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Title: From Sail to Steam, Recollections of Naval Life
Author: Mahan, A. T. (Alfred Thayer), 1840-1914
Language: English
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FROM SAIL TO STEAM

RECOLLECTIONS OF NAVAL LIFE


BY

CAPT. A. T. MAHAN

U.S.N. (RETIRED)

AUTHOR OF
"THE INFLUENCE OF SEA-POWER UPON HISTORY" ETC.


HARPER & BROTHERS PUBLISHERS
NEW YORK AND LONDON
MCMVII



Copyright, 1906, 1907, by HARPER & BROTHERS.
_All rights reserved._
Published October, 1907.



CONTENTS


    CHAP.                                                         PAGE

          PREFACE                                                    v

          INTRODUCING MYSELF                                        ix

    I.    NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR OF SECESSION--THE
          OFFICERS AND SEAMEN                                        3

    II.   NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR OF SECESSION--THE
          VESSELS                                                   25

    III.  THE NAVAL ACADEMY IN ITS RELATION TO THE NAVY AT
          LARGE                                                     45

    IV.   THE NAVAL ACADEMY IN ITS INTERIOR WORKINGS--PRACTICE
          CRUISES                                                   70

    V.    MY FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION--NAUTICAL CHARACTERS    103

    VI.   MY FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION--NAUTICAL SCENES
          AND SCENERY--THE APPROACH OF DISUNION                    127

    VII.  INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE                    156

    VIII. INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE--CONTINUED         179

    IX.   A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA                               196

    X.    CHINA AND JAPAN                                          229

    XI.   THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE--HISTORICAL, NAVAL, AND
          PERSONAL                                                 266

    XII.  EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP                                302



PREFACE


When I was a boy, some years before I obtained my appointment in the
navy, I spent many of those happy hours that only childhood knows
poring over the back numbers of a British service periodical, which
began its career in 1828, with the title _Colburn's United Service
Magazine_; under which name, save and except the Colburn, it still
survives. Besides weightier matters, its early issues abounded in
reminiscences by naval officers, then yet in the prime of life, who
had served through the great Napoleonic wars. More delightful still,
it had numerous nautical stories, based probably on facts, serials
under such entrancing titles as "Leaves from my Log Book," by Flexible
Grommet, Passed Midshipman; a pen-name, the nautical felicity of which
will be best appreciated by one who has had the misfortune to handle a
grommet[1] which was not flexible. Then there was "The Order Book," by
Jonathan Oldjunk; an epithet so suggestive of the waste-heap, even to
a landsman's ears, that one marvels a man ever took it unto himself,
especially in that decline of life when we are more sensitive on the
subject of bodily disabilities than once we were. Old junk, however,
can yet be "worked up," as the sea expression goes, into other uses,
and that perhaps was what Mr. Oldjunk meant; his early adventures as a
young "luff" were, for economical reasons, worked up into their
present literary shape, with the addition of a certain amount of
extraneous matter--love-making, and the like. Indeed, so far from
uselessness, that veteran seaman and rigid economist, the Earl of St.
Vincent, when First Lord of the Admiralty, had given to a specific
form of old junk--viz., "shakings"--the honors of a special order, for
the preservation thereof, the which forms the staple of a comical
anecdote in Basil Hall's _Fragments of Voyages and Travels_; itself a
superior example of the instructive "recollections," of less literary
merit, which but for Colburn's would have perished.

Any one who has attempted to write history knows what queer nuggets of
useful information lie hidden away in such papers; how they often help
to reconstruct an incident, or determine a mooted point. If the
Greeks, after the Peloponnesian war, had had a Colburn's, we should
have a more certain, if not a perfect, clew to the reconstruction of
the trireme; and probably even could deduce with some accuracy the
daily routine, the several duties, and hear the professional jokes and
squabbles, of their officers and crews. The serious people who write
history can never fill the place of the gossips, who pour out an
unpremeditated mixture of intimate knowledge and idle trash.

Trash? Upon the whole is not the trash the truest history? perhaps not
the most valuable, but the most real? If you want contemporary color,
contemporary atmosphere, you must seek it among the impressions which
can be obtained only from those who have lived a life amid particular
surroundings, which they breathe and which colors them--dyes them in
the wool. However skilless, they cannot help reproducing, any more
than water poured from an old ink-bottle can help coming out more or
less black; although, if sufficiently pretentious, they can
monstrously caricature, especially if they begin with the modest
time-worn admission that they are more familiar with the marling-spike
than with the pen. But even the caricature born of pretentiousness
will not prevent the unpremeditated betrayal of conditions, facts, and
incidents, which help reconstruct the _milieu_; how much more, then,
the unaffected simplicity of the born story-teller. I do not know how
Froissart ranks as an authority with historians. I have not read him
for years; and my recollections are chiefly those of childhood, with
all the remoteness and all the vividness which memory preserves from
early impressions. I think I now might find him wearisome; not so in
boyhood. He was to me then, and seems to me now, a glorified Flexible
Grommet or Jonathan Oldjunk; ranking, as to them, as Boswell does
towards the common people of biography. That there are many solid
chunks of useful information to be dug out of him I am sure; that his
stories are all true, I have no desire to question; but what among it
all is so instructive, so entertaining, as the point of view of
himself, his heroes, and his colloquists--the particular contemporary
modification of universal human nature in which he lived, and moved,
and had his being?

If such a man has the genius of his business, as had Froissart and
Boswell, he excels in proportion to his unconsciousness of the fact;
his colors run truer. For lesser gobblers, who have not genius, the
best way to lose consciousness is just to IT themselves go; if they
endeavor to paint artistically the muddle will be worse. To such the
proverb of the cobbler and his last is of perennial warning. As a
barber once sagely remarked to me, "You can't trim a beard well,
unless you're born to it." It is possible in some degree to imitate
Froissart and Boswell in that marvellous diligence to accumulate
material which was common to them both; but, when gathered, how
impossible it is to work up that old junk into permanent engrossing
interest let those answer who have grappled with ancient chronicles,
or with many biographies. So, with a circumlocution which probably
convicts me in advance of decisive deficiency as a narrator, I let
myself go. I have no model, unless it be the old man sitting in the
sun on a summer's day, bringing forth out of his memories things new
and old--mostly old.

                                                          A. T. MAHAN.



INTRODUCING MYSELF


While extracts from the following pages were appearing in _Harper's
Magazine_, I received a letter from a reader hoping that I would say
something about myself before entering the navy. This had been outside
my purpose, which was chiefly to narrate what had passed around me
that I thought interesting; but it seems possibly fit to establish in
a few words my antecedents by heredity and environment.

I was born September 27, 1840, within the boundaries of the State of
New York, but not upon its territory; the place, West Point on the
Hudson River, having been ceded to the General Government for the
purposes of the Military Academy, at which my father, Dennis Hart
Mahan, was then Professor of Engineering, as well Civil as Military.
He himself was of pure Irish blood, his father and mother, already
married, having emigrated together from the old country early in the
last century; but he was also American by birthright, having been born
in April, 1802, very soon after the arrival of his parents in the city
of New York. There also he was baptized into the Roman Catholic
Church, in the parish of St. Peter's, the church building of which now
stands far down town, in Barclay Street. It is not, I believe, the
same that existed in 1802.

Very soon afterwards, before he reached an age to remember, his
parents removed to Norfolk, Virginia, where he grew up and formed his
earliest associations. As is usual, these colored his whole life; he
was always a Virginian in attachment and preference. In the days of
crisis he remained firm to the Union, by conviction and affection; but
he broke no friendships, and to the end there continued in him that
surest positive indication of local fondness, admiration for the women
of what was to him his native land. In beauty, in manner, and in
charm, they surpassed. "Your mother is Northern," he once said to me,
"and very few can approach her; but still, in the general, none
compare for me with the Southern woman." The same causes, early
association, gave him a very pronounced dislike to England; for he
could remember the War of 1812, and had experienced the embittered
feeling which was probably nowhere fiercer than around the shores of
the Chesapeake, the scene of the most wide-spread devastation
inflicted, partly from motives of policy, partly as measures of
retaliation. Spending afterwards three or four years of early manhood
in France, he there imbibed a warm liking for the people, among whom
he contracted several intimacies. He there knew personally Lafayette
and his family; receiving from them the hospitality which the Marquis'
service in the War of Independence, and his then recent ovation during
his tour of the United States in 1825, prompted him to extend to
Americans. This communication with a man who could tell, and did tell
him, intimate stories of intercourse with Washington doubtless
emphasized my father's patriotic prejudices as well as his patriotism.
When he revisited France, in 1856, he found many former friends still
alive, and when I myself went there for the first time, in 1870, he
asked me too to hunt them up; but they had all then disappeared. His
fondness for the French doubtless accentuated his repugnance to the
English, at that time still their traditional enemy. The combination
of Irish and French prepossession could scarcely have resulted
otherwise; and thus was evolved an atmosphere in which I was brought
up, not only passively absorbing, but to a certain degree actively
impressed with love for France and the Southern section of the United
States, while learning to look askance upon England and abolitionists.
The experiences of life, together with subsequent reading and
reflection, modified and in the end entirely overcame these early
prepossessions.

My father was for over forty years professor at West Point, of which
he had been a graduate. In short, the Academy was his life, and he
there earned what I think I am modest in calling a distinguished
reputation. The best proof of this perhaps is that at even so early a
date in our national history as his graduation from the Academy, in
1824, he was thought an officer of such promise as to make it
expedient to send him to France for the higher military education in
which the country of Napoleon and his marshals then stood pre-eminent.
From 1820, when he entered the Academy as a pupil, to his death in
1871, he was detached from it only these three or four years. Yet this
determination of his life's work proceeded from a mere accident,
scarcely more than a boy's fancy. He had begun the study of medicine,
under Dr. Archer, of Richmond; but he had a very strong wish to learn
drawing. In those primitive days the opportunity of instruction was
wanting where he lived; and hearing that it was taught at the Military
Academy he set to work for an appointment, not from inclination to the
calling of a soldier, but as a means to this particular end. It is
rather singular that he should have had no bias towards the profession
of arms; for although he drifted almost from the first into the civil
branch, as a teacher and then professor, I have never known a man of
more strict and lofty military ideas. The spirit of the profession was
strong in him, though he cared little for its pride, pomp, and
circumstance. I believe that in this observation others who knew him
well agreed with me.

The work of a teacher, however important and absorbing in itself, does
not usually offer much of interest to readers. My father, by the
personal contact of teacher and taught, knew almost every one of the
distinguished generals who fought in the War of Secession, on either
the Union or the Confederate side. With scarcely an exception, they
had been his pupils; but his own life was uneventful. He married, in
1839, Mary Helena Okill, of New York City. My mother's father was
English, her mother an American, but with a strong strain of French
blood; her maiden name, Mary Jay, being that of a Huguenot family
which had left France under Louis XIV. By the time of her birth, in
1786, a good deal of American admixture had doubtless qualified the
original French; but I remember her well, and though she lived to be
seventy-three, she had up to the last a vivacity and keen enjoyment of
life, more French than American, reflected from quick black eyes,
which fairly danced with animation through her interest in her
surroundings.

From my derivation, therefore, I am a pretty fair illustration of the
mix-up of bloods which seems destined to bring forth some new and yet
undecipherable combination on the North American continent. One-half
Irish, one-fourth English, and a good deal more than "a trace" of
French, would appear to be the showing of a quantitative analysis.
Yet, as far as I understand my personality, I think to see in the
result the predominance which the English strain has usually asserted
for itself over others. I have none of the gregariousness of either
the French or Irish; and while I have no difficulty in entering into
civil conversation with a stranger who addresses me, I rarely begin,
having, upon the whole, a preference for an introduction. This is not
perverseness, but lack of facility; and I believe Froissart noted
something of the same in the Englishmen of five hundred years ago. I
have, too, an abhorrence of public speaking, and a desire to slip
unobserved into a back seat wherever I am, which amount to a mania;
but I am bound to admit I get both these dispositions from my father,
whose Irishry was undiluted by foreign admixture.

In my boyhood, till I was nearly ten, West Point was a very
sequestered place. It was accessible only by steam-boats; and during
great part of the winter months not by them, the Hudson being frozen
over most of the season as far as ten to twenty miles lower down. The
railroad was not running before 1848, and then it followed the east
bank of the river. One of my early recollections is of begging off
from school one day, long enough to go to a part of the post distant
from our house, whence I caught my first sight of a train of cars on
the opposite shore. Another recollection is of the return of a company
of engineer soldiers from the War with Mexico. The detachment was
drawn up for inspection where we boys could see it. One of the men had
grown a full beard, a sight to me then as novel as the railroad, and I
announced it at home as a most interesting fact. I had as yet seen
only clean-shaven faces. Among my other recollections of childhood
are, as superintendent of the Academy, Colonel Robert E. Lee,
afterwards the great Confederate leader; and McClellan, then a junior
engineer officer.

As my boyhood advanced the abolition movement was gaining strength, to
the great disapprobation and dismay of my father, with his strong
Southern and Union sympathies. I remember that when _Uncle Tom's
Cabin_ came out, in my twelfth year, the master of the school I
attended gave me a copy; being himself, I presume, one of the rising
party adverse to slavery. My father took it out of my hands, and I
came to regard it much as I would a bottle labelled "Poison." In
consequence I never read it in the days of its vogue, and I have to
admit that since then, in mature years, I have not been able to
continue it after beginning. The same motives, in great part, led to
my being sent to a boarding-school in Maryland, near Hagerstown, which
drew its pupils very largely, though not exclusively, from the South.
The environment would be upon the whole Southern. I remained there,
however, only two years, my father becoming dissatisfied with my
progress in mathematics. In 1854, therefore, I matriculated as a
freshman at Columbia College in the city of New York, where I remained
till I went to the Naval Academy.

My entrance into the navy was greatly against my father's wish. I do
not remember all his arguments, but he told me he thought me much less
fit for a military than for a civil profession, having watched me
carefully. I think myself now that he was right; for, though I have no
cause to complain of unsuccess, I believe I should have done better
elsewhere. While thus more than dissenting from my choice, he held
that a child should not be peremptorily thwarted in his scheme of
life. Consequently, while he would not actively help me in the
doubtful undertaking of obtaining an appointment, which depended then
as now upon the representative from the congressional district, he
gave me the means to go to Washington, and also two or three letters
to personal friends; among them Jefferson Davis, then Secretary of
War, and James Watson Webb, a prominent character in New York
journalism and in politics, both state and national.

Thus equipped, I started for Washington on the first day of 1856,
being then three months over fifteen. As I think now of my age, and
more than usual diffidence, and of my omission, to win the favor of a
politician who had constituents to reward, whereas to all my family
practical politics were as foreign as Sanskrit, I know not whether the
situation were more comical or pathetic. On the way I foregathered
with a Southern lad, some three years my senior, returning home from
England, where he had been at school. He beguiled the time by stories
of his experiences, to me passing strange; and I remember, in crossing
the Susquehanna, which was then by ferry-boat, looking at the fields
of ice fragments, I said it would be unpleasant to fall in. "I would
sooner have a knife stuck into me," he replied. I wonder what became
of him, for I never knew his name. Of course he entered the
Confederate army; but what besides?

I remember my week's stay in Washington much as I suppose a man
overboard remembers the incidents of that experience. Memory is an odd
helpmate; why some circumstances take hold and others not is "one of
those things no fellow can find out." I saw the member of Congress,
who I find by reference to have been Ambrose S. Murray, representative
of the district within which West Point lay. He received me kindly,
but with the reserve characteristic of most interviews where one party
desires a favor for which he has nothing in exchange to offer. I
think, however, that Mr. Webb, with whom and his family I breakfasted
one day, said some good words for me. Jefferson Davis was a graduate
of the Military Academy, of 1827; and although his term there had
overlapped my father's by only one year, his interest in everything
pertaining to the army had maintained between them an acquaintance
approaching intimacy. He therefore was very cordial to the boy before
him, and took me round to the office of the then Secretary of the
Navy, Mr. James C. Dobbin, of North Carolina; just why I do not
understand yet, as the Secretary could not influence my immediate
object. Perhaps he felt the need of a friendly chat; for I remember
that, after presenting me, the two sat down and discussed the
President's Message, of which Davis expressed a warm approval. This
being the time of the protracted contest over the Speakership, which
ended in the election of Banks, I suppose the colleagues were talking
about a document which was then ready, and familiar to them, but which
was not actually sent to Congress until it organized, some weeks after
this interview. Probably their conversation was the aftermath of a
cabinet meeting.

I returned home with fairly sanguine hopes, which on the journey
received a douche of cold water from an old gentleman, a distant
connection of my family, to visit whom I stopped a few hours in
Philadelphia. He asked about my chance of the appointment; and being
told that it seemed good, he rejoined, "Well, I hope you won't get it.
I have known many naval officers, captains and lieutenants, in
different parts of the world"--for his time, he was then nearly
eighty, he had travelled extensively--"I have talked much with them,
and know that it is a profession with little prospect." Then he quoted
Dr. Johnson: "No man will be a sailor who has contrivance enough to
get himself into jail; for being in a ship is being in a jail with the
chance of being drowned"; and further to overwhelm me, he clinched the
saying by a comment of his own. "In a ship of war you run the risk of
being killed as well as that of being drowned." The interview left me
a perplexed but not a wiser lad.

Late in the ensuing spring Mr. Murray wrote me that he would nominate
me for the appointment. Just what determined him in my favor I do not
certainly know; but, as I remember, Mr. Davis had authorized me to say
to him that, if the place were given me, he would use his own
influence with President Pierce to obtain for a nominee from his
district a presidential appointment to the Military Academy. Mr.
Murray replied that such a proposition was very acceptable to him,
because the tendency among his constituents was much more to the army
than to the navy. At that day, besides one cadet at West Point for
each congressional district, which was in the gift of the
representative, the law permitted the President a certain number of
annual appointments, called "At Large"; the object being to provide
for sons of military and naval officers, whose lack of political
influence made it difficult otherwise to enter the school. This
presidential privilege has since been extended to the Naval Academy,
but had not then. The proposed interchange in my case, therefore,
would be practically to give an officer's son an appointment at large
in the navy. Whether this arrangement was actually carried out, I have
never known nor inquired; but it has pleased me to believe, as I do,
that I owed my entrance to the United States navy to the interposition
of the first and only President of the Southern Confederacy, whose
influence with Mr. Pierce is a matter of history.

I entered the Naval Academy, as an "acting midshipman," September 30,
1856.



FROM SAIL TO STEAM

RECOLLECTIONS OF NAVAL LIFE



I

NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR OF SECESSION

THE OFFICERS AND SEAMEN


Naval officers who began their career in the fifties of the past
century, as I did, and who survive till now, as very many do, have
been observant, if inconspicuous, witnesses of one of the most rapid
and revolutionary changes that naval science and warfare have ever
undergone. It has been aptly said that a naval captain who fought the
Invincible Armada would have been more at home in the typical war-ship
of 1840, than the average captain of 1840 would have been in the
advanced types of the American Civil War.[2] The twenty years here
chosen for comparison cover the middle period of the century which has
but recently expired. Since that time progress has gone on in
accelerating ratio; and if the consequent changes have been less
radical in kind, they have been more extensive in scope. It is
interesting to observe that within the same two decades, in 1854,
occurred the formal visit of Commodore Perry to Japan, and the
negotiations of the treaty bringing her fairly within the movement of
Western civilization; starting her upon the path which has resulted in
the most striking illustration yet given of the powers of modern naval
instruments, ships and weapons, diligently developed and elaborated
during the period that has since elapsed.

When I received my appointment to the Naval School at Annapolis, in
the early part of the year 1856, the United States navy was under the
influence of one of those spasmodic awakenings which, so far as action
is concerned, have been the chief characteristic of American
statesmanship in the matter of naval policy up to twenty years ago.
Since then there has been a more continuous practical recognition of
the necessity for a sustained and consistent development of naval
power. This wholesome change has been coincident with, and doubtless
largely due to, a change in appreciation of the importance of naval
power in the realm of international relations, which, within the same
period, has passed over the world at large. The United States of
America began its career under the Constitution of 1789 with no navy;
but in 1794 the intolerable outrages of the Barbary pirates, and the
humiliation of having to depend upon the armed ships of Portugal for
the protection of American trade, aroused Congress to vote the
building of a half-dozen frigates, with the provision, however, that
the building should stop if an arrangement with Algiers were reached.
Not till 1798 was the navy separated from the War Department. The
President at that date, John Adams, was, through his New England
origin, in profound sympathy with all naval questions; and, while
minister to Great Britain, in 1785, had had continual opportunity to
observe the beneficial effect of maritime activity and naval power
upon that kingdom. He had also bitter experience of the insolence of
its government towards our interests, based upon its conscious control
of the sea. He thus came into office strongly biassed towards naval
development. To the impulse given by him contributed also the
outrageous course towards our commerce initiated by the French
Directory, after Bonaparte's astounding campaigns in Italy had struck
down all opposition to France save that of the mistress of the seas.
The nation, as represented in Congress, woke up, rubbed, its eyes,
and built a small number of vessels which did exemplary service in the
subsequent quasi war with France. Provision was made for a further
increase; and it is not too much to say that this beginning, if
maintained, might have averted the War of 1812. But within four years
revulsion came. Adams gave place to Jefferson and Madison, the leaders
of a party which frankly and avowedly rejected a navy as an element of
national strength, and saw in it only a menace to liberty. Save for
the irrepressible marauding of the Barbary corsairs, and the
impressment of our seamen by British ships-of-war, the remnant of
Adams' ships would not improbably have been swept out of existence.
This result was feared by naval officers of the day; and with what
good reason is shown by the fact that, within six months of the
declaration of the War in 1812, and when the party in control was
determined that war there should be, a proposition to increase the
navy received but lukewarm support from the administration, and was
voted down in Congress. The government, awed by the overwhelming
numbers of the British fleet, proposed to save its vessels by keeping
them at home; just as a few years before it had undertaken to save its
commerce by forbidding its merchant-ships to go to sea.

Such policy with regard to a military service means to it not sleep,
but death. The urgent remonstrances of three or four naval captains
obtained a change of plan; and at the end of the year the President
admitted that, for the very reasons advanced by them, the activity of
a small squadron, skilfully directed, had insured the safe return of
much the most part of our exposed merchant-shipping. It is not,
however, such broad general results of sagacious management that bring
conviction to nations and arouse them to action. Professionally, the
cruise of Rodgers's squadron, unsuccessful in outward seeming, was a
much more significant event, and much more productive, than the
capture of the _Guerrière_ by the _Constitution_; but it was this
which woke up the people. The other probably would not have turned a
vote in either House. As a military exploit the frigate victory was
exaggerated, and not unnaturally; but no words can exaggerate its
influence upon the future of the American navy. Here was something
that men could see and understand, even though they might not
correctly appreciate. Coinciding as the tidings did with the
mortification of Hull's surrender at Detroit, they came at a moment
which was truly psychological. Bowed down with shame at reverse where
only triumph had been anticipated, the exultation over victory where
disaster had been more naturally awaited produced a wild reaction. The
effect was decisive. Inefficient and dilatory as was much of the
subsequent administration of the navy, there was never any further
question of its continuance. And yet, from the ship which thus played
the most determining part in the history of her service, it has been
proposed to take her name, and give it to another, of newer
construction; as though with the name could go also the association.
Could any other _Victory_ be Nelson's _Victory_ to Great Britain? Can
calling a man George Washington help to perpetuate the services of the
one Washington? The last much-vaunted addition to the British fleet,
the _Dreadnaught_, bears a family name extending back over two
centuries, or more. She is one of a series reasonably perpetuated,
ship after ship, as son after sire; a line of succession honored in
the traditions of the nation. So there were _Victorys_, before the one
whose revered hulk still maintains a hallowed association; but her
individual connection with one event has set her apart. The name might
be transferred, but with it the association cannot be transmitted. But
not even the _Victory_, with all her clinging memories, did for the
British navy what the _Constitution_ did for the American.

There was thenceforward no longer any question about votes for the
navy. Ships of the line, frigates, and sloops, were ordered to be
built, and the impulse thus received never wholly died out. Still, as
with all motives which in origin are emotional rather than reasoned,
there was lack of staying power. As the enthusiasm of the moment
languished, there came languor of growth; or, more properly, of
development. Continuance became routine in character, tending to
reproduce contentedly the old types consecrated by the War of 1812.
There was little conscious recognition of national exigencies,
stimulating a demand that the navy, in types and numbers, should be
kept abreast of the times. In most pursuits of life American
intelligence has been persistently apt and quick in search of
improvement; but, while such characteristics have not been absent from
the naval service, they have been confined chiefly, and naturally, to
the men engaged in the profession, and have lacked the outside support
which immediate felt needs impart to movements in business or
politics. Few men in civil life could have given an immediate reply to
the question, Why do we need a navy? Besides, although the American
people are aggressive, combative, even warlike, they are the reverse
of military; out of sympathy with military tone and feeling.
Consequently, the appearance of professional pride, the insistence
upon the absolute necessity for professional training, which in the
physician, lawyer, engineer, or other civil occupation is accepted as
not only becoming, but conducive to uplifting the profession as a
whole, is felt in the military man to be the obtrusion of an alien
temperament, easily stigmatized as the arrogance of professional
conceit and exclusiveness. The wise traditional jealousy of any
invasion of the civil power by the military has no doubt played some
part in this; but a healthy vigilance is one thing, and morbid
distrust another. Morbid distrust and unreasoned prepossession were
responsible for the feebleness of the navy in 1812, and these feelings
long survived. An adverse atmosphere was created, with results
unfortunate to the nation, so far as the navy was important to
national welfare or national progress.

Indeed, between the day of my entrance into the service, fifty years
ago, and the present, nowhere is change more notable than in the
matter of atmosphere; of the national attitude towards the navy and
comprehension of its office. Then it was accepted without much
question as part of the necessary lumber that every adequately
organized maritime state carried, along with the rest of a national
establishment. Of what use it was, or might be, few cared much to
inquire. There was not sufficient interest even to dispute the
necessity of its existence; although, it is true, as late as 1875 an
old-time Jeffersonian Democrat repeated to me with conviction the
master's dictum, that the navy was a useless appendage; a statement
which its work in the War of Secession, as well on the Confederate as
on the Union side, might seem to have refuted sufficiently and with
abundant illustration. To such doubters, before the war, there was
always ready the routine reply that a navy protected commerce; and
American shipping, then the second in the world, literally whitened
every sea with its snowy cotton sails, a distinctive mark at that time
of American merchant shipping. In my first long voyage, in 1859, from
Philadelphia to Brazil, it was no rare occurrence to be becalmed in
the doldrums in company with two or three of these beautiful
semi-clipper vessels, their low black hulls contrasting vividly with
the tall pyramids of dazzling canvas which rose above them. They
needed no protection then, and none foresaw that within a decade, by
the operations of a few small steam-cruisers, they would be swept from
the seas, never to return. Everything was taken for granted, and not
least that war was a barbarism of the past. From 1815 to 1850, the
lifetime of a generation, international peace had prevailed
substantially unbroken, despite numerous revolutionary movements
internal to the states concerned; and it had been lightly assumed that
these conditions would thenceforth continue, crowned as they had been
by the great sacrament of peace, when the nations for the first time
gathered under a common roof the fruits of their several industries in
the World's Exposition of 1851. The shadows of disunion were indeed
gathering over our own land, but for the most of us they carried with
them no fear of war. American fight American? Never! Separation there
might be, and with a common sorrow officers of both sections thought
of it; but, brother shed the blood of brother? No! By 1859 the Crimean
War had indeed intervened to shake these fond convictions; but, after
all, rules have exceptions, and in the succeeding peace the British
government, consistent with the prepossessions derived from the
propaganda of Cobden, yielded perfectly gratuitously the principle
that an enemy's commerce might be freely transported under a neutral
flag, thereby wrenching away prematurely one of the prongs of
Neptune's trident. Surely we were on the road to universal peace.

San Francisco before and after its recent earthquake--at this moment
of writing ten days ago--scarcely presented a greater contrast of
experience than that my day has known; and the political condition and
balance of the world now is as different from that of the period of
which I have been writing as the new city will be from the old one it
will replace at the Golden Gate. Of this universal change and
displacement the most significant factor--at least in our Western
civilization--has been the establishment of the German Empire, with
its ensuing commercial, maritime, and naval development. To it
certainly we owe the military impulse which has been transmitted
everywhere to the forces of sea and land--an impulse for which, in my
judgment, too great gratitude cannot be felt. It has braced and
organized Western civilization for an ordeal as yet dimly perceived.
But between 1850 and 1860 long desuetude of war, and confident
reliance upon the commercial progress which freedom of trade had
brought in its train, especially to Great Britain, had induced the
prevalent feeling that to-morrow would be as to-day, and much more
abundant. This was too consonant to national temperament not to
pervade America also; and it was promoted by a distance from Europe
and her complications much greater than now exists, and by the
consistent determination not to be implicated in her concerns. All
these factors went to constitute the atmosphere of indifference to
military affairs in general; and particularly to those external
interests of which a navy is the outward and visible sign and
champion.

I do not think there is error or exaggeration in this picture of the
"environment" of the navy in popular appreciation at the time I
entered. Under such conditions, which had obtained substantially since
soon after the War of 1812, and which long disastrously affected even
Great Britain, with all her proud naval traditions and maritime and
colonial interests, a military service cannot thrive. Indifference and
neglect tell on most individuals, and on all professions. The saving
clauses were the high sense of duty and of professional integrity,
which from first to last I have never known wanting in the service;
while the beauty of the ships themselves, quick as a docile and
intelligent animal to respond to the master's call, inspired affection
and intensified professional enthusiasm. The exercises of sails and
spars, under the varying exigencies of service, bewildering as they
may have seemed to the uninitiated, to the appreciative possessed
fascination, and were their own sufficient reward for the care
lavished upon them. In their mute yet exact response was some
compensation for external neglect; they were, so to say, the testimony
of a good conscience; the assurance of professional merit, and of work
well done, if scantily recognized. Poor and beloved sails and
spars--_la joie de la manoeuvre_, to use the sympathetic phrase of a
French officer of that day--gone ye are with that past of which I have
been speaking, and of which ye were a goodly symbol; but like other
symptoms of the times, had we listened aright, we should have heard
the stern rebuke: Up and depart hence; this is not the place of your
rest.

The result of all this had been a body of officers, and of men-of-war
seamen, strong in professional sentiment, and admirably qualified in
the main for the duties of a calling which in many of its leading
characteristics was rapidly becoming obsolete. There was the spirit of
youth, but the body of age. As a class, officers and men were well up
in the use of such instruments as the country gave them; but the
profession did not wield the corporate influence necessary to extort
better instruments, and impotence to remedy produced acquiescence in,
perhaps, more properly, submission to, an arrest of progress, the
evils of which were clearly seen. Yet the salt was still there, nor
had it lost its savor. The military professions are discouraged, even
enjoined, against that combined independent action for the remedy of
grievances which is the safeguard of civil liberty, but tends to sap
the unquestioning obedience essential to unity of action under a
single will--at once the virtue and the menace of a standing army.
Naval officers had neither the privilege nor the habits which would
promote united effort for betterment; but when individuals among them
are found, like Farragut, Dupont, Porter, Dahlgren--to mention only a
few names that became conspicuous in the War of Secession--there will
be found also in civil and political life men who will become the
channels through which the needs of the service will receive
expression and ultimately obtain relief. The process is overslow for
perfect adequacy, but it exists. It may be asked, Was not the Navy
Department constituted for this special purpose? Possibly; but
experience has shown that sometimes it is effective, and sometimes it
is not. There is in it no provision for a continuous policy. No
administrative period of our naval history since 1812 has been more
disastrously stagnant and inefficient than that which followed closely
the War of Secession, with its extraordinary, and in the main
well-directed, administrative energy. The deeds of Farragut, his
compeers, and their followers, after exciting a moment's enthusiasm,
were powerless to sustain popular interest. Reaction ruled, as after
the War of 1812.

To whomsoever due, in the decade immediately preceding the War of
Secession there were two notable attempts at regeneration which had a
profound influence upon the fortunes of that contest. Of these, one
affected the personnel of the navy, the other the material. It had for
some time been recognized within the service that, owing partly to
easy-going toleration of offenders, partly to the absence of
authorized methods for dealing with the disabled, or the merely
incompetent, partly also, doubtless, to the effect of general
professional stagnation upon those naturally inclined to
worthlessness, there had accumulated a very considerable percentage of
officers who were useless; or, worse, unreliable. In measure, this was
also due to habits of drinking, much more common in all classes of men
then than now. Even within the ten years with which I am dealing, an
officer not much my senior remarked to me on the great improvement in
this respect in his own experience; and my contemporaries will bear me
out in saying that since then the advance has been so sustained that
the evil now is practically non-existent. But then the compassionate
expression, "A first-rate officer when he is not drinking," was
ominously frequent; and in the generation before too little attention
had been paid to the equally significant remark, that with a fool you
know what to count on, but with one who drank you never knew.

But drink was far from the only cause. There were regular
examinations, after six years of service, for promotion from the
warrant of midshipman to a lieutenant's commission; but, that
successfully passed, there was no further review of an officer's
qualifications, unless misconduct brought him before a court-martial.
Nor was there any provision for removing the physically incompetent.
Before I entered the navy I knew one such, who had been bed-ridden for
nearly ten years. He had been a midshipman with Farragut under Porter
in the old _Essex_, when captured by the _Phoebe_ and _Cherub_. A
gallant boy, specially named in the despatch, he had such aptitude
that at sixteen, as he told me himself, he wore an epaulette on the
left shoulder--the uniform of a lieutenant at that time; and a
contemporary assured me that in handling a ship he was the smartest
officer of the deck he had ever known. But in early middle life
disease overtook him, and, though flat on his back, he had been borne
on the active list because there was nothing else to do with him. In
that plight he was even promoted. There was another who, as a
midshipman, had lost a foot in the War of 1812, but had been carried
on from grade to grade for forty years, until at the time I speak of
he was a captain, then the highest rank in the navy. Possibly,
probably, he never saw water bluer than that of the lakes, where he
was wounded. The undeserving were not treated with quite the same
indulgence. Those familiar with the _Navy Register_ of those days will
recall some half-dozen old die-hards, who figured from year to year at
the head of the lieutenant's list; continuously "overslaughed," never
promoted, but never dismissed. To deal in the same manner with such
men as the two veterans first mentioned would have been insulting; the
distinction of promotion had to be conceded.

But there were those also who, despite habits or inefficiency, slipped
through even formal examination; commanders whose ships were run by
their subordinates, lieutenants whose watch on deck kept their
captains from sleeping, midshipmen whose unfitness made their
retention unpardonable; for at their age to re-begin life was no
hardship, much less injustice. Of one such the story ran that his
captain, giving him the letter required by regulation, wrote, "Mr. So
and So is a very excellent young gentleman, of perfectly correct
habits, but nothing will make an officer of him." He answered his
questions, however; and the board considered that they could not go
beyond that fact. They passed him in the face of the opinion of a
superior of tried efficiency who had had his professional conduct
under prolonged observation. I never knew this particular man
professionally, but the general estimate of the service confirmed his
captain's opinion. Twenty or thirty years later, I was myself one of a
board called to deal with a precisely similar case. The letter of the
captain was explicitly condemnatory and strong; but the president of
the board, a man of exemplary rectitude, was vehement even in refusing
to act upon it, and his opinion prevailed. Some years afterwards the
individual came under my command, and proved to be of so eccentric
worthlessness that I thought him on the border-line of insanity. He
afterwards disappeared, I do not know how.

Talking of examinations, a comical incident came under my notice
immediately after the War of Secession, when there were still employed
a large number of those volunteer officers who had honorably and
usefully filled up the depleted ranks of the regular service--an
accession of strength imperatively needed. There were among them,
naturally, inefficients as well as efficients. One had applied for
promotion, and a board of three, among them myself, was assembled to
examine. Several commonplace questions in seamanship were put to him,
of which I now remember only that he had no conception of the
difference between a ship moored, and one lying at single anchor--a
subject as pertinent to-day as a hundred years ago. After failing to
explain this, he expressed his wish not to go further; whereupon one
of the board asked why, if ignorant of these simple matters, he had
applied for examination. His answer was, "I did not apply for
examination, I applied for promotion." Even in this case, when the
applicant had left the room, the president of the board, then a
somewhat notorious survival of the unfittest, long since departed this
life, asked whether we refused to pass him. The third member, himself
a volunteer officer, and myself, said we did. "Well," he rejoined,
"you know this man may get a chance at _you_ some day." This prudent
consideration, however, did not save him.

Such tolerance towards the unfit, the reluctance to strike the
individual in the interests of the community, was but a special, and
not very flagrant, instance of the sympathy evoked for much worse
offenders--murderers, and defrauders--in civil life. In such cases,
the average man, except when personally affected, sides unreasonably
with the sufferer and against the public; witness the easily signed
petitions for pardon which flow in. It can be understood that in a
public employment, civil or military, there will usually be reluctance
to punish, and especially to take the bread out of the mouths of a man
and his family by ejection. Usually only immediate personal interest
in efficiency can supply the needed hardness of heart. Speaking after
a very extensive and varied inside experience of courts-martial, I can
say most positively that their tendency is not towards the excessive
severity which I have heard charged against them by an eminent
lawyer. On the contrary, the difficulty is to keep the members up to
the mark against their natural and professional sympathies. Their
superiors in the civil government have more often to rebuke undue
leniency. How much more hard when, instead of an evil-doer, one had
only to deal with a good-tempered, kindly ignoramus, or one perhaps
who drew near the border-line of slipshod adequacy; and especially
when to do so was to initiate action, apparently invidious, and
probably useless, as in cases I have cited. It was easier for a
captain or first lieutenant to nurse such a one along through a
cruise, and then dismiss him to his home, thanking God, like Dogberry,
that you are rid of a fool, and trusting you may see him no more. But
this confidence may be misplaced; even his ghost may return to plague
you, or your conscience. Basil Hall tells an interesting story in
point. When himself about to pass for lieutenant, in 1808, while in an
ante-room awaiting his summons, a candidate came out flushed and
perturbed. Hall was called in, and one of the examining captains said
to him, "Mr. ----, who has just gone out, could not answer a question
which we will put to you." He naturally looked for a stunner, and was
surprised at the extremely commonplace problem proposed to him. From
the general incident he presumed his predecessor had been rejected,
but when the list was published saw his name among the passed. Some
years later he met one of the examiners, who in the conversation
recalled to him the circumstances. "We hesitated," he said, "whether
to let him go through: but we did, and I voted for him. A few weeks
later I saw him gazetted second lieutenant of a sloop-of-war, and a
twinge of compunction seized me. Not long afterwards I read also the
loss of that ship, with all on board. I never have known how it
happened, but I cannot rid myself of an uneasy feeling that it may
have been in that young man's watch." He added, "Mr. Hall, if ever
you are employed as I then was, do not take your duties as lightly as
I did."

Sometimes retribution does not assume this ghastly form, but shows the
humorous side of her countenance; for she has two faces, like the
famous ship that was painted a different color on either side and
always tacked at night, that the enemy might imagine two ships off
their coast. I recall--many of us recall--a well-known character in
the service, "Bobby," who was a synonyme for inefficiency. He is long
since in his grave, where reminiscence cannot disturb him; and the
Bobby can reveal him only to those who knew him as well and better
than I, and not to an unsympathetic public. Well, Bobby after much
indulgence had been retired from active service by that convulsive
effort at re-establishment known as the Retiring Board of 1854-55, to
which I am coming if ever I see daylight through this thicket of
recollections that seems to close round me as I proceed, instead of
getting clearer. The action of that board was afterwards extensively
reviewed, and among the data brought before the reviewers was a letter
from a commander, who presumably should have known better, warmly
endorsing Bobby. In consequence of this, and perhaps other
circumstances, Bobby was restored to an admiring service; but the
Department, probably through some officer who appreciated the
situation, sent him to his advocate as first lieutenant--that is, as
general manager and right-hand man. The joke was somewhat grim, and
grimly resented. It fell to me a little later to see the commander on
a matter of duty. He received me in his cabin, his feet swathed on a
chair, his hands gnarled and knotted with gout or rheumatism, from
which he was a great sufferer. Business despatched, we drifted into
talk, and got on the subject of Bobby. His face became distorted. "I
suppose the Department thinks it has done a very funny thing in
sending me him as first lieutenant; but I tell you, Mr. Mahan, every
word I wrote was perfectly true. There is nothing about a ship from
her hold to her trucks that Bobby don't know; but--" here fury took
possession of him, and he vociferated--"put him on deck, handling men,
he is the d----dest fool that ever man laid eyes on." How far his
sense of injury biassed his judgments as to the acquirements of his
protégé, I cannot say; but a cruise or two before I had happened to
hear from eye-witnesses of Bobby's appearance in public after his
restoration as first lieutenant in charge of the deck. On the
occasion in question he was to exercise the whole crew at some
particular manoeuvre. Taking his stand on the hawse-block, he
drew from his pocket a small note-book, cast upon it his eye and
announced--doubtless through the trumpet--"Man the fore-royal braces!"
Again a pause, and further reference. "Man the main-royal braces!"
Again a pause: "Man the mizzen-royal braces--Man _all_ the royal
braces." It is quite true, however, that there may be plenty of
knowledge with lack of power to apply it professionally--a fact
observable in all callings, but one which examination alone will not
elicit. I knew such a one who said of himself, "Before I take the
trumpet I know what ought to be said and done, but with the trumpet in
my hand everything goes away from me." This was doubtless partly
stage-fright; but stage-fright does not last where there is real
aptitude. This man, of very marked general ability, esteemed and liked
by all, finally left the navy; and probably wisely. On the other hand,
I remember a very excellent seaman--and officer--telling me that the
poorest officer he had ever known tacked ship the best. So men differ.

Thus it happened, through the operation of a variety of causes, that
by the early fifties there had accumulated on the lists of the navy,
in every grade, a number of men who had been tried in the balance of
professional judgment and found distinctly wanting. Not only was the
public--the nation--being wronged by the continuance in positions of
responsibility of men who could not meet an emergency, or even
discharge common duties, but there was the further harm that they were
occupying places which, if vacated, could be at once filled by capable
men waiting behind them. Fortunately, this had come to constitute a
body of individual grievance among the deserving, which
counterbalanced the natural sympathy with the individual incompetent.
The remedy adopted was drastic enough, although in fact only an
application of the principle of selection in a very guarded form.
Unhappily, previous neglect to apply selection through a long series
of years had now occasioned conditions in which it had to be used on a
huge scale, and in the most invidious manner--the selecting out of the
unfit. It was therefore easy for cavillers to liken this process to a
trial at law, in which unfavorable decision was a condemnation without
the accused being heard; and, of course, once having received this
coloring, the impression could not be removed, nor the method
reconciled to a public having Anglo-Saxon traditions concerning the
administration of justice. A board of fifteen was constituted--five
captains, five commanders, and five lieutenants. These were then the
only grades of commissioned officers, and representation from them all
insured, as far as could be, an adequate acquaintance with the entire
personnel of the navy. The board sat in secret, reaching its own
conclusions by its own methods; deciding who were, and who were not,
fit to be carried longer on the active list. Rejections were of three
kinds: those wholly removed, and those retired on two different grades
of pay, called "Retired," and "Furloughed." The report was accepted by
the government and became operative.

This occurred a year or two before I entered the Naval School: and, as
I was already expecting to do so, I read with an interest I well
recall the lists of person unfavorably affected. Of course, neither
then nor afterwards had I knowledge to form an independent opinion
upon the merits of the cases; but as far as I could gather in the
immediately succeeding years, from different officers, the general
verdict was that in very few instances had injustice been done. Where
I had the opportunity of verifying the mistakes cited to me, I found
instead reason rather to corroborate than to impugn the action of the
board; but, of course, in so large a review as it had to undertake,
even a jury of fifteen experts can scarcely be expected never to err.
In the navy it was a first, and doubtless somewhat crude, attempt to
apply the method of selection which every business man or corporation
uses in choosing employés; an arbitrary conclusion, based upon
personal knowledge and observation, or upon adequate information. But
in private affairs such decisions are not regarded as legal judgment,
nor rejection as condemnation; and there is no appeal. The private
interest of the employer is warrant that he will do the best he can
for his business. This presumption does not lie in the case of public
affairs, although after the most searching criticism the action of the
board of fifteen might probably be quoted to prove that selection for
promotion could safely be trusted at all times to similar means. I
mean, that such a body would never recommend an unfit man for
promotion, and in three cases out of five would choose very near the
best man. But no such system can work unless a government have the
courage of its findings; for private and public opinion will
inevitably constitute itself a court of appeal. In Great Britain,
where the principle of selection has never been abandoned, in the
application the Admiralty is none the less constrained--browbeaten, I
fancy, would hardly be too strong a word--by opinion outside. P. has
been promoted, say the service journals; but why was A. passed over,
or F., or K.? Choice is difficult, indeed, in peace times; but years
sap efficiency, and for the good of the nation it is imperative to get
men along while in the vigor of life, which will never be effected by
the slow routine in which each second stands heir to the first. P.
possibly may not be better than A. or K., but the nation will profit
more, and in a matter vital to it, than if P., whose equality may be
conceded, has to wait for the whole alphabet to die out of his way.
The injustice, if so it be, to the individual must not be allowed to
impede the essential prosperity of the community.

In 1854-55, the results of a contrary system had reached proportions
at once disheartening and comical. It then required fourteen years
after entrance to reach a lieutenant's commission, the lowest of all.
That is, coming in as a midshipman at fifteen, not till twenty-nine,
after ten to twelve years probably on a sea-going vessel, was a man
found fit, by official position, to take charge of a ship at sea, or
to command a division of guns. True, the famous Billy Culmer, of the
British navy, under a system of selection found himself a midshipman
still at fifty-six, and then declined a commission on the ground that
he preferred to continue senior midshipman rather than be the junior
lieutenant;[3] but the injustice, if so it were, to Billy, and to many
others, had put the ships into the hands of captains in the prime of
life. Of the historic admirals of that navy, few had failed to reach a
captaincy in their twenties. _Per contra_, I was told the following
anecdote by an officer of our service whose name was--and is, for he
still lives--a synonyme for personal activity and professional
seamanship, but who waited his fourteen years for a lieutenancy. On
one occasion the ship in which he returned to Norfolk from a
three-years' cruise was ordered from there to Portsmouth, New
Hampshire, to go out of commission. For some cause almost all the
lieutenants had been detached, the cruise being thought ended. It
became necessary, therefore, to intrust the charge of the deck to him
and other "passed" midshipmen, and great was the shaking of heads
among old stagers over the danger that ship was to run. If this were
exceptional, it would not be worth quoting, but it was not. A similar
routine in the British navy, in a dry-rot period of a hundred years
before, had induced a like head-wagging and exchange of views when one
of its greatest admirals, Hawke, was first given charge of a squadron;
being then already a man of mark, and four years older than Nelson at
the Nile. But he was younger than the rule, and so distrusted.

The vacancies made by the wholesale action of 1854 remedied this for a
while. The lieutenants who owed their rank to it became such after
seven or eight years, or at, twenty-three or four; and this meant
really passing out of pupilage into manhood. The change being effected
immediately, anticipated the reaction in public opinion and in
Congress, which rejected the findings of the board and compelled a
review of the whole procedure. Many restorations were made; and, as
these swelled the lists beyond the number then authorized by law,
there was established a reduced pay for those whose recent promotion
made them in excess. For them was adopted, in naval colloquialism, the
inelegant but suggestive term "jackass" lieutenants. It should be
explained to the outsider, perhaps even many professional readers now
may not know, that the word was formerly used for a class of so-called
frigates which intervened between the frigate-class proper and the
sloop-of-war proper, and like all hybrids, such as the armored
cruiser, shared more in the defects than in the virtues of either. It
was therefore not a new coinage, and its uncomplimentary suggestion
applied rather to the grudging legislation than to the unlucky
victims. Of course, promotion was stopped till this block was worked
off; but the immediate gain was retained. Before the trouble came on
afresh the War of Secession, causing a large number of Southerners to
leave the service, introduced a very different problem;--namely, how
to find officers enough to meet the expansion of the navy caused by
the vast demands of the contest. The men of my time became lieutenants
between twenty and twenty-three. My own commission was dated a month
before my twenty-first birthday, and with what good further prospects,
even under the strict rule of seniority promotion, is evident, for
before I was twenty-five I was made lieutenant-commander,
corresponding to major in the army. Those were cheerful days in this
respect for the men who struck the crest of the wave; but already the
symptoms of inevitable reaction to old conditions of stagnancy were
observable to those careful to heed.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the benefit of this measure to the
nation, through the service, despite the subsequent reactionary
legislation. By a single act a large number of officers were advanced
from the most subordinate and irresponsible positions to those which
called all their faculties into play. "Responsibility," said one of
the most experienced admirals the world has known, "is the test of a
man's courage"; and where the native fitness exists nothing so
educates for responsibility as the having it. The responsibility of
the lieutenant of the watch differs little from that of the captain in
degree, and less in kind. To early bearing of responsibility Farragut
attributed in great part his fearlessness in it, which was well known
to the service before his hour of strain. It was much that the
government found ready for the extreme demands of the war a number of
officers, who, instead of supervising the washing of lower decks and
stowing of holds during their best years, had been put betimes in
charge of the ship. From there to the captain's berth was but a small
step. "Passed midshipman," says one of Cooper's characters, "is a good
grade to reach, but a bad one to stop in." From a fate little better
than this a large and promising number of young officers were thus
rescued for the commands and responsibilities of the War of
Secession.



II

NAVAL CONDITIONS BEFORE THE WAR OF SECESSION

THE VESSELS


Less far-reaching, because men are greater than ships, but still of
immense timeliness as a preparative to the war, was the reconstitution
of the material of the navy, practically coincident with the
regeneration of the personnel. The causes which led to this are before
my time, and beyond my contemporary knowledge. They therefore form no
part of my theme; but the result, which is more important than the
process, was strictly contemporary with me. It marked a definite
parting with sails as the motive reliance of a ship-of-war, but at the
same time was characterized by an extreme conservatism, which then was
probably judicious, and certainly represented the naval opinion of the
day. It must be remembered that the Atlantic was first crossed under
steam in 1837, a feat shortly before thought impossible on account of
coal consumption, and that the screw-propeller was not generally
adopted till several years afterwards. In 1855 the transatlantic
liners were still paddlers; but the paddle-wheel shaft was far above
the water, and so, in necessary consequence, was much of the machinery
which transmitted power from the boilers to the wheel. All battle
experience avouched the probability of disabling injury under such
exposure; not more certain, but probably more fatal, than that to
spars and sails of sailing-ships. Despite this drawback, paddle wheel
men-of-war were being built between 1840 and 1850. Our own navy had of
these two large and powerful vessels, sisters, the _Missouri_ and the
_Mississippi_. Singularly enough, both met the same end, by fire; the
_Missouri_ being burned in the Bay of Gibraltar in 1843, the
_Mississippi_ in the river whence she took her name, in the course of
Farragut's passage of the batteries at Port Hudson in 1863. This
engagement marked the end of the admiral's achievements in the river,
throughout which, beginning with the passage of the forts and the
capture of New Orleans, the _Mississippi_ had done good work. At the
time of her destruction, the present Admiral Dewey was her first
lieutenant. Besides these two we had the _Susquehanna_, "paddle-wheel
steam-frigate," which also served manfully through the war, and was in
commission after it. It was she that carried General Sherman on his
mission to Mexico in 1866. As usual, the principal European navies had
built many more of these vessels; that is, had adopted improvements
more readily than we did. During my first cruise after graduation, on
the coast of Brazil, 1859-61, the British squadron there was composed
chiefly of paddlers; the flag-ship _Leopard_ being one. As I remember,
there was only one screw-steamer, the sloop-of-war _Curaçao_.

By that time, however, the paddlers were only survivals; but it may be
noted, in passing, with reference to the cry of obsolescence so
readily raised in our day, that these survivals did yeoman service in
the War of Secession. It is possible to be too quick in discarding, as
well as too slow in adopting. By 1850 the screw had made good its
position; and the difficulty which had impeded the progress of steam
in men-of-war disappeared when it became possible to place all
machinery below water. There were, however, many improvements still to
come, before it could be frankly and fully accepted as the sole motive
power. It is not well to let go with one hand till sure of your grip
with the other. So in the early days of electric lighting prudent
steamship companies kept their oil-lamps trimmed and filled in the
brackets alongside of the electric globes. Apart from the problem
experienced by the average man--and governments are almost always
averages in adjusting his action to novel conditions, the science of
steam-enginery was still very backward. Notably, the expenditure of
coal was excessive; to produce a given result in miles travelled, or
speed attained, much more had to be burned than now, a condition to
which contributed also the lack of rigidity in the wooden hulls, which
still held their ground. Sails were very expensive articles, as I
heard said by an accomplished officer of the olden days; but they were
less costly than coal. Steam therefore was accepted at the first only
as an accessory, for emergencies. It was too evident for question that
in battle a vessel independent of the wind would have an unqualified
advantage over one dependent; though an early acquaintance of mine, a
sailmaker in the navy, a man of unusual intelligence and tried
courage, used to maintain that steam would never prevail. Small
steamers, he contended, would accompany sailing fleets, to tow vessels
becalmed, or disabled in battle; a most entertaining instance of
professional prepossession. What would be his reflections, had he
survived till this year of grace, to see only six sailmakers on the
active list of the navy, the last one appointed in 1888, and not one
of them afloat. Likewise, in breasting the continuous head-winds which
mark some ocean districts, or traversing the calms of others, there
would be gain; but for the most part sailing, it was thought, was
sufficiently expeditious, decidedly cheaper, and more generally
reliable; for steamers "broke down." Admiral Baudin; a French veteran
of the Napoleonic period, was very sarcastic over the uncertainties of
action of the steamers accompanying his sailing frigates, when he
attacked Fort San Juan de Ulloa, off Vera Cruz in 1839; and since
writing these words I have come across the following quotation, of
several years later, from the London _Guardian_, which is republishing
some of its older news under the title "'Tis Sixty Years Since."

    "Naval manoeuvres in 1846. The Squadron of Evolution is one of the
    topics of the present week (June 10, 1846). Its arrival in the
    Cove of Cork, after a cruise which has tested by every variety of
    weather the sailing qualities of the vessels, has furnished the
    world with a few particulars of its doings, and with some
    materials for speculating on the problems it was sent out to
    solve. The result, as far as it goes, is certainly unfavorable to
    the exclusive prevalence of steam agency in naval warfare. Sailing
    ships, it is seen, can do things which steamers, as at present
    constructed, cannot accomplish. They can keep the sea when
    steamers cannot. But the screw-steamer, which is reported to have
    astonished everybody, is certainly an exception. Perhaps by this
    contrivance the rapidity and convenience of steam locomotion may
    be combined with the power and stability of our huge sailing
    batteries."

Under convictions thus slowly recasting, the first big steam
ships-of-war carried merely "auxiliary" engines; were in fact sailing
vessels, of the types in use for over a century, into which machinery
was introduced to meet occasional emergencies. In some cases, probably
in many, ships already built as sailers were lengthened and engined.
As late as 1868 we were station-mates with one such, the _Rodney_, of
90 guns, then the flag-ship of the British China squadron; and we had
already met, another, the _Princess Royal_, at the Cape of Good Hope,
homeward bound. She, however, had been built as a steamer. She was a
singularly handsome vessel, of her majestic type; and, as she lay
close by us, I remember commenting on her appearance to one of my
messmates, poor Stewart, who afterwards went down in the _Oneida_.
"Yes," he replied, "she possesses several elements of the sublime."
They were certainly imposing creations, with their double and treble
tiers of guns, thrusting their black muzzles through the successive
ports which, to the number of fifteen to twenty, broke through the two
broad white hands that from bow to stern traversed the blackness of
their hulls; above which rose spars as tall and broad as ever graced
the days of Nelson. To make the illusion of the past as complete as
possible, and the dissemblance from the sailing ship as slight, the
smoke-stack--or funnel--was telescopic, permitting it to be lowered
almost out of sight. For those who can recall these predecessors of
the modern battle-ships, the latter can make slight claim to beauty or
impressiveness; yet, despite the ugliness of their angular broken
sky-line, they have a gracefulness all their own, when moving slowly
in still water. I remember a dozen years ago watching the French
Mediterranean fleet of six or eight battle-ships leaving the harbor of
Villefranche, near Nice. There was some manoeuvring to get their
several stations, during which, here and there, a vessel lying quiet
waiting her opportunity would glide forward with a dozen slow turns of
the screws, not agitating the water beyond a light ripple at the bows.
The bay at the moment was quiet as a mill-pond, and it needed little
imagination to prompt recognition of the identity of dignified
movement with that of a swan making its leisurely way by means equally
unseen; no turbulent display of energy, yet suggestive of mysterious
power.

Before the War of Secession, and indeed for twenty years after it, the
United States never inclined to the maintenance of squadrons, properly
so-called. It is true, a dozen fine ships-of-the-line were built
during the sail period, but they never sailed together; and the
essence of the battle-ship, in all eras, is combined action. Our
squadrons, till long after I entered the navy, were simply
aggregations of vessels, no two of which were necessarily of the same
size or class. When a ship-of-the-line went to sea--which never
happened in my time--she went without mates, a palpable paradox; a
ship-of-the-line, which to no line belonged. Ours was a navy of
single, isolated cruisers; and under that condition we had received a
correct tradition that, whatever the nominal class of an American
ship-of-war, she should be somewhat stronger than the corresponding
vessels built by other nations. Each cruiser, therefore, would bring
superior force to any field of battle at all possible to her. This was
a perfectly just military conception, to which in great measure we
owed our successes of 1812. The same rule does not apply to fleets,
which to achieve the like superiority rely upon united action, and
upon tactical facility obtained by the homogeneous qualities of the
several ships, enabling them to combine greater numbers upon a part of
the enemy. Therefore Great Britain, which so long ruled the world by
fleets, attached less importance to size in the particular vessel.
Class for class, her ships were weaker than those of her enemies, but
in fleet action they usually won. At the period of which I am writing,
the screw-propeller, having fairly established its position, prompted
a reconstruction of the navy, with no change of the principles just
mentioned. The cruiser idea dictated the classes of vessels ordered,
and the idea of relative size prescribed their dimensions. There were
to be six steam-frigates of the largest class, six steam-sloops, and
six smaller vessels, a precise title for which I do not know. I myself
have usually called them by the French name corvette, which has a
recognized place in English marine phraseology, and means a
sloop-of-war of the smaller class. A transfer of terms accompanying a
change of system is apt to be marked by anomalies.

These eighteen vessels were the nucleus of the fighting force with
which the government met the war of 1861. In the frigates and sloops
steam was purely auxiliary; they had every spar and sail of
the sailing ships to which they corresponded. Four of the
larger sloops--the _Hartford_, _Richmond_, _Brooklyn_, and
_Pensacola_--constituted the backbone of Farragut's fleet throughout
his operations in the Mississippi. The _Lancaster_, one of the finest
of these five sisters, was already in the Pacific, and there remained
throughout the contest; while the _San Jacinto_, being of different
type and size, was employed rather as a cruiser than for the important
operations of war. It was she that arrested the Confederate
commissioners, Slidell and Mason, on board the British mail-steamer
_Trent_, in 1861. The corvettes for the most part were also employed
as cruisers, being at once less effective in battery, for river work,
and swifter. They alone of the vessels built in the fifties were
engined for speed, as speed went in those days; but their sail power
also was ample, though somewhat reduced. One of them, the _Iroquois_,
accompanied Farragut to New Orleans, as did a sister ship to her, the
_Oneida_, which was laid down in 1861, after many Southern Senators
and Representatives had left their seats in Congress and the secession
movement became ominous of war; when it began to be admitted that
perhaps, after all, for sufficient cause, brothers might shed the
blood of brothers.

The steam-frigates were of too deep draught to be of much use in the
shoal waters, to which the nature of the hostilities and the character
of the Southern coast confined naval operations. Being extremely
expensive in upkeep, with enormous crews, and not having speed under
steam to make them effective chasers, they were of little avail
against an enemy who had not, and could not have, any ships at sea
heavy enough to compete with them. The _Wabash_ of this class bore the
flag of Admiral Dupont at the capture of Port Royal; and after the
fight the negroes who had witnessed it on shore reported that when
"that checker-sided ship," following the elliptical course prescribed
to the squadron for the engagement, came abreast the enemy's works,
the gunners, after one experience, took at once to cover. No barbette
or merely embrasured battery of that day could stand up against the
twenty or more heavy guns carried on each broadside by the
steam-frigates, if these could get near enough. At New Orleans, even
the less numerous pieces of the sloops beat down opposition so long as
they remained in front of Fort St. Philip and close to; but when they
passed on, so the first lieutenant of one of them told me, the enemy
returned to his guns and hammered them severely. This showed that the
fort was not seriously injured nor its armament decisively crippled,
but that the personnel was completely dominated by the fire of many
heavy guns during the critical period required for the smaller as well
as larger vessels to pass. As most of the river work was, of this
character, the broadsides of the sloops were determinative, and those
of the frigates would have been more so, could they have been brought
to the scene; but they could not. Much labor was expended in the
attempt to drag the _Colorado_, sister ship to the _Wabash_, across
the bar of the Mississippi, but fruitlessly.

For the reason named, the screw-frigates built in the fifties had
little active share in the Civil War. Were they then, from a national
stand-point, uselessly built? Not unless preparation for war is to be
rejected, and reliance placed upon extemporized means. To this resort
our people have always been inclined to trust unduly, owing to a false
or partial reading of history; but to it they were excusably compelled
by the extensive demands of the War of Secession, which could scarcely
have been anticipated. At the time these frigates were built, they
were, by their dimensions and the character of their armaments, much
the most formidable ships of their class afloat, or as yet designed.
Though correctly styled frigates--having but one covered deck of
guns--they were open to the charge, brought against our frigates in
1812 by the British, of being ships-of-the-line in disguise; and being
homogeneous in qualities, they would, in acting together, have
presented a line of battle extorting very serious consideration from
any probable foreign enemy. It was for such purpose they were built;
and it was no reproach to their designers that, being intended to meet
a probable contingency, they were too big for one which very few men
thought likely. At that moment, when the portentous evolution of naval
material which my time has witnessed was but just beginning, they were
thoroughly up-to-date, abreast and rather ahead of the conclusions as
yet reached by contemporary opinion. The best of compliments was paid
them by the imitation of other navies; for, when the first one was
finished, we sent her abroad on exhibition, much like a hen cackling
over its last performance, with the result that we had not long to
congratulate ourselves on the newest and best thing. It is this place
in a long series of development which gives them their historical
interest.

But if the frigates were unfitted to the particular emergency of a
civil contest, scarcely to be discerned as imminent in 1855, the
advantage of preparation for general service is avouched by the
history of the first year of hostilities, even so exceptional as those
of 1861 and 1862. Within a year of the first Bull Run, Farragut's
squadron had fought its way from the mouth of the Mississippi to
Vicksburg. That the extreme position was not held was not the fault of
the ships, but of backwardness in other undertakings of the nation.
All the naval vessels that subdued New Orleans had been launched and
ready before the war, except the _Oneida_ and the gunboats; and to
attribute any determinative effect in such operations to the
gunboats, with their one heavy gun, is to misunderstand the
conditions. Even a year later, at the very important passage of Port
Hudson, the fighting work was done by the _Hartford_, _Richmond_,
_Mississippi_, and _Monongahela_; of which only the last named, and
least powerful, was built after the war began. It would be difficult
to overrate the value, material and moral, of the early successes
which led the way to the opening of the great river, due to having the
ships and officers ready. So the important advantages obtained by the
capture of Port Royal in South Carolina, and of Hatteras Inlet in
North Carolina, within the first six months, were the results of
readiness, slight and inadequate as that was in reference to anything
like a great naval war.

A brief analysis of the composition of the navy at the opening of the
War of Secession, will bring out still more vividly how vitally
important to the issue were the additions of the decade 1850-60. In
March, 1861, when Lincoln was inaugurated, the available ships-of-war
at sea, or in the yards, numbered sixty-one. Of these thirty-four were
sailing vessels, substantially worthless; although, as the commerce of
the world was still chiefly carried on by sailing ships, they could be
of some slight service against these attempting to pass a blockade.
For the most part, however, they were but scarecrows, if even
respected as such. Of the twenty-seven steamers, only six dated from
before 1850; the remainder were being built when I entered the Naval
Academy in September, 1856. Their construction, with all that it
meant, constituted a principal part of the environment into which I
was then brought, of which the recasting of the list of officers was
the other most important and significant feature. Both were
revolutionary in character, and prophetic of further changes quite
beyond the foresight of contemporaries. From this point of view, the
period in question has the character of an epoch, initiated, made
possible, by the invention of the screw-propeller; which, in addition
to the better nautical qualities associated with it, permitted the
defence of the machinery by submersion, and of the sides of the ship
by the application of armor. In this lay the germ of the race between
the armor and the gun, involving almost directly the attempt to reach
the parts which armor cannot protect, the underwater body, by means of
the torpedo. The increases of weight induced by the competition of gun
and armor led necessarily to increase of size, which in turn lent
itself to increases of speed that have been pushed beyond the strictly
necessary, and at all events are neither militarily nor logically
involved in the progress made. It has remained to me always a matter
of interest and satisfaction that I first knew the navy, was in close
personal contact and association with it, in this period of
unconscious transition; and that to the fact of its being yet
incomplete I have owed the experience of vessels, now wholly extinct,
of which it would be no more than truth to say that in all essential
details they were familiar to the men of two hundred years ago. Nay,
in their predecessors of that date, as transmitted to us by
contemporary prints, it is easy to trace the development, in form, of
the ships I have known from the mediæval galley; and this, were the
records equally complete, would doubtless find its rudimentary
outlines in the triremes of the ancient world. Of this evolution of
structure clear evidences remain also in terminology, even now
current; survivals which, if the facts were unknown, would provoke
curiosity and inquiry as to their origin, as physiologists seek to
reconstruct the past of a race from scanty traces still extant.

I have said that the character of the ships then building constituted
a chief part of my environment in entering the navy. The effect was
inevitable, and amounted in fact simply to making me a man of my
period. My most susceptible years were colored by the still lingering
traditions of the sail period, and of the "marling-spike seaman;" not
that I, always clumsy with my fingers, had any promise of ever
distinguishing myself with the marling-spike. This expressive phrase,
derived from its chief tool, characterized the whole professional
equipment of the then mechanic of the sea, of the man who, given the
necessary rope-yarns, and the spars shaped by a carpenter, could take
a bare hull as she lay for the first time quietly at anchor from the
impetus of her launch, and equip her for sea without other assistance;
"parbuckle" on board her spars lying alongside her in the stream, fit
her rigging, bend her sails, stow her hold, and present her all
a-taunt-o to the men who were to sail her. The navigation of a ship
thus equipped was a field of seamanship apart from that of the
marling-spike; but the men who sailed her to all parts of the earth
were expected to be able to do all the preliminary work themselves,
often did do it, and considered it quite as truly a part of their
business as the handling her at sea. Of course, in equipping ships, as
in all other business, specialization had come in with progress; there
were rope-makers, there were riggers who took the ropes ready-made and
fitted them for the ship, and there were stevedores to stow holds,
etc.; but the tradition ran that the seaman should be able on a pinch
to do all this himself, and the tradition kept alive the practice,
which derived from the days not yet wholly passed away when he might,
and often did, have to refit his vessel in scenes far distant from any
help other than his own, and without any resources save those which
his ready wit could adapt from materials meant for quite different
uses. How to make a jib-boom do the work of a topsail-yard, or to
utilize spare spars in rigging a jury-rudder, were specimens of the
problems then presented to the aspiring seaman. It was somewhere in
the thirties, not so very long before my time, that a Captain Rous, of
the British navy, achieved renown--I would say immortal, were I not
afraid that most people have forgotten--by bringing his frigate home
from Labrador to England after losing her rudder. It is said that he
subsequently ran for Parliament, and when on the hustings some doubter
asked about his political record, he answered, "I am Captain Rous who
brought the _Pique_ across the Atlantic without a rudder." Of course
the reply was lustily cheered, and deservedly; for in such seas, with
a ship dependent upon sails only, it was a splendid, if somewhat
reckless achievement. Cooper, in his _Homeward Bound_, places the ship
dismasted on the coast of Africa. Close at hand, but on the beach,
lies a wrecked vessel with her spar standing; and there is no
exaggeration in the words he puts into the mouth of Captain Truck, as
he looked upon these resources: "The seaman who, with sticks, and
ropes, and blocks enough, cannot rig his ship, might as well stay
ashore and publish an hebdomadal."

Such was the marling-spike seaman of the days of Cooper and Marryat,
and such was still the able seaman, the "A.B.," of 1855. It was not
indeed necessary, nor expected, that most naval officers should do
such things with their own hands; but it was justly required that they
should know when a job of marling-spike seamanship was well or ill
done, and be able to supervise, when necessary. Napoleon is reported
to have said that he could judge personally whether the shoes
furnished his soldiers were well or ill made; but he needed not to be
a shoemaker. Marryat, commenting on one of his characters, says that
he had seldom known an officer who prided himself on his "practical"
knowledge who was at the same time a good navigator; and that such too
often "lower the respect due to them by assuming the Jack Tar." Oddly
enough, lunching once with an old and distinguished British admiral,
who had been a midshipman while Marryat still lived, he told me that
he remembered him well; his reputation, he added, was that of "an
excellent seaman, but not much of an officer," an expressive phrase,
current in our own service, and which doubtless has its equivalent in
all maritime languages.

In my early naval life I came into curious accidental contact with
just such a person as Marryat described. I was still at the Academy,
within a year of graduation, and had been granted a few days' leave at
Christmas. Returning by rail, there seated himself alongside me a
gentleman who proved to be a lieutenant from the flag-ship of the Home
Squadron, going to Washington with despatches. Becoming known to each
other, he began to question me as to what new radicalisms were being
fostered in Annapolis. "Are they still wasting the young men's time
over French? I would not permit them to learn any other language than
their own. And how about seamanship? What do they know about that? As
far as I have observed they know nothing about marling-spike
seamanship, strapping blocks, fitting rigging, etc. Now I can sit down
alongside of any seaman doing a bit of work and show him how it ought
to be done; yes, and do it myself." It was Marryat's lieutenant,
Phillott, _ipsissimis verbis_. I listened, over-awed by the weight of
authority and experience; and I fear somewhat in sympathy, for such
talk was in the air, part of the environment of an old order slowly
and reluctantly giving way to a new.

Of course I shared this; how should I not, at eighteen? In giving
expression to it once, I drew down on my head a ringing buffet from my
father, in which he embodied an anecdote of Decatur I never saw
elsewhere, and fancy he owed to his boyhood passed near a navy-yard
town--Portsmouth, Virginia--while Decatur was in his prime. I had
written home with reference to some study, in which probably I did not
shine, "What did Decatur know about such things?" A boy may be
pardoned for laying himself open to the retort which so many of his
superiors equally invited: "Depend upon it, if Decatur had been a
student at the Academy, he would, so far as his abilities permitted,
have got as far to the front as he always did in fighting. He always
aimed to be first. It is told of him that he commanded one of two
ships ordered on a common service, in which the other arrived first at
a point on the way. Her captain, instead of pushing forward, waited
for Decatur to come up; on hearing which the latter exclaimed in his
energetic way, 'The d----d fool!'" Decatur, however, also shared, and
shared inevitably, the prepossessions of his day. I was told by Mr.
Charles King, when President of Columbia College, that he had been
present in company with Decatur at one of the early experiments in
steam navigation. Crude as the appliances still were, demonstration
was conclusive; and Decatur, whatever his prejudices, was open to
conviction. "Yes," he said, gloomily, to King, "it is the end of our
business; hereafter any man who can boil a tea-kettle will be as good
as the best of us." It is notable that in my day a tradition ran that
Decatur himself was not thoroughly a seaman. The captain of the first
ship in which I served after graduation, a man of much solid
information, who had known the commodore's contemporaries, speaking
about some occurrence, said to me, "The trouble with Decatur was, that
he was not a seaman." I repeated the remark to one of our lieutenants,
and he ejaculated, with emphasis, "Yes, that is true." I cannot tell
how far these opinions were the result of prepossession in those from
whom they derived. There had been hard and factious division in the
navy of Decatur's day, culminating in the duel in which he fell; and
the lieutenant, at least, was associated by family ties with Decatur's
antagonist.

To deny that the methods of the Naval Academy were open to criticism
would be to claim for them infallibility. Upon the whole, however, in
my time they erred rather on the side of being over-conservative than
unduly progressive. Twenty years later, recalling some of our Academy
experiences to one of my contemporaries, himself more a man of action
than a student, and who had meanwhile distinguished himself by
extraordinary courage in the War of Secession--I mean Edward Terry--he
said, "Oh yes, those were the days before the flood." The hold-back
element was strong, though not sufficiently so to suit such as my
friend of the railroad. Objectors laid great stress on the word
"practical;" than which, with all its most respectable derivation and
association, I know none more frequently--nor more effectually--used
as a bludgeon for slaying ideas. Strictly, of course, it means knowing
how to do things, and doing them; but colloquially it usually means
doing them before learning how. Leap before you look. The practical
part is bruising your shins for lack of previous reflection. Of
course, no one denies the educational value of breaking your shins,
and everything else your own--a burnt child dreads the fire; but the
question remains whether an equally good result may not be reached at
less cost, and so be more really practical. I recall the fine scorn
with which one of our professors, Chauvenet, a man of great and
acknowledged ability, practical and other, used to speak of "practical
men." "Now, young gentlemen, in adjusting your theodolites in the
field, remember not to bear too hard on the screws. Don't put them
down with main force, as though the one object was never to unscrew
them. If you do, you indent the plate, and it will soon be quite
impossible to level the instrument properly. That," he would continue,
"is the way with your practical men. There, for instance, is Mr.
----," naming an assistant in another department, known to the
midshipmen as Bull-pup, who I suppose had been a practical surveyor;
"that is what he does." I presume the denunciation was due to B. P.
having at one time borrowed an instrument from the department, and
returned it thus maltreated. But "practical," so misapplied--action
without thought--was Chauvenet's red rag.

An amusing reminiscence, illustrative of the same common tendency, was
told me by General Howard. I had the pleasure of meeting Howard, then
in command of one wing of Sherman's army, at Savannah, just after the
conclusion of the march to the sea, in 1864. He spoke pleasantly of
his associations with my father, when a cadet at the Military Academy,
and added, "I remember how he used to say, 'A little common-sense, Mr.
Howard, a little common-sense.'" Howard did not say what particular
occasions he then had in mind, but a student reciting, and confronted
suddenly with some question, or step in a demonstration, which he has
failed to master, or upon which he has not reflected, is apt to feel
that the practical thing to do is not to admit ignorance; to trust to
luck and answer at random. Such a one, explaining a drawing of a
bridge to my father, was asked by him what was represented by certain
lines, showing the up-stream part of a pier. Not knowing, he replied,
"That is a hole to catch the ice in." "Imagine," said my father, in
telling me the story, "catching all the ice from above in holes in the
piers." A little common-sense--exercised first, not afterwards--is the
prescription against leaping before you look, or jamming your screws
too hard.

To substitute acquired common-sense--knowledge and reflection--for the
cruder and tardier processes of learning by hard personal experience
and mistakes, is, of course, the object of all education; and it was
this which caused the foundation of the Naval Academy, behind which at
its beginning lay the initiative of some of the most reputed and
accomplished senior officers of the navy, conscious of the needless
difficulties they themselves had had to surmount in reaching the
level they had. It involved no detraction from their professional
excellence, the excellence of men professionally self-made; but none
comprehend the advantages of education better than candid men who have
made their way without it. By the time I entered, however, there had
been a decided, though not decisive, reaction in professional feeling.
Ten years had elapsed since the founding of the school, and already
development had gone so far that suspicion and antagonism were
aroused. Up to 1850 midshipmen went at once to sea, and, after five
years there, spent one at Annapolis; whereupon followed the final
examination for a lieutenancy. This effected, the man became a
"passed" midshipman. Beginning with 1851, the system was changed. Four
years at the Academy were required, after which two at sea, and then
examination. This, being a clean break with the past, outraged
conservatism; it introduced such abominations as French and extended
mathematics; much attention was paid to infantry drill--soldiering;
the scheme was not "practical;" and it was doubtless true that the
young graduate, despite six months of summer cruising interposed
between academic terms, came comparatively green to shipboard. In that
particular respect he could not but compare for the moment unfavorably
with one who under the old plan would have spent four years on a
ship's deck. Whether, that brief period of inexperience passed, he
would not be permanently the better for the prior initiation into the
_rationale_ of his business, few inquired, and time had not yet had
opportunity to show.

Perhaps, too, there was among the graduates something of the
"freshness" which is attributed to the same age in leaving a
university. I do not think it; the immediate contact with conditions
but partly familiar to us, yet perfectly familiar to all about us,
excited rather a wholesome feeling of inferiority or inadequacy. We
had yet to find ourselves. But there remained undoubtedly some
antagonism between the old and the new. Not that this ever showed
itself offensively; nothing could have been kinder or more
open-hearted than our reception by the lieutenants who had not known
the Academy, and who probably depreciated it in their hearts. Whatever
they thought, nothing was ever said that could reflect upon us, the
outcome of the system. It was not even hinted that we might have been
turned out in better shape under different conditions. From my
personal experience, I hope we proved more satisfactory than may have
been expected. When we returned home in 1861, just after the first
battle of Bull Run, our third lieutenant said to me that he expected a
command, and would be glad to have me as his first lieutenant; and
upon my detachment one of the warrant officers expressed his regret
that I was not remaining as one of the lieutenants of the ship. Both
being men of mature years and long service, and with no obligation to
speak, it is permissible to infer that they thought us fit at least to
take the deck. As it was, in the uproar of those days, no questions
were asked. The usual examinations were waived, and my class was
hurried out of the midshipmen's mess into the first-lieutenant's
berth. Without exception, I believe, we all had that duty at
once--second to the captain--missing thereby the very valuable
experience of the deck officer. In the face of considerable
opposition, as I was told by Admiral Dupont, the leading officers of
the day frustrated the attempt to introduce volunteer officers from
the merchant service over our heads; another proof of confidence in
us, as at least good raw material. The longer practice of the others
at sea was alleged as a reason for thus preferring them, which was
seriously contemplated; but the reply was that acquaintance with the
organization of a ship-of-war, with her equipment and armament, the
general military tone so quickly assimilated by the young and so
hardly by the mature, outweighed completely any mere question of
attainment in handling a ship. As drill officers, too, the general
excellence of the graduates was admitted.

Within a fortnight of doing duty on the forecastle, as a midshipman, I
thus found myself first lieutenant of a very respectable vessel. One
of my shipmates, less quickly fortunate, was detailed to instruct a
number of volunteer officers with the great guns and muskets. One of
them said to him, "Yes, you can teach me this, but I expect I can
teach you something in seamanship"; a freedom of speech which by
itself showed imperfect military temper. At the same moment, I myself
had a somewhat similar encounter, which illustrates why the old
officers insisted on the superior value of military habit, and the
necessarily unmilitary attitude, at first, of the volunteers. I had
been sent momentarily to a paddle-wheel merchant-steamer, now
purchased for a ship-of-war, the _James Adger_, which had plied
between Charleston and New York. A day or two after joining, I saw two
of the engineer force going ashore without my knowledge. I stopped
them; and a few moments afterwards the chief engineer, who had long
been in her when she was a packet, came to me with flaming eyes and
angry voice to know by what right I interfered with his men. It had to
be explained to him that, unlike the merchant-service, the engine-room
was but a department of the military whole of the ship, and that other
consent than his was necessary to their departure. A trivial incident,
with a whole world of atmosphere behind it.



III

THE NAVAL ACADEMY IN ITS RELATION TO THE NAVY AT LARGE

1850-1860


Probably there have been at all periods educational excesses in the
outlook of some of the Naval Academy authorities; and I personally
have sympathized in the main with those who would subordinate the
technological element to the more strictly professional. I remember
one superintendent--and he, unless rumor was in error, had been one of
the early opposition--saying to me with marked elation, "I believe we
carry the calculus farther here than they do at West Point." I myself
had then long forgotten all the calculus I ever knew, and I fear that
with him, too, it was a case of _omne ignotum pro magnifico_. A more
curious extravagancy was uttered to me by a professor of applied
mathematics. I had happened to say that, while it was well each
student should have the opportunity to acquire all he could in that
department, I did not think it necessary that every officer of the
deck should be able to calculate mathematically the relation between a
weight he had to hoist on board and the power of the purchase he was
about to use; which I think a mild proposition, considering the
centuries during which that knowledge had been dispensed with. "Oh, I
differ with you," he replied; "I think it of the utmost importance
they should all be able to do so." Nothing like sails, said my friend
the sailmaker; nothing like leather, says the shoemaker. I mentioned
this shortly afterwards to one of my colleagues, himself an officer
of unusual mathematical and scientific attainment. "No!" he exclaimed;
"did he _really_ say that?"

This was to claim for this mere head knowledge a falsely "practical"
value, as distinguished from the educational value of the mental
training involved, and from the undoubted imperative need of such
acquisitions in those who have to deal with problems of ship
construction or other mechanical questions connected with naval
material. His position was really as little practical as that of the
men who opposed the Academy plan in general as unpractical; as little
practical as it would be to maintain that it is essential that every
naval officer to-day should be skilled to handle a ship under sail,
because the habit of the sailing-ship educated, brought out, faculties
and habits of the first value to the military man. Still, there is
something not only excusable, but laudable, in a man magnifying his
office; and it was well that my friend the professor should have a
slightly exaggerated idea of the bearing of the calculus on the daily
routine or occasional emergencies of a ship. What is needed is a
counterpoise, to correct undue deflection of the like kind, to which
an educational institution from its very character and object is
always liable. That the Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the
Sabbath, is a saying of wide application. The administrator tends to
think more of his administrative machine than of the object for which
it exists, and the educator to forget that while the foundation is
essential, it yet exists only for the building, which is the
"practical" end in view. The object of naval education is to make a
naval officer. Too much as well as too little of one ingredient will
mar the compound; and if exaggeration cannot be wholly avoided, it had
better rest upon the professional side. This was the function
discharged by the critical attitude of the outside service, such as my
friend of the railroad; at times somewhat irrational, but still as a
check effective after the manner of other public opinion, of which in
fact it was an instance.

In September, 1856, when I entered, professional influence was perhaps
in excess. The preceding June had seen the graduation of the last
class of "oldsters"--of those who, after five years at sea, had spent
the sixth at the Academy, subjected formally to its discipline and
methods. I therefore just missed seeing that phase of the Academy's
history; but I could not thereby escape the traces of its influence.
However transient, this lasted my time. It may be imagined what an
influential, yet incongruous, element in a crowd of boys was
constituted by introducing among them twenty or thirty young men, too
young for ripeness, yet who for five years had been bearing the not
slight responsibility of the charge of seamen, often on duty away from
their superiors, and permitted substantially all the powers and
privileges conceded to their seniors, men of mature years. How could
such be brought under the curb of the narrowly ordered life of the
school, for the short eight months to which they knew the ordeal was
restricted? Could this have been attempted seriously, there would
probably have been an explosion; but in truth, as far as my
observation went, most of the disciplinary officers, the lieutenants,
rather sympathized with irregularities, within pretty wide limits. A
midshipman was a being who traditionally had little but the exuberance
of his spirits to make up for the discomforts of his lot. The
comprehensive saying that what was nobody's business was a
midshipman's business epitomized the harrying of his daily life, with
its narrow quarters, hard fare, and constant hustling for poor pay.
Like the seaman, above whom in earlier days he stood but little, the
midshipman had then only his jollity--and his youth--to compensate;
and also like the seaman a certain recklessness was conceded to his
moments of enjoyment. The very name carried with it the privilege of
frolicking.

The old times of license among seafaring men were still of recent
memory, and, though practice had improved, opinion remained tolerant.
The gunner of the first ship in which I served after graduation told
me that in 1832, when he was a young seaman before the mast on board a
sloop-of-war in the Mediterranean, on Christmas Eve, there being a
two-knot breeze--that is, substantially, calm--at sundown the ship was
put under two close-reefed topsails for the night--storm canvas--and
then the jollity began. How far it was expected to go may be inferred
from the precautions; and we gain here some inkling of the phrase
"heavy weather" applied to such conditions. But of the same ship he
told me that she stood into the harbor of Malta under all sail, royal
and studding sails, to make a flying moor; which, I must explain to
the unprofessional, is to drop an anchor under sail, the cable running
out under the force of the ship's way till the place is reached for
letting go the second anchor, the ship finally being brought to lie
midway between the two. An accurate eye, a close judgment as to the
ship's speed, and absolute promptness of execution are needed; for all
the sail that is on when the first anchor goes must be off before the
second. In this case nothing was started before the first. Within
fifteen minutes all was in, the ship moored, sails furled, and yards
squared, awaiting doubtless the final touches of the boatswain.
Whether the flag of the port was saluted within the same quarter-hour,
I will not undertake to say; it would be quite in keeping to have
attempted it. System, preparation, and various tricks of the trade go
far to facilitate such rapidity. Now I dare say that some of my
brother officers may cavil at this story; but I personally believe it,
with perhaps two or three minutes' allowance for error in clocks. Much
may be accepted of seamen who not uncommonly reefed topsails "in
stays"--that is, while the ship was being tacked. Of the narrator's
good faith I am certain. It was not with hint one of the stock stories
told about "the last cruise;" nor was he a romancer. It came naturally
in course of conversation, as one tells any experience; and he added,
when the British admiral returned the commander's visit he
complimented the ship on the smartest performance he had ever seen.
But it is in the combination of license and smartness that the pith of
these related stories lies; between them they embody much of the
spirit of a time which in 1855 was remembered and influential. Midway
in the War of Secession I met the first lieutenant who held the
trumpet in that memorable manoeuvre--a man of 1813; now a quiet,
elderly, slow-spoken old gentleman, retired, with little to suggest
the smart officer, at the stamp of whose foot the ship's company
jumped, to use the gunner's expression.

Such performances exemplify the ideals that still obtained--were in
full force--in the navy as first I knew it. In the ship in which the
gunner and I were then serving, it was our common performance to "Up
topgallant-masts and yards, and loose sail to a bowline," in three
minutes and a half from the time the topmen and the masts started
aloft together from the deck. For this time I can vouch myself, and we
did it fairly, too; though I dare say we would have hesitated to carry
the sails in a stiff breeze without a few minutes more. It was a very
dramatic and impressive performance. The band, with drum and fife, was
part of it. When all was reported ready from the three masts--but not
before--it was permitted to be eight o'clock. The drums gave three
rolls, the order "Sway across, let fall," was given, the yards swung
into their places, the sails dropped and were dragged out by their
bowlines to facilitate their drying, the bell struck eight, the flag
was hoisted, and close on the drums followed the band playing the
"Star-Spangled Banner," while the ship's company went to breakfast. It
was the transformation scene of a theatre; within five minutes the
metamorphosis was complete. There was doubtless a flavor of the circus
about it all, but it was a wholesome flavor and tonicked the
professional appetite. Yes, and the natural appetite, too; your
breakfast tasted better, especially if some other ship had got into
trouble with one of her yards or sails. "Did you see what a mess the
---- made of fore-topgallant-yard this morning?" An old boatswain's
mate of the ship used to tell me one of his "last-cruise" stories, of
when he "was in the _Delaware_, seventy-four, up the Mediterranean, in
1842." Of course, the _Delaware_ had beaten the _Congress's_ time; the
last ship always did. Then he would add: "I was in the foretop in
those days, and had the fore-topgallant-yard; and if one of us fellows
let his yard show on either side of the mast before the order 'Sway
across,' we could count on a dozen when we got down just as sure as we
could count on our breakfast." Flogging was not abolished until about
1849. No wonder men were jolly when they could be, without worrying
about to-morrow's headache.

Part of the preparation was to let the captain know beforehand that it
was eight o'clock, and get his authority that it might be so; subject
always to the yet higher authority that the yards and sails were
ready. If they were not, so much the worse for eight o'clock. It had
to wait quite as imperatively as the sun did for Joshua. Sunset, when
the masts and yards came down, was equally under bonds; it awaited the
pleasure of the captain or admiral. Indeed, in my time a story ran of
a court-martial at a much earlier day, sitting in a capital case. By
law, each day's session must end by sundown. On the occasion in
question, sundown was reported to the admiral--or, rather, commodore;
we had no admirals then. He sent to know how soon the court could
finish. The reply was, in about fifteen minutes. "Tell the officer of
the deck not to make it sundown until he hears from me;" and, in
defiance of the earth's movement, the colors were kept flying in
attestation that the sun was up. One other hour of the twenty-four,
noon, was brought in like manner to the captain's attention, and
required his action, but it was treated with more deference;
recognition rather than authority was meted to it, and it was never
known to be tampered with. The circumstance of the sun's crossing the
ship's meridian was unique in the day; and the observation of the
fact, which drew on deck all the navigating group with their
instruments, establishing the latitude immediately and precisely, was
of itself a principal institution of the ship's economy. Such claims
were not open to trifling; and were there not also certain established
customs, almost vested interests, such as the seven-bell nip, cocktail
or otherwise, connected with the half-hour before, when "the sun was
over the fore-yard"? I admit I never knew whence the latter phrase
originated, nor just what it meant, but it has associations. Like sign
language, it can be understood.

I was myself shipmate, as they say, with most of this sort of thing;
for with its good points and its bad it did not disappear until the
War of Secession, the exigencies of which drove out alike the sails
and the sailor. The abolition of the grog ration in 1862 may be looked
upon as a chronological farewell to a picturesque past. We did not so
understand it. Contemporaries are apt to be blind to bloodless
revolutions. Had we seen the full bearing, perhaps there might have
been observed a professional sundown, in recognition of the fact that
the topgallant-yards had come down for the last time, ending one
professional era. A protest was recorded by one eccentric character, a
survival whom Cooper unfortunately never knew, who hoisted a whiskey
demijohn at the peak of his gunboat--the ensign's allotted place. To
the admiral's immediate demand for an explanation, he replied that
that was the flag he served under; but he was one of those to whom all
things are forgiven. The seaman remains, and must always remain while
there are seas to cross and to rule; but the sailor, in his
accomplishments and in his defects, began then to depart, or to be
evolutionized into something entirely different. I am bound to admit
that in the main the better has survived, but, now that such hairs as
I have are gray, I may be permitted to look back somewhat wistfully
and affectionately on that which I remember a half-century ago;
perhaps to sympathize with the seamen of the period, who saw
themselves swamped out of sight and influence among the vast numbers
required by the sudden seven or eight fold expansion of the navy for
that momentous conflict. Occasionally one of these old salts, mournful
amid his new environment, would meet me, and say, "Ah! Mr. Mahan, the
navy isn't what it was!" True, in 1823, Lord St. Vincent, then verging
on ninety, had made the same remark to George IV.; and I am quite
sure, if the aged admiral had searched his memory, he could have
recalled it in the mouth of some veteran of 1750. The worst of it is,
this is perennially true. From period to period the gain exceeds, but
still there has been loss as well; and to sentiment, ranging over the
past, the loss stands more conspicuous. "Memory reveals every rose,
but secreteth its thorn."

This is the more apparent when the change has been sudden, or on such
a scale as to overwhelm, by mere bulk, that subtle influence for which
we owe to the French the name of _esprit de corps_. It is the breath
of the body, the breath of life. Before the War of Secession our old
friends the marines had a deserved reputation for fidelity, which
could not survive the big introduction of alien matter into the
"corps." I remember hearing an officer of long service say that he
had known but a single instance of a marine deserting; and as to the
general fact there was no dissent among the by-standers. The same
could scarcely be said now, nor of seamen then. The sentiment of
particular faithfulness had been nurtured in the British marines under
times and conditions which made them at a critical moment the saviors
of discipline, and thereby the saviors of the state. It is needless to
philosophize the strength of such a tradition, so established, nor its
effect on each member of the body; and from thence, not improbably, it
was transmitted to our younger navy. Whencever coming, there it was.
One marine private, in the ship to which I belonged, returning from
liberty on shore, was heard saying to another with drunken
impressiveness, "Remember, our motto is, 'Patriotism and laziness.'"
Of course, this went round the ship, greatly delighting on both counts
our marine officers, and became embodied in the chaff that passed to
and fro between the two corps; of which one saying, "The two most
useless things in a ship were the captain of marines and the
mizzen-royal," deserves for its drollery to be committed to writing,
now that mizzen-royals have ceased to be. May it be long before the
like extinction awaits the captains of marines! Our own, however, an
eccentric man, who had accomplished the then rare feat of working his
way up from the ranks, used to claim that marines were an absurdity.
"It is having one army to keep another army in order," he would say.
This was once true, and might with equal truth be said of a city
police force--one set of citizens to keep the other citizens orderly.
In the olden time it had been the application of the sound
statesmanship dogma, "_Divide et impera_." For this, in the navy,
happily, the need no longer exists; but I can see no reason to believe
the time at hand when we can dispense with a corps of seamen, the
specialty of which is infantry--and shore expedition when necessary.
Patriotism, as our marine understood it, was sticking by your colors
and your corps, and doing your duty through thick and thin; no bad
ideal.

In like mingling of good and evil, the oldsters at the Naval Academy,
along with some things objectionable, including a liberty that under
the conditions too often resembled license, brought with them sound
traditions, which throughout my stay there constituted a real _esprit
de corps_. In nothing was this more conspicuous than in the attitude
towards hazing. Owing to circumstances I will mention later, I entered
at once the class which, as I understand, most usually perpetrated the
outrageous practices that became a scandal in the country--the class,
that is, which is entering on its second year at the Academy. My home
having always been at the Military Academy, I, without much thinking,
expected to find rife the same proceedings which had prevailed there
from time to me immemorial. Such anticipations made deeper and more
lasting the impression produced by the contrary state of things, and
yet more by the wholly different tone prevalent at Annapolis. Not only
was hazing not practised, but it scarcely obtained even the
recognition of mention; it was not so much reprobated as ignored; and,
if it came under discussion at all, it was dismissed with a turn of
the nose, as something altogether beneath us. That is not the sort of
thing we do here. It may be all very well at West Point--much as "what
would do for a marine could not be thought of for a seaman"--but we
were "officers and gentlemen," and thought no small beans of ourselves
as such. There were at times absurd manifestations of this same
precocious dignity, of which I may speak later; still, as O'Brien said
of Boatswain Chucks, "You may laugh at such assumptions of gentility,
but did any one of his shipmates ever know Mr. Chucks to do an
unhandsome or a mean action?--and why? Because he aspired to be a
gentleman."

While I can vouch for this general state of feeling, I cannot be sure
of its derivation; but I have always thought it due to the presence
during the previous five years of the "oldsters," nominally under the
same discipline as ourselves, but looked up to with the respect and
observance which at that age are naturally given to those two or three
seasons older. And these men were not merely more advanced in years.
They were matured beyond their age by early habits of responsibility
and command, and themselves imbued by constant contact with the spirit
of the phrase "an officer and a gentleman," which constitutes the norm
of military conduct. Their intercourse with their seniors on board
ship had been much closer than that which was possible at the school.
This atmosphere they brought with them to a position from which they
could not but most powerfully influence us. How far the tradition
might have been carried on, in smooth seas, I do not know; but along
with many other things, good and bad, it was shattered by the War of
Secession. The school was precipitately removed to Newport, where it
was established in extemporized and temporary surroundings; the older
undergraduates were hurried to sea, while the new entries were huddled
together on two sailing frigates moored in the harbor, dissociated
from the influence of those above them. The whole anatomy and, so to
say, nervous system of the organization were dislocated. For better or
for worse, perhaps for better and for worse, the change was more like
death and resurrection than life and growth. The potent element which
the oldster had contributed, and the upper classes absorbed and
perpetuated, was eliminated at once and entirely by the detachment of
the senior cadets and the segregation of the new-corners. New ideals
were evolved by a mass of school-boys, severed from those elder
associates with the influence of whom no professors nor officers can
vie. How hazing came up I do not know, and am not writing its
history. I presume it is one of the inevitable weeds that school-boy
nature brings forth of itself, unless checked by unfavorable
environment. I merely note its almost total absence in my time; its
subsequent existence was unhappily notorious.

A general good-humored tolerance, easy-going, and depending upon a
mutual understanding, none the less clear because informal,
characterized the relations of the officers and students. Primarily,
each were in the appreciation of the other officers and gentlemen. So
far there was implicit equality; and while the ones were in duty bound
to enforce academic regulations, which the others felt an equal
obligation to disregard, it was a kind of game in which they did not
much mind being losers, provided we did not trespass on the standards
of the gentleman, and of the officer liberally construed. They, I
think, had an unacknowledged feeling that while under school-boy, or
collegiate, discipline as to times or manners, some relaxation of
strict official correctness must be endured. Larking, sometimes
uproarious, met with personal sympathy, if official condemnation. Nor
did we resent being detected by what we regarded as fair means; to
which we perhaps gave a pretty wide interpretation. The exceptional
man, who inspected at unaccustomed hours, which we considered our own
prescriptive right--though not by rules--who came upon us unawares,
was apt to be credited with rather unofficer-like ideas of what was
becoming, and suspected of the not very gentlemanly practice of
wearing noiseless rubber shoes. That intimation of his approach was
conveyed by us from room to room by concerted taps on the gas-pipes
was fair war; nor did our opponents seem to mind what they could not
but clearly hear. Indeed, I think most of them were rather glad to
find evidences of order and propriety prevailing, where possibly but
for those kindly signals they might have detected matter for report.

There was one lieutenant, however, the memory of whom was still green
as a bay-tree in my day, though it would have been blasted indeed
could cursing have blighted it, to whom the game of detective seemed
to possess the fascination of the chase; and so successful was he that
his baffled opponents could not view the matter dispassionately, nor
accept their defeat in sportsman-like spirit. I knew him later; he had
a saturnine appearance, not calculated to conciliate a victim, but he
liked a joke, especially of the practical kind, and for the sake of
one successfully achieved could forgive an offender. Night surprises,
inroads on the enemy's country, at the hours when we were mistakenly
supposed to be safe in bed, and regulations so required, were favorite
stratagems with him. On one occasion, so tradition ran, some
half-dozen midshipmen had congregated in a room "after taps," and,
with windows carefully darkened, had contrived an extempore kitchen to
fry themselves a mess of oysters. The process was slow, owing to the
number of oysters the pan could take at once and the largeness of the
expectant appetites; but it had progressed nearly to completion, when
without premonition the door opened and ---- appeared. He asked no
questions and offered no comments, but, walking to the platter, seized
it and threw out of the window the accumulated results of an hour's
weary work. No further notice of the delinquency followed; the
discomfiture of the sufferers sufficiently repaid his sense of humor.
At another midnight hour a midshipman visiting in a room not his,
lured thither, let us hope, by the charms of intellectual
conversation, was warned by the gas-pipes that the enemy was on the
war-path. Retreat being cut off, he took refuge under a bed, but
unwittingly left a hand visible. ---- caught sight of it, walked to
the bed, flashed his lantern in the eyes of its occupant, who
naturally was sleeping as never before, and at the same time trod hard
on the exposed fingers. A squeal followed this unexpected attention,
and the culprit had to drag himself out; but the lieutenant was
satisfied, and let him go at that.

I have said that larking met with more than toleration--with sympathy.
The once magic word "midshipman" seemed to cloak any outburst of
frolicking; otherwise some exhibitions I witnessed could scarcely have
passed unscathed. They were felt to be in character by the older
officers; and, while obliged to reprehend, I doubt whether some of
them would not have more enjoyed taking a share. They knew, too, that
we were just as proud as they of the service, and that under all lay
an entire readiness to do or to submit to that which we and they alike
recognized as duty. Sometimes rioting went rather too far, but for the
most part it was harmless. One rather grave incident, shortly before
my entry, derived its humor mainly from the way in which it was
treated by the superintendent. One of the out-buildings of the
Academy, either because offensive or out of sheer deviltry, was set on
fire and destroyed. The perpetrator of this startling practical joke
was Alexander F. Crosman, of the '51 Date, whom many of us yet
living remember well. Small in stature, with something of the
"chip-on-the-shoulder" characteristic, often seen in such, he was
conspicuous for a certain chivalrous gallantry of thought and mien,
the reflection of a native brilliant courage; a trait which in the end
caused his death, about 1870, by drowning, in the effort to save an
imperilled boat's crew. The superintendent, a man of ponderous
dimensions, and equally ponderous but rapid speech--though it is due
to say also unusually accomplished, both professionally and
personally--was greatly outraged and excited at this defiance of
discipline. The day following he went out to meet the corps, when it
had just left some formation, and, calling a halt, delivered a speech
on the basis of the _Articles of War_, a copy of which he brandished
before his audience. These ancient ordinances, among many other
denunciations of naval crimes and misdemeanors, pronounced the
punishment of death, or "such other worse" as a court-martial might
adjudge, upon "any person in the Navy who shall maliciously set on
fire, or otherwise destroy, any government property not then in the
possession of an _enemy, pirate, or rebel_." The gem of oratory
hereupon erected was paraphrased as follows by the culprit himself,
aided and abetted in his lyrical flight by his room-mate, John S.
Barnes, who, after graduating left the service, returned for the War
of Secession, and subsequently resigned finally. To this survivor of
the two collaborators I owe the particulars of the affair. How many
more "traitors" there were I know not. Those who recall the speaker
will recognize that the parody must have followed closely the real
words of the address:

   "Young gentlemen assembled!--
      It makes no matter where--
    I only want to speak to you,
      So hear me where you are.

   "Some vile incendiary
      Last night was prowling round,
    Who set fire to our round-house
      And burned it to the ground.

   "I'll read the Naval Law;
      The man who dares to burn
    A round-house,--not the Enemy's,--
      A traitor's fate shall learn.

   "And if a man there be,
      Who does this traitor know,
    And keeps it to himself,
      He shall suffer death also!

   "'Tis well, then, to tell, then,
      Who did this grievous ill;
    And, d--n him, I will hang him,
      So help me God! I will!"

If anything could have added to the gayety of the fire, such an
outburst would.

In after years I sailed under the command of this speechmaker. At
monthly musters he reserved to himself the prerogative of reading the
_Articles_, probably thinking that he did it more effectively than the
first lieutenant; in which he was quite right. It so happened that,
owing to doubt whether a certain paragraph applied to the Marine
Corps, Congress had been pleased to make a special enactment that the
word "persons" in such and such a clause "should be construed to
include marines." Coming as this did near the end, some humorist was
moved to remark that the first Sunday in the month muster was for the
purpose of informing us authoritatively that a marine was a person. As
the captain read this interesting announcement, his voice assumed a
gradual _crescendo_, concluding with a profound emphasis on the word
"marines," which he accompanied with a half turn and a flourish of the
book towards that honorable body, drawn up in full uniform, at parade
rest, its venerable captain, whose sandy hair was fast streaking with
gray, standing at its head, his hands meekly crossed over his
sword-hilt, the blade hanging down before him; all doubtless suitably
impressed with this definition of their status, which for greater
certainty they heard every month. It was very fine, very fine indeed;
appealing to more senses than one.

The shore drills--infantry and field artillery--furnished special
occasions for organized--or disorganized--upheavals of animal spirits.
For these exercises we then had scant respect. They were "soldiering;"
and from time immemorial soldier had been an adjective to express
uselessness, or that which was so easy as to pass no man's ability. A
soldier's wind, for example, was a wind fair both ways--to go and to
return; no demands on brains there, much less on seamanship. The
curious irrelevancy of such applications never strikes persons;
unless, indeed, a perception of incongruity is the soul of wit, a
definition which I think I have heard. To depart without the ceremony
of saying good-bye takes its name from the most elaborately civil of
people--French leave; while the least perturbable of nations has been
made to contribute an epithet, Dutch, to the courage derived from the
whiskey-bottle. In the latter case, however, I fancy that, besides the
tradition of long-ago national rivalries, there may have been the idea
that to excite a Dutchman you must, as they say, light a fire under
him; or as was forcibly remarked by a midshipman of my time of his
phlegmatic room-mate, he had to kick him in the morning to get him
started for the day.

To return to the shore drills: these were then committed to one of the
civil professors of the Academy, a fact which itself spoke for the
familiarity with them of the sea lieutenants. As these always
exercised us at ships' guns, the different estimation which the two
obtained in the outside service was too obvious to escape quick-witted
young fellows, and it was difficult to overcome the resultant
disrespect. The professor was not one to effect the impossible. He was
a graduate of West Point, a man of ability, not lacking in dignity,
and personally worthy of all respect; but he stuttered badly, and this
impediment not only received no mercy from youth, but interfered with
the accuracy of manoeuvres where the word of command needed to be
timely in utterance. Report ran that on one occasion, advancing by
column of companies, while the professor was struggling with
"H-H-H-Halt!" the leading company, composed martyrs to discipline,
marched over the sea-wall into three feet of water. Had the water
been deeper, they might have been less literal. Despite his military
training, his bearing and carriage had not the strong soldierly stamp
which might redeem his infirmity, and even in the class-room a certain
whimsical atmosphere seemed borne from the drill-ground. He, I
believe, was the central figure of one of the most humorous scenes in
Herman Melville's _White Jacket_, a book which, despite its prejudiced
tone, has preserved many amusing and interesting inside recollections
of a ship-of-war of the olden time. The naval instructor on board the
frigate is using Rodney's battle of 1782 to illustrate on the
blackboard the principles of naval tactics to the class of midshipmen.
"Now, young gentlemen, you see this disabled French ship in the
corner, far to windward of her fleet, between it and the enemy. She
has lost all three masts, and the greater part of the ship's company
are killed and wounded; what will you do to save her?" To this knotty
problem many extemporized "practical" answers are given, of which the
most plausible is by Mr. Dash, of Virginia--"I should nail my colors
to the mast and let her sink under me." As this could scarcely be
called saving her, Mr. Dash is rebuked for irrelevance; but, after the
gamut of possible solutions has been well guessed over, the instructor
announces impressively, "That ship, young gentlemen, cannot be saved."

I cannot say that he dealt with us thus tantalizingly; but one of my
contemporaries used to tell a story of his personal experience which
was generically allied to the above. At the conclusion of some faulty
manoeuvre, the instructor remarked aloud: "This all went wrong, owing
to Mr. P.'s not standing fast in his own person. We will now repeat
it, for the particular benefit of Mr. P." The repetition ensued, and
in its course the instructor called out, "Be careful, Mr. P., and
stand fast where you are." "I am standing fast," replied P.,
incautiously. "R-R-Report Mr. P. for talking in ranks." At the
Academy, naval tactics were not within his purview; and of all our
experiences with him in the class-room, one ludicrous incident alone
remains with me. One of my class, though in most ways well at head,
was a little alarmed about his standing in infantry tactics. He
therefore at a critical occasion attempted to carry the text-book with
him to the blackboard. This surreptitious deed, being not to get
advantage over a fellow, but to save himself, was condoned by public
opinion; but, being unused to such deceits, in his agitation he copied
his figure upside down and became hopelessly involved in the
demonstration. The professor next day took occasion to comment
slightingly on our general performance, but "as to Mr. ----," he
added, derisively, "he did r-r-r-wretchedly."

I sometimes wonder that we learned anything about "soldiering," but we
did in a way. The principles and theory were mastered, if performance
was slovenly; and in execution, as company officers, we got our
companies "there," although just how we did it might be open to
criticism. In our last year the adjutant in my class, who graduated at
its head, on the first occasion of forming the battalion, after some
moments of visible embarrassment could think of no order more
appropriate than "Form your companies fore and aft the pavement." Fore
and aft is "lengthwise" of a ship. No humiliation attended such a
confession of ignorance--on that subject; but had the same man "missed
stays" when in charge of the deck, he would have been sorely
mortified. His successor of to-day probably never will have a chance
to miss stays. There thus ran through our drills an undercurrent of
levity, which on provocation would burst out almost spontaneously into
absurdity. On one occasion the battalion was drawn up in line,
fronting at some distance the five buildings which then constituted
the midshipmen's quarters. The intimation was given that we were to
advance and then charge. Once put in motion, I know not whether
stuttering lost the opportunity of stopping us, but the pace became
quicker and quicker till the whole body broke into a run, rushed
cheering tumultuously through the passages between the houses, and
reformed, peaceably enough, on the other side. The captains all got a
wigging for failing to keep us in hand; but they were powerless. The
whole thing was without preconcertment or warning. It could hardly
have happened, however, had the instinct of discipline been as strong
in these drills as in others.

A more deliberate prank was played with the field artillery. These
light pieces, being of the nature of cannon rather than muskets,
obtained more deference, being recognized as of the same genus with
the great guns which then constituted a ship's broadside. On one
occasion they were incautiously left out overnight on the
drill-ground. Between tattoo and taps, 9.30 to 10 P.M., was always a
half-hour of release from quarters. There was mischief ready-made for
idle hands to do. The guns were taken in possession, rushed violently
to and fro in mock drill performance, and finally taken to pieces, the
parts being scattered promiscuously in all directions. Dawn revealed
an appearance of havoc resembling a popular impressionist
representation of a battle-field. Here a caisson with its boxes,
severed from their belongings, stretched its long pole appealingly
towards heaven; the wheels had been dispersed to distant quarters of
the ground and lay on their sides; elsewhere were the guns, sometimes
reversed and solitary, at others not wholly dismounted, canted at an
angle, with one wheel in place. As there were six of them, complete in
equipments, the scene was extensive and of most admired confusion;
ingenuity had exhausted itself in variety, to enhance picturesqueness
of effect. How the lieutenant in charge accounted for all this
happening without his interference, I do not know. Certainly there was
noise enough, but then that half-hour always was noisy. The
superintendent of that time had, when walking, a trick of grasping the
lapel of his coat with his right hand, and twitching it when
preoccupied. The following day, as he surveyed conditions, it seemed
as if the lapel might come away; but he made us no speech, nor, as far
as I know, was any notice taken of the affair. No real damage had been
done, and the man would indeed have been hard-heartedly conscientious
who would grudge the action which showed him so comical a sight.

I once heard an excellent first lieutenant--Farragut's own through the
principal actions of the War of Secession--say that where there was
obvious inattention to uniform there would always be found slackness
in discipline. It may be, therefore, that our habits as to uniform
were symptomatic of the same easy tolerance which bore with such
extravagances as I have mentioned; the like of which, in overt act,
was not known to me in my later association with the Academy as an
officer. We had a prescribed uniform, certainly; but regulations, like
legislative acts, admit of much variety of interpretation and latitude
in practice, unless there is behind them a strong public sentiment. In
my earlier days there was no public sentiment of the somewhat martinet
kind; such as would compel all alike to wear an overcoat because the
captain felt cold. In practice, there was great laxity in details. I
remember, in later days and later manners, when we were all compelled
to be well buttoned up to the throat, a young officer remarked to me
disparagingly of another, "He's the sort of man, you know, who would
wear a frock-coat unbuttoned." There's nothing like classification. My
friend had achieved a feat in natural history; in ten words he had
defined a species. On another occasion the same man remorselessly
wiped out of existence another species, consecrated by generations of
blue-books and _Naval Regulations_. "I know nothing of superior
officers," he said; "senior officers, if you choose; but superior,
no!" Whether the _Naval Regulations_ have yet recognized this obvious
distinction, whether it is no longer "superior officers," but only
senior officers, who are not to be "treated with contempt," etc., I
have not inquired. Apart from such amusing criticism of the times
past, it is undoubtedly true that attention to minutiæ is symptomatic
of a much more important underlying spirit, one of exactness and
precision running through all the management of a ship and affecting
her efficiency. I concede that a thing so trifling as the buttoning of
a frock-coat may indicate a development and survival of the fittest;
but in 1855-60 frock-coats had not been disciplined, and in accordance
with the tone of the general service we midshipmen were tacitly
indulged in a similar freedom. This tolerance may have been in part a
reaction from the vexatious and absurd interference of a decade before
with such natural rights as the cut of the beard--not as matter of
neatness, but of pattern. Even for some time after I graduated, unless
I misunderstood my informants, officers in the British navy were not
permitted to wear a full beard, nor a mustache; and we had out-breaks
of similar regulative annoyance in our own service, one of which
furnished Melville with a striking chapter. Discussing the matter in
my presence once, the captain of a frigate said, "There is one reply
to objectors; if they do not wish to conform, they can leave the
service." Clearly, however, a middle-aged man cannot throw up his
profession thus easily.

Another circumstance that may have contributed to indifference to
details of dress was the carefulness with which the old-time sea
officers had constantly to look after the set and trim of the canvas.
Every variation of the wind, every change of course, every
considerable manoeuvre, involved corresponding changes in the
disposition of the sails, which must be effected not only correctly,
but with a minute exactness extending to half a hundred seemingly
trivial details, upon precision in which depended--and justly--an
officer's general reputation for officer-like character. Not only so,
but the mere weight of rigging and sails, and the stretching resultant
on such strain, caused recurring derangements, which, permitted,
became slovenliness. Yards accurately braced, sheets home alike,
weather leaches and braces taut, with all the other and sundry
indications which a well-trained eye instinctively sought and noted,
were less the dandyism than the self-respecting neatness of a
well-dressed ship, and were no bad substitute, as tests, for buttoned
frock-coats. The man without fault in the one might well be pardoned,
by others as well as himself, for neglects which had never occurred to
him to be such. His attention was centred elsewhere, as a man may
think more of his wife's dress than his own. After all, one cannot be
always stretched with four pins, as the French say; there must be some
give somewhere.

The frock was then the working coat of the navy. There was fuller
dress for exceptional occasions, in which, at one festive muster early
in the cruise, we all had to appear, to show that we had it; but
otherwise it was generally done up in camphor. The jacket, which was
prescribed to the midshipmen of the Academy, had informal recognition
in the service, and we took our surviving garments of that order with
us to sea, to wear them out. But, while here and there some officer
would sport one, they could scarcely be called popular. One of our
lieutenants, indeed, took a somewhat sentimental view of the jacket.
"There was Mr. S.," he said to me, speaking of a brother midshipman,
"on deck yesterday with a jacket. It looked so tidy and becoming. If
there had been anything aloft out of the way, I could say to him,
'Mr. S., just jump up there, will you, and see what is the matter?'"
War, which soon afterwards followed with its stern preoccupations and
incidental deprivations, induced inevitably deterioration in matters
of dress. With it the sack-coat, or pilot-jacket, burrowed its way in,
the cut and insignia of these showing many variations. The
undergraduates at the Academy in my day had for all uses a
double-breasted jacket; but it was worn buttoned, or not, at choice.
On the rolling collar a gold foul anchor--an anchor with a rope cable
twined round it--was prescribed; but, while a standard embroidered
pattern was supplied at the Academy store, those who wished procured
for themselves metal anchors, and these not only were of many shapes
and sizes, but for symmetrical pinning in place demanded an accuracy
of eye and hand which not every one had. The result was variegated and
fanciful to a degree; but I doubt if any of the officers thought aught
amiss. So the regulation vest buttoned up to the chin, but very many
had theirs made with rolling collar, to show the shirt. I had a
handsome, very dandy, creole classmate, whom an admiring family kept
always well supplied with fancy shirts; and I am sure, if precisians
of the present day could have seen him starting out on a Saturday
afternoon to pay his visits, with everything just so--except in a
regulation sense--and not a back hair out of place, they must have
accepted the results as a testimony to the value of the personal
factor in uniform. Respect for individual tastes was rather a mark of
that time in the navy. Seamen handy with their needle were permitted,
if not encouraged, to embroider elaborate patterns, in divers colors,
on the fronts of their shirts, and turned many honest pennies by doing
the like for less skillful shipmates. Pride in personal appearance,
dandyism, is quite consonant with military feeling, as history has
abundantly shown; and it may be that something has been lost as well
as gained in the suppression of individual action, now when an
inspecting officer may almost be said to carry with him a yard-stick
and micrometer to detect deviations.

A very curious manifestation of this disposition to bedeck the body
was the prevalence of tattooing. If not universal, it was very nearly
so among seamen of that day. Elaborate designs covering the chest, or
back, or arms, were seen everywhere, when the men were stripped on
deck for washing. There was no possible inducement to this except a
crude love of ornament, or a mere imitation of a prevailing fashion,
which is another manifestation of the same propensity. The
inconvenience of being branded for life should have been felt by men
prone to desertion; but the descriptive lists which accompany every
crew were crowded with such remarks as, "Goddess of Liberty, r. f.
a."--right forearm--the which, if a man ran away, helped the police of
the port to identify him. My memory does not retain the various
emblems thus perpetuated in men's skins; they were largely patriotic
and extremely conventional, each practised tattooer having doubtless
his own particular style. Many midshipmen of my time acquired these
embellishments. I wonder if they have not since been sorry.



IV

THE NAVAL ACADEMY IN ITS INTERIOR WORKINGS

PRACTICE CRUISES

1855-60


In the preceding pages my effort has been to reconstitute for the
reader the navy, in body and in spirit, as it was when I entered in
1856 and had been during the period immediately preceding. There was
no marked change up to 1861, when the War of Secession began. The
atmosphere and environment which I at first encountered upon my
entrance to the Naval Academy, in 1856, had nothing strange, or even
unfamiliar, to a boy who had devoured Cooper and Marryat--not as mere
tales of adventure, but with some real appreciation and understanding
of conditions as by them depicted. I had studied, as well as been
absorbed by them. Cooper is much more of an idealist and romancer than
is Marryat, who belongs essentially to the realistic school. Some of
the Englishman's presentations may be exaggerated, though not beyond
probability--elaborated would perhaps be a juster word--and in one
passage he expressly abjures all willingness to present a caricature
of the seaman he had known. Cooper, on the other hand, while his sea
scenes are well worked up, has given us personalities which, tested by
Marryat's, are made out of the whole cloth; creations, if you will,
but not resemblances. Marryat entered the navy earlier than his rival,
and followed the sea longer; his experience was in every way wider.
Even in my time could be seen justifications of his portrayal; but
who ever saw the like of Tom Coffin, Trysail, or Boltrope?

The interested curiosity concerning all things naval which possessed
me, and held me enthralled by the mere sight of an occasional
square-rigged vessel, such as at rare intervals passed our home on the
Hudson, fifty miles from the sea, led me also to pore over a copy of
the _Academy Regulations_ which the then superintendent, Captain Louis
Goldsborough, (afterwards Admiral), had sent my father. The two had
been acquaintances in Paris, in the twenties of the century and of
their own ages. I have always had a morbid fondness for registers and
time-tables, and over them have wasted precious hours; but on this
occasion the practice saved me a year. I discovered that, contrary to
the established rule at the Military Academy, an appointee to the
Naval might enter any class for which he could pass the examinations.
Further inquiry confirmed this, and I set about fitting myself. At
that date, even more than at present, the standard of admission to the
two academies had to take into account the very differing facilities
for education in different parts of the country, as well as the
strictly democratic method of appointment. This being in the gift of
the representative of the congressional district, the candidates came
from every section; and, being selected by the various considerations
which influence such patronage, the mass of lads who presented
themselves necessarily differed greatly in acquirements. Hence, to
enter either Annapolis or West Point only very rudimentary knowledge
was demanded. Having grown up myself so far amid abundant opportunity,
and been carefully looked after, I found that I was quite prepared to
enter the class above the lowest, except in one or two minor matters,
easily picked up. Thus forewarned, I came forearmed. There were
probably in every class a dozen who could have done the same, but they
accepted the prevailing custom without question. I believe I was the
only one fortunate enough to make this gain. In some instances before,
and in many after, the academic work was for certain classes
compressed within three years, but I was singular in entering a class
already of a twelvemonth's standing.

About my own examination I remember nothing except that it was
successful; but one incident occurred in my hearing which has stuck by
me for a half-century. One other youth underwent the same tests. He
had already once entered, two or three years before, and afterwards
had failed to pass one of the semi-annual tests. Such cases frequently
were dropped into the next lower class, but the rule then was that a
second similar lapse was final. This had befallen my present
associate; but he had "influence," which obtained for him another
appointment, conditional upon passing the requirements for the third
class, fourth being the lowest. Examinations then were oral, not
written; and, preoccupied though I was with my own difficulties, I
could not but catch at times sounds of his. He was being questioned in
grammar and in parsing, which I have heard--I do not know whether
truly--are now looked upon as archaic methods of teaching; and the
sentence propounded to him was, "Mahomet was driven from Mecca, but he
returned in triumph." His rendering of the first words I did not hear,
my attention not being arrested until "but," which proved to him a
truly disjunctive conjunction. "But!" he ejaculated--"but!" and
paused. Then came the "practical" leap into the unknown. "'But' is an
adverb, qualifying 'he,' showing what he is doing." Poor fellow, it
was no joke to him, nor probably his fault, but that of circumstances.
When released from the ordeal, we stood round together, awaiting
sentence. He was in despair, nor could I honestly encourage him. "Look
at you," he said, "as quiet as if nothing had happened"--I was by no
means confident that I had cause for elation. "If I were as sure that
I had passed as that you have, I should be skipping all over the
place." I never heard of him again; but suppose from his name, which I
remember, and his State, of which I am less sure, that he took, and in
any event would have taken, the Confederate side in the coming
troubles. His loss by this failure was therefore probably less than it
then seemed.

An intruder, in breach of well-settled precedent, might have expected
to be looked on askance by the class which I thus unusually entered.
Not the faintest indication of discontent was ever shown, nor I
believe felt, even by those over whom I subsequently passed by such
standing as I established, although the fact meant promotion over
them. The spirit of the officer and the gentleman, which disdained
hazing, disdained discourtesy equally, and thrust aside with the
generosity of youth the jealousy that mature years more readily
cherishes towards competitors. The habit in those days was to
distinguish classes, not by the year of graduation, but by that of
entry--colloquially, the so-and-so "Date"--a manner derived from an
earlier period, when there was no other chronological point of
departure for the career; and in those "days before the flood" nothing
would have tempted us to depart from a time-honored custom. "Dates"
frequently established among their contemporaries reputations
analogous to those of individuals. At that time the "'41 Date," then
in the prime of life, was obnoxious to those below it; not for its own
fault, but because of its numbers, which, with promotion strictly by
seniority, constituted a superincumbent mass that could not but be
regarded bitterly by those who followed. At present there would be the
consolation that retirement, though distant, would ultimately sweep
them all away nearly simultaneously; but there was then no retired
list. Whatever the motive, the Secretary of the Navy had been moved to
introduce, in 1841, over two hundred midshipmen,[4] which put an
almost total stop to appointments for several subsequent years, and
gave the "Date" the invidious distinction it enjoyed. The well-known
character in the service whose hoisting a demijohn for a flag I have
before mentioned, and who found this great overplus above him, was
credited with saying that those of them who did not drink themselves
to death would strut themselves to death--a comment which testified
rather to the warmth of his feelings than to the merits of the case.
Of course, the greater the total, the more numerous the unworthy; and
the unfortunate natural bias of mankind notices these more readily
than it does the capable.

The class to which I now found myself admitted was the "'55 Date," and
whatever their reputation in the service, then or thereafter, they
thought themselves uncommonly fine fellows, distinctly above the
average--not perhaps in attainments, which was a subsidiary matter,
but in tone and fellowship. One among them, a turn-back from the
previous Date, and for two years my room-mate, used to declare
enthusiastically that he was glad of his misfortune, finding himself
in so much better a crowd. I doubt if I could have gone as far as
this, but in the general estimate I agreed fully. We numbered then
twenty-eight, having started with forty-nine a twelvemonth before.
Three years later we were graduated, twenty. The dwindling numbers
testifies rather to the imperfection of educational processes
throughout the country than to the severity of the tests, which were
very far below those of to-day. I have often heard it said, and
believe it true, that the difficulty was less with the knowledge--that
is, the nominal acquirements--of the appointees than with the then
prevalent methods of study and instruction, which had debauched the
powers of application. My father, after a long experience, used to
think that upon the whole there was better promise in a youth who came
with nothing more than the three R's, which then constituted
substantially the demands of the Military Academy, than in one with a
more pretentious showing. The first had not to unlearn bad habits. An
illustration that the courses were not too severe, for an average man
beginning with the very smallest equipment, is afforded by a true
story of the time. A lad from one of the Southern States,--Tennessee,
I think,--having obtained an appointment, and being too poor to travel
otherwise, walked his way to West Point, and then failed of admission.
The affecting circumstances becoming known, a number of officers
dubbed together and supported him for a year at a neighboring
excellent school. He then entered, passed his course successfully, and
proved a very respectable officer. There was, I believe, nothing
brilliant in his record, except the earnestness and resolution shown;
the absence of these, under demands which, though not excessive, were
rigid, was the principal cause of failures.

The requirements were certainly moderate, and our healths needed not
to suffer from over-application. The marking system of that time gave
the numeral 4 as a maximum, with which standard 2.5 was a "passing
average." He who reached that figure, as the combined result of his
course of recitations and stated examinations, passed the test, and
went on, or was graduated. The recitation marks being posted weekly,
we had constant knowledge of our chances; and of the necessity of
greater effort, if in danger, whether of failure or of being
outstripped by a competitor. The latter motive was rarely evidenced,
although I have seen the anxious and worried looks of one struggling
for pre-eminence over a rival who amused himself by merely prodding
where he might have surpassed. It is only fair to add, as I also
witnessed, that no congratulations were more warmly received by the
victor than those of the man who had so constantly trod on his heels.
It is needless to say, to those who know the world in any sphere of
life, that a certain proportion were satisfied with merely scraping
through. The authorities leaned to mercy's side, where there was
reasonable promise of a man's making a good sea officer. In the later
period of written examinations an instructor of much experience said
to me, "If a man's paper comes near 2.5, I always read it over again
with a leaning towards a more favorable judgment on points;" and he
accompanied the words with a gesture which dramatically suggested a
leaning so pronounced that, it would certainly topple over the right
way. Not strictly judicial, I fear, but perhaps practical. There were
rare instances who played with 2.5, enticed perhaps by the mysterious
charms of danger. Such a case I heard of, a man of unquestioned
ability, who it was rumored boasted that he would get just above 2.5,
and as near as he could. He was read dispassionately, and in the event
came out 2.47. As an effort at approximation, this may be considered a
success; but for passing it was inadequate, and his general character
did not bias the final appeal in his favor. He was not dropped,
indeed, but had to undergo a second examination three weeks later: a
circumstance calculated to cloud his summer. A more amusing instance
came directly under my observation. He was a candidate for entrance,
and I then head of one of the departments of the Academy. Although I
had nothing to do with admissions, his father came in to see me
immediately after the results were known. He had a marked brogue, and
was slightly "elevated," by success and by liquor. Placing his hand
confidentially on my arm, he whispered: "He's got in; he's got in." I
expressed my sympathy. He drew himself up with a smile of exultation,
and said: "He only got a 2.7. I said to him, '----, why didn't you do
better than that?--sure you could.' 'Whisht, father,' he replied, 'why
should I do better, when all I need's a 2.5?' Just fancy his thinking
of that!" cried the proud parent. "The 'cuteness of him?" I forget
this lad's further career, if I ever knew it.

One of the distinguishing features of the two academies then, and I
believe now, was the division of the classes into small sections,
under several instructors. This gave the advantage of very frequent
recitations for each student. None was safe in counting upon being
overlooked on any day, and the teacher was kept familiar with the
progress and promise of every one under his charge. It admitted also
of a more extensive course for those who could stick in the higher
sections--a kind of elective, in which the election depended on the
teacher, not the taught. Thoroughness of acquisition was favored by
this steady pressure, the virtue of which lay less in its weight than
in its constancy; but it is practicable only where large resources
permit many tutors to be employed. The Naval Academy has had frequent
difficulty, not chiefly of a money kind, but because the needed naval
officers cannot always be spared from general service. A sound policy
has continuously favored the employment of sea officers, where
possible; not because they can often be equal in acquirement to chosen
men from the special fields in question, but because through them the
spirit and authority of the profession pervades the class-room as well
as the drill-ground, and so forwards the highly specialized product in
view. Besides, as I have heard observed with admiration by a very able
civilian, head of one of the departments, who had several officers
under him, the habit of turning the hand to many different
occupations, and of doing in each just what was ordered, following
directions explicitly, gives naval officers as a class an adaptability
and a facility which become professional characteristics. It may be
interesting to note that the same was commonly remarked of the
old-time seaman. His specialty was everything--versatility; and he was
handy under the least expected circumstances, on shore as well as
afloat. Burgoyne used chaffingly to attribute his misfortunes at
Saratoga to the aptitude with which a British midshipman and seamen
threw a bridge over the upper Hudson. "If it had not been for you," he
said to the culprit, "we should never have got as far as this."

In my day the proportion of officers was less than afterwards, when
the graduates themselves took up the task of instruction. There were
two who taught us mathematics, one of whom remains in my memory as the
very best teacher, to the extent of his knowledge, that I ever knew.
The professional branches, seamanship and gunnery, fell naturally to
the sea officers who conducted the drills. These studies, as pursued,
reflected the transition condition of the period which I have before
depicted; the grasp on the old still was more tenacious than that on
the new. The preparation of text-books for young seamen far antedated
the establishment of naval schools. There was one, _The Sheet Anchor_,
by Darcy Lever, a British seaman, published before 1820, which had
great vogue among us. Among other virtues, it was illustrated with
very taking pictures of ships performing manoeuvres in the midst of
highly conventional waves. As far as memory serves me, I think we were
justified in regarding it as more instructive than the American work
assigned to us by the course, _The Kedge Anchor_, by a master in our
navy named Brady. A kedge, the unprofessional must know, is a light
anchor, dropped for a momentary stop, or to haul a ship ahead, the
title being in so far very consonant to the object of instruction;
whereas the sheet-anchor is the great and last stand-by of a vessel,
let go as a final resource after the two big "bowers," which
constitute the usual reliance. The rareness with which the sheet
anchor touched ground (the bottom) gave rise to the proverb, "To go
ashore with the sheet anchor," as the ultimate expression of attention
to duty; and the story ran of a British captain, a devoted
ship-keeper, who, to a lieutenant remonstrating on the little
privilege of leave enjoyed by the junior officers, replied: "Sir, when
I and the sheet anchor go ashore, you may go with us." By the
prescription of our seniors we had to tie to _The Kedge Anchor_, let
us hope in the cause of progress, to haul us ahead; but in a tight
place _The Sheet Anchor_ was our recourse, and by it think I may say
we--swore. I always mistrusted _The Kedge Anchor_ after my researches
into a mysterious sentence--"A celebrated master, now a commander, in
the navy never served the bowsprit rigging all over." In the old-time
frigates, of the days of Nelson and Hull, the master was at the head
of the marling-spike division of the ship's economy, being, in fact,
the descendant of the master (captain) of more than a century earlier,
who managed the ship while soldiers commanded and fought her. But the
masters were not in the line of promotion; in the British navy they
rarely rose, in our own much more rarely. Who, then, was this
celebrated master, now a commander? Eventually I found the sentence in
a British book, and my faith in the pure product of American home
industry was suddenly shaken. It is only fair to say that books on
seamanship, being essentially an accumulation of facts, must be more
or less compilations. Methods were too well established to allow much
originality, even of treatment.

There were many other works of like character, the enumeration of
which would be tedious. _The Young Officer's Assistant_ was less a
specific title than a generic description. Several of them were
contemporary; and one, by a Captain Boyd of the British navy, summed
up the convictions of us all, teachers as well as pupils, in the
sententious aphorism: "It is by no means certain that coal whips will
outlive tacks and sheets." It is scarcely kind to resurrect a
prophecy, even when so guarded in expression and safely distant in
prediction as was this; but I fear that for navies tacks and sheets
are dead, and coal whips very much alive. The wish in those days
fathered the thought. Who to dumb forgetfulness a prey could
voluntarily relinquish all that had been so identified with life and
thought, nor cast a longing, lingering look behind? So we plodded on,
acquiring laboriously, yet lovingly, knowledge that would have fitted
us to pass the examinations of Basil Hall and Peter Simple. To mention
the details of cutting and fitting rigging, getting over whole and
half tops, and other operations yet more recondite, would be to
involve the unprofessional reader in a maze of incomprehensible terms,
and the professional--of that period--in familiar recollections. Let
me, however, linger lovingly for ten lines on the knotting--"knotting
and splicing," as the never-divorced terms ran in the days when
rigging a topgallant-yard was a constituent part of our curriculum.
The man who has never viewed the realm of a seaman's knots from the
outside, and tried to get in, must not flatter himself that he fully
appreciates the phrase "knotty problem." I never got in; a few
elementary "bends," a square knot, and a bowline, were very near the
extent of my manual acquirements. The last I still retain, and use
whenever I make up a bundle for the express; but before such
mysteries--to me--as a Turk's-head and a double-wall, I merely bowed
in reverence. When handsomely turned out, I could recognize the fact;
but do them myself, no. I remember with humiliation that in 1862,
being then a young lieutenant, I was called without warning to hear a
section, one hour, in seamanship. As bad luck would have it, the
subject happened to be knotting, and there was one of the midshipmen
who had made a cruise in a merchant-ship. The knots I had to ask
about--to which that diabolical youngster invariably replied, "I can't
describe it, sir, but I will make it for you"--the convolutions
through which the strands went in his ready fingers, and my eyes
vainly strove to follow, are a poignant subject. There was no room for
the time-honored refuge of a puzzled instructor--"We will take up that
subject next recitation;" the confounded boy was ready right along,
and I had only to be thankful that there were "no questions asked."

There was one professional subject, "Naval Fleet Tactics" under sail,
which at the end of my time shone forth with a kind of sunset
splendor, the dying dolphin effect curiously characteristic of
the passing period in which we were. This had always had a
recognition--_d'estime_, as the French say; but in my final year it
fell into the hands of a new instructor, who proceeded to glorify it
by amplification. He was a very accomplished man in his profession, a
student of it in all its branches, though there was among us a certain
understanding that he was not an eminently practical seaman; and he
eventually lost his life in what appeared to me a very unpractical
manner, being where it did not seem his business to be, and doing work
which a junior would probably have done better. We remember William
III. at the battle of the Boyne. "Your majesty, the Bishop of Derry
has been killed at the ford." "What business had he to be at the
ford?" was the unsympathetic answer. The text-book used by our new
instructor was by a French lieutenant, written in the thirties of the
century, and characterized by something of the peculiar French naval
genius. The simpler changes of formation were so simple that
complication could not be got into them; but, that happy stage past,
we went on to evolutions of huge masses of ships in three columns, in
which the changes of dispositions, from one order to another, became
subjects of trigonometrical demonstration, quite as troublesome as
Euclid. Sines, cosines, and tangents, of fractional angles figured
profusely in the processes; and in the result courses to be steered
would be laid down to an eighth of a point, when to keep a single
vessel, let alone a column, steady within half a point[5] was
considered good helmsmanship. There being no translation of the book,
our text was provided by copying, individually, from a manuscript
prepared by our teacher, which increased our labor; but, curiously
enough, the effect of the whole procedure was so to magnify the
subject as materially to increase the impression upon our minds.

This is really an interesting matter for speculation, as to what in
effect is practical. The mastery of conclusions, to which practical
effect never could have been given, served to drive home principles
which would have come usefully into play, had the sail era continued
and the United States maintained fleets of sailing battle-ships to
handle. For myself personally, when I came to write naval history,
long years after, I derived invaluable aid from the principles and the
simpler evolutions, thus assimilated and remembered. But for them I
should often have found it difficult to understand what with them was
obvious. A singular circumstance thus brought out was the want of
exactness and precision in English terminology in this field. The most
notable instance that occurs to me was in Nelson's journal on
Trafalgar morning, "The enemy wearing in succession," when, in fact,
as a matter of manoeuvre, the hostile fleet "wore together," though
the several vessels wore "in succession;" a paradox only to be
understood at a glance by those familiar with fleet tactics under
sail. The usual version of the attack at Trafalgar has of late been
elaborately disputed by capable critics. I myself have no doubt that
they are quite mistaken; but it would be curious to investigate how
far their argument derives from inexact phraseology--as, for example,
the definition of "column" and "line" applied to ships.

These mathematical demonstrations of naval evolutions might be
considered a lapse from practicalness characteristic of the particular
officer. They took up a good deal of valuable time, and on any
drill-ground manoeuvres are less a matter of geometric precision than
of professional aptitude and eye judgment. The same mistake could
scarcely be addressed at that time to the other parts of the Academy
curriculum. Either as foundation, or as a super-structure in which it
was sought to develop professional intelligence, to inform and improve
professional action, there was little to find fault with in detail,
and less still in general principle. The previous reasonable
professional prejudice had been in favor of the practical man, the man
who can do things--who knows _how_ to do them; the new effort was to
give the "why" of the "how," and to save time in the process by giving
it systematically. In this sense--that all we learned ministered to
professional intelligence--the scholastic part was thoroughly
professional in tone; and I think I have shown that the outside
professional sentiment was also strongly felt among us. There is
always, of course, a disposition latent in educators to deny that
practical work may be sufficiently accomplished by cruder
processes--by what we call the rule of thumb--and a corresponding
inclination to represent that to be absolutely necessary which is only
an advantage; to exaggerate the necessity of mastering the "why" in
order to put the "how" into execution. An instance in point, already
quoted, is that of the professor who maintained that every officer
should be able to calculate mathematically the relation between
weights and purchases. But between 1855 and 1860, if such a tendency
existed in germ, it had no effect in practice. As I look back, the
relation between what we were taught and what we were to do was
neither remote nor indirect. In its own sphere, in both its merits and
its faults, the Academy was in aspiration as professional as the
outside service.

This means that the Academy constituted for us an atmosphere perfectly
accordant with the life for which we were intended; and an educational
institution has no educative function to discharge higher than this.
This influence was enhanced by the social customs, in favor of which
disciplinary exactions were relaxed to the utmost possible; herein
departing from the practice at the Military Academy, as then known to
me. Not only on Saturdays and holidays, but every day, and at all
hours not positively allotted to study or drills, the midshipmen might
visit the houses of officers or professors to which they had the
entrance. As a rule, very properly, no one was allowed to be absent
from mess; but permission could always be obtained to accept an
invitation to the evening meal with any of the families. This freedom
of intercourse contributed its share to the formation of professional
tone, for the heads of the families were selected professional men,
who were thus met on terms of intimacy, precluded elsewhere by the
official relations of the parties. More training is imparted by such
association than by teaching--the familiar contrast of example and
precept. An even greater gain, however--and a strictly professional
gain, too--was the social facility thus acquired. In all callings
probably, certainly in the navy, social aptitude is professionally
valuable. Nelson's dictum that naval officers should know how to dance
was only one way of saying that they should be men of affairs, at home
in all conditions where men--or women--gather for business or
amusement. The phrase "all sorts and conditions of men" never had
wider or juster application than to the assembly of green lads, from
every variety of parentage and previous surroundings, pitchforked into
Annapolis once every year; and, of all the humanizing and harmonizing
influences under which they came, none exceeded that of the quiet
gentlefolk, of modest means, with whom they mingled thus freely.
Indeed, one of the most astute of our superintendents took into
account the family of an officer before asking that he be ordered.

An element in our social environment which should not be omitted was
the prevalence of a Southern flavor. In our microcosm, this reflected
the general sentiment of the world outside, then slowly freeing itself
from the spirit of compromise which had dominated the statesmanship of
two generations in their efforts to reconcile the incompatible. There
were certainly strong Northern men in plenty, as well as strong
Southerners; but every Southerner was convinced that the justice was
all on their side, that their rights as well as interests were being
attacked, whereas the Northerners were divided in feeling. There were
some pronounced abolitionists, here and there, prepared to go all
party lengths; but in the majority from the North, the devotion to the
Union, which rose so instantaneously to the warlike pitch when fairly
challenged, for the present counselled concession to the utmost limit,
if only thereby the Union might endure. In this the membership of the
school reproduced the political character of the House of
Representatives, with whom appointment rested; and at our age, of
course, we simply re-echoed the tones of our homes. Never in my now
long life have I seen so evident the power of conviction as in the
Southern men I then knew. They simply had no hesitations; whereas we
others were perplexed. Yet I now doubt whether the Southern conviction
was not really, if unconsciously, the resolution of despair; of doom
felt, though unacknowledged; not before the attacks of the North, but
before the resistless progress of the world, of which the North was to
be the instrument. So also the patience of the North, if so noble a
word can be conceded to our long temporizing, was an unconscious
manifestation of latent power. To those who knew what the Union meant
to those who exalted it--should I not rather say her?--in passionate
adoration, need never have doubted what the response would be, if
threat passed into act and hands were lifted against her. Conviction
was absolute and deep-rooted on that side as on the other; but it was
less on the surface, and sought ever a solution of peace.

The Muse of History of late years has become so analytic, and withal
so embarrassed with the accumulations of new material, revealing still
more the complication of causes which undoubtedly concur to any
general result, that she is prone to overlook the overpowering
influence of the simple elemental passions of human nature. "Our
country, right or wrong," may be very bad morality, but it is a
tremendous force to reckon with. One is wise overmuch who thinks that
interest can restrain or statesmen control; wise unto folly who
ignores that disinterested emotion, even unreasoning, may be just the
one factor which diplomacy cannot master. I was in Rome when our late
troubles with Spain came on, and dined with a number of the diplomatic
body. "Oh yes," said to me one of these illuminati, "it is all very
well to talk about humanity. The truth is, the United States wants
Cuba." More profound was the remark of an American politician, who had
recently visited the island. "I did not dare to tell all I saw; for,
if I had, there would be no holding our people back." Personally, I
believed that the interests of the United States made expedient the
acquisition of Cuba, if righteously accomplished, and prior to the war
I knew little of the conditions on the island; but Cuba would be
Spanish now, if interests chiefly had power to move us. So in the War
of Secession. Innumerable precedent occurrences had produced a
condition, but it was the passion for the Union, the strong loyalty to
that sovereign, which dominated the situation, and in truth had been
dominating it silently for years; a passion as profound and, though
justifiable to reason, as unreasoning as any simple love that ever
bound man to woman. Could this have been appreciated, what reams of
demonstration might have been spared to foreign pens--demonstration of
the folly, the hopelessness, the lust of conquest, the self-interest
in myriad forms, which were supposed to be the actuating causes.

Effectively, the South had lost this love of the Union. In this
respect the two sections, I fancy, had parted company, unwittingly,
soon after the War of 1812; through which, as we all well know, in
many quarters sectional feeling had still prevailed over national. The
North had since moved towards national consciousness, the South
towards sectional, on paths steadily and rapidly diverging. As I
recall those days, when I first awoke to political observation, I
should say that the feeling of my Southern associates towards the
Union was that which men have towards a friend lately buried.
Affection had not wholly disappeared; but life called. Let the dead
bury their dead. I remember on my first practice cruise, in 1857,
standing in the main-top of the ship with a member of the class
immediately before mine, the son of a North Carolina member of
Congress. "Yes," he said to me, "Buchanan [inaugurated four months
before] will be the last President of the United States." He was
entirely unmoved, simply repeating certitudes to which familiarity had
reconciled him; I, to whom such talk was new, as much aghast as though
I had been told my mother would die within the like term. This outlook
was common to them all. The Union still was, and they continued in
it; but to them the warning had sounded, they were ready and
acquiescent in its fall; regretful, but resigned--very much resigned.
This attitude was more marked among the younger men, those at the
school. In the service outside I found somewhat the same point of
view, but repulsion was keener. The navy then, even more than now,
symbolized the exterior activities of the country, which are committed
by the Constitution to the Union. Hence, the life of the profession
naturally nurtured pride in the nation; and while States'-Rights had
undermined the principle of loyalty to the Union, it had been less
successful in destroying love for it. But to most the prospect was
gloomy. That Massachusetts and South Carolina should be put into a pen
together, and left to fight it out, was the solution expressed to me
by a lieutenant who afterwards fell nobly, in command, on a Union deck
in the war; the gallant Joe Smith, concerning whom runs a story that
cannot be too widely known, even though often repeated. When it was
reported to his father that the _Congress_ had surrendered, he said,
simply, "Then Joe's dead." Joe was dead; but it is only fair to the
survivors to say that ninety out of her crew of four hundred were also
dead, the ship aground, helpless, and in flames.

In Annapolis, the capital of a border slave state, the general
sentiment was, as might be expected, a blending of North and South; a
desire to maintain the Union, but, distinctly superior in motive,
sympathy with the Southern view of the case. In all my fairly intimate
acquaintance with the small society of the town outside the Academy
walls, there was but one family the heads of which were decisively
Union--not Northern; and of it two sons fought in the Southern armies.
Between this influence and that of my comrades I remained as I had
been brought up--the Union first and above all, but with the
conviction that the great danger to the Union lay in the abolition
propaganda. My father was by upbringing a Virginian; by life-long
occupation an officer of the general government, imbued to the marrow
with the principles of military loyalty. Having married and
continuously lived in the North, he had escaped all taint of the
extreme States'-Rights school; but the memories of his youth kept him
broadly Southern in feeling, less by local attachment than by
affection for friends. More than twenty years after his death, when I
was on court-martial duty in Richmond, an old Confederate general,
whom I had never seen, sought me out in memory of the ties that had
bound both himself and his wife's family to my father. With these
clinging sympathies, the abolition agitation was an attack upon his
friends, and, still worse, a wanton endangering of the Union. To save
me from being carried away by the swelling tide was one of his chief
aims.

Regarded by themselves, nothing can well be less important than the
political opinions of one boy of eighteen to twenty; but few things
are more important, if they are those of the mass of his generation,
for then they are the echo from many homes. I believe, from what I saw
at the Naval Academy, that mine were those of the large majority of
the Northern youth, and that the very greatness of the concession
which such were ready to make for the sake of the Union should have
warned the disunionists that the same love was capable of equally
great sacrifices in the other direction. They failed so to understand;
chiefly, perhaps, because they could not appreciate the living force
of the simple sentiment. Never in their lifetimes, if ever before, had
the Union held the first place in the hearts of men of their section;
and such love as had been felt was already moribund, overcome by
supposed interest and local pride. Thus misled, it was easy to believe
that in the North, controlled by considerations of advantage,
yielding would follow yielding, even to permitting a disruption of the
Union--a miscalculation of forces more fatal even than that of "Cotton
is King." But forces will often be miscalculated by those who reckon
interest as more powerful than principle or than sentiment.

Singularly enough, considering the exodus of States'-Rights officers
from the navy at the outbreak of the War of Secession, my first
service during it brought me into close relations with two captains,
both Southerners, whose differing points of view shed interesting
light upon the varying motives which in times of stress determined men
into a common path. The first, Percival Drayton, a South-Carolinian,
had a strength of conviction on the question of slavery, in itself,
and the wrong-headed course of the slave power, as well as a strong
devotion to the Union, all which were needed to keep a son of that
extreme state firm in his allegiance. I question, however, whether any
other one of the seceding communities furnished as large a proportion
of officers who stuck to the national flag, chiefly among the older
men; a result scarcely surprising, for the intensity of affection for
the Union necessary to withstand nearest relatives and the headlong
sweep of separatist impulse, where fiercest, naturally throve upon the
opposition which it met, eliciting a corresponding tenacity of
adherence to the cause it had embraced. No more than that other
Southerner, Farragut, did Drayton feel doubt as to where he belonged
in the coming struggle. "I cannot exactly see the difference between
my relations fighting against me and I against them, except that their
cause is as unholy a one as the world has ever seen, and mine just the
reverse." "Were the sword in the one hand powerful enough, the
secessionists would carry slavery with the other to the uttermost
parts of the Union, and I do not think the North has been at all too
quick in stopping the movement." "I do not think there will ever be
peace between the two sections until slavery is so completely
scotched as to make extension a hopeless matter."[6]

Drayton stayed with us but a brief time. His successor, George B.
Balch, who still survives, now the senior rear-admiral on the retired
list of the navy, a man beloved by all who have known him for his
gallantry, benevolence, and piety, was equally pronounced and equally
firm; but his position illustrated and carried on my experiences at
the Academy, and afterwards in the service, and for the time confirmed
my old prepossessions. He was fighting for the Union, assailed without
just cause; not against slavery, nor for its abolition. Were the
latter the motive of the war, he would not be in arms. This, of
course, was then the attitude of the government and of the people at
large. Abolition, which came not long after, was a war measure simply;
received with doubt by many, but which a few months of hostilities had
prepared us all to accept. My own conversion was early and sudden. The
ship had made an expedition of some fifty miles up a South Carolina
river, in the course of which numerous negroes fled to her. Unlike
Drayton, our captain was rather disconcerted, I think, at having
forced upon him a kind of practical abolition, in carrying off slaves;
but his duty was clear. As for me, it was my first meeting with
slavery; except in the house-servants of Maryland, superficially a
very different condition; and as I looked at the cowed, imbruted faces
of the field-hands, my early training fell away like a cloak. The
process was not logical; I was generalizing from a few instances, but
I was convinced. Knowing how strongly my father had felt, I wondered
how I should break to him my instability; but when we met I found that
he, too, had gone over. Youngster as I still was, I should have
divined the truth, that in assailing the Union his best friend became
his enemy, to down whom abolition was good and fit as any other club.
"My son," he said, "I did not think I could ever again be happy should
our country fall into her present state; but now I am so absorbed in
seeing those fellows beaten that I lose sight of the rest." Peculiar
and personal association enhanced his interest; for, having been then
over thirty years at the Military Academy, there were very few of the
prominent generals on either side who had not been his pupils. The
successful leaders were almost all from that school: Grant, Sherman,
Thomas, Schofield, on the Union side; Lee, Jackson, and the two
Johnstons on the Confederate, were all graduates, not to mention a
host of others only less conspicuous.

In last analysis slavery may have been, probably was, the cause of the
war; but, historically, it was not the motive. Lincoln's words--"I
will save the Union with slavery, or I will save it without slavery,
as the case may demand"--voiced the feeling prevalent in the military
services, and also the will of the great body of the Northern people,
whom he profoundly understood and in his own mental advance
illustrated. I cannot but think that such an aim was more
statesmanlike than would have been the attempt to overturn immediately
and violently an entire social and economical system, for the
establishment of which the current generation was not responsible. In
the long run, to allow the tares of bondage to stand with the wheat of
freedom was wiser than the wish prematurely to uproot. It had become
the definite policy of the enemies of slavery to girdle the tree, by
strict encompassing lines, leaving it to consequent sure process of
decay. Its friends forced the issue. To the ones and to the others the
harvest of generations, in the form it took, came unexpected and
suddenly--a day of judgment, a crisis, like a thief in the night. It
is a consummate proof of the accuracy of popular instinct, given time
to work, that the uprising of 1861 rested upon recognition of the
fact that the cause of the nation and of the world depended more upon
the preservation of a single authority over all the territory
involved, upon the consequent avoidance of future permanent
oppositions, than it did upon the destruction of a particular
institution, the life of which might be protracted, but under
conditions of union must wane and ultimately expire. The gradual
progress of decision by the American people was wiser than the abrupt
action asked by foreign impatience; and abolition came with less shock
and more finality as a military measure than it could as a political.
Its advisability was more evident. If statesmanship is shown in
bringing popular will to accord with national necessity, Lincoln was
in this most sagacious; but not the least element in the tribute due
him is that he was the barometer of popular impulse, measuring
accurately the invisible force upon which depended the energy of that
stormy period.

Before taking final leave of my shore experiences at the Naval
Academy, I will recall, as among them, the superb comet of the autumn
of 1858, which we at the school witnessed evening after evening in
October of that year, during the release from quarters following
supper. After the lapse of so nearly a half-century, the survivors of
those who saw that magnificent spectacle must be in a minority among
their contemporaries, whether of that day or this. Since its
disappearance there has been visible one other notable comet, which I
remember waking my children after midnight to see; but compared with
that of 1858, whether in size or in splendor, it was literally as
moonlight unto sunlight, or, in impression, as water unto wine. As the
astronomers compute the period of return for the earlier at two
thousand years, more or less, we of that generation were truly
singular in our opportunity of viewing this, among the very few "most
magnificent of modern times." The tail, broadening towards the end,
with a curve like that of a scimitar, was in length nearly a fourth of
the span of the heavens, and its brightness that of a full moon. My
memory retains the image with all the tenacity of eighteen.

       *       *       *       *       *

Corresponding in some measure to the summer encampment at the Military
Academy, the Naval gave the three months from July to September,
inclusive, to shipboard and the sea. In both institutions the period
was one of study interrupted, in favor of out-door work; but at West
Point it was accompanied by a degree of social entertainment
impossible to ship conditions. There were two theories as to the
conduct of the practice cruises. One was that they should be confined
to home waters, where regular hours and systematized instruction in
"doing things" would suffer little interference from weather; the
other was to make long voyages, preferably to Europe, leaving to the
normal variability of the ocean and the watchful improvement of
occasions the burden of initiating a youth into practical acquaintance
with the exigencies of his intended profession. Personally I have
always favored the latter, being somewhat of the opinion of the old
practical politician--"Never contrive an opportunity." Naturally an
opportunist, the experience of life has justified me in rather
awaiting than contriving occasions. One learns more widely and more
thoroughly by reefing topsails when it has to be done, than by doing
it at a routine hour, without the accompaniments of the wind, the wet,
and the lurching, which give the operation a tone and a tonic--the
real thing, in short. Doubtless we may wait too long, like Micawber,
even for a reef-topsail gale to turn up, though the ocean can usually
be trusted to be nasty often enough; but, on the other hand, one over
sedulously bent on making opportunity is apt to be too preoccupied to
see that which makes itself. Truth, doubtless, lies between the
extremes.

In my day long cruises had unquestioned preference; and, whatever
their demerits otherwise, they were certainly eye-openers, even to
those who, like myself, had obtained some intelligent impression of
ships at sea. As instruction in seamanship was then never attempted,
neither by work nor book, until after the second year, we went on
board not knowing one mast from another, so far as teaching went. How
far initial ignorance could go may be illustrated by an incident, to
be appreciated, unluckily, only by seamen, which happened in my
hearing. We had then been nearly two months on board, when one who had
improved his opportunities was displaying his acquirements by the
pleasing method of catechising another. He asked: "Do you know what
the topsail-tie is?" The rejoinder, perfectly serious, was: "Do you
mean the cross-tie?" The topsail-tie being one of the principal
"ropes" in a ship, the ignorance was really symptomatic of character;
and had not the hero of it been long dead, I would not have preserved
it, even incog. I fear it may be cited against my view of practice
cruises, as proving that systematic training is better than
picking-up; to which my reply would be that the picking-up showed
aptitude--or the reverse--if only some means could be devised of
making it tell in selection, as it assuredly did in character. But at
the beginning, despite any little previous inklings, we were all quite
green. I still recall the innocent astonishment when we anchored in
Hampton Roads, after the run down the Chesapeake, and the boatswain,
as by custom, pulled round the ship to see the yards square and
rigging taut. Semaphore signalling was not then used, as later; and
his stentorian lungs conveyed to us distinct sounds, bearing meanings
we felt could never be compassed by us. "Haul taut the main-top
bowlines!" "Haul taut the starboard fore-topgallant-sheet." "Maintop,
there! Send a hand up and square the bunt gaskets of the
topgallant-sail!" "By Jove!" said one of the admiring listeners,
"there's seamanship for you!" We all silently agreed, and I dare say
many thought we might as well give it up and go home. Such excellence
was not for us.

The subsequent process of picking-up was attended sometimes by
comical, as well as painful, incidents. Peter Simple's experiences, as
told by Marryat, were not yet quite obsolete in practice. A story ran
of one, not long before my "date," who, having been sent on two or
three bootless errands by unauthorized jesters, finally received from
a person in due authority the absurd-sounding, but legitimate, message
to have the jackasses put in the hawse-holes.[7] "Oh no," he replied,
resentfully, "I have been fooled often enough! That I will not do." I
can better vouch for another, which happened on my first practice
cruise. In a sailing-ship properly planned, the balance of the sails
is such that to steer her on her course the rudder need not be kept
more to one side than the other; the helm is then amidships. But error
of design, or circumstances, such as a faulty trim of the sails or the
ship inclining in a strong side-wind, will sometimes so alter the
influencing forces that the helm has to be carried steadily on one
side, to correct the ship's disposition to turn to that side. She is
then said to carry weather helm or lee helm, as the case may be; and
the knowing ones used to assert noticeable differences of sailing in
certain conditions. In many ships to carry a little weather helm was
thought advantageous, and it was told of a certain deck-officer--he
who repeated the story to me made the late Admiral Porter the
hero--that the ship being found to sail faster in his watch than in
any other, the commander sent for him and asked the reason. "Well,
sir," replied the lieutenant, "I will tell you my secret. As soon as
the officer I relieve is gone below and out of sight, while the watch
is mustering, I walk forward, look round at things generally, and say
casually to the captain of the forecastle: 'Just slack off a little of
this jib-sheet.' Then about ten minutes before eight bells, after the
last log of the watch has been hove, while the men are rousing to go
below, I go forward again and say, 'Come here, half a dozen of us, and
get a pull of the jib-sheet;' and I turn the deck over to my relief
with the jib well flattened in." In result, the frigate during his
watch, and his only, carried a weather helm. My own experience of
sailing ships was neither prolonged enough nor responsible enough to
estimate just what weight to attach to these impressions, but they
existed; and in any case, as the helm varying far from amidships
showed something wrong, the question was frequent to the helmsman,
"How does she carry her helm?" varied sometimes to, "What sort of helm
does she carry?" Now we had among our green midshipmen one from the
West, tall, angular, swarthy, with a coal-black eye which had a trick
of cocking up and out, giving a queer, perplexed, yet defiant cast to
his countenance; moreover, he stuttered a little, not from
imperfection of organs, but from nervous excitability. We had also a
lieutenant from far down East, red-haired, sanguine of complexion,
bony of structure, who had a gesture of tossing his hair and head
back, and looking tremendously leonine and master of the
situation--monarch of all he surveyed. The two were naturally
antagonistic, as was amusingly shown more than once; but on this
occasion the midshipman was at the "lee wheel," not himself steering,
but helping the steersman in the manual labor. To him the lieutenant,
pausing in his stride and tilting his chin in the air, says: "Mr.
----, what sort of helm does she carry?" ----, who had never heard of
weather or lee helms, and probably was not yet recovered from the
effects of the boatswain's seamanship, twisted his eye and his head,
looking more than ever confounded and saucy, and stammered: "I--I--I'm
not sure, sir, but I think it's a wooden one." Tableau!--as the French
say.

In position on board we were midshipmen indeed, in a sense probably
somewhat different from that which first gave birth to the title. We
were not seamen; and it could scarcely be claimed that we were in any
full sense officers, much as we stuck to that designation. We stood
midway. There was a tradition in the British service that a
midshipman, though in training for promotion, did not, while in the
grade, rank with the boatswain or gunner, who had no future prospects,
and who, with the carpenter, stood in a class by themselves. Marryat,
who doubtless drew his characters from life, tells us that the gunner
who sailed with Mr. Midshipman Easy was strong on the necessity for
the gunner mastering navigation, and had many instances in point where
all the officers had been killed down to the gunner, who in such case
would have been sadly handicapped by ignorance of navigation. I fancy
the doubt seldom needed to be settled in service; the duties of
midshipman and boatswain could rarely come into collision, if each
minded his own business. By luck, just after writing these words, I
for the first time in my life have found a plausible derivation for
midshipman.[8] It would appear that in the days immediately after the
flood the vessels were very high at the two ends, between which there
was a deep "waist," giving no ready means of passing from one to the
other. To meet this difficulty there were employed a class of men,
usually young and alert, who from their station were called
midshipmen, to carry messages which were not subject for the trumpet
shout. If this holds water, it, like forecastle, and after-guard, and
knightheads, gives another instance of survival from conditions which
have long ceased.

Whatever the origin of his title, it well expressed the anomalous and
undefined position of the midshipman. He belonged, so to say, to both
ends of the ship, as well as to the middle, and his duties and
privileges alike fell within the broad saying, already quoted, that
what was nobody's business was a midshipman's. When appointed as such,
in later days, he came in "with the hay-seed in his hair," and went
out fit for a lieutenant's charge; but from first to last, whatever
his personal progress, he remained, as a midshipman, a handy-billy. He
might be told, as Basil Hall's first captain did his midshipmen, that
they might keep watch or not, as they pleased--that is, that the ship
had no use for them; or he might be sent in charge of a prize, as was
Farragut, when twelve years old, doubtless with an old seaman as
nurse, but still in full command. Anywhere from the bottom of the hold
to the truck--top of the masts--he could be sent, and was sent; every
boat, that went ashore had a midshipman, who must answer for her
safety and see that none got away of a dozen men, whose one thought
was to jump the boat and have a run on shore. Between times he passed
hours at the mast-head in expiation of faults which he had
committed--or ought to have committed, to afford a just scapegoat for
his senior's wrath. As Marryat said, it made little difference: if he
did not think of something he had not been told, he was asked what his
head was for; if he did something off his own bat, the question arose
what business he had to think. In either case he went to the mast-head.
Of course, at a certain age one "turns to mirth all things of earth,
as only boyhood can;" and the contemporary records of the steerage
brim over with unforced jollity, like that notable hero of Marryat's
"who was never quite happy except when he was d----d miserable."

Such undefined standing and employments taught men their business, but
provided no remedy for the miscellaneous social origin of midshipmen.
In the beginning of things they were probably selected from the smart
young men of the crew; often also from the more middle-aged--in any
event, from before the mast. Even in much later days men passed
backward and forward from midshipman to lower ratings; Nelson is an
instance in point. When a man became a lieutenant, he was something
fixed and recognized, professionally and socially. He might fall below
his station, but he had had his chance. In the British navy many most
distinguished officers came from anywhere--through the hawse-holes, as
the expression ran; and a proud boast it should have been at a time
when every Frenchman in his position had to be of noble blood. What
was all very well for captains and lieutenants, once those ranks were
reached, was not so easy for midshipmen. We know in every walk of life
the woes of those whose position is doubtful or challenged; and what
was said to his crew by Sir Peter Parker, an active frigate captain
who was killed in Chesapeake Bay in 1814, "I'll have you touch your
hat to a midshipman's jacket hung up to dry" (curiously reminiscent of
William Tell and Gessler's cap), not improbably testifies to
equivocalness even at that late date. The social instinct of seamen is
singularly observant and tenacious of their officers' manners and
bearing. I have known one, reproved for a disrespect, say, sullenly:
"I have always been accustomed to sail with gentlemen." In the
instance the comment was just, though not permissible. Deference might
be conceded to the midshipman's jacket, but it could not cover defects
of a certain order.

The midshipman's berth, as attested by contemporary sketches, was
peopled by all sorts in age, fitness, and manners. In one of the many
tales I devoured in youth, a middle-aged shellback of a master's mate,
come in from before the mast, says with an oath to an aristocratic
midshipman: "Isn't my blood as red as yours?" Still, even in the
British navy, with its fine democratic record, the social rank was
more regarded than the military. His Majesty's ship _So-and-So_ was
commanded by John Smith, Esquire; and I have heard this point of view
stated by competent authority as accounting for the address--George
Washington, Esquire--placed by Howe on the letter which Washington
refused to accept because not carrying the rank conferred on him by
Congress. This does not, however, explain away the "etc., etc.," which
followed on the cover. John Byng, Esquire, Admiral of the Blue, would
thus be of higher consideration as Esquire than as Admiral. Even in
our own service I remember an old log, the pages of which were headed,
"Cruise of the U. S. Ship _Preble_, commanded by J. B. M----,
Esquire."

In the practice cruises the social question did not arise. Independent
of the democratic tendency of all boys' schools, where each individual
finds his level by natural gravitation, the Naval Academy, for reasons
before alluded to, has been remarkably successful in assimilating its
heterogeneous raw material and turning out a finished product of a
good average social quality. Beyond this, social success or failure
depends everywhere upon personal aptitudes which no training can
bestow. But as officers we were nondescript. There were too many of
us; and for the most the object was to acquire a sufficient seaman's
knowledge, not an officer's. Yet, curiously enough, so at least it
seemed to me, there was a disposition on the part of some to be
jealous of any supposed infringement of our prerogative to be treated
as "a bit of an officer." Ashore or afloat, we made our own beds or
lashed our own hammocks, swept our rooms, tended our clothes, and
blacked our boots; our drills were those of the men before the mast,
at sails and guns; all parts of a seaman's work, except cleaning the
ship, was required and willingly done; but there was a comical
rebellion on one occasion when ordered to pull--row--a boat ashore for
some purpose, and almost a mutiny when one lieutenant directed us to
go barefooted while decks were being scrubbed, a practice which,
besides saving your shoe-leather, is both healthy, cleanly, and, in
warm weather, exceedingly comforting. Some asserted that the
lieutenant in question, who afterwards commanded one of the
Confederate commerce-destroyers, and from his initials (Jas. I.) was
known to us as Jasseye, had done this because he had very pretty feet
which he liked to show bare, and we must do the same; much as Germans
are said to train their mustaches with the emperor's. At all events,
there was great wrath, which I supposed I should have shared had I not
preferred bare feet--not for as sound reasons as the lieutenant's. It
stands to reason, however, that that imputation was slanderous, for
there were no appreciative observers, unless himself. Why waste such
sweetness on the desert air of a lot of heedless midshipmen? With so
many details regulated--if not enforced--from the length of our hair
to the cut of our trousers, it did seem hypercritical to object to
going shoeless for an hour. But who is consistent? The uncertainty of
our position kept the chip on the shoulder.



V

MY FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION--NAUTICAL CHARACTERS

1859-1861


At the moment of graduation, in the summer of 1859, I had a narrow
escape from the cutting short of my career, resembling that which a
man has from a railway accident by missing the train. To a certain
extent the members of classes were favored in forming groups of
friends, and choosing the ship to which they would be sent. Myself and
two intimates applied for the sloop-of-war _Levant_, destined for the
Pacific by way of Cape Horn; our motive being partly the kind of
vessel, supposed by us to favor professional opportunity, and partly
the friendship existing between one of us and the master of the
_Levant_, a graduate of two or three years before, who had just
completed his examinations for promotion. Luckily for us, and
particularly for me, as the only one of the three who in after life
survived middle age, the frigate _Congress_ was fitting out, and her
requirements for officers could not be disregarded. The _Levant_
sailed, reached the Pacific, and disappeared--one of the mysteries of
the deep. We very young men had the impression that small vessels were
better calculated to advance us professionally, because, having fewer
officers, deck duty might be devolved on us, either to ease the
regular watch officers or in case of a disability. This prepossession
extended particularly to brigs, of which the navy then had several.
This was a pretty wild imagining, for I can hardly conceive any one
in trusting such a vessel to a raw midshipman. It is scarcely an
exaggeration to say they were all canvas and no hull--beautiful as a
dream, but dangerous to a degree, except to the skilful. As it was, an
unusual proportion of them came to grief. Our views were doubtless
largely, if unconsciously, affected by the pleasing idea of
prospective early importance as deck officers. The more solid opinion
of our seniors was that we would do better to pause awhile on the
bottom step, under closer supervision; while as for vessel, the order,
dignity, and scale of performance on big ships were more educative,
more formative of military character, which, and not seamanship, is
the leading element of professional value. "Keep them at sea," said
Lord St. Vincent, "and they can't help becoming seamen; but attention
is needed to make them learn their business with the guns." I have
already mentioned that, at the outbreak of the War of Secession, it
was this factor which decided the authorities to give seniority to the
very young lieutenants over the volunteers from the merchant service,
most of whom had longer experience and (though by no means all of
them) consequent ability as seamen.

After graduating, my first cruise was upon what was then known as the
Brazil Station; by the British called more comprehensively the
Southeast Coast of America. After the war the name and limits were
judiciously changed. It became then the South Atlantic Station, to
embrace the Cape of Good Hope, and, generally, the coasts of South
America and Africa, with the islands lying between, such as St. Helena
and the Falklands. From the point of view of healthy activity for the
ships and their companies, and specifically for the education of
younger officers, this extension was most desirable. In the earlier
time long periods were spent in port, because there really was not
enough that required doing. Our captain once kept the ship at sea for
a fortnight or more, "cruising;" that is, moving about within certain
limits back and forth. In war-time this is frequent, if not general;
but then it is for a specific purpose, conducive to the ends of war.
In peace, cruising ends in itself; it is like a "constitutional;"
beneficial, no doubt, but not to most men as healthily beneficial as
the walk to the office, with its definite object and the incidental
amusement of the streets. A _terminus ad quem_ is essential to the
perfection of exercise, bodily or mental. As it was, Montevideo, in
the river La Plata, and Rio de Janeiro were the two chief ports
between which we oscillated, with rare and brief stays elsewhere or at
sea.

The _Congress_ was a magnificent ship of her period. The adjective is
not too strong. Having been built about 1840, she represented the
culmination of the sail era, which, judged by her, reached then the
splendid maturity that in itself, to the prophetic eye, presages decay
and vanishment. In her just but strong proportions, in her lines, fine
yet not delicate, she "seemed to dare," and did dare, "the elements to
strife;" while for "her peopled deck," when her five hundred and odd
men swarmed up for an evolution, or to get their hammocks for the
night, it was peopled to the square foot, despite her size. On her
forecastle, and to the fore and main masts, each, were stationed sixty
men, full half of them prime seamen, not only in skill, but in age and
physique--ninety for the starboard watch, and ninety for the port; not
to count the mizzen-topmen, after-guard, and marines, more than as
many more. I have always remembered the effect produced upon me by
this huge mass, when all hands gathered once to wear ship in a heavy
gale, the height of one of those furious _pamperos_ which issue from
the prairies (_pampas_) of Buenos Ayres. The ship having only fore and
main topsails, close reefed, the officers, beyond those of the watch,
were not summoned; the handling of the yards required only the brute
force of muscle, under which, even in such conditions, they were as
toys in the hands of that superb ship's company. I had thus the chance
to see things from the poop, a kind of bird's-eye view. As the ship
fell off before the wind, and while the captain was waiting that
smoother chance which from time to time offers to bring her up to it
again on the other side with the least shock, she of course gathered
accelerated way with the gale right aft--scudding, in fact. Unsteadied
by wind on either side, she rolled deeply, and the sight of those four
hundred or more faces, all turned up and aft, watching intently the
officer of the deck for the next order, the braces stretched taut
along in their hands for instant obedience, was singularly striking.
Usually a midshipman had to be in the midst of such matters with no
leisure for impressions--at least, of an "impressionist" character.
Those were the prerogatives of the idlers--the surgeon, chaplain, and
marine officers--who obtained thereby not only the benefit of the
show, but material for discussion as to how well the thing had been
done, or whether it ought to have been done at all. The midshipman's
part at "all hands" was to be as much in the way as was necessary to
see all needed gear manned, no skulkers, and as much out of the way as
his personal stability required, from the rush of the huge gangs of
seamen "running away" with a rope.

I never had the opportunity of viewing the ship from outside under way
at sea; but she was delightful to look at in port. Her spars, both
masts and yards, lofty and yet square, were as true to proportion, for
perfection of appearance, as was her hull; and the twenty-five guns
she showed on each broadside, in two tiers, though they had abundance
of working-room, were close enough together to suggest two strong rows
of solid teeth, ready for instant use. Nothing could be more
splendidly martial. But what old-timers they were, with the swell of
their black muzzles, like the lips of a full-blooded negro.
Thirty-two-pounders, all of them; except on either side five
eight-inch shell guns, a small tribute to progress. The rest threw
solid shot for the most part. Imposing as they certainly looked, and
heavier though they were than most of those with which the world's
famous sea-fights have been fought, they were already antediluvian. A
few years later I saw a long range of them enjoying their last repose
on the skids in a navy-yard; and a bystander, with equal truth and
irreverence, called them pop-guns. One almost felt that the word
should be uttered in a whisper, out of respect for their feelings. But
the whole equipment of the ship, though up to date in itself, was so
far of the past that I recall it with mingled pathos and interest.
What naval officer who may read these words was ever shipmate with
rope "trusses" for the lower yards, or with a hemp messenger? A
"messenger" was a huge rope, of I suppose eighteen to twenty-four
inches circumference, used for lifting the anchor. At the after end of
the ship it was passed three times round the capstan, where the men
walking round merrily to the sound of the fife, under the eyes of the
officer of the deck, were doing the work of weighing; at the forward
end it moved round rollers to save friction. Thus one part was taut
under the strain of the capstan; and to this the cable of the anchor,
as it was hove in, was made fast by a succession of selvagees, for
which I will borrow the elaborate description of White Jacket, who
tells us the name was applied by the seamen of his ship to one of the
lieutenants: "It is a slender, tapering, unstranded piece of rope,
prepared with much solicitude; peculiarly flexible; which wreathes and
serpentines round the cable and messenger like an elegantly modelled
garter-snake round the stalks of a vine." The messenger thus was
appropriately named; it went back and forth on its errand of anchor
raising, the slack side being helped on its way by a row of twelve or
fifteen men seated, pulling it along forward. This gang, by immemorial
usage, was composed of the colored servants, and I can see now that
row of black faces, with grinning ivories, as they yo-ho'd in
undertones together, "lighting forward the messenger."

Like the ship and her equipment, the officers and crew by training and
methods were still of the olden time in tone and ideals; a condition,
of course, fostered at the moment by the style of vessel. Yet they had
that curious adaptability characteristic of the profession, which
afterwards enabled them to fall readily into the use of the new
constructions of every kind evolved by the War of Secession.
Concerning some of these, a naval professional humorist observed that
they could be worshipped without idolatry; for they were like nothing
in heaven, or on earth, or in the waters under the earth. Adored or
not, they were handled to purpose. By a paradoxical combination, the
seaman of those days was at once most conservative in temperament and
versatile in capacity. Among the officers, however, there was an open
vision towards the future. I well remember "Joe" Smith enlarging to me
on the merits of Cowper Coles's projected turret ship, much talked
about in the British press in 1860; a full year or more before
Ericsson, under the exigency of existing war, obtained from us a
hearing for the _Monitor_. Coles's turrets, being then a novel
project, were likened, explanatorily, to a railway turn-table, a very
illustrative definition; and Smith was already convinced of the value
of the design, which was proved in Hampton Roads the day after he
himself fell gloriously on the deck of the _Congress_. There is a
double tragedy in his missing by this brief space the clear
demonstration of a system to which he so early gave his adherence; and
it is another tragedy, which most Americans except naval officers will
have forgotten, that Coles himself found his grave in the ship--the
_Captain_--ultimately built through his urgency upon this turret
principle. This happened in 1870. The tradition of masts and sails, as
economical, still surviving, she was equipped with them, which we from
the beginning had discarded in monitors. The _Captain_ was a large
vessel with low freeboard, her deck only six feet above water. Lying
to under sail in a moderate gale, in the Bay of Biscay, she heeled
over in a squall, bringing the lee side of the deck under water; and
the force of the wind increasing, without meeting the resistance
offered ordinarily by the pressure of the water against the lee side
of a ship, she went clean over and sank. The incident made the deeper
impression upon me because two months before I had visited her, when
she was lying at Spithead in company with another iron-clad, the
_Monarch_, which soon after was assigned by the British government to
bring George Peabody's remains to their final resting-place in
America. I then met and was courteously received by the captain of the
_Captain_, Burgoyne, of the same family as the general known to our
War of Independence. Coles had gone merely as a passenger, to observe
the practical working of his designs. I do not know how far the
masting was consonant to his wishes. It may have been forced upon him
as a concession, necessary to obtain his main end; but nothing could
be more incongruous than to embarrass the all-round fire of turrets by
masts and rigging.

In 1859 the United States government was coquetting with the title
"Admiral," which was supposed to have some insidious connection with
monarchical institutions. Even so sensible and thoughtful a man as our
sailmaker, who was a devout disciple and constant reader of Horace
Greeley, with the advanced political tendencies of the _Tribune_, said
to me: "Call them admirals! Never! They will be wanting to be dukes
next." We had hit, therefore, on a compromise, quite accordant with
the transition decade 1850-1860, and styled them flag-officers;
concerning which it might be said that all admirals are
flag-officers, but all flag-officers were not admirals--not American
flag-officers, at all events. As a further element in the compromise,
instead of the broad swallow-tailed pendant of a commodore, our
previous flag-rank, we carried the square flag at the mizzen
indicative in all navies of a rear-admiral, to which we gave a
rear-admiral's salute of thirteen guns, and expected the same from
foreigners; while all the time the recipient stood on our _Navy
Register_ as a captain, only temporarily brevetted Flag-officer. Well
do I remember the dismay of our flag-officer when, quitting a British
ship of war, she fired the customary salute, and stopped at eleven--a
commodore's perquisite. The hit was harder, because the old gentleman
was particularly fond of the English, having received from them great
hospitality incidental to his commanding the ship of war which carried
part of the American exhibition to the World's Fair of 1851. An "_Et
tu, Brute_" expression came over his face, as he sank back with a
sorrowful exclamation in the stern-sheets of the barge, which, as
nautical convention requires, was lying motionless, oars horizontal, a
ship's-length away; when, lo and behold, as a kind of appendix to the
previous proceedings, bang! bang! went two more guns, filling the
baker's dozen. It was, of course, somewhat limping, but the apology
was sufficient.

Salutes are as liable to accidents as are other affairs of
well-regulated households, and a little more so; a gun misses fire, or
somebody counts wrong, or what not. On the _Congress_ we rarely had
trouble, for the greatest number of guns is twenty-one--a national
salute--and on our main deck we had thirty, any part of which could be
ready. If one missed fire, the gun next abaft stepped in. If near
enough, you might hear the primer snap, but the error of interval was
barely appreciable--the effect stood. Laymen may not know that the
manner of the salute was, and is, for the officer conducting it to
give the orders, "Starboard, fire!" "Port, fire!" the discharges thus
ranging from forward, aft, alternately on each side. A man who cannot
trust his ear times the interval by watch; most, I presume, trust
their counting. I once underwent an amusing _faux pas_ in this matter
of counting. Of course, the count is a serious matter; gun for gun is
diplomatically as important as an eye for an eye. My captain had heard
that an excellent precaution was to provide one's self with a
number of dried beans--with which, needless to say, a ship
abounds--corresponding to the number of guns. The receipt ran: Put
them all in one pocket, and with each gun shift a bean to the other
pocket. He proposed this to me, but I demurred; I feared I might get
mixed on the beans and omit to shift one. He did not press me, but
when I began to perform on the main deck he stood near the hatch on
the deck above, duly--or unduly--provided with beans. It was a
national salute; to the port. When I finished, he called to me: "You
have only fired twenty guns." "No, sir," I replied; "twenty-one."
"No," he repeated, "twenty; for I have a bean left." "All right!" I
returned, and I banged an appendix; after which, upon counting, it was
found the captain had twenty-two beans and the French twenty-two
guns--a "tiger" which I hope they appreciated, but am sure they did
not "return."

Our flag-officer was a veteran of 1812. He had evidently been very
handsome, to which possibly he owed three successive wives, the last
one much younger than himself. Now, in his sixties, he was still light
in his movements. He had a queer way of tripping along on the balls of
his feet, with a half-shuffling movement, his hands buried in his
pockets, with the thumbs out. He was, I fear, the sort of man capable
of wearing a frock-coat unbuttoned. It was amusing to see him walk the
poop with the captain of the ship, who out topped him by a head, was
ponderous in dimensions, with wide tread and feet like an elephant's;
yet, it was said by those who had seen, a beautiful waltzer. His son,
who was his clerk, used to say: "The old man's feet really aren't so
big, if he would not wear such shoes." When his shoes were sent up to
dry in the sun, as all sea-shoes must be at times, the midshipmen knew
the occasion as a gunboat parade. The flag-officer was styled
familiarly in the navy by the epithet Buckey; I never saw it spelled,
but the pronunciation was as given. Report ran that he thus called
every one, promiscuously; but, although I was his aide for nearly six
months, I only heard him use it once or twice. Possibly he was
breaking a bad habit.

Judged by my experience, which I believe was no worse than the
average, the life of an aide is literally that of a dog; it was
chiefly following round, or else sitting in a boat at a landing, just
as a dog waits outside for his master, to all hours of the night, till
your superior comes down from his dinner or out from the theatre. A
coachman has a "cinch," to use our present-day slang; for he has only
his own behavior to look to, while the aide has to see that the dozen
bargemen also behave, don't skip up the wharf for a drink, and then
forget the way back to the boat. If one or two do, no matter how good
his dinner may have been, the remarks of the flag-officer are apt to
be unpleasant; not to speak of subsequent interviews with the
first-lieutenant. I trace to those days a horror which has never left
me of keeping servants waiting. Flag-officers apparently never heard
that punctuality is the politeness of kings. There are, however,
occasional compensations; bones, I might say, pursuing the dog
analogy. One incident very interesting to me occurred. The
flag-officer had a well-deserved reputation for great bravery, and in
his early career had fought two or three duels. One of these had been
at Rio Janeiro, on an island in the harbor, and he had there killed
his man. On this occasion, the barge being manned and I along, we
pulled over to the island. In the thirty intervening years it must
have changed greatly, for many buildings were now on it; but his
memory evidently was busy and serving him well. He walked round
meditatively, uttering a low, humming whistle, his hands in his
pockets, his secretary and myself following. At last he reached a
point where he stopped and mused for some moments, after which he went
quietly and silently to the boat. Not a word passed from him to us
during our stay, nor the subsequent pull to shore; but there can be
little doubt where his thoughts were. It is right to add that on the
occasion in question not only was the provocation all on the other
side, but it was endured by him to the utmost that the standards of
1830 would permit.

To my aideship also I owed an unusual opportunity to see an incident
of bygone times--the heaving down of a fair-sized ship of war. One of
our sloops, of some eight hundred tons' burden, bound to China, had
put into Rio for repairs: a leak of no special danger, but so near the
keel as to demand examination. It might get worse. As yet Rio had no
dry-dock, and so she must be hove down. This operation, probably never
known in these days, when dry-docks are to be found in all quarters,
consisted in heeling the ship over, by heavy purchases attached to the
top of the lower masts, until the keel, or at least so much of the
side as was necessary, was out of water. As the leverage on the masts
was extreme, almost everything had to be taken out of the ship, guns
included, to lighten her to the utmost; and the spars themselves were
heavily backed to bear the strain. The upper works, usually out of
water, must on the down side be closed and protected against the
proposed immersion. In short, preparation was minute as well as
extensive. In the old days, when docks were rare, and long voyages
would be made in regions without local resources, a ship would be hove
down two or three times in a cruise, to clean her uncoppered bottom
or to see what damage worms might be effecting. When frequently done,
familiarity doubtless made it comparatively easy; but by 1859 it had
become very exceptional. I have never seen another instance. She was
taken to a sheltered cove, in one of those picturesque bights which
abound in the harbor of Rio, the most beautiful bay in the world, and
there, in repeated visits by our flag-officer, I saw most stages of
the process. Technical details I will not inflict upon the reader, but
there was one amusing anecdote told me by our carpenter, who as a
senior in his business was much to the fore. Some general overhauling
was also required, and among other things the sloop's captain pointed
out that the side-board in the cabin was not well secured. "I have
sometimes to get up two or three times in the night to see to it," he
said. He had been one of the restored victims of the Retiring Board of
1855, and had the reputation of knowing that sideboards exist for
other purposes than merely being secured; hence, at this pathetic
remark, the carpenter caught a wink, "on the fly," as it passed from
the flag-officer to the captain of the _Congress_ and back again. The
commander invalided soon after, and the sloop went on her way to China
under the charge of the first lieutenant.

The flag-officer, though not a man of particular distinction,
possessed strongly that kind of individuality which among seamen of
the days before steam, when the world was less small and less
frequented, was more common than it is now, when we so cluster that,
like shot in a barrel, we are rounded and polished by mere attrition.
Formerly, characteristics had more chance to emphasize themselves and
throw out angles, as I believe they still do in long polar seclusions.
Withal, there came from him from time to time a whiff of the naval
atmosphere of the past, like that from a drawer where lavender has
been. Going ashore once with him for a constitutional, he caught
sight of a necktie which my fond mother had given me. It was black,
yes; but with variations. "Humph!" he ejaculated; "don't wear a thing
like that with me. You look like a privateersman." There spoke the
rivalries of 1812. There had not been a privateersman in the United
States for near a half-century. A great chum of his was the senior
surgeon of the frigate, a man near his own years. Leaving the ship
together for a walk, the surgeon, crossing the deck, smudged his white
trousers with paint or coal-tar, the free application of which in
unexpected places is one of the snares attending a well-appearing
man-of-war. "Never mind, doctor," said the flag-officer, consolingly,
falling back like Sancho Panza on an ancient proverb; "remember the
two dirtiest things in the world are a clean ship and a clean
soldier"--paint and pipe-clay, to wit.

Another trait was an extensive, though somewhat mild, profanity which
took no account of ladies' presence, although he was almost
exaggeratedly deferential to them, as well as cordially courteous to
all. His speech was like his gait, tripping. I remember the arrival of
the first steamer of a new French line to Rio. Steam mail-service was
there and then exceptional; most of our home letters still came by
sailing-vessel; consequently, this was an event, and brought the
inevitable banquet. He was present; I also, as his aide, seated nearly
opposite him, with two or three other of our officers. He was called
to respond to a toast. "Gentlemen and ladies!" he began. "No! Ladies
and gentlemen--ladies always first, d--n me!" What more he said I do
not recall, although we all loyally applauded him. Many years
afterwards, when he was old and feeble, an acquaintance of mine met
him, and he began to tell of the tombstone of some person in whom he
was interested. After various particulars, he startled his auditor
with the general descriptive coruscation, "It was covered with angels
and cherubs, and the h--l knows what else."

It would be easily possible to overdraw the personal peculiarities of
the seamen. I remember nothing corresponding at all to the
extravagances instanced in my early reading of Colburn's; such as a
frigate's watch--say one hundred and fifty men--on liberty in
Portsmouth, England, buying up all the gold-laced cocked bats in the
place, and appearing with them at the theatre. Many, however, who have
seen a homeward-bound ship leaving port, the lower rigging of her
three masts crowded with seamen from deck to top, returning roundly
the cheers given by all the ships-of-war present, foreign as well as
national, as she passes, have witnessed also the time-honored ceremony
of her crew throwing their hats overboard with the last cheer. This
corresponded to the breaking of glasses after a favorite toast, or to
the bursts of enthusiasm in a Spanish bull-ring, where Andalusian caps
fly by dozens into the arena. There, however, the bull-fighter returns
them, with many bows; but those of the homeward-bounders become the
inheritance of the boatmen of the port. The midshipman of the watch
being stationed on the forecastle, my intimates among the crew were
the staid seamen, approaching middle-age; allotted there, where they
would have least going aloft. The two captains of the forecastle--one,
I shrewdly think, Dutch, the other English, though both had English
names--would engage in conversation with me at times, mingling
deference and conscious superior experience in due proportion. One, I
remember, just before the War of Secession began, was greatly
exercised about the oncoming troubles. The causes of the difficulty
and the political complications disturbed him little; but the probable
prospect of the heads of the rebellion losing their property engrossed
his mind. He constantly returned to this; it would be confiscated,
doubtless; yet the assertion was an evident implied query to me, to
which I could give no positive answer. As is known, few of the seamen,
as of private soldiers in the army, sympathized sufficiently with the
Confederacy to join it. Indeed, the vaunt I have heard attributed to
Southern officers of the old navy, which, though never uttered in my
ears, was very consonant to the Southern spirit as I then knew it,
that Southern officers with Yankee seamen could beat the world,
testified at least to the probable attitude of the latter in a war of
sections. Considering the great naval names of the past, Preble, Hull,
Decatur, Bainbridge, Stewart, Porter, Perry, and Macdonough, the two
most Southern of whom came from Delaware and Maryland, this
ante-bellum assurance was, to say the least, self-confident; but
Farragut was a Southerner. The other captain of the forecastle was
less communicative, taciturn by nature; but there ran of him a story
of amusing simplicity. It occurred to him on one occasion that he
would lay under contribution the resources of the ship's small
library. Accordingly he went to the chaplain, in whose care it was;
but as he was wholly in the dark as to what particular book he might
like, the chaplain, after two or three tries, suggested a _Life of
Paul Jones_. Yes, he thought he would like that. "You see, I was
shipmates with him some cruises ago; he was with me in the main-top of
the ----."

Another forecastle intimate of mine was the boatswain, who, like most
boatswains of that day, had served his time before the mast. As is the
case with many self-made men, he, on his small scale, was very
conscious of the fact, and of general consequent desert. A favorite
saying with him was, "Thanks to my own industry and my wife's economy,
I am now well beforehand with the world." Like a distinguished officer
higher in rank of that day, of whom it was said that he remembered
nothing later than 1813, my boatswain's memory dwelt much in the
thirties, though he acknowledged more recent experiences. His attitude
towards steam, essentially conservative, was strictly and amusingly
official. He had served on board one steamer, the _San Jacinto_; and
what had pleased him was that the yards could be squared and rigging
hauled taut--his own special function--before entering port, so that
in those respects the job had been done when the anchor dropped. One
of his pet stories, frequently brought forward, concerned a schooner
in which he had served in the earlier period, and will appeal to those
who know how dear a fresh coat of paint is to a seaman's heart. She
had just been thus decorated within and without, and was standing into
a West-Indian port to show her fine feathers, when a sudden flaw of
wind knocked her off, and over, dangerously close to a rocky point.
The first order given was, "Stand clear of the paint-work!"--an
instance of the ruling passion strong _in extremis_. He had another
woesome account of a sloop-of-war in which he had gone through the
Straits of Magellan. The difficult navigation and balky winds made the
passage protracted for a sailing-vessel; all were put on short
rations, and the day before she entered a Chilian port the bread-room
was swept to the last crumbs. "I often could not sleep for hunger when
I turned in." In the same ship, the watch-officers falling short,
through illness or suspension, the captain set a second lieutenant of
marines to take a day watch. Being, as he supposed, put to do
something, he naturally wanted to do it, if he only knew what it was,
and how it was to be done. The master of the ship was named Peter
Wager, and to him, when taking sights, the marine appealed. "Peter,
what's the use of being officer of the deck if you don't do anything?
Tell me something to do." "Well," Peter replied, "you might send all
the watch aft and take in the mizzen-royal"--the mizzen-royal being
the smallest of all sails, requiring about two ordinary men, and in
no wise missed when in. This was practical "tales for the marines."

This boatswain afterwards saw the last of the _Congress_, when the
_Merrimac_--or rather the _Virginia_, to give her her Confederate
name--wasted time murdering a ship already dead, aground and on fire.
He often afterwards spun me the yarn; for I liked the old man, and not
infrequently went to see him in later days. He had borne
good-humoredly the testiness with which a youngster is at times prone
to assert himself against what he fancies interference, and I had
appreciated the rebuke. The _Congress_ disaster was a very big and
striking incident in the career of any person, and it both ministered
to his self-esteem and provided the evening of his life with material
for talk. Unhappily, I have to confess, as even Boswell at times did,
I took no notes, and cannot reproduce that which to me is of absorbing
interest, the individual impressions of a vivid catastrophe.

The boatswain was one of the four who in naval phrase were termed
"warrant" officers, in distinction from the lieutenants and those
above, who held their offices by "commission." The three others were
the gunner, carpenter, and sailmaker, names which sufficiently
indicate their several functions. In the hierarchical classification
of the navy, as then established by long tradition, the midshipmen,
although on their way to a commission, were warrant officers also; and
in consequence, though they had a separate mess, they had the same
smoking-place, the effect of which in establishing a community of
social intercourse every smoker will recognize. I suppose, if there
had been three sides to a ship, there would have been three
smoking-rendezvous; but in the crude barbarism of those days--as it
will now probably be considered--both commissioned and warrant
officers had no place to smoke except away forward on the
gun-deck--the "eyes" of the ship, as the spot was appropriately
named; the superiors on the honor side, which on the gun-deck was the
port, the midshipmen and warrant officers on the starboard. The
position was not without advantages, when riding head to wind, in hot
tropical weather; but under way, close-hauled, with a stiff breeze, a
good deal of salt water found its way in, especially if the jackasses
were in the hawse-holes. But under such conditions we sat there
serenely, the water coursing in a flowing stream under our chairs if
the ship had a steady heel, or rushing madly from side to side if she
lurched to windward. The stupidity of it was that we didn't even know
we were uncomfortable, and by all sound philosophy were so far better
off than our better accommodated successors. What was more annoying
was the getting forward at night, when the hammocks were in place; but
even for that occasional compensations offered. I remember once, when
making this awkward journey, hearing a colloquy between two young
seamen just about to swing themselves into bed at nine o'clock. "I
say, Bill," said one, with voluptuous satisfaction, "too watches
in,[9] and beans to-morrow." Can any philosophy soar higher than that,
in contentment with small things? Plain living and high thinking!
Diogenes wasn't in it.

As the warrant officers of the ship were of the generation before us,
we heard from their lips many racy and entertaining experiences of the
former navy, most of which naturally have escaped me, while others I
have dropped all along the line of my preceding reminiscences where
they seemed to come in aptly. Each of the four had very different
characteristics, and I fancy they did not agree very well together.
All have long since gone to their rest; peace be with them! Four is an
awkwardly small number for a mess-table of equals; friction is
emphasized by narrowness of sphere. "I didn't like the man," said the
boatswain afterwards to me of the sailmaker, narrating the destruction
of the _Congress_; "but he is brave, brave as can be. Getting the
wounded over the side to put them ashore, he was as cool as though
nothing was happening. The great guns weren't so bad," he
continued--"but the rifle-bullets that came singing along in clouds
like mosquitoes! Yah!" he used to snap, each time he told me the tale,
slapping his ears right and left, as one does at the hum of those
intrusive insects. He did not like the carpenter, either, for reasons
of another kind. They were both humorists, but of a different order.
Indeed, I don't think that the boatswain, though slightly sardonic in
expression, suspected himself of humor; but he really came at times
pretty close to wit, if that be a perception of incongruities, as I
have heard said. He was telling one day of some mishap that befell a
vessel, wherein the officer in charge showed the happy blending of
composure and ignorance we sometimes find; a condition concerning
which a sufferer once said of himself, "I never open my mouth but I
put my foot in it;" a confusion of metaphor, and suggestion of
physical contortion, not often so neatly combined in a dozen words.
The boatswain commented: "He didn't mind. He didn't know what to do,
but there he stood, looking all the time as happy as a duck
barefooted." A duck shod, and the consequent expression of its
countenance, presents to my mind infinite entertainment. Our first
lieutenant, under whom immediately he worked, was a great trial to
him. He was an elderly man, as first lieutenants of big ships were
then, great with the paint-brush and tar-pot, traces of which were
continually surprising one's clothes; mighty also in that lavish
swashing of sea-water which is called washing decks, and in the
tropics is not so bad; but otherwise, while he was one of the
kindliest of men, the go was pretty well out of him. "Yes," the
boatswain used to say grimly,--he seldom smiled,--"the first
lieutenant is like an old piece of soap--half wore out. Go day, come
day, God send Sunday; that's he."

The carpenter, on the other hand, was always on a broad grin--or
rather roar. He breathed farce, both in story and feature. Unlike the
boatswain, who was middle-sized and very trig, as well as scrupulously
neat, the carpenter was over six feet, broad in proportion, with big,
round, red, close-shaven face, framed with abundance of white hair. He
looked not unlike one's fancies of the typical English yeoman, while
withal having a strong Yankee flavor. Wearing always a frock-coat,
buttoned up as high as any one then buttoned, he carried with it a
bluff heartiness of manner, which gave an impression of solidity not,
I fear, wholly sustained on demand. There was no such doubt about the
fun, however, or his own huge enjoyment of his own stories,
accompanied by a running fire of guffaws, which pointed the
appreciation we easily gave. But it was all of the same character,
broad farce; accounts of mishaps such as befall in children's
pantomimes,--which their seniors enjoy, too,--practical jokes equally
ludicrous, and resulting situations to match. Comical as such tales
were at the time, and many a pleasant pipeful of Lynchburg tobacco in
Powhatan clay though they whiled away, they lacked the catching and
fixing power of the boatswain's shrewd sayings. I can remember
distinctly only one, of two small midshipmen, shipmates of his in a
sloop-of-war of long-gone days, who had a deadly quarrel, calling for
blood. A duel ashore might in those times have been arranged, unknown
to superiors--they often were; but the necessity for speedy
satisfaction was too urgent, and they could not wait for the end of
the voyage. Consequently, they determined to fight from the two ends
of the spritsail-yard, a horizontal spar which crossed the bowsprit
end, and gave, or could admit, the required number of paces. Seconds,
I presume, were omitted; they might have attracted unnecessary
attention, and on the yard would have been in the way of shot, unless
they sat behind their several principals, like damsels on a pillion.
So these two mites, procuring each a loaded pistol, crawled out
quietly to their respective places, straddled the yard, and were
proceeding to business, when the boatswain caught sight of them from
his frequent stand-point between the knightheads. He ran out, got
between them in the line of fire, and from this position of tactical
advantage, having collared first one and then the other, brought them
both in on the forecastle, where he knocked their heads together. The
last action, I fancy, must be considered an embellishment, necessary
to the dramatic completeness of the incident, though it may at least
be admitted it would not have been incongruous. In telling this
occurrence, which, punctuated by his own laughter, bore frequent
repetition, the carpenter used to give the names of the heroes. One I
have forgotten. The other I knew in after life and middle-age, still
small of stature, with a red face, in outline much like a paroquet's.
He was not a bad fellow; but his first lieutenant, a very competent
critic, used to say that what he did not know of seamanship would fill
a large book.

At first thought it seems somewhat singular that the six lieutenants
of the ship presented no such aggregate of idiosyncrasies as did the
four warrant officers. It was not by any means because we did not know
them well, and mingle among them with comparative frequency.
Midshipmen, we travelled from one side to the other; here at home,
there guests, but to both admitted freely. But, come to think of it
more widely, the distinction I here note must have had a foundation in
conditions. My acquaintance with Marryat, who lived the naval life as
no other sea author has, is now somewhat remote, but was once intimate
as well as extensive; and recollection deceives me if the same remark
does not apply to his characters. He has a full gallery of captains
and lieutenants, each differing from the other; but his greatest
successes in portrayal, those that take hold of the memory, are his
warrant officers--boatswains, gunners, and carpenters. The British
navy did not give sailmakers this promotion. By-products though they
are, rather than leading characters, Boatswain Chucks, whom Marryat
takes off the stage midway, as though too much to sustain to the end,
Carpenter Muddle, and Gunner Tallboys, with his aspirations towards
navigating, sketched but briefly and in bold outline as they are,
survive most of their superiors in clear individuality and amusing
eccentricity. Peter Simple, and even Jack Easy himself, whose traits
are more personal than nautical, are less vivid to memory. Cooper
also, who caricatures rather than reproduces life, seeks here his
fittest subjects--Boltrope and Trysail--warrant masters, superior in
grade indeed to the others, but closely identified with them on board
ship, and essentially of the same class. Such coincidence betokens a
more pronounced individuality in the subject-matter. There have been
particular eccentric commissioned officers, of whom quaint stories
have descended; but in early days, originality was the class-mark of
those of whom I am speaking, as many an anecdote witnesses. I fancy
few will have seen this, which I picked up in my miscellaneous
nautical readings. A boatswain, who had been with Cook in his voyages,
chanced upon one of those fervent Methodist meetings common in the
eighteenth century. The preacher, in illustration of the abundance of
the Divine mercy, affirmed that there was hope for the worst, even for
the boatswain of a man-of-war; whereupon the boatswain sprang to the
platform and administered a drubbing. True or not, offence and
punishment testify to public estimate as to character and action; to a
natural exaggeration of feature which lends itself readily to
reproduction. This was due, probably, to a more contracted sphere in
early life, and afterwards less of that social opportunity, in the
course of which angular projections are rounded off and personal
peculiarities softened by various contact. The same cause would
naturally occasion more friction and disagreement among themselves.

Thus the several lieutenants of our frigate call for no special
characterization. If egotism, the most amusing of traits where it is
not offensive, existed among them to any unusual degree, it was
modified and concealed by the acquired exterior of social usage. Their
interests also were wider. With them, talk was less of self and
personal experience, and more upon subjects of general interest,
professional or external; the outlook was wider. But while all this
tended to make them more instructive, and in so far more useful
companions, it also took from the salt of individuality somewhat of
its pungency. It did not fall to them, either, to become afterwards
especially conspicuous in the nearing War of Secession. They were good
seamen and gallant men; knew their duty and did it; but either
opportunity failed them, or they failed opportunity; from my knowledge
of them, probably the former. As Nelson once wrote: "A sea officer
cannot form plans like those of a land officer; his object is to
embrace the happy moment which now and then offers; it may be this
day, not for a month, and perhaps never." So also Farragut is reported
to have said of a conspicuous shortcoming: "Every man has one chance;
he has had his and lost it." Certainly, by failure that man lost
promotion with its chances. It is somewhat congruous to this train of
thought that Smith, whom I have so often mentioned, said one day to
me: "If I had a son (he was unmarried), I would put him in the navy
without hesitation. I believe there is a day coming shortly when the
opportunities for a naval officer will exceed any that our country has
yet known." He did not say what contingencies he had in mind; scarcely
those of the War of Secession, large looming though it already was,
for, like most of us, he doubtless refused to entertain that sorrowful
possibility. As with many a prophecy, his was of wider scope than he
thought; and, though in part fulfilled, more yet remains on the laps
of the gods. He himself, perhaps the ablest of this group, was cut off
too early to contribute more than an heroic memory; but that must live
in naval annals, enshrined in his father's phrase, along with Craven's
"After you, pilot," when the _Tecumseh_ sank.



VI

MY FIRST CRUISE AFTER GRADUATION--NAUTICAL SCENES AND SCENERY--THE
APPROACH OF DISUNION

1859-1861


The absence of the _Congress_ lasted a little over two years, the
fateful two years in which the elements of strife in the United States
were sifting apart and gathering in new combinations for the
tremendous outbreak of 1861. The first battle of Bull Run had been
fought before she again saw a home port. The cruise offered little
worthy of special note. This story is one of commonplaces; but they
are the commonplaces of conditions which have passed away forever, and
some details are worthy to be not entirely forgotten, now that the
life has disappeared. We were in contact with it in all its forms and
phases; being, as midshipmen, utilized for every kind of miscellaneous
and nondescript duty. Our captain interfered very little with us
directly, and I might almost say washed his hands of us. The
regulations required that at the expiry of a cruise the commander of a
vessel should give his midshipmen a letter, to be presented to the
board of examiners before whom they were shortly to appear. Ours,
while certifying to our general correct behavior--personal rather than
official--limited himself, on the score of professional
accomplishments, which should have been under constant observance, to
saying that, as we were soon to appear before a board, the intent of
which would be to test them, he forbore an opinion. This was even
more non-committal than another captain, whose certificates came under
my eye when myself a member of a board. In these, after some very
cautious commendation on the score of conduct, he added, "I should
have liked the display of a little more zeal." Zeal, the readers of
_Midshipman Easy_ will remember, is the naval universal solvent.
Although liable at times to be misplaced, as Easy found, it is not so
suspicious a quality as Talleyrand considered it to be in diplomacy.

Our captain's zeal for our improvement confined itself to putting us
in three watches; that is, every night we had to be on deck and duty
through one of the three periods, of four hours each, into which the
sea night is divided. Of this he made a principle, and in it doubtless
found the satisfaction of a good conscience; he had done all that
could be expected, at least by himself. I personally agree with Basil
Hall; upon the whole, watch keeping pays, yields more of interest than
of disagreeables. It must be conceded that it was unpleasant to be
waked at midnight in your warm hammock, told your hour was come, that
it was raining and blowing hard, that another reef was about to be
taken in the topsails and the topgallant yards sent on deck.
Patriotism and glory seemed very poor stimulants at that moment. Still
half asleep, you tumbled, somewhat literally, out of the hammock on to
a deck probably wet, dressed by a dim, single-wick swinging lantern,
which revealed chiefly what you did not want, or by a candle which had
to be watched with one eye lest it roll over and, as once in my
experience happened, set fire to wood-work. Needless to say, electric
lights then were not. Dressed in storm-clothes about as conducive to
agility as a suit of mediæval armor, and a sou'wester which caught at
every corner you turned, you forced your way up through two successive
tarpaulin-covered hatches, by holes just big enough to pass, pushing
aside the tarpaulin with one hand while the other steadied yourself.
And if there were no moon, how black the outside was, to an eye as yet
adjusted only to the darkness visible of the lanterns below! Except a
single ray on the little book by which the midshipman mustered the
watch, no gleam of artificial light was permitted on the
spar--upper--deck; the fitful flashes dazzled more than they helped.
You groped your way forward with some certainty, due to familiarity
with the ground, and with more certainty of being jostled and trampled
by your many watch-mates, quite as blind and much more sleepy than
their officers could afford to be. The rain stung your face; the wind
howled in your ears and drowned your voice; the men were either intent
on going below, or drowsy and ill-reconciled to having to come on
deck; in either case inattentive and hard to move for some moments.

In truth, the fifteen minutes attending the change of a watch were a
period not only of inconvenience, but of real danger too rarely
appreciated. I remember one of the smartest seamen and officers of the
old navy speaking feelingly to me of the anxiety those instants often
caused him. The lieutenant of an expiring watch too frequently would
postpone some necessary step, either from personal indolence or from a
good-natured indisposition to disturb the men, who when not needed to
work slept about the decks--except, of course, the lookouts and wheel.
The other watch will soon be coming up, he would argue; let them do
it, before they settle down to sleep. There were times, such as a
slowly increasing gale, which might justify delay; especially if the
watch had had an unusual amount of work. But tropical squalls, which
gather quickly and sweep down with hurricane force, are another
matter; and it was of these the officer quoted spoke, suggesting that
possibly such an experience had caused the loss of one of our large,
tall-sparred sloops-of-war, the _Albany_, which in 1854 disappeared in
the West Indies. The men who have been four hours on deck are
thinking only of their hammocks; their reliefs are not half awake, and
do not feel they are on duty until the watch is mustered. All are
mingled together; the very numbers of a ship of war under such
circumstances impede themselves and their officers. I remember an
acquaintance of mine telling me that once on taking the trumpet, the
outward and visible sign of "the deck being relieved," his
predecessor, after "turning over the night orders," said, casually,
"It looks like a pretty big squall coming up there to windward," and
incontinently dived below. "I jumped on the horse-block," said the
narrator, "and there it was, sure enough, coming down hand over fist.
I had no time to shorten sail, but only to put the helm up and get her
before it;" an instance in point of what an old gray-haired instructor
of ours used to say, with correct accentuation, "Always the hellum
first."

But, when you were awake, what a mighty stimulus there was in the salt
roaring wind and the pelting rain! how infectious the shout of the
officer of the deck! the answering cry of the topmen aloft--the "Haul
out to windward! Together! All!" that reached your ear from the yards
as the men struggled with the wet, swollen, thrashing canvas,
mastering it with mighty pull, and "lighting to windward" the
reef-band which was to be the new head of the sail, ready to the hand
of the man at the post of honor, the weather caring! How eager and
absorbing the gaze through the darkness, from deck, to see how they
were getting on; whether the yard was so braced that the sail lay with
the wind out of it, really slack for handling, though still bellying
and lifting as the ship rolled, or headed up or off; whether this rope
or that which controlled the wilful canvas needed another pull. But if
the yard itself had not been laid right, it was too late to mend it.
To start a brace with the men on the spar might cause a jerk that
would spill from it some one whose both hands were in the work,
contrary to the sound tradition, "One hand for yourself and one for
the owners." I believe the old English phrase ran, "One for yourself
and one for the king." Then, when all was over and snug once more, the
men down from aloft, the rigging coiled up again on its pins, there
succeeded the delightful relaxation from work well done and finished,
the easy acceptance of the quieting yet stimulating effect of the
strong air, enjoyed in indolence; for nothing was more unoccupied than
the seaman when the last reef was in the topsails and the ship
lying-to.

Talking of such sensations, and the idle _abandon_ of a whole gale of
wind after the ship is secured, I wonder how many of my readers will
have seen the following ancient song. I guard myself from implying the
full acquiescence of seamen in what is, of course, a caricature; few
seamen, few who have tried, really enjoy bad weather. Yet there are
exceptions. That there is no accounting for tastes is extraordinarily
true. I once met a man, journeying, who told me he liked living in a
sleeping-car; than which to me a dozen gales, with their abounding
fresh air, would be preferable. Yet this ditty does grotesquely
reproduce the lazy satisfaction and security of the old-timers under
the conditions:

   "One night came on a hurricane,
      The sea was mountains rolling,
    When Barney Buntline turned his quid
      And said to Billy Bowline,
    'A strong nor'wester's blowing, Bill:
      Hark! don't you hear it roar now?
    Lord help them! how I pities all
      Unlucky folks on shore now.

   "'Foolhardy chaps, that live in towns,
      What dangers they are all in!
    And now lie shaking in their beds,
      For fear the roof should fall in!
    Poor creatures, how they envies us,
      And wishes, I've a notion,
    For our good luck, in such a storm,
      To be upon the ocean.

   "'And often, Bill, I have been told
      How folks are killed, and undone,
    By overturns of carriages,
      By fogs and fires in London.
    We know what risks all landsmen run,
      From noblemen to tailors:
    Then, Bill, let us thank Providence
      That you and I are sailors.'"

Tastes differ as to which of the three night watches is preferable.
Perhaps some one who has tried will reply they are all alike
detestable, and, if he be Irish, will add that the only decent watch
on deck is the watch below--an "all night in." But I also have tried;
and while prepared to admit that perhaps the pleasantest moment of any
particular watch is that in which your successor touches his cap and
says, "I'll relieve you," I still maintain there are abundant and
large compensations. Particularly for a midshipman, for he had no
responsibilities. The lieutenant of the watch had always before him
the possibilities of a mischance; and one very good officer said to me
he did not believe any lieutenant in the navy felt perfectly
comfortable in charge of the deck in a heavy gale. Freedom from
anxiety, however, is a matter of temperament; not by any means
necessarily of courage, although it adds to courage the invaluable
quality of not wasting nerve force on difficulties of the imagination.
A weather-brace may go unexpectedly; a topsail-sheet part; an awkward
wave come on board. Very true; but what is the use of worrying,
unless you are constitutionally disposed to worry. If you are
constitutionally so disposed, I admit there is not much use in
talking. Illustrative of this, the following story has come down of
two British admirals, both men of proved merit and gallantry. "When
Howe was in command of the Channel Fleet, after a dark and boisterous
night, in which the ships had been in some danger of running foul of
each other, Lord Gardner, then the third in command, the next day went
on board the _Queen Charlotte_ and inquired of Lord Howe how he had
slept, for that he himself had not been able to get any rest from
anxiety of mind. Lord Howe said he had slept perfectly well, for, as
he had taken every possible precaution he could before dark, he laid
himself down with a conscious feeling that everything had been done
which it was in his power to do for the safety of the ships and of the
lives intrusted to his care, and this conviction set his mind at
ease." The apprehensiveness with which Gardner was afflicted "is
further exemplified by an anecdote told by Admiral Sir James Whitshed,
who commanded the _Alligator_, next him in the line. Such was his
anxiety, even in ordinary weather, that, though each ship carried
three poop lanterns, he always kept one burning in his cabin, and when
he thought the _Alligator_ was approaching too near, he used to run
out into the stern gallery with the lantern in his hand, waving it so
as to be noticed." My friend above quoted had only recently quitted a
brig-of-war, on board which he had passed several night watches with a
man standing by the lee topsail-sheet, axe in hand, to cut if she went
over too far, lest she might not come back; and the circumstance had
left an impression. I do not think he was much troubled in this way on
board our frigate; yet the _Savannah_, but little smaller than the
_Congress_, had been laid nearly on her beam-ends by a sudden squall,
and had to cut, when entering Rio two years before.

Being even at nineteen of a meditative turn, fond of building castles
in the air, or recalling old acquaintance and _auld lang syne_,--the
retrospect of youth, though short, seems longer than that of age,--I
preferred in ordinary weather the mid-watch, from midnight to four.
There was then less doing; more time and scope to enjoy. The canvas
had long before been arranged for the night. If the wind shifted, or
necessity for tacking arose, of course it was done; but otherwise a
considerate officer would let the men sleep, only rousing them for
imperative reasons. The hum of the ship, the loitering "idlers,"--men
who do not keep watch,--last well on to ten, or after, in the
preceding watch; and the officers of the deck in sailing-ships had not
the reserve--or preserve--which the isolation of the modern bridge
affords its occupants. Although the weather side of the quarter-deck
was kept clear for him and the captain, there was continued going and
coming, and talking near by. He was on the edge of things, if not in
the midst; while the midshipman of the forecastle had scarce a foot he
could call his very own. But when the mid-watch had been mustered, the
lookouts stationed, and the rest of them had settled themselves down
for sleep between the guns, out of the way of passing feet, the
forecastle of the _Congress_ offered a very decent promenade,
magnificent compared to that proverbial of the poops of small
vessels--"two steps and overboard." Then began the steady pace to and
fro, which to me was natural and inherited, easily maintained and
consistent with thought--indeed, productive of it. Not every officer
has this habit, but most acquire it. I have been told that, however
weakly otherwise, the calf muscles of watch-officers were generally
well developed. There were exceptions. A lieutenant who was something
of a wag on one occasion handed the midshipman of his watch a small
instrument, in which the latter did not recognize a pedometer. "Will
you kindly keep this in your trousers-pocket for me till the watch is
over?" At eight bells he asked for it, and, after examining, said,
quizzically, "Mr. ----, I see you have walked just half a mile in the
last four hours." Of course, walking is not imperative, one may watch
standing; but movement tends to wakefulness--you can drowse upon your
feet--while to sit down, besides being forbidden by unwritten law, is
a treacherous snare to young eyelids.

How much a watch afforded to an eye that loved nature! I have been
bored so often by descriptions of scenery, that I am warned to put
here a sharp check on my memory, lest it run away with me, and my
readers seek escape by jumping off. I will forbear, therefore, any
attempt at portraiture, and merely mention the superb aurora borealis
which illuminated several nights of the autumn of 1859, perceptibly
affecting the brightness of the atmosphere, while we lay becalmed a
little north of the tropics. But other things I shall have some excuse
for telling; because what my eyes used to see then few mortal eyes
will see again. Travel will not reach it; for though here and there a
rare sailing-ship is kept in a navy, for occasional instruction,
otherwise they have passed away forever; and the exceptions are but
curiosities--reality has disappeared. They no longer have life, and
are now but the specimens of the museum. The beauties of a brilliant
night at sea, whether starlit or moonlit, the solemn, awe-inspiring
gloom and silence of a clouded, threatening sky, as the steamer with
dull thud moves at midnight over the waste of waters, these I need not
describe; many there are that see them in these rambling days. These
eternities of the heavens and the deep abide as before, are common to
the steamer as to the sailing-ship; but what weary strain of words can
restore to imagination the beautiful living creature which leaped
under our feet and spread her wings above us? For a sailing-ship was
more inspiring from within than from without, especially a ship of
war, which, as usually ordered, permitted no slovenliness; abounded in
the perpetual seemliness that enhances beauty yet takes naught from
grace. Viewed from without, undeniably a ship under sail possesses
attraction; but it is from within that you feel the "very pulse of the
machine." No canvas looks so lofty, speaks so eloquently, as that seen
from its own deck, and this chiefly has invested the sailing-vessel
with its poetry. This the steamer, with its vulgar appeal to physical
comfort, cannot give. Does any one know any verse of real poetry, any
strong, thrilling idea, suitably voiced, concerning a steamer? I
do--one--by Clough, depicting the wrench from home, the stern
inspiration following the wail of him who goeth away to return no
more:

              "Come back! come back!
    Back flies the foam; the hoisted flag streams back;
    The long smoke wavers on the homeward track.
    Back fly with winds things which the winds obey,
    _The strong ship follows its appointed way_."

Oddly enough, two of the most striking sea scenes that I remember,
very different in character, associate themselves with my favorite
mid-watch. The first was the night on which we struck the northeast
trade-winds, outward bound. We had been becalmed for nearly, if not
quite, two weeks in the "horse latitudes;" which take their name,
tradition asserts, from the days when the West India sugar islands
depended for live-stock, and much besides, on the British continental
colonies. If too long becalmed, and water gave out, the unhappy
creatures had to be thrown overboard to save human lives. On the other
side of the northeast trades, between them and the southeast, towards
the equator, lies another zone of calms, the doldrums, from which also
the _Congress_ this time suffered. We were sixty seven or eight days
from the Capes of the Delaware to Bahia, a distance, direct, of little
more than four thousand miles. Of course, there was some beating
against head wind, but we could not have averaged a hundred miles to
the twenty-four hours. During much of this passage the allowance of
fresh water was reduced to two quarts per man, except sick, for all
purposes of consumption--drinking and cooking. Under such conditions,
washing had to be done with salt water.

We had worried our weary way through the horse latitudes, embracing
every flaw of wind, often accompanied by rain, to get a mile ahead
here, half a dozen miles there; and, as these spurts come from every
quarter, this involves a lot of bracing--changing the position of the
yards; continuous work, very different from the placid restfulness of
a "whole gale" of wind, with everything snug aloft and no chance of
let-up during the watch. Between these occasional puffs would come
long pauses of dead calm, in which the midshipman of the watch would
enter in the log: "1 A.M., 0 knots; 2 A.M., 6 fathoms (¾ knot); 3
A.M., 0 knots; 4 A.M., 1 knot, 2 fathoms;" the last representing
usually a guess of the officer of the deck as to what would make the
aggregate for the four hours nearly right. It did not matter, for we
were hundreds of miles from land and the sky always clear for
observations. Few of the watch got much sleep, because of the
perpetual bracing; and all the while the ship rolling and sending, in
the long, glassy ocean swell, unsteadied by the empty sails, which
swung out with one lurch as though full, and then slapped back all
together against the masts, with a swing and a jerk and a thud that
made every spar tremble, and the vessel herself quiver in unison. Nor
were we alone. Frequently two or three American clippers would be
hull-up at the same moment within our horizon, bound the same way; and
it was singular how, despite the apparently unbroken calm, we got away
from one another and disappeared. Ships lying with their heads "all
around the compass" flapped themselves along in the direction of their
bows, the line of least resistance.

I do not know at what hour under such circumstances we had struck the
trades, but when I came on deck at midnight we had got them steady and
strong. As there was still a good-deal of casting to make, the ship
had been brought close to the wind on the port tack; the bowlines
steadied out, but not dragged, every sail a good rap full, "fast
asleep," without the tremor of an eyelid, if I may so style a weather
leach, or of any inch of the canvas, from the royals down to the
courses. Every condition was as if arranged for a special occasion, or
to recompense us for the tedium of the horse latitudes. The moon was
big, and there was a clear sky, save for the narrow band of tiny
clouds, massed like a flock of sheep, which ever fringes the horizon
of the trades; always on the horizon, as you progress, yet never
visible above when the horizon of this hour has become the zenith of
the next. After the watch was mustered and the lookouts stationed,
there came perfect silence, save for the slight, but not ominous,
singing of the wind through the rigging, and the dash of the water
against the bows, audible forward though not aft. The seamen, not
romantically inclined, for the most part heeded neither moon nor sky
nor canvas. The vivid, delicate tracery of the shrouds and ruining
gear, the broader image of the sails, shadowed on the moonlit deck,
appealed not to them. Recognizing only that we had a steady wind, no
more bracing to-night, and that the most that could happen would be to
furl the royals should it freshen, they hastened to stow themselves
away for a full due between the cannon, out of the way of passing
feet, sure that this watch on deck would be little less good than one
below. Perhaps there were also visions of "beans to-morrow." I trust
so.

The lieutenant of the watch, Smith, and I had it all to ourselves;
unbroken, save for the half-hourly call of the lookouts: "Starboard
cathead!" "Port cathead!" "Starboard gangway!" "Port gangway!" "Life
buoy!" He came forward from time to time to take it all in, and to
see how the light spars were standing, for the ship was heeling eight
or ten degrees, and racing along, however quietly; but the strain was
steady, no whipping about from uneasy movement of the vessel, and we
carried on to the end. Each hour I hove the log and reported: one
o'clock, eleven knots; two o'clock, eleven; three o'clock,
eleven--famous going for an old sailing-ship close-hauled. Splendid!
we rubbed our hands; what a record! But, alas! at four o'clock, ten!
Commonly, ten used to be a kind of standard of excellence; Nelson once
wrote, as expressive of an utmost of hopefulness, "If we all went ten
knots, I should not think it fast enough;" but, puffed up as we had
been, it was now a sad come-down. Smith looked at me. "Are you _sure_,
Mr. Mahan?" With the old hand-log, its line running out while the sand
sped its way through the fourteen-seconds glass, the log-beaver might
sometimes, by judicious "feeding"--hurrying the line under the plea of
not dragging the log-chip--squeeze a little more record out of the
log-line than the facts warranted; and Smith seemed to feel I might
have done a little better for the watch and for the ship. But in
truth, when a cord is rushing through your hand at the rate of ten
miles an hour--fifteen feet a second--you cannot get hold enough to
hasten the pace. He passed through a struggle of conscience. "Well, I
suppose I must; log her ten-four." A poor tail to our beautiful kite.
Ten-four meant ten and a half; for in those primitive days knots were
divided into eight fathoms. Now they are reckoned by tenths; a small
triumph of the decimal system, which may also carry cheer to the
constant hearts of the spelling reformers.

A year later, at like dead of night, I witnessed quite another scene.
We were then off the mouth of the river La Plata, perhaps two hundred
miles from shore. We had been a fortnight at sea, cruising; and I have
always thought that the captain, who was interested in meteorology
and knew the region, kept us out till we should catch a _pampero_. We
caught it, and quite up to sample. I had been on deck at 9 P.M., and
the scene then, save for the force of the wind, was nearly the same as
that I have just described. The same sail, the same cloudless sky and
large moon; but we were going only five knots, with a quiet, rippling
sea, on which the moonbeams danced. Such a scene as Byron doubtless
had in memory:

   "The midnight moon is weaving
      Her bright chain o'er the deep;
    Whose breast is gently heaving
      Like an infant's asleep."

Having to turn out at twelve, I soon started below; but before
swinging into my hammock I heard the order to furl the royals and send
the yards on deck. This startled me, for I had not been watching the
barometer, as the captain had; and I remember, by the same token, that
I was then enlarging on the beauties of the outlook above, accompanied
by some disparaging remarks about what steamers could show, whereupon
one of our senior officers, over-hearing, called me in, and told me
quite affably, and in delicate terms, not to make a fool of myself.

But "Linden saw another sight," when I returned to the deck at
midnight; sharp, I am sure, for I held to the somewhat priggish
saying, first devised, I imagine, by some wag tired of waiting for his
successor, "A prompt relief is the pride of a young officer." The
quartermaster, who called me and left the lantern dimly burning, had
conveyed the comforting assurance that it looked very bad on deck, and
the second reef was just taking in the topsails. When I got to my
station, the former watch was still aloft, tying their last
reef-points, from which they soon straggled down, morosely conscious
that they had lost ten minutes of their one watch below, and would
have to be on deck again at four. The moon was still up, but, as it
were, only to emphasize the darkness of the huge cloud masses which
scudded across the sky, with a rapid but steady gait, showing that the
wind meant business. The new watch was given no more time than to wake
up and shake themselves. They were soon on the yards, taking the third
and fourth-last--reefs in the fore and main topsails, furling the
mizzen, and seeing that the lower sails and topgallant-sails were
securely rolled up against the burst that was to be expected. Before
1.30 A.M. all things were as ready as care could make them, and not
too soon. The moon was sinking, or had sunk; the sky darkened
steadily, though not beyond that natural to a starless night. In the
southwest faint glimmerings of lightning gave warning of what might be
looked for; but we had used light well while we had it, and could now
bear what was to come. At 2 P.M. it came with a roar and a rush,
"butt-end foremost," as the saying is, preceded by a few huge drops of
scurrying rain.

   "When the rain before the wind,
    Topsail sheets and halyards mind;"

but that was for other conditions than ours.

A pampero at its ordinary level is no joke; but this was the charge of
a wild elephant, which would exhaust itself soon, but for the nonce
was terrific. Pitch darkness settled down upon the ship. Except in the
frequent flashes of lightning, literally blue, I could not see the
forecastle boatswain's mate of the watch, who stood close by my elbow,
ready pipe in hand. The rain came down in buckets, and in the midst of
all the wind suddenly shifted, taking the sails flat aback. The
shrillness of the boatswain's pipes is then their great merit. They
pierce through the roar of the tempest, by sheer difference of pitch,
an effect one sometimes hears in an opera; and the officer of the
deck, our second lieutenant, who bore the name of Andrew Jackson, and
was said to have received his appointment from him--which shows how
far back he went--had a voice of somewhat the same quality. I had
often heard it assert itself, winding in and out through the uproar of
an ordinary gale, but on this occasion it went clean away--whistled
down the wind. "I always think bad of it," said Boatswain Chucks,
"when the elements won't allow my whistle to be heard; and I consider
it hardly fair play." Such advantage the elements took of us on this
occasion, but the captain came to the rescue. He had the throat of a
bull of Bashan, which went the elements one better on their own hand.
Under his stentorian shouts the weather head-braces were led along
(probably already had been, as part of the preparation, but that was
quarter-deck work, outside my knowledge) and manned. All other gear
being coiled out of the way, on the pins, there was nothing to confuse
or entangle; the fore topsail was swung round on the opposite tack
from the main, a-box, to pay the ship's head off and leave her side to
the wind, steadied by the close-reefed fore and main topsails, which
would then be filled. She was now, of course, going astern fast; but
this mattered nothing, for the sea had not yet got up. The evolution,
common enough itself, an almost invariable accompaniment of getting
under way, was now exciting even to grandeur, for we could see only
when the benevolent lightning kindled in the sky a momentary glare of
noonday. "Now that's a clever old man," said the boatswain's mate next
day to me, approvingly, of the captain; "boxing her off that way, with
all that wind and blackness, was handsomely done." After this we
settled down to a two days' pampero, with a huge but regular sea.

Whether the _Congress's_ helm on this interesting occasion was shifted
for sternboard I never inquired. Marryat tells us it was a moot point
in his young days. Our captain was an excellent seaman, but had
'doxies of his own. Of these, one which ran contrary to current
standards was in favor of clewing up a course or topsail to leeward,
in blowing weather. Among the lieutenants was a strong champion of the
opposite and accepted dogma, and a messmate of mine, in his division
and shining by reflected light, was always prompt to enforce closure
of debate by declaiming:

   "He who seeks the tempest to disarm
    Will never first embrail the lee yard-arm."

Whether Falconer, besides being a poet, was also an expert in
seamanship, or whether he simply registered the views of his day, may
be questioned. The two alternatives, I fancy, were the chance of
splitting the sail, and that of springing the yard; and any one who
has ever watched a big bag of wind whipping a weather yard-arm up and
down in its bellying struggles, after clewing up to windward, will
have experienced as eager a desire to call it down as he has ever felt
to suppress its congener in an after-dinner oration. Both are much out
of place and time.

Days of the past! Certainly a watch spent reefing topsails in the rain
was less tedious than that everlasting bridge of to-day: Tramp! Tramp!
or stand still, facing the wind blowing the teeth down your throat.
Nothing to do requiring effort; the engine does all that; but still a
perpetual strain of attention due to the rapid motion of vessels under
steam. The very slowness of sailing-ships lightened anxiety. In such a
gale you might as well be anxious in a wheel-chair. And then, when you
went below, you went, not bored, but healthfully tired with active
exertion of mind and body. Yes; the sound was sweet then, at eight
bells, the pipe, pipe, pipe, pipe of the boatswain's mates, followed
by their gruff voices drawling out, in loud sing-song: "A-a-a-all the
starboard watch! Come! turn out there! Tumble out! Tumble out! Show a
leg! Show a leg! On deck there! all the starboard watch!" When I went
below that morning with the port watch, at four o'clock, I turned over
to my relief a forecastle on which he would have nothing to do but
drink his coffee at daylight.

That daylight coffee of the morning watch, chief of its charms, need
not be described to the many who have experienced the difference
between the old man and the new man of before and after coffee. The
galley (kitchen) fire of ships of war used to be started at seven
bells of the mid-watch (3.30 A.M.); and the officers, and most of the
men, who next came on duty, managed to have coffee, the latter
husbanding their rations to this end. Since those days a benevolent
regulation has allowed an extra ration of coffee to the crew for this
purpose, so that no man goes without, or works the morning watch on an
empty stomach. For the morning watch was very busy. Then, on several
days of the week, the seamen washed their clothes. Then the upper deck
was daily scrubbed; sometimes the mere washing off the soap-suds left
from the clothes, sometimes with brooms and sand, sometimes the solemn
ceremony of holy-stoning with its monotonous musical sound of
grinding. Along with these, dovetailed in as opportunity offered, in a
sailing-ship under way there went on the work of readjusting the yards
and sails; a pull here and a pull there, like a woman getting herself
into shape after sitting too long in one position. Yards trimmed to a
nicety; the two sheets of each sail close home alike; all the canvas
taut up, from the weather-tacks of the courses to the weather-earings
of the royals; no slack weather-braces, or weather-leaches, letting a
bight of loose canvas sag like an incipient double chin. When these
and a dozen other little details had remedied the disorders of the
night, due to the invariable slacking of cordage under strain, the
ship was fit for any eye to light on, like a conscious beauty going
forth conquering and to conquer. I doubt the crew grumbled and d----d
a little under their breath, for the process was tedious; yet it was
not only a fad, but necessary, and the deck-officer who habitually
neglected it might possibly rise to an emergency, but was scarcely
otherwise worth his salt. In my humble judgment, he had better have
worn a frock-coat unbuttoned.

Occupation in plenty was not the only solace of a morning watch; at
least in the trades. While the men were washing their clothes, the
midshipman of the watch, amid the exhilaration of his coffee, and with
the cool sea-water careering over his bare feet, had ample leisure to
watch the break of day: the gradual lighting up of the zenith, the
rosy tints gathering and growing upon the tiny, pearly trade-clouds of
which I have spoken, the blue of the water gradually revealing itself,
laughing with white-caps, like the Psalmist's valleys of corn; until
at last the sun appeared, never direct from the sea, but from these
white cloud banks which extend less than five degrees above it. Such a
scene presents itself day after day, day after day, monotonous but
never wearisome, to a vessel running down the trades; that is,
steering from east to west, with fixed, fair breeze, as I have more
than once had the happiness to do. Then, as the saying was, a
fortnight passed without touching brace or tack, because no change of
wind; a slight exaggeration, for frequent squalls required the canvas
to be handled, but substantially true in impression. Balmy weather and
a steady gait, rarely more than seven or eight knots--less than two
hundred miles a day; but who would be in haste to quit such
conditions, where the sun rose astern daily with the joy of a giant
running his course, bringing assurance of prosperity, and sank to rest
ahead smiling, again behind the dimpling clouds which he tinged like
mother-of-pearl.

Such was not our lot in the _Congress_, for we were bound south,
across the trades. This, with some bad luck, brought us close-hauled,
that we might pass the equator nothing to the westward of thirty
degrees of west longitude; otherwise we might fall to leeward of Cape
St. Roque. This ominous phrase meant that we might be so far to the
westward that the southeast trades, when reached, would not let the
ship pass clear of this easternmost point of Brazil on one stretch;
that we would strike the coast north of it and have to beat round,
which actually happened. Consequently we never had a fair wind, to set
a studding-sail, till we were within three or four days of Bahia. This
encouraging incident, the first of the kind since the ship went into
commission, also befell in one of my mid-watches, and an awful mess
our unuse made of it. All the gear seemed to be bent with a half-dozen
round turns; the stun'sail-yards went aloft wrong end uppermost,
dangling in the most extraordinary and wholly unmanageable attitudes;
everything had to be done over and over again, till at last the case
looked desperate. Finally the lieutenant of the watch came forward in
wrath. He was a Kentuckian, very competent, ordinarily very
good-tempered; but there was red in his hair. When he got sufficiently
near he tucked the speaking-trumpet under his arm, where it looked
uncommonly like a fat cotton umbrella, himself suggesting a farmer
inspecting an intended purchase, and in this posture delivered to us a
stump speech on our shortcomings. This, I fear, I will have to leave
to the reader's imagination. It would require innumerable dashes, and
even so the emphasis would be lost. My relief had cause to be pleased
that those stun'sails were set by four o'clock, when he came on deck.
Ours the labor, his the reward.

       *       *       *       *       *

A few days more saw us in Bahia; and with our arrival on the station
began a round of duties and enjoyments which made life at twenty
pleasant enough, both in the passage and in retrospect, but which
scarcely afford material for narration. Our two chief ports, Rio de
Janeiro and Montevideo, were then remote and provincial. They have
become more accessible and modern; but at the time of my last
visit--already over thirty years ago--they had lost in local color and
particular attraction as much as they had gained in convenience and
development. Street-cars, double-ended American ferry-boats, electric
lights, and all the other things for which these stand, are doubtless
good; but they make places seem less strange and so less interesting.
But I suppose there must still be in the business streets that
pervading odor of rum and sugar which tells that you are in the
tropics; still there must be the delicious hot calm of the early
morning, before the sea-breeze sets in, the fruit-laden boats plying
over the still waters to the ships of war; still that brilliant access
of life and animation which comes sparkling in with the sea-breeze,
and which can be seen in the offing, approaching, long before it
enters the bay. The balance of better and worse will be variously
estimated by various minds. The magnificent scenery of Rio remains,
and must remain, short of earthquake; the Sugar Loaf, the distant
Organ mountains, the near, high, surrounding hills, the numerous
bights and diversified bluffs, which impart continuous novelty to the
prospect. It is surprising that in these days of travel more do not go
just to see that sight, even if they never put foot on shore; though I
would not commend the omission. I see, too, in the current newspapers,
that Secretary Root has attributed to the women of Uruguay to-day the
charm which we youngsters then found in those who are now their
grand-mothers. As Mr. Secretary cannot be very far from my own age, we
have here the mature confirmation of an impression which otherwise
might be attributed to the facility of youth.

An interesting, though not very important, reminiscence of things now
passed away was the coming and going of numerous vessels, usually
small, carrying the commercial flags of the Hanse cities, Bremen,
Hamburg, and Lubeck, now superseded on the ocean by that of the German
Empire. Scarcely a morning watch which did not see in its earlier
hours one or more of these stealing out of port with the tail of the
land breeze. These remnants of the "Easterlings," a term which now
survives only in "sterling," were mostly small brigs of some two
hundred tons, noticeable mainly for their want of sheer; that is,
their rails, and presumably their decks, were level, without rise at
the extremities such as most vessels show.

Up to the middle of the last century, Rio, thanks probably to its
remoteness, had escaped the yellow-fever. But the soil and climate
were propitious; and about 1850 it made good a footing which it never
relinquished. At the time of our cruise it was endemic, and we
consequently spent there but two or three months of the cooler season,
June to September. Even so, visiting the city was permitted to only a
few selected men of the foremast hands. The habits of the seamen were
still those of a generation before, and drink, with its consequent
reckless exposure, was a right-hand man to Yellow Jack. All shore
indulgence was confined to Montevideo, where we spent near half of the
year; and being limited to one or two occasions only, of two or three
days duration each, it was signalized by those excesses which, in
conjunction with the absence of half the crew at once, put an end to
all ordinary routine and drill on board. My friend, the captain of the
forecastle, who apprehended that the Southern leaders would lose their
property, a self-respecting, admirably behaved man in ordinary times,
was usually hoisted on board by a tackle when he returned: for
Montevideo affords only an open roadstead for big ships, and
frequently a rough sea. The story ran that he secured a room on going
ashore, provided for the safety of his money, bought a box of gin,
and went to bed. This I never verified; but I remember a nautical
philosopher among the crew enlarging, in my hearing, on the folly of
drink. To its morality he was indifferent; but from sad experience he
avouched that it incapacitated you for other enjoyments, regular and
irregular, and that he for one should quit. To-day things are
changed--revolutionized. There may be ports too sickly to risk lives
in; but the men to be selected now are the few who cannot be trusted,
the percentage which every society contains. This result will be
variously interpreted. Some will attribute it to the abolition of the
grog ration, the removal of temptation, a change of environment.
Others will say that the extension of frequent leave, and consequent
opportunity, has abolished the frenzied inclination to make the
most--not the best--of a rare chance; has renewed men from within.
Personally, I believe the last. Together with the gradual rise of tone
throughout society, rational liberty among seamen has resulted in
rational indulgence. "Better England free than England sober."

In the end it was from Montevideo that we sailed for home in June,
1861. During the preceding six months, mail after mail brought us
increasing ill tidings of the events succeeding the election of
Lincoln. Somewhere within that period a large American steamboat, of
the type then used on Long Island Sound, arrived in the La Plata for
passenger and freight service between Montevideo and Buenos Ayres. Her
size and comfort, her extensive decoration and expanses of gold and
white, unknown hitherto, created some sensation, and gave abundant
supply to local paragraphists. Her captain was a Southerner, and his
wife also; of male and female types. He commented to me briefly, but
sadly, "Yes, we have now two governments"; but she was all aglow.
Never would she lay down arms; M. Ollivier's light heart was "not in
it" with hers; her countenance shone with joy, except when clouded
with contempt for the craven action of the _Star of the West_, a
merchant-steamer with supplies for Fort Sumter which had turned back
before the fire of the Charleston batteries. Never could she have done
such a thing. What influence women wield, and how irresponsible! And
they want votes!

In feeling, most of us stood where this captain did, sorrowful,
perplexed; but in feeling only, not in purpose. We knew not which
became us most, grief, or stern satisfaction that at last a doubtful
matter was to be settled by arms; but, with one or two exceptions,
there was no hesitancy, I believe, on the part of the officers as to
the side each should take. There were four pronounced Southerners: two
of them messmates of mine, from New Orleans. The other two were the
captain and lieutenant of marines. None of these was extreme, except
the captain, whom, though well on in middle life, I have seen stamp up
and down raging with excitement. On one occasion, so violent was his
language that I said to him he would do well to put ice to his head;
an impertinence, considering our relative ages, but almost warranted.
I think that he possibly took over the lieutenant, who was from a
border State, and, like the midshipmen, rather sobered than
enthusiastic at the prospects; though these last had no doubts as to
their own course. There was also a sea lieutenant from the South, who
said to me that if his State was fool enough to secede, she might go,
for him; he would not fight against her, but he would not follow her.
I believe he did escape having to fight in her waters, but he was in
action on the Union side elsewhere, and, I expect, revised this
decision. This halting allegiance, thinking to serve two masters, was
not frequent; but there were instances. Of one such I knew. He told me
himself that he on a certain occasion had said in company that he
would not leave the navy, but would try for employment outside the
country; whereon an officer standing by said to him that that appeared
a pretty shabby thing, to take pay and dodge duty. The remark sank
deep; he changed his mind, and served with great gallantry. It seems
to me now almost an impiety to record, but, knowing my father's warm
love for the South, I hazarded to the marine captain a doubt as to his
position. He replied that there could be no doubt whatever. "All your
father's antecedents are military; there is no military spirit in the
North; he must come to us." Many Southerners, not by any means most,
had formed such impressions.

The remainder of the officers were not so much Northern as Union, a
distinction which meant much in the feeling that underlies action. Our
second lieutenant, with soberer appreciation of conditions than the
marine, said to me, "I cannot understand how those others expect to
win in the face of the overpowering resources of the Northern States."
The leaders of the Confederacy, too, understood this; and while I am
sure that expected dissension in the North, and interference from
Europe, counted for much in their complicated calculations, I imagine
that the marine's overweighted theory, of incompatibility between the
mercantile and military temperaments, also entered largely. My
Kentuckian expressed the characteristic, if somewhat crude, opinion,
that the two had better fight it out now, till one was well licked;
after which his head should be punched and he be told to be decent
hereafter. We had, however, one Northern fire-eater among the
midshipmen. He was a plucky fellow, but with an odd cast to his eyes
and a slight malformation, which made his ecstasies of wrath a little
comical. His denunciations of all half measures, or bounded
sentiments, quite equalled those of the marine officer on the other
side. If the two had been put into the same ring, little could have
been left but a few rags of clothes, so completely did they lose
their heads; but, as often happens with such champions, their
harangues descended mostly on quiet men, conveniently known as
doughfaces.

Doughfaces I suppose we must have been, if the term applied fitly to
those who, between the alternatives of dissolving the Union and
fighting one another, were longing to see some third way open out of
the dilemma. In this sense Lincoln, with his life-long record of
opposition to the extension of slavery, was a doughface. The marine
could afford to harden his face, because he believed there would be no
war--the North would not fight; while the midshipman, rather limited
intellectually, was happy in a mental constitution which could see but
one side of a case; an element of force, but not of conciliation. The
more reflective of my two Southern messmates, a man mature beyond his
years, said to me sadly, "I suppose there will be bloodshed beyond
what the world has known for a long time;" but he naturally shared the
prevalent opinion--so often disproved--that a people resolute as he
believed his own could not be conquered, especially by a commercial
community--the proverbial "nation of shopkeepers." Napoleon once had
believed the same, to his ruin. Commercial considerations undoubtedly
weigh heavily; but happily sentiment is still stronger than the
dollar. An amusing instance of the pocket influence, however, came to
my knowledge at the moment. Our captain's son received notice of his
appointment as lieutenant of marines, and sailed for home in an
American merchant-brig shortly before the news came of the firing on
Fort Sumter. When I next met him in the United States, he told me that
the brig's captain had been quite warmly Southern in feeling during
the passage; but when they reached home, and found that Confederate
privateers had destroyed some merchant-vessels, he went entirely over.
He had no use for people who would "rob a poor man of his ship and
cargo."

Our orders home, and tidings of the attack on Fort Sumter, came by the
same mail, some time in June. There were then no cables. The revulsion
of feeling was immediate and universal, in that distant community and
foreign land, as it had been two months before in the Northern States.
The doughfaces were set at once, like a flint. The grave and reverend
seigniors, resident merchants, who had checked any belligerent
utterance among us with reproachful regret that an American should be
willing to fight Americans, were converted or silenced. Every voice
but one was hushed, and that voice said, "Fight." I remember a
tempestuous gathering, an evening or two before we sailed, and one
middle-aged invalid's excited but despondent wish that he was five
hundred men. Such ebullitions are common enough in history, for causes
bad or good. They are to be taken at their true worth; not as a
dependable pledge of endurance to the end, but as an awakening, which
differs from that of common times as the blast of the trumpet that
summoned men at midnight for Waterloo differs from the lazy rubbing of
the eyes before thrusting one's neck into the collar of a working day.
The North was roused and united; a result which showed that, wittingly
or unwittingly, the Union leaders had so played the cards in their
hands as to score the first trick.

Our passage home was tedious but uneventful. I remember only the
incident that the flag-officer on one occasion played at old-time
warfare of his youth, by showing to a passing vessel a Spanish flag
instead of the American. The common ship life went on as though
nothing had happened. On an August evening we anchored in Boston lower
harbor, and Mr. Robert Forbes, then a very prominent character in
Boston, and in most nautical matters throughout the country, came
down in a pilot-boat, bringing newspapers to our captain, with whom he
was intimate. Then we first learned of Bull Run; and properly
mortified we of the North were, not having yet acquired that
indifference to a licking which is one of the first steps towards
success. Some time after the war was over an army officer of the North
repeated to me the comment on this affair made to him by a Southern
acquaintance, both being of the aforetime regular army. "I never," he
said, "saw men as frightened as ours were--except yours." The after
record of both parties takes all the sting out of these words, without
lessening the humor.

Immediately upon arrival, the oath of allegiance was tendered, and, of
course, refused by our four Southerners. They had doubtless sent in
their resignations; but by that time resignations were no longer
accepted, and in the following _Navy Register_ they appeared as
"dismissed." They were arrested on board the ship and taken as
prisoners to Fort Lafayette. I never again saw any of them; but from
time to time heard decisively of the deaths of all, save the
lieutenant of marines. One of the midshipmen drew from my father an
action which I have delighted to recall as characteristic. He wrote
from the fort, stating his comradeship with me in the past, and asking
if he could be furnished with certain military reading, for his
improvement and to pass time. Though suspicions of loyalty were rife,
and in those days easily started by the most trivial communication,
the books were sent. The war had but just ended, when one morning my
father received a letter expressing thanks, and enclosing money to the
supposed value of the books. The money was returned; but I, happening
to be at home, replied on my own account in such manner as a very
young man would. My father saw the addressed envelope, and
remonstrated. "Do you think it quite well and prudent to associate
yourself, at your age and rank, with one so recently in rebellion?
Will it not injure your standing?" I was not convinced; but I yielded
to a solicitude which under much more hazardous conditions he had not
admitted for himself, though known to be a Virginian. Shortly after
his death, while our sorrow was still fresh, I met a contemporary and
military intimate of his. "I want," he said, "to tell you an anecdote
of your father. We were associated on a board, one of the members of
which had proposed, as his own suggestion, a measure which I thought
fundamentally and dangerously erroneous. I prepared a paper contesting
the project and took it to your father. He read it carefully, and
replied, 'I agree with you entirely; but ---- will never forgive you,
and he is persistent and unrelenting towards those who thwart him. You
will make a life-long and powerful enemy. If I were you, I should not
lay this upon myself.' I gave way to his judgment, and kept back the
paper; but you may imagine my surprise when at the next meeting he
took upon himself the burden which he had advised me to shun. He made
an argument substantially on my lines, and procured the rejection of
the proposition. The result was a hostility which ceased only with his
life, but between which and me he had interposed."



VII

INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE

1861-1862


The _Congress_, upon her return, was retained in commission, though
entirely useless, either for fighting or blockade, under modern
conditions. I suppose there were not yet enough of newer vessels to
spare her value as a figure-head. She was sent afterwards to Hampton
Roads, where in the following March she, with another sailing-frigate,
the _Cumberland_, fell helpless victims to the first Confederate
iron-clad. The staff of combatant sea officers was much changed; the
captain, the senior three lieutenants, and the midshipmen being
detached. Smith, the fourth lieutenant, remained as first; and, in the
absence of her captain on other duty, commanded and fell at her death
agony. I was sent first to the _James Adger_, a passenger-steamer then
being converted in New York for blockade duty, for which she was very
fit; but in ten days more I was moved on to the _Pocahontas_, a ship
built for war, a very respectable little steam-corvette, the only one
of her class--if such a bull as a class of one may be excused. She
carried one ten-inch gun and four 32-pounders, all smooth-bores. There
was, besides, one small nondescript rifled piece, upon which we looked
with more curiosity than confidence. Indeed, unless memory deceive,
the projectiles from it were quite as apt to go end over end as true.
It was rarely used.

When I joined, the _Pocahontas_ was lying off the Washington
Navy-Yard, in the eastern branch of the Potomac, on duty connected
with the patrol of the river; the Virginia bank of which was occupied
by the Confederates, who were then erecting batteries to dispute the
passage of vessels. After one excursion down-stream in this
employment, the ship was detached to the combined expedition against
Port Royal, South Carolina, the naval part of which was under the
command of "Flag-Officer" Dupont. The point of assembly was Hampton
Roads, whither we shortly proceeded, after filling with stores and
receiving a new captain, Percival Drayton, a man greatly esteemed in
the service of the day, and a South-Carolinian. Coincidently with us,
but independently as to association, the steam-sloop _Seminole_,
slightly larger, also started. We outstripped her; and as we passed a
position where the Confederates were believed to be fortifying, our
captain threw in a half-dozen shells. No reply was made, and we went
on. Within a half-hour we heard firing behind us, apparently
two-sided. The ship was turned round and headed up-river. In a few
minutes we met the _Seminole_, her men still at the guns, a few ropes
dangling loose, showing that she had, as they say, not been exchanging
salutes. We had stirred up the hornets, and she had got the benefit;
quite uselessly, her captain evidently felt, by his glum face and
short answers to our solicitous hail. He was naturally put out, for no
good could have come, beyond showing the position of the enemy's guns;
while an awkward hit might have sent her back to the yard and lost her
her share in the coming fray, one of the earliest in the war, and at
that instant the only thing in sight on the naval horizon. As no harm
resulted, the incident would not be worth mentioning except for a
second occasion, which I will mention later, in which we gave the
_Seminole's_ captain cause for grim dissatisfaction.

The gathering of the clans, the ships of war and the transports laden
with troops, in the lower Chesapeake had of course a strange element
of excitement; for war, even in its incipiency, was new to almost all
present, and the enthusiasm aroused by a great cause and approaching
conflict was not balanced by that solemnizing outlook which experience
gives. We lived in an atmosphere of blended exaltation and curiosity,
of present novelty and glowing expectation. But business soon came
upon us, in its ordinary lines; for we were not two days clear of the
Capes, in early November, when there came on a gale of exceptional
violence, the worst of it at midnight. It lasted for forty-eight
hours, and must have occasioned great anxiety to the heads of the
expedition; for among the curious conglomerate of heterogeneous
material constituting both the ships of war and transports there were
several river steamers, some of them small. Being utterly unpractised
in such movements, an almost entire dispersal followed; in fact, I
dare say many of the transport captains asked nothing better than to
be out of other people's way. The _Pocahontas_ found herself alone
next morning; but, though small and slow, she was a veritable sea-bird
for wind and wave. Not so all. One of our extemporized ships of war,
rejoicing in the belligerent name of _Isaac Smith_, and carrying eight
fairly heavy guns, which would have told in still water, had to throw
them all overboard; and her share in the subsequent action was limited
to a single long piece, rifled I believe, and to towing a
sailing-corvette in the column.

There were some wrecks and some gallant rescues, the most conspicuous
of which was that of the battalion of marines, embarked on board the
_Governor_; a steamer, as I recollect, not strictly of the river
order, but like those which ply outside on the Boston and Maine coast.
She went down, but not before her living freight had been removed by
the sailing-frigate _Sabine_. The first lieutenant of the latter, now
the senior rear-admiral on the retired list of the navy, soon
afterwards relieved Drayton in command of the _Pocahontas_; so that I
then heard at first hand many particulars which I wish I could now
repeat in his well-deserved honor. His distinguished share in the
rescue was of common notoriety; the details only we learned from his
modest but interesting account. The deliverance was facilitated by the
two vessels being on soundings. The _Governor_ anchored, and then the
_Sabine_ ahead of her, dropping down close to. The ground-tackle of
our naval ships, as we abundantly tested during the war, would hold
through anything, if the bottom let the anchor grip.

With very few exceptions all were saved, officers and privates; but
their clothes, except those they stood in, were left behind. The
colonel was a notorious martinet, as well as something of a character;
and a story ran that one of the subalterns had found himself at the
start unable to appear in some detail of uniform, his trunks having
gone astray. "A good soldier never separates from his baggage," said
the colonel, gruffly, on hearing the excuse. After various adventures,
common to missing personal effects, the lieutenant's trunks turned up
at Port Royal. He looked sympathetically at the colonel's shorn plumes
and meagre array, and said, reproachfully, "Colonel, where are your
trunks? A good soldier should never separate from his baggage." But,
doubtless, to follow it to the bottom of the sea would be an excess of
zeal.

Not long afterwards I was shipmate with an assistant surgeon who had
been detailed for duty on board the _Governor_, and had passed through
the scenes of anxiety and confusion preceding the rescue. He told me
one or two amusing incidents. An order being given to lighten the
ship, four marines ran into the cabin where he was lying, seized a
marble-top table, dropped the marble top on deck, and threw the wooden
legs overboard. There was also on board a very young naval officer,
barely out of the Academy. He was of Dutch blood and name--from
central Pennsylvania, I think. Although without much experience, he
was of the constitutionally self-possessed order, which enabled him to
be very useful. After a good deal of exertion, he also came into the
cabin. The surgeon asked him how things looked. "I think she will last
about half an hour," he replied, and then composedly lay down and went
to sleep.

There was in the hero of this anecdote a vein of eccentricity even
then, and he eventually died insane and young. I knew him only
slightly, but familiarly as to face. He had mild blue eyes and curly
brown hair, with a constant half-smile in eyes as well as mouth. In
temperament he was Dutch to the backbone--at least as we imagine
Dutch. A comical anecdote was told me of him a few years later,
illustrating his self-possession--cool to impudence. He was serving on
one of our big steam-sloops, a flag-ship at the time, and had charge
of working the cables on the gun-deck when anchoring. Going into a
port where the water was very deep--Rio de Janeiro, I believe--the
chain cables "got away," as the expression is; control was lost, and
shackle after shackle tore out of the hawse-holes, leaping and
thumping, rattling and roaring, stirring a lot of dust besides.
Indeed, the violent friction of iron against iron in such cases not
infrequently generates a stream of sparks. The weight of twenty
fathoms of this linked iron mass hanging outside, aided by the
momentum already established by the anchor's fall through a hundred
feet, of course drags after it all that lies unstoppered within. I
need not tell those who have witnessed such a commotion that the
orderly silence of a ship of war breaks down somewhat. Every one who
has any right to speak shouts, and repeats, in rapid succession,
"Haul-to that chain! Why the something or other don't you haul-to?"
while the unhappy compressor-men, saving their own wind to help their
arms, struggle wildly with the situation, under a storm of obloquy.
The admiral--by this time we had admirals--was a singular man,
something of a lawyer, acute, thinking he knew just how far he might
go in any case, and given at times to taking liberties with
subordinates, which were not to them always as humorous as they seemed
to him. In this instance he miscalculated somewhat. He was on deck at
the moment, and when the chain had been at last stopped and secured,
he said to the captain, "Alfred, send for the young man in charge of
those chains, and give him a good setting-down. Ask him what he means
by letting such things happen. Ride him down like a main-tack,
Alfred--like the main-tack!" The main-tack is the chief rope
controlling the biggest sail in the ship, and at times, close on the
wind, it has to be got down into place by the brute force of half a
hundred men, inch by inch, pull by pull. That is called riding down,
and is clearly a process the reverse of conciliatory. The Dutchman was
sent for, and soon his questioning blue eyes appeared over the hatch
coaming. Alfred--as my own name is Alfred, I may explain that I was
not that captain--Alfred was a mild person, and clearly did not like
his job; he could not have come up to the admiral's standard. The
latter saw it, and intervened: "Perhaps you had better leave it to me.
I'll settle him." Fixing his eyes on the offender, he said, sternly,
"What do you mean by this, sir? Why the h--l did you not stop that
chain?" This exordium was doubtless the prelude to a fit oratorical
display; but the culprit, looking quietly at him, replied, simply,
"How the h--l could I?" This was a shift of wind for which the admiral
was unprepared. He was taken flat back, like a screaming child
receiving a glass of cold water in his face. After a moment's
hesitation he turned to the captain, and said meekly, yet with evident
humorous consciousness of a checkmate, "That's true, Alfred; how the
h--l could he?"

Still, while the defence implied in the lieutenant's question is
logically unimpeachable, it does not follow that the method of the
admiral--as distinct from his manner, which need not be excused--was
irrational. The impulse of reprimand, applied at the top, where
ultimate responsibility rests, is transmitted through the intervening
links down to the actual culprits, and takes effect for future
occasions. As Marryat in one of his amusing passages says: "The
master's violence made the boatswain violent, which made the
boatswain's mate violent, and the captain of the forecastle also; all
which is practically exemplified by the laws of motion communicated
from one body to another; and as the master swore, so did the
boatswain swear, and the boatswain's mate, and the captain of the
forecastle, and all the men." An entertaining practical use of this
transmission of energy was made by an acquaintance of mine in China.
Going to bed one night, he found himself annoyed by a mosquito within
the net. He got up, provided himself with the necessities for his own
comfort during the period of discomfort which he projected for others,
and called the servant whose business it was to have crushed the
intruder. Him he sent in search of the man next above him, him in turn
for another, and so on until he reached the head of the domestic
hierarchy. When the whole body was assembled, he told them that they
were summoned to receive the information that "one piecee mosquito"
was inside his net, owing to the neglect of--pointing to the culprit.
This done, they were dismissed, in calm assurance that in future no
mosquito would disturb his night's rest, and that the desirable
castigation of the offender might be intrusted to his outraged
companions.

After the gale subsided, the _Pocahontas_ proceeded for the
rendezvous, just before reaching which we fell in with a
coal-schooner. Though a good fighting-ship, she carried only
sixty-three tons of coal, anthracite; for that alone we then used to
burn. The amount seems too absurd for belief, and it constituted a
very serious embarrassment on such duty as that of the South Carolina
and Georgia coasts. To economize, so as to remain as long as possible
away from the base at Port Royal, and yet to have the ship ready for
speedy movement, was a difficult problem; indeed, insoluble. We used
to meet it by keeping fires so low, when lying inside the blockaded
rivers, that we could not move promptly. This was a choice between
evils, which the event justified, but which might have been awkward
had the Confederates ever made a determined attempt at boarding with
largely superior force in several steamers, as happened at Galveston,
and once even by pulling boats in a Georgia river. Under steam, the
battery could be handled; anchored, an enemy could avoid it. With this
poor "coal endurance," as the modern expression has it, the captain
decided to fill up as he could. We therefore took the schooner in tow,
and were transferring from her, when the sound of cannonading was
heard. Evidently the attack had begun, and it was incumbent to get in,
not only on general principles, but for the captain's own reputation;
for although in service he was too well known to be doubted, the
outside world might see only that he was a South Carolinian. It was
recognition of this, I doubt not, that led Admiral Dupont, when we
passed the flag-ship after the action, to hail aloud, "Captain
Drayton, I knew you would be here;" a public expression of official
confidence. We were late, however, as it was; probably because our
short coal supply had compelled economical steaming, though as to this
my memory is uncertain. The _Pocahontas_ passed the batteries after
the main attack, in column on an elliptical course, had ceased, but
before the works had been abandoned; and being alone we received
proportionate attention for the few moments of passage. The enemy's
fire was "good line, but high;" our main-mast was irreparably
wounded, but the hull and crew escaped.

After the action there followed the usual scene of jollification. The
transports had remained outside, and now steamed up; bands playing,
troops hurrahing, and with the general expenditure of wind from vocal
organs which seems the necessary concomitant of such occasions. And
here the _Pocahontas_ again brought the _Seminole_ to grief. She had
anchored, but we kept under way, steaming about through the throng.
Drayton had binoculars in hand; and, while himself conning the ship,
was livelily interested in what was passing around. I believe also
that, though an unusually accomplished officer professionally, he had
done a good deal of staff duty; had less than the usual deck habit of
his period. Besides, men used mostly to sails seemed to think steamers
could get out of any scrape at any moment. However that be, after a
glance to see that we were rightly headed for a clear opening, he
began gazing about through his glasses, to the right hand and to the
left. He had lost thought of the tide, and in such circumstances as
ours a very few seconds does the business. When he next looked, we
were sweeping down on the _Seminole_ without a chance of retreat;
there was nothing but to go ahead fast, and save the hulls at least
from collision. Her flying jib-boom came in just behind our main-mast
(we had only two masts); and as the current of course was setting us
down steadily, the topping-lifts of our huge main boom caught her
jib-boom. Down came one of the big blocks from our mast-head, narrowly
missing the captain's head, while we took out of her all the head
booms as far as the bowsprit cap, leaving them dragging in helpless
confusion by her side. Then we anchored.

It is a nuisance to have to clear a wreck and repair damages; and the
injured party does not immediately recover his equanimity after such a
mishap, especially coming fresh upon a former instance of trouble
occasioned barely a fortnight before. But after a victory all things
are forgiven, and the more so to a man of Drayton's well-deserved
popularity. A little later in the day he went on board the flag-ship
to visit the admiral. When I met him at the gangway upon his return, I
had many questions to ask, and among others, "Have you learned who
commanded the enemy?" "Yes," he replied, with a half-smile; "it was my
brother."

Very soon afterwards he left us, before we again quitted port. He was
dissatisfied with the _Pocahontas_, partly on account of her coal
supply; and the captain of the _Pawnee_ then going home, he obtained
command of her. The _Pawnee_ was _sui generis_; in this like the
_Pocahontas_, only a good deal more so, representing somebody's fad. I
cannot vouch for the details of her construction; but, as I heard, she
was not only extremely broad in the beam, giving great battery
space,--which was plain to see,--but the bilge on each side was
reported to come lower than the keel, making, as it were, two hulls,
side by side, so that a sarcastic critic remarked, "One good point
about her is, that if she takes the ground, her keel at least is
protected." Like all our vessels at that time, she was of wood. Owing
to her build, she had for her tonnage very light draught and heavy
battery, and so was a capital fighting-ship in still, shoal waters;
but in a seaway she rolled so rapidly as to be a wretched gun
platform. Her first lieutenant assured me that in heavy weather a
glass of water could not get off the table. "Before it has begun to
slide on one roll, she is back on the other, and catches it
before it can start." This description was perhaps somewhat
picturesque--impressionist, as we now say; but it successfully
conveyed the idea, the object of all speech and impressions. However
satisfactory for glasses--not too full--it may be imagined that under
such conditions it would be difficult to draw sight on a target
between rolls. Whatever her defects, the _Pawnee_ was admirably
adapted for the inland work of which there was much in those parts,
behind the sea islands; and she continued so employed throughout the
war. I met her there as late as the last six months of it. But she was
not reproduced, and remains to memory only; an incident of the
speculative views and doubting progresses of the decade before the War
of Secession.

Drayton's successor was one of the senior lieutenants of the fleet,
George B. Balch, late the first of the _Sabine_ frigate. His services
in saving the people of the _Governor_ have already been mentioned. He
still survives in venerable old age; but Drayton, who later on was
with Farragut at Mobile, being captain of the flag-ship _Hartford_ and
chief of staff at the time of the passage of the forts, was cut off
prematurely by a short illness within six months after hostilities
ended. Balch remained with us till the _Pocahontas_ returned North,
ten months later. He was an officer of varied service, and like all
such, some more, some less, abounded in anecdote of his own
experiences. A great deal that might be instructive, and more still
that is entertaining, is lost by our slippery memories and the rarity
of the journal-keeping habit. I remember distinctly only two of his
stories. One related to a matter which now belongs to naval
archæology,--"backing and filling in a tideway," by a ship under sail.
In this, in a winding channel, the ship sets towards her destination
with the current, up or down, carrying only enough canvas, usually the
three topsails, to be under control; to move her a little ahead, or a
little astern, keeping in the strength of the stream, or shifting
position as conditions of the navigation require. Backing is a term
which explains itself; filling applies to the sails when so trimmed as
to move the vessel ahead. Sometimes a reach of the river permits the
sails to be braced full, and she bowls along merrily under way; anon a
turn comes where she can only lie across, balanced as to headway by
the main topsail aback. Then the smallest topsail, the mizzen, has a
game in its hands. The ship, as she drifts up or down, may need to be
moved a little astern, more or less, to avoid a shoal or what not; and
to do this the sail mentioned is braced either to shake, neutralizing
it, or to bring it also aback, as the occasion demands. This rather
long preamble is perilously like explaining a joke, but it is
necessary. Balch had seen a good deal of this work in China, and he
told us that the Chinese pilot's expression, if he wanted the sail
shaken, was "Makee sick the mizzen topsail;" but if aback, he added,
"Kill him dead." I wonder does that give us an insight into the
nautical idiom of the Chinese, who within the limitations of their
needs are prime seamen.

By the time I got to China, two years after the War of Secession,
steam had relieved naval vessels from backing and filling. I once,
however, saw the principle applied to a steamer in the Paraguay River.
We were returning from a visit to Asuncion, and had a local pilot, who
was needed less for the Paraguay, which though winding is fairly
clear, than for the Paraná, the lower stream, which finally merges in
the Rio de la Plata and is constantly changing its bed. We had
anchored for the night just above a bend, head of course up-stream,
for the tide does not reach so far. The next morning the pilot was
bothered to turn her round, for she was a long paddle steamer, not
very handy. He seemed to be in a nautical quandary, similar to that
which the elder Mr. Weller described as "being on the wrong side of
the road, backing into the palings, and all manner of unpleasantness."
The captain watched him fuming for a few minutes, and then said, "Is
there any particular trouble on either hand, or is it only the
narrowness?" The pilot said no; the bottom was clear. "Well," said the
captain, "why not cast her to port, and let her drift till she heads
fair for the turn below?" This was done easily, and indeed was one of
those things which would be almost foolishly simple did we not all
have experience of overlooking expedients that lie immediately under
our noses.

Balch's other story which I recall was at the moment simply humorous,
but has since seemed to me charged with homely wisdom of
wide application. He had made a rather longish voyage in a
merchant-steamer, and during it used to amuse himself doing navigation
work in company with her master, or mate. On one occasion a discussion
arose between them as to some result, and Balch in the course of the
argument said, "Figures won't lie." "Yes, that's all right," rejoined
the other, "figures won't lie, if you work them right; but you must
work them right, Mr. Balch." I was too young then to have noted a
somewhat similar remark about statistics; and I think now, after a
pretty long observation of mankind, its records and its statements,
that I should be inclined to extend that old seaman's comments to
facts also. Facts won't lie, if you work them right; but if you work
them wrong, a little disproportion in the emphasis, a slight
exaggeration of color, a little more or less limelight on this or that
part of the grouping, and the result is not truth, even though each
individual fact be as unimpeachable as the multiplication table.

After the capture of Port Royal, and the establishment there of the
naval base, and until the arrival of monitors a year later, operations
of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron, as it was styled, were
confined to blockading. This took two principal forms. The
fortifications of Charleston and Savannah being still in the hands of
the enemy, and intact, these two chief seaports of that coast were
unassailable by our fleet. Even after Fort Sumter had been battered to
a shapeless heap of masonry, and Fort Pulaski had surrendered,
neither city fell until Sherman's march took it in the rear. But the
numerous inlets were substantially undefended against naval attack;
and for them the blockade, that tremendously potent instrument of the
national pressure, the work of which has been too little commemorated,
was instituted almost universally within. Even Fort Pulaski, before
its fall, though it sealed the highway to Savannah, could not prevent
the Union vessels from occupying the inside anchorage off Tybee
Island, completely closing the usual access from the sea to the town.
During the ensuing ten months there were very few of these entrances,
from Georgetown, the northernmost in South Carolina, down to
Fernandina, in Florida, into which the _Pocahontas_ did not penetrate,
alone or in company. I do not know whether people in other parts of
the country realize that these various inlets are connected by an
inside navigation, behind the sea islands, as they are called, the
whole making a system of sheltered intercommunication. The usefulness
of this was reinforced by the numerous navigable rivers which afford
water roads to the interior, and gave a vessel, once entered, refuge
beyond the reach of the blockaders' arm, with ready means for
distribution. Such a gift of nature to a community, however, has the
defects of its qualities. Ease of access, and freedom of movement in
all directions, now existed for foe as it had for friend, and the very
facility which such surroundings bestow had prevented the timely
creation of an alternative. Deprival consequently was doubly severe.

It thus came to pass that, by a gradual process of elimination,
blockade in the usual sense of the word, blockade outside, became
confined to Charleston and its approaches. It is true that much
depended on the class of vessel. It was obviously inexpedient to
expose sailing-ships where they might be attacked by steamers, in
ground also too contracted for manoeuvring; and two years later I
found myself again blockading Georgetown, in a paddle steamer from the
merchant service, the size and unwieldiness of which prevented her
entering. Moreover, torpedoes had then begun to play a part in the
war, though still in a very primitive stage of development. But in
1862 there was little outside work except at Charleston. The very
reasons which determine the original selection of a port--facility for
entrance, abundant anchorage, and ease of access to the interior for
distribution and receipt of the articles of commerce--determine also
the accumulation of defences, to the exclusion of other less favored
localities. All these conditions, natural and artificial, combined
with the Union occupancy of the other inlets to concentrate
blockade-running upon Charleston. This in turn drew thither the
blockaders, which had to be the more numerous because the harbor could
be entered by two or more channels, widely separated. There was thus
constituted a blockade society, which contrasted agreeably with the
somewhat hermit-like existence of the smaller stations. The weather
was usually pleasant enough--many Northerners now know the winter
climate of South Carolina--so during the daytime the ships would lift
their anchors and get more or less together; the officers, and to a
less extent the crews, exchanging visits. Old acquaintanceships were
renewed, former cruises discussed, "yarns" interchanged; and then
there was always the war with its happenings. Fort Henry, Fort
Donelson, Shiloh, the _Monitor_ and _Merrimac_ fight, the capture of
New Orleans by Farragut, all occurred during the stay of the
_Pocahontas_ upon the blockade in 1862. Our news was apt to be ten
days old, but to us it was as good as new; indeed, somewhat better,
for we heard of the first reverses at Shiloh, and by the hands of the
_Merrimac_, by the same mail which brought word of the final decided
victory. Thus we were spared the anxiety of suspense. Even the
disasters about Richmond were not by us fairly appreciated until the
ship returned North, when the mortification of defeat was somewhat
solaced, and the tendency to despondency lessened, by the happiness of
being again at home; in my case after a continuous absence of more
than three years, in the _Congress_ and _Pocahontas_.

Talking of despondency, I had an odd experience of the ease with which
people forget their frames of mind. While Burnside was engaged in the
movements preceding Fredericksburg, I was in conversation with a
veteran naval officer at his own house. Speaking of the probable
outcome of the operations in progress, which then engrossed all
thoughts, he said to me, "I think, Mr. Mahan, that if we fail this
time, we may as well strike"; the naval phrase "strike the colors"
being the equivalent of surrender--give up. I dissented heartily; not
from any really reasoned appreciation of conditions, but on general
principles, as understood by a man still very young. More than two
years later, when the war had just drawn to its triumphant close, I
again met the same gentleman. Amid our felicitations, he said to me,
"There is one thing, Mr. Mahan, which I have never allowed myself to
doubt--the ultimate success of our just cause."

After all, it was very natural. When you are cold, you're cold, and
when you're hot, you're hot; and if you are indiscreet enough to say
so to some one who feels differently, he remembers it against you.
What business have you to feel other than he? If, with the thermometer
at zero, I chance to say that I wish it were warmer, I am sure of some
one, a lady usually, bursting in upon me when it is ninety-five, with
the jeer, "Well! I hope, now, _you_ are satisfied." I recall
distinctly the long faces we pulled when we reached Philadelphia on
our return, and realized, by the withdrawal of McClellan's army to
Washington, the full extent of our disasters on the Peninsula; my old
commodore might then have found some to say, Amen. But this did not
keep our hats any lower when we chucked them aloft over Vicksburg and
Gettysburg, and forgot that we had ever felt otherwise.

Vicksburg and Gettysburg, by the way, and their coincidence with the
Fourth of July, have furnished me with a reminiscence quite otherwise
agreeable. The ship in which I then was spent that Fourth at Spithead,
England. We dressed ship with multicolored signals, red, white, and
blue, at every yard-arm, big American ensigns at the three mast-heads
and the peak, presenting a singularly gay and joyful aspect, which
could profitably be viewed from as many points as Mr. Pecksniff looked
at Salisbury Cathedral. At noon we fired a national salute, all the
more severely punctilious and observant, because by the last mail
things at home seemed to be looking particularly blue. The British
ships of war, though I fear few of their officers then were other than
pleased with our presumed discomfiture, dressed likewise, as by naval
courtesy bound, and also fired a salute. The _Times_ of the day
arrived from London in due season, and had improved the occasion to
moralize upon the sad condition to which the Republic of Bunker Hill
and Yorktown was reduced: Grant held up at Vicksburg,[10] Lee marching
victoriously into Pennsylvania, no apparent probability of escaping
disaster in either quarter. The conclusion was couched in that vein of
Pecksniffian benevolence of which we hear so much in life. "Let us
_hope_ that so much adversity may be tempered to a nation, afflicted
with evil as unprecedented as its former prosperity; and this will
indeed be the case if America ... is led on this day of festivity, now
converted into a day of humiliation, to review past errors, and to
consider that, if her present policy has led her so near ruin, in its
reversal must lie the only path that can conduct her to safety." I
wonder, if there had been a cable, would that editorial have been
headed off. It was not.

    "And there it stands unto this day,
           To witness if I lie."

It was bitter then to my taste; but sweet were the chuckles which I
later had, when the actual transactions of that anniversary came to
hand.

Whatever their sympathies, the British naval officers during that stay
in British waters had no difficulty in paying us all the usual
personal attentions; but a particular incident showed for our
susceptibilities a nicety of consideration, which could not have been
exacted and was very grateful at the time. We were at Plymouth, under
the breakwater, but some distance from the inner anchorage, when a
merchant-vessel lying inside hoisted a Confederate flag at her mizzen
mast-head. We saw it, but of course could do nothing. It was a clear
case of intended insult, for the ship had no claim to the flag, and
could only mean to flaunt us. It flew for perhaps an hour, and then
disappeared. The same day, and not long afterwards, a British
lieutenant from a vessel in the harbor came on board, and told me that
he had had it hauled down, acting in place of his captain, who was
absent. The communication to me, also momentarily in command, was
purely personal; indeed, there was nothing official in the whole
transaction, nor do I know by what means or by what authority he could
insist upon the removal of the flag. However managed, the thing was
done, and with the purpose of stopping a rudeness which, it is true,
reflected more upon the port than upon us, for I think the offending
vessel was British. Very many years afterwards I had occasion to quote
this, when, during the Boer War, on the visit of a British squadron to
one of our seaside resorts, a resident there thought to show American
breeding by hoisting the Four-Color. In the late winter of 1863-64 I
again met this officer and his ship in New Orleans. In conversation
then he told me he did not believe the Union cause could succeed; that
he, with others, looked to see three or four nations formed. In the
same month of 1863 this anticipation would not have surprised me; but
in 1864 it did, although Grant had not yet begun his movement upon
Richmond.

Blockading was desperately tedious work, make the best one could of
it. The largest reservoir of anecdotes was sure to run dry; the
deepest vein of original humor to be worked out. I remember hearing of
two notorious tellers of stories being pitted against each other, for
an evening's amusement, when one was driven as a last resource to
recounting that "Mary had a little lamb." We were in about that case.
Charleston, however, was a blooming garden of social refreshment
compared with the wilderness of the Texas coast, to which I found
myself exiled a year or so later; a veritable Siberia, cold only
excepted. Charleston was not very far from the Chesapeake or Delaware,
in distance or in time. Supply vessels, which came periodically, and
at not very long intervals, arrived with papers not very late, and
with fresh provisions not very long slaughtered; but by the time they
reached Galveston or Sabine Pass, which was our station, their news
was stale, and we got the bottom tier of fresh beef. The ship to which
I there belonged was a small steam-corvette, which with two gunboats
constituted all the social possibilities. Happily for myself, I did
not join till midway in the corvette's stay off the port, which lasted
in all nearly six months, before she was recalled in mercy to New
Orleans. I have never seen a body of intelligent men reduced so nearly
to imbecility as my shipmates then were.

One of my captains used to adduce, as his conception of the extreme of
isolation, to be the keeper of a lightship off Cape Horn; a
professional conceit rivalling the elder Mr. Weller's equally profound
recognition of the connection between keeping a pike and misanthropy.
We off Sabine Pass were banished about equally with the keeper of a
turnpike or of a remote lightship. We ought, of course, to have
improved the leisure which weighed so heavily on our hands; but the
improvement of idle moments is an accomplishment of itself, as many a
retired business man has found out too late. There is an impression,
derived from the experience of passengers on board ocean steamers,
that naval officers have an abundance of spare time. The ship, it
seems assumed, runs itself; the officers have only to look on and
enjoy. As a matter of fact, sea officers under normal conditions are
as busy as the busiest house-keeper, with the care to boot of two,
three, four, or five hundred children, to be kept continually doing as
they should; the old woman who lived in the shoe had a good thing in
comparison. Thus occupied, the leisure habit of self-improvement,
other than in the practice of the calling, is not formed. At sea, on a
voyage, the vicissitudes of successive days provide the desultory
succession of incidents, which vary and fill out the tenor of
occupations, keeping life full and interesting. In port, besides the
regular and fairly engrossing routine, there are the resources of the
shore to fill up the chinks. But the dead monotony of the blockade was
neither sea nor port. It supplied nothing. The crew, once drilled,
needed but a few moments each day to keep at the level of proficiency;
and there was practically nothing to do, because nothing happened that
required either a doing or an undoing.

Under such conditions even a gale of wind was a not unwelcome change.
Although little activity was required to meet it, it at least
presented new surroundings--something different from the daily
outlook. After a very brief period, it became the rule to ride out the
storms at anchor; and I remember one of our volunteer officers, who
had commanded a merchant-ship for some years, saying that he would
have been spared a good deal of trouble, on occasions, had he had our
experience of holding on with an anchor instead of keeping under way.
It was, however, an old if forgotten expedient, where anchorage ground
was good--bottom sticky and water not too deep. In the ancient days of
the French wars, the British fleets off Brest and Toulon had to keep
under way, but that blockading Cadiz, in 1797-98, used to hold its
position at anchor, and under harder conditions than ours; for there
the worst gales blew on shore, whereas ours swept chiefly along the
coast. A standing dispute in the British navy, in those days of hemp
cables, used to be whether it was safer to ride with three anchors
down, or with one only, having to it three cables, bent together, so
as to form one of thrice the usual length. The balance of opinion
leaned to the latter; the dead weight of so much hemp held the ship
without transmitting the strain to the anchor itself. She "rode to the
bight," as the expression was; that is, to the cable, curved by its
own weight and length, lying even in part on the bottom, which
prevented its tightening and pulling at the anchor. What was true of
hemp was yet more true of iron chains. The _Pocahontas_ used to veer
to a hundred fathoms, and there lie like a duck in fifty or sixty feet
of water. I remember on one occasion, however, that when we next
weighed the anchor, it came up with parts polished bright, as in my
childhood we used sometimes to burnish a copper cent. This seemed to
show that it had been scoured hard along a sandy bottom. We had had no
suspicion of the ship's dragging during the gale, and I have since
supposed that it may have started from its bed as we began to heave,
and so been scrubbed along towards us.

The problem of maintaining the health of ships' companies condemned to
long months of salt provisions, and to equally depressing short
allowance of social salt for the intellect, which reasonable beings
crave, has to be ever present to those charged with administration.
Nelson's "cattle and onions" sums up in homely phrase the first
requirement; while, for the others, his policy during a weary two
years, in which he himself never left the flag-ship, was to keep the
vessels in constant movement, changing scene, and thereby maintaining
expectation of something exciting turning up. "Our men's minds," he
said, "are always kept up with the daily hopes of meeting the enemy."
As the Confederacy had practically no navy, this particular
distraction was debarred our blockaders; but in the matter of food, we
in the early sixties had not got beyond his prescription for the
opening years of the century. The primitive methods then still in
vogue, for preserving meats and vegetables fresh, accomplished chiefly
the making them perfectly tasteless, and to the eye uninviting; the
palate, accustomed to the constant stimulant of salt, turned from
"bully" (bouilli) beef and "desecrated" (dessicated) potatoes, jaded
before exercise. Like liquor, salt, long used in large measures, at
last becomes a craving. I have heard old seamen more than once say, "I
must have my salt;" and I have even known one to express his utter
weariness of the fresh butter France sends up with its morning coffee
and rolls. So we on the blockade depended more upon the good offices
of salt than upon those of tin cans, for giving us acceptable food;
the consequence being, with us as with our British forebears, a keen
physical demand for "cattle and onions." In one principal respect our
supplies differed from theirs--in the profusion of ice afforded by
our country. Our beef, therefore, came to us already butchered, while
theirs was received on the hoof. Many of my readers doubtless will
recall the adventures of Mr. Midshipman Easy, when in charge of the
transport from Tetuan with bullocks for the fleet off Toulon.
Onions--blessings on their heads, if they have any--came to both us
and our predecessors as easily as they were welcome. I have sometimes
heard the plea, that Nature is the best guide in matters of appetite,
advanced for indulgences which, so construed, seemed to reflect upon
her parental character; but there can be no such doubt concerning
onions to a system well saturated with salt. When you see them you
know what you want; and a half-dozen raw, with a simple salad
dressing, were little more than a whetter on the blockade. Would it be
possible now to manage a single one?



VIII

INCIDENTS OF WAR AND BLOCKADE SERVICE--CONTINUED

1863-1865


The _Pocahontas_ came North for repairs in the late summer of 1862,
and after a brief leave I was ordered to the Naval Academy. Under the
stress of the war, this had been broken out from its regular seat at
Annapolis and transferred for the moment to Newport. All the
arrangements were temporary and extemporized. The principal
establishment, housing the three older classes, was in a building in
the town formerly known as the Atlantic Hotel; while the new entries,
who were very numerous, were quartered on two sailing-frigates, moored
head and stern in the inner harbor, off Goat Island. This duplex
arrangement necessitated a double set of officers, not easy to be had
with war going on; the more so that the original corps had been
depleted by the resignations of Southern men. The embarrassment
arising from the immediate scantness of officers led naturally, if
perhaps somewhat irreflectively, to a great number of admissions to
the Naval Academy, disregardful of past experience with the '41 Date,
and of the future, when room at the top would be lacking to take in
all these youngsters as captains and admirals. Thus was constituted
the "hump," as it came to be called, which, like a tumor on the body,
engaged at a later day the attention of many professional
practitioners. As it would not absorb, and as the rough-and-ready
methods by which civil life and the survival of the fittest deal with
such conditions could not be applied, it had to be dissipated; a
process ultimately carried out with indifferent success. While it
lasted it caused many a heartache from postponement. As one of the
sufferers said, when hearing the matter discussed, "I don't know about
this or that. All I know is that I have been a lieutenant for twenty
years." Owing to the slimness of the service in the lower grades they
became lieutenants young; but there they stuck. Every boom is followed
by such reaction, and for a military service war is a boom. Expansion
sets in; and when contraction follows somebody is squeezed. At the end
of the Napoleonic Wars there were over eight hundred post-captains in
the British navy. What could peace do for them?

Eight pleasant months I spent on shore at the Academy, and then was
again whisked off to sea, there to remain for substantially all the
rest of the war. Although already prominent as a fashionable
watering-place, Newport then was very far from its present
development; but in winter it had a settled and pleasant, if small,
society. At this time I met the widow of Captain Lawrence of the
_Chesapeake_, who survived until two years later. She was already
failing, and not prematurely; for it was then, 1862-63, the fiftieth
year since her husband fell. She lived with a sister, also the widow
of an officer, and was frequently visited by her granddaughter, the
child of Lawrence's daughter, a singularly beautiful girl. I remember
her pointing to me a picture of the defeat of the _Peacock_, by the
_Hornet_, under her grandfather's command; on which, she laughingly
said, she had been brought up. This meeting had for me not only the
usual interest which a link with the distant past supplies, but a
certain special association; for my grandmother, then recently dead,
had known several of Lawrence's contemporaries in the navy, and my
recollection is that she told me she had seen him leaving his wife at
their doorstep, when departing to take command of the _Chesapeake_.

When the summer of 1863 drew nigh, the question of the usual practice
cruise came up. I have before stated the two opinions: one favoring a
regular ocean voyage, with its customary routine and accidents of
weather; the other more disposed to contracted cruising in our own
waters, anchoring at night, and by day following a formulated
programme of varied practical exercises. For this year both plans were
adopted. There were two practice-ships, one of which was to remain
between Narragansett and Gardiner's Bay, in Long Island. I was ordered
as first lieutenant of the other, which was to go to Europe. The
advisability of this step for a sailing-ship was on this occasion
doubly questioned, for the _Alabama_ had already begun her career. In
fact, one of the officers then stationed at the school had been
recently captured by her, when making a passage to Panama in a
mail-steamer. I remember his telling me, with glee, that when the
_Alabama_ fired a shot in the direction of the packet, called, I
think, the _Ariel_, a number of the passengers took refuge behind the
bulkheads of the upper-deck saloons, which, being of light pine,
afforded as much protection as the air, with the additional risk of
splinters. He hoped to escape observation, but the Confederate
boarding-officer had been a classmate of his, and spotted him at once.
Being paroled, he was for the time shut off from war service, and was
sent to the Academy. He was a singular man, by name Tecumseh Steece,
and looked with a certain disdain upon the navy as a profession. In
his opinion, it was for him only a stepping-stone to some great
future, rather undefined. At bottom a very honest fellow, with a sense
of duty which while a midshipman had led him to persist defiantly in a
very unpopular--though very proper--course of action, he yet seemed to
see no impropriety in utterly neglecting professional acquirement,
rather boasting of his ignorance. The result was that, having been
detailed for the European cruise, he was subsequently detached; I
think from doubt of his fitness for the deck of a sailing-vessel.
While at the Academy at this time, he took a first step in his
proposed career by writing a pamphlet, the title and scope of which I
now forget; but unluckily, by a slip of the pen, he wrote on the first
page, "We judge the _known_ by the _unknown_." This, being speedily
detected, raised a laugh, and I fear prevented most from further
exploration of a somewhat misty thesis. He was rather chummy with me,
and tried mildly to persuade me that I also should stand poised on the
navy for a flight into the empyrean; but, if fain to soar, which I do
not think I was, like Raleigh, I feared a fall. For himself, poor
fellow, weighted by his aspirations, he said to me, "I don't fear
death, I fear life;" and death caught him early, in 1864, in the shape
of yellow-fever. One of his idiosyncrasies was a faith in coffee as a
panacea; and I heard that while sickening he deluged himself with that
beverage, to what profit let physicians say.

The decision that one of the practice-ships should go to Europe had, I
think, been determined by the officer who was to have commanded the
_Macedonian_, the vessel chosen for that purpose. She was not the one
of that name captured in 1812 by the _United States_,--the only one of
our frigate captures brought into port,--but a successor to the title.
Before she went into commission, the first commander was detached to
service at the front; but no change was made in her destination, even
if any misgivings were felt. One of my fellow-officers at the Academy,
who was not going, remarked to me pleasantly that, if we fell in with
the _Alabama_, she would work round us like a cooper round a cask; an
encouraging simile to one who has looked upon that cheerful and much
one-sided performance. We were all too young--I, the senior
lieutenant, was but twenty-two--and too light-hearted to be troubled
with forebodings; and, indeed, there was in reason no adequate
inducement for the Confederate cruiser to alter her existing plans in
order to take the _Macedonian_. Had we come fairly in her way, to
gobble a large percentage of the Naval Academy might have been a
fairly humorous practical joke; but it could have been no more. I
remember Mr. Schuyler Colfax, afterwards Vice-President, then I think
a member of the House, being on board, and mentioning the subject to
me. "After all," he said, "I suppose it would scarcely do for one of
our vessels to be deterred from a cruise by regard for a Confederate
cruiser." Considering the disparity of advantage, due to steam, I
should say this would scarcely be a working theory, in naval life or
in private. Our military insignificance was our sufficient protection.
During my cruise in the _Congress_, a ship much heavier every way than
the _Macedonian_, the commander of one of our corvettes, substantially
of the _Alabama_ class, said to our captain, "I suppose, if I fell in
with you as an enemy, I ought to attack you." "Well," replied the
other, "if you didn't, you should pray not to have me on your
court-martial."

The officer originally designated to command the _Macedonian_ had been
very greatly concerned about the midshipmen's provisions: the quality
of which they should be, and the room to be kept for their stowage. I
wonder would his soul have been greatly vexed had he accompanied me
the first evening out, as I inspected the steerage while they were at
supper? "What!" shouted one of them to a servant, as I passed. "What!
No milk?" The mingled consternation, bereavement, and indignation
which struggled for full expression in the words beggar description. I
can see his face and hear his tones to this day. Laughable to comedy;
yet to a philosophizing turn of mind what an epitome of life! Do we
not at every corner of experience meet the princess who felt the
three hard peas under the fifty feather-beds? Sydney Smith's friend,
who had everything else life could give, but realized only the
disappointing view out of one of his windows? We might dispense with
Hague Conferences. War is going to cease because people adequately
civilized will not endure hardness. Whether in the end we shall have
cause to rejoice in the double event remains to be seen. The Asiatic
can endure.

Among the _Macedonian's_ lieutenants was the late Admiral Sampson. We
had also for deck officers two who had but just graduated; one of them
a young Frenchman belonging to the royal house of Orléans, who had
been permitted to take the course at our naval school, I presume with
a view on his part to possible contingencies recalling the monarchy to
France. Under Louis Philippe, a member of the family had been
prominent in the French navy, as the Prince de Joinville; and had
commanded the squadron which brought back the body of Napoleon from
St. Helena. The representative with us was a very good-tempered,
amiable, unpresuming man, too young as yet to be formed in character.
As messmates we were, of course, all on terms of cordial equality, and
one of our number used frequently to greet him with effusion as "You
old King." He spoke English easily, though scarcely fluently, and with
occasional eccentricity of idiom. At the Academy, before graduation,
he took his turn with others of his class as officer of the day, one
of whose duties was to keep a journal of happenings. I chanced once to
inspect this book, and found over his signature an entry which began,
"The weather was a dirty one."

While at the school, the young duke had been provided with a guide,
philosopher, and friend, in the person of an accomplished ex-officer
of the French navy, who had been obliged to quit that service, under
the Empire, because of his attachment to the exiled monarchy. I knew
this gentleman very well at Newport, exchanging with him occasional
visits, though he was much my senior in years. His name was Fauvel,
which the midshipmen, or other, had promptly Anglicized into Four
Bells--a nautical hour-stroke. I suppose this propensity to travesty
foreign or difficult names is not merely maritime; but naturally
enough my reading has brought me more in contact with it in connection
with naval matters. Thus the _Ville de Milan_, captured into the
British service, became to their seamen the "Wheel 'em along;" and the
_Bellerophon_, originally their own, is historically reported to have
passed current as the "Bully Ruffian." Captain Fauvel accompanied us
in the _Macedonian_; but after arriving in England, as we were to go
to Cherbourg, his charge and he left us, neither being _persona grata_
at that date in a French harbor. When we reached Cherbourg, Fauvel's
wife was there, either resident or for the moment, and at our
captain's invitation visited the ship to see where her husband had
been living, and would again be when we reached a more friendly port.
As contrary luck would have it, while she was on board, the French
admiral and the general commanding the troops came alongside to return
the official call paid them. The awkwardness, of course, was merely
that her presence obtruded the fact, otherwise easily and discreetly
ignored, that when out of French waters we were hospitably
entertaining persons politically distasteful to the French government,
the courtesies of which we were now accepting; and there was a
momentary impulse to keep her out of sight. A better judgment
prevailed, however, and a very courteous exchange of French politeness
ensued between the officials and the lady, to whom doubtless political
significance attached. A more notable circumstance, in the light of
the then future, was that during our few days in Cherbourg arrived the
news of the capture of the city of Mexico by the French troops; and
before our departure took place the official celebration, with flags
and salutes, of that crowning event in an enterprise which in the end
proved disastrous to its originator, and fatal to his protégé,
Maximilian.

The _Macedonian_, for a sailing-vessel, had a quite rapid run across
from Newport to Plymouth, eighteen days from anchor to anchor, though
I believe one of our frigates, after the war, made it in twelve. This
was the only occasion, during my fairly numerous crossings, that. I
have ever seen icebergs under a brilliant sky. Usually the scoundrels
come skulking along masked by a fog, as though ashamed of themselves,
as they ought to be. They are among the most obnoxious of people who
do not know their place. This time we passed several, quite large,
having a light breeze and perfectly clear horizon. After that it again
set in thick, with the usual anxiety which ice, unseen but surely
near, cannot but cause. Finally we took a very heavy gale of wind,
which settled to southwest, hauling gradually to northwest and sending
us rejoicing on our way a thousand miles in four days, much of this
time under close-reefed topsails.

I am not heedless of the great danger of merely prosing along in the
telling of the days of youth, so I will shut off my experience of the
_Macedonian_ with an incident which amused me greatly at the time, and
still seems to have a moral that one needs not to point. While lying
at Spithead, a number of the midshipmen were sent ashore to visit the
dock yard,--professional improvement. When they returned, the
lieutenants in charge were full of the block-making processes. The
ingenuity of the machinery, the variety and beauty of the blocks, the
many excellences, had the changes rung upon them, meal after meal,
till I could hear the whir of the wheels in my head and see the chips
fly. Meantime, our captain went to London, having completed his
official visiting, and an English captain came on board to return a
call. Declining my invitation to enter the cabin, he walked up and
down the quarter-deck with me, discussing many things; under his arm
his sword. Suddenly he stopped short, and pointing with it to a big
iron-strapped leading-block, he said, "Now that is what I call a
sensible block; I wonder why it is we cannot get blocks like that in
our ships." I was not prepared with a reason for their defects, then
or since; but my unreadiness has not marred my enjoyment of these
divergent points of view. Perhaps the captain was a professional
malcontent; for, looking at a Parrott rifled hundred-pounder gun which
we carried on the quarter-deck, he said, interrogatively, "Not
breech-loading?" "No," I answered, "breech-loading is not in favor
with us at present." "And very right you are," he rejoined. I think
they then (1863) still had the Armstrong breech-loading system. This
incident may deserve a place in the palæontology of gun-making. There
are now, I presume, no muzzle-loaders left; unless in museums, as
specimens.

Very shortly after the _Macedonian's_ return home I was sent to New
Orleans, for a ship on the Texas blockade; transportation being given
me on one of the "beef-boats," as the supply-vessels were familiarly
known. Among fellow-passengers was one of my class; for a while,
indeed, my room-mate at the Academy. When we reached New Orleans the
chief of staff said to me, "There is a vacancy on board the
_Monongahela_," a ship larger and in every way better than the
_Seminole_ to which I was ordered; moreover, she was lying off Mobile,
a sociable blockade, instead of at a jumping-off place, the end of
nowhere, Sabine Pass, where the _Seminole_ was. He advised me to apply
for her, which I did; but Commodore Bell, acting in Farragut's absence
in the North, declined. I must go to the ship to which the Department
had assigned me, and for which it doubtless had its reasons. So my
classmate was ordered to her instead, and on board her was killed in
the passage of the Mobile forts the following August. I can scarcely
claim a miraculous escape, as it does not appear that I should have
got in the way of the ball which finished him; but for him, poor
fellow, who had not been long married, the commodore's refusal to me
was a sentence of death.

I shall not attempt to furbish up any intellectual entertainment for
readers from the excessively dry bones of my subsequent blockading,
especially off the mouth of the Sabine. Only a French cook could
produce a passable dish out of such woful material; and even he would
require concomitant ingredients, in remembered incidents, wherein, if
there were any, my memory fails me. Day after day, day after day, we
lay inactive--roll, roll; not wholly ineffective, I suppose, for our
presence stopped blockade-running; but even in this respect the Texas
coast had largely lost importance since the capture of Vicksburg and
Port Hudson, the previous summer, had cut off the trans-Mississippi
region from the body of the Confederacy. We used to see the big,
light-draught steamers coming up the river, or crossing the
lagoon-like bay, sometimes crowded with people; and the possibility
was discussed of their carrying troops, and of their coming out to
attack us, as not long before had been successfully done against our
vessels _inside_ Galveston Bay. In a norther, possibly, such a thing
might have been tried, for the sea was then smooth; but in the
ordinary ground-swell I imagine the soldiers would have been
incapacitated by sea-sickness. The chances were all against success,
and no attempt was ever made; but it was something to talk about.

The ensuing twelve or fifteen months to the close of the war were
equally uneventful. Long before they ended I had got back to the South
Atlantic coast. To this I was indebted for the opportunity of being
present when the United States flag was ceremoniously hoisted again
over what then remained of Fort Sumter, by General Robert Anderson,
who, as Major Anderson, had been forced to lower it just four years
before. Henry Ward Beecher delivered the address, of which I remember
little, except that, citing the repeated question of foreigners, why
we should wish to re-establish our authority over a land where the one
desire of the people was to reject it, he replied, "We so wish,
because it is ours." The sentiment was obvious enough, one would
think, to any man who had a country to love and objected to seeing it
dismembered, but to many of our European critics it then seemed
monstrous in an American; at least they said so. The orator on such an
occasion has only to swim with the current. The enthusiasm is already
there; he needs not to elicit it. Here and again a blast of eloquence
from him may start the fire roaring, but the flame is already kindled.
The joy of harvest, the rejoicing of men who divide the spoil, the
boasting of them who can now put off their harness, need not the
stimulation of words.

The exact coincidence of raising the flag over Sumter on the
anniversary of its lowering was artificial, but the date of the
surrender of Charleston, February 18th, was just opportune to complete
the necessary arrangements and preparations without holding back the
ceremony, on the night of which--Good Friday--within twelve hours,
President Lincoln was murdered. Joy and grief were thus brought into
immediate and startling contrast. A perfectly natural and quite
impressive coincidence came under my notice in close connection with
these occurrences. I was at this time on the staff of Admiral
Dahlgren, commander-in-chief of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron
during the last two years of the war, and accompanied him when he
entered Charleston Harbor, which he had so long assailed in vain. The
following Sunday I attended service at one of the Episcopal churches.
The appointed first lesson for the day, Quinquagesima, was from the
first chapter of Lamentations, beginning, "How doth the city sit
solitary, that was full of people!... She that was great among the
nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become
tributary!" Considering the conspicuous, and even leading, part played
by Charleston in the Southern movement, "the cradle of secession," her
initiation of hostilities, her long successful resistance, and her
recent subjugation, the words and their sequence were strikingly and
painfully applicable to her present condition; for the Confederate
troops in evacuating had started a large destruction of property, and
the Union forces on entering found public buildings, stores,
warehouses, private dwellings, and cotton, on fire--a scene of
distress to which some of them also further contributed.[11] I myself
remember streets littered with merchants' correspondence, a mute
witness to other devastation. My recollection is that the officiating
clergyman saw and dodged the too evident application, reading some
other chapter. Many still living may recall how apposite, though to a
different mood, was the first lesson of the Sunday--the third after
Easter--which in 1861 followed the surrender of Sumter and the excited
week that witnessed "the uprising of the North,"--Joel iii., v. 9:
"Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles: Prepare war, wake up the mighty
men, let all men of war draw near; let them come up. Beat your
ploughshares into swords, and your pruning-hooks into spears; let the
weak say, I am strong." I was not in the country myself at that time,
and my attention was first drawn to this in 1865 by a clergyman, who
told me of his startled astonishment upon opening the Book. In the
then public temper it must have thrilled every nerve among the
hearers, already strained to the uttermost by events without parallel
in the history of the nation.

Being on Dahlgren's staff gave me also the opportunity of seeing,
gathered together in social assembly, all the general officers who had
shared in the March to the Sea. This was at a reception given by
Sherman in Savannah, within a week after entering that city, which may
be considered the particular terminus of one stage in his progress
through the heart of the Confederacy. The admiral had gone thither in
a small steamer, which served as flag-ship, to greet the triumphant
chief. Few, if any, of the more conspicuous of Sherman's subordinates
were absent from the rooms, thronged with men whose names were then in
all mouths, and who in honor of the occasion had changed their
marching clothes for full uniform, rarely seen in campaign. From the
heads of the two armies, the union of which under him constituted his
force, down through the brigade commanders, all were there with their
staffs; and many besides. The tone of this gathering was more subdued
than at Fort Sumter, if equally exultant. Success, achievement, the
clear demonstration of victory, such as the occupation of Savannah
gave, uplifts men's hearts and swells their breasts; but these men had
worked off some of their heat in doing things. Besides, there yet
remained for them other and weighty things to do. It could be felt
sympathetically that with them the pervading sensation was
relaxation--repose. They had reached their present height by prolonged
labor and endurance, and were enjoying rather the momentary release
from strain than the intoxication of triumph.

In expectation of the victorious arrival of the army in Savannah, I
had been charged with two messages, in pathetic contrast with each
other. The first was from my father to Sherman himself, who twenty
years before had been under his teaching as a cadet at the Military
Academy. I cannot now recall whether I bore with me a letter of
congratulation which my father wrote him, and to which he pleasantly
replied that he had from it as much satisfaction as when in far-away
days he had been dismissed from the blackboard with the commendation,
"Very well done, Mr. Sherman." My reception by him, however, was in
the exact spirit of this remark, and characteristic of the man. When I
mentioned my name he broke into a smile--all over, as they say--shook
my hand forcibly, and exclaimed, "What, the son of old Dennis?"
reverting instinctively to the familiar epithet of school-days.

My other errand was to a former school-mate of my mother's, resident
in Savannah, with whom she had long maintained affectionate relations,
which the war necessarily suspended. The next day I sought her out.
When I found the house, she was at the door, in conversation with some
of the subordinate officials of the invading army, probably with
reference to the necessity of yielding rooms for quarters. The men
were perfectly respectful, but the situation was perturbing to a
middle-aged lady brought for the first time into contact with the
rough customs of war, and she was very pale, worried in look, and
harassed in speech; evidently quite doubtful as to what latent
possibilities of harm such a visit might portend--whether ultimately
she might not find herself houseless. I made myself known, but she was
not responsive; courteous, for with her breeding she could not be
otherwise, but too preoccupied with the harsh present to respond to
the gentler feelings of the past. It was touchingly apparent that she
was trying hard to keep a stiff upper lip, and her attempted frame of
mind finally betrayed itself in the words, uttered tremulously, with
excitement or mortification, "I don't admit yet that you have beaten
us." I could scarcely contest the point, but it was very sad. At the
moment I could almost have wished that we had not.

At the mouths of the Georgia rivers Sherman's soldiers struck
tide-water, many of them for the first time in their lives; and a
story was current that two, foraging, lay down to sleep by the edge of
a stream, and were astounded by waking to find themselves in the
water. To consider the tide, however, is an acquired habit. Sherman's
approach to the Atlantic had given rise to a certain amount of naval
and military activity on the part of the forces already stationed
there. In connection with this I had been sent on some staff errand
that caused me to spend a couple of days on board the _Pawnee_, which
had just been carrying about army officers for reconnoissances. "By
George!" said her captain, laughing and bringing down his fist on the
table, "you can't make those fellows understand that a ship has to
look out for the tide. I would say to them, 'See here, the tide is
running out, and if we don't move very soon we shall be left aground,
fast till next high-water.' 'Oh yes, yes,' they would reply, 'all
right'; and then they would forget all about it, and go on as if they
had unlimited time." But of course the captain did not forget.

The fall of Richmond and Charleston, and the surrender of Lee's army,
assuring the early termination of hostilities on any grand scale, the
admiral had kindly transferred me from his staff back to the ship on
board which I had joined the squadron a year before, and which was
soon to return North. War service, nominal at least, was not, however,
quite over; for after some brief repairs we were sent down to Haïti to
take up the duty of convoying the Pacific Mail steamers from the
Windward Passage (between Cuba and Haïti) some distance towards
Panama. It is perhaps worth recording that such an employment incident
to the war was maintained for quite a while, consequent upon the
capture of the _Ariel_, before mentioned. Upon my personal fortunes it
had the effect of producing a severe tropical fever, engendered
probably during the years of Southern service, and brought to a head
by the conditions of Haïti. Whatever its cause, this led to my being
invalided for six months, at the expiration of which, to my grievous
disappointment, I was again assigned to duty in the Gulf of Mexico.
The War of Secession then--December, 1865--was entirely over; but the
Mexican expedition of Napoleon III., the culminating incident of
which, the capture of Mexico, we had seen celebrated at Cherbourg in
1863, was still lingering. Begun in our despite, when our hands were
tied by intestine troubles, it now engaged our unfriendly interest;
and part of the attention paid to it was the maintenance of a
particular squadron in those waters--observant, if quiescent. Here
again sickness pursued, not me, but my ship; from the mouth of the Rio
Grande we returned to Pensacola, with near a hundred men, half the
ship's company, down with fever. It was not malignant--we had but
three deaths--but one of those was our only doctor, and we were sent
to the far North, and so out of commission, in September, 1866. The
particular squadron was continued till the following spring, when,
under diplomatic pressure, the French expedition was withdrawn; but by
then I was again in Rio de Janeiro on my way to China.

The headquarters of this temporary squadron was at Pensacola; but
until her unlucky visit to the Rio Grande my ship, the _Muscoota_, one
of the iron double-ender paddle steamers which the war had evolved
among other experiments, lay for some months at Key West, then, as
always from its position, a naval station of importance. I suppose
most people know that this word "Key," meaningless in its application
to the low islands which it designates, is the anglicized form of the
Spanish "Cayo." Among the valued acquaintances of my life I here met a
clergyman, whose death at the age of eighty I see as these words pass
from my pen. As chaplain to the garrison, he had won the esteem and
praise of many, including General Sherman, for his devotion during an
epidemic of yellow-fever, and he was now rector of the only Episcopal
parish. He told me an anecdote of one of his flock. Key West, from its
situation, had many of the characteristics of an outpost, a frontier
town, a mingling of peoples, with consequent rough habits, hard
drinking, and general dissipation. The man in question, a good fellow
in his way, professed to be a very strong churchman, and constantly so
avowed himself; but the bottle was too much for him. The rector
remonstrated. "----, how can you go round boasting yourself a
churchman when your life is so scandalous? You are doing the Church
harm, not good, by such talk." "Yes, Mr. Herrick," he replied, "I know
it's too bad; it is a shame; but, you see, all the same, I _am_ a good
churchman. I fight for the Church. If I hear a man say anything
against her, I knock him down." It was at Mr. Herrick's table I heard
criticised the local inadequacy of the prayer-book petition for rain.
"What we want," said the speaker, "is not 'moderate rain and showers,
that we may receive the fruits of the earth,' but a hard down-pour to
fill our tanks." Key West and its neighbors then depended chiefly, if
not solely, upon this resource for drinking-water.



IX

A ROUNDABOUT ROAD TO CHINA

1867


With the termination of the War of Secession, which had concentrated
the entire effort of the navy upon our own coasts and inland waters,
the policy of the government reverted, irreflectively perhaps, to the
identical system of distribution in squadrons that had existed before.
The prolonged tension of mind and effort during four years of
overwrought activity was followed by a period of reaction, to which,
as far as the administration of the navy was concerned, the term
collapse would scarcely be misapplied. Of course, for a few years the
evil effects of this would not be observable in the military resources
of the government. Only the ravages of time could deprive us of the
hundreds of thousands of veterans just released from the active
practice of war; and the navy found itself in possession of a
respectable fleet, which, though somewhat over-specialized in order to
meet the peculiar conditions of the hostilities, was still fairly
modern. There was a body of officers fully competent in numbers and
ability, and comparatively young. In the first ship on board which I
made a long cruise, beginning in 1867, of ten in the ward-room, three
only, the surgeon, paymaster, and chief engineer, were over thirty;
and they barely. I myself, next to the captain, was twenty-six; and
there was not a married man among us. The seamen, though
professionally more liable to dispersion than the land forces, were
not yet scattered. Thus provided against immediate alarms, and with
the laurels of the War of Secession still fresh, the country in
military matters lay down and went to sleep, like the hare in the
fable, regardless of the incessant progress on every side, which,
indeed, was scarcely that of the tortoise. Our ships underwent no
change in character or armament.

Twenty years later, in the Pacific, I commanded one of these old
war-horses, not yet turned out to grass or slaughter, ship-rigged to
royals, and slow-steamed. One day the French admiral came on board to
return my official visit. As he left, he paused for a moment abreast
one of our big, and very old, pivot guns. "Capitaine," he said, "les
vieux canons!" Two or three days later came his chief of staff on some
errand or other. That discharged, when I was accompanying him to his
boat at the gangway, he stopped in the same spot as the admiral. His
gaze was meditative, reminiscent, perhaps even sentimental. "Où
sont les neiges d'antan?" Whatever their present merits as
fighting-machines, he saw before him an historical memento, sweeping
gently, doubtless, the chords of youthful memories. "Oui, oui!" he
said at last; "l'ancien systême. Nous l'avons eu." It was a summary of
American naval policy during the twenty years following 1865; we
"hail" things which other nations "had had," until Secretary Chandler
started the movement of renovation by the first of all necessary
steps, the official exposure of the sham to which we had allowed
ourselves to be committed. There is an expression, "quaker guns,"
applied to blackened cylinders of wood, intended to simulate cannon,
and mounted upon ramparts or a ship's broadside to impose upon an
enemy as to the force before him. We made four such for the
_Macedonian_, to deceive any merchant-men we spoke as to our battery,
in case she should report us to an _Alabama_; and, being carried near
the bows, much trouble they gave us, being usually knocked overboard
when we tacked ship, or set a lower studding-sail. Well, by 1885 the
United States had a "quaker" navy; the result being that, not the
enemy, but our own people were deceived. Like poor Steece's passengers
on board the _Ariel_, we were blissfully sheltering behind pine
boards.

In 1867, however, these old ships and ancient systems were but just
passing their meridian, and for a brief time might continue to live on
their reputation. They were beautiful vessels in outline, and repaid
in appearance all the care which the seamen naturally lavishes on his
home. One could well feel proud of them; the more so that they had
close behind them a good fighting record. It was to one such, the
_Iroquois_, which had followed Farragut from New Orleans to Vicksburg,
that I reported on the second day of that then new year. She was
destined to China and Japan, the dream of years to me; but, better
still, there was chalked out for her an extensive trip, "from Dan to
Beersheba," as a British officer enviously commented in my hearing. We
were to go by the West Indies to Rio de Janeiro, thence by the Cape of
Good Hope to Madagascar, to Aden at the mouth of the Red Sea, to
Muscat at the entrance of the Persian Gulf, and so by India and Siam
to our first port in Chinese waters, Hong Kong. The time, too, was
apposite, for Japan had not yet entered upon the path of modernization
which she has since pursued with such revolutionary progress. Some
eight or ten years ago there lunched with me a young Japanese naval
officer, who I understand has occupied a position of distinguished
responsibility during the recent war with Russia. I chanced to ask him
if he had ever seen a two-sworded man. He replied, Never. He belonged
to the samurai class, who once wore them; but in actual life they have
disappeared. When the _Iroquois_ reached Japan, and throughout her
stay, two-sworded men were as thick almost as blackberries. To
European prepossessions it was illuminating to see half a dozen riding
down a street, hatless, crown of the head shaved, with a short pigtail
at the back tied tight near the skull and then brought stiffly forward
close to the scalp; their figures gowned, the handles of the two
swords projecting closely together from the left side of their
garments, and the feet resting in stirrups of slipper form, which my
memory says were of straw-work; but of that I am less sure. This
equipment was completed by a painted fan stuck in the belt, and at
times an opened paper umbrella. I have been passenger in the same boat
with some of these warriors, accoutred as above, and using their fans
as required, while engaged in animated conversation with the courtesy
and smiling affability characteristic of all classes in Japan. Such,
in outward seeming, then was the as yet raw material, out of which
have been evolved the heroic soldiery who have recently astonished the
world by the practical development they have given to modern military
ideas; then as unlike the troops which now are, except in courage, as
the ancient Japanese war-junk is to the present battle-ship. I was in
Japan at the arrival of their first iron-clad, purchased in the United
States, and doubtless long since consigned to the scrap-heap; but of
her hereafter.

A glance over the list of vessels in the _Navy Register_ of 1907 shows
me that the once abundant Indian names have disappeared, except where
associated with some State or city; or, worse, have been degraded to
tugboats, a treatment which the Indian, with all his faults, scarcely
deserves. They no longer connote ships of war. _Iroquois_, _Seminole_,
_Mohican_, _Wyoming_, _Oneida_, _Pawnee_, and some dozens more, are
gone with the ships, and like the tribes, which bore them. Yet what
more appropriate to a vessel meant for a scout than the tribal epithet
of a North American Indian! _Dacotah_, alone survives; while for it
the march of progress in spelling has changed the _c_ to _k_, and
phonetically dropped the silent, and therefore supposedly useless,
_h_. As if silence had no merits! is the interjection, _ah_,
henceforth to be spelled _a_? Since they with their names have passed
into the world of ghosts--can there be for them a sea in the happy
hunting-grounds?--it may be historically expedient to tell what manner
of craft they were. If only some contemporary had done the same by the
trireme, what time and disputation might have been saved!

The _Iroquois_ and her sisters, built in the fifties, were vessels of
the kind to which I have applied the term corvette, then very common
in all navies; cruisers only; scouts, or commerce-destroyers. Not of
the line of battle, although good fighting-ships. Ours were of a
thousand tons, as size was then stated, or about seven hundred tons
"displacement," as the more modern expression runs; displacement being
the weight of the water displaced by the hull which rests in and upon
it. Thus measured, they were from one-third to one-fourth the
dimensions of the vessels called third-class cruisers, which now
correspond to them; but their serviceableness in their time was
sufficiently attested by the Confederate _Alabama_, substantially of
this general type, as was her conqueror, the _Kearsarge_. For external
appearance, they were something over two hundred feet long, with from
one-fifth to one-sixth that width, and sat low in the water. Low and
long are nautical features, suggestive of grace and speed, which have
always obtained recognition for beauty; and the rail of these vessels
ran unbroken, but with a fine sweep, from bow to stern. Along the
water-line, and extending a few inches above it, shone the burnished
copper, nearly parallel to the rail, between which and it glistened
the saucy black hull.

Steam had not yet succeeded in asserting its undivided sway; but the
_Iroquois_ and her mates marked a stage in the progress, for they
carried sails really as auxiliary, and were intended primarily to be
fast steamers, as speed was reckoned in their time. The larger
vessels of the service were acceptedly slow under steam. They had it
chiefly to fight with, and to help them across the places where wind
failed or weakened. These corvettes carried sails with a view to
saving coal, by utilizing the well-defined wind zones of the ocean
when fair for their course. Though the practical result for both was
much the same, the underlying idea was different. In the one, sail
held the first place; in the other, steam; and it is the idea which
really denotes and maintains intellectual movement and material
progress. This was represented accordingly in the rig adopted. Like a
ship, they had three masts, yes; but only the two forward were
square-rigged, and on each of them but three sails. The lofty royals
were discarded. The general result was to emphasize the design of
speed under steam, and the use of sails with a fresh, fair wind only;
a distinct, if partial, abandonment of the "auxiliary" steam reliance
which so far had governed naval development. It may be added that the
shorter and lighter masts, by a common optical effect, increased the
impression of the vessel's length and swiftness, as was the case with
the old-time sailing-frigate when her lofty topgallant-masts were down
on deck.

Under sail alone the _Iroquois_ could never accomplish anything,
except with a fair wind. We played with her at times, on the wind and
tacking, but she simply slid off to leeward--never fetched near where
she looked. Consonant with the expedient of using sails where the wind
served, the screw could be disconnected from its shaft and hoisted;
held in position, clear of the water, by iron pawls. In this way the
hinderance of its submerged drag upon the speed of the ship was
obviated. We did this on occasions, when we could reckon on a long
period of favorable breezes; but it was a troublesome and somewhat
anxious operation. The chance of a slip was not great, but the
possibility was unpleasant to contemplate. When I add that for
armament we carried one 100-pounder rifled gun on a pivot, and four
9-inch smooth-bore shell guns--these being the naval piece which for
the most part fought the War of Secession, then just closed--I shall
have given the principal distinguishing features of a class of vessel
which did good service in its day, and is now a much of the past as is
the Spanish Armada. Yet it is only forty years since.

After being frozen up and snowed under, during a very bitter and
boisterous January, we at last got to sea, and soon ran into warmer
weather. Our first stop was at the French West India island
Guadeloupe, and there I had set for me amusingly that key-note of
travelling experience which most have encountered. I was dining at a
café, and after dinner got into conversation with an officer of the
garrison. I asked him some question about the wet weather then
reigning. "C'est exceptionnel," he replied; and exceptional we found
it "from Dan to Beersheba." At our next port, Ciará, there was drought
when every resident said it should have rained constantly--a variation
a stranger could endure; while at Rio it was otherwise peculiar--"the
warmest April in years." The currents all ran contrary to the books,
and the winds which should have been north hung obstinately at south.
Whether for natural productions, or weather, or society, we were
commonly three months too late or two months too soon; or, as one of
"ours" put it, we should have come in the other monsoon. Nevertheless,
it was impossible for youth and high spirits to follow our schedule
and not find it spiced to the full with the enjoyment of novelty; if
not in season, at least well seasoned.

However, every one travels nowadays, and it is time worse than wasted
to retell what many have seen. But do many of our people yet visit our
intended second port, that most beautiful bay of Rio de Janeiro? I
fancy not. It is far out of the ordinary line, and the business
immigration to South America is much more from Europe than from our
own continent; but, having since visited many harbors, in many lands,
I incline to agree with my old captain of the _Congress_, there is
none that equals Rio, viewed from the anchorage. Like Japan, I was
happy enough to see Rio before it had been much improved, while the
sequestered, primitive, tropical aspect still clung to it. I suppose
the red-tiled roofs still rise as before from among the abundant
foliage and the orange-trees, in the suburb of Bota Fogo; that the
same deliciously suggestive smell of the sugar and rum hogsheads hangs
about the streets; that the long, narrow Rua do Ouvidor is still
brilliant with its multicolored feather flowers; and that at night the
innumerable lights dazzle irregularly upward, like the fireflies which
also there abound, over the hill-sides and promontories that so
charmingly break the shore line. But already in 1867 the strides since
1860 were strikingly visible. In the earlier year I used frequently to
visit a friend living at Nichtherohy, on the opposite shore of the
bay. The ferriage then was by trig, long, sharp-bowed, black paddle
steamers, with raking funnels. They were tremendously fussy,
important, puffing little chaps, with that consequential air which so
frequently accompanies moderate performance. The making a landing was
a complicated and tedious job, characterized by the same amount of
needless action and of shortcoming in accomplishment. We would back
and stop about twenty feet away from the end of a long, projecting
pier. Then ropes would be got ashore from each extremity of the
vessel; which done, she would back again, and the bow line would be
shortened in. Then she would go ahead, and the like would be done by
the stern line. This would fetch her, say, ten feet away, when the
same processes must be repeated. I never timed, for why should one be
in a hurry in the tropics, where no one else is? but it seemed to me
that sometimes ten minutes were thus consumed. In 1867 these had
disappeared, and had been replaced by Yankee double-ended boats, which
ran into slips such as we have. Much more expeditious and sensible,
but familiar and ugly to a degree, and not in the least entertaining;
nor, I may add, congruous. They put you at once on the same absurd
"jump" that we North Americans practise; whereas in the others we
placidly puffed our cigars in an atmosphere of serenity. Time and tide
may be so ridiculous as not to wait; we knew that waiting was
enjoyment. The boat had time to burn, and so had we. At the later
date, street-cars also had been introduced, and we were told were
doing much to democratize the people. The man whose ability to pay for
a cab had once severed him from the herd now went along with it, and
saved his coppers. The black coats and tall black silk hats, with
white trousers and waistcoats, which always struck me as such an odd
blend, were still in evidence.

The _Iroquois_ did not succeed in making Rio without a stop. The
northeast trades hung well to the eastward after we left Guadeloupe,
and blew hard with a big sea; for it was the northern winter. Running
across them, as we were, the ship was held close to the wind under
fore and aft canvas. For a small vessel nothing is more uncomfortable.
Rolling and butting at waves which struck the bow at an angle of
forty-five degrees made walking, not impossible, indeed, to practised
sea legs, but still a constant succession of gymnastic balancings that
took from it all pleasure. For exercise it was not needed. You had but
to sit at your desk and write, with one leg stretched out to keep your
position. The varied movements of the muscles of that leg, together
with those of the rest of the body, in the continued effort "to
correct the horizontal deviation," as Boatswain Chucks phrased it,
sent you to bed wearily conscious that you had had constitutional
enough. The large consumption of coal in proportion to the ground
covered made a renewal necessary, and we went into Ciará, an open
roadstead sheltered only by submerged coral reefs, on the northeast
coast of Brazil. Here the incessant long trade swell sets in upon a
beach only partly protected; and boating is chiefly by catamarans, or
_jangadas_, as the Portuguese word is,--three or four long trunks of
trees, joined together side by side, without keel, but with mast.
These are often to be seen far outside, and ride safely over the heavy
breakers.

From Rio to Capetown, being in the month of May, corresponding to our
northern November, we had a South Atlantic passage which in
boisterousness might hold its own with that between the United States
and Europe, now familiar to so many. When clear of the tropics, one
strikes in both hemispheres the westerly gales which are, so to say,
the counter-currents of the atmosphere responding to the trade-winds
of the equatorial belt--almost as prevalent in direction, though much
more variable in force. The early Spanish navigators characterized
them as "vientos bravos," an epithet too literally and flatteringly
rendered into English by our seamen as "the brave west winds;" the
Spanish "bravo" meaning rude. For a vessel using sail, however,
"brave" may pass; for, if they hustled her somewhat unceremoniously,
they at least did speed her on her way. On two successive Thursdays
their prevalence was interrupted by a tempest, which in each case
surpassed for suddenness, violence, and shortness anything that I
remember; for I have never met a tropical hurricane, nor the full
power of a China typhoon. On the first occasion the sun came up yellow
and wet, with a sulky expression like that of a child bathed against
its will; but, as the wind was moderate, sail was made soon after
daylight. Immediately it began to freshen, and so rapidly that we
could scarce get the canvas in fast enough. By ten it was blowing
furiously. To be heard by a person standing at your elbow, you had to
shout at the top of your voice. The wind shifted rapidly, a cyclone in
miniature as to dimensions, though not as to strength; but the
_Iroquois_ had been hove-to on the right tack according to the law of
storms. That is, the wind hauled aft; and as she followed, close to
it, she headed to the sea instead of falling into the trough. When
square sails are set, this gradual movement in the same direction is
still more important; for, should the wind fly suddenly ahead, the
sails may be taken aback, a very awkward situation in heavy weather.
By five o'clock this gradual shifting had passed from east, by north,
to west, where the gale died out; having lasted only about eight
hours, yet with such vehemence that it had kicked up a huge sea. By 10
P.M. the stars were shining serenely, a gentle breeze barely steadying
the ship, under increased canvas, in the huge billows which for a few
hours continued to testify that things had been nasty. A spoiled child
that has carried a point by squalling could scarcely present a more
beaming expression than did the heavens; but our wet decks and clothes
assured us that our discomfort had been real and was not yet over.

Throughout the ordeal the little _Iroquois_--for small she was by
modern standards--though at a stand-still, lay otherwise as
unconcerned as a duck in a mill-pond; her screw turning slowly, a
triangular rag of storm-sail showing to steady her, rolling deeply but
easily, and bowing the waves with gentle movement up or down, an
occasional tremor alone betraying the shock when an unusually heavy
comber hit her in the eyes. Then one saw admiringly that the simile
"like a sea-fowl" was no metaphor, but exact. None were better
qualified to pronounce than we, for the South Atlantic abounds in
aquatic birds. We were followed continuously by clouds of them, low
flying, skirting the water, of varied yet sober plumage. The names of
these I cannot pretend to give, except the monarch of them all, in
size and majesty of flight, the albatross, of unsullied white, as its
name implies--the king of the southern ocean. Several of these
enormous but graceful creatures were ever sweeping about us in almost
endless flight, hardly moving their wings, but inclining them
wide-spread, now this way, now that, like the sails of a windmill, to
catch the breeze, almost never condescending to the struggle of a
stroke. By this alone they kept up with us, running eight or nine
knots. As a quiet demonstration of reserve power it was most
impressive; while the watching of the intricate manoeuvres of these
and their humbler companions afforded a sort of circus show, a relief
always at hand to the monotony of the voyage.

As this has remained my only crossing of the South Atlantic, my
experience cannot claim to be wide; but, as far as it goes, these
animating accompaniments of a voyage under sail are there far more
abundant and varied than in the northern ocean. How far the steamer in
southern latitudes may still share this privilege, I do not know; but
certainly I now rarely see the petrel, unfairly called stormy, numbers
of which hung ever near in the wake of a sailing-ship on her way to
Europe, keeping company easily with a speed of seven or eight knots,
and with spare power enough to gyrate continually in their wayward
flight. What instinct taught them that there was food there for them?
and, if my observation agree with that of others, why have they
disappeared from steamers? Is it the greater pace that wearies, or the
commotion of the screw that daunts them?

Our second Thursday gale, May 16th, exceeded the first in fury and
duration. Beginning at daybreak, it lasted till after sundown, twelve
hours in all; and during it the _Iroquois_ took on board the only
solid sea that crossed her rail during my more than two years' service
in her. We sprung also our main mast-head, which made us feel
flatteringly like the ancient mariners, who, as we had read, were
always "springing" (breaking) some spar or other. Ancient mariners and
albatrosses are naturally mutually suggestive. Except for the greater
violence, the conditions were much the same as a week before; with the
exception, however, that the sun shone brightly most of the time from
a cloudless sky, between which and us there interposed a milky haze,
the vapor of the spoon-drift. During the height of the storm the
pressure of the wind in great degree kept down the sea, which did not
rise threateningly till towards the end. For the rest, our voyage of
thirty-three hundred miles, while it afforded us many samples of
weather, presented as a chief characteristic perpetual westerly gales,
with gloomy skies and long, high following swell. Although the wind
was such that close to it we should have been reduced to storm-sails,
the _Iroquois_ scudded easily before it, carrying considerable canvas.
"Before it" must not be understood to mean ahead of the waves. These,
as they raced along continually, swept by the ship, which usually
lifted cleverly abaft as they came up; though at rare intervals a tiny
bit of a crest would creep along over the poop and fall on the
quarter-deck below--nothing to hurt. The onward movement of the
billows, missing thus the stern, culminated generally about half-way
forward, abreast the main-mast; and if the ship, in her continual
steady but easy roll, happened just then to incline to one side, she
would scoop in a few dozen buckets of water, enough to keep the decks
always sloppy, as it swashed from side to side.

From Rio to the Cape took us thirty-two days. This bears out the
remark I find in an old letter that the _Iroquois_ was very slow; but
it attests also a series of vicissitudes which have passed from my
mind, leaving predominant those only that I have noted. Among other
experiences, practically all our mess crockery was smashed; the
continual rolling seemed to make the servants wilfully reckless. Also,
having an inefficient caterer, our sea stores were exhausted on the
way, with the ludicrous exception of about a peck of nutmegs. Another
singular incident remains in my memory. At dawn of the day before our
arrival, a mirage presented so exactly, and in the proper quarter, the
appearance of Table Mountain, the landmark of Cape Town, that our
captain, who had been there more than once, was sure of it. As by the
reckoning it must be still over a hundred miles distant, the
navigating officer was summoned, to his great disconcertment, to be
eye-witness of his personal error; and the chronometers fell under
unmerited suspicion. The navigator was an inveterate violinist. He had
a curious habit of undressing early, and then, having by this symbolic
act laid aside the cares of the day, as elbow space was lacking in his
own cabin, he would play in the open ward-room for an hour or more
before turning in; always standing, and attired in a white night-shirt
of flowing dimensions. He was a tall, dark, handsome man, the contrast
of his full black beard emphasizing the oddness of his costume; and so
rapt was he in his performance that remarks addressed directly to him
were unheard. I often had to remind him at ten o'clock that music must
not longer trouble the sleep of the mid-watch officers. On this
occasion, with appearances so against him, perplexed but not
convinced, after looking for a few moments he went below and sought
communion with his beloved instrument; nor did the fading of the
phantasm interrupt his fiddling. When announced, he listened absently,
and continued his aria unmoved by such trivialities. Cape Flyaway, as
counterfeits like this are called, had lasted so long and looked so
plausible that the order was given to raise steam; and when it
vanished later, after the manner of its kind, the step was not
countermanded, for the weather was calm and there were abundant
reasons in our conditions for hurrying into port.

At the season of our stay, May and June, the anchorage at Cape Town
itself, being open to the northward, is exposed to heavy gales from
that quarter, often fatal to shipping. I believe this defect has now
been remedied by a breakwater, which in 1867 either had not been begun
or was not far enough advanced to give security. Vessels therefore
commonly betook themselves to Simon's Bay, on the other side of the
Cape, where these winds blew off shore. Thither the _Iroquois_ went;
and as communication with Cape Town, some twenty miles away, was by
stage, the opportunity for ordinary visiting was indifferent. We went
up by detachments, each staying several days. The great local natural
feature of interest, Table Mountain, has since become familiar in
general outline by the illustrations of the Boer War; from which I
have inferred that similar formations are common in South Africa, just
as I remember at the head of Rio Bay, on the road to Petropolis, a
reproduction in miniature, both in form and color, of the huge
red-brown Sugar-Loaf Rock that dominates the entrance from the sea.
Seen as a novelty, Table Mountain was most impressive; but it seems to
me that Altar Mountain would more correctly convey its appearance.
With rocky sides, which rose precipitate as the Palisades of the
Hudson, the sky-line was horizontal, and straight as though drawn by a
ruler. At times a white cloud descends, covering its top and creeping
like loose drapery down the sides, resembling a table-cloth; which
name is given it. I believe that is reckoned a sign of bad weather.

I recall many things connected with our stay there, but chiefly
trivialities. Most amusing, because so embarrassing to the unprepared,
was an unlooked-for and startling attention received from the British
soldiery, whom I now met for the first time: for the war at home had
hitherto prevented the men of my date from having much foreign
cruising. I was in uniform in the streets, confining myself severely
to my own business, when I saw approaching a squad of redcoats under a
non-commissioned officer. Being used to soldiers, I was observing them
only casually, but still with the interest of novelty, when wholly
unexpectedly I heard, "Eyes right!" and the entire group, as one man,
without moving their heads, slewed their eyes quickly round and
fastened them steadily on me; the corporal also holding me with his
glittering eye, while carrying his hand to his cap. Of course, in all
salutes, from a civilian lifting his hat to a lady, to a military
passing in review, the person saluting looks at the one saluted; but
to find one's self without warning the undivided recipient of the
steady stare of some half-dozen men, transfixed by what Mr. Snodgrass
called "the mild gaze of intelligence beaming from the eyes of the
defenders of their country," was, however flattering, somewhat
disturbing to one not naturally obtrusive. With us the salute would
have been given, of course; but only by the non-commissioned officer,
touching his cap. Afterwards I was on the lookout for this, and dodged
it when I could.

Both in Rio and at the Cape the necessity for repairs occasioned
delays which militated somewhat against the full development of our
cruise. Through this, I believe, we missed a stop at Siam, which,
consequently, I have never visited; and I know that towards the end
our captain felt pressed to get along. Our next destination was
Madagascar; to reach which, under sail, it was necessary to run well
to the eastward, in a latitude farther south than that of Cape Town,
before heading north. We left somewhat too soon the westerly winds
there prevailing, and in consequence did not go to Tamatave, the
principal port, on the east side of the great island, but passed
instead through the Mozambique Channel. It was in attempting this
same passage that the British frigate _Aurora_, in which was serving
the poet Falconer, the author of "The Shipwreck," disappeared with all
on board; by what nautical fate overtaken has never been known. His
first shipwreck, which he celebrated in verse, was on the coast of
Greece, off Cape Colonna; the second in these far southern seas.

The French occupation of Madagascar postdates our visit to it. The
harbor we entered, St. Augustine's Bay, on the west side, was only
nominally under control of the native dynasty at Antananarivo, in the
centre of the island; and the local inhabitants were little, if at
all, above barbarism. Though dark in color, they had not the flat
negro features. Wandering with a companion through a jungle, having
lost our way, we came unexpectedly upon a group of brown people,
scantily dressed, the most conspicuous member of which was a woman
carrying a spear a little taller than herself, the head of which was
burnished till it shone like silver; whether a weapon, or simply a
badge of rank, I do not know. They rose to meet us in friendly enough
fashion, and had English sufficient to set us on our way. The place
was frequented by whalers, who occasionally shipped hands from among
the natives; one such came on board the _Iroquois_, and within a
limited range spoke English fluently. Our chief acquaintance was known
to us as Prince George, and I presume had some personal importance in
the neighborhood. He was of use in obtaining supplies, hanging about
the deck all day, obligingly ready at any moment to take a glass of
wine or a cigar, and seemingly even a little sulky that he was not
asked to table. The men dressed their hair in peculiar fashion,
gathered together in little globes about the size of a golf ball,
distributed somewhat symmetrically over the skull, and plastered with
a substance which looked like blue mud. As I refrained from close
inspection, I cannot pronounce certainly what it was.

From St. Augustine's Bay we went on to the Comoro Islands, between the
north end of Madagascar and the African main-land. I do not know what
was then the precise political status of this pleasant-looking group,
except that one of them had for some years been under French control.
Johanna, at which we stopped, possessed at the least a qualified
self-government. We had a good sight of its surface, approaching from
the south and skirting at moderate distance westward, to reach the
principal anchorage, Johanna Town, on the north. The island is
lofty--five thousand feet--and of volcanic origin; bearing the family
likeness which I have found in all such that I have seen. On a bright
day, which we had, they are very picturesque to look on from the sea,
with their deep gullies, ragged precipices, and varied hues;
especially striking from the effects of light and shadow produced by
the exaggerated inequalities of the ground. It is hard to say which
are the more attractive, these or the totally different low coral
islands of the tropics, with their brilliant white sand, encircled by
which, as by a setting of silver, the deep-green brush glows like an
emerald. It is hard, however, to make other than a pleasing picture
with a combination of blue water and land. Like flowers, they may be
more or less tastefully arranged, but scarcely can be less than
beautiful.

In the way of landscape effect, Johanna had a special feature of its
own. Up to a height of about fifteen hundred feet from the sea-level,
the slopes were of a tawny hue, the color of grass when burned up by
drought. Except scattered waving cocoanut palms which grew even on
these hill-sides, no green thing was apparent, save in the ravines,
where trees seemed to thrive, and so broke the monotony of tint with
streaks of sombre verdure. Farther up, the peaks were thickly covered
with a forest, which looked impenetrable. The abrupt contrast of the
yellow lower land with this cap of tanglewood, itself at times
covered, at times only dotted, with fleecy clouds, was singularly
vivid.

The inhabitants of the island were Arabs, mixed with some negro blood,
and wore the Oriental costume now so familiar to us all in this age of
illustration. The ship was besieged by them at once, and throughout
our stay, at all hours that they were permitted to come on board. They
were cleanly in person, as their religion prescribes, and applied no
offensive substance to their hair; on the contrary, some pleasant
perfume was perceptible about their clothing. The coloring generally
was dark, although some, among whom was the ruler, called the sultan,
have olive skins; but the features were clear and prominent, the
stature and form good, the bearing manly; nor did they seem other than
intelligent. The teeth, too, were fine, when not disfigured by the
chewing of the betel nut, which, when long continued, stains them a
displeasing dark red. Like all barbarians, they talked, talked,
talked, till one was nearly deafened. On one occasion, a group of them
favored us with a theological exposition, marked by somewhat
elementary conceptions. The ship was a perfect Babel at meal-times,
when the intermission of work allowed the freest visiting. Every man
who came brought at least a half-dozen fowl, with sweet potatoes,
fruit, and eggs, to match; and as, in addition to our own crew
bargaining, there were on the deck some fifty or sixty natives, all
vociferating, bartering, beseeching, or yelling to the fifty others in
canoes alongside, the tumult and noise may be conceived. The chickens,
too, both cocks and hens, present by the hundred in basket-work cages,
made no small contribution to the general uproar. Chickens, indeed,
numerous though not large, are among the chief food commodities of
that region; the usual price, as I recollect, being a dollar the
dozen. When we left Johanna, we must have had on board several hundred
as sea-stock. Not infrequently one would get out of its cage, and if
pursued would often end by flapping overboard, so by drowning
anticipating its appointed doom; but it was a pathetic sight to see
the poor creature, upborne by its feathers so long as dry, floating on
the waste of waters in the wake of the ship which seemed almost
heartlessly to forsake it.

The faith of the island being Mohammedan, we found it safe to give a
large liberty to the crew. Especially, if I rightly recall, I availed
myself of the circumstance to let go certain ne'er-do-wells whose
conduct under temptation was not to be depended on. We had the
unprecedented experience that they all came back on time and sober;
thus avouching that the precepts of the Prophet concerning rum were
obeyed in Johanna. Exemplary in this, it would be difficult to say,
otherwise, on what precise rung of the ladder stretching from
barbarism to civilization these people stood. In manner towards us
they were pleasant and smiling; not averse to the arts of diplomacy,
but perhaps a little transparent in their approaches to a desired
object. I went on shore one Friday, their Sunday, which was
inadvertent on my part, for their religious duties interfered with
customary routine; one and another excused themselves to me on the
plea that they must go to pray. I was known, however, to be in
authority on board, which produced for me some simple hospitality,
principally not very inviting lemonade--attentions that I soon found
to be not wholly disinterested. Next day one of my hosts came on board
and interviewed me with many bows. "The _Iroquois_ very fine ship,
much better than English ship. Captain English very good man; and
first lieutenant [myself] he _very good_ man;" and the complimenter
would like certain articles within the gift of the said very good man,
together with a note to bearer, permitting him to come aboard at any
time.

Being by this some weeks away from Cape Town, we sent our wash
ashore; a resort of desperation. It came back clean enough, but for
ironing--well; and as to starch, much in the predicament of Boatswain
Chuck's frilled shirts after the gale, upon which, while flying in the
breeze, he looked with a degree of professional philosophy that could
express itself only by thrashing the cooper. Crumpled would be a mild
expression for our linen. We remonstrated, but were met with a shrug
of the shoulders and a deprecatory but imperturbable smile--"Yes;
Johanna wash!" And "Johanna" we found we were expected to receive as a
sufficient explanation for any deficiencies in any line. If not
satisfactory to us, it was at least modest in them.

Grave courtesies, ceremonious in conception, if rather rudimentary in
execution, were exchanged between us and the authorities of Johanna.
Our captain returned the visit of the official in charge of the place,
and subsequently called upon the sultan, who came to the town while we
were there. I went along on the first occasion. Upon reaching the
beach we found a guard of some forty negro soldiers, whose equipment,
as to shoes, resembled that of the Barbadian company immortalized in
Peter Simple; but in this instance there was no attempt at that
decorous regard for externals which ordered those with both shoes and
stockings to fall in in the front rank, and those with neither to keep
in the rear. They were commanded by a young Arab, who seemed very
anxious to do all in style, rising on tiptoe at the several orders,
which he jerked out with vim, and to my surprise in English. When duly
pointed, we marched off to the sound of a drum, accompanied by a
peculiar monotonous wail on a kind of trumpet; the order of the
procession being, 1, music; 2, the soldiers, led by an old sergeant in
a high state of excitement and coat-collar, which held the poor
fellow's head like a vise; and, 3, our captain and his attendants. The
visit to the sultan, two days later, was marked by additional
features, indicative, I presume, of the greater dignity of the event;
the captain being now carried in a chair with a red silk umbrella over
his head.

Between three and four years before our visit, the Confederate steamer
_Alabama_ had stopped at Johanna, and, so at least our friends told
us, Semmes had promised them a Yankee whaler or two. Whether he found
the whalers or not I cannot say; but to the Johannese it was a
Barmecide feast, or like the anticipation of Sisera's ladies--"to
every man a damsel or two." To use their own quaint English, the next
thing they heard of the _Alabama_, "he go down."

We left Johanna with the southwest monsoon, which in the Indian Ocean
and China Sea blows from June to September with the regularity of the
trade-winds of the Atlantic, both in direction and force. There the
favorable resemblance ends; for, in the region through which we were
passing, this monsoon is overcast, usually gloomy, and excessively
damp. The northeast monsoon, which prevails during the winter months,
is clear and dry. The consequent struggle with shoe-leather, and the
deterioration of the same, is disheartening. But, though surcharged
with moisture, rain does not fall to any great extent in the open sea,
nor until the atmospheric current impinges on land, when it seems to
be squeezed, like a sponge by the hand, with resultant precipitation.
Our conditions were therefore pleasant enough. Being under sail only,
the wind went faster than we, giving a cooling breeze as it passed
over; and it was as steady and moderate as it was fair for our next
destination, Aden, to reach which we were now pointing for Cape
Guardafui. The _Iroquois_ ran along steadily northward, six to eight
knots, followed by a big sea, but so regular that she rolled only with
a slow, steady swing, not disagreeable. The veiled sun showed
sufficiently for sights, without burning heat, and by the same token
we passed that luminary on our course; that is, he was north of us
while at Johanna, and one day on this run we got north of him. This
must have been after we had crossed the equator; for, being August,
the sun was still north of the "Line."

This reminds me that, the day we thus passed the sun, our navigator,
usually very exact, applied his declination wrong at noon, which gave
us a wrong latitude. For a few minutes the discrepancy between the
observation and the log caused a shaking of heads; the log doubtless
fell under an unmerited suspicion, or else we had encountered a
current not hitherto noted in the books, the usual solvent in such
perplexities. I may explain for the unlearned in navigation that
declination of a heavenly body corresponds in the celestial sphere to
the latitude of an object on the terrestrial. The sun, being a
leisurely celestial globe-trotter, continually varies his
latitude--declination--within a zone bounded by the two tropics; and
the rule runs that when his declination is of the same name (north or
south) as his direction from the ship at noon, the declination is
added or subtracted, I now forget which, in the computation that
ascertains the vessel's precise position. This has to be remembered
when he is passed overhead, in the zenith; for then the bearing
changes, while his declination remains of the same name. If the
resulting error is large, of course the mistake is detected
immediately; a slight difference might pass unnoted with dangerous
consequences.

At Johanna, or possibly at St. Augustine's, some of our officers and
men, moved by that queer propensity of mankind to acquire strange
objects, however useless, had bought animals of the kind called
mongoos. There were perhaps a half-dozen of these in all. The result
was that most of them, one way or another, escaped and took refuge
aloft in the rigging, where it was as hopeless to attempt recapture
as for a man to pursue a gray squirrel in a tree. The poor beggars had
achieved their liberty, however, without the proverbial crust of bread
or cup of water; and in consequence, after fasting all day, gave
themselves to predatory nocturnal forays, which were rather startling
when unexpectedly aroused by them from sleep. The ward-room pantry was
near my berth, and I remember being awaked by a great commotion and
scuffling, as one or more utensils were upset and knocked about in the
unhappy beast's attempt to get at water kept there in a little cask.
No reconcilement between them and man was effected, and one by one
they dropped overboard, the victims of accident or suicide, noted or
unnoted, to their deliverance and our relief. While they lasted it was
pathetic to watch their furtive movements and unrelaxed vigilance,
jealously guarding the freedom which was held under such hopeless
surroundings and must cost them so dear at last.

When the ship had rounded Cape Guardafui and fairly entered the Strait
of Bab-el-Mandeb, the alteration of weather conditions was immediate
and startling. The heat became all at once intense and dry. From the
latter circumstance the relief was great. I remember that many years
afterwards, having spent a month or more determining a site for a
navy-yard in Puget Sound, where the temperature is delightful but the
atmosphere saturated, I experienced a similar sense of bodily comfort,
when we reached Arizona, returning by the Southern Pacific Railroad.
One morning I got up from the sleeper and walked out into the rare,
crisp air of a way station, delighted to find myself literally as dry
as a bone, and a very old bone, too; tertiary period, let us say. The
sudden change in the strait proved fatal to one of our officers. He
had been ailing for a few days, but on the night after we doubled the
cape woke up from a calm sleep in wild delirium, and in a brief period
died from the bursting of an aneurism; an effect which the surgeon
attributed to the abrupt increase of heat. I may add that, though dry,
the air was felt by us to be debilitating. During the ten days passed
in the gulf, young as I then was, I was indisposed to any unusual
bodily or mental effort. What breeze reached us, coming over desert
from every direction, was like the blast of a furnace, although the
height of the thermometer was not excessive.

It was scarcely fair to Aden to visit it in midsummer, but our voyage
had not been timed with reference to seasons or our comfort. I shall
not weary a reader with any attempt at description of the treeless
surroundings and barren lava crags that constitute the scenery; which,
moreover, many may have seen for themselves. What chiefly interested
me were the Jews and the camels. Like Gibraltar, and in less measure
Key West, Aden is a place where meet many and divers peoples from
Asia, from Africa, and from Europe. Furthermore, it has had a long and
checkered history; and this, at an important centre on a commercial
route, tends to the gathering of incongruous elements. English, Arabs,
Parsees from India, Somâlese from Africa,--across the gulf,--sepoy
soldiers, and Jews, all were to be met; and in varieties of costume
for which we had not been prepared by our narrow experience of
Oriental dress in Johanna. The Jews most attracted my attention--an
attraction of repulsion to the type there exhibited, though I am
without anti-Semitic feeling. That Jesus Christ was a Jew covers His
race for me. These were reported to have enjoyed in earlier times a
period of much prosperity, which had been destroyed in one of the
dramatic political reverses frequent in Eastern annals. Since then
they had remained a degraded and abject class. Certainly, they were
externally a very peculiar and unprepossessing people. The physiognomy
commonly associated with the name Jew was very evident, though the
cast of feature had been brutalized by ages of oppression and
servility. A singular distinctive mark was the wearing on both sides
of the forehead long curls falling to the shoulders. Cringing and
subservient in manner, and as traders, there was yet apparent behind
the Uriah Heap exterior a fierce cruelty of expression which would
make a mob hideous, if once let loose. A mob, indeed, is ever
terrible; but these men reconstituted for me, with added vividness,
the scene and the cry of "Crucify Him!"

Although I was new to the East, camels in their uncouth form and
shambling gait had been made familiar by menageries; but in Aden I
first saw them in the circumstances which give the sense of
appropriateness necessary to the completeness of an impression, and,
indeed, to its enjoyment. Environment is assuredly more essential to
appreciation than is commonly recognized. Does beer taste as good in
America as in England? I think not, unless perhaps in Newport, Rhode
Island. Climatic, doubtless. I have been told by Englishmen that the
very best pineapples to be had are raised in England under glass. Very
good; but where is your tropical heat to supply the appreciative
palate? I remember, in a railway train in Guatemala, some women came
along with pineapples. I gave five cents, expecting one fruit; she,
unwilling to make change, forced upon me three. Small, yes; pygmies
doubtless to the hot-house aristocrats; but at a dinner-table with
artificial heat could one possibly want them as much, or enjoy them as
keenly, as under the burning southern sun, eaten like an apple, the
juice streaming to the ground? A camel sauntering down Broadway would
be odd only; a camel in an Eastern street has the additional setting
needed to fix him accurately in your gallery of mental pictures;
though, for the matter of that, I suppose a desert would be a still
more fitting surrounding. Aden has no natural water supply for daily
use; one of the sights are the great tanks for storing it, constructed
by some bygone dynasty. When we were there the place relied for
emergencies upon the more modern expedient of condensers, but for
ordinary consumption was mainly dependent upon that brought in skins
from the adjacent country on the backs of camels, which returned
charged with merchandise. I watched one of these ships of the desert
being laden for the homeward voyage. He was on his knees, placidly
chewing the cud of his last meal, but with a watchful eye behind him
upon his master's movements. Eternal vigilance the price of liberty,
or at least the safeguard against oppression, was clearly his
conviction; nor did he believe in that outworn proverb not to yell
before you are hurt. As each additional package, small or big, was
laid on the accumulating burden, he stretched out his long neck,
craned it round to the rear, opening his mouth as though to bite, to
which he seemed full fain, at the same time emitting a succession of
cries more wrathful even than dolorous, though this also they were.
But the wail of the sufferer went unheeded, and deservedly; for when
the load was complete to the last pound he rose, obedient to signal,
and stepped off quietly, evidently at ease. He had had his grumble,
and was satisfied.

An impression which accumulates upon the attentive traveller following
the main roads of maritime commerce is the continual outcropping of
the British soldier. It is not that there is so much of him, but that
he is so manywhere. In our single voyage, at places so apart as Cape
Town, Aden, Bombay, Singapore, Hong Kong. Although not on our route,
nevertheless linked to the four last named by the great ocean highway
between East and West, consecutive even in those distant days before
the Suez Canal, he was already in force in Gibraltar and Malta; since
which he is to be found in Cypress also and in Egypt. He is no chance
phenomenon, but an obvious effect of a noteworthy cause; an incident
of current history, the exponent, unconsciously to himself, of many
great events. In our country we have wisely learned to scrutinize with
distrust arguments for manifest destiny; but it is, nevertheless, well
to note and ponder a manifest present, which speaks to a manifest
past.

From Aden the _Iroquois_ ran along the southern coast of Arabia to
Muscat, within the entrance of the Persian Gulf. Here, after leaving
the open sea, we met a recurrence of the heat, and, in general
features, of the scenery we had left at Aden; the whole confirming the
association of the name Arabia with scorching and desert. The Cove of
Muscat, though a mere indentation of the shore-line, furnishes an
excellent harbor, being sheltered by a rocky island which constitutes
a natural breakwater. There is considerable trade, and the position is
naturally strong for defence, with encircling cliffs upon which forts
have been built; but from our experience, told below, it is probable
that their readiness did not correspond to their formidable aspect.
From the anchorage of the _Iroquois_ the town was hardly to be
descried, the gray color of the stone used in construction blending
with the background of the mountains, from which probably it had been
quarried; but nearer it is imposing in appearance, there being several
minarets, and some massive buildings, among which the ruins of a
Portuguese cathedral bear their mute testimony to a transitory era in
the long history of the East. During our stay there was some
disturbance in the place. Our information was that the reigning
sovereign had killed his father two years before; and that in
consequence, either through revenge or jealousy, his father's brother
kept him constantly stirred up by invasion, or threats of invasion,
from the inner country. Such an alarm postponed for the moment a
ceremonious visit which our captain was to pay, but it took place next
day. As it called for full uniform, I begged off. Those who went
returned with unfavorable reports, both of the town and of the
sultan.

A rather funny incident here attended our exchange of civilities. In
ports where there is cause to think that the expenditure of powder may
be inconvenient to your hosts, or that for any reason they may not
return a salute, it is customary first to inquire whether the usual
national honors "to the flag" will be acceptable and duly answered,
gun for gun. In Aden, being British, of course no questions were
asked; but in Muscat I presume they were, for failure to give full
measure creates a diplomatic incident and correspondence. At all
events, we saluted--twenty-one guns; to which the castle replied. When
the tale was but half complete there came from one of its cannon a
huge puff of smoke, but no accompanying report. "Shall I count that?"
shouted the quartermaster, whose special duty was to keep tally that
we got our full pound of flesh. A general laugh followed; the
impression had resembled that produced by an impassioned orator, the
waving of whose arms you see, without hearing the words which give
point to his gesticulations, and the quartermaster's query drove home
the absurdity. It was solemnly decided, however, that that should be
reckoned a gun. The intention was good, if result was imperfect. We
had been done out of our noise, but we had had our smoke; and, in
these days of smokeless powder, it is hopeful to record an instance of
noiseless.

In those few indolent days which we drowsed away in the heat of
Muscat, one thing I noticed was the vivid green of the water,
especially in patches near the shore, and in the crevices of the rocky
basin. I wonder did Moore have a hint of this, or draw upon his
imagination? Certainly it was there--a green more brilliant than any I
have ever seen elsewhere, and of different shade.

    "No pearl ever lay under Oman's green water,
       More pure in its shell than thy spirit in thee."

After the comparatively sequestered series of St. Augustine's Bay, the
Comoros, Aden, and Muscat, our next port, Bombay, seemed like
returning to city hubbub and accustomed ways. True, Indian life was
strange to most of our officers, if not to all; but there was about
Bombay that which made you feel you had got back into the world,
albeit in many particulars as different from that you had hitherto
known as Rip Van Winkle found after his long slumber. Then, a decade
only after the great mutiny, travel to India for travel's sake was
much more rare than now. The railway system, that great promoter of
journeyings, was not complete. Two years later, when returning from
China, I found opportunity to go overland from Calcutta to Bombay; but
in the interior had to make a long stage by carriage between
Jubbulpore and Nagpore. Since that time many have visited and many
have written. I shall therefore spare myself and my possible readers
the poor portrayal of that which has been already and better
described. Johnson's advice to Boswell, "Tell what you have observed
yourself," I take to mean something different from those externals the
sight of which is common to all; unless, as in the Corsica of Boswell,
few go to see them. What you see is that which you personally have the
faculty of perceiving; depends upon you as much as upon the object
itself. It may not be worth reporting, but it is all you have. I do
not think I remember of Bombay anything thus peculiarly my own. I do
recall the big snakes we saw lying apparently asleep on the sea, fifty
or sixty miles from land. Perhaps readers who have not visited the
East may not know that such modified sea-serpents are to be seen
there, as is a smaller variety in the Strait of Malacca.

From Bombay we made a long leg to Singapore. We had sailed in early
February; it was now late September, and our captain, as I have said
before, began to feel anxious to reach the station. Owing to this
haste, we omitted Ceylon and Calcutta, which did not correspond to
the expectation or the wishes of the admiral; and we missed--as I
think--orders sent us to take in Siam before coming to Hong Kong. It
is very doubtful whether, had we received them, we should have seen
more of interest than awaited us shortly after our arrival in Japan.
At all events, as in duty bound, I shall imitate my captain, and skip
rapidly over this intervening period. There is in it nothing that
would justify my formed intention not to enlarge upon that which
others have seen and told.

We made the run to Singapore at the change of the monsoon, towards the
end of September; and at that time a quiet passage is likely, unless
you are so unlucky as to encounter one of the cyclones which
frequently attend the break-up of the season at this transition
period. There is a tendency nowadays to discredit the equinox as a
storm-breeder. As regards the particular day, doubtless recognition of
a general fact may have lapsed into superstition as to a date; but in
considering the phenomena of the monsoons, the great fixed currents of
air blowing alternately to or from the heated or cooled continent of
Asia, it seems only reasonable, when the two are striving for
predominance, to expect the uncertain and at times terrific weather
which as a matter of experience does occur about the period of the
autumnal equinox in the India and China seas. But after we had made
our southing from Bombay our course lay nearly due east, with a fresh,
fair, west wind, within five degrees of the equator, a zone wherein
cyclonic disturbance seldom intrudes. One of the complaints made by
residents against the climate of Singapore, so pleasant to a stranger,
is the wearisome monotony. Close to the equator, it has too much
sameness of characteristic; _toujours perdrix_. Winter doubtless adds
to our appreciation of summer. For all that, I personally am ready to
dispense with snow.

From Singapore, another commercial centre with variety of inhabitants,
we carried the same smooth water up to Manila, where we stopped a few
days for coal. This was the first of two visits paid while on the
station to this port, which not our wildest imagination expected ever
to see under our flag. Long as American eyes had been fixed upon Cuba,
in the old days of negro slavery, it had occurred to none, I fancy, to
connect possession of that island with these distant Spanish
dependencies. Here our quiet environment was lost. The northeast
monsoon had set in in full force when we started for Hong Kong, and
the run across was made under steam and fore-and-aft canvas, which we
were able to carry close on the wind; a wet passage, throwing a good
deal of water about, but with a brilliant sky and delightful
temperature. It would be hard to exaggerate the beauty of the weather
which this wind brings. In the northern American states we have
autumnal spells like it; but along the Chinese coast it continues in
uninterrupted succession of magnificent days, with hardly a break for
three or four months; an invigorating breeze always blowing, the
thermometer ranging between 50° and 60°, a cloudless sky, the air
perfectly dry, so that furniture and wood fittings shrink, and crack
audibly. As rain does not fall during this favored season, the dust
becomes objectionable; but that drawback does not extend to shipboard.
The man must be unreasonable who doubts life being worth living during
the northeast monsoon. Hong Kong is just within the tropics, and
experiences probably the coolest weather of any tropical port. Key
West, in the same latitude, is well enough in a Gulf of Mexico
norther; that is, if you too are well. The last time I ever saw
General Winfield Scott, once our national military hero, was there,
during a norther. I had called, and found him in misery; his gigantic
frame swathed in heavy clothing, his face pallid with cold. He
explained that he liked always to be in a gentle perspiration, and
had come to Key West in search of such conditions. These the place
usually affords, but the houses are not built to shut out the chill
Which accompanies a hard norther. The general was then eighty, and
died within the year.



X

CHINA AND JAPAN

1867-1869


The _Iroquois_ had been as nearly as possible nine months on her way
from New York to Hong Kong. A ship of the same class, the _Wachusett_,
which left the station as we reached it, had taken a year, following
much the same route. Her first lieutenant, who during the recent
Spanish War became familiarly known to the public as Jack Philip, told
me that she was within easy distance of Hong Kong the day before the
anniversary of leaving home. Her captain refused to get up steam; for,
he urged, it would be such an interesting coincidence to arrive on the
very date, month and day, that she sailed the year before. I fear that
man would have had no scruple about contriving an opportunity.

As the anchor dropped, several Chinese boats clustered alongside,
eager to obtain their share of the ship's custom. It is the habit in
ships of war to allow one or more boatmen of a port the privilege of
bringing off certain articles for private purchase; such as the
various specialties of the place, and food not embraced in the ship's
ration. From the number of consumers on board a vessel, even of
moderate size, this business is profitable to the small traders who
ply it, and who from time immemorial have been known as bumboatmen. A
good name for fair dealing, and for never smuggling intoxicants, is
invaluable to them; and when thus satisfactory they are passed on from
ship to ship, through long years, by letters of recommendation from
first lieutenants. Their dealings are chiefly with the crew, the
officers' messes being provided by their stewards, who market on
shore; but at times officers, too, will in this way buy something
momentarily desired. I remember an amusing experience of a messmate of
mine, who, being discontented with the regular breakfast set before
him, got some eggs from the bumboat. Already on a growl, he was
emphatic in directing that these should be cooked very soft, and great
was his wrath when they came back hard as stones. Upon investigation
it proved that they were already hard-boiled when bought. The cable
was not yet secured when these applicants crowded to the gangway,
brandishing their certificates, and seeking each to be first on deck.
The captain, who had not left the bridge, leaned over the rail,
watching the excited and shouting crowd scrambling one over another,
and clambering from boat to boat, which were bobbing and chafing up
and down, rubbing sides, and spattering the water that was squeezed
and squirted between them. The scene was familiar to him, for he was
an old China cruiser, only renewing his acquaintance. At length,
turning to me, he commented, "There you have the regular China smell;
you will find it wherever you go." And I did; but how describe it--and
why should I?

At this time the Japanese had conceded two more treaty ports, in the
Inland Sea--Osaka and Kobé; and as the formal opening was fixed for
the beginning of the new year--1868--most of the squadron had already
gone north. We therefore found in Hong Kong only a single vessel, the
_Monocacy_, an iron double-ender; a class which had its beginning in
the then recent War of Secession, and disappeared with it. Some six
weeks before she had passed through a furious typhoon, running into
the centre of it; or, more accurately, I fancy, having the centre pass
over her. Perhaps it may not be a matter of knowledge to all readers
that for these hurricanes, as for many other heavy gales, the term
cyclone is exact; that the wind does actually blow round a circle, but
one of so great circumference that at each several point it seems to
follow a straight line. Vessels on opposite sides of the circle thus
have the wind from opposite directions. In the centre there is usually
a calm space, of diameter proportioned to that of the general
disturbance. As the whole storm body has an onward movement, this
centre, calm or gusty as to wind, but confused and tumultuous as to
wave, progresses with it; and a vessel which is so unhappy as to be
overtaken finds herself, after a period of helpless tossing by
conflicting seas, again subjected to the full fury of the wind, but
from the quarter opposite to that which has already tried her.
Although at our arrival the _Monocacy_ had been fully repaired, and
was about to follow the other vessels, her officers naturally were
still full of an adventure so exceptional to personal experience. She
owed her safety mainly to the strength and rigidity of her iron hull.
A wooden vessel of like construction would probably have gone to
pieces; for the wooden double-enders had been run up in a hurry for a
war emergency, and were often weak. As the capable commander of one of
them said to me, they were "stuck together with spit." Battened down
close, with the seas coming in deluges over both bows and both
quarters at the same time, the _Monocacy_ went through it like a
tight-corked bottle, and came out, not all right, to be sure, but very
much alive; so much so, indeed, that she was carried on the Navy
Register for thirty years more. She never returned home, however, but
remained on the China station, for which she was best suited by her
particular qualities.

By the time the _Iroquois_, in turn, was ready to leave Hong
Kong--November 26th--the northeast monsoon had made in full force,
and dolorous were the prognostications to us by those who had had
experience of butting against it in a northward passage. It is less
severe than the "brave" west winds of our own North Atlantic; but to a
small vessel like the _Iroquois_, with the machinery of the day, the
monsoon, blowing at times a three-quarters gale, was not an adversary
to be disregarded, for all the sunshiny, bluff heartiness with which
it buffeted you, as a big boy at school breezily thrashes a smaller
for his own good. To-day we have to stop and think, to realize the
immense progress in size and power of steam-vessels since 1867. We
forget facts, and judge doings of the past by standards of the
present; an historical injustice in other realms than that of morals.

In our passage north, however, we escaped the predicted disagreeables
by keeping close to the coast; for currents, whether of atmosphere or
of water, for some reason slacken in force as they sweep along the
land. I do not know why, unless it be the result of friction retarding
their flow; the fact, however, remains. So, dodging the full brunt of
the wind, we sneaked along inshore, having rarely more than a
single-reef topsail breeze, and with little jar save the steady thud
of the machinery. A constant view of the land was another advantage
due to this mode of progression, and it was the more complete because
we commonly anchored at night. Thus, as we slowly dragged north, a
continuous panorama was unrolled before our eyes.

Another very entertaining feature was the flight of fishing-boats,
which at each daybreak put out to sea, literally in flocks; so
numerous were they. As I was every morning on deck at that hour,
attending the weighing of the anchor, the sight became fixed upon my
memory. The wind being on their beam, and so fresh, they came lurching
along in merry mood, leaping livelily from wave to wave, dashing the
water to either hand. Besides the poetry of motion, their peculiar
shape, their hulls with the natural color of the wood,--because oiled,
not painted,--their bamboo mat sails, which set so much flatter than
our own canvas, were all picturesque, as well as striking by novelty.
Most characteristic, and strangely diversified in effect, as they
bowled saucily by, were the successive impressions produced by the
custom of painting an eye on each side of the bow. An alleged proverb
is in pigeon English: "No have eye, how can see? no can see, how can
sail?" When heading towards you, they really convey to an imagination
of ordinary quickness the semblance of some unknown sea monster, full
of life and purpose. Now you see a fellow charging along, having the
vicious look of a horse with his ears back. Anon comes another, the
quiet gaze of which suggests some meditative fish, lazily gliding,
enjoying a siesta, with his belly full of good dinner. Yet a third has
a hungry air, as though his meal was yet to seek, and in passing turns
on you a voracious side glance, measuring your availability as a
morsel, should nothing better offer. The boat life of China, indeed,
is a study by itself. In very many cases in the ports and rivers, the
family is born, bred, fed, and lives in the boat. In moving her, the
man and his wife and two of the elder children will handle the oars;
while a little one, sometimes hardly more than an infant, will take
the helm, to which his tiny strength and cunning skill are sufficient.
Going off late one night from Hong Kong to the ship, and having to
lean over in the stern to get hold of the tiller-lines, I came near
putting my whole weight on the baby, lying unperceived in the bottom.
Those sedate Chinese children, with their tiny pigtails and their old
faces, but who at times assert their common humanity by a wholesome
cry; how funny two of them looked, lying in the street fighting, fury
in each face, teeth set and showing, nostrils distended with rage, and
a hand of each gripping fast the other's pigtail, which he seemed to
be trying to drag out by the roots; at the moment not "Celestials,"
unless after the pattern of Virgil's Juno.

The habit of whole families living together in a boat, though
sufficiently known to me, was on one occasion realized in a manner at
once mortifying and ludicrous. The eagerness for trade among the
bumboatmen, actual and expectant, sometimes becomes a nuisance; in
their efforts to be first they form a mob quite beyond the control of
the ship, the gangways and channels of which they none the less
surround and grab, deaf to all remonstrance by words, however
forcible. This is particularly the case the first day of arrival,
before the privilege has been determined. In one such instance my
patience gave way; the din alongside was indescribable, the confusion
worse confounded, and they could not be moved. There was working at
the moment one of those small movable hand-pumps significantly named
"Handy Billy," and I told the nozzle-man to turn the stream on the
crowd. Of course, nothing could please a seaman more; it was done with
a will, and the full force of impact struck between the shoulders of a
portly individual standing up, back towards the ship. A prompt upset
revealed that it was a middle-aged woman, a fact which the pump-man
had not taken in, owing to the misleading similarity of dress between
the two sexes. I was disconcerted and ashamed, but the remedy was for
the moment complete; the boats scattered as if dynamite had burst
among them. The mere showing of the nozzle was thereafter enough.

The _Iroquois_ was about a week in the monsoon, a day or so having
been expended in running into Fuchau for coal. She certainly seemed to
have lost the speed credited to her in former cruises; the cause for
which was plausibly thought to be the decreased rigidity of her hull,
owing to the wear and tear of service. In the days of sailing-ships
there was a common professional belief that lessened stiffness of
frame tended to speed; and a chased vessel sometimes resorted to
sawing her beams and loosening her fastenings to increase the desired
play. But, however this may have been, the thrust of the screw tells
best when none of its effect is lost in a structural yielding of the
ship's body; when this responds as a solid whole to the forward
impulse. In this respect the _Iroquois_ was already out of date,
though otherwise serviceable.

On the eleventh day, December 7th, we reached Nagasaki, whence we
sailed again about the middle of the month for Hiogo, or Kobé, where
the squadrons of the various nations were to assemble for the formal
opening. With abundant time before us, we passed in leisurely fashion
through the Inland Sea, at the eastern end of which lay the newly
opened ports. Anchoring each night, we missed no part of the scenery,
with its alternating breadths and narrows, its lofty slopes, terraced
here and wooded there, the occasional smiling lowlands, the varied and
vivid greens, contrasting with the neutral tints of the Japanese
dwellings; all which combine to the general effect of that singular
and entrancing sheet of water. The Japanese junks added their
contribution to the novelty with their single huge bellying sail,
adapted apparently only to sailing with a free wind, the fairer the
better.

Hiogo and Kobé, as I understood, are separate names of two continuous
villages; Kobé, the more eastern, being the destined port of entry.
They are separated by a watercourse, broad but not deep, often dry,
the which is to memory dear; for following along it one day, and so up
the hills, I struck at length, well within the outer range, an
exquisite Japanese valley, profound, semicircular, and terraced, dosed
at either end by a passage so narrow that it might well be called a
defile. The suddenness with which it burst upon me, like the South Sea
upon Balboa, the feeling of remoteness inspired by its isolation, and
its own intrinsic beauty, struck home so forcible a prepossession that
it remained a favorite resort, to which I guided several others; for
it must be borne in mind that up to our coming the hill tracks of Kobé
knew not the feet of foreigners, and there was still such a thing as
first discovery. Some time afterwards, when I had long returned home,
a naval officer told me that the place was known to him and others as
Mahan's Valley; but I have never heard it has been so entered on the
maps. Shall I describe it? Certainly not. When description is tried,
one soon realizes that the general sameness of details is so great as
quite to defy convincing presentation, in words, of the particular
combination which constitutes any one bit of scenery. Scenery in this
resembles a collection of Chinese puzzles, where a few elementary
pieces, through their varied assemblings, yield most diverging forms.
Given a river, some mountains, a few clumps of trees, a little sloping
field under cultivation, an expanse of marsh--in Japan the universal
terrace--and with them many picturesque effects can be produced; but
description, mental realization, being a matter of analysis and
synthesis, is a process which each man performs for himself. The
writer does his part, and thinks he has done well. Could he see the
picture which his words call up in the mind of another, the particular
Chinese figure put together out of the author's data, he might be less
satisfied. And should the reader rashly become the visitor, he will
have to meet Wordsworth's disappointment. "And is this--Yarrow? this
the scene?" "Although 'tis fair, 'twill be another Yarrow." Should any
reader of mine go hereafter to Kobé, and so wish, let him see for
himself; he shall go with no preconceptions from me. If the march of
improvement has changed that valley, Japan deserves to be beaten in
her next war.

As I recall attending a Christmas service on board the British
flag-ship _Rodney_ at Kobé, we must have anchored there a few days
before that fixed for the formal opening; but, unless my memory much
deceive me, visiting the shore after the usual fashion was permitted
without awaiting the New Year ceremony. At this time Kobé and Hiogo
were in high festival; and that, combined with the fact that the
inhabitants had as yet seen few foreigners, gave unusual animation to
the conditions. We were followed by curious crowds, to whom we were
newer even than they to us; for the latest comers among us had seen
Nagasaki, but strangers from other lands had been rare to these
villagers. In explanation of the rejoicings, it was told us that slips
of paper, with the names of Japanese deities written on them, had
recently fallen in the streets, supposed by the people to come from
the skies; and that different men had found in their houses pieces of
gold, also bearing the name of some divinity. These tokens were
assumed to indicate great good luck about to light upon those places
or houses. By an easy association of ideas, the approaching opening of
the port might seem to have some connection with the expected
benefits, and inclines one to suspect human instrumentality in
creating impressions which might counteract the long-nurtured jealousy
of foreign intrusion. Whatever the truth, the external rollicking
celebrations were as apparent as was the general smiling courtesy so
noticeable in the Japanese, and which in this case was common to both
the throng in ordinary dress and the masqueraders. Men and women,
young and old, in gay, fantastic costumes, faces so heavily painted as
to have the effect of masks, were running about in groups, sometimes
as many as forty or fifty together, dancing and mumming. They
addressed us frequently with a phrase, the frequent repetition of
which impressed it upon our ears, but, in our ignorance of the
language, not upon our understandings. At times, if one laughed,
liberties were taken. These the customs of the occasion probably
justified, as in the carnivals of other peoples, which this somewhat
resembled; but there was no general concourse, as in the Corso at
Rome, which I afterwards saw--merely numerous detachments moving with
no apparent relation to one another. Once only a companion and myself
met several married women, known as such by their blackened teeth, who
bore long poles with feathers at one end, much like dusters, with
which they tapped us on the head. These seemed quite beside themselves
with excitement, but all in the best of humor.

Viewed from the distance, the general effect was very pretty, like a
stage scene. The long main street, forming part of the continuous
imperial highway known as the Tokaido, was jammed with people; the
sober, neutral tints of the majority in customary dress lighted up,
here and there, by the brilliant, diversified colors of the
performers, as showy uniforms do an assembly of civilians. The
weather, too, was for the most part in keeping. The monsoon does not
reach so far north, yet the days were like it; usually sunny, and the
air exhilarating, with frequent frost at dawn, but towards noon
genial. Such we found the prevalent character of the winter in that
part of Japan, though with occasional spells of rain and high winds,
amounting to gales of two or three days' duration.

Unhappily, these cheerful beginnings were the precursors of some very
sad events; indeed, tragedies. A week after the New Year ceremonies at
Kobé, the American squadron moved over some twelve miles to Osaka, the
other opened port, at which our minister then was. Unlike Kobé, where
the water permits vessels to lie close to the beach, Osaka is up a
river, at the mouth of which is a bar; and, owing to the shoalness of
the adjacent sea, the anchorage is a mile or two out. From it the town
cannot be seen. The morning after our arrival, a Thursday, it came on
to blow very hard from the westward, dead on shore, raising a big sea
which prevented boats crossing the bar. The gale continued over
Friday, the wind moderating by the following daylight. The swell
requires more time to subside; but it was now Saturday, the next day
would be Sunday, and the admiral, I think, was a religious man,
unwilling to infringe upon the observance of the day, for himself or
for the men. His service on the station was up, and, indeed, his time
for retirement, at sixty-two, had arrived; there remained for him only
to go home, and for this he was anxious to get south. Altogether, he
decided to wait no longer, and ordered his barge manned. Danger from
the attempt was apprehended on board the flag-ship by some, but the
admiral was not one of those who encourage suggestions. Her boatswain
had once cruised in whalers, which carry to perfection the art of
managing boats in a heavy sea, and of steering with an oar, the safest
precaution if a bar must be crossed; and he hung round, in evidence,
hoping that he might be ordered to steer her, but she shoved off as
for an ordinary trip. The mishap which followed, however, was
not that most feared. Just before she entered the breakers, the
flag-lieutenant, conscious of the risk, was reported to have said to
the admiral, "If you intend to go in before the sea, as we are now
running, we had better take off our swords;" and he himself did so,
anticipating an accident. As she swept along, her bow struck bottom.
Her way being thus stopped for an instant, the sea threw her stern
round; she came broadside to and upset. Of the fifteen persons hurled
thus into the wintry waves, only three escaped with their lives. Both
the officers perished.

The gale continued to abate, and the bodies being all soon recovered,
the squadron returned to Kobé to bury its dead. The funeral ceremonies
were unusually impressive in themselves, as well as because of the
sorrowful catastrophe which so mournfully signalized the entry of the
foreigner into his new privilege. The day was fair and cloudless, the
water perfectly smooth; neither rain nor wave marred the naval
display, as they frequently do. Thirty-two boats, American and
British, many of them very large, took part in the procession from the
ships to the beach. The ensigns of all the war-vessels in port,
American and other, were at half-mast, as was the admiral's square
blue flag at the mizzen, which is never lowered while he remains on
duty on board. As the movement began, a first gun was fired from the
_Hartford_, which continued at minute intervals until she had
completed thirteen, a rear-admiral's salute. When she had finished,
the _Shenandoah_ took up the tale, followed in turn by the _Oneida_
and _Iroquois_, the mournful cadence thus covering almost the whole
period up to the customary volleys over the graves. As saluting was
the first lieutenant's business, I had remained on board to attend to
it; and consequently, from our closeness to the land, had a more
comprehensive view of the pageant than was possible to a participant.
Our ships were nearly stripped of their crews; the rank of the admiral
and the number of the sufferers, as well as the tragic character of
the incident, demanding the utmost marks of reverent observance. As
the march was taken up on shore, the British seamen in blue uniforms
in the left column, the American in white in the right, to the number
of several hundred each, presented a striking appearance; but more
imposing and appealing, the central feature and solemn exponent of the
occasion, was the long line of twelve coffins, skirting the sandy
beach against a background of trees, borne in single file on men's
shoulders in ancient fashion, each covered with the national colors.
The tokens of mourning, so far as ships' ensigns were concerned,
continued till sunset, when the ceremonial procedure was closed by a
simple form, impressive in its significance and appropriateness.
Following the motions of the American flag-ship, the chief mourner,
the flags of all the vessels, as by one impulse, were rounded up to
the peaks, as in the activities of every-day life; that of the dead
admiral being at the same time mast-headed to its usual place. By this
mute gesture, vessels and crews stood at attention, as at a review,
for their last tribute to the departed. The _Hartford_ then fired a
farewell rear-admiral's salute, at the thirteenth and final gun of
which his flag came down inch by inch, in measured dignity, to be
raised no more; all others descending with it in silent haulage.

Admiral Henry Bell, who thus sadly ended his career when on the verge
of an honored retirement, was in a way an old acquaintance of mine. It
was he who had refused me a transfer to the _Monongahela_ during the
war; and he and my father, having been comrades when cadets at the
Military Academy in the early twenties of the last century, had
retained a certain interest in each other, shown by mutual inquiries
through me. Bell had begun life in the army, subsequently quitting it
for the navy for reasons which I do not know. He had the rigidity and
precision of a soldier's carriage, to a degree unusual to a naval
officer of his period. This may have been due partly to early
training, but still more, I think, in his case, was an outcome and
evidence of personal character; for, though kindly and just, he was
essentially a martinet. He had been further presented to me,
colloquially, by my old friend the boatswain of the _Congress_, some
of whose shrewd comments I have before quoted, and who had sailed with
him as a captain. "Oh! what a proud man he was!" he would say. "He
would walk up and down the poop, looking down on all around,
thus"--and the boatswain would compress his lips, throw back his
shoulders, and inflate his chest; the walk he could not imitate
because he had a stiff knee. Bell's pride, however it may have seemed,
was rather professional than personal. He was thorough and exact,
with high standards and too little give. An officer entirely
respectable and respected, though not brilliant.

Upon the funeral of our wrecked seamen followed a dispersion of the
squadron. The _Hartford_ and _Shenandoah_, both bound home, departed,
leaving the _Oneida_ and _Iroquois_ to "hold the fort." Conditions
soon became such that it seemed probable we might have to carry out
that precept somewhat literally. This was the period of the overthrow
of the Tycoon's power by the revolt of the great nobles, among whom
the most conspicuous in leadership were Chiosiu and Satsuma; names
then as much in our mouths as those of Grant, Sherman, and Lee had
been three years before. Hostilities were active in the neighborhood
of Osaka and Kobé, the Tycoon being steadily worsted. So far as I give
any account, depending upon some old letters of that date, it will be
understood to present, not sifted historical truth, but the current
stories of the day, which to me have always seemed to possess a real
value of their own, irrespective of their exactness. For example, the
reports repeated by Nelson at Leghorn of the happenings during
Bonaparte's campaign of 1796 in upper Italy, though often inaccurate,
represent correctly an important element of a situation.
Misapprehension, when it exists, is a factor in any circumstances,
sometimes of powerful influence. It is part of the data governing the
men of the time.

While a certain number of foreigners, availing themselves of the
treaty, were settling for business in Kobé, a large proportion had
gone to Osaka, a more important commercial centre, of several hundred
thousand inhabitants. Its superior political consideration at the
moment was evidenced by the diplomats establishing themselves there,
our own minister among them. The defeat of the Tycoon's forces in the
field led to their abandoning the place, carrying off also the guards
of the legations; a kind of protection absolutely required in those
days, when the resentment against foreign intrusion was still very
strong, especially among the warrior class. It was, after all, only
fourteen years since Perry had extorted a treaty from a none too
willing government. The fleeing Tycoon wished to get away from Osaka
by a vessel belonging to him; but in the event of her not being off
the bar--as proved to be the case--a party of two-sworded men, of whom
he was rumored to be one, brought a letter from our minister asking
any American vessel present to give them momentary shelter. It is
customary for refugees purely political to be thus received by ships
of war, which afford the protection their nation grants to such
persons who reach its home territory; of which the ships are a
privileged extension.

The minister's note spoke of the bearers simply as officers of the
very highest rank. About three in the morning they came alongside of
the _Iroquois_, their boatmen making a tremendous racket, awaking
everybody, the captain getting up to receive them. When I came on deck
before breakfast the poor fellows presented a moving picture of human
misery, and certainly were under a heavy accumulation of misfortunes:
a lost battle, and probably a lost cause; flying for life, and now on
an element totally new; surrounded by those who could not speak their
language; hungry, cold, wet, and shivering--a combination of major and
minor evils under which who would not be depressed? At half-past seven
they left us, after a brief stay of four hours; and there was much
trouble in getting so many unpractised landsmen into the boats, which
were rolling and thumping alongside in the most thoughtless manner,
there being considerable sea. I do not remember whether the ladders
were shipped, or whether they had to descend by the cleats; but either
presented difficulties to a man clad in the loose Japanese garb of the
day, having withal two swords, one very long, and a revolver. What
with encumbrances and awkwardness, our seamen had to help them down
like children. Poor old General Scott shuddering in a Key West
norther, and these unhappy samurai, remain coupled in my mind; pendant
pictures of valor in physical extremes, like Cæsar in the Tiber. For
were not our shaking morning visitors of the same blood, the same
tradition, and only a generation in time removed from, the soldiers
and seamen of the late war? whose "fitness to win," to use Mr. Jane's
phrase, was then established.

Between the departure of the Tycoon's forces and the arrival of the
insurgent daimios, the native mob took possession of Osaka, becoming
insolent and aggressive; insomuch that a party of French seamen, being
stoned, turned and fired, killing several. The disposition and
purposes of the daimios being uncertain, the diplomatic bodies thought
best to remove to Kobé, a step which caused the exodus of all the new
foreign population. Chiosiu and Satsuma, the leaders in what was still
a rebellion, had not yet arrived, nor was there any assurance felt as
to their attitude towards the foreign question. The narrow quarters of
the _Iroquois_ were crowded with refugees and fugitive samurai; while
from our anchorage huge columns of smoke were seen rising from the
city, which rumor, of course, magnified into a total destruction.
Afterwards we were told that the Tycoon had burned Satsuma's palace in
the place, in retaliation for which the enemy on entry had burned his.
The Japanese in their haste left behind them their wounded, and one of
the _Iroquois'_ officers brought off a story of the Italian minister,
who, indignant at this desertion, went up to a Japanese official,
shouting excitedly, "I will have you to understand it is not the
custom in Europe thus to abandon our wounded." This he said in
English, apparently thinking that a Japanese would be more likely to
understand it than Italian.

The embarkation was an affair of a short time, and the _Iroquois_ then
went to Kobé, where we discharged our load of passengers. The
diplomats had decided that there, under the guns of the shipping, they
would establish their embassies and remain; reasoning justly enough
that, if foreigners suffered themselves to be forced out of both the
ports conceded by treaty, there would be trouble everywhere, in the
old as well as the new. So the flags were soon flying gayly, and all
seemed quiet; but for the maintenance of order there was no assurance
while the interregnum lasted, the Tycoon's authorities having gone,
and Chiosiu or Satsuma still delaying. Officers on shore were
therefore ordered to go armed. On February 4, 1868, two days after our
return, a party of samurai, some five hundred strong, belonging to the
Prince of Bizen, marched through the town by the Tokaido. As they
passed the foreign concession, which bordered this high-road, they
turned and fired upon the Europeans. The noise was heard on board the
ships, and the commotion on shore was evident, people fleeing in every
direction. The Japanese troops themselves broke and ran along the
highway, abandoning luggage, arms, and field-pieces. The American and
British ships of war, with a French corvette, manned and armed boats,
landing in hot haste five or six hundred men, who pursued for some
distance, but failed to overtake the assailants. At the same time the
vessels sprang their batteries to bear on the town; a move which
doubtless looked imposing enough, though we could scarcely have dared
to fire on the mixed multitude, even had the trouble continued.

When our seamen returned, a conference was held, wherein it was
determined, as a joint international measure, to hold the concession
in force; and as a further means of protection to close the Tokaido,
which was done by occupying the angles of a short elbow, of two
hundred yards, made by it in traversing the town. This step, while
justifiable from the point of view of safety for the residents, was
particularly galling to Japanese high-class feeling; for the use of
the imperial road was associated with certain privileges to the
daimios, during whose passing the common people were excluded, or
obliged to kneel, under penalty of being cut down on the spot. Satsuma
was reported to have remonstrated; but in view of the recent
occurrence there could be no reply to the foreign retort, "You must
secure our people." The custom-house, within the concession, was
garrisoned, making a fortification very tenable against any enemy
likely to be brought against it; while round it was thrown up a light
earth-work, to which the seamen and marines dispersed in the
concession could retire in case of need. But behind all, invulnerable,
stood the ships, deterred from aggression only by fear for their own
people, which would cease to operate if these had to be withdrawn.

The action of this body of samurai was probably unpremeditated, unless
possibly in the mind of the particular officer in charge, who
afterwards paid with his life for the misconduct of his men. While the
state of siege continued a complete stop was put to our horseback
excursions in the country, a deprivation the more felt because
coinciding with an unusually fine spell of weather; but in a few days
an envoy arrived from the insurgent daimios, with whom a settlement
was speedily reached. Chiosiu and Satsuma had by this time succeeded
in establishing themselves as the real representatives of the Mikado,
an authority in virtue of which alone the Tycoon had ruled; the true
headship of the Mikado being admitted by all. They undertook that
foreigners should be adequately protected, and that the officer
responsible for the late outrage should be punished with death. By the
20th of February Kobé was full of Chiosiu and Satsuma samurai, who
were as courteously civil as those of the Tycoon had been; and after a
conference with the special envoy of the Mikado the ministers
returned to Osaka. We, too, resumed our country rides, but still
weighted with a huge navy revolver.

No doubt on any hand was felt of the sincere purpose of the new
government to fulfil its pledges; but their troops were still
ill-organized, and it was impossible to rest assured that they might
not here and there break bounds, as at Kobé. We were encountering the
accustomed uncertainties of a period of revolutionary transition,
intensified by prejudices engendered through centuries of national
isolation, with all the narrowing and deepening of prepossession which
accompanies entire absence of intercourse with other people. At this
very moment, in March, 1868, the decree against the practice of
Christianity by the natives was reissued: "Hitherto the Christian
religion has been forbidden, and the order must be strictly kept. The
corrupt religion is strictly forbidden." Yet I am persuaded that
already far-seeing Japanese had recognized that the past had drifted
away irrevocably, and that the only adequate means to meet the
inevitable was to accept it fully, without grudging, and to develop
the nation to equality with foreigners in material resources. But such
anticipation is the privilege of the few in any age or any country.

Very soon after the return of our men from their garrison duty, an
outbreak of small-pox on board the _Iroquois_ compelled her being sent
to Yokohama, where, as an old-established port, were hospital
facilities not to be found in Kobé, though we had succeeded in
removing the first cases to crude accommodations on shore. The disease
was then very prevalent in Japan, where vaccination had not yet been
introduced; and to an unaccustomed eye it was startling to note in the
streets the number of pitted faces, a visible demonstration of what a
European city must have presented before inoculation was practised.
One of our crew had died; and when we started, February 25th, we had
on board some sick. These were carefully isolated under the airy
topgallant forecastle, and with a good passage the contagion might not
have spread; but the second day out the weather came on bad and very
thick, ending with a gale so violent that to save the lives of the
patients they had to be taken below, and then, for the safety of the
ship, which was single-decked, the hatches had to be battened down.
Conditions more favorable for the spread of the malady could not have
been devised, and the result was that we were not fairly clear of the
epidemic for nearly two months, though the cases, of which we had
fifteen or twenty, were sent ashore as fast as they developed. At that
period few ships on the station wholly escaped this scourge.

It was after we left Kobé that judicial satisfaction was given for the
attack upon the foreign concession. My account depends upon the
reports which reached us; but as the captain of the _Oneida_ was one
of the official witnesses, on the part of the international interests
concerned, I presume that what we heard was nearly correct. The final
scene was in a temple near Hiogo. Being of the class of nobles, the
condemned had a privilege of the peerage, which insured for him the
honorable death of the harakiri;[12] a distinction apparently
analogous to that which our soldiers of European tradition draw
between hanging and shooting. Having duly performed acts of devotion
suited to the place and to the occasion, he spoke, justifying his
action, and saying that, under similar circumstances, he would again
do the same. He then partly disrobed, assisted by friends, and when
all was ready stabbed himself; a comrade who had stood by with drawn
sword at the same instant cutting off his head with a single blow. I
was tempted by curiosity, once while on the station, to attend the
execution of some ordinary criminals; and I can testify to the
deftness and instantaneousness with which one head fell, in the flash
of a sword or the twinkling of an eye. I did not care to view the
fates of the three others condemned, but it was clear that no judicial
death could be more speedy and merciful.

Nearly coincident with this exacted vengeance occurred an incident
which demonstrated its policy. A boat's crew from a French ship of war
had gone ashore to survey, unarmed. They were accosted by a
well-dressed man, wearing two swords, who suggested to them going up
to a village near the spot where they were at work. They accepted, and
were led by him into an ambush where eleven of them--all but one--were
slain. So there was another great funeral at Hiogo, but, one which
excited emotions far otherwise mournful than the simple sorrow and
sympathy elicited by the Bell disaster. The graveyard of the place
had, indeed, a good start. The assassins in this case belonged to the
troops of the insurgent daimios; and as the French already favored the
Tycoon--which perhaps may have been one motive for the attack--some
apprehension was felt that they might, in consequence, espouse his
cause more actively. Nothing of the sort happened. I presume all the
legations, and their nations, felt that at the moment the solidarity
of the foreign interest was more important to be secured than the
triumph of this or that party. By abstaining from intervention, all
the embassies could be counted on to back a united demand for
reparation for injuries to the citizens of any one.

With the arrival of the _Iroquois_ at Yokohama the notable incidents
of the cruise for the most part came to an end; there following upon
it the routine life of a ship of war, with its ups and downs of more
or less pleasant ports, good and bad weather, and the daily
occupations which make and maintain efficiency. Yokohama itself was
then the principal and most flourishing foreign settlement in Japan,
the seat of the legations, and with an agreeable society sufficiently
large. Among other features we here found again in force the British
soldier; a battalion of eight hundred being permanently in garrison.
The country about was thought secure, though for distant excursions,
requiring a whole day, we carried revolvers; and I remember well the
scuttling away of several pretty young women when one of these was
accidentally discharged at a wayside tea-house. But while occasional
rumors of danger would spread, it was hard to tell whence, I think
nothing of a serious nature occurred. Nevertheless, albeit resentment
and hostility were repressed in outward manifestation by the strong
hand of the government, and by the examples of punishment already
made, they were still burning beneath the surface. It was during this
period that the British minister, visiting Kioto, a concession
jealously resisted by conservative Japanese spirit, was set upon by
some ronins while on his way to pay an official call. He was guarded
by British cavalry and marines, and had besides an escort of samurai.
It was said at the time that these fled, except the officers, who
fought valiantly, slaying one and beating down the other of the two
most desperate assailants. Considering the well-established courage of
the Japanese, and that the attack was by their own people, sympathy
with the attempt seems the most likely explanation of the
faithlessness reported. The immediate effect of this was to curtail
our privileges of riding about the country of Yokohama.

Perhaps the most notable incident, historically, of our stay in
Yokohama was the arrival of the first iron-clad of the Japanese navy,
to which it has fallen a generation later to give the most forcible
lesson yet seen of iron-clads in battle. This vessel had been the
Confederate ram _Stonewall_, and prior to her acquisition by Japan had
had a curiously checkered career of ownership. She was built in
Bordeaux, under the name _Sphinx_, by contract between a French firm
and the Confederate naval agent in Europe; but some difficulty arose
between the parties, and in 1864 Denmark, being then at war with
Austria and Prussia concerning the Schleswig-Holstein duchies, bought
her under certain conditions. With a view to delivery to the Danish
government she was taken to a Swedish port, and after a nominal sale
proceeded under the Swedish flag to Copenhagen, where she remained in
charge of a banker of that city. Peace having been meanwhile declared,
Denmark no longer wanted her. The sale was nullified under pretext of
failure in the conditions, and she passed finally into the hands of
the Confederacy,[13] sailing from Copenhagen January 7, 1865. Off
Quiberon, in France, she received a crew from another vessel under
Confederate direction, and thence attempted to go to the Azores, but
was forced by bad weather into Ferrol. From there she crossed the
Atlantic; but by the time of her arrival the War of Secession was
ended by the surrenders of Lee and Johnston. Her commander took her to
Havana, and there gave her up to the Spanish authorities. Spain, in
turn, in due time delivered her to the United States, as the legal
heir to all spoils of the Confederacy. Several years later, in 1871, I
had a share in bringing home part of these often useless trophies; the
ship in which I was having gone to Europe, without guns, loaded with
provisions to supply the needs of the French poor, presumed to be
suffering from the then recent war with Germany. Our cargo discharged,
we were sent to Liverpool, and there took on board some rifled cannon
and projectiles originally made for the South.

The _Stonewall_ had been lying at the Washington Navy-Yard when I was
stationed there in 1866. Measured by to-day's standards she was of
trivial power, small in size, moderate in speed, light in armor and
armament; but her ram was of formidable dimensions, and at that period
the tactical value of the ram was estimated much more highly than it
now is. The disastrous effect of the thrust, if successfully made,
outweighed in men's minds the difficulty of hitting; an error of
valuation similar to that which has continuously exaggerated the
danger from torpedo craft of all kinds. After the sailing of the
_Iroquois_, a deputation of Japanese officials came to the United
States on a mission, part of which was to buy ships of war. In reply
to their inquiries, Commander--now Rear-Admiral--George Brown, then
ordnance officer of the yard, pointed out the _Stonewall_ to them as a
vessel suitable for their immediate purposes, and with which our
government might probably part. He also expressed a favorable opinion
of her sea-going qualities for reaching Japan. A few days later they
came to him and said that, as he thought well of her, perhaps he would
undertake to carry her out; their own seamanship at that early date
being unequal to the responsibility. This was more than was
anticipated by Brown, interested in his present duties, but it rather
put him on his mettle; and so he set forth, a satisfactory pecuniary
arrangement having been concluded. She went by way of the Strait of
Magellan and the Hawaiian Islands, reaching Yokohama without other
incident than constant ducking. As one of her officers said, clothes
needed not to be scrubbed; a soiled garment could be simply secured on
the forward deck, and left there to wash in the water that came on
board until it was clean. I have never known her subsequent fortunes
in Japanese hands; but as the beginning of their armored navy she has
a place in history--and here.

From Yokohama the _Iroquois_ returned to Kobé, and there lay during
July, August, and September; so that in our two visits I passed five
months in this part of the Inland Sea. The summer, in its way, is
there as pleasant as the winter in its. The highest thermometer I read
was 87° Fahrenheit, and there was almost always a pleasant breeze. The
country was now so far safe that we went everywhere within reasonable
reach of the concession, and the scenery presented such variety in
sameness as to be a perpetual source of enjoyment. The most striking
characteristics are the views of the enclosed sea itself, ample in
expanse, yet without the monotony attendant upon an unbounded water
view; and, when that disappears, follows the succession of enclosed
valleys, alike, yet different; a recurrent feature similar, though on
another scale, to that presented by the valley of the Inn on the ride
from Zurich to Innsbruck. How far away those days are is seen from my
noting on one of them, while visiting what was known to us as the Moon
Temple, that the ships of war below were dressed in honor of the first
Napoleon's birthday, August 15th; an observance which ceased with the
empire.

This time I managed an opportunity of seeing Osaka, which the
disturbed conditions had prevented my doing during our winter stay.
Description I shall avoid, as always; enough to say that the flatness
of the site, in low land, six miles from the mouth of the narrow,
winding river, makes the city one of canals, like Venice and
Amsterdam. In visiting the great castle of the Tycoon, a stone
fortification notable not only for its own size, but for the
dimensions of the huge single stones of which it is built, we went by
boat, following a sluggish watercourse, an eighth of a mile wide, and
so shallow that we poled through it. The pull from the bar to the city
was very tedious, and Kobé evidently had proved the better commercial
situation; for even now, half a year after the opening of the port, we
were looked upon with curiosity; were followed by crowds which stopped
if we stopped, moved when we moved. To the children we were objects of
apprehension; they eyed us fearfully, and scuttled away rapidly if we
made any feint at rushing towards them. Nevertheless, the prevailing
tone among the common people was now plainly kindly, although six
months before they would at times spit at foreigners from the bridges
which in great numbers span the streams. The temper of those who form
mobs changes lightly. It is true that in our excursions we were
accompanied by an armed guard, which would seem to indicate
possibilities of danger; but these samurai themselves were not only
courteous, but interested and smiling, and I thought gave good promise
that their class in general was coming round to friendliness.

We left Kobé towards the end of September, in company with a new
flag-ship which had arrived to take the place of the _Hartford_. This
vessel rejoiced to call herself _Piscataqua_, which is worth recording
as a sample of a class of name then much affected by the powers that
were, presumably on account of their length; "fine flourishers," to
quote the always illustrative Boatswain Chucks, "as long as their
homeward-bound pendants, which in a calm drop in the water alongside."
_Piscataqua_, however uncouth, most Americans can place; but what
shall we say of _Ammonoosuc_, _Wampanoag_, and such like, then
adorning our lists, which seem as though extracted by a fine-tooth
comb drawn through the tangle of Indian nomenclature. Under the
succeeding administration _Piscataqua_ was changed to _Delaware_. The
new commander-in-chief was among our most popular officers,
distinguished alike for seamanship, courage, and courtesy; but he held
to great secrecy as to his intentions, which caused officers more
inconvenience than seemed always quite necessary. Questions of
mess-stores, of correspondence, and other pre-arrangements, depend
much upon knowledge of future movements, as exact as may not interfere
with service emergencies. These in peace times rarely require
concealment. A characteristic story ran that, as the two vessels were
leaving Kobé, when the flag-ship's anchor was a-weigh, her captain,
still ignorant of her destination, turned to the admiral and said,
"Which way shall I lay her head, sir?"

It turned out that we were bound to Nagasaki, on our way to China. The
approaching northeast monsoon, with its dry, bracing air, dictates the
period when foreign squadrons usually go south, having during the
summer in Japan avoided the debilitating damp heat which those months
entail in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and the Chinese ports generally. The
_Iroquois_, however, had soon to separate from the flag-ship, owing to
news received of a singular occurrence, savoring more of two hundred
years ago, or of to-day's dime novel--"shilling shocker," as our
British brethren have it--than of the prosaic nineteenth century.
There had arrived at Hakodate, the northernmost of the then open
Japanese ports, on the island of Yezo and Strait of Tsugaru, a
mysterious bark, without name or papers, peopled only by Chinese of
the coolie class, and bearing evident marks of foul play. From
indications she was supposed to be American, and our ship, being the
most immediately available, was ordered up to investigate; leaving
Nagasaki October 24, 1868. Our course took us over the ground which
has since become historic by the destruction of Rodjestvensky's fleet,
as well as by other incidents of the Russo-Japanese war; and the
weather we had, both going and returning, would justify the anxiety
said to have been felt by the Japanese naval authorities, that Port
Arthur should be taken before the winter set in. Like men, ships must
do their work at whatever cost; but like men also, and perhaps even
more, they should be spared needless strain, especially if they be
few. A sick ship needs usually more time for recovery than a sick man.

Our orders directed a stop at a port called Niigata, on the west coast
of Nippon. We must have communicated, for I thence despatched a
letter; but at the time of our arrival a furious northwest gale was
blowing, dead on shore. The ship, therefore, ran under a largish
island called Sado, which much to our convenience lies a few miles to
sea-ward of Niigata, and there anchored; quietly enough as to wind,
though gusty willy-waws descending from the cliffs and swishing the
water in petty whirlwinds testified to the commotion outside. We had
quite the same experience returning to Shanghai; but at that time in
mid-sea, where the _Iroquois_, powerless as to steam, but otherwise as
much at home as the sea-fowl, rode it out gleefully, though I admit
not luxuriously to flesh and muscles.

On November 1st we reached Hakodate, where our captain and consul,
aided by the Japanese authorities, proceeded at once with their
investigation. The strange vessel was in as distressed condition,
almost, as that of the Ancient Mariner when he drew near "his own
countree:" sails gone, rigging flying loose, one of her topgallant
masts, if I remember right, snapped in two, and the exterior of her
hull as though neither paint nor soap had known it for years. In her
cabins were marks of blood not eradicated; and particularly on the
transom over the stern windows was the print of a bloody hand, the
fingers spread wide as they rested against the paint, suggesting
resistance by one being thrust out. The story so far collected from
the coolies was that they had sailed in her from Macao, a Portuguese
port near Canton and Hong Kong, and that the captain and crew, after
taking her far north in the ice, had abandoned her altogether. In
support of this part of their story they showed furs procured from the
natives. These gave plausibility to the ice experiences; but the rest
of the account, unlikely in itself, had been disproved by inquiry in
Macao, where nothing was known of any vessel answering to the
descriptions. At last, however, a rumor had come, how conveyed I know
not, that such a bark, with coolies and twelve thousand dollars in
gold on board, had sailed from Callao, in Peru, the previous January,
and had never since been heard from; that she had a Peruvian captain
and crew, but carried American colors, probably merely as indicating
American property. To claim full American privilege, ships must be
American built; but one bought abroad and owned by Americans may carry
the flag, in proof of nationality, though without the right of
entering an American port like those to the manner born. They thus
become entitled to the same national regard as any other possessions
of American citizens under foreign jurisdiction.

So information stood when the _Iroquois_ arrived--false on one hand,
and on the other vague. Soon after the captain and consul began their
investigation they stumbled upon the vessel's papers, concealed in a
manner which had hitherto baffled careful search. These showed that
she was the missing _Cayalti_, which on the previous January 18th had
cleared from Callao for another Peruvian port; that she was American
in ownership, while the captain and crew were Spanish in name. This
fixed her identity; but how account for the disappearance of the
ship's company, and for her presence in Hakodate, on the other side of
the Pacific, three thousand miles north of Callao. To this inquiry the
captain and consul addressed themselves in the cabin of the
_Iroquois_. Two or three Japanese two-sworded officials were in
attendance, and memory recalls their grave, impassive faces, as seen
at times when some routine communication called me in to speak to our
captain.

Contracted though the captain's quarters were, the unaccustomed
scene, absent from their companions and from the familiar surroundings
of their probable crime, was calculated to impress the culprits; and
the methods pursued to instigate admissions savored, I fancy, more of
the Orient than of modern Anglo-Saxon ideals. But the present
functions of our officials corresponded to those of the French _juges
d'instruction_; and, having to elicit the truth from a low class of
Orientals, they dealt with them after the fashion which alone they
would recognize as serious. The witnesses began, of course, by lying
in the most transparent manner, but under judicious--or
judicial--pressure a story was pieced together which in main outline
probably corresponded with the truth; for in it three or four of them
independently agreed. Two days out from Callao the coolies had risen
against the whites, and after a short fight overpowered them. Of the
crew, two jumped overboard; the rest submitted. A boat was then
lowered, and the men in the water were killed; after which the others
were tied together, made fast to an anchor, and so thrown into the
sea, the mate, who had fought desperately, having first been mutilated
by cutting off his ears. The captain and a Chinese steward were saved;
the former to handle the ship, to which the coolies were unequal, and
he was bidden to take her to China. I do not find in my contemporary
letters the impression which remains on my mind, that they estimated
his general observance of this order by the vague knowledge that China
lay towards the evening sun. The history of that strange voyage would
be interesting, but was scarcely recoverable in detail from the class
of witnesses. It would be by no means certain that the master of a
coastwise trader could navigate accurately; and, while he would always
be sure of death if he brought the vessel within reach of China, it is
not apparent why he should take her to the remote north in which the
furs showed her to have been. I have never heard whether, as the
evidence ran, he and the steward escaped alive, abandoning the
ship.[14] He had disappeared when the Japanese found her drifting
helplessly under her ignorant occupants.

While in Hakodate, I availed myself of the opportunity to visit a
great lake and a volcano, not extinct, but not immediately active.
They are distant about fifteen miles from the town, a position in
which I see such a sheet of water on the maps of to-day. This was a
long ride in the then state of the roads, after the autumn rains, and
with nightly freeze sufficient continually to fix the moisture, and
then to renew the dampness towards the noonday thaw. Transport was
not by wheel, but by pack-animals; and as these marched in companies
of a half-dozen or so, in single file, haltered one to the other, each
as he stepped put his foot into the prints made, not merely by his
immediate file-leader of the particular gang, but by all others going
and coming for weeks before. The consequence was a succession of
scallops, distributed over long stretches of mud, the consistency of
which just sufficed to hold the shape thus impressed upon it. Japanese
horses are small, and as a class quarrelsome; the one I rode on this
occasion was little larger than a child's pony, and looked as if he
had not been curried for a month. I hesitated to impose upon him my
weight, a scruple which would have been intensified had I known the
character of the pilgrimage through which he was to bear me. With his
feet at the bottom of the scallop, the rounded top rose above his
knee, nearly giving his patient nose the touch which his dejected mood
and drooping head seemed to invite. At the first start he stumbled,
nearly falling on me, but escaped with nostrils and mouth full of
liquid dirt.

A day to go, a day to come, and one intervening to cross the lake and
ascend the volcano, measured our excursion; through the whole of which
we had sunny skies and exhilarating temperature till the last hour of
our return, when a drizzling rain suggested what might have been our
discomfort had the heavens above been as unpropitious as the roads
beneath. Even the crossing of the lake and the ascent were
particularly favored, the sky literally cloudless and water smooth;
whereas the following morning, when we rose to depart, a fog had
settled on the mountain, making movement upon it doubtful and even to
a slight degree dangerous. The lake, some six miles by ten, and
abounding in islets, lay smiling under the bright, wintry sun, its
shores clad with leafless forests mingled with evergreens, save the
barren slopes of the volcano itself; beneath the distant lava stream
of which we were told seventeen hundred people lay, buried by the last
eruption. The scene tempted me more than most to description, for the
brilliant stillness of a clear November day, and the gaunt, bare
trees, were strange to our long experience of verdure in southern
Japan, and smacked strongly of home--Hakodate being in the latitude of
New York; but, as always, the majority have their own vision, their
own memory, of just such conditions and surroundings, more vivid for
them than another's portrayal.

The two nights at the lake we slept in a Japanese tea-house,
scrupulously clean and quite comfortable, but at that early date and
remote region entirety primitive; I should rather say strictly native
in all its arrangements. The kitchen was innocent of European
suggestion; we ate with chopsticks, and fish from the lake were
spitted and cooked around a fire in a sandy hearth, contrived below
the middle of the room. Eggs were in abundance, but coffee was sorely
missed at our chilly rising. At 9 A.M. we started for the volcano,
getting back at 7 P.M. We landed at the foot of the lava stream and
ascended by it through a picture of desolation. From shore to summit
took us three hours, which confirmed to me a rough estimate of the
height as about four thousand feet. The grade was not severe, some
thirty or forty degrees; but by this time we had a brisk northwest
wind blowing down our throats, and the latter part of the way our feet
sank deep in volcanic dust. At the top the air was very cold, keen,
and rare, but somewhat oppressive to the lungs. None of us cared to
smoke, after eating and drinking, but the view afforded us was
perfect; limitless, so far as atmospheric conditions went. In
appearance the crater differed little, I presume, from others in a
state of quiescence. Smoke and steam poured forth continually, in one
spot in large volumes; while from many places issued little jets, such
as puff from the out-door pipes of a factory, suggesting subterranean
workmen. These were especially numerous from a large mound in the
centre, which our guide told us was growing bigger and bigger with his
successive visits, portending an outburst near. If his observation was
accurate, it goes to show the coincident sympathetic movements which
occur in volcanic regions remote from one another; for this year,
1868, followed one of great terrestrial disturbance. In 1867 two of
our naval vessels had been carried ashore by a tidal wave in the West
Indies; and of two others lying off Arica, Peru, one was dashed to
pieces against the cliffs, while the other was carried over low, flat
ground for a mile or so inland, where her dismantled hull was still
lying when I was there in 1884.

Our starting when we did, as soon as possible, three days after
arrival, justified the Nelsonian maxim not to trifle with a fair wind;
for we just culled the three days which were the cream, and only
cream, of our stay. From our return on the 6th, to sailing on the
12th, there was but one fair twenty-four hours--the rest from
blustering to furious; and we went out with the promise of a gale
which did not with evening "in the west sink smilingly forsworn." The
_Iroquois_ ran through Tsugaru Strait under canvas, with a barometer
rather tumbling than falling, and an east wind fast freshening to
heavy. We knew it must end at northwest; but it lasted till afternoon
of the next day, so we got a good offing. The shift of the wind was in
its accompaniments spectacular--and cyclonic. The morning of the 13th
was among the wildest I have seen. Daylight came a half-hour late,
with a lurid sky; the clouds, the confused, heaving water, the sails,
spars, and deck of the ship herself, all as if seen in a Lorraine
glass. It having become nearly calm, she lay thrashing aimlessly in
the swell, unsteadied by the canvas. The barometer still fell slowly
till two in the afternoon, when it stopped, and we began to look out.

   "First rise, after very low
    Indicates a stronger blow."

At three it rose one one-hundredth of an inch, and almost
simultaneously, looking over the weather rail, was to be seen the
oncoming northwester, never long in debt to a southeaster. First a
gleaming white line of foam beneath the sombre horizon, gradually
spreading to right and left, and visibly widening as it drew near.
Soon its deepening surface broke to view into innumerable separate
wave-crests, which advanced leaping in tumultuous accord, like the
bounding rush of a pack of wolves, whom you may see, and whose howling
you can imagine but do not yet hear. As Kingsley has said, "It looks
so dangerous, and you are so safe"--all the thrill, yet none of the
apprehension. The new gale struck the _Iroquois_ in full force. Within
twenty minutes it had reached its height, and so continued for near
forty-eight hours, during thirty-six of which the hatches were
battened down. For a time the two seas, the old and the new, fought
each other to our discomfort; but the old yielded, and, as the new got
its even, regular swing, the _Iroquois_ agreed with its enemy of the
moment and rode easily.

With our arrival at Shanghai we had left behind whatever in the cruise
of the _Iroquois_ could be considered exceptional as to incident; that
is, while I remained with her. From December, 1868, we entered in
China upon the usual routine of station movement; interesting enough
at the time, but from which my memory retains nothing noteworthy.
Subsequently we visited Formosa and Manila and Hong Kong; whence we
were sent south for ten days to the Gulf of Hainan to search for a
French corvette which had disappeared. We did not find her, nor was
she again seen by mortal eyes. Returning to Hong Kong, we learned of
the first election of General Grant to the presidency, and that a
letter from him had reached the admiral asking that the captain of the
flag-ship, who as a school comrade had once saved Grant's life, should
be ordered home; the intention being to give him charge of an
important bureau in the Navy Department. Under usual circumstances a
relief would have been sent out; but as the request was from the
expectant administration, not from the one still in power and
antagonistic, a private letter was the chosen medium of action.

His departure made a vacancy, to which succeeded the captain of the
_Iroquois_, a great favorite with the commander-in-chief. I was left
in charge of the ship until we went back to Japan in May. There I fell
ill at Nagasaki, and after recovery found myself at Yokohama, in
command of a gunboat ordered to be sold. This consummation was reached
in September, and I then started for home, having the admiral's
permission to proceed by Suez to Europe, instead of by the usual
route to San Francisco. My object was only to visit Europe; but on the
way to Hong Kong a Parsee merchant, a fellow-passenger, suggested
turning aside to India, which I had not contemplated. I shall not go
into my brief India travel from Calcutta to Bombay, beyond mentioning
the singular good-fortune, as it appeared to me, that I visited the
ruined residence at Lucknow, and the remains of the memorable siege of
twelve years before, in the company of an officer who had himself been
a participant. His wife, still a very young and handsome woman, whom I
had the pleasure of meeting, had been one of the children within the
works, sharing the perils, if not the anxieties, of their mothers
during that period of awful suspense.

Nor do I think my six months in Europe, leave for which met me on my
arrival there, worthy of particular note, save in one incident which
has always seemed to me curious. Landing at Marseilles, I found that
intimate friends were then at Nice. I accordingly went there, instead
of to Paris, as I had intended; and, like thoughtless young men
everywhere, abandoned myself to pleasant society instead of to
self-improvement by travel. My purpose, however, continually was to go
directly to Paris when I did leave Nice, for my time was limited; but
a middle-aged friend strongly dissuaded me. "You should by no means
fail to visit Rome now," he said, "for, independently of the immortal
interest of the place, of the treasures of association and of art
which are its imperishable birthright, there is the more transient
spectacle of the Papacy, in the pride, pomp, and circumstance of the
temporal power. This may at any moment pass away, and you therefore
may never have another opportunity to witness it in its glory. There
is a vague traditional prophecy that, as St. Peter held the bishopric
of Rome twenty-five years, any pope whose tenure exceeds his will see
the downfall of the papal sovereignty over Rome. Such prophecies
often insure their own fulfilment, and Pius IX. is now closely
approaching his twenty-fifth year. Go while you can." So I went, in
February, 1870; and before the next winter's snow the temporal power
was a thing of the past.



XI

THE TURNING OF A LONG LANE--HISTORICAL, NAVAL, AND PERSONAL

1870


In narrating the cruise of the _Iroquois_ I have, as it were, laid the
reins on the neck of my memory, letting it freely run away; partly
because our track lay over stretches of sea even now somewhat unbeaten
by travel, partly because the story of routine naval life and
incidental experiences, in a time already far past, might have for the
non-professional reader more novelty than could be premised by me, a
daily participant therein. Moreover, there were in our cruise some
exceptional occurrences which might be counted upon to relieve
monotony. I purpose to observe greater restraint in what follows.

The year 1870, in which I returned home, was one of marked and
decisive influence upon history, and in a way a turning-point in my
own obscure career. As in February I witnessed the splendors of the
papal city under its old régime, so in April and May I saw imperial
Paris brilliant under the emperor. In the one case as in the other I
was unconscious of the approaching _débâcle_; a blindness I presume
shared by most contemporaries. Whatever the wiser and more far-seeing
might have prophesied as to the general ultimate issues, few or none
could then have foretold the particular occasion which so soon
afterwards opened the floodgates. As the old passed, with the downfall
of the French Empire and of the temporal kingdom, there arose a new;
not merely the German Empire and the unity of Italy, crowned by the
possession of its historic capital, but, unrecognized for the moment,
then came in that reign of organized and disciplined force, the full
effect and function of which in the future men still only dimly
discern. The successive rapid overthrows of the Austrian and French
empires by military efficiency and skill; the beating in detail two
separate foes who, united, might have been too strong for the victor;
the consequent crumbling of the papal monarchy when French support was
withdrawn, following closely on the Vatican Decree of Infallibility;
these things produced an impression which was transmitted rapidly
throughout the world of European civilization, till in the Farther
East it reached Japan. Into the current thus established the petty
stream of my own fortunes was drawn, little anticipated by myself. To
it was due my special call; for by it was created the predisposition
to recognize the momentous bearing of maritime force upon the course
of history, which insured me a hearing when the fulness of my time was
come.

Until 1870 my life since graduation had been passed afloat almost
without interruption. Soon afterwards I obtained command rank; and
this promotion, combined with the dead apathy which after the War of
Secession settled upon our people with regard to the navy, left me
with relatively little active employment for several years. In
America, the naval stagnation of that period was something now almost
incredible. The echoes of the guns which from Königgrätz and a dozen
battle-fields in France had resounded round the globe, awakening the
statesmen of all countries, had apparently ricochetted over the United
States, as fog sound-signals are noticed to rebound overhead, unheard
through long stretches of the sea-level, until they again touch the
water beyond. The nation slumbered peacefully in its "_petit coin_,"
to use the expressive phrase of a French admiral to me. Had even
nothing been done, this inertness might have been less significant;
but somewhere in the early seventies, despite all the progress
elsewhere noticeable, there were built deliberately some half-dozen
corvettes, smaller than the _Iroquois_ class, mostly of wood. That a
period of lethargy in action should steal over a government just
released from strenuous exertion is one thing, and bad enough; but it
is different, and much worse, that there should be a paralysis of
idea, of mental development corresponding to the movement of the
world.

I myself have always considered that the "right about" of policy came
with the administration of President Arthur, when Mr. Chandler was
Secretary of the Navy. It began with a work of destruction, an
exposure of the uselessness of the existing naval material, due purely
to stand-still; to being left hopelessly in the rear by the march of
improvement elsewhere. Upon this followed under the same
administration an attempt at restoration, gingerly enough in its
conceptions. The vessels laid down were cruisers, the primary quality
of which should be speed; but fourteen knots was the highest demanded,
and that of one only, the _Chicago_. Unhappily, wherever the fault
lay, the navy then had the habit of living from day to day on
expedients, on makeshifts. Although deficiencies were manifest and
generally felt, the prevailing sentiment had been that we should wait
until the experiments of other peoples, in the cost of which we would
not share, should have reached workable finalities. This is another
instance of what is commonly called "practical;" as though mental
processes must not necessarily antecede efficient action, and as
though there was not then at hand abundant data for brains to work on,
without any expenditure of money. Finality, indeed, had not been
reached, and never will be in anything save death; but at that time it
had been shown beyond peradventure that radically new conditions had
entered naval warfare, and clearly the first most practical step was a
mature official digestion of these conditions--a decision as to what
types of vessels were needed, and what their respective qualities
should be. In short, the first and perfectly possible thing was to
evolve a systematic policy; a careful look, and then a big leap.

However, things rarely come about in that way. It involves getting rid
of old ideas, which is quite as bad as pulling teeth, and much harder;
and the subsequent adoption of new ones, that are as uneasy as tight
shoes. We had then certain accepted maxims, dating mainly from 1812,
which were as thoroughly current in the country--and I fear in the
navy, too--as the "dollar of the daddies" was not long after. One was
that commerce destroying was the great efficient weapon of naval
warfare. Everybody--the navy as well--believed we had beaten Great
Britain in 1812, brought her to her knees, by the destruction of her
commerce through the system observed by us of single cruisers; naval
or privateers. From that erroneous premise was deduced the conclusion
of a navy of cruisers, and small cruisers at that; no battle-ship nor
fleets.[15] Then we wanted a navy for coast defence only, no
aggressive action in our pious souls; an amusing instance being that
our first battle-ships were styled "coast defence" battle-ships, a
nomenclature which probably facilitated the appropriations. They were
that; but they were capable of better things, as the event has proved.
But the very fact that such talk passed unchallenged as that about
commerce-destroying by scattered cruisers, and war by mere
defence--known to all military students as utterly futile and
ruinous--shows the need then existent of a comprehensive survey of the
contemporary condition of the world, and of the stage which naval
material had reached. One such was made, which a subsequent secretary,
Mr. Tracy, characterized to me as excellent; but the deficiencies and
requirements exposed by it in our naval status frightened Congress,
much as the confronting of his affairs terrify a bankrupt.

During the latter part of Secretary Chandler's term I was abroad in
command of the _Wachusett_, on the Pacific coast. Besides her, the
squadron consisted of the _Hartford_, Farragut's old flag-ship, the
_Lackawanna_, and my former ship, the _Iroquois_. They all dated, guns
as well, from the War of Secession, or earlier. Had they been
exceptional instances, on a station of no great importance, it might
not have mattered greatly; but in fact they still remained
representative components of the United States navy. The squadron
organization, too, was that which had prevailed ever since I entered
the service, and so continued until a very few years ago. The rule was
that the vessels were scattered, one to this port, another to that.
They rarely met, except for interchange of duties; and when in company
almost the only exercises in common were those of yards and sails, in
which the ships worked competitively, to beat one another's time,--a
healthy enough emulation. But this rivalry was no substitute for the
much more necessary practice of working together, in mutual support;
for the acquired habit of handling vessels in rapid movement and close
proximity with fearless judgment, based upon experience of what your
own could do, and what might be confidently expected from your
consorts, especially your next ahead and astern. A new captain for
the _Lackawanna_ accompanied me to the station, where we found our
ships in Callao, assembled with the other two. Within a week later we
all went out together, performed three or four simple evolutions, and
then scattered. This was the only fleet drill we had in the two years,
1883-1885.

In fact, from time immemorial the navy had thought in single ships, as
the army had in company posts. To the several officers their own ship
was everything, the squadron little or nothing. The War of Secession
had broadened the ideas of the army by enlarging its operations in the
field, although peace brought a relapse; but the navy having to fight
only shore batteries, not fleets, was not forced out of the old
tactical and strategic apathy. The huge accumulations of vessels under
a single admiral entailed enlarged administrative duties; but the
tactical methods, as shown in the greater battles, presented simply
the adaptation of means to a particular occasion, and, however
sagacious in the several instances--and they usually were
sagacious--possessed no continuity of system in either theory or
practice. Organic unity did not exist except for administration. There
was an assemblage of vessels, but not a fleet. All this was the
result, or at least the complement, of the theory of commerce
destroying, which prescribed cruisers that act singly; and of war by
defence only, which proscribed battle-ships, that act in unison and so
compel unity.

A further incident of Mr. Chandler's tenure of office was the
establishment of the Naval War College at Newport. This had its origin
in the recognition of a defect in the constitution of the Navy
Department, which was glaringly visible during the War of Secession.
Immense and admirable as was the administrative work done by the
Department during that contest, there did not exist in it then, nor
did there for many years to come, any formal provision for the proper
consideration and expert decision of strictly military questions,
from the point of view of military experience and professional
understanding. The head of the Department, invariably a civilian under
our form of government, and therefore usually unfamiliar with naval
matters, had not assured to him, at instant call, organized
professional assistance, individual or corporate, prepared to advise
him, when asked, as to the military aspect of proposed operations,
what the arguments for or against feasibility, or what the best method
of procedure. In other services, notably in the German army, this
function is discharged by the general staff, nothing correspondent to
which was to be found in our Navy Department. It is evident that the
constitution of a general staff, or of any similar body called into
being for such purpose, will be more broadly based, and sounder, as
knowledge of the subjects in question is more widely distributed among
the officers of the service; and that such knowledge will be imparted
most certainly by the creation of an institution for the systematic
study of military operations, by land or sea, applying the experiences
of history to contemporary conditions, and to the particular theatres
of possible war in which the nation may be interested.

Such studies are the object of the Naval War College, which was
established upon the report of a board of officers, at the head of
which was the present Rear-Admiral Stephen B. Luce, to whose
persistent initiative must be attributed much of the movement which
thus resulted. The other members of the board were the late Admiral
Sampson, and Commander--now Rear-Admiral--Caspar F. Goodrich. Luce
became the first president of the institution, for which the
Department assigned a building, once an almshouse, situated on
Coaster's Harbor Island, in Narragansett Bay, then recently ceded to
the United States government. It remained still to get together a
staff of instructors, and he wrote me to ask if I would undertake the
subjects of naval history and naval tactics. The proposition was to me
very acceptable; for I had found the Pacific station disagreeable,
and, although without proper preparation, I believed on reflection
that I could do the work. During my last tour of shore duty I had read
carefully Napier's _Peninsular War_, and had found myself in a new
world of thought, keenly interested and appreciative, less of the
brilliant narrative--though that few can fail to enjoy--than of the
military sequences of cause and effect. The influence of Sir John
Moore's famous march to Sahagun--less famous than it deserves to
be--upon Napoleon's campaign in Spain, revealed to me by Napier like
the sun breaking through a cloud, aroused an emotion as joyful as the
luminary himself to a navigator doubtful of his position.

   "Then felt I as some watcher of the skies
      When a new planet swims into his ken;
    Or like stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes
      He stared at the Pacific."

Following this I had written by request a volume on the Navy in the
War of Secession, entitled _The Gulf and Inland Waters_; my first
appearance as an author. Herein also I had recognized that the same
class of military ideas took possession of my mind. I felt, therefore,
that I should bring interest and understanding to my task, and hoped
that the defects of knowledge, which I clearly realized, would be
overcome. I recalled also that at the Military Academy my father,
though professor only of engineering, military and civil, had of his
own motion introduced a course of strategy and grand tactics, which
had commended itself to observers. I trusted, therefore, that
heredity, too, might come to my aid.

As acceptance placed me on the road which led directly to all the
success I have had in life, I feel impelled to acknowledge my
indebtedness to Admiral Luce. With little constitutional initiative,
and having grown up in the atmosphere of the single cruiser, of
commerce-destroying, defensive warfare, and indifference to
battle-ships; an anti-imperialist, who for that reason looked upon Mr.
Blaine as a dangerous man; at forty-five I was drifting on the lines
of simple respectability as aimlessly as one very well could. My
environment had been too much for me; my present call changed it.
Meantime, however, there was delay. A relief would not be sent,
because the ship was to go home; and the ship did not go home because
there was, first, a revolution in Panama, and then a war between the
Central American states, both which required the _Wachusett's_
presence. Mr. Cleveland was elected at this time; there was a change
of administration, and with a new Secretary a lapse of Departmental
interest. The ship did not go to San Francisco till September, 1885,
nearly a year after the admiral's proposition reached me.

The year had not been unfruitful, however. Naturally predisposed, as I
have said, my mind ran continually on my subject. I imagined various
formations for developing to the best effect the powers of steamships,
and sudden changes to be instituted as the moment of collision
approached, calculated to disconcert the opponent, or to surprise an
advantage before he could parry. Spinning cobwebs out of one's
unassisted brain, without any previous absorption from external
sources, was doubtless a somewhat crude process; yet it had
advantages. One of my manoeuvres was to pass a column of ships by an
unexpected flank movement across the head of an enemy's column. This I
have since heard called "capping;" if, at least, I correctly
understand that word. Putting it afterwards before a body of officers
attending the College course, all men of years and experience, one
said to me, derisively, "Do you suppose an enemy would let you do
that?" "It is a question of how quick he is," I replied. "In these
days of twelve or fifteen knots he will have no time to ponder, and
scarcely time to act." The query illustrates a habit of mind
frequently met. It is like discussing the merits of a thrust _en
carte_. If the other man is quick enough, he will parry; if not, he
will be run through: sooner or later the more skilful usually will get
in.

Naval history gave me more anxiety, and I afterwards found it was that
which Luce particularly desired of me. I shared the prepossession,
common at that time, that the naval history of the past was wholly
past; of no use at all to the present. I well recall, during my first
term at the College, a visit from a reporter of one of the principal
New York journals. He was a man of rotund presence, florid face,
thrown-back head, and flowing hair, with all that magisterial
condescension which the environment of the Fourth Estate nourishes in
its fortunate members; the Roman citizen was "not in it" for
birthright. To my bad luck a plan of Trafalgar hung in evidence, as he
stalked from room to room. "Ah," he said, with superb up-to-date pity,
"you are still talking about Trafalgar;" and I could see that
Trafalgar and I were thenceforth on the top shelf of fossils in the
collections of his memory. This point of view was held by very many.
"You won't find much to say about history," was the direct
discouraging comment of an older officer. On the other hand, Sir
Geoffrey Hornby, less well known in this country than in Great
Britain, where twenty years ago he was recognized as the head of the
profession, distinctly commended to me the present value of naval
history. I myself, as I have just confessed, had had the contrary
impression--a tradition passively accepted. Thus my mind was troubled
how to establish relations between yesterday and to-day; so wholly
ignorant was I of the undying reproduction of conditions in their
essential bearings--a commonplace of military art.

He who seeks, finds, if he does not lose heart; and to me,
continuously seeking, came from within the suggestion that control of
the sea was an historic factor which had never been systematically
appreciated and expounded. Once formulated consciously, this thought
became the nucleus of all my writing for twenty years then to come;
and here I may state at once what I conceive to have been my part in
popularizing, perhaps in making effective, an argument for which I
could by no means claim the rights of discovery. Not to mention other
predecessors, with the full roll of whose names I am even now
unacquainted, Bacon and Raleigh, three centuries before, had
epitomized in a few words the theme on which I was to write volumes.
That they had done so was, indeed, then unknown to me. For me, as for
them, the light dawned first on my inner consciousness; I owed it to
no other man. It has since been said by more than one that no claim
for originality could be allowed me; and that I wholly concede. What
did fall to me was, that no one since those two great Englishmen had
undertaken to demonstrate their thesis by an analysis of history,
attempting to show from current events, through a long series of
years, precisely what influence the command of the sea had had upon
definite issues; in brief, a concrete illustration. In the preface to
my first work on the subject, for the success of which I was quite
unprepared, I stated this as my aim: "An estimate of the effect of Sea
Power upon the course of history and the prosperity of nations; ...
resting upon a collection of special instances, in which the precise
effect has been made clear by an analysis of the conditions at the
given moments." This field had been left vacant, yielding me my
opportunity; and concurrently therewith, untouched from the point of
view proposed by me, there lay the whole magnificent series of events
constituting maritime history since the days of Raleigh and Bacon,
after the voyages of Columbus and De Gama gave the impetus to
over-sea activities, colonies, and commerce, which distinguishes the
past three hundred years. Even of this limited period I have occupied
but a part, though I fear I have skimmed the cream of that which it
offers; but back behind it lie virgin fields, in the careers of the
Italian republics, and others yet more remote in time, which can never
be for me to narrate, although I have examined them attentively.

I cannot now reconstitute from memory the sequence of my mental
processes; but while my problem was still wrestling with my brain
there dawned upon me one of those concrete perceptions which turn
inward darkness into light--give substance to shadow. The _Wachusett_
was lying at Callao, the seaport of Lima, as dull a coast town as one
could dread to see. Lima being but an hour distant, we frequently
spent a day there; the English Club extending to us its hospitality.
In its library was Mommsen's _History of Rome_, which I gave myself to
reading, especially the Hannibalic episode. It suddenly struck me,
whether by some chance phrase of the author I do not know, how
different things might have been could Hannibal have invaded Italy by
sea, as the Romans often had Africa, instead of by the long land
route; or could he, after arrival, have been in free communication
with Carthage by water. This clew, once laid hold of, I followed up in
the particular instance. It and the general theory already conceived
threw on each other reciprocal illustration; and between the two my
plan was formed by the time I reached home, in September, 1885. I
would investigate coincidently the general history and naval history
of the past two centuries, with a view to demonstrating the influence
of the events of the one upon the other. Original research was not
within my scope, nor was it necessary to the scheme thus outlined.

Perhaps it is only a subtle form of egotism, but as a condition of my
life experience I could wish to convey to others an appreciation of my
profound ignorance of both classes of history when I began, being then
forty-five; not that I mean to imply that now, or at any time since, I
have deluded myself with the imagination that I have become an
historian after the high modern pattern. I tackled my job much as I
presume an immigrant begins a clearing in the wilderness, not
troubling greatly which tree he takes first. I laid my hands on
whatever came along, reading with the profound attention of one who is
looking for something; and the something was kind enough to
acknowledge my devotion by shining forth in unexpected ways and
places. Any line of investigation, however unsystematic in method,
branches out in many directions, suggests continually new sources of
information, to one interested in his work; and I have felt constantly
the force of Johnson's dictum as to the superior profit from time
spent in reading what is congenial over the drudgery of constrained
application. Every faculty I possessed was alive and jumping.
Incidentally, I took up the study of land warfare, using Jomini and
Hamley. For naval history the first book upon which I chanced--the
word is exact--was just what I needed at that stage. It was a history
of the French navy, by a Lieutenant Lapeyrouse-Bonfils, published
about 1845. As naval history pure and simple, I think little of it;
but the author had a quiet, philosophical way of summing up causes and
effects in general history, as connected with maritime affairs, which
not only corresponded closely with my own purpose, but suggested to me
new material for thought--novel illustration. Such treatment was with
him only casual, but it opened to me new prospects.

It would be difficult to define precisely to what degree the art of
naval warfare had been formulated, or even consciously conceived, in
1885. There could scarcely be said to exist any systematic treatment,
or extensive commentary by acknowledged experts, such as for
generations had illuminated the theory of land warfare. Naval
histories abounded, but by far the most part were simply narratives.
Some valuable research, however, had then recently been done; notably
by Captain Chevalier, of the French navy, who had produced from French
documents a history of the maritime war connected with the American
struggle for independence. This he followed with a less exhaustive
account of the wars of the French Revolution and Empire, which also
appeared in time for me to use. These were marked by running comment,
rather than by a studied criticism such as that of Jomini or Napier.
In Great Britain, James held, and I think still holds, the field for
exhaustive collection of information, documentary or oral in origin,
during the period treated by him, 1793-1815; but he has not a military
idea in his head beyond that of downright hard fighting, punishing and
being punished. In his pages, to take a tactical advantage seems
almost a disgrace. The Navy Records Society of Great Britain had not
then begun the fruitful labors which within the last decade and a half
has made accessible in print a very large amount of new matter; nor
had the late Admiral Colomb published his comprehensive book, _Naval
Warfare_. So far as I was concerned, the old works of Lediard, Entick,
Campbell, Beatson,--in French, Paul Hoste, Troude, Guérin, and others
equally remote,--had to be my main reliance; though numerous modern
scattered monographs, English and French, were existent. In connection
with these one of my most interesting experiences was lighting upon a
paper in the _Revue Maritime et Coloniale_, describing in full the
Four Days' battle between the English and Dutch in 1666. It purported
to be, and I have no doubt was, from a personal letter recently
discovered; but I subsequently found it almost word for word in the
_Mémoires du Comte de Guiche_, also a participant, printed in 1743.
This _Revue_ contained many able and suggestive articles, historical
and professional, as did the British _Journal of the United Service
Institution_; each being in its own country a principal medium for the
exchange of professional views. Conspicuous in these contributions to
naval history and thought, in England, were Admiral Colomb and
Professor Laughton; upon the last named of whom, since these words
were first written, has been bestowed the honor of knighthood, a
recognition in the evening of life which will be heartily welcomed by
his many naval friends on both sides of the Atlantic. In short, apart
from the first-hand inquiry which I did not yet attempt, the material
available in 1885 was chiefly histories written long before,
supplemented by a great many scattered papers of more recent date.

Before leaving this part of my experience I will say a good word for
Campbell's _Lives of the Admirals_, so far as his own work--down to
1744--is concerned. Under this title it is really a history of the
British navy, very well done for enabling a professional man to
understand the naval operations; but, more than this, maritime
occurrences of other sorts, commercial movement, and naval policy, are
presented clearly, and with sufficient fulness to illustrate the
influence of sea power in its broadest sense upon the general history.
Bearing, as it does, strong indications of a full use of accessible
accounts, contemporary with the events narrated, I know no naval work
superior to it for lucidity and breadth of treatment. Campbell was he
of whom Dr. Johnson said: "Campbell is a good man, a pious man; I am
afraid he has not been inside a church for many years; but he never
passes a church without pulling off his hat. This shows he has good
principles."

In history other than naval I was for my object as fortunate as I had
been in Lapeyrouse-Bonfils. An accident first placed in my hands
Henri Martin's _History of France_. I happened to see the volumes,
then unknown to me, on the shelves of a friend. The English
translation of Martin covered only the reigns of Louis XIV. and XV.,
and of Louis XVI. to 1783, the close of the War of American
Independence. The scope of my first book, _The Influence of Sea Power
upon History_, coincides precisely with this period, and may thus have
been determined. I think, however, that the beginning of the work was
fixed for me by the essentially new departure in the history of
England and France, connoted by the almost simultaneous accession of
Charles II. and Louis XIV.; while the end was dictated by the
necessity to stop and take breath. Besides, I had to lecture, which
for the moment interrupted both reading and writing. The particular
value of Martin to me was the attention paid by him to commercial and
maritime policy, as shown in those frank methods of national
regulation which in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries
characterized all governments, but were to be seen in their simplest
and most efficient executive operation in an absolute monarchy. A more
advanced age may doubt the wisdom of such manipulation of trade; but
in the hands of a genius like Colbert it became a very active and
powerful force, the workings of which were the more impressive for
their directness. They could be easily followed. Whatever Martin's
views on political economy, he was in profound sympathy with Colbert
as an administrator, and enlarged much on his commercial policy as
conducing to the financial stability upon which that great statesman
sought to found the primacy of his country. To one as ignorant as I
was of mercantile movement, the story of Colbert's methods, owing to
their pure autocracy, was a kind of introductory primer to this
element of sea power. Thus received, the impression was both sharper
and deeper. New light was shed upon, and new emphasis given to, the
commonplace assertion of the relations between commerce and a navy;
civil and military sea power. While I have no claim to mastery of the
arguments for and against free trade and protection, Colbert, as
expounded by Martin, sent me in later days to the study of trade
statistics; as indicative of naval or political conditions deflecting
commercial interchange, and influencing national prosperity. The
strong interest such searches had for me may show a natural bent, and
certainly conduced to the understanding of sea power in its broadest
sense. Martin set my feet in the way, though Campbell helped me much
by incidental mention.

It is now accepted with naval and military men who study their
profession, that history supplies the raw material from which they are
to draw their lessons, and reach their working conclusions. Its
teachings are not, indeed, pedantic precedents; but they are the
illustrations of living principles. Napoleon is reported to have said
that on the field of battle the happiest inspiration is often but a
recollection. The authority of Jomini chiefly set me to study in this
fashion the many naval histories before me. From him I learned the
few, very few, leading considerations in military combination; and in
these I found the key by which, using the record of sailing navies and
the actions of naval leaders, I could elicit, from the naval history
upon which I had looked despondingly, instruction still pertinent. The
actual course of the several campaigns, or of the particular battles,
I worked out as one does any historical conclusion, by comparison of
the individual witnesses presented in the several accounts; but the
result of this constructive process became to me something more than a
narrative. Both the general outcome and the separate incidents passed
through tests which formed in me an habitual critical habit of mind.
My judgments, one or all, might be erroneous; but, right or wrong,
what I brought before myself was no mere portrayal, accurate as I
could achieve, but a rational whole, of composite cause and effect,
with its background and foreground, its centre of interest and
argument, its greater and smaller details, its decisive culmination;
for even to a drawn battle or a neutral issue there is something which
definitely prevented success. It was the same with questions of naval
policy. Jomini's dictum, that the organized forces of the enemy are
ever the chief objective, pierces like a two-edged sword to the joints
and marrow of many specious propositions; to that of the French
postponement of immediate action to "ulterior objects," or to
Jefferson's reliance upon raw citizen soldiery, a mob ready
disorganized to the enemy's hands when he saw fit to lay on. From
Jomini also I imbibed a fixed disbelief in the thoughtlessly accepted
maxim that the statesman and general occupy unrelated fields. For this
misconception I substituted a tenet of my own, that war is simply a
violent political movement; and from an expression of his, "The
sterile glory of fighting battles merely to win them," I deduced, what
military men are prone to overlook, that "War is not fighting, but
business."

It was with such hasty equipment that I approached my self-assigned
task, to show how the control of the sea, commercial and military, had
been an object powerful to influence the policies of nations; and
equally a mighty factor in the success or failure of those policies.
This remained my guiding aim; but incidentally thereto I had by this
determined to prepare a critical analysis of the naval campaigns and
battles, a decision for which I had to thank Jomini chiefly. This
would constitute in measure a treatment of the art of naval war; not
formal, nor systematic, but in the nature of commentary, developing
and illustrating principles. I may interject, as possibly suggestive
to professional men, that such current comment on historical events
will lead them on, as it led me irresistibly, to digest the principles
thus drawn out; reproducing them in concise definitions, applicable to
the varying circumstances of naval warfare,--an elementary treatise.
This I did also, somewhat later, in a series of lectures; which,
though necessarily rudimentary, I understand still form a groundwork
of instruction at the War College. For the framework of general
history, which was to serve as a setting to my particular thesis, I
relied upon the usual accredited histories of the period, as I did
upon equally well-known professional histories for the nautical
details. The subject lay so much on the surface that my handling of it
could scarcely suffer materially from possible future discoveries.
What such or such an unknown man had said or done on some back-stairs,
or written to some unknown correspondent, if it came to light, was not
likely to affect the received story of the external course of military
or political events. Did I make a mistake in the detail of some
battle, as I got one fleet on the wrong tack in Byng's action, or as
in the much-argued case of Torrington at Beachy Head, it would for my
leading purpose do little more harm than a minor tactical error does
to the outcome of a large strategic plan, when accurately conceived.
As a colleague phrased it to me, speaking of the cautious deliberation
of some men, "A second-best position to-day is better than a
first-best to-morrow, when the occasion has passed." Strike while the
iron is hot! and between reading and thinking my iron was very hot by
the time I laid it on the anvil. Moreover, I had to meet the emergency
of lecturing, one of the main reliances of our incipient undertaking.

I had begun my reading with Lapeyrouse-Bonfils, in October, 1885. The
preceding summer at Panama had so far affected my health as to cause a
month's severe illness in the winter; and when recovered I
unguardedly let myself in for another month's work, on naval tactics,
which might have been postponed. Hence the end of the following May
had arrived before I began to write; but I was so full of matter,
absorbed or evolved, that I ran along with steady pace, and by
September had on paper, in lecture form, all of my first _Sea Power_
book, except the summary of conclusions which constitutes the final
chapter. Before publication, in 1890, the whole had been very
carefully revised; but the changes made were mostly in the details of
battles, or else verbal in character, to develop discussions in
amplitude or clearness. Battles had been to me at first a secondary
consideration; hence for revision I had accumulated many fresh data,
notably from two somewhat scarce books: _Naval Battles in the West
Indies_, by Lieutenant Matthews, and _Naval Researches_, by Captain
Thomas White, British officers contemporary and participant in the
events which they narrate of the War of American Independence.

A lecturer is little hampered by the exactions of style; indeed, the
less he ties himself to his manuscript, the more he can talk to his
audience rather than read, and the more freely his command of his
subject permits him to digress pertinently, the better he holds
attention. When I found after my first course that the treatment was
to my hearers interesting as well as novel, the thought of publishing
entered my mind; and while I had no expectation or ambition to become
a stylist, the question of style gradually forced itself on my
consideration. I intend to state some of my conclusions, because the
casual remarks of others, authors or critics, have been helpful to me.
Why should not style as well as war have its history and biography, to
which each man may contribute an unpretentious mite? Notably, I got
much comfort from Darwin's complaint of frequent recurrences of
inability to give adequate expression to thoughts, which he could then
put down only in such crude, imperfect form as the moment suggested,
leaving the task of elaboration to a more propitious season. If so
great a man was thus troubled, no strange thing was happening to me in
a like experience. Such good cheer in intellectual as well as moral
effort is one of the best services of biography and history, raising
to the rank of ministering spirits the men whose struggles and success
they tell. Was not Washington greater at Valley Forge than at
Yorktown? and Nelson beating against a head wind than at Trafalgar?
Johnson has anticipated Darwin's method in advice given in his
Gargantuan manner: "Do not exact from yourself, at one effort of
excogitation, propriety of thought and elegance of expression. Invent
first, and then embellish. The production of something, where nothing
was before, is an act of greater energy than the expansion or
decoration of the thing produced. Set down diligently your thoughts as
they arise in the first words that occur, and, when you have matter,
you will easily give it form." To Trollope I owed a somewhat different
practical maxim. His theory Was that a man could turn out manuscript
as steadily as a shoemaker shoes--his precise simile, if I remember;
and he prided himself on penning his full tale each day. I could not
subscribe to this, and think that Trollope's work, of which I am fond,
shows the bad effect; but I did imbibe contempt for yielding to the
feeling of incapacity, and put myself steadily to my desk for my
allotted time, writing what I could. Whether the result were ten words
or ten hundred I tried to regard With equanimity.

I have never purpose attempted to imitate the style of any writer,
though I unscrupulously plagiarize an apt expression. But gradually,
and almost unconsciously, I formed a habit of closely scrutinizing the
construction of sentences by others; generally a fault-finding habit.
As I progressed, I worked out a theory for myself, just as I had the
theory of the influence of sea power. Style, I said, has two sides. It
is first and above all the expression of a man's personality, as
characteristic as any other trait; or, as some one has said--was it
Buffon?--style is the man himself. From this point of view it is
susceptible of training, of development, or of pruning; but to attempt
to pattern it on that of another person is a mistake. For one chance
of success there are a dozen of failure; for you are trying to raise a
special product from a soil probably uncongenial, or a fruit from an
alien stem--figs from vines. But beyond this there is to style an
artificial element, which I conceive to be indicated by the word
_technique_ as applied to the arts; though it is possible that I
misapprehend the term, being ignorant of art. In authorship I
understand by _technique_ mainly the correct construction of periods,
by the proper collocation of their parts. I subscribe heartily to the
opinion I have seen attributed to Stevenson, that everything depends
upon the order of the words; and this, in my judgment, should make the
sentence as nearly as possible independent of punctuation.

Further, there are many awkwardnesses of expression which proper
training or subsequent practice can eliminate; and in proportion as a
writer attains the faculty of instinctively avoiding these, his
technique improves. Perfected, he would never use them, and his
sentences would flow untaught from his pen in absolutely clear
reflection of his thought. As an example of what I mean by
awkwardnesses, I would cite the use of "whose" as the possessive of
"which." I know that adequate authority pronounces this correct, so it
is not on that score I reject it. Moreover, I recognize that in myself
the repulsion is somewhat of an acquired taste. When I began to write
I thus employed it myself, but its sound is so inevitably suggestive
of "who" as to constitute an impertinence of association. I have
lately been reading a very excellent history of the United States, in
which the frequent repetition of "whose" in this sense causes me the
sensation of perpetually "stubbing" my toe; an Americanism, which, I
will explain to any British reader, means stumbling over roots or on
an unequal pavement, the irritation of which needs not exposition.

In the matter of natural style I soon discovered that the besetting
anxiety of my soul was to be exact and lucid. I might not succeed, but
my wish was indisputable. To be accurate in facts and correct in
conclusions, both as to appreciation and expression, dominated all
other motives. This had a weak side. I was nervously susceptible to
being convicted of a mistake; it upset me, as they say. Even where a
man writes, this is a defect of a quality; in active life it entails
slowness of decision and procrastination, failure "to get there." I
have no doubt that much contemporary writing suffers delay from a like
morbid dread as to possibility of error. The aim to be thus both
accurate and clear often encumbered my sentences. My cautious mind
strove to introduce between the same two periods every qualification,
whether in abatement or enforcement of the leading idea or statement.
This in many cases meant an accumulation of clauses, over which I
exercised my ingenuity and lavished my time so to arrange them that
the whole should be at once apprehended by the reader. It was not
enough for me that the qualifications should appear a page or two
before, or after, and in this I think myself right; but in wanting
them all in the same period, as I instinctively did,--and do, for
nature is obstinate,--I have imposed on myself needless labor, and
have often taxed attention as an author has no right to do. Unless
under pressing necessity, I myself will not be at pains to read what I
can with difficulty understand.

It is to this anxiety for full and accurate development of statements
and ideas that I chiefly attribute a diffuseness with which my
writing has been reproached; I have no doubt justly. I have not,
however, tried to check the evil at the root. I am built that way, and
think that way; all round a subject, as far as I can see it. I am
uneasy if a presentment err by defect, by excess, or by obscurity
apparent to myself. I must get the whole in; and for due emphasis am
very probably redundant. I am not willing to attempt seriously
modifying my natural style, the reflection of myself, lest, while
digging up the tares of prolixity I root up also the wheat of
precision. The difference emphasized by Dr. Johnson, "between notions
borrowed from without and notions generated within," seems to me to
apply to the mode of expression as well as to the idea expressed. The
two spring from the same source, and correspond. You impress more
forcibly by retaining your native manner of statement; chastened where
necessary, but not defaced by an imitation, even of a self-erected,
yet artificial, standard. It does not do to meddle too much with
yourself. But I do resort to a weeding process in revising; a verb or
an adjective, an expletive or a superlative, is dragged out and cast
away. Even so, as often as not, I have to add. The words above, "as
far as I can see it," have just been put in. Of course, in the
interest of readers, I resort to breaking up sentences; but to me
personally the result is usually distasteful. The reader takes hold
more easily, as a child learns spelling by division into syllables;
but I am conscious that instead of my thoughts constituting a group
mutually related, and so reproducing the essential me, they are
disjointed and must be reassembled by others.

A man untrained in youth, and who has never systematically sought to
repair the defect, can scarcely hope fully to compass technique in
style. He will thus lose some part of that which he may gain by being
more nearly his natural self; for there is a real gain in this. Such
advance as I have made in technique--and I trust I have made some--I
have owed to the critical running analysis of the construction of
sentences, which has been my habit ever since I began to write. That
this is constant with me, subconsciously, is shown by the frequency
with which it passes into a conscious logical recasting of what I
read. To get antecedents and consequents as near one another as
possible; qualifying words or phrases as close as may be to that which
they qualify; an object near its verb; to avoid an adjective which
applies to one of two nouns being so placed as to seem to qualify
both; such minute details seem to me worthy of the utmost care, and I
think I can trace advance in these respects. My experiments tend to
show that the natural order of nominative, verb, object, is usually
preferable; and as a rule I find that adverbs and adverbial phrases
fall best between nominative and verb. Still, the desirability of
tying each period to its predecessor, as does the rhyme of the fourth
and fifth lines of a sonnet, will modify arrangement. In reading
another author, where such precaution as I name is neglected, a word
misplaced in its relation to the others of the sentence runs my mind
off the track, like an engine on a misplaced switch, and I dislike the
trouble of backing to get on the right rails. It is the same with my
own work, if time enough elapses between composition and subsequent
reading. Generally I make such time, either in manuscript or proofs;
but I am chagrined when I meet slips in the printed page, as I too
often do. There is no provision against such fault equal to laying the
text aside till it has become unfamiliar; but even this is not
certain, for construction, being consonant to your permanent mode of
thinking, may not when erroneous jar upon you as upon another.

In acquiring an automatic habit, which technique should become,
principles tend to crystallize into rules, and a few such I have;
counsels of perfection many of these, too often unrealized. I do not
like the same word repeated in the same paragraph, though this lays a
heavy tax on so-called synonymes. Assonances jar me, even two
terminations "tion" near together. I will not knowingly use "that" for
"which," except to avoid two "whiches" between the same two periods.
The split infinitive I abhor, more as a matter of taste than argument.
I recognize that it is at times very tempting to snuggle the adverb so
close to the verb; but I hold fast my integrity. Once, indeed, I took
it into my head not to split compound tenses, and carried this fad
somewhat remorselessly through a series of republished articles; but
the result has not pleased me. Boswell tells us that Johnson would
have none of "former" and "latter;" that he would rather repeat the
noun than resort to this subterfuge. I see no good reason for
rejecting these convenient alternatives; but nevertheless I have
obsequiously bowed to the autocrat and taken a skunner to the
words--the only literary snobbishness of which I am conscious. I can
stand out against Macaulay's proscription of prepositions ending
sentences. Although I generally twist them round, they often please my
ear there. It is not exactly in point, but I have always rejoiced over
"Silver was nothing accounted of" in the days of King Solomon; indeed,
I was brought to book by a proofreader for concluding a sentence with
"accounted of." I let it stand, so taking was it to me.

The question doubtless occurs to most authors how far they are under
bonds to the King's English. As to grammar, I submit; the consequences
of anarchy dismay me; but I question whether in words coinage is an
attribute of sovereignty. There is, of course, plenty of false money
going around, current because accepted; but I think a man is at
liberty to pass a new word, a word without authority in dictionaries,
if it be congruous to standard etymology. I once wrote "eventless;"
but, on looking, found it not. Yet why not? "Homeless," "heartless,"
"shoeless," etc.; why merely "uneventful," a form only one letter
longer, it is true, but built up to "eventful" to be pulled down to
"uneventful"? Besides, "uneventful" does not mean the same as
"eventless." "Doubtless" and "undoubtedly" differ by more than a shade
in sense, and we have both. So we have "anywhere," "nowhere,"
"somewhere," "everywhere;" why not "manywhere," if you need it? Again,
if "hitherto" be good--and it is--why not "thitherto"? In the case of
"eccentric" as a military term, I felt forced to frame "ex-centric;"
the former--I ask Dr. Johnson's pardon--has, in America at least,
become so exclusively associated with the secondary though cognate
idea of singularity that it would not convey its restricted military
significance to a lay reader.

I had been assigned to the War College in October, 1885, Admiral Luce
being still its president, but I did not go into residence until the
end of the following August. Luce had then been for some months
detached, to command the North Atlantic fleet, and I had succeeded him
by default, without special orders that I can remember. He was anxious
for me to live on the spot, to be "on deck," as he phrased it, for the
College had many enemies and few friends; and matters were not helped
by a sharp official collision that summer between him and Secretary
Whitney, who from indifference passed into antagonism. I cannot say
that his change was due to this cause, and for a long time his
hostility did not take form in act. Now that the College, after twenty
years, has had the warm encomium of the President of the United States
in his message to Congress, it is interesting to a veteran recipient
of its early buffets to recall conditions. In my two years' incumbency
we got decidedly more kicks than halfpence. Yet in retrospect it
gains. A prominent New York lawyer once told me of a young man from a
distant State consulting him with a view to practising in the city.
In response to some cautious warning as to the difficulties, he said:
"Do you mean that with my education and capacity I cannot expect rapid
success?" "I fear not," replied the mentor. A few months later they
met casually. "Are you getting on as fast as you had hoped?" asked the
older man. "No," admitted the other, "but it's heaps of fun." He
doubtless got on, and so did the College. I at the time was less
appreciative of the fun, but I liked the work, and now I see also the
comical side.

Between the early favor of the Department and his own energy, Luce had
given the College a good send-off, like a skiff shoved by hand from
the wharf into mid-stream. There remained only to keep it moving. We
had an appropriation, and a building that was ready for lecturing;
with also two as yet uncompleted suites of quarters, for myself and
one other officer. We had also a very respectable library, in which,
among many valuable works, conspicuously selected with an eye to our
special objects, I recall with amusement certain ancient
encyclopædias, contributed apparently by well-wishers from stock which
had begun to encumber their shelves. Howbeit, like Quaker guns, these
made a brave show if not too closely scrutinized, and spared us the
semblance of poverty in vacant spaces. Every military man understands
the value of an imposing front towards the enemy. When I arrived, I
was the sole occupant of the building; and except an army officer--now
General Tasker Bliss--was the only _attaché_. As I walked round the
lonely halls and stairways, I might have parodied Louis XIV., and
said, "_Le Collège, c'est moi_." I had, indeed, an excellent steward,
who attended to my meals and made my bed. There was but one lamp
available, which I had to carry with me when I went from room to room
by night; and, indeed, except for the roof over my head, I might be
said to be "camping out." There was yet a month before the class of
officers was to arrive. This interval was more than occupied preparing
the necessary maps for my lectures, much of the time by my lonely
light. Owing to lack of regular assistance, a great part of the map
work was done by my own hands, often sprawled on the floor as my best
table; though I was fortunate in receiving much voluntary help from a
retired lieutenant, now Captain McCarty Little, then and always an
enthusiastic advocate of the College, who did some of the drafting and
all the coloring. Thus were put together three of the four maps which
afterwards appeared in my first book. The fourth, of the North
Atlantic Ocean, was begged of the hydrographer of the navy; a friendly
Rhode Island man.

Besides the maps, there were to be produced some twenty or more battle
plans. For these I hit on a device which I can recommend. I cut out a
number of cardboard vessels, of different colors for the contending
navies, and these I moved about on a sheet of drawing-paper until
satisfied that the graphic presentation corresponded with facts and
conditions. They were then fastened in place with mucilage. This saved
a great deal of drawing in and rubbing out, and by using complementary
colors gave vivid impression. In combats of sailing fleets you must
look out sharp, or in some arrangement, otherwise plausible, you will
have a ship sailing within four points of the wind before you know it.
Nor is this the only way truth may be insulted. Times and distances
also lay snares for incautious steps. I noticed once in an account of
an action two times, with corresponding positions, which made a
frigate in the meanwhile run at eighteen knots under topsails.

By such shifts we scrambled along as best we could our first year,
content with beef without horseradish, as Sam Weller has it; hitching
up with rope when a trace gave way, in the blessed condition of those
who are not expecting favors. But worse was to come. Besides the
general offence against conservatism by being a new thing, the
College specifically had poached its building from another manor. It
stood upon the grounds of the Naval Training Station, for apprentices,
which considered itself defrauded of property and intruded upon by an
alien jurisdiction--an _imperium in imperio_. The two were not even
under the same bureau, so the antagonism existed in Washington as well
as locally; and now a Secretary of malevolent neutrality. Truly some
one was needed "on deck;" though just what he could do with such a
barometer did not appear, unless he bore up under short canvas, like
Nelson, who "made it a rule never to fight the northwesters." And such
was very much our policy; reefed close down, looking out for squalls
at any moment from any quarter, saying nothing to nobody, content to
be let alone, if only we might be so let. Small sail; and no weather
helm, if you please. One most alleviating circumstance was the
commandant of the training station, the local enemy, one of the born
saints of the earth, Arthur Yates. Officially, of course he
disapproved of us; professional self-respect and precedent, bureau
allegiance, and all the rest of it, were outraged; but when it came to
deeds, Yates could not have imagined an unkind act, much less done it.
Nor did he stop there; good-will with him was not a negative but an
active quality. What we wanted he would always do, and then go one
better, if he could find a way to add to our convenience; and when we
ultimately came to grief, after his departure, he wrote me a letter of
condolence. Altogether, while clouds were gathering in Washington, it
was perpetual sunshine at home as to official and personal relations.
I have no doubt he would have drawn maps for me had I asked it.

None the less, trouble was at hand. In 1886 we had a session which by
general consent was very successful in quality, if not in quantity,
lasting little over two months. Our own bureau controlled the
ordering of officers, so it swept together a sufficient number to form
a class. We had several excellent series of lectures: on Gunnery in
its higher practical aspects, by Lieutenant Meigs, who has since left
the navy for a responsible position in the Bethlehem Iron Works; on
International Law, by Professor Soley, who under the next
administration became Assistant-Secretary of the Navy; on Naval
Hygiene, by a naval surgeon, Dr. Dean; together with others less
notable. All these had been contracted for by Luce. Captain Bliss and
myself, as yet the only two permanent _attachés_, of course took our
share. So much was new to the officers in attendance, not only in
details but in principle, that I am satisfied nine-tenths of them went
away friendly; some enthusiastic. The College had steered clear of any
appearance of scientific, or so-called post-graduate, instruction,
consecutive with that given at Annapolis; and had demonstrated that it
meant to deal only with questions pertinent to the successful
carrying-on of war, for promoting which no instrumentality existed
elsewhere. The want had been proved, and a means of filling it
offered. The listeners had been persuaded.

I well remember my own elation when they went away in the latter part
of November. Success had surpassed expectation. But in a fortnight
Congress met, and it soon became evident that we were to be starved
out,--no appropriation. It was a short session, too; scant time for
fighting. I went to Washington, and pleaded with the chairman of the
House naval committee, Mr. Herbert; but while he was perfectly
good-natured, and we have from then been on pleasant terms, whenever
he saw me he set his teeth and compressed his lips. His argument was:
Once establish an institution, and it grows; more and more every year.
There must be economy, and nowhere is economy so effectually applied
as to the beginnings. In vain did I try to divert his thoughts to the
magnificent endings that would come from the paltry ten thousand the
College asked. He stopped his ears, like Ulysses, and kept his eyes
fixed on the necessity of strangling vipers in their cradle. In vain
were my efforts seconded by General Joe Wheeler, also a representative
from Alabama, and strongly sympathetic with military thought. No help
could be expected from the Secretary, and we got no funds.

The fiscal year would end June 30, 1887. It was of no use to try
saving from the current balance, for by law that must be turned in at
the year's end. So we shrugged our shoulders and trusted to luck,
which came to our assistance in a comical manner. For summer we were
all right, or nearly so; but winter might freeze us out. Still, unless
the Secretary saw fit to destroy the College by executive order, it
had a right to be warm; so we sent in our requisition for heating the
building. It went through the customary channels, was approved, and
the coal in the cellars before the Department noticed that there was
no appropriation against which to charge it. Upon reference to the
Secretary, he decided that the coal had been ordered and supplied in
good faith, and should be left and paid for. In fact, however, if the
building was used it would have to be heated; the decision practically
was to let the College retain the building. It was an excellent
occasion to wipe us out by a stroke of the pen, but Mr. Whitney had
not yet reached that point. The fuel, I think, was charged to the
bureau to which the Training Station belonged, which would not tend to
mollify its feelings.

Coal was our prime necessity, but it was not all. The hostile interest
now began to cut us short in the various items which contribute to the
daily bread of a government institution. We lived the year from hand
to mouth. From the repairs put on the building a twelvemonth before
there was left a lot of refuse scrap lying about. This we collected
and sorted, selling what was available, on the principle of
slush-money. Slush, the non-professional may be told, is the grease
arising from the cooking of salt provisions. By old custom this was
collected, barrelled, and sold for the benefit of the ship. The price
remained in the first lieutenant's hands, to be expended for the
vessel; usually going for beautifying. What we sold at the College we
thus used; not for beautifying, which was far beyond us, but to keep
things together. This proceeding was irregular, and for years I
preserved with nervous care the memoranda of what became of the money,
in case of being questioned; although I do not think the total went
much beyond a hundred dollars. It is surprising how much a hundred
dollars may be made to do. For our lectures the hydrographer again
made for the College two very large and handsome maps.

The session of 1887 was longer and more complete than the year before;
but specifically it increased our good report in the service and added
to us hosts of friends. Many were now ready to speak in our favor, if
asked; and some gave themselves a good deal of trouble to see this or
that person of importance. This was a powerful reinforcement for the
approaching struggle; but with the Secretary biassed against us, and
resolute opposition from the chairman of the committee, the odds were
heavy. Mr. Whitney showed me a frowning countenance, quite unlike his
usual _bonhomie_; and yielded only a reluctant, almost surly, "I will
not oppose you, but I do not authorize you to express any approval
from me." With that we began a still hunt; not from policy, but
because no other course was open, and by degrees we converted all the
committee but three. This was quite an achievement in its way; for, as
one of the members said to me, "It is rather hard to oppose the
chairman in a matter of this kind. Still, I am satisfied it is a good
thing, and I will vote for it." So we got our appropriation by a big
majority. Mr. Herbert was very nice about his discomfiture. That a set
of uninfluential naval officers should so unexpectedly have got the
better of him, in his position, had a humorous side which he was ready
to see; though it is possible we, on whose side the laugh was, enjoyed
it more. He afterwards, when Secretary of the Navy, came to think much
better of the College, which flourished under him.

I had soon to find that my mouth had more than one side on which to
laugh. Confident that we were out of the woods, I proceeded to halloo;
for in an address made at the opening of the session of 1888, alluding
to the doubt long felt about the appropriation, I said, "That fear has
now happily been removed." I reckoned without the Secretary, who
issued an order, a bolt out of the blue, depriving the College not
only of its building, but of its independent existence; transferring
it to the care of the commander of the Torpedo Station, on another
island in Narragansett Bay. This ended my official existence as
president of the College, and I was sent off to Puget Sound; one of a
commission to choose a site for a navy-yard there. I never knew, nor
cared, just why Whitney took this course, but I afterwards had an
amusing experience with him, showing how men forget; like my old
commodore his moment of despondency about the outcome of the war. In
later years he and I were members of a dining club in New York. I then
had had my success and recognition. One evening I chanced to say to
him, apropos of what I do not now recall, "It was at the time, you
know, that you sent Sampson to the Naval Academy, and Goodrich to the
Torpedo Station." "Yes," he rejoined, complacently; "and I sent you to
the War College." It was literally true, doubtless; his act, though
not his selection; but in view of the cold comfort and the petard with
which he there favored me, for Whitney to fancy himself a patron to
me, except on a Johnsonian definition of the word,[16] was as humorous
a performance as I have known.

So I went to Puget Sound, a very pleasant as well as interesting
experience; for, having a government tender at our disposal, we
penetrated by daylight to every corner of that beautiful sheet of
water, the intricate windings of which prepare a continual series of
surprises; each scene like the last, yet different; the successive
resemblances of a family wherein all the members are lovely, yet
individual. Then was there not, suburban to the city of Seattle, Lake
Washington, a great body of fresh water? Of this, and of its island,
blooming with beautiful villas, a delightful summer resort in easy
reach of the town by cars, we saw before our arrival alluring
advertisements and pictures, which were, perhaps, a little premature
and impressionist. How seductive to the imagination was the future
battle-ship fleet resting in placid fresh water, bottoms unfouled and
little rusted, awaiting peacefully the call to arms; upon which it
should issue through the canal yet to be dug between sound and lake,
ready for instant action! Great would have been the glory of Seattle,
and corresponding the discomfiture of its rival Tacoma, which
undeniably had no lake, and, moreover, lay under the stigma of having
tried, in such default, to appropriate by misnomer another grand
natural feature; giving its own name Tacoma to Mount Rainier, so
called by Vancouver for an ancient British admiral. A sharp Seattleite
said that a tombstone had thus been secured, to preserve the
remembrance of Tacoma when the city itself should be no more. The
local nomenclature affixed by Vancouver still remains in many cases.
Puget, originally applied to one only of the many branches of the
sound, was among his officers. Hood's Inlet was, doubtless, in honor
of the great admiral, Lord Hood; while Restoration Point commemorates
an anniversary of the restoration of Charles II. As regarded Lake
Washington, our commission was a little nervous lest an injury to the
canal might interfere at a critical moment with the fleet's freedom of
movement, leaving it bottled up, and wired down. We selected,
therefore, the site where the yard now stands, in a singularly
well-protected inlet on the western side of the main arm, with an
anchorage of very moderate depth and easy current for Puget Sound.
There, if my recollection is right, it is nearly equidistant from the
two cities. Our judgment was challenged and another commission sent
out. This confirmed our choice, but very much less land was secured
than we had advised.



XII

EXPERIENCES OF AUTHORSHIP


Before my return from Puget Sound a new administration had come in
with President Harrison, and the War College was once more in favor.
But its organization had been destroyed, and some time must elapse
before it could get again on its legs. In the summer of 1889 a course
was held at the Torpedo Station, where I lectured with others. The
following winter an appropriation of one hundred thousand dollars was
made for a College building; the old one being confirmed to the
training station, which continued, however, strongly to oppose any use
of its grounds for the new venture. In this it was overruled, and in
1892 the College started afresh in what has since been its constant
headquarters, two hundred yards from its original position.

In the mean time my first series of lectures had been published in
book form, under the title _The Influence of Sea Power upon History,
1660-1783_. This was in May, 1890. That it filled a need was speedily
evident by favorable reviews, which were much more explicit and hearty
in Europe, and especially in Great Britain, than in the United States.
The point of view apparently possessed a novelty, which produced upon
readers something of the effect of a surprise. The work has since
received the further indorsement of translation into French, German,
Japanese, Russian, and Spanish; I think into Italian also, but of this
I am not certain. The same compliment has, I believe, been paid to its
successor, which carried the treatment down to the fall of Napoleon.
Notably, it may be said that my theme has brought me into pleasant
correspondence with several Japanese officials and translators, than
whom none, as far as known to me, have shown closer or more interested
attention to the general subject; how fruitfully, has been
demonstrated both by their preparation and their accomplishments in
the recent war. As far as known to myself, more of my works have been
done into Japanese than into any other one tongue.

In 1890 and 1891 there was no session of the College. During this
period of suspended animation its activities were limited to my own
preparations for continuing the historical course through the wars of
the French Revolution and Empire, with a view to the resumption of
teaching. I was kept on this duty; and I think no one else was busy in
direct connection with the institution, though the former lecturers
were for the most part available. It is evident how particularly
fortunate such circumstances were to an author. For the two years that
they lasted I had no cares beyond writing; was unvexed by either
pecuniary anxieties or interference from my superiors. The College
slumbered and I worked. My results, after one season's use as
lectures, were published in two volumes, under the title _The
Influence of Sea Power upon the French Revolution and Empire_.

Of this work it may accurately be said that in order of composition it
was begun with its final chapter. The accumulation and digestion of
material had been spasmodic and desultory, for I had hesitated much
whether to pursue the treatment after 1783. The instability of the
College fortunes had irritated as well as harassed me. If the navy did
not want what I was doing, why should I persist? Nothing having been
given to the world, I had had no outside encouragement; and little
from within the profession, save the cordial approval of a very few
officers. However, during the two years of doubtful struggle I had
read quite widely upon the general history of the particular period,
as well as upon the effects of sea power in the Peloponnesian War;
together with such details as I could collect from Livy and Polybius
of naval occurrences while Hannibal was in Italy. My outlook was thus
enlarged; not upon military matters only, but by an appreciation of
the strength of Athens, broad based upon an extensive system of
maritime commerce. This prepared me to see in the Continental System
of Napoleon the direct outcome of Great Britain's maritime supremacy,
and the ultimate cause of his own ruin. Thus, while gathering matter,
a conception was forming, which became the dominant feature in my
scheme by the time I began to write in earnest. Coincidently with
these studies, and with my other occupations when at first president
of the College, two introductory chapters had been written; one
bridging the interval between 1783 and 1793, so as to hitch on to my
first book, the other dealing with the state of the navies at the
opening of the French Revolution.

There Mr. Whitney's action brought me up with a round turn. When I
resumed, late in 1889, I extended my reading by Jomini's _Wars of the
French Republic_, a work instructive from the political as well as
military point of view; concurrently testing Howe's naval campaign of
1794 by the principles advanced by the military author, which
commended themselves to my judgment. In connection with this study of
naval strategy, I reconstructed independently Howe's three engagements
of May 28th and 29th, and June 1st, from the details given by James,
Troude, and Chevalier, analyzing and discussing the successive
tactical measures of the opposing admirals; in the battle of June 1st
going so far as to trace even the tracks of the fifty-odd individual
ships throughout the action. This, the most complicated presentation I
ever attempted, was a needless elaboration, though of absorbing
interest to me when once begun. A comparison between it and the bare
conventional diagram of Trafalgar in the same volumes, which has been
criticised as not reproducing the facts, may serve to show how far
multiplicity of minutiæ conduces to clearness of perception. From the
Trafalgar plan a reader, lay or professional, can grasp readily the
underlying conceptions upon which the battle was fought, and the
manner in which they were executed, as commonly received; but who ever
has tried to comprehend the movements of the vessels on June 1st, as I
elicited them? Assuming their correctness, it was a mere mental
diversion, in result rather confusing than illuminative to a student;
whereas ships arranged like beads on a string can give an impression
fundamentally correct, and to be apprehended at a glance. So far from
tending to lucidity, accumulation of detail in pursuit of minute
accuracy rather obscures. Nelson himself indicated his intentions
sufficiently by straight lines. One merit my June 1st plan may
possibly possess; the perplexing optical effect may convey better than
words the intricacy of a naval _mêlée_.

Coincidently with the study of military events, connoted by Howe's
campaign and Jomini, I of course did a good deal of reading which here
can be described only as miscellaneous; prominent amid which was
Thiers's _History of the Consulate and Empire_, Napoleon's
_Correspondence and Commentaries_, and the orations of Pitt and Fox.
From Thiers, confirmed by contemporary memoirs and pamphlets and other
incidental mention, I gained my conviction that the Continental System
was the determinative factor in Napoleon's fortunes after Tilsit.
Pitt's speeches, taken with his life, seemed to me conclusive as to
his policy, despite the evil construction placed upon his acts by
Frenchmen of his day, which Thiers has perpetuated. I saw clearly and
conclusively, as I thought, apparent in his public words and private
letters, a strong desire for peace, and a hand forced by a wilful
spirit of aggression which momentarily had lost the balance of its
reason. Making every allowance for the extravagances of the French
rulers, unpractised in government and driven by a burning sense of
mission to universal mankind, it was to me evident that their demands
upon other nations, and notably upon Great Britain, were subversive of
all public order and law, and of international security.

Pitt's proud resolution to withstand to the uttermost this tendency,
coupled with his evident passionate clinging to peace as the basis of
his life ambition, constituted to my apprehension a tragedy; of lofty
personal aim and effort wrestling with, and slowly done to death by,
opposing conditions too mighty for man. The dramatic intensity of the
situation was increased by the absence of the external dramatic appeal
characteristic of his father. It carried the force of emotion
suppressed. The bitter inner disappointment is veiled under the
reserve of his private life and the reticence of his public utterance,
which give to his personality a certain remoteness from usual joys and
sorrows; but, the veil once pierced by sympathy, the human side of the
younger Pitt stands revealed as of one who, without complaint, bore no
common burden, did no common work, and to whom fell no common share of
the suffering which arises from disappointment and frustration, in
ideals and achievement. The conflict of the two motives in the man's
steadfast nature aroused in me an enthusiasm which I did not seek to
check; for I believe enthusiasm no bad spirit in which to realize
history to yourself or others. It tends to bias; but bias can be
controlled. Enthusiasm has its place, not for action only, nor for
speaking, but in writing and in appreciation; quite as critical
analysis and judicial impartiality have theirs. To deny either is to
err. The moment of exaltation gone, the dispassionate intellect may
sit in judgment upon the expressions of thought and feeling which have
been prompted by the stirring of the mind; but without this there
lacks one element of true presentation. The height of full recognition
for a great event, or a great personality, has not been reached. The
swelling of the breast under strong emotion uplifts understanding.
Under such influence a writer is to the extent of his faculties on the
level of his theme. As for biography, I would no more attempt to write
that of a man for whom I felt no warm admiration, than I would
maintain friendship with one for whom I had no affection.

Doubtless there also was in Pitt's manner of speech, in the cast of
his sentences,--the style that is the man himself,--something which
appealed especially to me. Often, when reading in the Public Library
of New York a passage of unusual eloquence, I would be strongly moved
to rise on the spot and give three cheers; and I heartily subscribed
to a Latin motto on the title-page of the edition I was using: If you
could but have heard himself. But it was more than that. The story
increasingly impressed itself upon me. I saw him conscious of great
capacities for the administration of peace, an inner conviction of far
less ability for war; with a vision of Great Britain happy and
prosperous beyond all past experience under his enlightened guidance,
of which already the plans had been revealed and proof been given, and
over against this the palpable reality of a current too powerful to be
resisted, sweeping her into a conflict, the end of which, amid such
unprecedented conditions, could not be foreseen. Also, despite all his
deficiencies for a war ministry, as I read and studied the general
features of the situation with which he had to deal, I became
convinced that the broad lines of his policy coincided with the
military necessities of the case, to an extent that he himself very
possibly did not realize. For as the Directory outlined Napoleon's
Continental System, so Pitt, unknowingly perhaps, pursued the methods,
as he definitely predicted the means--exhaustion--by which his
successors brought to a stop the mischievous energies of France under
the great emperor.

Thus, before I began to write, my leading ideas for the historical
treatment of the influence of sea power during the period 1793-1814
rested upon an approval of the main features of Pitt's war policy, and
sympathy with his personal position; upon a clear conviction of the
weight of the Continental System as a factor in the general situation,
and of its being a direct consequence from British maritime supremacy;
and upon a sufficiently comprehensive acquaintance with the operations
of the land warfare up to the Peace of Amiens. Having as yet written
only the two introductory chapters, and Howe's campaign being strictly
episodical, the work as an organic whole was still before me when the
summer of 1890 arrived. It was then thought probable that the College
would at once resume, and in order to be at hand I settled my family
in Newport, there addressing myself to my new lectures. Considering
the mass of detail through which my hearers must be carried, I thought
advisable to begin with an outline statement of the general political
and military conditions, and of their sequences; a rudimentary figure,
a skeleton, the nakedness of which should render easy to understand
the mutual bearings of the several parts, and their articulations. So
most surely could the relation of sea power to the other members be
seen, and its influence upon them and upon the ultimate issue be
appreciated. Before I began, I remember explaining to a brother
officer my conception of the Continental System as the culmination of
the maritime struggle, which in a narrowly military sense had ended
with Trafalgar. The light thus cast would illuminate afterwards each
of the several sections of the history, treated circumstantially in
order of time. In short, I here applied to the whole the method of my
diagram for Trafalgar, and not of that for June 1st. The result was
the chapter last in the work, as it now stands, but the first to be
composed.

A few months before book publication this chapter appeared in the
_Quarterly Review_, under the title "Pitt's War Policy," chosen by me
to express my recognition that the grand policy was his; that in it he
was real as well as titular premier; and that in my judgment, despite
the numerous errors of detail which demonstrated his limited military
understanding, the economical comprehension of the statesman had
developed a political strategy which vindicated his greatness in war
as in peace. The article ended, as the chapter then did, with the
well-known quotation, particularly apt to my appreciation, "The Pilot
had weathered the storm." The few subsequent pages were added later.
By an odd coincidence, just as I had offered the paper to the
_Quarterly_, one under the same title, "by a Foxite," came out in
another magazine. Somewhat discomposed, I hurried to look this up; but
found, as from the _nom de plume_ might be presumed, that it did not
take my line of argument, but rather, as I recall, that of Pitt's
opponents, which Macaulay has developed with his accustomed
brilliancy, although to my mind with profound misconception and
superficial criticism. Fox's speeches had made upon me the impression
of the mere objector. Indeed, I felt this so strongly that I had
written of him as "the great, but factious, leader of the opposition."
In proofreading I struck out "factious;" as needless, and as a
generalization on insufficient premises.

It was not till the following December--1890--that I began the two
chapters next in order of composition, on "The Warfare against
Commerce." These occupied me late into the winter, covering as they
did the entire period 1793-1814, and embracing a great deal of
detail. Taken together, these three chapters, final but first written,
contain the main argument of the book. The naval occurrences,
brilliant and interesting as they were, are logically but the prelude
to the death grapple. Pitt's policy stood justified, because naval
supremacy, established by war, secured control of the seas and of
maritime commerce, and so exhausted Napoleon. Not till this
demonstration had been accomplished to my own satisfaction did I take
up the narrative and discussion of warfare, land and sea. Thus the
prelude followed the play. My memory retains associations which enable
me definitely to fix the progress of the work. Thus the chapter on
"The Brest Blockade," from its characteristics, long continuance, and
incidents, one of the most interesting of the purely naval operations,
was composed in the summer of 1891, at Richfield; while the campaign
and battle of Trafalgar, the last done of all, passed through my hands
in April, 1892, in Richmond, Virginia, where I then was on
court-martial duty.

This second book was written under much more encouraging circumstances
than its predecessor, and with much greater deliberation. The first
occupied me little over one year; the second, though covering only
one-fifth the time, was in hand three. There were long interruptions,
it is true; the Puget Sound business, and the writing of a short _Life
of Farragut_. But the chief cause of delay was a much more extensive
preparation. This was owing largely to the crowded activities of the
brief twenty years treated, and still more to wider outlook. I
attempted, indeed, nothing that could be called original research. I
still relied wholly upon printed matter, but in that I wandered far.
The privilege was accorded me of free access to the alcoves of what
was then the Astor Library, now, while keeping its name, incorporated
with the New York Public Library; and I rummaged its well-stocked
shelves, following up every clue, especially memoirs, pamphlets, and
magazines, contemporary with my period. From the estimate I had formed
of the effect of commerce upon the outcome of the hostilities, it was
necessary to digest the statistics of the times, much of which existed
in tabulated form; and, for commercial policy, the State Papers, and
debates in Parliament, as well as in the French National Convention. I
now had not only interest in my task, but pride; for the favorable
criticism upon the first sea-power book not only had surprised me, but
had increased my ambition and my self-confidence. It was a distinct
help that there was no expectation of pecuniary advantage; no
publisher or magazine editor pressing for "copy," on which dollars
depended. I now often recall with envy the happiness of those days,
when the work was its own reward, and quite sufficient, too, almost as
good as a baby; when there were no secondary considerations, however
important, to dispute for the first place. I have never knowingly let
work leave my hands in shape less good than the best I can turn out;
but I have often felt the temptation to do so, and wished--almost, not
quite--that there was no money in it. I recast Dr. Johnson's saying:
"None but a blockhead would write unless he needed money." None but a
blockhead would write for money, unless he had to.

Though not embarrassed by publishers, I found a more formidable enemy
on my tracks in 1892. There had been a change in the Bureau of
Navigation, and the new chief, under whom the College was, thought my
help to it less necessary than my going to sea. To an advocate of
allowing me time, he replied, summarily, "It is not the business of a
naval officer to write books." As an aphorism the remark is doubtless
unassailable; but, with a policy thus defined, my position, again to
quote Boatswain Chucks, became "precarious and not at all permanent."
That my turn for sea service had come was indisputable. I could
pretend to no grievance, but I did want first to finish that book. Yet
I have recalled with happiness that I was enabled to work steadfastly
on, my pulse beating no quicker for fear I should be interrupted and
my task left unfinished. I remember a Boston publisher telling me of
the anxiety felt by one of his distinguished clients, lest death
should overtake him before that which he had planned was completed.
The feeling is common to man, and one is touched by the apparent
tragedy when men of promise and achievement are so removed, their aims
unaccomplished, as were recently Professor Rawson Gardiner and Sir
William Hunter; but it was given me early to realize that there is no
such thing as being cut off unbetimes. If I were called at the end of
a day's stint, or the pen fell from my hand in the midst of it, that
which was appointed me was done; if well done, what mattered the rest?
This quietness came to me through a chain of thought. I had been
experiencing, as many others have, the weariness of a long-winded job,
the end of which seemed to recede with each day's progress; and there
came to my mind Long-fellow's "Village Blacksmith:"

   "Toiling, rejoicing, sorrowing,
      Onward through life he goes;
    Each morning sees some task begin,
      _Each evening sees it close_."

Would it were so with me! And a voice replied, "Is it not so with you?
with all?" Since then I have understood; though the flesh is often
weak, and even the calm of the study cannot always exclude the
contagious fever of our American pace. In the particular juncture, the
Secretary of the Navy, Mr. Tracy, took my view of relative
importances, and time was secured me. The manuscript was complete by
the late spring of 1892, and the book published in December, having
meantime been used for lectures in the first session of the College in
its new building; a renewal of life which has since proved continuous.

During this interval occurred another presidential campaign. Mr.
Harrison was defeated and Mr. Cleveland elected. I was now ready to go
to sea, but by this time had decided that authorship had for me
greater attractions than following up my profession, and promised a
fuller and more successful old age. I would have retired immediately,
had I then fulfilled the necessary forty years' service; but of these
I still lacked four. My purpose was to take up at once the War of
1812, while the history of the preceding events was fresh in my mind;
and in this view I asked to be excused from sea duty, undertaking that
I would retire when my forty years were complete. The request was
probably inadmissible, for I could have given no guarantees; and the
precedent might have been bad. At any rate, it was not granted,
luckily for me; for by a combination of unforeseen circumstances the
ship to which I was ordered, the _Chicago_, was sent to Europe as
flag-ship of that station, and on her visit to England, in 1894,
occasion was taken by naval officers and others to express in public
manner their recognition of the value they thought my work had been to
the appreciation of naval questions there. This brought my name
forward in a way that could not but be flattering, and affected
favorably the sale of the books; the previous readers of which had
seemingly been few, though from among those few I had received
pleasant compliments. Upon this followed the conferring upon me
honorary degrees by the two universities; D.C.L. by Oxford, and LL.D.
by Cambridge. After my return, in 1895, LL.D. was extended also by
Harvard, Yale, and Columbia, in the order named, and by McGill in
Montreal.

Another very pleasing and interesting experience while in London was
dining with the Royal Navy Club. This is an ancient institution,
dating back to the middle of the eighteenth century. Its list of
members carries many celebrated names, among others Nelson. It has no
club-house, and exists as an organization only; meeting for dinners on
or near the dates of some half-dozen famous naval victories, the
anniversaries of which it thus commemorates yearly. There is by rule
one guest of the evening, and one only, who is titularly the guest of
the presiding officer; but on this occasion an exception was made for
our admiral and myself. Unfortunately, he, who was much the better
after-dinner speaker, was ill and could not attend. The rule thus
remained intact, and I have understood that this was the first time in
the history of the club that the guest had been a foreigner.

The _Chicago_ had left England and was lying at Antwerp when the time
for conferring degrees arrived. My attendance in person was requisite,
but only a week could be spared from the ship for the purpose. This
made it impossible for me to be present in both cases at the high
ceremonial, where the honors are bestowed upon the full group of
recipients. Oxford had been first to tender me her distinction, and I
accordingly arranged my journey with a view to her celebration; two
days before which I went down to Cambridge, and was there received and
enrolled at a private audience, before the accustomed officials and
some few visitors from outside. What the circumstances lacked in the
pomp of numbers and observance, and in the consequent stimulus to
interest which a very novel experience arouses, was compensated to me
by the few hours of easy social intercourse with a few eminent
persons, whom I had the pleasure of then meeting very informally.

The great occasion at Oxford presents a curious combination of
impressiveness and horse-play, such as is associated with the Abbot of
Misrule, in the stories of the Middle Ages. It is this smack and
suggestion of antiquity, of unnumbered such occasions in the misty
past, when the student was half-scholar and half-ruffian, which make
the permitted license of to-day not only tolerable, but in a sense
even venerable. The good-humor and general acceptance on both sides,
by chaffers and chaffed, testified to recognized conditions; and there
is about a hoary institution a saving grace which cannot be
transferred to _parvenus_. Practised in a modern Cis-Atlantic seat of
learning, as I have seen it done, without the historical background,
the same disregard of normal decorum becomes undraped rowdyism--boxing
without gloves. The scene and its concurrences at Oxford have been
witnessed by too many, and too often described, for me to attempt
them. I shall narrate only my particular experiences. I had been
desired to appear in full uniform--epaulettes, cocked hat, sword, and
what is suggestively called "brass-bound" coat; swallow-tailed, with a
high collar stiffened with lining and gold lace, set off by trousers
with a like broad stripe of lace, not inaptly characterized by some
humorist as "railroad" trousers. The theory of these last, I believe,
is that so much decoration on hat and collar, if not balanced by an
equivalent amount below, is top-heavy in visual effect, if not on
personal stability. Whatever the reason, it is all there, and I had it
all at Oxford; all on my head and back, I mean, except the epaulettes.
For to my concern I found that over all this paraphernalia I must also
wear the red silk gown of a D.C.L. It became evident, immediately upon
trial, that the silk and the epaulettes were agreeing like the
Kilkenny cats, so it was conceded that these naval ornaments should be
dispensed with; the more readily as they could not have been seen. In
the blend, and for the occasion, my legal laurels prevailed over my
professional exterior.

In the matter of dress my life certainly culminated when I walked
up--or down--High Street in Oxford with cocked hat, red silk gown, and
sword, the railroad trousers modestly peeping beneath. It must be
admitted that the townsmen either had more than French politeness, or
else were used to incongruities. I did not see one crack a smile;
whether any turned to look or not, I did not turn to see. My
hospitable escort and myself joined the other expectants before the
Sheldonian Theatre, where the ceremonies are held. The audience, of
both sexes, visitors and students, had already crammed the benches and
galleries of the great circular interior when we marched to our seats,
in single file, down a narrow aisle. The fun, doubtless, had been
going on already some time; but for us it was non-existent till we
entered, when the hose was turned full upon us and our several
peculiarities. I am bound to say that to encourage us we got quite as
many cheers as chaff, and the personalities which flew about like
grape-shot were pretty much hit or miss. I noticed that some one from
aloft called out, "Why don't you have your hair cut?" which I
afterwards understood was a delicate allusion to my somewhat
unparalleled baldness; but it happened that two behind me in the
procession was a very distinguished Russian scientist, like myself a
D.C.L. _in ovo_, whose long locks fell over his collar, and I
innocently supposed that so pertinent a remark was addressed to him on
an occasion when _im_pertinence was lord of the ascendant. Thus the
shaft passed me harmless, or fell back blunted from my triple armor of
dulness.

Although in itself in most ways enjoyable, the cruise of the _Chicago_
while it lasted necessarily suspended authorship. I heard intimations
of the common opinion that the leisure of a naval officer's life would
afford abundant opportunity. Even I myself for a moment imagined that
time in some measure might be found for accumulating material, for
which purpose I took along several books; but it was in vain. Neither
a ship nor a book is patient of a rival, and I soon ceased the effort
to serve both. Night work was tried, contrary to my habit; but after a
few weeks I had to recognize that the evening's exertion had dulled my
head for the next morning's duties.

My orders not only interrupted writing, but changed its direction for
a long while. I had foreseen that the War of 1812, as a whole, must be
flat in interest as well as laborious in execution; and, upon the
provocation of other duty, I readily turned from it in distaste. Nine
years elapsed before I took it up; and then rather under the
compulsion of completing my Sea Power series, as first designed, than
from any inclination to the theme. It occupied three years--usefully,
I hope--and was published in 1905. Regarded as history, it is by far
the most thorough work I have done. I went largely to original
documents in Washington, Ottawa, and London, and I believe I have
contributed to the particular period something new in both material
and interpretation. But, whatever value the book may possess to one
already drawn to the subject, it is impossible to infuse charm where
from the facts of the case it does not exist. As a Chinese
portrait-painter is said to have remonstrated with a discontented
patron, "How can pretty face make, when pretty face no have got?"

Thus my orders to the _Chicago_ led to dropping 1812, and to this my
_Life of Nelson_ was directly due. The project had already occurred to
me, for the conspicuous elements of human as well as professional
interest could not well escape one who had just been following him
closely in his military career. _Sea Power in the French Revolution_
having been published less than six months before, the framework of
external events, into which his actions must be fitted, was fresh in
my recollection, as was also the analysis of his campaigns and
battles, available at once for fuller treatment, more directly
biographical. After consultation with my publishers I decided to
undertake the work, and with reference to it chiefly I provided myself
reading-matter. I have already said that the experiment of writing on
board did not succeed. I composed part of the first chapter and then
stopped; but the purpose remained, and was resumed very soon after
leaving the _Chicago_, in May, 1895.

For the writing of biography I had formed a theory of my own, a
guiding principle, closely akin to the part which sea power had played
in my treatment of history. This leading idea was not intended to
exclude other points of view or manners of presentation, but was to
subordinate them somewhat peremptorily. As defined to myself, my plan
was to realize personality by living with the man, in as close
familiarity as was consistent with the fact of his being dead. This
was to be done first, for myself, as the necessary prelude to
transmission to my readers. When there remains a huge mass of
correspondence, by one as frank in utterance and copious in
self-revelation as was Nelson, the opportunity to get on terms of such
intimacy is unique, one-sided though the communication is. Besides,
companions and subordinates have left abundant records of their
association with him, which constitute, as it were, the other side of
conversation; relieving the monologue of his own letters. The first
thing in order is to know the living man; and it seemed to me that,
with such materials, this could be accomplished most fully by steeping
one's self in them, creating an environment closely analogous to the
intercourse of daily life. I believed that passive surrender to these
impressions, rather than conscious labored effort, would gradually
produce the perceptions of immediate contact, to the utmost that the
nature of the case admitted. Johnson doubtless was right in naming
personal acquaintance as chief among the qualifications of a
biographer; failing that, one must seek the best substitute. By
either method the conception of character and temperament is formed;
its reproduction to readers is a matter of power of expression, and of
capacity to introduce aptly, here and there, the minute touches by
which an artist secures likeness and heightens effect.

Whatever the worth of this theory, it was due in large measure to
revulsion from a form of biography, to me always displeasing and
essentially crude, which gives a narrative of external life-events,
disjointed continually by letters. Profuse recourse to letters simply
turns over to the reader the task which the biographer has undertaken
to do for him. Perhaps the biographer cannot do it. Then he had better
not undertake the job. A collection of letters is one thing, a
biography another; and they do not mix well when a career abounds in
incident. Letters are material for biography, as original documents
are material for history; but as documents are not history, so letters
are not biography. The historian and biographer by publishing
virtually contract to present their readers with a digested, reasoned
whole; the best expression, full yet balanced, that they can give of
the truth concerning a period, or a man. It is a labor of time and
patience, and should be also of love; one which the reader is to be
spared, on the principle that a thousand men should not have to do,
each for himself, the work the one writer professes. It is no fair
treatment to tumble at their feet a basketful of papers, and virtually
say, "There! find out the man for yourself."

The interest of lives, of course, varies, and with it the opportunity
of the biographer. I do not mean in degree, which is trite to remark,
but in kind, which is less recognized. There are men the value of
whose memory to their race lies in their thought and words, whose
career is uneventful. Yet even with them the impression of personality
is not as vividly produced by masses of correspondence as it may be by
the petty occurrences of daily life, which for them are the analogues
of the stirring incidents that mark the course of the man of public
action, statesman or warrior. The reason is plain; the character of
few rises to the height of their words, written or spoken. These show
their wisdom, or power, and are uplifting; but their shortcomings,
too, have a virtue. We fight the better for appreciating that victors
have known defeat. The supreme gift of biography to mankind is
personality; not what the man thought or did, but what he was. Herein
is inspiration and reproof; motive force, inspiring or deterrent. If
nothing better, mere recognition, or exultation in an excellence to
which we do not attain, has a saving grace of its own.

For the purposes of his biographer, Dr. Johnson scarcely left London.
Beyond a brief visit to Paris, only a tour through the Hebrides; this
an event so colossal in its elevation above the flat level of his
outward existence, like the church towers in a Dutch landscape, that
it is treated as a thing quite apart, has a volume to itself, severed
from its before and after. Boswell gives letters, certainly, and many;
yet, in the matter of character portrayal, what are they alongside of
the talk? And also, more pertinent, what to Boswell was even the talk,
compared with the intercourse to which the talk was incident? In this
he immersed himself and his strong receptive powers, absorbing the
impression which he has so skilfully reproduced. Such apprehension as
Boswell thus gained for himself is no neutral acquirement; it is a
working force, instinctively selective from that on which it feeds,
and intuitive in its power of arrangement. To copy his result is
futile. Like Nelson, there is but one Boswell; but it may be permitted
to believe that lesser men will profit to the extent of their
capacities by adopting his method. This possibly he never formulated,
in that again proving his genius, the unconscious faculty of a very
self-conscious man; but I conceive the process to have been, first
know your subject yourself thoroughly by close contact and sympathy,
and then so handle your material as to bring out to the reader the
image revealed to you.

This is, in a measure, a plea for picturesque treatment of biography
and of history; not by gaudy coloring and violent contrasts, striving
after rhetorical effect, but in the observance of proportion, of
grouping, of subordination to a central idea; not content with mere
narration, however accurate in details. A narrative which fails in
portrayal, in picturesque impression, is not accurate; and a biography
which presents a man's thoughts and acts, yet does not over and above
them fashion his personality to the reader, is a failure. How much
conscious effort may be necessary to the due handling of materials, I
certainly cannot undertake to say; but persuaded I am that the utmost
results possible to any particular man can be attained only by passive
assimilation, and that so they will be attained to the measure of his
individual capacity. By such digestion a theme apparently dry may be
quickened to interest. Though not a lawyer, nor a student of
constitutions, I found Stubbs's _Constitutional History of England_
fascinating. I have not analyzed my pleasure, but I believe it to have
been due to portrayal; to arrangement of data by a man exceptionally
gifted for vivid presentation, who had so lived with his subject that
it had realized itself to him as a living whole, which he successfully
conveyed to his readers. There is no disjointment. The result is a
great historical picture; or a biography, of law as a benevolent
developing personality, moving amid the struggles and miseries of the
human throng, healing and redressing.

To _The Life of Nelson_ I applied the idea of this method, which I
thought to be helped rather than hindered by my warm admiration for
him, little short of affection. I had faith in the power of
attachment to comprehend character and action; and because of mine I
believed myself safer when necessary to censure. I grieved while I
condemned. I was sure also that, however far below an absolute best I
might fall, the best that I could do must thus come out. Amid approval
sufficient to gratify me, I found most satisfaction in that of a
friend who said he felt as if he had been living with my hero; and of
another who told me that after his day's work, which I knew to be
laborious, he had refreshed his evenings with _Nelson_. In the first
edition I fell into two mistakes of some importance, as well as others
in small details, the effect of which was to confirm me in my theory;
for while they were blemishes, and needed correction, they did not,
and do not, to my mind affect the portrait--the conveyance of true
personality.

Of these errors the most serious, regarded as a fault, was an
inadequate study of Nelson's course at Naples in 1799, so sharply
challenged at that time and afterwards. I recognized the justice of a
criticism which alleged that I had not sufficiently examined the other
side of the case, as presented by Italian authors. This I now did,
rewriting my account for the second edition. I found no reason to
change my estimate of Nelson's conduct, but rather to confirm the
favorable aspects; but what was more instructive to me was that even
so large an oversight did not when remedied affect the portrait. The
personality remained as first conceived; Nelson had acted in
character. The same was substantially true of a more pregnant
incident, the discovery of a number of his letters to his wife, which
had escaped the diligent search made by the editor of his
correspondence, Sir Harris Nicolas. After lying concealed for the
half-century between Nicolas and myself, they turned up shortly after
my book was in print. Here was more self-revelation; how might it
modify my picture? The event was ushered in with a great flourish of
trumpets, the walls of Jericho were about to fall, and I own I felt
anxious. Some of the letters were published; permission to see the
others was refused me. As these have not since been given to the
world, I fancy that they sustain the opinion expressed by me on those
that were; that beyond emphasizing somewhat his hardness to Lady
Nelson during the period of his growing alienation, they add little to
the impression before formed. A slight touch of the brush, another
line in the face, that is all.

The question of Nelson's action at Naples was brought forward in a way
which required from me some controversial writing. To this I have no
intention of alluding here, beyond stating that up to the present my
confidence has not been shaken in my defence of the main lines of his
conduct, clearing him of the deceit and double-dealing alleged against
him. I say this because there may be some who have thought me silenced
by argument, in that I have not seen fit to rise to such crude taunts
as that, "After this Captain Mahan will not undertake," etc. What
Captain Mahan will or will not do is of no particular importance; but
when the repute of such an one as Nelson is at stake, burdened by the
weight of calumny laid upon him by Southey's ill-instructed censures,
it is right to repeat that nothing I have seen since I last wrote,
about 1900, has appeared to me to call for further answer.

_The Life of Nelson_, and _The War of 1812_, of which I have already
spoken, remain my last extensive works. In the interval between them,
1897-1902, I was engaged mostly in occasional writing, for magazines
or otherwise. From time to time these papers have been collected and
published, under titles which seemed appropriate. Concerning them, for
the most part, there is one general statement to be made. With few
exceptions, they have been written to order. Partly from indisposition
to this particular activity, partly from indolence, ultimately from
conviction that editors best know--or should know--what the public
want, I have left them to come to me. When expedient, I have taken a
subject somewhat apart from that suggested, but usually akin. Speaking
again generally, the field of thought into which I have been thus
drawn has been that of the external policy of nations, and of their
mutual--international--relations; not in respect to international law,
on which I have no claim to teach, but to the examination of extant
conditions, and the appreciation of their probable and proper effect
upon future events and present action. In conception, these studies
are essentially military. The conditions are to my apprehension
forces, contending, perhaps even conflicting; to be handled by those
responsible as a government disposes its fleets and armies. This is
not advocacy of war, but recognition that the providential movement of
the world proceeds through the pressure of circumstances; and that
adverse circumstances can be controlled only by organization of means,
in which armed physical power is one dominant factor.

In direct result from the line of thought into which I was drawn by my
conception of sea power, and which has inspired my subsequent magazine
writing, I am frankly an imperialist, in the sense that I believe that
no nation, certainly no great nation, should henceforth maintain the
policy of isolation which fitted our early history; above all, should
not on that outlived plea refuse to intervene in events obviously
thrust upon its conscience. The world of national activities has
become crowded, like the world of professions; opportunity,
consequently, has diminished, and possibilities must be cultivated and
husbanded. This is the primary duty of a government to its own people
and to their posterity. But there are other duties which must be
accepted, even though they entail national sacrifice, because laid at
the nation's door, like Cuba, or forced upon its decision, like the
Philippines. I see too clearly in myself the miserable disposition to
shirk work and care, and responsibility, to condone the same in
nations. I once heard a preacher thus parody effectively the words of
the prophet--"Here am I, send _him_!" And I have heard attributed to
the late Mr. John Hay an equally telling allusion to certain of our
moralists, who would discard the Philippines on the score of danger to
the national principles. Said a pious girl, "When I realized that
personal ornaments were dragging my immortal soul to hell, I gave them
to my sister." Still less, let us hope, will one of the wealthiest of
nations, almost alone in the possession of an abundant surplus income,
desert a charge on the poor plea of economy; or so far distrust its
fate, as to turn its back upon a duty, because dangerous or
troublesome. If the political independence of the Philippine Islands
bid fair to result in the loss, or lessening, of the safeguards of
personal freedom to the private Philippine islander, the mission of
the United states is at present clear, nor can it be abandoned without
national discredit; nay, national crime. Personal liberty is a greater
need than political independence, the chief value of which is to
insure the freedom of the individual. Similarly, not only for the sake
of its own citizens, but for the world at large, each country should
diligently watch and weigh current external occurrences; not
necessarily to meddle, still less to forsake its proper sphere, but
because convinced that failure to act when occasion demands may be as
injurious as mistaken action, and indicates a more dangerous
condition, in that moral inadequacy means ultimately material decline.
When the spirit leaves the body, the body decays.

In these subjects and my way of viewing them, I suppose that ten years
ago, before our war with Spain, I was ahead of the times, at least in
my own country, and to some extent helped to turn thought into present
channels; much as to my exposition of sea power has been credited a
part of the impulse to naval development which characterizes to-day.
Immediately after the Spanish War I seemed to some, if I may trust
their words, to have done a bit of prophecy; while others laid to my
door a chief share in the mistaken direction they considered the
country to be taking. Of course, I was pleased by this; I have never
pretended to be above flattery judiciously administered: but, while
confident still in the main outlook of my writing, I know too well
that, when you come to details, prediction is a matter of hit or miss,
and that I have often missed as well as hit in particulars. "It is all
a matter of guess," said Nelson, when tied down to a specific
decision, "but the world attributes wisdom to him who guesses right."
This is less true of the big questions and broad lines of contemporary
history. There insight can discern really something of tendencies;
enough to guide judgment or suggest reflection. But I am now
sixty-seven, and can recognize in myself a growing conservatism, which
may probably limit me henceforth to bare keeping up with the
procession in the future national march. Perhaps I may lag behind.
With years, speculation as well as action becomes less venturesome,
and I look increasingly to the changeless past as the quiet field for
my future labors.



THE END



FOOTNOTES:

[1] Worcester, quoting from _Falconer's Marine Dictionary_, defines
"Grommet" as "a small ring or wreath, formed of the strand of a rope,
used for various purposes."

[2] J. R. Soley, _The Blockade and the Cruisers_, 1883. Scribner's,
_Navy in the Civil War_.

[3] This statement when written rested on my childhood's memory only.
A few months later there came into my hands a volume of the
publications of the British Navy Records Society, containing the
Recollections of Commander James Anthony Gardner. 1775-1814. Gardner
was at one time shipmates with Culmer, who it appears eventually
received a commission. By Gardner's reckoning he would have been far
along in the forties in 1790. The following is the description of him.
"Billy was about five feet eight or nine, and stooped; hard features,
marked with the small-pox; blind in an eye, and a wen nearly the size
of an egg under his cheek-bone. His dress on a Sunday was a mate's
uniform coat, with brown velvet waistcoat and breeches; boots with
black tops; a gold-laced hat, and a large hanger by his side like the
sword of John-a-Gaunt. He was proud of being the oldest midshipman in
the navy, and looked upon young captains and lieutenants with
contempt."

[4] The _Navy Register_ of 1842 shows the number appointed in 1841 to
have been two hundred and nineteen.

[5] That is, within a quarter of a point on either side of her course.
A "point" of the compass is one-eighth of a right angle; e.g., from
North to East is eight points.

[6] _Naval Letters of Captain Percival Drayton._ Edited by Miss
Gertrude L. Hoyt. 1906. Pages 10, 3, 4.

[7] The anchoring chains pass from inboard through the hawse-holes to
the anchor. When left bent on soundings, the sea, if rough, will rush
through them copiously. To prevent this in part, conical stuffed
canvas bags were dragged in from outside. These were called
"jackasses."

[8] Acknowledgment is here due to Mr. Thomas G. Ford, once a professor
at the Naval Academy, cordially remembered by the midshipmen who knew
him there in the fifties. His article is in the issue of the _Naval
Institute Proceedings_ for June, 1906, which has just reached me. He
attributes his information to the late Admiral Preble, almost the only
American officer within my time who has had the instincts of an
archæologist.

[9] Perhaps it is better to explain that there are three watches from
8 P.M. to 8 A.M.; the two watches into which the crew were divided had
on alternate nights one watch, or two watches, on deck. This sybarite
was foretasting two watches below.

[10] On referring to the file of the _Times_, I find that the forecast
concerning Vicksburg occurred in the issue of July 1st. "It is not
improbable we may hear that General Grant has been obliged to raise
the siege of Vicksburg." It is surprising to note of how secondary
importance the Vicksburg issue appears to have been thought at the
time.

[11] Rhodes's _History of the United States_, vol. v., p. 99.

[12] I have here used the expression "harakiri," because so commonly
understood among English--speaking readers. A Japanese correspondent
has informed me that it is never used among the Japanese, with the
signification we have attached to it. The proper word is "Seppuku."

[13] _Official Record of the Union and Confederate Navies_, Series I.,
iii., p. 722.

[14] Since this was written, I have been told by one of the officers
of the _Iroquois_, Lieutenant--now Rear-Admiral--Nicoll Ludlow, that
many years afterwards he saw the story of the _Cayalti's_ captain,
told by himself, in the _Overland Monthly_, of San Francisco. He had
been allowed to go ashore to get provisions, and of course did not
return.

[15] This is not the place for a discussion of commerce-destroying as
a method of war; but having myself given, as I believe, historical
demonstration that as a sole or principal resource, maintained by
scattered cruisers only, it is insufficient, I wish to warn public
opinion against the reaction, the return swing of the pendulum, seen
by me with dismay, which would make it of no use at all, and under the
plea of immunity to "private property," so called, would exempt from
attack the maritime commerce of belligerents.

[16] "Is not patron, my lord, one who looks with unconcern on a man
struggling for life in the water, and, when he has reached ground,
encumbers him with help?"--Johnson to the Earl of Chesterfield.





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