Hurry, before I let ye go."
Starting up, I found the two lads struggling with some beast or other at the entrance to the wigwam. I soon discovered that they had got hold of a black bear, who had doubtless been attracted to our wigwam by a pot of sugar which had been left at the entrance, into which he was putting his paw when Rockets discovered him. The noise brought a number of the other men from the huts. They thought we were attacked by Indians or the rebels, I believe. The poor beast made a good fight of it; but before I could come to his rescue, he had been somewhat severely handled. We, however, easily secured him, and kept him prisoner till we settled what should be done with him. He was, we learned from old Nobs, of a species not at all ferocious, and very easily tamed. We therefore determined, instead of killing him in order to turn him into ham, to carry him on board as a pet. He very soon became reconciled to his lot, and at once ate willingly from our hands any mess we offered, particularly if sweetened with sugar. Rockets considered him as his own prize, and took him under his especial care. The men gave him the name of Sugar-lips, and as Tom stood his sponsor he was known on board as Tommy Sugar-lips.
However, I must not spend more time on my shore adventures, as I have matter of so much greater interest to describe. In about five days we had cut down and trimmed a sufficient number of trees for our purpose. The greatest labour was to drag them over the snow to the harbour; but at length that was accomplished, and we returned once more on board.
Shortly after this the frost set in harder than ever, but in consequence of the rapidity of the tides the ice, though fully four feet thick, did not form a consistent body in the harbour. In some places it was hard, but the chief quantity round the ship was like a mass of wet snow, too soft and too rotten to walk on, and yet too thick to allow a boat of any size to be impelled through it. Thus all communication with the town was suddenly cut off. At this time we had a gang of men on the opposite shore, fitting the rigging at a spot where they could procure no provisions. They were getting very hard up for food, when Captain Hudson sent for me.
"Mr Hurry," said he, "I wish to send some provisions to the people on shore. It will be a service of difficulty, and perhaps danger, but I can entrust it confidently to you; you must take a couple of hands and a light boat, and you may be able to force her either over or through the ice."
"Ay, ay, sir," I answered; "I'll do it if it is to be done." And away I went to make my preparations without loss of time. I always felt an inclination to volunteer for any work to be done, and never thought of throwing difficulties in the way of the performance of any thing that was proposed. I chose Nol Grampus, the old quarter-master, and Tom Rockets as my companions in the enterprise. The dinghy, a small boat we carried astern, was the best suited to my purpose. Having laden her with provisions, we shoved off from the ship among the floating ice. Our progress was very slow, sometimes we worked our way among the sheet ice, then we came to a hard slab on to which we jumped and hauled the boat over it. "Take care, sir," said Grampus, as we were crossing a slab, "this is treacherous stuff we are on." Just as he spoke I felt my feet sinking into the slush, and had I not had firm hold of the gunwale, I might have gone through altogether. As I sprang into the boat I could not help shuddering at the thought of sinking into the cold deadly mass which surrounded us without the possibility of making an effort for life; too dense to enable one to swim, and yet too liquid to bear the weight of a person, it was as sure to destroy one as the treacherous quicksand or the furious maelstrom. Near us was another boat with an old man and a boy, likewise endeavouring to cross the harbour. We saw that they were exerting all their energies, but were not making better progress than we were. After some time the tide made down stronger, and on taking our bearings I found that the ice was setting us fast down the harbour and out to sea. My men needed no encouragement to exert themselves to the utmost, for the peril we were in was very apparent. Captain Hudson observed it also, and made the signal for us to return to the ship, but it was even more difficult to go back than to go forward. In attempting to obey the order I found that we were carried more into the strength of the current. I therefore kept on towards the wharf, where some hundreds of people were collected, rather anxious spectators of our adventure. Captain Symonds, of the Cerberus, and the master-attendant of the dockyard were looking on, and they also hailed to me to return to the ship. Sometimes we appeared to be making no progress whatever, and I felt the probability of our being carried out to sea—then again we advanced, though slowly, towards the shore. The old man and his boy were less able to contend with the difficulties which surrounded them. The old man had hurt himself, I fancy, and by degrees relaxed in his efforts—the poor little fellow was still putting forth all his strength to urge their boat forward, but it was too evidently likely to prove unavailing.
At last they slowly drifted past us, and though at so short a distance that I could clearly see the expression of their countenances we could render them no possible assistance. I shall not quickly forget the poor old man's look of despair and grief—more perhaps for the coming fate of his boy than for himself. The poor lad had not yet given up all hopes of escape. Now he would sit down and wring his hands, and then he would start up, and, seizing an oar, try once more to shove the boat ahead. We had little time, however, for contemplating their fate, for there was still a great probability that we might have to share it. We were yet drifting seaward, and for hours together our utmost exertions only enabled us to hold our own. I can easily fancy the interest we excited on shore, yet nothing could be thought of to help us. We could hear the cry of horror and commiseration which rose from the crowd as the boat with our companions in misfortune drifted past the spot whence there was any hope of escape, and the old man and lad sat down and gave themselves up to despair. The intense cold would, I guessed, soon deprive them of all sensation and further power of exertion. Night was coming on, and we lost sight of them in the gloom. We had now been six hours in our perilous position, without time even to take a particle of nourishment. We were making for the Cerberus as the nearest point where we could receive assistance.
"We shall reach her, sir!" exclaimed Grampus at length, with a cheerful tone. "See, they are ready to heave us a line if we could but get a few fathoms nearer." Encouraged by this, we exerted ourselves still more than ever, and at length a man from the jibboom end of the Cerberus hove a lead which happily reached our boat. We seized it eagerly, and making the line fast, we were hauled alongside the wharf. As soon as we landed and had received the congratulations of the spectators of our adventure, we were carried off, half-starved and frozen, by the master-attendant, Mr Prowse, to his house; where we were most hospitably entertained. I found in him an old shipmate, as he had been master of the Torbay when I belonged to her. I spent upwards of two days at his house, and received the greatest of kindness from him. While on shore I met another old friend, Captain Lee, of the Harriet Packet, with whom I almost lived during his stay at Halifax. As may be supposed, I found his comfortable cabin a far more agreeable place of abode than a midshipman's berth with the rough and scanty fare with which we were provided. I was anxious to ascertain the fate of the old man and his son whom we had seen carried out to sea by the ice. Sad to relate, they had been picked up two days afterwards at the mouth of the harbour, frozen to death. They must have died, I suspect, soon after we lost sight of them, for the cold was so intense that it could not long have been resisted. We had, indeed, cause to be thankful to providence that their fate was not ours. It is but one of the many instances in which I have been mercifully preserved, while those by my side have been cut off. For what end has this been done? I wish that I could say that I have properly employed the longer term of life thus vouchsafed to me. There had been at Halifax all the winter a very limited supply of provisions. At length a fleet appeared off the harbour's mouth, which proved to be that under the command of Admiral Lord Shouldham, with the army of General Howe on board, (see Note 2), who had been compelled by the American revolutionists, under General Washington, to evacuate Boston, after having been besieged in it for fully ten months. It will be remembered that we parted from the Chatham, Admiral Shouldham's flag-ship, in a gale in the early part of our voyage. She went through as much bad weather, and experienced almost as many disasters as we had suffered, though at length she reached Boston, where Lord Shouldham succeeded Admiral Graves as Commander-in-Chief. Our disasters throughout the whole of that sad contest with the American States arose from the foolish contempt with which the British generals and their officers treated the provincial troops. While General Howe was waiting for reinforcements from England, General Washington was collecting an army and disciplining his troops. Before, therefore, the expected reinforcements could arrive, General Howe, to his great surprise, found himself outnumbered, and the city commanded from some hills which overlook it, called Dorchester Heights. He found that he must either dislodge the enemy from these heights or evacuate Boston. A heavy gale of wind prevented the adoption of the former alternative till the rebels were too strongly entrenched to allow the attempt to be made with any prospect of success. A hurried retreat was therefore resolved on, and not only the troops, but those of the inhabitants who had sided with the British, were compelled to embark on board the men-of-war and transports, vast quantities of military stores and property of all sorts being either destroyed or left behind, to fall into the hands of the enemy. This fleet had arrived ill provided with provisions to feed so many mouths, and from there being, as I have said, but a scanty supply of food in Halifax already, it was considered necessary to put the army and navy on half allowance—an arrangement to which, though very disagreeable, we were compelled to submit with the best grace we could muster. From the time of our arrival till the 4th of May we were busily occupied in fitting the ship for sea, and not an hour was lost after that was accomplished, in getting under weigh, when we stood to the southward. We were not sorry to have the chance of seeing some active service. On the 8th we spoke HMS Merlin, with two transports bound for Halifax, on the 12th the Milford and Lively, on a cruise. On the same day we anchored in Nantucket Roads, Boston, where we found lying the Renown, wearing the broad pennant of Commodore Banks, which we saluted with thirteen guns. A constant cannonade was kept up on the squadron by the rebels who now held Boston and the surrounding heights, but without doing us much mischief. We returned the fire occasionally with probably about the same result. After their late successes the American patriots had become very bold, and no longer held the British in any respect. Some parts of the coast of the harbour were left unprotected by the enemy. One night I was sent on shore in command of a watering-party, with strict orders to keep a watchful guard against surprise. To do this I considered it necessary to take possession of a house near the spot where we were filling the casks. As the house was deserted I carried off a table and six chairs which I found in it, with which to furnish the midshipman's berth—ours having been knocked to pieces on the voyage to Halifax.