(PLATE: CAPTAIN COOK. FROM THE PORTRAIT BY N. DANCE, R.A., IN THE PAINTED HALL, GREENWICH HOSPITAL.)
THE LIFE OF CAPTAIN JAMES COOK
BY ARTHUR KITSON.
WITH PORTRAIT AND MAP.
TO MY WIFE LINDA DOUGLAS KITSON.
In publishing a popular edition of my work, Captain James Cook, R.N., F.R.S., it has, of course, been necessary to condense it, but care has been taken to omit nothing of importance, and at the same time a few slight errors have been corrected, and some new information has been added, chiefly relating to the disposition of documents.
I must not omit this opportunity of thanking the Reviewers for the extremely kind manner in which they all received the original work—a manner, indeed, which far exceeded my highest hopes.
CHAPTER 1. EARLY YEARS.
CHAPTER 2. 1755 TO 1757. H.M.S. EAGLE.
CHAPTER 3. 1757 TO 1759. H.M.S. PEMBROKE.
CHAPTER 4. 1759 TO 1762. H.M.S. NORTHUMBERLAND.
CHAPTER 5. 1763 TO 1767. NEWFOUNDLAND.
CHAPTER 6. 1768. PREPARATIONS FOR FIRST VOYAGE.
CHAPTER 7. 1768 TO 1769. PLYMOUTH TO OTAHEITE.
CHAPTER 8. 1769. SOCIETY ISLANDS.
CHAPTER 9. 1769 TO 1770. NEW ZEALAND.
CHAPTER 10. 1770. AUSTRALIA.
CHAPTER 11. 1770 TO 1771. NEW GUINEA TO ENGLAND.
CHAPTER 12. 1771. PREPARATIONS FOR SECOND VOYAGE.
CHAPTER 13. 1772 TO 1774. SECOND VOYAGE.
CHAPTER 14. 1774 TO 1775. SECOND VOYAGE CONCLUDED.
CHAPTER 15. 1775 TO 1776. ENGLAND.
CHAPTER 16. 1776 TO 1777. THIRD VOYAGE.
CHAPTER 17. 1777 TO 1779. THIRD VOYAGE CONTINUED.
CHAPTER 18. 1779 TO 1780. THIRD VOYAGE CONCLUDED.
CHAPTER 19. APPRECIATION AND CHARACTER.
JAMES COOK, R.N., F.R.S.
CHAPTER 1. EARLY YEARS.
James Cook, the Circumnavigator, was a native of the district of Cleveland, Yorkshire, but of his ancestry there is now very little satisfactory information to be obtained. Nichols, in his Topographer and Genealogist, suggests that "James Cooke, the celebrated mariner, was probably of common origin with the Stockton Cookes." His reason for the suggestion being that a branch of the family possessed a crayon portrait of some relation, which was supposed to resemble the great discoverer. He makes no explanation of the difference in spelling of the two names, and admits that the sailor's family was said to come from Scotland.
Dr. George Young, certainly the most reliable authority on Cook's early years, who published a Life in 1836, went to Whitby as Vicar about 1805, and claims to have obtained much information about his subject "through intercourse with his relatives, friends, and acquaintances, including one or two surviving school companions," and appears to be satisfied that Cook was of Scotch extraction. Dr. George Johnston, a very careful writer, states in his Natural History of the Eastern Borders, that in 1692 the father of James Thomson, the author of The Seasons, was minister of Ednam, Roxburghshire, and a man named John Cook was one of the Elders of the Kirk. This John Cook married, on the 19th January 1693, a woman named Jean Duncan, by whom he had a son, James, baptised 4th March 1694, and this child, Johnston positively asserts, was afterwards the father of the future Captain Cook. The dates of the marriage and baptism have been verified by the Reverend John Burleigh, minister of Ednam, and they agree with the probable date of the birth of Cook's father, for he died in 1778 at the age of eighty-five. Owing to the loss of the church records for some years after 1698, Mr. Burleigh is unable to trace when this James Cook left Ednam to "better himself," but he would take with him a "testificate of church membership" which might possibly, but not probably, still exist. Attracted, perhaps, by the number of Scotch people who flocked into the north of Yorkshire to follow the alum trade, then at its height, James Cook settled down and married; and the first positive information to be obtained is that he and his wife Grace (her maiden name has so far escaped identification, though she is known to have been a native of Cleveland) resided for some time at Morton, in the parish of Ormsby, and here their eldest child, John, was born in January 1727. Dr. Young says that James Cook had a superstition that his mother's farewell was prophetic of his marriage, for her words were "God send you Grace."
Shortly after the birth of John, the Cooks left Morton for Marton, a village a few miles away, and the similarity of the two names has caused some confusion. At Marton the father worked for a Mr. Mewburn, living in a small cottage built of mud, called in the district a clay biggin. This cottage was pulled down in 1786, when Major Rudd erected a mansion near the spot. Afterwards, when the mansion was burned to the ground, the site of the cottage was planted with trees, and was popularly known as Cook's Garth. Dr. Young was shown the spot by an old shoemaker whose wife's mother was present at Captain Cook's birth, and he says there was a willow-tree occupying the site, but no vestige of the walls was left. Mr. Bolckow, the present owner of Marton Hall, says: "The cottage was found destroyed when my uncle bought Marton in 1854, but we came across the foundations of it when the grounds were laid out." A granite vase has been erected on the spot. The pump which Besant says still exists, and was made by Cook's father to supply his house with water, was "put there after Cook's time," and has disappeared.
In this humble clay biggin James Cook, the Circumnavigator, was born on 27th October 1728, and was registered as baptised on 3rd November in the Marton church records, being entered as "ye son of a day labourer." He was one of several children, most of whom died young; John, the eldest, who lived till he was twenty-three, and Margaret, who married a Redcar fisherman named James Fleck, being the only two that came to maturity.
The Cooks remained at Marton for some years, during which time they removed to another cottage, and young James received some instruction from a Mistress Mary Walker, who taught him his letters and a little reading. Dr. Young and Kippis call her the village schoolmistress, but Ord, who was a descendant on his mother's side, says:
"she was the daughter of the wealthiest farmer in the neighbourhood, and wife of William Walker, a respectable yeoman of the first class residing at Marton Grange."
Young James, a lad of less than eight years old, worked for Mr. Walker:
"tended the stock, took the horses to water, and ran errands for the family, and in return for such services the good lady, finding him an intelligent, active youth, was pleased to teach him his alphabet and reading."
In 1736 Cook's father was appointed to the position of hind or bailiff by Mr. Skottowe, and removed with his family to Airy Holme Farm, near Ayton. According to Besant, a hind was one who, residing on a farm, was paid a regular wage for carrying on the work, and handed over the proceeds to the landlord. Young James, now eight years of age, was sent to the school on the High Green kept by a Mr. Pullen, where he was instructed in writing and arithmetic as far as the first few rules—"reading having apparently been acquired before." He is said to have shown a special aptitude for arithmetic, and it is believed that owing to the good reports of his progress, Mr. Skottowe paid for his schooling. According to Dr. Young, his schoolfellows gave him the character of being fond of his own way, and, when any project was on foot for birds-nesting or other boyish amusement, and discussion arose as to the method to be pursued, he would propound his own plans, and insist on their superiority; should his views not meet with approval, he would pertinaciously adhere to them, even at the risk of being abandoned by his companions.
Most authorities say that Cook was bound apprentice to Mr. Saunderson, a grocer and haberdasher of Staithes, at the age of thirteen; but Mrs. Dodds, Saunderson's daughter, told Dr. Young that, after leaving school, he remained on the farm, helping his father, till 1745, when he was seventeen years old and then went to Staithes to her father on a verbal agreement without indentures, and would thus be free to leave or be discharged at any time.
The shop and house where he was engaged was situated about three hundred yards from the present slipway, and close to the sea, in fact so close that in 1812 it was threatened by the water, and was pulled down by Saunderson's successor, Mr. John Smailey, and the materials, as far as possible, were used in erecting the building in Church Street which is now pointed out as Cook's Shop. The late Mr. Waddington of Grosmont, near Whitby, says he visited Staithes in 1887 and found the original site covered by deep water. He was informed by an old man, who, as a boy, had assisted in removing the stock from the old shop, that not only were the stones used again in Church Street, but also most of the woodwork, including the present door with its iron knocker, at which, probably, Cook himself had knocked many a time.
At Staithes Cook remained as Saunderson's assistant for about eighteen months, and it may easily be imagined how this growing lad listened with all his ears to the tales of the old sailors recalling brave deeds and strange experiences in storm and shine on that element which for so many years was to be his home, and at length, impelled by some instinctive feeling that on it lay the path ready at his feet to lead him on to future distinction, he vowed to himself that he would not bind down his life to the petty round of a country storekeeper.
At length the opportunity came, which is related, in a breezy and life-like manner, by Besant as follows. After painting Saunderson's character in colours of a rather disagreeable hue, as one too fond of his grog for himself and his stick for his apprentices, he says that Cook stole a shilling out of the till, packed up his luggage in a single pocket-handkerchief, ran away across the moors to Whitby, found a ship on the point of sailing, jumped on board, offered his services as cabin boy, was at once accepted, showed himself so smart and attentive that he completely won the heart of the sour-visaged mate, and through his good graces was eventually bound apprentice to the owners of the ship, and thus laid the foundation of his fortunes. This account does not explain how it was that the dishonest runaway apprentice it depicts continued to retain the friendship and esteem of his master and Mrs. Dodds.
APPRENTICED TO THE SEA.
There undoubtedly was a difficulty about a shilling, and Dr. Young's version, gathered from those who knew Cook personally and lived in Staithes and Whitby at the time, is more probable. He says that Cook had noticed a South Sea shilling, and being struck by the unusual design (it was only coined in 1723), changed it for one of his own. Saunderson had also noticed it, and when he missed it, enquired for it perhaps in somewhat unmeasured terms, but, on the matter being explained, was fully satisfied. Afterwards, seeing that the boy was bent upon a sea life, he obtained the father's permission, and took young James to Whitby himself, where he introduced him to Mr. John Walker, a member of a shipping firm of repute, to whom he was bound apprentice (not to the firm), and with whom he never lost touch till the end of his life. The period of apprenticeship was, on the authority of Messrs. John and Henry Walker, three years, and not either seven or nine as is usually stated, and the difficulty about being apprenticed to both Saunderson and Walker is, of course, set at rest by Mrs. Dodd's explanation.
Whitby was at the time a very important centre of the coasting trade, and possessed several shipbuilding yards of good reputation, and it was in a Whitby-built ship, the Freelove, that Cook made his first voyage. She was a vessel of about 450 tons (some 80 tons larger than the celebrated Bark Endeavour), was employed in the coal trade up and down the east coast, and no doubt Cook picked up many a wrinkle of seamanship and many a lesson of the value of promptitude in the time of danger which would prove of service when he came to the days of independent command: for the North Sea has, from time immemorial, been reckoned a grand school from which to obtain true sailormen for the Royal Service.
As usual in those days, Cook stayed in his employer's house in the intervals between his trips, and his time ashore was longer during the winter months as the ships were generally laid up. The house in Grape Street, at present occupied by Mr. Braithwaite, is pointed out as the one where he lived whilst with Mr. Walker; but this is incorrect, for Mr. Waddington ascertained from the rate books that Mr. Walker's mother was living there at that time, and Mr. Walker lived in Haggargate from 1734 to 1751, removing thence to the north side of Bakehouse Yard in that year, and to Grape Street in 1752, after his mother's death. That is, he did not reside in Grape Street till three years after Cook's apprenticeship was ended, when, following the usual custom, he would have to fend for himself. During these periods of leisure between his voyages, Cook endeavoured to improve his store of knowledge, and it is believed he received some instruction in elementary navigation. He made great friends with Mr. Walker's housekeeper, Mary Prowd, from whom he obtained the concession of a table and a light in a quiet corner away from the others, where he might read and write in peace. That he worked hard to improve himself is evident from the fact that Mr. Walker pushed him on at every opportunity, and gave him as varied an experience of things nautical as lay in his power.
After several voyages in the Freelove (which is stated by the Yorkshire Gazette to have been "lost, together with one hundred and fifty passengers and the winter's supply of gingerbread for Whitby, off either the French or Dutch coast" one stormy Christmas, the date not given) Cook was sent to assist in rigging and fitting for sea a vessel, called the Three Brothers, some 600 tons burden, which was still in existence towards the close of last century. When she was completed, Cook made two or three trips in her with coals, and then she was employed for some months as a transport for troops from Middleburg to Dublin and Liverpool. She was paid off by the Government at Deptford in the spring of 1749, and then traded to Norway, during which time Cook completed his apprenticeship, that is, in July 1749. Cook told the naturalist of the second South Sea voyage, Mr. Forster, that on one of his trips to Norway the rigging of the ship was completely covered with birds that had been driven off the land by a heavy gale, and amongst them were several hawks who made the best of their opportunities with the small birds.
When his apprenticeship had expired he went before the mast for about three years. In 1750 he was in the Baltic trade on the Maria, owned by Mr. John Wilkinson of Whitby, and commanded by Mr. Gaskin, a relative of the Walkers. The following year he was in a Stockton ship, and in 1752 he was appointed mate of Messrs. Walker's new vessel, the Friendship, on board of which he continued for three years, and of which, on the authority of Mr. Samwell, the surgeon of the Discovery on the third voyage, who paid a visit to Whitby on his return and received his information from the Walkers, he would have been given the command had he remained longer in the mercantile marine. This was rapid promotion for a youth with nothing to back him up but his own exertions and strict attention to duty, and tends to prove that he had taken full advantage of the opportunities that fell in his way, and had even then displayed a power of acquiring knowledge of his profession beyond the average.
About this time Cook's father seems to have given up his position at Airy Holme Farm and turned his attention to building. A house in Ayton is still pointed out as his work, but has apparently been partially rebuilt, for Dr. Young speaks of it as a stone house, and it is now partly brick, but the stone doorway still remains, with the initials J.G.C., for James and Grace Cook, and the date 1755. The old man has been represented as completely uneducated, but this cannot have been true. Colman in his Random Recollections, writing of a visit he paid to Redcar about 1773, relates how a venerable old man was pointed out who:
"only two or three years previously had learnt to read that he might gratify a parent's pride and love by perusing his son's first voyage round the world. He was the father of Captain Cook."
If it is true that he was the son of an Elder of the Scottish Church, it is extremely improbable that he was entirely uneducated, and the position he held as hind to Mr. Skottowe would necessitate at any rate some knowledge of keeping farming accounts. More convincing information still is to be found in the Leeds Mercury of 27th October 1883, where Mr. George Markham Tweddell, of Stokesley, writes:
"I may mention that Captain Cook's father was not the illiterate man he has been represented; and I have, lying on my study table as I write, a deed bearing his signature, dated 1755; and the father's signature bears a resemblance to that of his distinguished son."
Reading is invariably learnt before writing, and as in 1755 the old man was sixty-one, it is evident he did not wait till he was eighty to learn to read.
He claimed to have carved the inscription on the family tombstone in Great Ayton churchyard, and after spending the last years of his life under the roof of his son-in-law, James Fleck of Redcar, he died on 1st April 1778, aged eighty-four years. He was buried in Marske churchyard, but there was nothing to mark his grave, and its place has long been forgotten. His death is registered as that of a "day labourer."
CHAPTER 2. 1755 TO 1757. H.M.S. EAGLE.
Notwithstanding the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle, 1748, troubles were constantly arising between the French and English in which the American Colonies of both nations took a conspicuous part, and ultimately led to open war. The first shot was fired on 10th June 1755, although war was not formally declared till May 1756. In June 1755 the Friendship was in the Thames, and it is said that to avoid the hot press which had been ordered Cook first went into hiding for some time and then decided to volunteer. This is untrue, for, as has been shown, he had already made up his mind and had refused Messrs. Walker's offer of the command of one of their ships, the acceptance of which would have saved him from the press as Masters were exempt. He now saw his opportunity had come. He knew that experienced men were difficult to obtain, that men of a certain amount of nautical knowledge and of good character could soon raise themselves above the rank of ordinary seamen, and had doubtless in his mind many cases of those who entering as seamen found their way to the quarterdeck, and knowing he had only to ask the Walkers for letters of recommendation for them to be at his service, he determined to take the important step and volunteer into the Royal Navy. It must be remembered that this act of leaving employment which, to most men of his position, would have seemed most satisfactory, was not the act of hot-headed youth, no step taken in mere spirit of adventure, but the calmly reasoned act of a man of twenty-seven years and some eight or nine years experience of both the rough and smooth sides of maritime life.
Several letters were written to Mr. Walker, one or two of which relating to a later period were seen and copied by Dr. Young, but they fell into the hand of a niece, who unfortunately, not recognising their value, destroyed them shortly before her death, which occurred some years ago. However, it is certain that he wrote one about this time and evidently received a favourable reply, for he shortly afterwards wrote again acknowledging the service done him.
Having made up his mind how to proceed, Cook went to a rendezvous at Wapping and volunteered into H.M.S. Eagle, a fourth-rate, 60-gun ship, with a complement of 400 men and 56 marines, at that time moored in Portsmouth Harbour. On the Muster Roll, preserved in the Records Office, the following entry occurs: "161 from London rendezvous, James Cook, A.B., entry, June 17th 1755, first appearance June 25th 1755." On the 24th July, that is, thirty-seven days after the date of entry into the Navy, he is rated as Master's mate, a position he held till 30th June 1757, when he quitted H.M.S. Eagle.
His appointment was facilitated by the difficulty experienced in obtaining men for the Service, as may be gathered from Captain Hamar's letters, who writes applying to the Admiralty for permission to break up his London Rendezvous, as he says it has "procured very few men, and those only landsmen." Again, he complains of the quality of the men he has received, and says he is one hundred and forty short of his complement. In another letter:
"I do not believe there is a worse man'd ship in the Navy. Yesterday I received from the Bristol twenty-five supernumeraries belonging to different ships, but not one seaman among them: but, on the contrary, all very indifferent Landsmen."
These complaints were endorsed by Captain Pallisser, who succeeded Hamar on the Eagle, for he wrote that some of the crew were turned over from ship to ship so often that he was quite unable to make out their original one:
"they being such that none choose to own them. Of forty-four said to belong to the Ramilies, she wanted only six the other day, but her boatswain could find out only those amongst them that he thought worth having."
In the face of these deficiencies in quantity and quality of men, and remembering the good character he doubtless obtained from Mr. Walker, there can be no surprise that when Cook sailed out of an English port for the first time as a Royal Navy sailor he held the rating of Master's mate. It is usual to look upon him as an explorer and surveyor only, but a little enquiry shows that he played an active part in some of the most stirring events of the next few years. The records of his personal deeds are wanting, but his ships saw service, and from his character it is certain that when duty called, James Cook would not be found wanting. Many of the men under whom he served have left behind names that will always be associated with the construction of the present British Empire, and with most of them he was in immediate personal contact, and obtained in every case their respect, in some their close personal friendship.
On the 1st July the Eagle was ordered to fit and provision for the Leeward Islands, but having received 62 men and 53 marines, the orders were changed to cruise between Scilly and Cape Clear, and she sailed on the 4th August. She was caught in a gale off the old Head of Kinsale and received some damage, and her main mast was reported as sprung, so she returned to Plymouth for survey and repairs. Thinking that the removal of the mast would be a good opportunity to scrape his ship, which was very foul, Captain Hamar had her lightened for that purpose, but on examination the mast was found to be in good order, and the Admiralty was so annoyed at the absence of the ship from her cruising ground that they ordered Captain Pallisser to take over the command and prepare for sea without further loss of time. This he did on the 1st October, and sailed from Plymouth on the 7th, and after cruising about in the Channel and making a few small captures he returned on the 22nd November, remaining till the 13th March; and during this time Cook had a short spell of sickness, but it can hardly be called serious, as he was only in hospital for ten days, being back to his duty on the 17th February. In April, when "off the Isle of Bass, brought to and sent on board the cutter a petty officer and five men with arms, provisions, etc." This extract from the log records Cook's first independent command; the cutter was one of two hired vessels which had joined the squadron the previous day under convoy, and the armed party was probably put on board as a precaution against privateers who were at that time pretty busy on the French coast. Cook took her into Plymouth Sound, and he and his five men went on board the St. Albans, and in her rejoined his own ship on the 2nd May, and then returned to Plymouth on the 4th June. Pallisser, in reporting his arrival to the Secretary of the Admiralty, said that he had:
"put ashore to the hospital 130 sick men, most of which are extremely ill: buried in the last month twenty-two. The surgeon and four men died yesterday, and the surgeon's two mates are extremely ill: have thirty-five men absent in prizes and thirty-five short of complement, so that we are now in a very weak condition."
This sickness and mortality was attributed to the absolute want of proper clothing, many of the men having come on board with only what they stood in and some in rags, so the Captain asked for permission to issue an extra supply of slops, a request that was immediately granted.
After another short cruise the Eagle returned to Plymouth with Pallisser very ill with fever. He obtained sick leave, and Captain Proby was ordered to take command, but was detained so long in the Downs by contrary winds that Pallisser, who had heard a rumour of a French squadron having been seen in the Channel, shook off his fever and resumed the command of his ship, which was almost ready for sea. Every part of the Channel mentioned in the rumour was carefully searched, but no signs of the enemy were seen, and the author of the report, a Swede, was detained in Portsmouth for some months.
On the 19th November the Eagle's crew was increased to 420 men, and she was kept cruising throughout the winter, and on the 4th January 1757 she was caught in a heavy gale off the Isle of Wight, where she had most of her sails blown out of her. On 25th May she sailed from Plymouth Sound in company with H.M.S. Medway, and a day or two afterwards they fell in with and chased a French East Indiaman, the Duc d'Aquitaine, in rather heavy weather. The Medway was leading, but when getting close, had to bring to in order to clear for action, as otherwise she would be unable to open her lee ports. Pallisser, on the other hand, was all ready, and pressed on, bringing the chase to action. After a hard set-to, lasting about three-quarters of an hour, the Frenchman struck, having lost 50 men killed and 30 wounded, whilst the Eagle lost 10 killed and 80 wounded; and the list of damages to the ship reported to the Admiralty shows that the action was sharp though short. The Medway was only able to afford assistance by firing a few raking shots, and suffered no damage except having ten men wounded by an accidental explosion of gunpowder. The masts and sails of the prize were so much damaged that she lost them all in the night; one of the masts in falling sank the Medway's cutter. It was found she had a complement of 493 men, and was armed with 50 guns. She had landed her East Indian cargo at Lisbon, and then proceeded to cruise for fourteen days on the look-out for an English convoy sailing in charge of H.M.S. Mermaid. She had succeeded in picking up one prize, an English brig, which was ransomed for 200 pounds. This was Cook's first experience of an important naval action, and Pallisser was complimented by the Lords of the Admiralty for his gallant conduct. The Duc d'Aquitaine was purchased for the Navy, and was entered under her own name as a third-rate, 64 gun ship, with a complement of 500 men.
The Eagle returned with her consort and her prize to Plymouth, and soon afterwards Cook's connection with her came to an end. According to Dr. Kippis, Mr. Walker had interested the Member for Scarborough, Mr. Osbaldiston, on the subject of Cook's promotion, but the rule was that candidates for Lieutenancy must have been employed on board a king's ship for a period of not less than six years, and an order had recently been issued that this regulation was to be strictly adhered to. Captain Pallisser therefore wrote to Mr. Osbaldiston that Cook:
"had been too short a time in the service for a commission, but that a Master's warrant might be given him, by which he would be raised to a station that he was well qualified to discharge with ability and credit."
The result of this correspondence is shown in the Eagle's muster roll, for on 27th June James Cook attended his last muster, and on the 30th he was discharged. The succeeding rolls registering "D. 30th June 1757. Solebay prefmnt."
THE MERCURY COOK.
At this point all the writers on Captain Cook have been led into error by following the lead of Dr. Kippis. Everyone (with the single exception of Lord Brougham, who by an evident slip of the pen puts him on board the Mersey) writes that he was appointed Master of H.M.S. Mercury, and that he joined the fleet of Admiral Saunders in the Gulf of St. Lawrence at the time of the capture of Quebec in that ship. From the Public Records it has been ascertained that the Mercury was not in the Gulf of St. Lawrence with Saunders, but in the latter half of 1759 was sent to New York, thence to Boston, and was at Spithead in April the following year. The same source also shows that not only was the Circumnavigator never on board the Mercury in any capacity, but in all probability he never even saw her. He is also said to have been Master's mate on the Pembroke, and Dr. Kippis has him appointed to three different ships on three consecutive days: the Grampus, but she sailed before Cook could join her; the Garland, but she was found to have a Master when Cook joined; and, lastly, the Mercury.
The explanation of this confusion as far as the Mercury is concerned (the rest was imagination) is that there was a second James Cook in the service, who was appointed Master of the Mercury under a warrant dated 15th May 1759 and entered on his duties immediately. He was with his ship at Sheerness on 12th July, at which time his namesake was before Quebec. On the return of the Mercury from Boston her Master was returned for some time as "sick on shore," and on 11th June 1760 was superseded by one John Emerton. Soon after he was appointed third lieutenant of the Gosport, his commission bearing date 1st April 1760, that is before he left the Mercury. He was with his new ship at the recapture of St. John's, Newfoundland, in 1762, with John Jervis, afterwards Lord St. Vincent, as his Captain. In 1765 he was on the Wolf on the Jamaica station, and was selected by Admiral Burnaby to carry despatches to the Governor of Yucatan. This duty he successfully carried out, and in 1796 published a pamphlet describing his adventures during the journey. On his return to England he applied to the Duke of Newcastle for the command of a cutter, and the letter is now in the British Museum, having been included in a collection in mistake for one written by his celebrated namesake. There is a certain similarity in the writing, but in the signature he writes the Christian name as Jas, whilst Captain Cook usually wrote Jams. The Mercury Cook was lieutenant of the Speedwell in 1773, and having had some property left him in Jersey he received leave of absence in August. He never rose above lieutenant, and disappears from the Navy List after July 1800.
A manuscript log kept by James Cook whilst Master's mate of the Eagle is now in the possession of Mr. Alexander Turnbull of Wellington, New Zealand.
CHAPTER 3. 1757 TO 1759. H.M.S. PEMBROKE.
Cook joined H.M.S. Solebay on the 30th July 1757 at Leith, where she was then stationed, but the date of his warrant has not been ascertained, although the Public Records and Trinity House have both been searched for the purpose. His stay was not long, for after a cruise of a few days she returned to Leith, and on 17th September Cook was superseded by John Nichols; in fact, his time on board was so short that his signature is not appended to any of the rolls.
In April 1757 Mr. Bissett, who was Master of the Eagle when Cook was Master's mate, and who therefore would have a better chance than any one else to measure his subordinate's character and capabilities, was appointed Master of H.M.S. Pembroke, a new ship, and superintended her fitting for sea. On 26th October he found himself transferred to the Stirling Castle, and it is only reasonable to suppose that, having formed a high opinion of Cook's work, and knowing of his ambition to rise in the service, he would give information of the opportunity and, as far as he could, push forward his friend's interests. At any rate, the Muster Rolls show that in less than six weeks from leaving the Solebay, Cook was established on board the Pembroke as Master, under a warrant bearing date 18th October 1757, and entered upon his duties on 27th October, the twenty-ninth anniversary of his birth; and from that date to his discharge into the Northumberland he signed the usual documents. At the time of his joining, the ship was fitting and victualling for sea at Portsmouth, and on 8th November she sailed for the Bay of Biscay, under the command of Captain Simcoe, returning to Plymouth on 9th February 1758.
The British Government had decided on making a determined effort to wrest the Colony of New France from the hands of the French, and one of the few steps was to attempt the capture of the port of Louisburg, at the entrance to the Gulf of St. Lawrence; a place which the enemy were said to have rendered almost impregnable at an expenditure of some million and a quarter pounds. They looked upon it as second only to Quebec in its importance to the safe keeping of the colony. In order to carry out this design a fleet was prepared under Admiral Boscawen (known to his men as Old Dreadnought, and, from a peculiar carriage of the head, said to have been contracted from a youthful habit of imitating one of his father's old servants, Wry-necked-Dick), to convey a small army under Major-General Amherst to the scene of action. Boscawen sailed with his fleet, one member of which was the Pembroke, for Halifax, where they arrived, via Madeira and the Bermudas, on 8th May.
Having completed his arrangements, Boscawen left Halifax on 28th May with 17 sail of the Royal Navy and 127 transports, picking up 2 more men-of-war and 8 transports just outside, and a couple more of the latter a few hours later. He had to leave behind at Halifax, with orders to rejoin him as soon as they were fit, several ships, the Pembroke being one, as their crews were so weakened by scurvy during the voyage from England. The Pembroke had lost 29 men, but was sufficiently recovered to be able to sail with 3 transports, 2 schooners, and a cattle sloop on 7th June, and arrived off Louisburg on the 12th, four days too late to take part in the landing which had been successfully carried out in the face of great difficulties caused by the roughness of the weather, the rocky coast, and the opposition of the enemy. In fact, James Wolfe, who was a Brigadier throughout the siege, and on whose shoulders a very large portion of the work seems to have fallen, says: "Our landing was next to miraculous." There were 3 officers and 49 men killed; 5 officers and 59 men wounded of the army; 11 men killed, and 4 officers and 29 men wounded of the navy; and 19 men wounded of the transport service. The weather was so bad that no stores or artillery could be landed for several days, the first gun being got ashore on the 16th, so Cook was in plenty of time to take his share in the difficult task of landing supplies; a task so dangerous that the fleet lost one hundred boats in this duty alone. As well as forming the supply base for the army, the fleet also provided 583 men to act as gunners and engineers ashore; but none of these were from the Pembroke. The nature of the ground rendered the work of constructing the approaches and batteries extremely difficult, and it was not till 20th June that the first gun opened fire. Wolfe formed a battery on Lighthouse Point, one side of the entrance to the harbour whilst the town was on the other side, with a fortified island in between; and the harbour held a French fleet which, at the time of the arrival of the British, consisted of nine men-of-war. One escaped on the very day of the landing, and was shortly afterwards followed by two more. One L'Echo, was captured by Sir Charles Hardy, and was taken into the British Navy; whilst the other, though chased for some distance, made good its escape to L'Orient with the first news of the siege. Previously to the coming of the British, two ships had been sunk in the harbour's mouth to render entrance therein difficult; two more were added to these, and then a fifth. One ship was blown up by a British shell, and setting fire to two others that lay alongside her, they also were destroyed.
The fate of the other two is described in the Pembroke's log, kept by Cook, as follows:
"In the night 50 boats man'd and arm'd row'd into the harbour under the command of the Captains La Foure [Laforey] of the Hunter, and Balfour [of the Etna] in order to cut away the 2 men-of-warr and tow them into the North-East Harbour one of which they did viz.: the Ben Fison [Bienfaisant] of 64 guns, the Prudon [Prudent] 74 guns being aground was set on fire. At 11 A.M. the firing ceased on both sides."
The boats concerned in this attack, which Boscawen describes as "a very brilliant affair, well carried out," were a barge and pinnace or cutter from all the ships, except the Northumberland, which was too sickly, commanded by a lieutenant, mate or midshipman, and Dr. Grahame in his History of the United States of North America, says:
"The renowned Captain Cook, then serving as a petty officer on board of a British ship-of-war, co-operated in this exploit, and wrote an account of it to a friend in England. That he had distinguished himself may be inferred from his promotion to the rank of lieutenant in the Royal Navy, which took place immediately after."
This statement that he was in the affair may be true, but there is no evidence on the point, and as he was a warrant and not petty officer, and as his promotion did not take place for several years, Dr. Grahame's story may well be doubted. It is believed that Cook did write to Mr. Walker from Louisburg, but the letter was one of those so unfortunately destroyed.
The loss on this occasion to the British was very slight, there being only 7 killed and 9 wounded. The Bienfaisant having been surveyed, was received into the Navy and given to Captain Balfour whilst the command of L'Echo was conferred on Captain Laforey.
In consequence of this success and the threat of an immediate assault on the town, the French commander, M. Drucour, decided to surrender on the following day. This success was highly esteemed in England, and Admiral Boscawen and General Amherst received the thanks of the Houses of Parliament.
WOLFE AND HARDY.
After the siege Wolfe wrote to Lord George Sackville, speaking in warm terms of Boscawen and his men, and says:
"Sir Charles Hardy, too, in particular, and all the officers of the Navy in general have given us their utmost assistance, and with the greatest cheerfulness imaginable. I have often been in pain for Sir Charles's squadron at an anchor off the harbour's mouth. They rid out some very hard gales of wind rather than leave an opening for the French to escape, but, notwithstanding the utmost diligence on his side, a frigate found means to get out and is gone to Europe charge de fanfaronades. I had the satisfaction of putting 2 or 3 hautvizier shells into her stern and to shatter him a little with some of your Lordship's 24 pound shot, before he retreated, and I much question whether he will hold out the voyage."
The Pembroke formed one of this squadron under Sir Charles Hardy, and after the capitulation of the town, was despatched with nine other ships, and a small body of troops under Wolfe to harry the French settlements around Gaspe Bay as a preparation for the attack on Quebec it was intended to make in the following year. Several settlements and magazines were destroyed, four guns and a pair of colours were captured, and then the squadron returned to Halifax for the winter.
Admiral Sir Charles Saunders was selected to command the fleet that was to be employed in this new movement against the capital of New France; a man of whom Horace Walpole wrote:
"The Admiral was a pattern of the most sturdy bravery, united with the most unaffected modesty. No man said less, or deserved more. Simplicity in his manners, generosity, and good-nature adorned his genuine love of his country."
WITH DURELL'S SQUADRON.
He left Spithead on 17th February 1759, with the intention of calling at Louisburg, the appointed rendezvous for the expedition, on his way to Halifax; but the season had been so severe that Louisburg, usually free from ice, was found to be unapproachable, so he went on, arriving at Halifax on 30th April. Admiral Durell had been sent out earlier from England, and was now despatched from Halifax with a squadron, of which the Pembroke was one, to prevent, if possible, the entry into the river of the usual spring fleet from France with supplies and reinforcements for Quebec, and to keep the French from putting up any fortifications on the Ile aux Coudres, thereby adding to the difficulties of the fleet in ascending this dangerous portion of river. The weather was bad, and the trouble caused by fog and ice so great that Durell found the fleet of 18 sail, convoyed by two frigates, had escaped him, but one or two small store ships were captured which proved of service to the British afterwards. On the way up the Gulf, Captain Simcoe of the Pembroke died, and the ship was given temporarily to Lieutenant Collins of Durell's ship, and afterwards to Captain Wheelock, who remained in her till after Cook left.
Durell's squadron arrived off the Ile aux Coudres on the 25th, and on the 28th the Pembroke landed the troops she had on board, "as did ye rest of ye men of warr," and they took possession of the island, which was found to be deserted by its inhabitants. The troops that were on board Durell's ships were under the command of Colonel Carleton, the Quartermaster-General of the force, and Wolfe's great friend, whose services had only been obtained from the king with the greatest difficulty. Whilst awaiting the arrival of Saunders with the remainder of the expeditionary force, every endeavour was made to gain knowledge of the difficulties of the river, and Cook's log notes how the boats were out "sounding ye channel of ye Traverse"; and on the 11th June there is: "Returned satisfied with being acquainted with ye Channel." The Traverse here spoken of is that channel running from a high black-looking cape, known as Cape Torment, across into the south channel, passing between the east end of the Ile d'Orleans and Ile Madame. It is still looked upon as one of the worst pieces of the river navigation.
The British had some charts of the river showing the course taken by the French vessels, for in a note to the orders issued by Saunders on 15th May to the Masters of Transports, special attention is called to "a plan or chart showing the route which His Excellency intends to make from Louisburg Harbour to the Island of Bic"; and this chart was most probably taken from one captured by Boscawen in 1755, and published in September 1759 by T. Kitchen in the London Magazine having the Traverse shown on a larger scale. The soundings taken at the time Durell was waiting would be to verify those shown on this chart.
After a short delay in Halifax, Saunders left for Louisburg to gather up the remainder of the forces and stores, and on his arrival still found the port hampered by ice; in fact, Major Knox, of the 43rd Regiment, relates that even so late as 1st June men were able to get ashore from their ships, stepping from one piece of ice to another. There was also further cause for dissatisfaction, delay in the arrival of the ships with soldiers and stores. Some of the troops had been directed to other work without any intimation to Wolfe, whilst others were in a very bad state from scurvy and measles; some had lost their entire equipment, and it was with the greatest difficulty replaced; the supply of money was criminally small, and yet it is pleasant to read on the authority of Major Knox that:
"I had the inexpressible pleasure to observe at Louisburg that our whole armament, naval and military, were in high spirits; and though, by all accounts, we shall have a numerous army and a variety of difficulties to cope with, yet, under such Admirals and Generals, among whom we have the happiness to behold the most cordial unanimity, together with so respectable a fleet and a body of well-appointed regular troops, we have every reason to hope for the greatest success."
ORDERS TO TRANSPORTS.
Before leaving, Saunders issued his instructions as to the order of sailing. He divided the transports into two divisions, the Starboard flying a red flag, and the Larboard a white one: he assigned to each vessel its position and duties, and pointed out to each Master of a hired transport that if the orders of his officers were not promptly and exactly carried out they would be fired on, adding with a touch of grim humour that the cost of the powder and shot so expended would be carefully noted and charged against the hire of the offending ship. On the 6th June Saunders was off Newfoundland with 22 men-of-war and 119 transports, and the cold winds blowing off the snow-covered hills of that island were severely felt by the troops. On the 18th, when off the Island of Bic, they were joined by Wolfe in the Richmond, and five days after picked up Durell at the Ile aux Coudres. Here Saunders transferred his flag to the Stirling Castle, which he had selected in England for the purpose, owing to her handiness (Cook's friend, Mr. Bissett, was still on board), and leaving Durell with eleven of the deepest draught to guard against any interference from a French fleet, he proceeded up the river with the remainder. The work was hard, constantly anchoring and weighing to take every advantage of wind and tide, and the progress was slow; but at length the whole of the ships passed the Traverse, and on the 26th the fleet anchored off St. Laurent, on the Ile d'Orleans, and the troops were landed on the following day. Thus the much-dreaded passage up the St. Lawrence had been carried out, and the fact that no loss of any kind had occurred to either man-of-war or transport, reflects the very greatest credit on all engaged in the operation. Knox relates how the Master of the transport he was on, a Brother of Trinity House and Thames pilot, named Killick, refused the services of a French prisoner as pilot, and observing, "Damme, I'll show them an Englishman can go where a Frenchman dar'n't show his nose," took his ship up himself, chaffing the occupants of the mark boats as he passed, and in the end declared that it was no worse than the Thames.
The wonderful success of their passage was emphasised the afternoon after their arrival at St. Laurent when a heavy gale struck the fleet, driving several ships into collision or ashore, and causing considerable loss in anchors and cables. As soon as possible the men-of-war boats were out rendering every assistance, and all the vessels were secured but two, which were too firmly fixed to be towed off shore, and these were soon afterwards burnt by the enemy.
Thinking to profit by the disorder which must necessarily have been caused by the storm, the French made a determined attempt to destroy the fleet by means of eight fireships which were floated down stream on the unsuspecting British. Fortunately they were ignited prematurely, and the boats of the Pembroke and other ships were again out, employed in the hazardous task of towing these undesired visitors into such places as would permit them to burn themselves out without danger to the shipping. Six were quickly got into safety, whilst the other two grounded and burnt out without causing further inconvenience. Captain Knox describes the scene as a display of "the grandest fireworks that can possibly be conceived." The only result was to cause the retirement of a picket at the western end of the Ile d'Orleans, and the officer in command, who thought he was about to be attacked in force, was to have been tried by court-martial, but being advised to throw himself on Wolfe's mercy, was pardoned for his error of judgment. To guard against a repetition of such an attack, a system of guard boats, some moored across the river and some patrolling, was established, entailing considerable extra work on the sailors.
An examination of the position showed Admiral Saunders that the safety of the fleet, and therefore the interests of the army, would be best consulted if he proceeded into the Basin of Quebec, as to remain cooped up in the south channel added to the danger if a further attempt should be made to fire the fleet. He therefore pointed out to Wolfe that the small battery established by the French on Point Levi, which threatened any ship entering into the Basin, should be taken, and the Point occupied. This was at once carried out by Monckton's brigade, and a battery was established which did serious damage to the town. When too late the French sent over three floating batteries to aid in repulsing the English, but they were driven back by one broadside from a frigate Saunders moved up for the purpose.
Montcalm had entrenched his army on the north bank of the St. Lawrence, between the rivers Charles and Montmorenci, and Wolfe determined to seize on a piece of high ground to the east of the Montmorenci, to form a camp there, and endeavour to force on a general action. In pursuance of this design, a body of about 3000 men were landed successfully on 9th July, under the protecting fire of some of the fleet, and a camp was formed, and the next few days provided employment for the boats of the Pembroke and other ships in landing men, stores, and artillery. The bombardment of the town opened on 12th July from the batteries erected at Point Levi and a portion of the fleet, and continued with little intermission till 13th September. When fire was opened on the town other ships in the Basin and guns at the camp at Montmorenci opened on Montcalm's lines at Beauport. On the 18th two men-of-war, two armed sloops and two transports succeeded in passing the town without loss, but a third ship, the Diana, ran aground in trying to avoid collision with a transport, and was attacked by the enemy's boats, but was brought off by the Pembroke and Richmond. She was so seriously damaged that she had to be sent to Boston for repairs and then returned to England. On the 20th Wolfe joined the up-river squadron in a barge, and in passing the town had his mast carried away by a shot from the Sillery Battery, but no further damage was done. He made a short reconnaissance which led to nothing at the time, but may have had an important influence in the choice of a landing-place afterwards.
ATTACK ON BEAUPORT.
On his return to his camp at Montmorenci he decided to make an attack on the left of the French lines from boats and from his camp over a ford which was available at low tide between the falls of Montmorenci and the St. Lawrence. This attack was to be supported by the Centurion, moored in the north channel, and by two armed cats which were to be run aground as near as possible to some small redoubts, the first object of the attack. Here it is certain that Wolfe and Cook came into personal contact, for on the latter fell the duty of taking the necessary soundings for the position to be occupied by the cats, and Wolfe refers in a despatch to a conversation he had with Cook upon the matter. The attack took place on 31st July, aided by the fire of the Pembroke, Trent, and Richmond, which were "anchored clear over to the north shore before Beauport, a brisk firing on both sides," but the boats were thrown into confusion by a reef (marked on the chart as visible at low water), and were some time before they could effect a landing, then a heavy storm of rain came on, rendering the ground, which was steep, very slippery. The troops occupied one redoubt, but were so dominated by the French musketry that they could get no further, and Wolfe deemed it desirable to recall them and to stop the advance across the ford. The two cats were burnt to prevent them falling into the hands of the enemy, and the losses of the English in killed, wounded, and missing were 443, those of the French being estimated at 200. Cook says the repulse was solely owing to the heavy fire from the entrenchments, "which soon obliged our Troops to retreat back to the Boats and Montmorency"; whilst Wolfe, in a general order, throws the blame on the Louisburg Grenadiers, a picked body of men from several regiments, whom he considers got out of hand. He also, in a despatch submitted to Saunders, threw some amount of blame on the Navy, but to this the Admiral strongly objected, and it was withdrawn, Wolfe saying: "I see clearly wherein I have been deficient; and think a little more or less blame to a man that must necessarily be ruined, of little or no consequence."
It has been asserted that Cook led the boats to the attack, but as this was done by Wolfe himself, according to his own letters, and as Saunders was also out with them, both officers having narrow escapes, it seems more probable that Cook would be on his own ship, where, as she was engaged, his services would be wanted, for it was one of the Master's most important duties to work her under the Captain's orders when in action.
A few days before this attack on Beauport was made, the French again paid the fleet the undesired attention of a large fire raft composed of several small vessels chained together and laden with all sorts of combustibles—shells, guns loaded to the muzzle, tar barrels, etc., and again this was grappled by the boats and towed away to a place of safety; and then Wolfe, sending in a flag of truce the next morning, said that if the performance were repeated he should cause the instrument of destruction to be towed alongside two ships in which he had Canadian prisoners, and there let it do its worst. This somewhat cold-blooded threat was sufficient, and the experiment was not repeated.
A NARROW ESCAPE.
During the time the fleet was occupying the Basin, the Masters of the ships were constantly out making observations and sounding, partly for the necessities of the fleet and partly to throw dust in the eyes of the French; and on one occasion Cook had a narrow escape from capture, his men had to row for it to get away from the enemy, and reaching the Isle of Orleans landed just in time, for as Cook, the last man, sprang ashore from the bows an Indian boarded over the stern. The hospital picket turned out, and the French retreated. His friend, Mr. Bissett, was not so fortunate, being taken prisoner on 7th July whilst sounding in the north channel; but he was either exchanged or escaped, for he was only absent from his ship for a few days.
Wolfe, who was almost always ailing, had an attack of fever, and the worry of the repulse at Beauport rendered him incapable of duty for some days; he therefore laid before his Brigadiers plans of future movements, asking their opinions and advice. These plans were not approved, but it was suggested that an attempt should be made to land on the western side of the town and there bring the enemy to action, and Wolfe writes: "I have acquiesced in their Proposal, and we are preparing to put it into execution."
The up-river detachment had been strengthened by the addition of a few more vessels, and Murray with 1200 men had joined in an unsuccessful attempt to get at the French supply fleet which had retreated to a place of safety. He had outwitted De Bougainville, who was detached to watch him, and succeeded in destroying a magazine containing clothing, powder, and other stores, and intercepted letters which told of the surrender of Niagara and the retirement of Bourlemaque upon the Ile aux Noix, to which place Amherst was preparing to follow.
When Wolfe's resolve was taken to follow the advice of his Brigadiers, Saunders again strengthened the force above the town, placing the squadron under the command of Admiral Holmes, and on 3rd September his boats withdrew the artillery and troops from Montmorenci to Point Levi, and on the night of the 4th all the available boats and small craft were sent up, one of the last to pass being a small schooner armed with a few swivels, and called by the sailors The Terror of France. She sailed by in broad daylight, drawing the fire of every gun that could be brought to bear on her, but was untouched, and, anchoring close alongside the Admiral's ship, gave him a salute from the whole of her armament.
The troops which had been quietly marched some distance up the south bank from Point Levi were taken on board the ships, the last detachment on the night of the 12th; and Admiral Holmes sailed up the river as if to beat up the French communications, but when night fell he returned, and the landing was successfully accomplished, and is described by Saunders in his despatch as follows:
"The night of their landing, Admiral Holmes with the ships and troops was about three leagues above the intended landing-place. General Wolfe with about half his troops set off in the boats, and dropped down with the tide, and were by that means less liable to be discovered by the sentinels posted all along the coast. The ships followed them about three-quarters of an hour afterwards, and got to the landing-place just at the time that had been concerted to cover the landing, and considering the darkness of the night, and the rapidity of the current, this was a very critical operation, and very properly and successfully conducted."
In the meantime the ships in the Basin, some fifteen in number, distracted the attention of the French by a heavy cannonade on the Beauport lines, and the boats made a feint as if an attack were contemplated; buoys had been laid in such a way as to lead to the idea that the ships were going to moor as close in as possible as if to support an assault, and every effort was made to draw attention away from the movement up above.
THE PLAINS OF ABRAHAM.
Lieutenant Norman, of the Pembroke, shortly describes the battle in his log:
"At 4 A.M. General Wolfe landed just below Cape Diamond with the whole army. At 8 the signal of Boats man'd and arm'd to go to Point Levi, weighed and dropped hier up. About 10 the enemy march'd up and attacked General Wolfe, the action lasted not 10 minutes before the Enemy gave way and run in the Greatest Confusion and left us a compleat Victuary. Our Army encamped on the plain a back of the Town and made the necessary disposition for carrying on ye siege. Admiral Holmes hoisted his flag on board the Lowestaff, just off the Landing place. In this action fell General Wolfe, of the enemy General Montcalm and his two seconds."
Cook does not mention the death of Wolfe, but says "the troops continued the pursuit to the very gates of the city, afterward they begun to form the necessary dispositions for carrying on the siege."
Cook is said by some writers to have piloted the troops to the landing-place, and has even been set within hearing of the legendary recitation by Wolfe of Gray's Elegy, but as he was out with the Pembroke's boats in the Basin at the time Holmes started up the river, and was probably on his ship, with his hands full driving the bombardment, and the recital of the Elegy at such a time was probably a myth, the traditions may be put down to imagination. The boats were piloted to the landing by Captain Chads of H.M.S. Vesuvius.
The town having surrendered five days after the battle, the movements made by Saunders in the Basin no doubt aiding M. de Ramesay, the Governor, in coming to a decision, General Murray was left with a garrison, and the fleet sailed for England, sending a detachment of the Northumberland and six others to Halifax with orders that Captain Lord Colville was to hoist the Broad Pennant as Commander-in-Chief of the North American Station, and as soon as the season opened he was to return to the St. Lawrence to render support to any further movements made in Canada.
APPOINTMENT TO H.M.S. NORTHUMBERLAND.
Before the fleet left, however, Cook's connection with H.M.S. Pembroke came to an end. Captain King, who was with Cook on his last voyage, writes to Dr. Douglas that he does not know the exact date of Cook's appointment to the Northumberland, but he was certainly Master of that ship in 1758. Here King is in error, for Lieutenant James Norman, of the Pembroke, has the following entry in his log under date 23rd September 1759: "Mr. Cook, Master, superseded and sent on board the Northumberland, per order of Admiral Saunders." It has been said that Lord Colville made this appointment, but of course he could not do so, though he may perhaps have applied for Cook's services, but it is far more probable that the appointment was made by Saunders for the special purpose of having the survey of the St. Lawrence thoroughly well carried out.
CHAPTER 4. 1759 TO 1762. H.M.S. NORTHUMBERLAND.
On the way down the river from Quebec, the fleet appears to have found the passage very difficult, the dangers of the Channel being aggravated by the strength of the current and bad weather. The Captain, Vesuvius, and Royal William were aground for some time, but were ultimately got off again without much damage; and the Terrible, which was drifting and in great danger, was only brought up by means of an anchor constructed for the occasion by lashing one of the quarter-deck guns to two small anchors. When her large anchors were hauled up they were found to be broken; and so great was the loss of these articles that Lord Colville was obliged to press the Admiralty for a fresh supply to be sent out immediately, as he found it impossible to replace those lost in the Traverse either at Boston or any other place in America.
RELIEF OF QUEBEC.
Colville's squadron arrived in Halifax on 27th October, Cook's thirty-first birthday, and as soon as the winter was over, and the ships were cleaned and fitted for sea as well as the limited appliances would permit, it left for the St. Lawrence, sailing on 22nd April 1760, but was "so retarded by frozen fogs, seas of compacted ice, and contrary winds," that it did not arrive off the Ile de Bic before 16th May. Here they were met by a sloop with the news that Quebec was in urgent need of help. General Murray, hearing of the approach of General de Levis, with a French force, had left the shelter of the forts, and notwithstanding he was greatly outnumbered, had offered battle in the open. He had at first chosen a strong position, but hearing from spies that the French were busy cleaning their arms after being caught in a heavy storm the night before, he advanced upon them, and owing to the sudden attack and the superiority of his artillery, at first gained a considerable advantage, but afterwards the weight of numbers told, and the British were forced to retire to the town with sadly reduced numbers, and Quebec was again besieged. On receipt of this news Colville pushed on with his squadron, and the arrival of the Vanguard and Diamond on the 17th, followed by the Northumberland and the remainder on the next day, caused the French to retire.
During the next four months the fleet passed an uneventful time in the Canadian waters, the flagship being moored in the Basin, and then on the 12th September they received the acceptable news that Montreal and the rest of the province of New France had surrendered to General Amherst, and on 10th October the squadron again returned to Halifax to winter quarters.
On 19th January 1761, Lord Colville records in his Journal that he had "directed the storekeeper to pay the Master of the Northumberland, fifty pounds in consideration of his indefatigable industry in making himself master of the pilotage of the River St. Lawrence." This is the first official recognition that has been found of the fact that Cook had gone beyond the ordinary duties incumbent on every Master in His Majesty's Service, namely: "To observe all coasts, shoals, and rocks, taking careful notes of the same." There is no record in any of the official documents that Cook was specially engaged in surveying the river, but it is very evident from this entry that he must have done the work during the four months that his ship was moored in the Basin of Quebec. That is to say, his promotion to the Northumberland was previous to, and not a consequence of his survey of the river, and that it was on account of his fitness for the work, and not because it had been done, as is constantly asserted, that he had been selected.
THE NORTH AMERICAN PILOT.
Admiral Saunders had issued orders the previous year, that the general instructions of the Admiralty as to taking observations, soundings, and bearings were to be carefully carried out, and the information obtained was, as opportunity offered, to be forwarded to him "so that all existing charts may be corrected and improved." This information, in the ordinary course, would be handed to Mr. Bissett, the Master of the flagship, for comparison and compilation, and he, knowing Cook's fitness for the work, may have asked for his assistance and thus introduced him to the notice of Saunders, noted for his quick eye for merit, who, seeing his aptitude, selected him for the completion of the task. Saunders, after his return to England, wrote to the Secretary of the Admiralty, on 22nd April 1760, saying that he had, ready for publication, a Draught of the River St. Lawrence with its harbours, bays, and islands, and asked for their Lordships' directions thereon. With their Lordships' approval it was published, and may be found at the end of The North American Pilot, London, 1775, together with other maps, some of which are Cook's work. At the commencement of the book is a letter from Cook to the compiler of the volume, congratulating him on the collection, and referring to the fact that some of the charts contain his work, but he does not lay claim to any special ones. On Saunders' chart there is a long note which concludes:
"The distances between Isle Coudre and Isle of Orleans, the Pillar Rocks and Shoals in the south channel were accurately determined by triangles. The other parts of this chart were taken from the best French Draughts of this River."
It is doubtful if this triangulation could have been carried out by Cook during his passage up and then down the river, the only time he had in 1759, but if it were, it argues much greater knowledge of nautical surveying than he is generally supposed to have had at the time.
During the winters that the Northumberland stayed in Halifax Harbour, Cook employed his spare time in improving his knowledge of all subjects that were likely to be of service to him in his profession. He read Euclid for the first time, and entered upon a study of higher mathematics, especially devoting himself to astronomy. King in his sketch of Cook's life, says, on the authority of the man himself, that these studies were carried on "without any other assistance than what a few books and his own industry afforded him."
At the opening of the season, Lord Colville dispersed his squadron to those stations where their services appeared most necessary, and remained with his ship at Halifax, as it was considered inadvisable to leave such an important naval post open to attack from the French or the Spaniards. He had been advised by despatches, dated 26th December 1761, that war had been declared with the latter nation. During this period of waiting the words "nothing remarkable" are in constant use in Captain Adams's (the second Captain of the Northumberland) Journal. Cook utilised this time to make a thorough survey of Halifax Harbour, the notes of which are now in the United Service Museum, Whitehall.
At length the period of inaction was ended. Captain Charles Douglas, H.M.S. Syren, who was cruising off Cape Race, received information that a squadron of four French ships of the line, having some 1500 picked troops on board, had made a descent on Newfoundland, and had captured St. John's, the capital, which had been most shamefully neglected, and its garrison reduced to 63 men. The Grammont, 22-gun sloop, was unfortunately in harbour at the time, and was also taken. Douglas at once pressed two English merchant vessels into the service, and putting a petty officer in command of one, the William, and his Master in the other, the Bonetta, despatched them to cruise in search of Captain Graves, the reappointed Governor of Newfoundland, who was daily expected from England. The Bonetta soon fell in with the Antelope, Graves's ship, and she immediately joined Douglas, and then proceeded to strengthen the Isle of Boys as far as time would allow. Then going to Placentia, a place of as much importance as St. John's, and more capable of defence, they set about making preparations to beat off any attack, leaving a garrison of 99 men and as many marines as could be spared. Graves then despatched Douglas with the remainder of the Syren's marines to take possession of Ferryland, and sent the ship herself off with letters to Lord Colville, but the William having missed the Antelope, made her way to Halifax with the news of what had occurred.
RECAPTURE OF ST. JOHN'S.
Colville at once sent word to General Amherst, Commander-in-Chief in America, asking him to forward any troops he could spare, and started, accompanied by the Gosport, and an armed colonial vessel, the King George, 20 guns, to cruise off the Newfoundland coast in order to prevent the arrival of French reinforcements or supplies. He met Graves at Placentia on 14th August, and landed all the marines he could, and then continued his cruise. Amherst collected every available man from New York, Halifax, and Louisberg, and putting them under the command of his brother, Colonel William Amherst, ordered him to use every despatch and join Lord Colville without delay. This the Colonel succeeded in doing on 12th September off Cape Spear, and the next day they landed at Torbay, some three leagues north of St. John's. They drove in the French outposts and took possession of a small harbour named Quidi Vidi, which had been blocked at the entrance by the French. Clearing away the obstructions they landed their stores and some artillery, and advancing on St. John's, compelled its surrender on the 17th. Notwithstanding that, as Captain Graves reported, "the French had put St. John's in a better state of defence than ever we had it in."
On the 16th a strong gale blew the English ship some distance off the coast, and was followed by a thick fog, during which the French squadron managed to tow out of the harbour, but were in such a hurry to get away that they did not stop to pick up their boats and immediately made sail, being so far out of reach in the morning, that though some of them were seen by the British, it was not realised that they could be the French escaping from a squadron inferior in strength. Lord Colville, writing to the Admiralty, says:
"At six next morning it being calm with a great swell, we saw from the masthead, but could not bring them down no lower than halfway to topmast shrouds, four sail bearing South-South-East, distance 7 leagues. We lost sight about seven, though very clear, and sometime after a small breeze springing up from the South-West quarter, I stood towards Torbay in order to cover the shallops that might be going from thence to Kitty Vitty. In the afternoon I received a note from Colonel Amherst, acquainting me that the French fleet got out last night. Thus after being blocked up in St. John's Harbour for three weeks by a squadron of equal number, but smaller ships with fewer guns and men, M. de Ternay made his escape in the night by a shameful flight. I beg leave to observe that not a man in the squadron imagined the four sail, when we saw them, were the enemy; and the pilots were of opinion that they must have had the wind much stronger than with us to overcome the easterly swell in the harbour's mouth. I sent the King George as far as Trepassy, to bring me intelligence if the enemy should steer towards Placentia; and I directed Captain Douglas of the Syren to get the transports moved from Torbay, a very unsafe road, to the Bay of Bulls."
As soon as information was received in England that an expedition had been sent from France, the Admiralty despatched a squadron under Captain Pallisser in pursuit, and as it arrived in St. John's only four days after M. de Ternay left, they must have been very close to a meeting.
COOK MEETS COOK.
Whilst the movements leading up to the recapture of St. John's were being carried on, communication between Colville and Amherst was kept up by the boats of the fleet under the charge of the third lieutenant of H.M.S. Gosport, Mr. James Cook, formerly Master of H.M.S. Mercury, who performed this duty to the complete satisfaction of Lord Colville as signified in his despatches to the Admiralty. It is certain, therefore, that the two namesakes must have come face to face here, and most probably previously in Halifax Harbour.
Entering St. John's Harbour on 19th September, the flagship remained till 7th October, during which time Cook was very busily employed in assisting to place the island in a better state of defence. In a despatch of Lord Colville's, dated "Spithead, 25th October 1762," he says:
"I have mentioned in another letter, that the fortifications on the Island of Carbonera were entirely destroyed by the enemy. Colonel Amherst sent thither Mr. Desbarres, an engineer, who surveyed the island and drew a plan for fortifying it with new works: when these are finished the Enterprise's six guns will be ready to mount on them. But I believe nothing will be undertaken this year, as the season is so far advanced, and no kind of materials on the spot for building barracks or sheds for covering the men, should any be sent there. Mr. Cook, Master of the Northumberland, accompanied Mr. Desbarres. He has made a draught of Harbour Grace and the Bay of Carbonera, both of which are in a great measure commanded by the Island, which lies off a point of land between them. Hitherto we have had a very imperfect knowledge of these places, but Mr. Cook, who was particularly careful in sounding them, has discovered that ships of any size may lie in safety both in Harbour Grace and the Bay of Carbonera."
Mr. Desbarres's design for the fortification of Carbonera, drawn by John Chamberlain, dated 7th April 1763, is to be found in the British Museum; he was afterwards Governor of Cape Breton.
On the return of the Northumberland to Spithead, where she arrived on 24th October, her Master, James Cook, was discharged, the Muster Roll merely noting "superseded" on 11th November, and the pay sheet records the deductions from his wages as: "Chest, 2 pounds 1 shilling 0 pence; Hospital, 1 pound 0 shillings 6 pence. Threepence in the pound, 3 pounds 14 shillings 9 pence," leaving a balance due of 291 pounds 19 shillings 3 pence. He also received from Lord Colville for the Secretary to the Admiralty the following letter which shows the estimation he was held in by his immediate superiors, and would doubtless be of weight when the appointment of a man to execute greater undertakings came under the consideration of their Lordships.
London, 30th December 1762.
Mr. Cook, late Master of the Northumberland, acquaints me that he has laid before their Lordships all his draughts and observations relating to the River St. Lawrence, part of the coast of Nova Scotia, and of Newfoundland.
On this occasion I beg to inform their Lordships that from my experience of Mr. Cook's genius and capacity, I think him well qualified for the work he has performed and for greater undertakings of the same kind. These draughts being made under my own eye, I can venture to say they may be the means of directing many in the right way, but cannot mislead any.
I am, sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,
Before the close of the year Cook took upon himself further responsibilities as set forth in the following extract from the register of St. Margaret's Church, Barking, Essex:
"James Cook of ye Parish of St. Paul, Shadwell, in ye County of Middlesex, Bachelor, and Elizabeth Batts, of ye parish of Barking in ye County of Essex, Spinster, were married in this Church by ye Archbishop of Canterbury's Licence, this 21st day of December, one thousand seven hundred and sixty-two, by George Downing, Vicar of Little Wakering, Essex."
Besant, who obtained his information from Mrs. Cook's second cousin, the late Canon Bennett, who as a boy knew her well, speaks most highly of her mental qualities and personal appearance, and says the union appears to have been a very happy one. It covered a period of about sixteen years; but taking into consideration the times he was away on duty, sometimes for long periods, Cook's home life in reality only extended to a little more than four years, and Mrs. Cook must often have been months, sometimes years, without even hearing of the existence of her husband. Her family were fairly well-to-do; her grandfather, Mr. Charles Smith, was a currier in Bermondsey; her cousin, also Charles Smith, was a clockmaker of repute in Bunhill Row. Her mother, Mary Smith, married first John Batts of Wapping, and secondly, John Blackburn of Shadwell. Miss Batts is described as of Barking in the Marriage Register, so may perhaps have been living with relations there, and may have met Cook when on a visit to her mother in Shadwell, where he was residing. The engagement must have been very short, for from the time of his joining the Navy in 1755 to his return from Newfoundland in 1762, his leave on shore had been very limited, and, with the exception perhaps of a day or two between leaving the Eagle and joining the Solebay, and again when leaving the latter ship for the Pembroke, none of his time was spent in London. There is a story that he was godfather to his wife, and at her baptism vowed to marry her, but as at that time, 1741, Cook was assisting his father on Airy Holme Farm, the tale is too absurd, but has for all that been repeatedly published.
After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. Cook lived for a time in Shadwell, and then removed to Mile End Old Town, where Cook purchased a house, which was their home till after his death. This house, which he left to his wife, has been identified as Number 88 Mile End Road, and a tablet has been placed on the front to mark the fact.
CHAPTER 5. 1763 TO 1767. NEWFOUNDLAND.
The commission as Governor of Newfoundland, which now included Labrador from Hudson's Straits to the St. John's River, the island of Anticosti, the islands off the Labrador coast, and the Madelines in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, had again been conferred on Captain (afterwards Admiral Lord) Graves. He had early recognised the fact that it was necessary to have a thorough survey of the coasts of his territory, and therefore made an application to the Board of Trade to have the one commenced as far back as 1714 by Captain Taverner, but only carried on in a desultory fashion, put in hand and completed as quickly as possible. This application resulted in a Representation from the Board to His Majesty, dated 29th March 1763, to be found in the Shelbourne manuscripts, asking that an allowance should be made for the purpose.
Graves had seen during the previous year the work done by Cook at Harbour Grace and Carbonera, and had evidently made up his mind that he had found the man for his purpose, in which opinion he would be backed up by Colville and further supported by the favourable knowledge that the Admiralty had of his work. The Representation was immediately acted on, for in the Records Office is a hurried note from Graves to Mr. Stephens, Secretary to the Admiralty, probably written on the 5th April, in which he asks:
"what final answer he shall give to Mr. Cook, late Master of the Northumberland, who is very willing to go out to survey the Harbours and Coasts of Labradore."
A draughtsman is also mentioned, and one is recommended who was on the Bellona and was willing to go out, ranking as schoolmaster; he did join Cook after a time. On 6th April Graves again wrote to Stephens, telling him he had instructed Cook to get ready to start as soon as the Board gave him orders, and that he was to have ten shillings per diem whilst employed on that service. He also says that Cook had been to the Tower to try to secure a draughtsman, and towards the end of the letter applies for the instruments necessary to carry on the operations. Graves was hurriedly called away to his ship, the Antelope, as the spirit of discontent, then very rife in the Navy, was developing itself in a very threatening manner during his absence. However, on his arrival on board, by judicious reforms, which he saw were carried out, and by quietly replacing some few of the most dangerous of the malcontents, he was very shortly able to report himself ready for sea with a complete and fairly contented crew.
On 15th April he writes to Stephens asking if there was "any change of resolution taken about Mr. Cook, the Master, and an assistant for him, and whether they are to go out with me?" On the 18th he writes again, saying that when in London he had been informed that he was to receive orders to purchase two small vessels of about 60 tons each when he arrived in Newfoundland, one of which he was "to send with Mr. Cook upon the surveys of the coast and harbours," but he was afraid the orders had been forgotten, and he again makes suggestions as to instruments, etc., required for the work. Cook had at the same time made application in proper form for the articles he would require, and was informed that some would be supplied to him from the Government Stores, and for the remainder, he was to purchase them and transmit the bills to their Lordships.
COOK'S SAILING ORDERS.
On 19th April Cook received his orders as follows:
My Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, having directed Captain Graves, of His Majesty's Ship, the Antelope, at Portsmouth, to receive you on board and carry you to Newfoundland in order to your taking a Survey of Part of the Coast and Harbours of that Island. I am commanded by their Lordships to acquaint you therewith: that you must repair immediately on board the said ship, she being under sailing orders, that you are to follow such orders as you shall receive from Captain Graves relative to the said service and that you will be allowed ten shillings a day during the time you are employed therein.
I am, etc. etc., PHILLIP STEPHENS.
Mr. James Cook, —— Town.
Mr. William Test, Tower, to be paid 6 shillings per day.
On 8th May Graves acknowledged the receipt of the orders he had asked for, authorising him to purchase two small vessels, and announced that Mr. Cook had joined the ship, but that the assistant, Mr. Test, had not been heard of; he therefore proposed that he should endeavour to obtain someone else to fill the vacancy. Mr. Stephens replied that a difficulty had arisen with the Board of Ordnance with regard to Mr. Test's pay; they were not inclined to continue it during his absence as they would have to put some one else in his place, and since hearing this, as the Admiralty had heard nothing further from Mr. Test, Captain Graves was authorised to fill the vacancy at a suitable allowance, and he at once secured the services of Mr. Edward Smart, who sailed from Plymouth in H.M.S. Spy, and joined Cook in Newfoundland.
In this letter Graves also says that he intends to start Cook on the survey of St. Pierre and Miquelon as they had to be handed over to the French under treaty, whilst he should make some stay upon the coast in order to afford proper time for survey before they had to be surrendered. The possession of these islands carried with it certain fishing and curing rights conferred by the Treaty of Utrecht and confirmed by that of Paris, and the possession of the islands and rights have been a continual cause of irritation to the fishermen of both nations till lately, but now the differences have been satisfactorily settled. It is said that the Earl of Bute was the cause of the inclusion of the clause concerning these islands in the Treaty, and that he received the sum of 300,000 pounds for permitting it to stand. It was specially stipulated that the islands were not to be fortified, and the number of the garrison was to be strictly limited to a number sufficient for police duty alone; but from the very commencement of the peace, it was one continual struggle to evade the terms by one side, and to enforce them by the other, without coming to an actual rupture.
According to his expressed intention, Captain Graves, on arriving at St. John's, despatched Captain Charles Douglas in the Tweed to superintend the removal of the British settlers from the two islands, and Cook accompanied him with orders to press on the survey as rapidly as possible in order that it might be completed before the arrival of the French. Unfortunately, M. d'Anjac, who was charged with the duty of receiving the islands on behalf of the French king, arrived on the same day as the Tweed, off the islands. Captain Douglas refused to permit the French to land until the islands had been formally handed over by his superior officer, and by a little judicious procrastination in communicating with Captain Graves, and persistent energy on the part of Cook in conducting the survey, sufficient time was gained to complete it. Graves writes to the Admiralty on 20th October 1763:
"Meanwhile the survey went on with all possible application on the part of Mr. Cook. At length, Monsieur d'Anjac's patience being quite exhausted, I received a letter from him on the 30th of June, of which I enclose a copy together with my answer returned the same day. This conveyance brought me a letter from Captain Douglas, expressing his uneasiness on the part of Monsieur d'Anjac and pressing to receive his final instructions, and at the same time gave me the satisfaction to learn St. Peter's was completely surveyed, Miquelon begun upon and advanced so as to expect it would be finished before the French could be put in possession: so that any interruption from them was no longer to be apprehended."
In a paper amongst the Shelbourne manuscripts, said to be an extract from a Journal of Cook's, there is a short description of these islands, and it conveys the impression that the writer looked upon them as absolutely worthless as either naval or military stations, but for all that Captain Graves's successor, Pallisser, was kept continually on the alert to defeat the efforts of the French to strengthen their position.
THE KING'S SURVEYOR.
After the official surrender of these islands, Cook was engaged in surveying different places which the Admiralty had specially marked out, and was borne on the books of either the Antelope or Tweed as might be convenient. He is to be found on the latter ship, entered "for victuals only," as "Mr. James Cook, Engineer, and Retinue." As the dates in the two ships often run over each other it is somewhat difficult to place him, but he was certainly in the neighbourhood of St. John's for some two months, and on 5th November he was discharged from the Antelope into the Tweed, together with Mr. Smart, for the passage to England, where he remained till the spring of the following year. On 4th January the Admiralty authorised the payment up to the end of the previous year of the allowances of 10 shillings and 6 shillings per day, respectively, to Mr. Cook and Mr. Smart. This allowance of 10 shillings per day was the same as that made to the Commander of a Squadron, so, from a financial point of view, Cook's position must be considered one of importance. It was apparently superior to that of a Master surveying under the directions of the Governor, for in a report that Captain Pallisser, when Governor of Newfoundland, gives of an interview between the French Ambassador and himself in London in 1767, on the subject of the fisheries, he says he produced Cook's chart, and decided the question of the rights of France to the use of Belle Isle for fishing purposes against the Ambassador by its means, and he speaks of Cook officially as the King's Surveyor.
Pallisser was appointed to succeed Graves as Governor in 1764, and at once set aside the schooner Grenville, which Graves had used as a despatch boat for the sole use of the survey party. She had been manned from the ships on the station, but Pallisser wrote to the Admiralty on the subject, and the Navy Board were instructed to establish her with a proper person to take command of her, and a complement of men sufficient to navigate her to England when the surveying season was over, in order that she might be refitted and sent out early in the spring, instead of being laid up in St. John's and waiting for stores from England, "whereby a great deal of time is lost." The establishment was to consist of ten men, i.e. a Master, a Master's mate, one Master's servant, and seven men. The Master and mate were to receive the pay of a sixth rate, and the former was "to be charged with the provisions and stores which shall be supplied to the schooner from time to time, and to pass regular accounts for the same." On 2nd May Stephens wrote to Pallisser that Cook was appointed Master of the Grenville, and as soon as the season was over he was to be ordered to Portsmouth, and on arrival to transmit his Charts and Draughts to the Admiralty. On receipt of this letter Pallisser wrote to Cook, and this communication, together with autograph copies of letters written by Cook having reference to the Grenville, a receipt for her husband's pay, signed by Mrs. Cook, and some other papers of interest relating to his voyages, are now in the hands of Mr. Alexander Turnbull, of Wellington, New Zealand.
It would appear that it was at this time that the friendship between Pallisser and Cook really commenced, for previously there can have been no opportunity for the former to have known anything of Cook's personality. A Captain of a man-of-war saw nothing of a Master's mate, and knew nothing of him except whether he did his duty or not, and that only through the Master's report. In this particular case, as soon as his attention was called to him by outside influence, Cook was withdrawn from his knowledge, and when they again came in contact had already made his mark. Had they been on the very friendly terms that Kippis suggests, it is unlikely that he would have made so many incorrect statements as to Cook's early career in the Navy.
On 23rd April Cook received his orders, and was told at the same time that as he had expressed a doubt about being able to get suitable men in Portsmouth, he would be provided with conduct money and free carriage of chests and bedding for those he could raise in London, and they should be transferred to Portsmouth in the Trent. Mr. William Parker was appointed Master's mate, and the whole crew left Portsmouth on 7th May in H.M.S. Lark, arriving in St. John's on the 14th June. They took possession of their ship on the same day, and the first entry in the Grenville's log runs as follows:
"June 14th, 1764, St. John's, Newfoundland. The first and middle parts moderate and hazy Weather, the Later foggy. At 1 P.M. His Majesty's Ship the Lark anchored here from England, on board of which came the Master and the company of this Schooner. Went on board and took possession of Her. Read over to the crew the Master's Warrant, Articles of War, and Abstract of the late Act of Parliament."
ACCIDENT TO HAND.
After getting the guns and stores on board, and fitting the ship for her new duties, they left St. John's on 4th July for the north. A base line was laid out at Noddy's Harbour, and the latitude of Cape Norman was found to be 51 degrees 39 minutes North; soundings were taken every mile. On 3rd August Cook left the ship in the cutter to continue his work, but having met with a nasty accident he had to return on the 6th. It seems he had a large powder horn in his hand, when, by some means not stated, the powder ignited, and the horn "was blown up and burst in his hand, which shattered it in a terrible manner, and one of the people which was hard by suffered greatly by the same accident." The Grenville left at once for Noddy's Harbour, where there was a French ship which had a doctor on board, arriving there at eleven o'clock, was able to secure some sort of medical assistance, though probably in the eye of a modern medical man, of a very rough nature. At that time surgery, especially on board ship, was very heroic; a glass of spirits the only anodyne, and boiling pitch the most reliable styptic.
In reference to this accident the Lords of the Admiralty wrote to Lord Halifax, quoting a letter they had received from Captain Pallisser, dated 14th November 1764:
"Mr. Cook, the surveyor, has returned. The accident to him was not so bad as it was represented. Nor had it interrupted his survey so much as he (Captain Pallisser) expected. He continued on the coast as long as the season would permit, and has executed his survey in a manner which, he has no doubt, will be satisfactory to their Lordships. I have ordered him to proceed to Woolwich to refit his vessel for the next season, and to lay before the Board, Draughts of his surveys with all his remarks and observations that may be useful to Trade and Navigation in those parts."
Pallisser did not see Cook till some time after the accident, when the worst was over, and it is quite in keeping with Cook's character to minimise his sufferings, and to insist on the work being kept going as far as possible. The surgeon, Mr. Samwell, relates that after the murder at Owhyee they were enabled to identify his hand by the scar which he describes as "dividing the thumb from the fingers the whole length of the metacarpal bones." Whilst Cook was laid up with his hand, and Mr. Parker was engaged with the survey, some of the men were employed brewing, and either the brew was stronger than usual or, the officer's eye being off them, they indulged too freely, for on 20th August it is noted that three men were confined to the deck for drunkenness and mutinous conduct, and the next day the ringleader was punished by being made to "run the Gantelope."
Early in September, being then in the Bay of St. Genevieve, Cook went ashore for six days and ran roughly the course of several small rivers, noting the chief landmarks, and then on their way back to St. John's, off Point Ferrol, their small boat was dashed to pieces on a ledge of rock, and its occupants were saved with great difficulty by the cutter which by great good fortune happened to be near at the time. They returned to England for the winter, and crossing the Banks, a series of soundings were made and the nature of the bottom carefully noted.
When Cook arrived at Woolwich, he pointed out to their Lordships that the completion of his charts would entail his being absent from his ship, and he would be unable to supervise everything that had to be done on board, he therefore suggested that she should be sent to Deptford yard. This was at once agreed to, and Cook was able to devote his whole time to his charts. His own work had to be supplemented by the observations made by six men-of-war stationed in Newfoundland waters as their commanding officers had received special instructions to take ample soundings and careful observations, and to make charts which were to be sent to Captain Pallisser, who was informed that he would be held responsible if these orders were not carried out in their entirety. It is very certain that an order so emphatically enforced on his notice would not be permitted to remain a dead letter.