Privately printed, Boston, Press of Robinson Printing Company, 1894. Of 500 printed, four copies are known to exist, one in the Massachusetts State Archives, Boston, the copy owned by Victor Slocum, which contains later minor pencilled emendations by the author, not given here. Another was reprinted in Walter Teller's Slocum collection. The fourth, recently discovered, is described in this file courtesy of William Strauss.
Voyage of the Destroyer
New York to Brazil
FROM the quiet cabin of my home on the Spray, the reminiscence of a war.
Frankly it was with a thrill of delight that I joined the service of Brazil to lend a hand to the legal government of a people in whose country I had spent happy days; and where moreover I found lasting friends who will join me now in a grin over peacock sailors playing man-o-war.
Brazil has indeed sailors of her own, but to find them one must go down to the barcassa and the jangada where the born son of Neptune lives. In his unassuming and lowly condition, a true child of the sea.
To these friends let me tell now, who have come from the war, the story of the voyage of the famous Destroyer: the first ship of the strong right arm of future Brazil.
VOYAGE OF THE "DESTROYER"
TO sail the Destroyer from New York to Brazil in the northern winter months was not promising of great ease or comfort--but what of that! I, for one, undertook the contract of the novel adventure myself, with its boding hardships and risks which soon were met face to face. Twelve brave fellows--better sailors I shall never see--casting their lot with me in the voyage were willing also to accept whatever fate might have in store for them, hoping,--always, for the best. Curiously enough the fatalistic number of the crew (thirteen) was not thought of before sailing. Every one was looking for good omen. Some of the older sailors made a search for rats, but not even the sign of a mouse could be found. Still no one backed out--times were hard ashore!
A young man to fight the ship, in case of being "attacked by pirates" on the coast of Brazil, came from a recent class of Naval Cadets of Annapolis. With sufficient confidence in his theory, this young man came early, bringing plans of the fight along with him, if there should be any, for he was bound to begin right.
Also a nobleman, who came principally as Count, engaged himself to be with us. The position of "specialist" was spoken of as his, but that was by the way. The Count was a good judge of an hotel.
There came, too, I should not forget it, a young officer of the British Royal Marine Artillery, who became in time a feature of the crew. This young man had accumulated handsome gold bands for his caps, which he frequently lost in the sea, upon the voyage,--caps and all. The sword, which by merit he had won, was of enormous size. This sword and a heavy Colt's revolver, which he wore night and day, gave my young officer, I must say--for a little man--a formidable appearance. The prodigious sword, I recall, "won by valor at the Soudan," and "presented by Her Gracious Majesty, the Queen," had the American eagle stamped upon its blade. This was the famous sword, which buckled on over a dashing red coat, secured for him the position of third gunner's mate to the Count, Mr. W----, a gentleman of influence procuring him the place upon first sight of this rig and the cut of his sails, for it must be borne in mind that we are to make a strong warlike appearance when we come to Brazil, if not before.
Of all these awe inspiring weapons, my old sailors made due note. Well, this young man came also, but taking passage along with the fighting Captain and the Count on the steamer that towed us he was always three hundred fathoms ahead, except in the ports we touched on the voyage, and again came together to recount deeds of valor and trophies won; my sailors always standing in awe of sword or gun; being, too, always touched at the sight of the unmistakable bird spreading its wings over the Queen's gift.
My own position on the ship: of "navigator in command," was hardly less important than those above mentioned. Being a man of a peaceful turn of mind, however, no fighting was expected of me, except in the battle with the elements, which should begin at Sandy Hook. So on the 7th of December, 1893, after devious adventures in the getting ready, we sailed for Brazil, in tow of the Santuit, of Boston, and began our fight early in the voyage.
The most noteworthy of the adventures spoken of in "the getting ready" was the destruction of a stout projecting pier, which apparently stood in the Destroyer's way, on leaving the Erie basin. It was plain to be seen then that she could do the work well for which she was designed and named: A destroyer not of piers however. But, shades of Ericsson,--ship or pier! She could evidently knock them all down!
I was not in command at the time: better than that, the fighting captain was--But didn't the splinters fly! I thought of the poor "pirates" on the coast of Brazil and pitied them if, by their misguiding star, they should fall athwart the Destroyer, in her fighting mood.
It was six in the morning when we tripped anchor from Robins' reef, stowed all and proceeded down the bay.
The clear breath of heaven came free to every sailor on board and a voice that I knew hailed: "The ship is all your own." We were free unshackled from the land.
The Destroyer towed smoothly and steadily enough; and gliding along by the channel buoys she marked a fair rate of speed.
Off Sandy Hook, and clear of the shoals, the tow was stopped, that we might readjust the thimble in the towline, a sharp point having pressed against the rope threatened to cut it off. This thing, though small in itself, was the beginning of a series of mishaps that came soon enough. My sailors on the beak of the bow with tackle, crowbar and sledge-hammer fixed up the defective thimble, as far as a job of the kind could be remedied. The sailors wondering what longshoremen would do, if they hadn't old tars to finish their work at sea! I mention these things now for the guidance of sailors hereafter.t
The propellor at this point was disconnected, it having been decided to use steam only for the pumps and the whistle. A code of signals was arranged between the two vessels: Rockets and lights for the night: the Universal Code of Flags for the day, and the steam whistle for day or night, making a complete arrangement in all. Nothing was left undone by the agents in New York, looking to the safety of the ship and the completion of the voyage. Having been many years out of commission she got a great overhauling--on paper.
Her lockers bespoke in that department, the highest class of a seaworthy condition.
Long after when we were all under water and could get no fire to burn, one of the stokers, cloyed of good things, damned his fate that he should ever have to breakfast on cold roast turkey and cold chicken. I shall come upon this low wretch again on the voyage.
The crazy thimble being repaired, all seemed well and the Destroyer was again headed on her course.
The wind was from West to Nor'west, blowing a moderate breeze. The sea was smooth. The ship making good headway, skirted the coast with the land close aboard as far South as Winter Quarter Shoal; whence taking her departure she headed boldly away for the Gulf Stream.
At 6 A.M., Dec. 8th, the light on the shoal was visible a-beam. The latitude at noon was 37 degrees 03' N. Longitude at noon was 75 degrees 05' W.
Distance run in 28 hours 220 miles.
The wind has veered to the N.N.E. The sea is not so smooth as it was. The ship behaves well, however, all things considered, though occasionally now she rolls down low in the water and takes short cuts clean through the waves. Steam is up, it has been kept up since we left New York.
The steam pumps are at work--the vessel is making water. A calamity has overtaken us. The ship's top seams are opening and one of the new sponsons, the starboard one, is already waterlogged.
All hands are pumping and bailing to keep the ship afloat, but the water gains steadily, and by midnight, it is washing the fires and putting them out. Steam must be kept up, else we go down.
The sea is rough! What can we do?
Rounds of fat pork are heaped upon the struggling fires. Hard bread smeared with fish oil is hurled into the furnace by the barrel, and all available light stuff, as well, that will burn on the top of dead coals, such as tables and chairs, is thrown on the fire. There is no longer any draft, the rising water has cut the draft off. But the pork, and the bread and oil, and our furniture after a while--a long while it seems--makes a joyful fire that sends steam flying into the tubes and pipes to lend us its giant strength. Danger signals of rockets and blue-lights have been shown through the night.
The Santuit responded promptly to all of our signals, and handled the Destroyer with great care, on her part, in the rough sea. The storm continued through the 9th. But with energy taxed to the utmost, we gain mastery over the sea, and the water in the hold is so reduced by daylight, that coals may burn again on the grates. A number of holes and leaks have been found through which the water has been streaming all night. We caulk some of them with cotton waste, and plug others with pine wood.
We signal the tug boat to go ahead, that we are "all right." We are out of the first danger!
A stout canvas bag is made now, one that will hold a barrel of water. A derrick at the hatch is also rigged for a hoisting purchase. Hardly is this done, when sorely needed. All night long, (Saturday), this bag is hoisted and emptied by eight pairs of strong arms. The rest of the people on board are driving the steam pumps, and repairing defective valves and making new ones, all as fast as they can. The cook, throughout the storm, prepares warm coffee for all hands. There are no idlers around these days of storm and toil. The steam pumps after a while are working again all right; then a long pull and a strong pull at the big canvas bucket along with the pump for a matter of four hours more, without a rest, and the ship has free bilges once more.
December 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th are days like those just gone, and ones to come of incessant care, anxiety and toil. The sea runs more regularly, though, as we proceed southward, nearing the regions of the trade winds, which is at least some respite. And although destined to disappointment when we shall actually meet them, the all expected fine weather of the "trades" stands before all on board as a beacon of hope. No energy is spared to "reach the trades."
The water in the hold is kept down from one to three feet. Occasionally a rolling suck is gained, which in our joy of it, we call free bilge. Great quantities of water goes over the ship. She washes heavily, still, going often under the seas, like a great duck, fond of diving. Everything is wet. There is not a dry place in the entire ship! We are most literally sailing under the sea.
The Destroyer comes out of the storm today (13th), decked from the top of smokestack to bottom of the lifelines in Saragossa weeds or flowers. All along the man-ropes fore and aft, are hanging in clusters, these flowers of the sea: a rare and beautiful sight!
The good Swede, Ericsson, whom we all know, conceived the Destroyer, a ship to turn navies topsy turvy. This, the first one of the kind, was intended for harbor defense and to remain on the coast at home. It was a Yankee, so I believe, who guessed that she could be taken to another hemisphere: and here we are well on the way with her, already "across the Gulf," the great bugbear of the voyage. All of her seagoing qualities are tested, we know what they are. The Destroyer laughs at the storm, hut her sailors cry "shame, shame" on some folk now snug ashore. The solvent sea leaves nothing undone in its work, and Neptune abhors a skim. Putty and paint put in the seams I don't know when, or by whom, washes out like clay, and poor clay at that.
December 13th comes in with storm and cross sea.
The fires are threatened by water again up to the bars. Pumping and bailing goes on together again all night. The tug upon our signal slows down and heads to the sea, that we may again free the ship of water and plug up more leaks, which we search for now as keenly as one would look for precious gems.
Later in the day, the sea goes down somewhat. The tropical storm was short. Coal and water, under great difficulties, were procured from the Santuit to-day. Also some carbolic acid is procured, with which to wash a dangerous wound. Assistant Engineer Hamilton, an oldish man, becoming exhausted in the storm last night, fell backwards down the engine room hatch, receiving a fearful gash clean across his bald pate which had to be herring-boned together. The wound was dressed, and Hamilton, made easy, was stowed away till further comforts could be given.
One Thomas Brennan, the stoker, who complained of roast turkey in the storm, mentioned before, showing frequent signs of mutiny, refused to mind the fires, as directed by Hamilton, his watch officer, before the accident. Brennan kicked Hamilton, when no one was by to interfere, then jumping upon the old man, bit him on the face like a wild beast. My sailors are exceptionally good seamen; up to the standard of manliness in many ways. If the sea could be rid of all such brutes as this Brennan, good sailors would be happy. His case will be attended to later on.
December 14th, the ship is heading for Mona Passage, no great distance away.
The trade winds are very strong and a heavy cross sea is encountered as we near the Windward Capes of Tahita. Twenty miles N.W. of Mona Passage, the rudder is disabled. We can put it but two spokes to port, and but half of its proper angle to starboard. With this much, however, she is kept fairly in the wake of the tow-boat; both ships steering excellently well.
December 15th, early in the forenoon, the Destroyer has entered and is passing through Mona Passage. In the afternoon, she hauled to under the lee of the S.W. point of Porto Rico, to receive more coal and water from our supply ship, the Santuit. Thence proceeding instantly to sea, she headed direct for Martinique. Now, if the trade winds were strong outside, they are fierce in the Caribbean Sea. The waves are sharp and fierce in here, where times out of mind, we have all seen it so smooth.
Wet to the bone before, our hope is dampened now! body and soul is soaked in the sea! But there's no help for it, we all know--for nearly all on board are sailors--and if the Destroyer won't go over the seas, go under them she may. All hands will pump her out and hold on, for go to Brazil she shall; nearly all have decided on that, so far as human skill can decide. To encourage this sentiment, and see that the tow-line is always well fast and secure is largely the duty of the "navigating officer" of the good ship Destroyer.
A pump brake more often than the sextant is in his hand, and instead of taking lunar and stellar observations in the higher art of nautical astronomy, he has to acknowledge that the more important part in this case, is of searching out leaks and repairing the defects. To work a lunar distance is one thing, but to free a leaky ship and keep her so in a gale of wind, is quite another thing--it is well at times to have a knowledge of all these fine sciences and arts.
This night, the sea is rough and dangerous. The storm is wild and bad. The port sponson, as well as the starboard one is now waterlogged. He was a clever man who designed those sponsons and saw them constructed in such a manner that both of them didn't fill up together.
The crew have all they can do to keep the ship afloat to-night. The water puts our fires out. All we can do, we can't keep the water down; all hands bailing for life.
The main hull of the Destroyer is already a foot under water, and going on down. The crew have not seen the thing as I have looked upon it to-night, all they have seen is hard work and salt water. Not like driven cattle, do they work either, but as stout, loyal men. The owner of the Destroyer, seeing that she would not insure, will reward these men handsomely (?) for their excessive exertions in keeping her afloat at all. She could not be insured for the voyage; nor would any company insure a life on board.
Well, I left her going down, a foot under water. Believe me, the Destroyer, to-night, was just about ready to make her last dive under the sea, to go down deeper than ever before. The tank that we lived in on deck, was all that buoyed her up; the base of this, too, was well submerged when "Big Alec" of Salem said, "Captain, steam in the man is going down, too; we can't keep up much longer." But the storm was breaking away, and the first streaks of dawn appeared to cheer every soul aboard. With a wild yell the men flew to their work, with redoubled energy and wrought like demons.
This saved the Destroyer, and probably our own lives, too, for it is doubtful if a small boat could have lived in the storm, for it was still raging high.
The Santuit has seen our signals of distress, and is standing by as near as it is prudent to come in the gale. Twice in the night, I was washed from the wheel, and I usually hold a pretty good grip. Dizziness, from a constant pelting sea made me reel sometimes for a moment. To clear my senses and make sure that the voyage was a fact, and that the iron tank on which we were driving through the waves had in reality a bottom to it somewhere under the sea, was all that I could do and reason out.
The storm goes down by daylight, as suddenly as it came up in the night. And we get in under the lee of a small island for shelter and rest--Ye Gods--a rest!
It was the Island of Caja de Muerties, adjacent to Puerto Rico, which gave us this comfort. Here we cast anchor at 9 A.M. and lay till 8 P.M. of the same day, (December 16th,) when propitious appearances in the heavens, we sailed again on the, now, somewhat irksome voyage. But "the Windward Islands will soon be gained," we all said, and "to the south of them, the trades we know, will be fine." And so the expedition went on, heading now for Martinique.
At Caja de Muerties, the Santuit's crew lent a liberal hand to straighten things up on board after the hard pumping and bailing. Colonel Burt, himself, on the Santuit, in command of the expedition gave ample signs of his appreciation of the merits of a good crew. The ship had free bilges before she cast anchor at the island.
There is but little to say of the rest of the voyage through the Caribbean Sea. The ship is taking a circuitous route, the sooner to gain the lee of the islands. Proceeding under low speed, and changing her course from time to time, to accommodate the ship to the run of the sea, she goes hopefully on.
December 18th, the best steam pump is broken beyond the possibility of repair on board. Nothing, except new, will take the place of the broken parts. But happily enough, the sea has gone down and we suffer but little now from leakage. The kind influence of the islands is with us this time in our need, and we'll soon be in smoother water still. So the ship goes now full speed ahead, with no rough sea to hinder.
December 19th, at daylight in the morning, the islands of Guadaloupe Maria Galante--(God preserve the name), and Dominique, are all in sight. The sea is smooth and the trades regular. The Destroyer is heading direct for Martinique, she raises the island soon, and at 4 P.M. of this day, came to anchor at port St. Pierre--in a leaky condition!
Here at St. Pierre, we met the America, as was anticipated. The stoker, Brennan, the kicker and biter, was transferred to that ship, where his mutinous conduct could be conveniently restrained in a "brig," which she rated. I own, here, that I was ugly enough to ask it as a favor: that instead of roast turkey and chicken, he should have bread and water, for a day or two, with not too much bread in it.
Poor old Hamilton was still in a very sore condition. He, too, was transferred to the America, where there was a good hospital in which to lay up and a very excellent doctor to mend his broken head.
One of the America's engineers took Hamilton's place on the Destroyer. And Sir Charles, the hero of the Soudan, coming from the Santuit, before we leave Martinique, makes our number again thirteen.
Why is Sturgis towing always the ship of the thirteen crew? We have no use now for number thirteen, the ship's work being better than it was and why did he cast anchor first at the Island of Caja de Muerties? A cold thrill runs through me now, as I ask the question concerning that king of two-boat men and his compact engineer, Mr. Brown, whom we all thought would be hard to kill, even in war. "Yellow Jack," alas! will answer my question in Rio.
I glance at the page of my manuscript just filled with the thoughts as they came without other shape, and I see that it bears the number thirteen, which was written there before I had thought at all of what I would say.
A small matter, sometimes, sets the greatest of you all to thinking; this "thirteen" comes back to me now, like an echo from over the sea. But it's all right! I suppose I am entranced with emotion. I must put up my nervous pen, else I'll be sentimental here in the small, still hours on the Spray.
At daylight this morning, to resume my small task and finish the story, or the "yarn" you may call it, I open a book for the word Noronha. Staring me in the face, is a letter to "Capt. Sturges, S.S. Santuit," which I wrote and did not send, here among the pages concerning Fernando de Noronha.
The atmosphere of the whole voyage is around me still. So I turn the matter away for the day to resume other work on my sloop, the Spray--some sailorizing on my light and airy craft--I may finish the voyage to-night.
Evening on the Spray, brings me back to the days on the Destroyer: The old year was escorted out and the new year ushered in at Fort de France Bay, by my sailors in a glorification ashore becoming the importance of the timely occasion. William, one of the smartest of the crew, came aboard from the hospital, some days later, minus a piece of his liver, which quiet John, the fireman, snipped off with a jack-knife in an argument over a bottle.
Now, John, you wouldn't think to see him, the drudge at work, would say bali to a goose. But on a New Year it was different. There was no arrest made.
A policeman brought aboard a sheath-knife that was found at the scene of the fray, merely with the request that "when the crew went ashore again they would leave their knives behind." This reasonable suggestion was strictly respected.
All of our stores were resorted at the Island, dried and repacked.
Moving to Fort de France Bay, December 21st, repairs were made there till January 5th, 1894, on which date the Destroyer again sailed, at early daylight.
Our condition at sea we find is better than it was. The Destroyer goes with some degree of safety now, benefited, to be sure, by her late repairs. The trade winds are still blowing very strong, and although towing in the teeth of the wind, the ship is kept free and handled in all respects without the wear and tear on a man's soul that was suffered in the early part of the voyage. But that, now, is neither here nor there. The procession has passed!
Mr. Mondonca, minister from Brazil, assured us sailors before leaving New York that all the sea south of the "Gulf" would be "like a lake"--We found it so! But what lake, I'll never tell!
Our company of thirteen, I have said, was made good at Martinique. One of the number now is Sir Charles, the "hero of Soudan." Sir Charles is not only in the expedition, but is one of us on the Destroyer, to pass the Rubicon in her, now that she has crossed the Gulf. Previous to this his sailing had always been in large ships, therefore he could not, for a long time, be reconcile' to the poetical motion of the Destroyer of lesser dimensions.
Sir Charles was, however, a stern disciplinarian.
Numberless were the duels he would have fought on the Santuit. But for the want of gentlemanly principles, no one accepted his challenges--not even the nigger cook, to whom he gave choice of weapons. This sanguinary spirit spurting from the third gunner's mate on the voyage, what will be the state of the Destroyer's decks? I ask myself, when the gunner himself appears and the fighting captain takes charge.
But the cook, seizing the frying-pan in his black fist, against all the rules of dueling, don't cher know, chased Sir Charles around the deck. That wasn't all; the nigger having gained on Sir Charles sufficiently to reach him, he thought, let fly the blooming pan, but hit something hard. Instead of Sir Charles's head, the steam winch caught the blow, and of course the pan broke into a thousand pieces. It was a bad blow for Sir Charles all the same. Capt. Sturges hearing of the mishap--he was bound to hear of it--it was the Santuit's slapjack pan that was broken, and hearing of Sir Charles's thirst for blood, called him to the bridge for an interview, which could be heard all over the harbor, to the effect that "any more such work on the Santuit, sir, and I'll make shark bait of your d----d carcass, d'ye hear? Now, go forward."
Sir Charles h'went!
Colonel B----, with a twinkle of humor, transferred Sir Charles then to the Destroyer--"to stand by the captain."
Now the crew of the Destroyer having had, I may say, a pretty salt time of it, were ready and willing for anything fresh. The hero of "many bases" dropped into the vacancy like one born for the place.
But what a fighter he was, to be sure! A duel on the Destroyer bless you, came to a focus in no time. No one up to the present had thought of personal combat--hadn't found time to even think of a quarrel. But now ten paces were marked off on the Destroyer's deck, and had not Sir Charles's friend and countryman, Wildgoose, the engineer, extracted all the bullets from the revolvers, some one on board might have been hurt! I know it is a sin for me to grin over the reminiscence of an enthusiast heading for war; but one may be chief mourner at a funeral itself and be obliged to laugh.
The chap was a good rifle shot, there was no doubt about that. He was known to have emptied a magazine of bullets into the body of a dead shark one day at the anchorage. It was a very large monster, but Mr. Brown, the Santuit's engineer, had already shot the brute through the head, killing him instantly. Nevertheless, our third gunner's mate blazed away, putting every shot that he fired near one centre close abaft the fin by a method of quick action with the trigger and lever which he called "pumping." "If this shark were only Mello!" I thought. This feat led, naturally, to a rehearsal of exploits at the Soudan, which we had not heard of before. Oh, no; It was the "Bedouin scouts that came for us one morning, swinging in on their tall war camels, and I just took aim with my rapid firing gun and pumped the riders out of their saddles, one, two, three, just like that, Sir." This, in fact, was told confidentially to me with a coolness to indicate that it was nothing to "pump" a man.
For the admonition of sailors and sea bathers, generally, I say, put no faith in the yarn about harmless sharks. They are always liable to be about coral reefs and around ships--and they are always hungry.
The shark about which I was telling; one of the largest that I ever saw, in the place, too, where even some natives declared there were none, came near making a dinner off one of our crew. Mr. Kuhn, one of the engineers, was in bathing. I had just advised him to come aboard: that if "John Shark" should chance to sample him sticking plaster would never make him whole again. But, "Oh, there is no sharks," he said, and the American Consul, who was aboard, said there were none in the bay. When up comes this monster, with a bound through the water, right before us; as much as to say, "What do you think of me then, if there are no sharks?" and he struck a bee line for Mr. Kuhn, who, fortunately, was near the ship. It was going to be a close shave, however. The shark, as he darted forward for his would-be victim, lashed the sea with his tail like a pleased tiger.
Then Mr. Brown, the cool engineer of the Santuit, snatching his rifle with haste, took aim, holding the range till the monster, rising to make a grand lunge and clean sweep, fired. The ball passing through the shark's head, decided the moment. The brute shot past his mark, with closed jaws and lay lifeless on the water, a target, as I said, for the gunner's mate, who "pumped" the carcass so full of lead that it sank before it could be secured--any way it went down.
Mr. Kuhn proved himself to be a pretty fast swimmer, when he finally concluded to take my advice and come aboard, and being reminded of it by a twenty foot shark close upon his heels. Being an athletic young man, it didn't take him long to get in over the side, without the aid even of a step-ladder.
Mr. Kuhn, I may say in a word, landed on deck like a flying-fish in a gale of wind, and not a moment too soon. It was a day for sharks. Three more of the same species as the one just slain, not less, I should say, than 18 feet long each, now appeared not far from the vessel. They were apparently fighting over a greasy board some ten inches broad by four or five feet long, which had been thrown over from the galley. Pretty soon the board disappeared and didn't show up again. A butter firkin was then thrown over. It drifted about 100 yards away, when it was seized in the huge open jaws of a hungry white shark and went the way of the board. Never a splinter of either came again to the surface of the water.
Whether the board was swallowed whole, or first sawed or ground into smaller lumber, nobody knows. It is only fair to state, however, that it was a soft pine board. The firkin is no matter. The likes of that, or a deck-bucket or two, it is well known, is mere dessert to a shark, if he is a big one.
There was no need of further cautioning the crew to keep out of the water. After the above occurrence one could hardly persuade the cook, otherwise a brave man, to draw a bucket of it over the side; and some of the older hands, never yet daunted by even sea-serpent or whale, abstained from water now more than ever before. The monsters, I confess, gave us all a turn.
Jan. 18th the Destroyer arrived at Fernando de Noronha where all hands were busied, for the day, taking in coals and water again from the Santuit. A very heavy surf on prevented all communication with the shore except by signals and afterwards by dispatches that were brought to us out through the breakers by convicts of the place, in one-man canoes which they skillfully managed. The occupants having no wish, apparently, to end the term of their conviction, which they told us ranged yet ten years ahead of them. Ten years of their lives had already been put in on the windward side of the island. They rejoiced now on the lee side where for the first half of their penal term they might not come, so I was told.
I observed a multitude of people, convicts and guards, on the shore, making efforts to launch a great raft (the governor's "barge" I suppose) which they did not entirely succeed in floating. The heavy breakers on the shore defied all their strength and skill, tossing the cumbersome raft back to land as often as it dipped in the sea. But the nimble canoes--mere cockle shells--came out and went in all right.
Fifty convicts had landed on the island the day before our arrival (President Peixoto's political prisoners) . There were, I dare say, senators and congressmen in the busy crowd of workers to-day trying to launch the raft which, like their own thwarted schemes, poor fellows, they could not float. For sinning politicians, even, life on the island met the ends of justice, considering ten years of it on the rugged side, under the constant roar of breakers.
It was about 8 A.M., when the Destroyer arrived at Fernando de Noronha. At 7 P.M. of the same day, she sailed with orders for Pernambuco, where she arrived without further incident of note, Jan. 20th 9 A.M. Later in the morning, a pilot with harbor tug brought her into the inner harbor, where she was moored to the Receife, which finishes the worst part of the hardest voyage that I ever made, without any exception at all.
My voyage home from Brazil in the canoe Liberdade, with my family for crew and companions, some years ago, although a much longer voyage was not of the same irksome nature.
Let no one run down the Liberdade of sailing fame. Her voyage, to me, was poetry, herself a poem. Such however was not expected of the terrifying Destroyer even from the beginning, and no one was disappointed but all were delighted to find her at last in port.
At Pernambuco, we fell in with the loyal fleet of the Brazilian Navy. Passing under the lee of the Nictheroy, the crew of that noble ship gave the Destroyer three rousing cheers. My old friend, Captain Baker, was on deck, as usual. The America and several other small ships were in the inner harbor. And what? my old friend, the Falcon, one of New Bedford's most worthy whaleships, which I last saw dismantled and aground at Fairhaven, and out of service: As like as two serving mallets, it is the old Falcon or Noah's Ark. Again, how mistaken: It is Admiral Goncalves' flagship, the Paranahyba, sure! I see cannon bristling from her sides, and gold-braided officers all about. Yes, it is the Admiral's ship.
My nautical skill is again brought into service at Pernambuco. What a thing it is to be "Navigating Officer in command." Together with the engineers, I am again mending and repairing, for which purpose the ship is grounded on the bank near the Arsenal. A few rivets about the bows having been sheared, consequent upon towing in the heavy seaway, was this time the cause of the leak. One tide sufficed for all the time necessary to repair below the waterline. When about to haul her off the following tide, a boat came from the Arsenal with orders to remain a day longer on the bank, that the work might be regularly inspected. It being a day of festa, the ship, even in war time, had to wait over.
On the following day duly appointed officers came, and the work that the engineers and I did in about an hour's time, was in the course of two days "regularly inspected," then, of course, it kept the water out.
I should explain that Sunday is not so much thought of by our Brazilian friends, but all of the fast days are religiously kept, and every thing they can lay their hands upon as well, over there.
The next thing in order was to fire the submarine gun.
A thousand pities it was that the gun itself was not in order. The Count and "specialist" wrote, from his hotel, a polite note to Admiral Duarte, begging the Admiral to witness the coming exploit with the cannon. There were several other Admirals about, but for special reasons Duarte had the Count's sympathy, so he invited him to come to the show. The note was written in the politest of French, but the Admiral didn't come--and tell it not to the Marines--the gun didn't go off! Worse than that, the Destroyer that was by this time tight and comfortable, had now to be put on the bank again, in order to unload the projectile from the cannon, since it wouldn't discharge by fire. This so strained the ship--a swell setting in that rolled her heavily against the bank, that she became leaky again. Though not a severe leak it was still discouraging. The only trouble about the whole affair with the gun was that the powder got wet.
But it was now hurrah for the war, boys, get a cargo of powder in and be off, ship and cargo was supposed to go against the arch rebel, Mello, who would have been "Liberator" of Brazil, but for the other man. Peixoto was bound to be "Liberator" himself. There was no time now to be lost! But wait! I'll tell all about that, too, pretty soon.
The Destroyer is carrying powder now for the whole fleet, which burnt all they had saluting the admiral on the way to Bahia in his old ark.
These ships preceded us by a few days; ostensibly, in haste, for Rio, but Mello not being ready to leave just then, the "attack" was postponed. It being untimely, however, to come back for more powder, it was shipped along to them on the Destroyer. The dear old craft had in already gun-cotton and dynamite enough to make a noise, but Goncalves wanted more thunder of his own old-fashioned sort, so we filled her chock-a-block with the stuff to make it. The submarine cannon was all stowed over with barrels of powder and was not get-atable at all the rest of the voyage to Bahia. In fact powder was all about. Three barrels of it found stowage in the Captain's room. The fourth one we couldn't get in. It was stowed back of the galley. That it didn't all blow up is how I am here to-day--thinking of my sins.
Well, in due course the stuff was all delivered in good order to the various ships in Bahia, for which the Destroyer was heartily maligned by all the Naval Officers, except the Minister of Marine, whom I judged to be with the legal government. Goncalves, the Admiral, was himself so enraged that he "romped" my "trata" at once. It was a portion of this same cargo of powder, which, forwarded on to Rio soon afterwards, was laid in the mine to blow up the Aquideban--and was fired after the great battleship got by and comfortably out of the way of it.
When I began the "voyage," I had no thought of writing a history of the whole war. Unconsciously I am drawn a distance beyond my first intent by the facts afloat of great achievements.
Horrors of war! how, when a lad, I shuddered at your name. I was in my ninth year, hired out on a farm when the thrilling news came to our township of a probable religious war. The four little churches bounding our small world, had always been in a light warfare, but now the Catholics were coming.
My employer, the good farmer, I shall never forget, armed his farm hands and his family with pitchforks, scythes, reaping hooks and the like--to do or die! There was great excitement. My own weapon was a hatchet, but that is no matter. The enemy came upon us, as it were, before we got our courage "screwed up to the sticking point." The rumpus began in the hen house, adjoining the kitchen: a heavy roost fell, and the de-il was to pay among the chickens. "The enemy! the enemy!! was the cry; the Pope's men have come sure enough!!! Where upon my employer, with laudable discretion, flinging open his doors, made haste to welcome the invaders. "Gentlemen," he cried, "come in, I have always been of opinion with you. Come in, gentlemen, and make yourselves at home in my house." When lo! it appeared there wasn't a man of any kind to come in. An old warrior cock, with bedraggled feathers, strutted in, however, and said "tooka-rio-rooa," or something to that effect, and the dear little chickens were all put back to roost--all except a few which next day went into the soup, and the war was finished.
But that, so far as I know, had nothing to do with this cruel war in Brazil. Nor can I say that history, in this case, repeats itself. The association is with me in the chain of my own thoughts and feelings. In those days, when I followed the peaceful pursuit of the plough, or rather a harrow it was, which towed by the old gray mare, that I navigated over the fields, already ploughed, and followed at three dollars a month. I say I shuddered then at the thoughts of war. But now I find myself deliberately putting my hand to documents which in those days nothing could have induced me to sign. At this time of life, after being towed under amid over a large portion of two oceans, I sign articles of war! And notwithstanding my well-known peaceful disposition, I am expected to fight--in gold braid--to say nothing of the halibut-knife as long as my arm to dangle about the heels of my number elevens.
I observed on board of the Admiral's ship several young officers towing their swords well behind on the deck, thus obviating the danger, to the wearer, of being tripped up by the wicked blade. In the face of all the well known dangers I join the navy. Confidentially: I was burning to get a rake at Mello and his Aquideban. He it was, who in that ship expelled my bark, the Aquidneck, from lIha Grand some years ago, under the cowardly pretext that we might have sickness on board. But that story has been told. I was burning to let him know and palpably feel that this time I had in dynamite instead of hay. It would have been, maybe, too great a joke.
The motives of war: two men strive to be "liberators" of Brazil, another is ambitious to give her "a new republic"--charging brokerage for the same--others again are ready to fight for mere lucre. My own frailty I have already confessed.
I had by me still the very best of the good crew, which had followed the fortunes of the Destroyer all the way from New York. The Yarrow torpedo boat Moxoto, perfect in her construction and in perfect order, was added to our expedition. We were ready now to sail against anything afloat; but had yet to meet and pass, if we might, the fleet of the black bean eaters under Goncalves; not open foes, but lukewarm friends of greater danger, which, as I have said, preceded us to Bahia, burning their powder on the way, saluting the Admiral.
February 9th, 1894, the Destroyer sailed for Bahia, accompanied by the Moxoto, the handy torpedo boat.
On the 13th she arrived at the destination, Everything was funeral quietness at Bahia. The doughty Goncalves I saw often, passing to and fro, always to the music of a band. A captain of my grade, and foreigner at that, don't get any music in Brazil. All else was quiet and serene. The occasional pop of a champagne cork, at the "Paris" on the hill, might have been heard, but that was all, except again the sunset gun. The rising sun had to take care of itself. The average Brazilian Naval man is an amphibious being, spending his time about equally between hotel and harbor, and is never dangerous.
I was astonished at the quietness of Bahia, there was not even target practice. Indeed the further we got away from stirring New York, the less it looked like war in Brazil. There was to be torpedo practice one day. A Howell torpedo was launched, but boomerang like it returned hitting the ship from which it was hurled. The only thing lacking to have made it a howling success was the dynamite, which these remarkable warriors forgot to put in. On the following day Goncalves, being in a bad humor, seized our ships and then under the pretext of making ready to move the world, nullified the great Ericsson cannon, which alone would have settled the business of the revolt. He rendered it as useless as the "busted" gun at Bunker Hill. Appearances were, now, that Goncalves would do himself all that should be done. And that, to be sure, is not saying much--to which he made a fair beginning.
Goncalves and his officers, I grieve to say, reviled the Destroyer, not only, I was told, for bringing the powder so quickly upon their heels, cutting thus into their quiet in port and hastening them on to the front, but for still greater reasons as well. As it proved, however, there was no danger in meeting the enemy, nor any cause of alarm. Goncalves, it is well known, was fitted out with peaceful, harmless people in his ships; Meilo's outfit was the same. Both sides as harmless as jay birds! Why should they kill each other? That the Destroyer, then, most formidable ship of all, must in some way be disposed of, went without saying. When first she came to Bahia though, and it was reported that this was the long hoped "money ship" to follow the fleet--and pay the bills--the large iron "tank" in which the crew lived fitting in size their expectations of the chest out of which they would all get rich. Many visitors came to see her and called her a very handsome ship, saying many pretty things concerning "her lines," etc. But when to their great disappointment, instead of bank notes teeming forth, they beheld sea-begrimmed tars tumbling out of the "tank," and worse still barrels of gunpowder being hoisted out, they said, "Nao maes," we give it up! Their disappointment indeed was considerable, and her fine lines could no longer be seen.
It was proposed by Goncalves and his officers, to dig a hole in the bank, somewhere, and put the Destroyer in it under the mean pretext of putting a patch over the old leak spoken of at Pernambuco--a small matter. The meaning of this was practically the condemnation of the ship.
Robinson Crusoe in the fiction was not in a worse fix than this in which Admiral Goncalves would have himself appear. Starting too from this very Bahia, Crusoe in the course of his wonderful adventures, we all know, found himself obliged to dig his ship out to the sea, else let her rot in land. Exactly opposite, was the dilemma of our modern hero. The Destroyer, Goncalves said, should be dug into the land, else she would sink at sea.
Nothing of the kind! Why not bring the vessel into the small basin already at hand, I suggested, ground her on the smooth bottom and make the repairs. "Oh, no! Oh, no! That couldn't be done," echoed a chorus of voices from officers, all in a plot.
But his Excellency, Mr. Netto, Minister of Marine, friend of the legal Government, seeing my earnestness and good faith, when I told him that I stood only on the order said, "Bring her in." In she came!
The ship was now all the Admiral's. He had romped my contract, made by the Commander of the forces at Pernambuco, with the advice of the Inspector of the Marine; which was to go against the rebel fleet, and sink them all, if we could find them--big and little--for a handsome sum of gold, considering the danger, for each one that we should destroy--I would have commenced on the small ones, to be sure.
I began to think of the little farm, which so many years ago I promised myself. I say now, I could almost hear the potatoes growing--but not quite. As the question of docking in the basin, approved of by the Minister, was a matter of small warfare between he and his officers, who one and all wished to have the hole dug, and to put her in it, I exerted myself to please His Excellency on the Government side. I had great success that day. The leak was found and repaired before I slept that night, and before daylight the Destroyer rode at her anchor again in the bay, as tight as a cup. So in the morning, when the officers of the Arsenal came down to the Basin to inspect the work, the vessel wasn't there. Mr. Netto took my hand very warmly whenever after this I chanced to meet him alone. I could readily perceive the Minister's position to be a delicate one indeed.
The Destroyer was mended and afloat, and barring some slight repairs needed to her machinery, was in far better condition than she was when leaving New York. Had the voyage extended around the globe, a ship to be proud of would have been the ultimate result. To have sailed her first to the land of boiler-makers wouldn't have been amiss.
Goncalves, however, had one more open chance. He would have made a dozen chances to consummate his plan. It was with great interest that I watched the progress of the whole business, and noted the methods employed to the end that the Destroyer herself should be destroyed. The great pneumatic gun on the other ship I heard nothing about. That I believe was fixed and made harmless early in the "preparations." The Ericsson "cannon" was the gun to be dreaded now. At New York detectives were put on to keep folk away from the Ericsson gun; but here at Bahia it was impossible to get anybody to go near it. A plan was studied to somehow put it out of the way. "Should that once double on us like the Howell torpedo," they said, "it would be worse than the yellow fever around here," and "we must get it out of the way." So on the 28th Feb., 1894, having discharged the sailors and having filled their places with bean-eaters from the fields and the mountains, and having found a captain unfamiliar with the ways of a ship, (a thing by the way not so hard to find) Goncalves sent the ship to sea, he did, with this outfit on board. She was gone only 24 hours, however, and returned with all hands ahoy! flat on deck, seasick and afraid. The Captain--it would be impolite to call sick--lost his appetite and prayed to be thrown overside early in this memorable adventure, which will live in record side by side with the history of the war. The Destroyer had proved too much for the greenhorns--they couldn't lose her.
There was, however, one man, a soldier, on board who would have run the engineer through for deserting his post. This man (the soldier) was afterwards thrown in jail, I heard, and, for aught I know, was shot. The Captain, even in his own misery, saved the engineer's life. He said, "Let us each die a natural death. Let us all die friends on deck, since there is no one to help us into the sea, and let us have no more war." Goncalves thought he knew what he was about, when he put that crew on board, but he did not count on the latent strength of the Destroyer. On leaving, she at once collided with the stout steamer that towed her from and back into Bahia, and still was not wrecked, in fact, she was but slightly damaged. She was towed with a short steel hawser and no one was at the helm to guide her in the going or in the coming, for there wasn't a soul on board that could steer. She sheered wildly over the ocean. The hawser would have incontinently carried away the bows of a less substantial vessel, but the Destroyer of many storms withstood the hard usage.
The day was calm or nearly so, and the sea was smooth; else indeed the ship would have been foundered--with all of those young souls on board! I watched her from the top of the hill going. From the same place the next evening I was rejoiced to see her safely return.
Her best pump was landed before she went out. I saw it at the Arsenal under a tree; her anchors, however, they left on board. She was not pumped from the time she sailed 'till she arrived back into port for reasons already stated. The ballast which would have trimmed the vessel well, was also taken ashore at the same time and same place, with the pump, and was never brought back on board. So the Destroyer went by the head, for the want of balance, which caused her to sheer worse than ever. But for all that the other steamship failed to sink her. So the Destroyer came back.
And so after triumphantly breasting the winter waves of the North Atlantic Ocean, the Destroyer changed her crew, to give up the fight in a summer sea.
I wish I were able to give a better account of the warriors that I met in Brazil, and especially of the sailors(?) who shipped on the Destroyer, in lieu of the men who sailed her from New York. But this true account, not always flattering, I know, will be endorsed by every honest Brazilian of whichever side, and will, I am sure, greatly assist the future historian. My own position in the voyage forbids me to say more.
Concerning the last days of my worthy old ship, there is little more to say. The upland navigators at the Arsenal at Bahia, having observed the New York crew put the Destroyer in the basin and out again with dispatch, undertook, like some tropical quadrupeds, to do the "trick" themselves. Whether from pure cussedness or not this time, I can't say, but they stove a great hole in her bottom, having grounded her on a rock, "accidentally," they said.
Alas! for all our hardships and perils! The latest account that I heard said that the Destroyer lay undone in the basin. The tide ebbing and flowing through her broken hull--a rendezvous for eels and crawfish--and now those high and dry sailors say they had a "narrow escape.
The torpedo boat, Moxoto, must not be forgotten. My pen blushes to record it. A crockery-ware clerk was put in command of her, and she was sent on a trial trip among the ships in the bay. Now to the poor clerk and his earthen-ware crew, all this was strange and dangerous, but they cut up high jinks and made things hum in the bay. Everybody was on his guard for awhile, for they had steam up and couldn't stop her--they didn't know how. The Captain hailed a foreign steamer and shouted to the engineer that he would pay 20 mil reis to be stopped. But the engineer couldn't get aboard--he couldn't catch her. She could steam 18 knots and was now at full speed.
The Vice-Admiral's brig, an old craft of many summers at Bahia, came in for the first ram in the collisions that followed. But the Moxoto, not hitting her fair, came off second best in the battle. Then away, always at full speed, she made for brig No. 2 not far away, aground on her own beef bones, and gave her a blow in the quarter that brought the crew, officers and all, on deck in a hurry. Being aground, the danger of a collision had not been thought of. The shock, they at first supposed, came from an earthquake, but that's no matter. It wasn't, and as nothing less could move them to action, they all went below again, like good, loyal warriors where they should do the least harm--if they should do anything at all--and be most out of danger. There were no bullets flying about, to be sure, but the sun was dangerously hot at Bahia. It was, in fact, all the fire there was, to speak of, in the whole war.
Early in March, the rebel navy weakened, if I may use the term in their case, and the Aquideban, after burning much powder to no effect, proceeded from Rio harbor unmolested to sea; leaving open waters for my old friend Goncalves to take up in turn, which he did, and went on with the business of burning powder in greater salutes than ever. The revolt began in Rio, somewhere in September, 1893, the date don't matter much. The funny war so far as the navy was concerned finished of itself in March, 1894. No historian can ever say more.
They may tell of hot firing and hot fires but it was by the heat of the sun, and by that child of filth, yellow fever, that most lives were lost. In this way, I said, some of the members of our own expedition were taken. Were it not indeed for these darker shades, I could now look back with unalloyed pleasure over the voyage of the Destroyer; the voyage of past hardships, now so pleasant to bear. The voyage which gave to the crew, and myself, withal, no end of fun.