AFTER promotion came a spell, and one I thoroughly enjoyed, enabling me to see something of my friends and relations. But a time comes in the life, of all sailors and soldiers when they have to choose between giving up their profession and all chances of further advancement, or breaking up a happy home. Some elect the former, but most who do so live to regret it sooner or later. I chose the latter. It was a bitter wrench, but I did right, and with a sorrowful heart I again left the shores of Old England in 1871 to join the Vestal in the West Indies.
This was one of the first experiments of re-commissioning a ship on a foreign station, and, like many others, was a failure. The Vestal had already served four years in the West Indies, and was thoroughly worn out - so much so that the first time we lighted a boiler for condensing purposes it spouted like a watering-pot. On my reporting the circumstance to the Admiral the ship was ordered to England, and we were turned over to the Reindeer, a beautiful little sloop of 1000 tons, ship-rigged, and a smart sailer, besides being able to steam 10 knots; and so at the age of thirty-two I found myself in
command of as bonny a little craft as ever gladdened the eyes of a sailor, and on the 26th August 1871 we sailed for the Pacific.
Of my crew, 175 all told, there was not one of them thirty years of age ; mostly they were about twenty - a smart set of young fellows. In fact, I was the oldest man in the ship except the chief engineer, the doctor, and the blacksmith. We could do anything with our little craft - reef topsails in stays; and when going into Rio harbour, with the sea-breeze, studding-sails both sides, we shortened all sail and made a running moor (a thing never seen nowadays), to the admiration of the foreign men-of-war in the harbour.
In a small ship the captain knows all about his ship's company - their names, ages, and acquirements. The men look to him as a father, and follow his advice with touching simplicity, even changing their religion at his suggestion, and asking his opinion on every subject, sometimes a delicate one. A young fellow came before me to wish to become a Roman Catholic. "For what reason ?" I inquired. "Because my father was one." "Then you cannot do wrong to follow his example," said I, and he was forthwith entered on the books R.C. Another poor fellow came to ask my advice in the following interesting case. When we had been eighteen months from home some kind friend sent him word that his wife had been delivered of twins! and he said his messmates chaffed him about it. Things did seem rather mixed somehow. "Why," I exclaimed, "that's all right ; your messmates are a set of fools. It's only nine months for each child!" He went away perfectly satisfied, saying, "The captain says it's all right!"
A RACE FOR RIO
At Madeira we fell in with a German corvette, the Nymphe, and as she was the same size as the Reindeer, and we were both bound to Rio de Janeiro, we agreed to race to that port, and we beat her by eleven days. We were unfortunately detained at Rio for three weeks on account of a difference between some of our marines and some Brazilian boatmen, resulting in the death of two of the blacks, and I was accused of screening my men, so it was not till the 18th October we were allowed to depart. On the 2nd November we anchored in Port Louis, one of the snug harbours of the Falkland Isles, and the next day proceeded to Port Stanley, the principal harbour and seat of government. After a very pleasant fortnight's stay, during which we enjoyed some capital sport amongst the wildfowl which abound there, we left for Valparaiso via the Straits of Magellan. These straits are now so well known as to need no description. Four days after making the eastern entrance we sighted the Pacific Ocean and entered Smyth's Channel, thereby securing smooth water for 400 miles before taking to the open sea. The scenery in Smyth's Channel is very fine - lofty mountains capped with eternal snow, and glaciers coming down to the water's edge.
Some of the harbours, though small, are very secure; but one night we failed to reach the port we were making for, and being overtaken by darkness, mistook our route and found ourselves in a cul-de-sac surrounded by floating ice. We passed a most anxious night, the ice grinding against the ship's side; and at daylight, whilst running out of the sound, we came into collision with a huge piece
of ice on a level with the water, which brought us up with a violent shock and damaged the stern and detained us somewhat, so that it was not till a week afterwards we reached Valparaiso, where we found orders from the Admiral to proceed to Callao. We had a tame cat on board which used to jump overboard from the gangway after fish heads which were thrown overboard by the native
A Glacier in Smyth’s Channel
fishermen alongside. Having secured the prize, she would swim down to the gangway and mew to be taken on board again. I never heard of such a thing, and would not have believed it if I had not seen the performance many times.
We had been but a few days at Callao when I received a telegram from the Admiralty to return to Rio on account of the murder of the black boatmen, in compliance with which we started on
A REVOLUTION IN PERU.
a long cruise, intending to go round the Horn; but fortunately when three weeks out we sighted the island of Juan Fernandez, and being desirous of visiting the spot associated with the story of ‘Robinson Crusoe,' I dropped anchor in the roads, and there found H.M.S. Scylla, and learnt from the captain that our orders to return to Rio had been countermanded, their Lordships being satisfied with my explanation; so we remained a few days at this lovely island, hunting the wild goats and thoroughly enjoying ourselves. The day before our departure some of our sportsmen accidentally set fire to the brushwood and destroyed a quantity of stacked timber. A claim was made against me for 2000 dollars for the damage done, so I was involved in two suits at the same time, one for being accessory to a murder, and the other for arson, neither of which, however, came to anything.
On the passage to Valparaiso, whither we were now ordered, we sighted the Andes before sunrise at the amazing distance of 180 miles! This is not so astonishing as it appears, when the height of the mountains is considered, some of the peaks being over 20,000 feet high. From Valparaiso we returned to our station at Callao, where we remained till, on the 22nd July 1872, a most serious and bloody revolution broke out without warning. I was on the point of stepping into the train for Lima that evening when a rumour reached me that a revolution had broken out in that city, and that President Balta had been thrown into prison, so I returned on board to wait events. The report proved to be true, the principals engaged in the transaction being General Tomas Gutierrez and his
two brothers, Silvestre and Marceliano. The former proclaimed himself Dictator, and issued a bombastic proclamation, calling upon the citizens, the army, and the navy to support him. In Callao the naval commanders met together and resolved to ignore the Dictator, and the Peruvian fleet left the harbour and anchored off San Lorenzo, out of reach of the batteries at Callao. Gutierrez, having secured the person of the President, endeavoured to induce the principal officers of the army to recognise him as their chief, but to their credit they all declined to do so, and resigned their commissions.
In Callao all remained quiet up to this time, although business was suspended, and the prefect, Don Pedro Balta, a brother of the President, gave up his command, and the soldiers quartered at Callao were relieved by others from Lima, under the command of Silvestre Gutierrez. Some stray shots were fired in the streets of Callao that night, and the captain of the port and other officials sent in their resignation, which did not tend to allay the general excitement. The foreign merchants therefore formed themselves into a guard for the protection of their property. I now offered to all who might seek the protection of the British flag an asylum on board the Reindeer; in response to which many people came on board, amongst them Colonel F. Balta, another brother of the President. Gutierrez, being in want of funds, seized the money in the mint, and threatened several bank managers with imprisonment unless they advanced him all he required : in this way he procured some 300,000 dollars, part of which, however, was never paid.
THE MURDER OF THE PRESIDENT.
On the evening of the 24th July sharp firing commenced in the streets of Callao, the soldiers firing indiscriminately on all they saw: the inhabitants resisted as well as they could, several being killed on both sides during the night. On the 25th the city of Lima was placed under martial law; the rails connecting Lima and Callao were torn up, and all communication between the two cities cut off. Heavy firing continued in Callao during the night, the forts being taken by the soldiers and retaken by the people. Many of the soldiers having deserted, Silvestre rode to Lima for reinforcements, leaving orders to his soldiers to shoot every man, woman, or child they might see, and declaring his intention of returning in a few hours to burn Callao. Happily he was destined never to return to carry out his evil intentions, for being recognised, he was shot in the railway station in Lima. His brother Marcelliano, hearing of the occurrence, determined to wreak his vengeance on the President, and calling the officer of the guard, they proceeded to the prison where Balta was confined. Marcelliano fired his revolver at him as he lay on his couch; the officer of the guard followed his example, and the soldiers completed the work with their bayonets. Having perpetrated this atrocious murder, Marcelliano, escorted by a body of soldiers, returned to Callao, telling his men that they should have one hour for cutting throats and two more for sacking the town. Most providentially the bloodthirsty villain never lived to carry, out his threat, for whilst pointing a gun for the destruction of the town, he was killed by a rifle-ball.
Whilst these events were taking place we were not altogether idle spectators on board the Reindeer. On the evening of the 25th a deputation of gentlemen waited upon me, on behalf of the British residents, and asked me to protect them, as all authority and order were at an end, and the town at the mercy of an armed and lawless mob. I was now placed in a difficult position, for my orders were most positive not on any account to mix myself up with any revolutionary proceedings. On the other hand, I could not look on and see my countrymen, and women and children, being butchered without doing something ; so I returned a civil answer to the gentlemen forming the deputation, and assured them that I would do what I could to assist them. The Pensacola, an American frigate flying a commodore's broad pendant, was lying in the roads, also a French gunboat, so I hoped that between us we might land sufficient men to protect our friends from the brutality of the soldiery. It was now 10 P.M., so I went aboard the Pensacola to see the commodore, being sanguine of success. The commodore had turned in, but I insisted on seeing him, explained the state of affairs, and asked for his co-operation. He flatly declined, saying he had seen a good deal of these revolutions. I said, "Do you intend to stand by and do nothing whilst our countrymen are being slaughtered ashore?" " Well," said he, " I guess they'll have to go." Finding it useless to remain longer, I returned to my ship much disheartened, as I could not land many men from my small ship's company. It was of no use asking help from the French gunboat, as she was a very small vessel
AN ANXIOUS TIME
and had but few men; so, after consulting with my first lieutenant, I landed some picked men, and distributed them in the houses of the principal residents, more to give them a feeling of security than actual force. The men were armed with revolvers, and supplied with signal-rockets, so as to keep up communication with the ship in case further assistance was required. They were instructed to confine themselves strictly to the protection of the houses in which they were lodged, and not to interfere in any way with the contending parties. I passed a most anxious night - anxious for the safety of my friends; also, had any collision ensued between my men and the rabble and any of the former been killed, I should have been court-martialled for direct disobedience of orders, and my commission would have been forfeited. But it was no time to think of that, so I put my instructions away and waited events.
The following morning I landed with my coxswain, carrying a white ensign, and visited several houses of the British residents. Mr M. P. Grace's house was in a very exposed position, and had been pierced with rifle-balls in several places. The guns at the castle were also directed on it. The ladies of the family were naturally much alarmed, and were desirous of going on board the Reindeer ; but whilst making their preparations, sharp firing recommenced, the street in front of the house was raked by rifle-balls, several of which came through the walls and fell into the rooms where we were assembled. We therefore placed the ladies in an inner room for extra security until a temporary lull in the firing enabled us to sally forth, the coxswain
leading with the boat's ensign. After traversing a few streets, we reached my boat and were soon safely on board. On our return to the house some four days afterwards, when peace had been restored, we found that a shell had pierced three walls, and lodged in the very room where the ladies had been placed, wrecking the furniture.
By the death of Marcelliano the safety of Callao was secured and order soon re-established; at the same time news was received of the death of General Tomas Gutierrez in Lima. The bodies of the three brothers were hung up naked from the cathedral towers in Lima, and afterwards cut down and publicly burnt in the Plaza. With this closing scene of the drama the revolution ended as suddenly as it had begun, and Senor Pardo was proclaimed President of the Republic.
Nothing of importance occurred during the remainder of our stay in Callao, and I was pleased to receive the approval of my commander-in-chief, Admiral Farquhar, and subsequently that of the Lords of the Admiralty, for my share in the proceedings, although they did not approve of the landing of my men.
On leaving Callao we were ordered to the coast of Mexico, and when three days out we sighted the Galapagos Islands, lying on the equator, and dropped anchor in Post Office Bay, Charles Island, the southernmost of the group. At daybreak the next morning I started in company with several of the officers and some bluejackets to explore the island. A trail led us up through a desolate region with cinders underfoot interspread with thorny jungle, till at an altitude of 1000 feet we reached
A NIGHT ALARM.
a plateau, and emerged from a wilderness to a beautiful park-like country, with hills and valleys and fine forest trees, rich grass under our feet, and many varieties of fruit-trees and wild-flowers. The temperature also was delightful: in fact we were in a different climate. We at length reached a settlement consisting of two huts, where we met with a cordial welcome from Colonel Zerda, the commandant of the island, whilst a couple of dusky damsels prepared us an excellent repast. In the colonel's garden splendid potatoes, lettuces, maize, bananas, oranges, lemons, coffee, and tobacco flourished in profusion. The colonel told us that there were plenty of wild cattle, pigs, and goats on the island, so after a spell we started off in, search of them, and succeeded in bagging a fine young bull, when we retraced our steps to the ranch, and after a good supper turned in for the night, but had hardly done so when a terrific uproar ensued. It seems that the island was a penal settlement belonging to Ecuador, and some very notorious characters were transported there. One of these rascals came to the ranch during the night with the intention of murdering the colonel, who was luckily on his guard, and seeing the man approaching him knife in hand, he broke his revolver over his head : all six barrels exploded simultaneously, and the man fell, as we supposed, dead. The colonel was swearing in Spanish and the girls screaming. However, order was at length restored, and we turned in again, and were unmolested for the rest of the night.
The next morning we made an early start for the hills, dividing the party, my coxswain accompanying me. Presently we heard the lowing of
cattle in a valley below us, and several shots fired, one ball coming unpleasantly near us, followed by the crashing of timber, as though some beasts were coming our way, so we stepped behind a boulder, when a fine brindled bull appeared not forty yards off: I gave him the first barrel behind the shoulder, which dropped him on his knees; but he was quickly up again, when a second ball crashed through his ribs, rolling him over. I had hardly reloaded when an immense black bull hove in sight and received a ball in the shoulder, dropping him in his tracks. He was followed by two others, at which I fired; but they turned and galloped down the hill, and I lost sight of them. Thinking that both the others were dead, I walked up to where the first was lying, and found him dead. Whilst admiring his proportions, my coxswain suddenly cried out, " Look out, sir, here comes the other ! I turned round just in time, and sure enough there was the black bull that I had wounded charging down upon us not ten yards off: He was a desperate-looking brute, his head down and blood pouring from his nostrils as he charged; but a ball between the eyes at point-blank range stopped him, and he rolled over dead at my feet. We were now joined by the rest of the party : they had also killed a bull in the valley, and there seemed to be considerable diversity of opinion as to who had killed it, one claiming that he had given the coup de grace whilst in the act of charging, whereas the principal wounds were in the stern ! However, we had bagged three bulls before breakfast, which was not so bad.
We remained another day with the colonel,
Charge of the Black Bull
TO THE COAST OF MEXICO
hunting cattle and pig with varied success. We also came across a herd of wild asses, and were told that horses, goats, and domestic fowl ran wild, were to be met with, which I can well believe. We saw none of the terrapin, or land-tortoises, which used to abound on these islands: they appear to have been well-nigh exterminated by the whalers, who killed them for food. We saw numerous iguanas, both land and water specimens, the latter most repulsive-looking reptiles, which took to the water on being disturbed. The colonel and the two-girls escorted us to the boat. On the way down we met with one of the colonel's men, a villainous-looking scoundrel armed with a long knife, the same man who had had the revolver broken over his head. The colonel immediately "went for him," and tried to draw a bead on him with his rifle ; but the man dodged behind the trees, showing great agility. The women began howling, and we sat down and smoked to watch the performance. After considerable theatrical display and a great deal of bad language the parties were reconciled, but the colonel said he should certainly shoot the fellow on the first opportunity. We dined on board, and passed a merry evening; and the next morning, having loaded our kind host with presents in return for his hospitality, among the presents being a revolver and a pair of handcuffs, we weighed anchor, and making sail to a fresh breeze, soon left the island astern.
A smart passage took us to Mazatlan, the principal seaport on the coast of Mexico, where we enjoyed some capital duck-shooting, especially in the early mornings and evenings. On one of these occasions
I was out with an Irish assistant-surgeon: we were waiting for ducks on the borders of a lagoon just before daybreak, when the doctor said he saw an alligator. There certainly was a movement in the water and some object just awash, so the doctor fired. Immediately there was a great commotion, followed by some choice Spanish oaths. It seems an Indian was stalking the ducks, and was creeping along the bottom with only his head above water, his stern just breaking the surface, in which part of his person he received the charge. The doctor had a pressing engagement elsewhere, but he assured me afterwards that as he had only snipe-shot, he didn't think there was much damage done. One day whilst quail-shooting at the back of the town, accompanied by my coxswain, we were surprised by the report of artillery, and a round-shot pitched close to us, followed by a shell which burst in a bush close by, upon which we moved on. It appeared that the Mexican artillerymen were out practising in anticipation of an attack from the rebels, who were said to be in the neighbourhood.
At this time we heard rumours of a probable revolution in the town of Tepic, a place of considerable importance situated fifty-six miles inland from San Blas ; and on receipt of an urgent letter from Mr Heaven, one of the principal residents there, I proceeded in the Reindeer to San Blas, and started immediately for Tepic by mail-coach, taking with me a couple of officers and two bluejackets. It appeared that a notorious chief, named Lousada, who had governed the province for some years, being called on to tender his submission to the President, declined to do so, and prepared to resist.
"THE TIGER OF TEPIC."
This action caused much alarm amongst the residents, who appealed to me for assistance. Tepic being so far from the coast, it was not easy for me to afford it; but the moral support of an English officer coming to stay with them gave great satisfaction to the foreign community, and I spent a very pleasant six weeks in their society as the guest of Messrs Barron, Forbes, & Co., of which house Mr Heaven was the manager.
At the expiration of this time it became necessary for me to return to my ship, as Lousada had declared war against the Government, and announced his intention of marching on Mazatlan with 5000 men, at the same time despatching a force of like number to attack the city of Guadalajara. Under these circumstances it seemed to me that my presence was required at Mazatlan, and I notified the residents at Tepic of my intention of proceeding there. When on the point of sailing for that port, I received a letter, signed by the leading merchants of Tepic, begging me to remain at San Blas, as things had assumed a very threatening aspect in Tepic : the telegraph wires had been cut by orders of Lousada, and his soldiers lined the roads, cutting off all communication with the city. The difficulty now was to oblige both parties, as I could not be in both places at once; so knowing that it would take Lousada's troops six days to reach Mazatlan, I agreed to remain forty-eight hours longer at San Blas. In reply to this I received a letter from Mr Heaven, sent by a circuitous route, to say that he was going to make the attempt to reach San Blas with his wife and family, and that several other families would follow his example.
The next morning on landing I found the customhouse deserted by the employees, and the captain of the port had disappeared, their places being filled by Lousada's officials. Having borrowed a mule, I started on the road to Tepic to meet my friends, and after riding twenty miles I had the pleasure of finding them, and returned with them to San Blas, where they took up their quarters in a house belonging to Mr Barron.
That night, as I was about to retire, Mr Heaven came alongside in a canoe, having been warned by a friendly Indian that Lousada had sent orders from Tepic to arrest him and take him back to that city, with the view of a heavy ransom ; so making him comfortable for the night, I sent an officer and a guard of bluejackets to protect the house, in case the ladies and children should be molested. The next morning, when Lousada's soldiers appeared and demanded Mr Heaven to be given up, they were surprised to find their bird flown and the premises in possession of English seamen well armed and ready for action. On this being reported to me, I landed and interviewed the official who had attempted the arrest: I found him at his office with his secretary! and a more rascally pair of scoundrels it would be difficult to find. They sat together at a table, each grasping a revolver pointing my way, so I told them to turn the barrels away, which they did. I then asked for an explanation as to why an English gentleman and my guest had been so grossly insulted. They replied that they were acting under instructions, and intended to carry them out if they could; so I told them that Mr Heaven was safe on board the Reindeer, and likely to remain there. The same night a
A SUCCESSFUL RUSE
reinforcement of soldiers arrived from Tepic, and we doubled the guard at the house.
Meanwhile my forty-eight hours' grace had nearly expired. During this time many families had left Tepic and arrived at San Blas, to place themselves under the protection of the British flag, so we made preparations to embark these poor people and convey them to Mazatlan. With this object in view I landed on the 25th January, leaving orders for steam to be ready at 2 P.M. On landing, two letters from the before-mentioned official were given me, forbidding me to embark any refugees on board the Reindeer, and coolly requesting me to comply with the demand by orders of Lousada ! The letters were in Spanish, with which I was familiar; but being desirous of gaining time, I pretended not to understand them, and requested the aid of an interpreter. In the meantime I sent word to the first lieutenant to despatch all the boats ashore "manned and armed." The people flocked down to the beach, and whilst I was puzzling over the letters at the captain of the port's office, upwards of one hundred men, women, and children, with all their effects, were embarked. Wishing the officials a fond adieu, I then embarked myself, and soon afterwards the Reindeer was steaming out of harbour bound for Mazatlan. I heard afterwards that the captain of the port considered I had played him a dirty trick.
Fortunately we had a quick and smooth passage. As we had no accommodation for so large a number, the greater part had to remain on deck - no great hardship in that fine climate. We spread sails for them to sleep on, and awnings sloped over them, and with the flags of England and Mexico draped
around, the deck looked very cheerful and home-like. The difficulty of feeding them was got over by rigging a long table on deck, where relays of "square" meals were served, the ladies being accommodated in my cabin. Our reception at Mazatlan was most enthusiastic, and we were in good time, for Lousada's forces had met with a repulse some leagues from the city.
Lousada was soon afterwards defeated and fled to the mountains, where he was betrayed and captured. He was tried by court-martial in Tepic and shot. Thus perished the robber chief of Mexico - the "Tiger of Tepic," as he was appropriately called - one of the most celebrated bandits of the day. For fourteen years he had defied the authorities, eluding the troops sent to capture him, and only leaving his retreat in the mountains to kill and torture with horrible cruelty. His name will ever be associated with the most diabolical outrages and unrelenting brutality to men and women.
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