A Sailor of King George
by Frederick Hoffman
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In a memorial presented in 1835 to the Lords of the Admiralty, the author of the journals which form this volume details his various services. He joined the Navy in October, 1793, his first ship being H.M.S. Blonde. He was present at the siege of Martinique in 1794, and returned to England the same year in H.M.S. Hannibal with despatches and the colours of Martinique. For a few months the ship was attached to the Channel Fleet, and then suddenly, in 1795, was ordered to the West Indies again. Here he remained until 1802, during which period he was twice attacked by yellow fever.

The author was engaged in upwards of eighteen boat actions, in one of which, at Tiberoon Bay, St. Domingo, he was wounded in the head, and entirely lost the hearing of his left ear.

As first lieutenant of H.M.S. Volage, while attempting to cut out an enemy's vessel laden with tobacco from under the guns of the Moro Castle, St. Jago de Cuba, after a running fight of two hours with three Spanish privateers, he was obliged to surrender, and was carried prisoner to St. Jago, where he remained for six weeks until exchanged. In 1802 he returned to England in the Volage, which was then paid off.

In 1803 he was appointed lieutenant of H.M.S. Minotaur on the Channel Service, but in 1804, in consequence of a very severe attack of rheumatic fever, which completely prostrated him and for several months necessitated the use of crutches, he resigned his post.

On his recovery, in the summer of 1805, he was appointed to H.M.S. Tonnant, and was senior lieutenant of her lower deck quarters in the Battle of Trafalgar, concerning which he gives several new and interesting details. During the battle he was slightly wounded in the left hand.

His next ship was H.M.S. Diamond (to which he was appointed March 8th, 1806), ordered for service on the West Coast of Africa. In 1807 he became commander of the Favourite sloop of war in consequence of the death of her captain, and three months afterwards took the last convoy of slave ships to the West Indies.

In 1808, while in Jamaica, he was attacked by fever, which affected his eyesight, nearly producing blindness; and, on the advice of the doctor at Port Royal Hospital, Admiral Dacres gave him permission to exchange into the Goelan sloop of war, which was shortly afterwards ordered to England with convoy.

In 1810 he was appointed to command the Apelles on the Downs station, and in this capacity he was actively employed until May, 1812, when, during the middle watch, and in a dense fog, the Apelles, with the Skylark, her leader, unfortunately grounded on the French coast, near Etaples, on "the infant ebb of a spring tide." All efforts to float the sloop were vain, and, after being for three hours under the incessant fire of a French battery, which riddled her hull and cut away her masts, and having meanwhile sent away all the crew which the boats were capable of containing, the author and eighteen others were compelled to surrender.

The following is the sentence of the Court Martial held at Portsmouth on the conduct of Captain Hoffman for the loss of H.M. sloop Apelles, Sir George Martin, Bart., President:—

"That there is no blame whatever attached to the conduct of Captain Hoffman; that he is fully and honourably acquitted.

"That great praise is due to him for remaining with his ship.

"That the Court regrets he was under the painful necessity of becoming a prisoner, and that his services were lost to his country for the period of two years."

After reading the sentence Sir G. Martin spoke as follows:—

"Captain Hoffman,—In the name of the Court and myself I present you the sword, which by your conduct you so well merit."

The author spent about two years in France, and during his captivity there did excellent service to his country by opening and superintending a school for the midshipmen who were also prisoners of war at Verdun.

It appears that he wrote these records of his life while residing at Dover in 1838. He evidently intended to have them published, but for some reason or another they have never hitherto been printed.

The Editors, in presenting them to the public more than sixty years after they were originally written, think that they will prove of general interest, not because they lay claim to literary excellence, but because they present a simple, unexaggerated picture of the everyday life in the navy a century ago, and give us an insight into the characters of the men who helped to build up the sea power of Great Britain, and to bring her to her present position of political and commercial greatness.

November, 1901.




My mother consents to my going to sea—Journey to Portsmouth—Join H.M.S. Blonde—Take General Prescott and suite on board—We sail—Supply West Indiamen with provisions and in return impress six seamen—Windbound at Falmouth—Again sail—Attacked by four French frigates, but escape and again make Falmouth—Finally sail for West Indies—Amusements in crossing the Equator.

pp. 1-17



Arrival in West Indies—Cruise among the French Islands—Bombardment and capture of St. Pierre, Dominique—Attack on Fort Bourbon—Capture of Forts—Surrender of General Rochambeau and the French garrison.

pp. 18-29



Sail for England with despatches—A lunar rainbow—A two-tailed fish—Reach Falmouth after passage of fifteen days—To Plymouth to refit—All leave refused—Sailors' frolics ashore—To sea again—Cruise off French coast and Channel Islands—Run aground off Guernsey—Return to Plymouth to repair damages—Rejoin fleet—French fleet escapes into Brest—Return to Plymouth to refit for foreign service—Transhipped to H.M.S. Hannibal—Description of the ship's officers—Tricks played on the Irish chaplain.

pp. 30-45



Join the Channel fleet off Ushant—Capture the French frigate Gentille, also a twenty-four-gun ship five days later—Fleet returns to Portsmouth—Prize-money—To sea again in charge of a convoy—Transport with two hundred Hessian troops on board founders off Cape Finisterre—Suddenly ordered to West Indies—Fight between a negro and a shark at Port Royal, Jamaica—Dignity balls—Collision with H.M.S. Sampson—Outbreak of yellow fever—Ordered to sea—Capture two French ships and two privateers.

pp. 46-56



Owing to ravages of yellow fever go to Jamaica to obtain more seamen—Difficulties and humours of impressment—Author attacked by yellow fever—Proceed to Cape St. Nicholas mole—Great mortality among the officers.

pp. 57-68



Tough yarns—The sea-serpent—The fair-wind sellers of Bremen—Mermen and mermaidens—Capture of Spanish schooner with mulatto laundresses on board—Boat attack on, and capture of the French privateer Salamandre—Outbreak of malignant scurvy—Novel method of treatment—French women dressed as men—A voyage of discovery.

pp. 69-85



A ball on board—Fishing with a seine—Ordered to cruise off Porto Rico—News of the Battle of Camperdown—The boasts of Napoleon—Views on matrimony—A sailor's courtship—Futile boat attack on a Spanish war vessel at St. Domingo—Author loses the hearing of his left ear from effect of a wound.

pp. 86-99



Tea with the boatswain's wife—News of the mutiny at the Nore causes trouble among the sailors—Sent to cruise in consequence—A white squall and waterspout—Capture of a Spanish cruiser—Return to Port Royal—H.M.S. Hermione seized by mutineers and carried to Porto Bello—Recaptured by Captain Hamilton—An alarm caused by fireflies.

pp. 100-113



Transhipped to H.M.S. Queen (98)—Sailors' appreciation of books—The ship runs aground and sinks: with difficulty raised—A mock court-martial on the master—Author made lieutenant with a commission on a twenty-four-gun ship.

pp. 114-125



Requested to act as first lieutenant, but refuses—Description of officers—A fruitless search for a Spanish treasure ship—Run on a coral reef, but float off again—A tropical thunderstorm—A futile attempt to cut out three schooners off Matanzas—Author becomes first lieutenant—Return to Port Royal—The incriminating papers of an American sloop found in a shark—Seize a French ship in ballast off St. Domingo.

pp. 126-138



Visit to a Jamaica plantation—Condition of the slaves—A growl against the House of Commons and the Admiralty—Author attempting to cut out a Spanish zebec, is taken prisoner—His pleasant experiences while in captivity—At last released.

pp. 139-155



Returns to his ship—Capture of a French schooner—An episode with two American sloops of war—Return to Port Royal—Attacked a second time by yellow fever—Seize and burn a Spanish gunboat—Return to Port Royal—Wetting a midshipman's commission—Ordered home with a convoy—Pathetic farewells with mulatto washerwomen.

pp. 156-168



Ordered to the Black River—Meet the magistrate there, and "bow to his bishop"—Sail with a convoy of thirty ships—Arrive at Deal—A cruise on horseback on a baker's nag, which conscientiously goes the bread round—The author's brother comes on board, but he fails to recognise him—Paid off at Deptford.

pp. 169-181



On shore—Tired of inactivity—Apply for a ship—Appointed to H.M.S. Minotaur (74)—Prisoners sent on board as part of crew—Go to Plymouth—Scarcity of seamen—Ruse to impress an Irish farm labourer—Ordered to join the Channel fleet off Ushant—Capture French thirty-six-gun ship—In danger off Ushant—Capture two small French ships and one Dutch one: Author sent to Plymouth in charge of the latter—Placed in quarantine.

pp. 182-198



The ship arrives—Captain's attempt to form a band—Sail again—Attacked by rheumatic fever and invalided ashore—Ordered to join H.M.S. Tonnant—Proceed to Mediterranean—At Oran: experiences ashore.

pp. 199-209



Join Lord Nelson's squadron—Battle of Trafalgar—Author's experiences—Occurrences during action—Severity of operations before the use of anaesthetics—The Tonnant's casualty list—Proceed to Gibraltar—A truce with Spain during horse races on neutral ground there.

pp. 210-221



Return under jury-masts to England—Arrive at Spithead—The admiral, the middy, and the dirk—Join H.M.S. Diamond as first lieutenant—Attached to Lord St. Vincent's fleet off Brest—A change of captains—Weary waiting for an enemy who never came.

pp. 222-233



Ordered on foreign service—Visit Madeira, Cape de Verde, and Goree—Experiences on shore—Sail for Cape Coast Castle—Difficulty of landing—The captain's black lady—Author appointed captain of H.M.S. Favourite—Proceed to Accrah—Sacred alligators.

pp. 234-245



Cruise along West African coast—Dinner with the Danish consul at Cape Coast Castle—Ordered to Sierra Leone—A trip inland—We proceed to the Los Islands—A trip up the River Pongo—Quell disturbance on a slaver—A dinner with a native prince—His presents.

pp. 246-258



Return to Sierra Leone—Dinner party aboard—Sail with convoy of five slave-ships—How the slaves were obtained—Arrive Barbadoes—Sail for Tobago and Trinidad—Visit Pitch Lake—To Jamaica—Cruising off Cuba—Futile attempt on two Spanish privateers—Capture small Spanish privateer—Return to Jamaica—Arrange exchange with captain of home-going ship—A challenge to Spanish corvette declined by the latter.

pp. 259-268



My new ship—Sail for Belize—Native and alligator—Sail for England with convoy of ships—Hear of peace being signed between England and Spain—Arrive in England—Paid off at Sheerness—Return home—Tired of country life—Apply for ship—Appointed to H.M.S. Apelles.

pp. 269-279



Brig sloop sent to watch the French flotilla off Boulogne—Monotonous duty—Return to Sheerness to refit—Story of Billy Culmer—More cruising off Boulogne—Return to England.

pp. 280-289



Leave to return home for four days—Visit of the Duke of Clarence—Again off Boulogne—Down Channel with a convoy—Boulogne once more—Refit at Plymouth—Return Boulogne—Run aground on French coast—Part of crew escape in boats—Author and nineteen men remain on board.

pp. 290-300



Taken prisoner, and removed to Boulogne gaol—Asked to dinner by General Lemaroix—News of Perceval's assassination—Parole refused—Marched to Montreuil-sur-Mer—On to Hesdin; being footsore, Author insists on having a carriage—Drives to Arras.

pp. 301-310



Meet an Englishman—At last put on parole—Dine with Lieutenant Horton—Proceed to Cambray—Relics of Archbishop Fenelon—Meet Captain Otter at Verdun—Prisoners' amusements—Author and Captain Otter establish a school for midshipmen—Author moves into country quarters—Severe censorship of prisoner's letters—Ordered to Blois—Purchase a cart and horses.

pp. 311-320



Horses bolt, and cart upsets—Reach Blois after six days' travelling—Miserable condition of French troops after return from Moscow—Ordered to Gueret on the Creuse—A miserable journey of five days—Poor accommodation—Allowed to move to country quarters at Masignon—An earthquake shock—News of Napoleon's abdication—Start for Paris—Reach Fontainebleau in nine days—Proceed to Paris—Lodgings dear and scarce—State entrance of Louis XVIII. into Paris.

pp. 321-331



Obtain a passport after some difficulty from Prince Metternich—Start for England via Rouen and Havre—Sail to Spithead—Amused at Englishwomen's queer dress—Return to family—Acquitted for loss of H.M.S. Apelles.

pp. 332-334


pp. 335-340






My mother consents to my going to sea—Journey to Portsmouth—Join H.M.S. Blonde—Take General Prescott and suite on board—We sail—Supply West Indiamen with provisions and in return impress six seamen—Windbound at Falmouth—Again sail—Attacked by four French frigates, but escape and again make Falmouth—Finally sail for West Indies—Amusements in crossing the Equator.

One morning sitting with my mother in the drawing room and entreating her to comply with my wish to enter the Navy, she was so intent on listening to my importunities and her patchwork that she did not observe that the cat was running away with her favourite goldfinch; the cat, with the poor bird in its mouth, was near the door, waiting to escape. Seeing what had happened, I immediately ran to the poor little bird's assistance, but, alas! too late, as the cruel animal had torn off one of its wings.

Whilst my mother was feelingly lamenting her favourite's untimely death, and deliberating whether the cat should be given away, the door opened, the culprit escaped, and Captain Elphinstone entered. On his observing my mother's paleness, he requested to know if anything of a serious nature had occurred in the family. "No," replied she, "except the loss of a favourite bird, which I certainly regret, as it was killed by the cat in a most distressing manner, and," added she, "my spirits are not at this moment very good in consequence of my son's wishing to enter the Navy." "The first," said he, "I lament, as it has deprived you of a pet; the latter may in the end be a matter of rejoicing. Who knows but that your son, if he enters that noble service, may turn out a second Hawke." My ears thrilled at his remark.

"Do you really think, Captain Elphinstone," said my mother, with a half-sorrowful countenance, "that it would be to his advantage?" "Most assuredly," replied he, "as I think it very likely war will shortly be declared against that unhappy and distracted France, and he will have a very fair chance of making prize money, and in time will gain his promotion."

"Quit the room a short time, my love," said my mother to me. In about a quarter of an hour, which I thought an hour, I was sent for. Captain Elphinstone had taken his leave. I found my mother still very pale. "I am afraid, dear boy," she began, "that Captain Elphinstone has almost persuaded me against my will. He has spoken of the prospects of the Naval Service in so favourable a manner that I am nearly tempted to let you enter it, and should war unhappily be declared against our unfortunate neighbours, the French, and my friend Captain Markham be appointed to a ship, I believe I must make up my mind to be quite persuaded and let you have your wish." "Thank you, my dear mother," replied I, overjoyed at what I knew nothing about. A short time after this conversation, war was declared against France, or rather France provoked it, and Captain Markham was appointed to the Blonde frigate. My mother instantly wrote to him; his answer was favourable, and he requested her to let me join him as soon as possible. All now was bustle and preparation. My brothers were sent for home, and begged to be allowed to go with me. Poor fellows! they little knew what they asked. In a few days I was fully equipped. I mounted my uniform, and I thought my brothers and the young friends who came to take leave of me appeared to envy me my finery, particularly my dirk, which they examined so often that I began to think they would wear it out. At length the evening arrived for me to quit my dear, happy home. My mother was sensibly affected, my sister looked serious, but my brothers, who were younger than myself—little rogues!—only looked disappointed that they could not go with me. I am sorry to say that my spirits were so buoyant that sorrow did not enter my head.

Captain Elphinstone was kind enough to accompany me to the coach, and on the 12th day of October, 1793,—oh! happy day, at least I thought so—we repaired to the sign of that nondescript bird, the "Swan with Two Necks" in Lad Lane, Cheapside. After taking an affectionate farewell of those who came with me, I stepped into the vehicle of transport with a light foot, a light heart, and, I fear, a light head, as I fancied by the people staring at me that I was the lion of the occasion. When we stopped for supper a gentlemanly person, who sat opposite, asked me what ship I belonged to. I informed him, and he told me he was Captain W., of the 31st Regiment, going to join his division at Portsea, destined for Gibraltar. "It is probable you will not join the frigate for a few days after your arrival," said he, "and if you do not, we have a mess at Portsmouth where I shall be happy to see you." I thanked him warmly for his considerate and kind invitation. I had only one opportunity of dining with him, as he embarked three days after his arrival. About six o'clock in the evening I reached the "Blue Postesses" where the midshipmen put their chestesses and eat their breakfastesses. Next morning, and whilst I was prosing over my breakfast, in walked a midshipman, about twenty years of age, with a face which appeared to have been rolled down Deal beach a dozen times. "Waiter," said he, "have you in the house a young officer lately arrived from Lunnen?" "Ho, ho!" thinks I, "my boy, you are from my country the West, and probably from where it rains upon Dock(1) nine months in the twelve." "Yes, sir," said the waiter, "the young officer is eating his breakfastesses;" saying this he brought him to my box. "Good morning, sir," said he, "I have come on shore to take you on board. Have you all your things ready?" "Yes," said I, "I shall be ready in twenty minutes. Can you spare me that time? But," continued I, "have you breakfasted?—you look rather cold,"—I was afraid to say hungry—"I think a cup of tea will warm you." I then gave him one. "If you will allow me," said he, "I'll put a poker in it." I wondered what he meant. It was soon explained. He called the waiter and told him to bring a glass of rum, which he put into the tea, and, as he thought I should feel the cold going off, he said I had better do the same. As I considered him my superior officer I complied, although the fiery taste of the spirit almost burnt my mouth, which he perceiving smiled, and told me I should soon be used to it. "You will oblige me," said I, "if you will give me a little insight into the characters of the officers of the ship." "Why," said he, "the captain is a tight one, and sometimes in a hurricane I never heard any officer pray so well or so heartily as he does: his prayers, if not heard elsewhere, are certainly heard by all on board, and are generally effective. However," added he, "you will soon be able to judge for yourself. The first lieutenant is one of the old woman's school, an easy and good kind of person, but not fit to be first of an active frigate. The second lieutenant is a regular-built sailor, and knows his duty well, but he is fond of mast-heading the youngsters when they think they do not deserve it. The third lieutenant would be a sailor if he knew how to set about it; he generally begins at the wrong end, and is always making stern way, but," said he, "he almost prays as good a stick as the skipper. As for the other officers, we have not so much to do with them as with those I have described. However," added he, "there is one more—I mean the purser: he is a complete nip-cheese, and as for his steward, he ought to have swung at the fore-yard arm long ago." "There is one more question I have to ask," said I, "which is, what sort of young gentlemen are the midshipmen?" "Why," replied he, "two of what you term young gentlemen are old enough to be your father, but take them in a lump they are not so bad; four of them are about your age, and full of fun and frolic. Now," said he, "it's time to be off." He beckoned to a seaman near the door, who, I found, was the coxswain of the cutter. "Take this officer's chest to the boat." Here the waiter interposed, and said it was customary for the waterman of the "Blue Postesses" to take packages down to the water side. To this I consented, and away we trotted to sally port where the boat was lying. On our arrival at the stairs, I found another midshipman about my own age, who had been left in charge of the boat's crew during the other's absence. He eyed me obliquely; then turning to the elder, "I thought," said he, "you would never come. I have been so bothered during the time you were away by three of the men's confounded trulls, who wanted me to give them a passage off, that every five minutes appeared an hour, and I have only this moment got rid of them." "Never mind, my boy," said the other, "let's shove off."

Passing round a point, going out of the harbour, I observed a gibbet with part of a human skeleton hanging on it. "You are looking at the remains of Jack the painter," said the elder midshipman to me. "Do you know his history?" I answered in the negative. "Why," said he, "that burning rascal set fire to the rope-house in the dockyard about the time you were born, and there the gentleman's bones are rattling to the breeze as a warning to others." The wind was blowing strong, and we were more than an hour before we reached the frigate, which was lying at Spithead. My eyes during that time were fixed on twelve sail of the line ready for sea. As I had never seen a line of battleship, I was much struck with their noble and imposing appearance, and I imagined everybody who served on board them must feel pride in belonging to them. After a severe pull we got alongside as the boatswain and his mates were piping to dinner. I followed the elder midshipman up the side, the other came up after me. On reaching the quarter-deck we made our bows, when I was introduced to the second lieutenant, who had the watch on deck. He asked me some indifferent questions, and sent for one of the master's mates to give orders respecting my hammock. The first lieutenant, an elderly, weather-beaten, gentlemanly looking person, now came on deck. I had a letter for him from my sister's husband-elect, which I gave him. After reading it he asked me how I had left my friends, and before I could answer the question I heard him say to the second lieutenant, "What the devil do they send such delicate boys into the Service to be knocked on the head for?—much better make civilians of them." Then turning to me, "Well, youngster," said he, with a good-humoured smile, "you'll dine in the gun room with us at three o'clock." He then sent for the gunner, and requested him to take me into his mess, who grinned assent. This last was a square, broad-shouldered Welshman, with an open countenance, and of no little consequence. I descended to his cabin, which was under water, and I could, when in it, distinctly hear that element bubbling like a kettle boiling as it ran by the ship's side above our heads. I found this said cabin not too large for three of us, as the surgeon's mate was an inmate as well as myself. Its dimensions were about eight feet by six, and when we were at table the boy who attended us handed everything in we wanted by the door. In a few days I was quite at home with the mids; some of them began spinning tough yarns respecting the hardships of a sea life—what a horrible bore it was to keep night watches, or any watch at all, and you are sure, said one of them, to catch the fever and ague after you have been four hours walking under the draught of the mizzen stay-sail; and, added another, to be mast-headed for three hours with your face to windward by those tyrants, the second and third lieutenants. They both ought to be turned out of the Service for tyranny and oppression, and as to the last he does not know how to put the ship about without the assistance of Hamilton Moore or the old quartermaster. I thought this all very encouraging. I, however, kept my own counsel, and as I did not appear much discomposed by the recital of so many miseries, they considered me a complete Johnny Newcome just caught.

We were now ready for sailing, and only waiting the arrival of a general officer and his suite. The second morning after I joined the frigate a most serious accident occurred which might easily have proved fatal to all on board. In a part called the after cockpit, where, after breakfast, the surgeon examines the sick, a large piece of iron called a loggerhead, well heated, is put into a bucket of tar in order to fumigate it after the sick have left it. On this occasion the tar caught fire. It soon reached the spirit-room hatches, which were underneath, and the powder magazine bulkhead. Unfortunately, without considering the consequences, a few buckets of water were thrown on the flaming tar, which made it spread more. At length the engine was set to work, and beds and blankets from the purser's store-room surcharged with water soon got it under. These last were of the greatest service in smothering the flame, and were more effectual in saving the ship than the engine. The captain and officers behaved nobly on this occasion. I had the honour of conducting the hose of the engine down the hatchway, and was almost stifled by the smoke for my pains. On looking through one of the gunports after the danger was over, I could not help laughing to see two of the women with a rope fastened under their arms and held by their husbands, paddling close to the ship's side, with their clothes rising like large bladders around them. A number of boats on seeing our danger came to our assistance, but they were ordered to lay on their oars at a distance. Providentially we did not require their aid.

On the 2nd of November we received on board General Prescott and his suite, and immediately afterwards got under weigh and made sail with a favourable wind down Channel. We had taken our departure from the Lizard, when, on the same night the wind, which had continued some time from the eastward, changed to the westward, and came on to blow fresh with very hazy weather. A number of West Indiamen passed us; they had been beating about in the chops of the Channel for more than a week. Some of them were in great distress for provisions. We relieved three of them by sending some bags of biscuit and casks of salt beef, and as we were feelingly alive to their situation, we took from their crews six of their seamen. I was much interested in two of these men. They had been absent nearly eighteen months from their wives and families, and were fondly looking forward to a meeting with those for whom they lived and toiled, but, alas! they were doomed to return to that foreign climate they had a few months before left, and from whence it was impossible to know when they would come back.

We kept the sea for two days longer notwithstanding the violence of the westerly gale, in the hope it would not long continue; but finding we were losing ground, we on the third day bore up for Falmouth, where we anchored in the evening and remained windbound four days, during which period we exercised the guns and sails.

On one of these days I went with a party of my shipmates on shore at St. Maw's. Before coming off I bethought me of a pair of shoes, which I had forgotten to procure at Falmouth. I inquired of a boy who passed me where I could find a shop to supply my wants; he informed me the mayor was the best shoemaker in the town. To this worthy magistrate I repaired, who I found very busily employed on a pair of boots. He had spectacles on nose, which feature was not very prominent and of a reddish-blue. I acquainted him with my wish to have a pair of solid, good understanders. Pointing to some shoes, "Good," said he, "young officer, here's a pair will fit you to a T. They were made for Captain H.'s son, but the ship sailed before he could send for them." As they fitted me I bought them. "So I understand," said he, "gentlemen,"—for two of the mids were with me—"you are going to the Indies to make your fortunes." "Are we?" said I, "that is more than we know." "Yes," continued he, "I am sure of it, and in a year's time you will return with your pockets well filled with French money; and I hope," added he, "that if you return to Falmouth you will pay my shop a second visit." I need not inform my reader that the worshipful shoemaking magistrate proved a false prophet. We did return within a twelve-month, and to Falmouth, 'tis true, but nearly as poor as when he told us our fortunes; consequently we did not visit his shop a second time.

As we were the senior officer, and there being several sloops of war and cutters in the harbour, we fired the evening and morning guns. The first evening we fired proved fatal to a pilot and four boatmen, who imagined the firing proceeded from a ship seen standing for the harbour with the loss of her fore top-mast. The night was very dark and tempestuous, and a short time after leaving St. Maw's the boat upset and they were all lost. This was the more distressing as they all left wives and families. The officers among the squadron made a subscription for them, and the mids, although not rich, were not backward. The wind becoming favourable, we on the fifth morning made sail out of the roads and stood down Channel. The same night, which was very dark and squally, we fell in with the Venus frigate, who, before we could answer the private signal, favoured us with a discharge of musketry. Fortunately, it did no other damage than cutting some of the ropes.

On the morning of the second day after leaving Falmouth we saw four ships about five miles distant to the S.W. At first we took them for Indiamen homeward bound. In the expectation of procuring some good seamen we stood towards them. After a short time we discovered them to be French frigates. We immediately altered our course, and made all possible sail to avoid them. On perceiving this they signalled each other and stood after us under a press of sail. The wind was moderate, and had again changed to the westward. The enemy was drawing fast on us. After a chase of five hours the nearest frigate fired her foremost guns at us, which cut away the maintop bowline. We returned their fire with our stern chasers. As they had neared us so rapidly, we thought it prudent to throw overboard the foreign stores in order to improve our sailing. Two of the enemy's frigates were now within gunshot and the two others nearing us fast. We had almost despaired of escaping, when fortunately one of our shot brought down the advanced frigate's fore topsail yard, and we soon found we were leaving her. The second yawed, and gave us a broadside; only two of her shot took effect by striking near the fore channels. Her yaw saved us, as we gained on her considerably. The wind had become light, which still further favoured us. We were now nearing our own coast, and towards sunset the enemy had given up the chase and hauled off to the S.W. The wind veering to the northward, we altered our course to the westward; but, singular to say, at daylight next morning we found ourselves about six miles from the same vessels, who, directly they perceived us, made all sail towards us. We tacked and stood again for Falmouth, where we anchored that evening and remained three days to complete our stores. We once more made sail for our destination, which I now found was the West Indies, without meeting further obstacle. As we neared the tropic those who had crossed it were anticipating the fun; others were kept in ignorance until Neptune came on board, which he did with one of his wives. It was my morning watch, when the frigate was hailed and desired to heave to, which was done. The cooper, a black man, personated the sea-god. His head was graced with a large wig and beard made of tarred oakum. His shoulders and waist were adorned by thrumbed mats; on his feet were a pair of Greenland snow-shoes. In his right hand he held the grains (an instrument something resembling a trident, and used for striking fish). He was seated on a match tub placed on a grating, with his wife, a young topman, alongside of him. Her head-dress consisted of a white flowing wig made of oakum, with a green turban; on her shoulders was an ample yellow shawl; her petticoat was red bunting; on her feet were sandals made from the green hide of a bullock. In her right hand she held a harpoon; her cheeks were thickly smeared with red ochre.

After being drawn round the decks three times in order to astonish those confined below by the noise and bustle it made, Neptune introduced his young bride to the captain, and informed him he was in mourning for his last wife, pointing to his skin. "What occasioned her death?" inquired the captain. "She," replied the sea-god, "died of a violent influenza she caught on the banks of Newfoundland nursing her last child in a thick fog, and," added he, "I intend next month blockading the coast of Shetland in order to compel the mermaids to give up one of their young women whom I hired three months ago to suckle my last infant, since the death of its mother." He then requested to know if there were any new arrivals from his favourite island, England. The captain informed him there were several, and as some of them were rather delicate, with very little beard, he hoped his barber would not shave them too close. One of the midshipmen was then brought up blindfolded. Neptune asked him how he had left his mamma, that he must refuse biscuit when he could have soft tommy (white bread), that he should lower his main-top gallant sail to a pretty girl, and make a stern board from an ugly one. After being taken to the sea-god's wife, who embraced him most cordially, leaving no small proportion of the ochre on his cheeks, he was desired to be seated, and was led to the narrow plank placed over a very large tub of water. The barber then began his operations with grease and tar, and as the mid did not admire the roughness of the razor, he began to be a little restive, when over he went into the tub, where he floundered for some short time. He was drawn out, the bandage removed from his eyes, and he appeared not a little surprised to see so many grotesque figures around him. He soon recovered himself and entered into the fun which followed.

All the others came up one at a time and went through the same ceremony. Some were inclined not to submit to Neptune's directions. This only made matters worse for them, as the more they struggled the oftener they were plunged into the tub of water. After about two hours' amusement the decks were dried, everything in order, and all hands at breakfast. I could not help laughing at one of the lieutenants of Marines who, to avoid getting wet, had placed himself on the forecastle to enjoy the pastime without partaking in it. One of the mids who had been ducked determined he should not escape, and had a couple of buckets filled with water on the gangway, ready to throw on him when he quitted his post, which he did when he saw the tub removed from the quarter-deck. As the youngster wished, he went along the main-deck, when, as he passed, over his shoulders went the first bucket of water; he unfortunately lifted his head to see who threw it, when over went the other right in his face and breast, so that he was as completely drenched as if he had been ducked. Unluckily, he had on his red coat, which was completely spoiled; salt water is a bitter enemy to red cloth, as it turns it black. A few days afterwards we caught several dolphins and a shark seventeen feet in length. We were obliged to fire seven pistol balls into its head to kill it before we could get it on board. It was cut up and put into pickle for those who chose to eat it. There was a beautiful fish, striped alternately black and yellow, swimming under it. The sailors called it a pilot-fish, and they informed me that sharks are very seldom without one or two, and that they appear to direct them where to go; this last must be mere conjecture. The pilot-fish is generally about a foot long, and in shape like a mullet.



Arrival in West Indies—Cruise among the French islands—Bombardment and capture of St. Pierre, Dominique—Attack on Bourbon—Capture of forts—Surrender of General Rochambeau and the French garrison.

After a pleasant passage of thirty-four days we anchored in Carlisle Bay, Barbadoes. Two days after our arrival I had permission to go on shore with the gunner, who had been here before. I found the town not very extensive. The houses are built much in the same style as those at Kingston, in Jamaica, except that they have more garden ground. The streets are very sandy, but they are ornamented with a profusion of cocoa, plantain and banana trees, which afford a partial shade. It appeared to me that most of the people who inhabited Bridge Town maintained themselves by washing clothes. The women are well made and very indolent. The men are sufficiently conceited but active. I procured here a quantity of very pretty small sea-shells. They assort them very tastefully in cases, and for about two dollars you may purchase a tolerable collection. The natives of this island pride themselves on not being creoles, that is not being of the Caribbean race, although it assuredly is one of the Caribbean Islands. If you are unfortunate enough to speak in favour of any of the other West Indian Islands in their presence, they immediately exclaim, "Me tankey my God dat I needer Crab nor Creole, but true Barbadeen born." They drawl out their words most horribly. I happened one day to hear two of the dignity ladies of Bridge Town, as black as ink, returning the salutations of the morning. The first began by drawling out, "How you do dis maurning. I hope you berry well, m-a-a-m, but I tink you look a little p-a-a-le." The other answered, "I tank you body, I hab berry b-a-a-d niete (night), but I better dis mording, I tank you, m-a-a-m." This island is famed for its noyeau, guava jelly, candied fruits—particularly the pine-apple, which is put on table in glass cases—and its potted flying-fish, which I thought equal in flavour to potted pilchards. Were I to make this assertion at Mevagissey I fear I should stand but little chance of being invited to dine off star gazy pie(2); but for fear my reader should be from that neighbourhood, I beg him to understand that I do not think them better, but, in my individual opinion, as good. After remaining among these true Barbadian-born drawlers about ten days, we left them, and made sail for St. Pierre Dominique, where we anchored two days after. The manners and customs of the people at this island were totally different to those in vogue in Barbadoes; all, with the exception of a few, spoke creole French.

This island is mountainous, but not very picturesque. It produces sugar which undergoes the process of being clayed—that is, after a great part of the molasses has been drained from it, it is put into forms made of clay, which extract the remaining moisture; it then becomes a beautiful straw colour; it is exported in cases. Coffee also grows here, but not of the finest quality. We also saw abundance of different fruits. The purser purchased several tons of yams for the use of the ship's crew, some of which weighed upwards of twenty pounds each. We bought for our mess some sweet potatoes, plantains, bananas, shaddocks, forbidden fruit, and limes. There were groves of oranges, but we had not time to visit them. We saw in the market melons, guavas, sour-sops, alligator-pears, love-apples and mangoes. I remarked that oxen were the only animals used for burthen. I did not see a single horse. The streets of the town of St. Pierre are not laid out with much regularity, nor are the houses well built. I thought it an ugly town; it is, however, ornamented with a number of cocoanut-trees, some of which are forty and fifty feet high.

The general officer we brought from England and his suite left us at this place. The object of his visit was to raise a mongrel regiment for the purpose of acting against the French islands, as a fleet with troops from England was daily expected to effect their capture. We remained here a few days, and afterwards amused ourselves by cruising off the islands of Martinique, Guadaloupe, St. Lucie and Marie Galante, but were not fortunate enough to effect any captures. We repaired a second time to St. Pierre roads and received on board two companies of mongrels to transport to Barbadoes. We wished them, and sometimes ourselves, in heaven. All the mids thought it a great pity that we had not fallen in with a first-class French frigate. We might have walked on board of her, said they, in such fine style. There were several women with the troops, some of whom had children at the breast. I pitied them, and endeavoured to assist them all in my power. For them to stay below was impossible, as we had almost as many soldiers on board as our ship's company, and to keep their children quiet was equally difficult. To effect this they frequently gave them strong rum and water, which threw them into a state of stupor—poor, miserable little beings! After having these suffering people on board for five days we at length, to their relief and our great joy, arrived amongst our drawling—no, creole friends, and the following morning all the redcoats were disembarked. On the second day after our anchoring the expected fleet made its appearance. It consisted of the Boyne, Vice-Admiral Sir J. Jervis, one 70 and two 64-gun ships, several frigates, sloops of war, bomb-ships, and transports with troops. We saluted the admiral, which he returned. All now was life and bustle, and in a short time the gun-boats were ready; each man-of-war received two flat boats to tow astern. In the latter end of February, 1794, we finally bid an affecting adieu to our yellow and black legged female friends at Bridge Town, who remained on the shore waving handkerchiefs much whiter than themselves until the fleet cleared the harbour. On making sail, Needham's Fort, which commands the harbour, saluted the admiral, which he returned. The fleet and transports soon cleared the bay, when each ship took her station. It was a majestic sight to see so many vessels with all their canvas spread and swelling to a strong sea-breeze.

The second day we reached Fort Royale Bay, Martinique, in admirable order, and took French leave to let go our anchors out of range of the enemy's shells. The nearest vessels of the fleet had been warmly saluted by Pigeon Island, as they were going in, which, however, we treated with contempt. On the third day after our arrival a frigate with a bomb-ship and three gun-boats engaged it, and three hours afterwards it capitulated. One of the sixty-four-gun ships, some frigates, and a bomb with transports, had gone round to subdue the northern part of the island. We were now all actively employed getting ready the gun and flat-bottomed boats for landing the troops, who were commanded by Lieut.-Gen. Sir C. Gray. The Duke of Kent shortly after arrived with some troops from Halifax. As it was thought advisable to reduce some of the smaller towns before the attack on Fort Royale, we were ordered with one of the sixty-fours, two frigates, the bomb-ship and some gun-boats to assault the town of St. Pierre. We gave three cheers in the cockpit on hearing this news. At daylight we weighed, and in the evening entered the bay of St. Pierre; we were ordered to take off the hard knocks from the bomb by anchoring between her and the enemy. About 9 P.M. we all opened our fire as nearly as possible at the same time. It was a most brilliant sight; the bay was literally illuminated. The enemy's batteries began to play with some trifling effect; this added to the splendour of the scene. The night, fortunately for us, was very dark, which made it difficult for them to strike us, as they could but imperfectly discern the object they fired at; this was evident, as they fired immediately after we did. Our shot and shell could not fail every time we fired them, as we had taken the bearings of the principal places when we anchored. The cannonading ceased about 3 A.M., when all the enemy's batteries, except one, struck their colours. This was in a great measure owing to our troops investing the back of the town. At four o'clock the remaining fort, finding the town had surrendered, hauled down the tricoloured flag. The losses on our part were twelve killed and twenty wounded. Those of the enemy must have been considerable.

All the flat-bottomed boats and those belonging to the squadron were ordered to land a number of marines. I was in the first division. We landed about 7 A.M., and were astonished at the mischief our shot and shell had done. The roof of the municipality, or town house, was nearly knocked in. At the time some of the shells fell through it, all the wise men of the town were assembled under its, as they imagined, bomb-proof roof. Two of them were killed and several wounded. The principal church had also suffered, as two sacrilegious shells had penetrated it and fallen near the altar. On entering it we found the models of three frigates. As they had not struck their colours, we did them that favour, and made prizes of them. There were also some pictures of grim-looking saints, which one of the sailors was endeavouring to unhook until another called out, "Let them alone, Jack, they'll only bring you bad luck," on which he desisted. This church was very dirty, and the ceilings of it filled with cobwebs; the priests had taken everything from the altar, as well as from the recesses or small chapels. A party of marines, with some artillerymen, took possession of the forts, and sentinels were stationed over the public buildings, and picquets round the town. Terms of capitulation had been drawn out by the authorities, which, as the town was taken by assault, were not agreed to. All found in arms were considered prisoners of war; everything belonging to the Republic was given up. The citizens were not molested, and allowed to keep their private effects. I was much amused at the genuine sang-froid, or more properly speaking, the French philosophy, of the people who kept the coffee-houses. They moved about as gay as if nothing had happened, everything was regularly paid for, and the most perfect discipline observed.

Having taken on board some of the principal French officers and a party of our troops, we arrived at our former anchorage, Fort Royale Bay, the next morning. Fort Royale, which was of considerable strength, had been bombarded for several days, when it was decided to carry it by storm. On the third day after our anchoring, at 3 A.M., the attack took place. The gun and flat-bottomed boats were covered by the bomb-ships and frigates. A landing was soon effected; the bamboo ladders for two men to mount abreast were placed against the outer bastion of the fort. The soldiers and sailors vied with each other who should mount first. Unfortunately, some of the ladders gave way, and the men were precipitated to the ground; and, what was still more unfortunate, some few fell on the bayonets of those below and were shockingly wounded. In about ten minutes the outer works were carried, and a marine's jacket, for want of other colours, was hoisted on the flagstaff. The enemy retreated to the inner work, but it availed them little. In less than a quarter of an hour they were compelled to give way. Several of them were cut down by the sailors, who had thrown away their pistols after discharging them. Most of them had abandoned their half-pikes before mounting, as they declared they were only in their way, and that they preferred the honest cutlass to any other weapon. The sailors and soldiers behaved well on this occasion; those who did not form the escalade covered those who did by firing incessant volleys of musketry, which brought down those of the enemy who were unwise enough to show their unlucky heads above the parapet. In about twenty minutes the British flags were floating on the flagstaffs, the French officers surrendered their swords, and were sent on board the Boyne. I forgot to mention that an explosion had taken place in one of the magazines of the fort before we entered it, which killed and wounded more than fifty of the enemy. About ninety of the enemy were killed and more than twenty wounded. We had forty-six killed and wounded; among the number were eleven officers. We found in the harbour a frigate of thirty-six guns and a corvette fitted up as a receiving ship for the wounded. Several merchant ships, loading with sugar when we first entered the bay, had relanded their cargoes. The warehouses were more than half filled with sugar, rum and coffee. A party of seamen were immediately employed to load the shipping.

The town had suffered considerably from the shells and shot. Some of the houses were in ruins and the public buildings much damaged, particularly those in the dockyard.

We now encamped before and laid siege to the principal Republican fort, commanded by the French General Rochambeau. It had before been called "Fort Bourbon," and had a garrison of 3,000 men.(3)

We had already taken one of its principal redoubts within gunshot of it and Fort Royale. A party of sailors who had the management of it under a lieutenant and three midshipmen, christened it by a name that would shock ladies' ears. When the enemy's shot fired at them were not too deeply entrenched in the ground, they dug them up and returned them, the middies first writing on them in chalk the names of those quack doctors who sold pills as a remedy for all complaints.

For the first fourteen days we all appeared to enjoy the novelty of our situation, although it was by no means an enviable one, as the shot and shell were flying about us in every direction, and it was no joke to scamper away from a bursting shell just as we had sat down to dinner. Some were almost every day sent to "Kingdom come" sooner than they expected. Our camp on the plain before the enemy's fort was picturesque enough; the officers only had tents or marquees, the sailors and soldiers made the most of their blankets. However, except when the dew fell heavily at night, these were quite sufficient. A few only suffered who were not of the strongest, and they were attacked by a low fever.

We had been before this fortress nearly three weeks, and were impatient to storm it, as what with casualties and the enemy's shot we were losing the number of our mess faster than we liked, and, although our fire had been incessant, we had not been able to effect a breach of any considerable consequence. To give more facility to the operations the Boyne landed some of her guns, and a party of sailors were ordered to draw them up, or rather they volunteered to do so. The guns were placed in an advanced fascine-intrenched battery, made by the pioneers and artillerymen during the night, within half a gun shot of the enemy. In getting them up they were either placed upon field carriages or sledges made out of the trunks of trees. The sailors, who were harnessed by twenties, soon had them in their places, and when they were mounted they gave three hearty cheers, which must have astonished the enemy. The guns soon after opened a most destructive fire on the nearest work, as we could see quantities of the wall fly like showers of hail. During the night we expected a sortie from the fort, and were provided for such an event. A constant fire from all the batteries was kept up all night; the shells were well directed, and an explosion took place in the enemy's fort. At daylight we perceived that the advanced sailors' battery had effected a considerable breach in the fort, and a consultation was held among the superior officers. When over, they acquainted the sailors and soldiers that they were determined to storm it the following night. The three cheers which followed this speech must have been heard for miles. At 10 A.M. we discerned a flag of truce advancing towards our lines, and shortly after a French superior officer with his aide-de-camp requested to speak to the commanding officer. As the enemy had ceased firing, we did the same. The purport of the flag of truce was that General Rochambeau, finding it useless holding out any longer, wished to treat on terms, and requested a cessation of hostilities for twenty-four hours. The following morning the capitulation was arranged. At 10 A.M. the enemy marched out of the fort under arms, with drums beating and their colours flying, when we marched in and soon hoisted the colours of Old England on the flag-staffs. The island was now entirely in our possession. The French garrison marched to Fort Royale, where they grounded their arms in the market-place. Their superior officers were met by the Admiral, Sir C. Gray, and the Duke of Kent, as well as other officers of the Navy and Army. In a few days afterwards they were embarked on board some of the transports and sent to France, the officers on parole, and the men not to serve until regularly exchanged.



Sail for England with despatches—A lunar rainbow—A two-tailed fish—Reach Falmouth after passage of fifteen days—To Plymouth to refit—All leave refused—Sailors' frolics ashore—To sea again—Cruise off French coast and Channel Islands—Run aground off Guernsey—Return to Plymouth to repair damages—Rejoin fleet—French fleet escapes into Brest—Return to Plymouth to refit for foreign service—Transhipped to H.M.S. Hannibal—Description of the ship's officers—Tricks played on the Irish chaplain.

On the 14th of April, 1794, we were ordered to receive on board a superior officer of the Navy and Army with the despatches for England, also several wounded officers and the colours taken from the forts and churches. In the evening we saluted the admiral and left the bay for England.

On our passage, during a middle watch, I beheld a splendid and most perfect lunar rainbow. It extended from the stern of the frigate to some considerable distance. These bows are generally more distinct than the solar, owing to the glare of light not being so great.

We were followed for some days by a fish with two regular tails. It was about three feet long, of a bluish colour, and shaped like a salmon. We endeavoured by every possible stratagem to take it, but it was either too shy or too cunning to be caught. Fifteen days after quitting Martinique we anchored at Falmouth. The officers in charge of the despatches left the ship to proceed to London.

After having taken on board water and refreshments we repaired to Plymouth, ran into Hamoaze, lashed alongside a receiving hulk, unrigged and got the guns and stores out, and were afterwards taken into dock to have the copper cleaned and repaired.

Now, reader, I hope you will not think me unreasonable when I make known to you that I wished to see my mother, but I might as well have asked for a captain's commission. The time was too precious, and we were of too much use to be spared to see our mammas, so the second lieutenant said, and that was a sufficient damper. He had his wife in snug lodgings at Dock; he neither felt for us nor our mammas, so one of the youngsters remarked.

Whilst the frigate is refitting, I will describe some of our sailors' frolics on shore. Returning one afternoon from Plymouth, I met two hackney coaches driving very rapidly. The first of them contained one of our boatswain's mates and the coxswain of the launch with their delicate ladies. On the roof was another of our men playing the fiddle. I expected to see him fall off every moment, but, like a true sailor, he had learnt to hold fast. The second coach contained the men's hats and their ladies' bonnets. As they were not allowed to go farther than Plymouth, they had been driving from Dock to that place and back again for the last two hours. On their coming on board they brought with them the sign of Whittington's cat, which belonged to the public-house in North Corner Street, where they had dined. They gave the landlord fourteen shillings for it, and two days after gave it to him back for nothing. On another occasion twelve of them took six coaches, into which they stowed with their ladies, to drive backwards and forwards from Plymouth to Dock six times. The sternmost to pay for a dinner, of which the whole were to partake, each kept bribing the coachman to go faster; the consequence was that the money they gave for this task amounted to more than the hire of the vehicles. When they made their appearance on board they were decorated with shawls tied round them like scarfs, and three of them had portraits of their females as large as an ordinary picture fastened round their necks with a piece of a bell rope.

I prithee, reader, censure them not too harshly. Sailors possess shades like other men; but when you reflect that they are on board their ships for months in an open sea, exposed to all weather, privation, and hardship, which they bear with philosophic patience, you will agree with most people and admit that they deserve indulgence when they get on shore; but you may wish for their sakes that they knew the value of money better. You cannot change the Ethiopian's skin without boiling him in pitch, which you know is a dangerous experiment. Sailors seldom arrive at the age of reflection until they are past the meridian of life, and when it is almost too late to lay by anything considerable to make them comfortable in their old age.

I have known a boatswain's mate who a few months after he had joined the ship received about twenty pounds. One of his messmates asked him to lend him a few shillings. "That I will, my hearty," was his generous reply; "here's a fist full for you. Pay me a fist full when you are able." The master at arms who observed the action desired the borrower to count it; it amounted to twenty-nine shillings.

The frigate now came out of dock and warped alongside the hulk, and in five days she was ready for sea. On the seventh day we sailed to cruise off Cherbourg, and to join a squadron of frigates under Captain Saumerez. The enemy had three large class frigates fitting out at Havre de Grace and two others at Cherbourg. Our squadron consisted of five frigates and a lugger.

At this period, 1794, Cherbourg, although a strong place, was nearly an open roadstead, and we frequently stood in so close as to oblige the outer vessels at anchor to run farther in.

Having cruised along the French coast for five weeks watching the progress of the enemy's frigates, which appeared very slow, we, in carrying sail after a small vessel, sprung our fore and mizzen top-masts, and were ordered to Guernsey, where we shortly after anchored in Castle Cornet roads. Whilst we remained here some of the mids and myself had permission to go on shore. After rambling about the town without meeting with any object worth attention, we crossed over to some small, rocky islands, and having two fowling-pieces with us we shot four large rabbits; their hair was very soft and long. The inhabitants, who are neither English nor French, but speak both languages in a corrupt manner, fabricate gloves and socks from the fur of these animals. I bought two pairs of the former, but they did not last long; the hair constantly came out on my clothes, and when once they are wet they become useless.

On the fifth day after quitting the squadron we rejoined them in Cancale Bay. At daylight next morning our signal was made to chase an enemy's lugger in shore. We were gaining rapidly on her when she ran in between some rocks; we then prepared the boats to attack and bring her out, but as we stood in for that purpose we found the water suddenly shoal, and a battery we had not perceived opened its fire on us. We were obliged to haul off, but not before we had fired several shot at both lugger and battery. The latter again fired and knocked away our mizzen top-gallant mast. We bore up and gave it a broadside, and could see pieces of rock near it fly in all directions. The signal was made to recall us, and soon after we rejoined the squadron. For more than two months had we been tantalized by cruising in this monotonous manner, with little hope of the sailing of the frigates we were blockading, when the commodore ordered another frigate, ourselves, and the lugger to Guernsey to refit and procure live bullocks. Having got on board what we wanted, we made sail out of the harbour through the Little Vessel passage; the pilot, thinking the tide higher than it was, bumped the frigate on shore on the rock of that name. She struck violently, but soon floated off as the tide was flooding. On sounding the well we found she was making water rapidly. The pumps were soon at work, but as the leak gained on us, we made the signal of distress and want of assistance. It was soon answered by the frigate and lugger, who came within hail. We requested them to see us as far as Plymouth, as we could not keep the sea in consequence of our mishap. Fortunately the wind was in our favour, and we reached Plymouth Sound in the afternoon, ran into Hamoaze the same evening, lashed alongside a receiving ship and had a party of men to assist at the pumps.

At daylight we got out the guns and the heavy stores, and the ship into dock. On examining her, it was found that part of the main keel and bottom were so much injured that it would be a fortnight before the repairs could be finished. In three weeks we were ready for sea, and were ordered to join a squadron of nine sail of the line, under the command of Rear-Admiral Montague. We sailed with the intention of joining the Channel fleet under Lord Howe, but were much mortified on receiving intelligence from a frigate we spoke that the action between the English and French fleets had taken place on the 1st of June, and that the latter were defeated with considerable loss. In the sanguine hope of meeting with some of the enemy's lame ducks, we made all sail for Brest water. The next morning we saw the Island of Ushant, and soon after eight sail of the enemy's line of battle ships and five large frigates. They were about three leagues on our weather beam. We made all sail in chase of them, but they being so near Brest, and in the wind's eye of us, we only neared them sufficiently to exchange a few shots. In the evening they anchored in Brest roads. On this mortifying occasion there was a grand cockpit meeting, when the middies declared the French were a set of cowardly, sneaking rascals. "Let me," said one of the youngest amongst them, "command a squadron of eight sail of the line against ten of the enemy, I would soon take the gloss off their sides, and show them the way into Portsmouth harbour."

On the afternoon of the following day we fell in with the defeated enemy's fleet which had escaped Lord Howe. They, unfortunately, were to windward of us standing for Brest, but the nearest of them was not more than two leagues distant. We made all possible sail to get between them and the land. Fourteen sail of their effective ships of the line perceiving our intention took their stations between us and their disabled vessels. Towards sunset we exchanged some shot with the nearest without effect.

The night was now setting in with dark, squally weather from the W.S.W., when we reluctantly gave up the chase. I will not shock my reader's ears with what the mids said on this occasion. Suffice it to say, that they offered up their prayers most heartily: in this, they, like obedient young officers, only followed the example of their gallant captain and most of the lieutenants.

Six weeks after remaining with this squadron we were ordered to Plymouth to fit for foreign service. The captain went on shore, and we did not see him until his return from London with a commission in his pocket to command a seventy-four-gun ship, into which, shortly after, we were all turned over. We regretted leaving the frigate, for although she was one of the small class, we were much attached to her. Not one of us mids had ever served in a larger vessel than a frigate. On board this large ship we were for some days puzzled to find out each other, and for the first time in our lives we messed and slept by candle-light. In a few days we received on board four additional lieutenants, six mids, a captain of marines, a chaplain, schoolmaster, and two hundred more men, besides forty marines. As my former messmate, the gunner of the frigate, did not join this ship, I had to find another mess. One of the master's mates asked me if I would join him and six other midshipmen, which I did. Our berth, or the place where we messed, was on the orlop deck, designated by the name of cockpit, where open daylight is almost as unknown as in one of the mines of Cornwall. The mids' farthing candles and the sentinel's dark, dismal, not very clean lanthorn just made a little more than darkness visible. When the biscuits are manned, that is, infested by "bargemen," they may be swallowed in this dark hole by wholesale, as it is next to an impossibility to detect them, except they quit their stow-holes and crawl out, and when they do, which is but seldom, they are made to run a race for a trifling wager. On the home station bargemen are scarcely known; it is only in warm climates where they abound. Another most destructive insect to the biscuit is the weevil, called by the mids purser's l——e.

While walking down Fore Street one morning with one of my messmates we came up with two well-dressed females, when he exclaimed, "By Job! what a well-built little frigate she is to the left! How well she carries her maintop-gallant sail! What a neat counter, and how well formed between the yardarms! I'll heave ahead and have a look at her bow chasers, head rails, and cut heads, for I think I have seen her before somewhere. You," said he to me, "can take the one on the starboard hand." He then let go my arm and shot ahead. He had no sooner done so than the youngest of them exclaimed, "Why, my dear George, is that you?" "Yes," he replied, "my dear Emily, and my dear mother, too; this is, indeed, taking me aback by an agreeable surprise. How long have you been here?" They were his mother and only sister, who had arrived that morning and were going to the Admiral's office to gain information respecting the ship to which he belonged. His mother was a genteel woman, to whom he introduced me; but what shall I say of his sister! She won my heart at first sight. She was a beautiful, delicate girl of about nineteen. Her figure haunted me for months afterwards. They were at the "Fountain," and intended staying there until we sailed. "You will go on with us," said his mother. "Yes," said he, "that I will, my dear mother, but after I have conveyed yourself and my sister to your anchorage I must make all sail I possibly can on board, and ask the first lieutenant for fresh leave. I hope to be with you in about an hour." Having seen them both to the inn, we made our bows and repaired on board. On explaining to the lieutenant his reason for wishing to go again on shore he obtained further leave, put on a fresh set of rigging, jumped into the boat that had brought us off, and was soon in the fond arms of his mother and sister. Shall I say I envied him? No, I did not; I only wished my mother and sister—for I had, like him, only one—were at the "Fountain" and I alongside of them.

In less than a month we were ready for sea, and when we were all a taunto I was proud to belong to such a commanding and majestic-looking vessel. Before sailing, I will indulge my reader with a little sketch of the officers of our noble man-of-war.

The most noble captain I have before described, except that they had given him in the cockpit (he being a very dark-complexioned man) the name of "Black Jack"; his praying propensities seldom quitted him, but, notwithstanding this fault, he had many good qualities. The first lieutenant of the frigate we left had gone to his family. The second, in consequence, had become first. He was a thorough seaman, and carried on the duty with a tight hand. Woe betide the unfortunate mid who was remiss in his duties: the masthead or double watches were sure to be his portion. When the former, he hung out to dry two and sometimes four hours. The mids designated him "The Martinet." The second lieutenant was an elderly man, something of the old school, and not very polished, fond of spinning a tough yarn in the middle watch if the weather was fine, a fidgetty, practical sailor with a kind heart. He informed us he was born on board the Quebec, that his father was gunner of her when she blew up in the action with the French frigate Surveillante, when all on board except fourteen of the crew perished. Among the number saved were his father and himself. The former jumped overboard from the fore-channels with the latter, who was only seven years of age at the time, on his back, and swam to the Frenchman's foremast, which was floating at a short distance, having been shot away by the English frigate. He added that had not this unfortunate accident occurred, the French frigate must have struck her colours in less than ten minutes. He spoke most indignantly of the conduct of an English cutter that was in sight at the time. His nickname was "Old Proser." The third was a gentlemanly person, but more the officer than practical sailor, fond of reading and drawing, and he frequently gave some of us instruction in the latter. He had been in the East India Service, and was a good navigator. We named him "Gentleman Jack." The fourth had been third in the frigate we left. I have already handed him up. His right leg was rather shorter than the left; he was called "Robin Grey." The fifth was a delicate-looking man, fond of dress and the ladies, almost always unwell; he was something of a sailor, but thought it a horrid bore to keep watch. Strange as it may appear, this officer left the ship a few months afterwards, and was made commander, post captain, and retired admiral without serving afloat! We named him "The Adonis."

The sixth was a stout-built regular man-of-war's man, an officer and a sailor, fond of conviviality, of gaming and a stiff glass of grog, but never off his guard. He went by the name of "Tom Bowline." The seventh was as broad as he was long; the cockpitonians dubbed him "Toby Philpot." He was an oddity, and fond of coining new words. He knew the ship had three masts and a sheet anchor. He was a strict disciple of Hamilton Moore, fond of arguing about dip and refraction, particularly the former, as he put it in practice on himself, being sometimes found with his head and heels at an angle of 30 degrees in consequence of dipping his head to too many north-westers. He was, however, good-natured, knew by rule how to put the ship in stays, and sometimes, by misrule, how to put her in irons, which generally brought the captain on deck, who both boxhauled the ship and him by praying most heartily, although indirectly, for blessings on all lubberly actions, and would then turn to the quarter-master and threaten him with a flogging for letting the ship get in irons, poor Toby looking the whole time very sheepish, knowing the harangue was intended for him. The master was a middle-aged, innocent west-countryman, a good sailor, knew all the harbours from Plymouth to the Land's End, and perhaps several others, but he was more of a pilot than a master, and usually conversed about landmarks, church steeples, and crayfish. The surgeon was a clever little dapper man, well-read, shockingly irritable, fond of controversy on ethics, etymology, and giving the blue pill. I need not acquaint my reader he was from York. The purser was the shadow of a man, very regular in his accounts, fond of peach-water, playing the flute, of going on shore, receiving his necessary money and taking all imaginable care of number one. The captain of marines was a soldierly-looking, little, strong-built man, very upright, fond of his bottle of wine, of holding warm arguments with the surgeon, which always ended without either's conviction—sometimes to the annoyance, but more frequently to the amusement of the wardroom, and he always appeared an inch taller when inspecting his corps. In his manner he was always on parade, and he thought it a condescension to notice a mid. The first lieutenant of marines was a tall, slight man, knew the manual by heart, was fond of reading novels, presumed he was a great man among the ladies (question, what sort of ladies?). He was a great puppy, and when he passed the mids he regarded them with an air of patronage, which they returned by a look of sovereign contempt. The second lieutenant of marines was quite a different character. He was as playful as a kitten, and never happier than when skylarking with the mids in the cockpit. He was not a bad soldier, and a promising officer. When at sea he always worked the ship's reckoning for his amusement. The mids, with the exception of three, were fine-looking lads from the ages of fifteen to eighteen, fond of fun and mischief and of their half-pint of rum; were frequently at watch and watch, mast-headed, pooped, and confined to their half-farthing candle-lighted mess-holes. But, notwithstanding all these complicated miseries, they were wicked enough to thrive and grow, and when on shore forgot all their troubles and enjoyed themselves like princes.

The first surgeon's assistant was a tall, slight young man, with his head filled with the Pharmacopoeia, bleeding, blistering and gallipots. We dubbed him "The Village Apothecary," and sometimes "Snipes."

The second assistant was a coarse Scotsman, full of pretension and conceit, who assured us that if any of us should have occasion to have our legs or arms amputated he could do it without any pain. He used to feel our pulses after dinner with ridiculous gravity, and after examining our tongues tell us we should take great care and not eat salt junk too quickly, for it seldom digested well on young stomachs, and, added he with great consequence, "I have a specific for sair heeds if ye ha' any." As he was much pitted with the small-pox, we called him "Doctor Pithead."

With every feeling of reverence to the revered chaplain, I will tread as lightly over him as a middy's clumsy foot encased with boots is capable. Dear man, he came all the way from the Emerald Isle to join our ship, and brought with him an ample supply of pure brogue, which he spoke most beautifully. He was very inoffensive, perfectly innocent, and never ruffled in temper, except when the wicked youngsters played tricks with him while he was composing his sermon. One day he was much alarmed by the following adventure, got up expressly by the mids. Some of these incorrigible fellows, among whom I blush to acknowledge I was one, had laid a train of gunpowder to a devil close to his cabin, whilst they presumed he was very busy writing for their edification. The train was fired from the cockpit hatchway, and soon caught the devil. As soon as the dear, good man saw the sparks, he rushed out of his cabin, crying out, "Oh, shure, byes, the ship's on fire! Och! what shall I do now the ship's on fire? Och! what will I do?" On seeing that he was really alarmed, one of the master's mates went up to him with a comically-serious face, and informed him that the first lieutenant finding, when looking round after breakfast, that there was something which smelt unpleasant in his cabin, had ordered it to be fumigated with a devil, but as he knew it was about the time he composed his sermon, he was unwilling to disturb him, and the devil had in consequence been placed as near his cabin as possible to effect the purpose intended. His reverence was quite bewildered—an unpleasant smell in his cabin, and a devil to drive it away was to him incomprehensible; until the mate requested him to calm himself, and assured him there was no danger, that the devil was perfectly harmless except to unwholesome smells. "There," added he, "is his infernal majesty," for he was ashamed to say devil so often before the chaplain, "nearly exhausted," pointing to the shovel which contained the lump of gunpowder mixed with vinegar. "Now, sir, I hope your alarm has subsided, and that you will not be more disturbed." During this ridiculous scene, worthy of the pencil of Hogarth, the youngsters with their laughing, wicked heads up the hatchway, were enjoying themselves most heartily. The following day was Sunday; prayers were read, but no sermon, as the poor man was too much agitated afterwards to make one, and whenever his messmates thought his sermon too long, they threatened him by a visit from another devil.

The captain, on being informed of this trick, sent for the whole of the mids and admonished them as to their future conduct.



Join the Channel fleet off Ushant—Capture the French frigate Gentille, also a twenty-four-gun ship five days later—Fleet returns to Portsmouth—Prize-money—To sea again in charge of a convoy—Transport with two hundred Hessian troops on board founders off Cape Finisterre—Suddenly ordered to West Indies—Fight between a negro and a shark at Port Royal, Jamaica—Dignity balls—Collision with H.M.S. Sampson—Outbreak of yellow fever—Ordered to sea—Capture two French ships and two privateers.

We were now destined to make one of the Channel fleet, which we joined off the Island of Ushant, consisting of thirty-six sail of the line and seven frigates.

At daylight on the 6th of October, 1794, our signal was made to chase three suspicious vessels in the S.W. On nearing them we made the private signal, which they did not answer. We beat to quarters, and as they were under the same sail as when we first saw them, we neared them fast, and when within gunshot the nearest yawed and gave us a broadside, running up a French ensign, as did the other two. The shot fell short of us; we opened our main-deck guns and brought down her mizzen top-mast. The other two fired from time to time at us with little effect. They did not support their companion as they ought to have done. In a short time we were nearly alongside the one we had engaged, and gave her another broadside which she returned, and struck her colours. She proved the Gentille, of forty-four guns and three hundred and eighty men. The other two, also French frigates of the same size, made all sail to the southwards. The enemy had eight men killed and fifteen wounded; we had four men wounded. We soon exchanged the prisoners; put the second lieutenant, a master's mate, three midshipmen and fifty men on board her, and sent her to Portsmouth. We immediately made sail in chase of the others, but as they had gained a considerable distance from us during the time we were exchanging the prisoners, there was little chance, without a change of wind, of overtaking them. In the middle watch we lost sight of them, and the day after rejoined the fleet. In five days afterwards we were again in chase of a ship, and after a severe tug of fourteen hours we captured her. She proved a French twenty-four-gun ship, with one hundred and sixty-five men. We also sent her into Portsmouth. After having cruised off and on near Ushant for about eight weeks, we were ordered to Portsmouth, where we arrived shortly afterwards and completed our stores for six months. Before sailing we received some prize-money, which produced, from stem to stern, little wisdom, much fun, and more folly. We were again ready for sea, and received orders to repair off Plymouth and join part of the Channel fleet and a convoy consisting of more than two hundred sail, bound to different parts of the world. In a few days we joined the rest of the fleet off Cape Finisterre, where some of the convoy parted company. The day following a most tremendous gale sprung up from the S.W., and in the night a transport with two hundred Hessian troops on board went down on our weather beam. The shrieks of the poor fellows were distinctly heard. As it was impossible to render them any assistance, every soul on board her perished. In the morning the convoy were much dispersed; the gale continuing, they were ordered to leave the fleet for their destinations. After the gale abated the signal was made for our captain. An hour afterwards he came back looking as black as a thundercloud. As soon as he reached the quarter-deck he stamped with rage, and when it had nearly subsided he informed the officers that we were to proceed to the West Indies without delay. This was an unexpected shock to many of the officers as well as himself, as they had left some of their clothes behind; however, there was no remedy for this mishap. As for myself, I anticipated a merry meeting with the many copper-coloured dignity ladies I formerly knew, provided the land-crabs had not feasted on their delicate persons.

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