Obrázky stránek
PDF
ePub

of the changes throughout the year, I believe, amounts to not over 6 degrees of Fahrenheit.

Those welcome papers from the Department at Washington, always so acceptable to the lately arrived officer from sea, giving him permission, for a while, to roam where he please, if it be but within his own country, had arrived ; and my own “leave of absence" now lay beside me. But Dr. Foltz, the gentlemanly Surgeon of the Cumberland, who occupied rooms at the same hotel with me, and was kind in his attentions, together with Dr. Potter, Assistant Surgeon, assured me that it was better to delay my going north for a few days. I did so, keeping my room; but ventured, in a short time, to take the steamer for Baltimore, and thence to my friends in New-York. Among my kindred in the Fifth Avenue I soon found myself, glad to meet them, and glad with the yet more comfortable idea, that if I was destined to yet severer indisposition, it would be where the heart would receive all the blessed sympathies of blessed home. As yet, at times, I might not speak above a whisper; but a few days served to return nie my voice in its lower tones for conversation. Though wounded thus a good deal in my throat and lungs, but not by Mexican bullets or cannon shot, yet my friends were curious to learn, though not over inquisitive, something of my personal observations in the Gulf, in connection with the Mexican war; while John, the coachman, was quite minute in his examination of my boots, the next morning, to ascertain how many Mexican slug-holes he could find in them.

But my boy was still further east-the object of my chief solicitude—the one, on my return, my heart most bounded to re-greet. I delayed not, therefore, long in the city, but hastened to the spot where, a twelvemonth before, I had taken leave of my child, who, for a long twelvemonth has talked of, and dreamed of, and looked for my return, as

an event to be fraught with all happiness to him. And yet the perceptions of his young mind must have become indistinct as to my person, had it not been that “his dear Papa” was the constant theme of his conversations with his nurse and his kindred—the particulars of his little past continually recalled to his mind, by letters—and his almost daily dictation of little notes to me and the sending of messages by "the Madam Moon,” served to preserve his memories vivid, and to retain with definiteness his past perceptions of forms with the associate ideas which had been connected with them. A grand illumination he had prepared for the occasion of my return, with rockets and other fireworks. During the day of my anticipated arrival, a tiny flag--the stars and stripes -- had been displayed from the portico, to the exciting of the curiosity of the passers-by. The castle of San Juan de Ullua he had built with his bricks, and battered down as if by storm with his nine-pin balls; or, his nine-pins them. selves, as so many Mexicans, he had skilfully and successfully laid low. His drum he had beaten, and trumpet had blowed, as from room to room he passed, and many times more than usual, mounted and re-mounted the stairs. And all this, because, as he repeated to all whom he met, “His own dear papa, to-day, was coming home from Mexico!!! Sweet child and motherless! how innocently and joyously thy anticipations were swelling thy happy bosom, on the coming of this long looked-for hour. On my arrival, the folds of the little flag, as it fluttered in the evening breeze, assured me that I was expected. And a moment only had succeeded my alighting, when my boy was in my armshis own tiny ones around my neck-while I thanked God as I pressed him to my heart, that he was well in body, happy in spirits, grown in height, and improved in manner and in mind.

HERE, THEN, AFTER A TWELVRMONTH'S CRUISE, LET ME REST FOR A WHILE.

SECTION XIV.

The frigate Cumberland had now ceased to be the Flag SHIP of the Gulf Squadron, while the BROAD PENNANT still floated in the Mexican seas. It is proper, therefore, that I should continue this work, and pursue the story of the FLAG during the further operations of the American fleet in the Gulf, up to the moment of my giving this volume to the press.

It was but three days after the Cumberland had slipped her anchor, homeward bound, before the sad incident of the capsizing and sinking of the beautiful Somers occurred, almost if not quite within sight of the anchorage which the Cumberland had but just left. Well do I remember this beautiful war-brig as she was accustomed, almost daily, to come down from off Vera Cruz, while blockading that port, and make signals to the Cumberland, or receive commands, by signal, from the Flag Ship. The harbor of Vera Cruz being in sight of the anchorage of An. ton Lizardo, the brig every morning might be seen standing off and on beyond the range of the long guns of the Castle of San Juan de Ullua or still further putting out to sea for a chase. Her evolutions were always beautiful ; and at this time, she was in charge of an accomplished officer, Lieutenant Semmes, than whom none was more brave, with a set of equally courageous officers with him. And this same craft, with her tall, tapering and raking spars, and with yards that

seemed wide spread as they lay among the snug hamper aloft, was a general object of admiration, as a model ship, for her size and rate. And Semmes and Parker-the one com. manding, the other her Second-Lieutenant-were deemed almost as a part of the mess of the Cumberland, as they had been with us of the Flag Ship, and were but temporararily, as supposed, now in charge of the brig. It was but a day or two before, perhaps the last time I had noticed this beautiful craft, as she came down to make signals to the Cumberland, while the Commander-in-chief was absent at Tampico, that she run up her Cornet, preparatory to making to us a communication. Her signal was noticed, and she continued to evolve, by flags, while gliding slowly under full canvas some two or three miles distant, the report from her Commander, which has since awakened the admiration of their countrymen towards the now lamented Parker and Hynson. That report was:

The enemy's shipping, last night, was burned under the Castle."

“ Just like them," was the exclamation on the quarterdeck of the Cumberland" just like them—they were prevented from joining the expedition to Tampico ; and they have done a pretty thing, in the absence of the Commodore.”

“ No doubt Parker was there ; and he has verified almost the practicability of his proposition, known to have been made to the Commander-in-chief, to take a picked crew in a single schooner, and by night to cut out or burn the enemy's shipping at Alvarado.”

But the Somers, after she had told her tale, which explained the mystery of a light seen burning under the Castle the preceding night which the quarter-master had reported, now veered gracefully off into the wind; and again taking adieu of the Cumberland, stood far out to sea, leaving the particulars of the burning of the Creole under the walls

and guns of the Castle, to be more specifically told after. wards. And that was a final adieu of the Somers to her consort, the Cumberland ; for a few days after, a squall from the north which proved the commencement of á Norther, suddenly struck her, while she was pressing on all canvas to intercept a sail that had hove in sight. The squall threw her on her beams-end, and in ten minutes more she filled, and with her proud armament, spars, canvas, and equipments, she went down, a beautiful gem of the deep, to form a new palace for the coral insects and other marine dwellers in the lower tides of the sea; and perhaps, to become the nucleus of a new reef on this coral-bound coast.

The particulars of the story of this catastrophe of the Somers have been given by Dr. Wright, himself an actor in the scene, in a well written description of the thrilling event. And Commodore Perry's dispatches to the Department at home, covered the report of Lieutenant Semmes, then in command of the Somers. The report bears on the face of it the evidences of the self-possession and the gallant bearing which characterizes this gentlemanly officer of our service. While more than half of the crew was lost, (thirtynine in number, including Midshipmen Clemson and Hynson) the conduct of the officers and men on the occasion was beyond all praise; and the efforts put forth by the British, French, and Spanish men-of-war, lying within sight of the catastrophe, to rescue the men while in the sea, chafed into fury by a Norther, has received the thanks, the praise, and the admiration of all Americans.

The action of the squadron having commenced, in its demonstrations along the coast, its movements were continued.

After the taking of Tampico, the next demonstration of the fleet was before LAGUNA, a town of some commerce, and situated on an island in the lake 'Terminos, in the state of Tabasco. Commodore Perry had command of the expe

« PředchozíPokračovat »