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    Chapter 18

    Overhauled by a Buenos Ayres Privateer, or Pirate — Plunder — Passengers Made Prisoners — Search for Money — Crew and Passengers Released — Season of Prayer — Arrival at Rio Janeiro — Bethel Meeting — Rio Grande — Dangers of the Coast — Fresh Water — Religious Views — Letter — Vessel Lost — Sail — Arrive at St. Catherine’s — Sail for New York — Singular Phenomenon.

    ON arriving at St. Catherine’s, we landed, sold our cargo, and loaded again with rice and farina, and sailed for Rio Janeiro. Several days after we left St. Catherine’s, a strange sail was discovered at a distance on our weather-quarter, bearing toward us early in the morning. She soon began firing guns, but we paid little attention to her, and were standing on our course under a very light breeze. The Sugar Loaf and other high mountains at the entrance of the harbor of Rio Janeiro were now looming in the distance, some eighty miles ahead of us. We saw that the strange sail was gaining on us very fast, and by the aid of the spy-glass discovered that she was sweeping with long oars and firing occasionally. We hoisted the stars and stripes, and soon discovered that she was a brig with the Buenos Ayres flag at her peak. We had eight gentleman passengers on board, six of them Brazilian merchants, going to Rio Janeiro to increase their stock of goods. They were exceedingly agitated on learning that their enemy was approaching. I said to them, “If you think it best I will crowd on all sail, and if the breezes freshen up soon we can outsail them, but if not they will sweep down upon us, and in case they overtake us you will fare hard. I have no fear of them myself, while under the American flag. But if we heave to for them, they will cease their firing and treat you more kindly. I will do either of which you shall choose among yourselves.” They soon decided that we might better heave to and let them come up with us. We did so, and calmly awaited the approach of the enemy.LELJB 219.1

    In the course of an hour they rounded to, broadside to us, and cried out, “Brig ahoy! Halloo! Lower your boat down, sir, and come aboard here immediately!” “Yes, sir.” They cried again, “Do you bear a hand about it, sir, and bring your papers with you!” “Yes, sir.” I directed the second mate to take charge of the boat, to keep her from being stove while along-side the privateer. On reaching the deck I was met by two ruffianly-looking men with their brace of pistols, and the captain, standing in the cabin gangway, who said, “Why didn’t you heave to, sir, when I fired at you? I have a good mind to blow your brains out here!” followed up with a volley of blasphemous imprecations. I replied, “I am in your hands, sir; you can do as you please,” and then added, “I hove my vessel to as soon as I ascertained who you were;” and pointing to our flying colors, I remarked, “That is the American flag, and I hope you will respect it.” Then came another volley of oaths with a threat that he would sink my vessel, and he cried out, “Go away aft, there, sir, on the quarter-deck!” Here he took my papers. When I got aft I saw that my whole crew were with me. I said, “Mr. Bowne, why did you not stay in the boat?” “Why, sir, they ordered us all on deck after you, and put in a crew of their own; yonder they go on board the Empress.” The privateer master then inquired, “Captain, what’s your cargo?” “Rice and farina,” was the reply. “You have got ammunition for the enemy under your farina.” “No, sir; I have no such thing in my cargo. You have my invoice and bills of lading.” He said he knew I was aiding the Brazilians, and that he would carry me down to Montevideo as a prize. Said I, “If you do, I shall find friends there.” “Why,” said he, “have you ever been there?” “Yes,” I replied. Said he, “I will burn your vessel up, and sink her to the bottom;” and he hailed his officer and ordered him to take off the hatchways and sound her with rods to the bottom of the hold.LELJB 220.1

    Their crew now came along-side with our boat to discharge their plunder. Said I, “Captain, are you going to plunder my vessel?” “Yes,” he answered, “I promised these men plunder if they would pull with the sweeps and overtake you.” My remonstrating only made him curse and swear about what he would do to us. My papers and letters were then spread out on the quarter-deck. I asked him what he wanted with my private papers and letters. He answered that he wanted to find out my correspondence with his enemy, the Brazilians. Said I, “You have my wife’s letters there from the United States.” Said he, “You may have them, and your private property.” The boat was unloading her plunder again, and I said, “Your men have just passed in my spy-glass; will you let me have it?” “No,” said he, “I promised them plunder if they would overtake you, and I cannot stop them.”LELJB 221.1

    While examining the invoice he suddenly asked, “Where is your money?” I replied, “You have my papers with the invoice of my cargo; if you find any account of money, take it.” He then ordered his officers to make thorough search for it on board. Not finding any, they told the steward they would hang him if he did not tell where the captain’s money was. He declared that he had no knowledge of any. Our money was in silver coin; no one knew where it was but myself. I had stowed it away in bags where I had but little fear of pirates finding it. This captain was English, with a mixed, savage-looking crew, apparently ready for any kind of murderous work. Two or three times he had his vessel steered so near ours that I feared they would get foul of each other and be wrecked, or go down, and because I spoke by way of caution, he poured his abusive epithets on me unrestrained. After an hour or so his excitement began to subside, when he invited me to go down into the cabin with him and take a glass of grog. “Thank you, sir,” said I, “I don’t drink any.” Well, he did, and down he went for a few moments to swallow another deadly dram.LELJB 222.1

    I said to the Brazilian merchants just before he came up with us, “Say nothing to me about your money; secure it the best way you can. I shall undoubtedly be questioned about it, and if I know nothing of it I can say so.” They gave their gold watches to the sailors, who kept them upon their persons out of sight. I was afterward told that they threw a quantity of their gold doubloons into the cook’s “coppers,” where the beef and pork were boiling in salt water for our dinner. These merchants were well stocked with summer dresses and linen, which these greedy fellows laid hold of, stripping them all off except their shirts and pantaloons.LELJB 222.2

    After a while the insatiate crew that were ransacking our vessel for money, feeling the gnawings of hunger, seized upon the beef and pork that were cooking in the boilers. It seemed that a merciful Providence checked them from discovering the golden treasure at the bottom of the coppers; for if they had discovered it, they would have suspected there was more of the same in other places, and most probably some of us would have been hanged or shot before the search ended.LELJB 223.1

    During this abusive detention of seven or eight hours, or from eleven in the forenoon until sundown, my boat’s crew and self were crowded into a standing position away aft on the quarter-deck, with nothing to eat. Late in the afternoon the Brazilian merchants were brought on board the privateer as prisoners of war, and ordered to stand forward of the gangway on the lee-side, or, as sailors term it, “in the lee scuppers.” Poor fellows, they looked most pitiful. Their prospects seemed most dark and dubious. I had heard of their saying, or talking among themselves, soon after we sailed from St. Catherine’s, because of our praying with them and our sailors morning and evening, that there would be no danger, but they would have a safe passage to Rio Janeiro. Their faith was now being tested. There they stood, with their eyes fastened on the captain of the privateer and our little company.LELJB 223.2

    A little before sundown the captain ordered all his men on board from the Empress. As our boat returned with them, he said to me, “You may now take your papers and boat and go on board your vessel.” “Thank you, sir,” I replied. “Will you let the passengers go with me?” “No!” said he, “they are my prisoners.” “I know that, sir; but I shall be greatly obliged to you if you will let me have them.” He said he wished me to understand that he knew his own business. I was at liberty to go on board when I pleased, but I should not have his prisoners. My men had gone into the boat and were waiting for me.LELJB 224.1

    These poor fellows did not understand English, but it was clearly manifest from their agonizing, agitated looks that they knew their fate was being settled. Everything to them seemed to hang on a few moments. I appealed to his English and humane feelings respecting their treatment of prisoners not found in arms against them, and said to him, “These men have behaved like gentlemen on board of my vessel; they paid me fifty dollars each for their passage before I left St. Catherine’s; they were quietly prosecuting their individual business. In point of worldly interest I shall gain nothing, as I am already paid; but I want to fulfill my engagement with them, and land them safe in Rio Janeiro. They have never injured you, and they will be in your way here. Now, captain, why will you not let me have them?” “Take them,” said he in a subdued tone. “Thank you, sir, for your kindness.” The way these men passed over that vessel’s side into our boat, when we pointed them to her, was pretty clear proof that they understood all we had been saying concerning them. The captain then endeavored to apologize some for his unkind treatment to me. I bade him good-by, and we were once more all on board the Empress at the setting of the sun.LELJB 224.2

    Here we found things in great confusion; our long boat unstowed, hatches all thrown off, leaving the cargo exposed to the first sea that should come on our decks. Passengers and crew worked diligently to put the Empress in sailing trim, and as night closed upon us we were out of reach of the privateer’s guns, under a good wholesale breeze, and the passengers were congratulating each other on their safe deliverance from a cruel death. When order was restored, we assembled as usual in the cabin to thank the Lord for his daily mercies, and especially for his manifest interference in delivering us from the power of that reckless crew of pirates on the high seas. Thanks to his holy name! The sailors delivered the passengers their watches, and whatever else they had given them for safe-keeping. Their doubloons were also safe in the coppers. The enemy got none of their money; but they entered their trunks, and left them in rather a sad plight to meet their friends. The afternoon of the next day we anchored in the harbor of Rio Janeiro. When the report of the matter reached the city, the government dispatched a frigate in pursuit of the privateer, but they did not find her.LELJB 225.1

    On Sunday the bethel flag was seen flying on board an English brig in the harbor. With my boat’s crew, we joined them. There were not many present, and the dull, formal manner in which the meeting was managed seemed to strip it of all spiritual interest. After the meeting closed, the officers of the different ships in attendance were invited into the cabin, where a table was spread with various kinds of liquors, to which we were invited to help ourselves. I declined partaking of this part of the exercise, and returned to my vessel much disappointed at losing the blessing I had anticipated. Before leaving the harbor, however, some friends met with us on board the Empress, and we had an interesting prayer-meeting, with the blessing of Heaven.LELJB 226.1

    As the custom-house authorities declined granting me liberty to sell my cargo in Rio Janeiro, we cleared and sailed again for St. Catherine’s. On our arrival there, the president of the province, having just received a communication from the province of Rio Grande for two cargoes of farina for the troops in the South, granted me the first privilege, and gave me a letter to the authorities of Rio Grande. Thus prepared, we sailed again, and arrived at the bar of Rio Grande on the last day of the year 1827. Mariners approaching this coast cannot be too cautious, as the sand banks, both above and under the sea, are constantly changing their position. As we were approaching the coast at the close of the day, the water “shoaled” so fast that we anchored in the open sea, and lay there until morning, when we ascertained that we were some thirty miles from the coast. The sand banks on the shore are from five to about twenty-five feet high, and make it extremely difficult sometimes to see the light-house before being in danger of striking the sand bars. The wrecks of vessels, as they were passing through the process of being buried in the sand by the surging of the heavy surf, lying strewed along the shore a few miles from the entrance of the harbor, are sufficient evidence to the observer that it requires the best attention and skill of navigators in approaching this place, to get in without damage.LELJB 226.2

    It is singular how fresh water is obtained for the shipping in the harbor. The water casks are towed to the shore, and the sailors dig little holes in the sand, about twenty or thirty feet from the ocean’s edge. In about two or three minutes these holes fill up with pure, fresh water, which is easily scooped into the casks. The water thus obtained is often not more than two feet above the level of the salt sea-water. In pleasant weather, the women are frequently seen among the sand hills near the salt water, digging holes in the sand for fresh, soft water, sufficiently large to wash their fine white clothes in. When spread on the sand, with a clear sunshine, they dry them in about an hour. When dry, with one shake the sand falls from them, and their clothes are not soiled, because the sand is free from dust.LELJB 227.1

    While in this port we held meetings on board our vessel every Sunday; but none of our neighbors, who were anchored near by and around us, came to unite with us, as they preferred to spend their leisure hours on shore. Their men returned in the evening, generally in a turbulent and riotous condition. Our temperance and religious principles on shipboard were new, and, of course, objectionable to all around us; but still they were constrained to admit that we enjoyed peace and quiet on board our vessel that they in general were strangers to, especially on Sunday nights. The supercargo of a Philadelphia brig, which was anchored near by us, used frequently to ridicule my religious views and swear about them in a violent manner when I happened to meet him. He took occasion to do this especially in company where we transacted our business. Sometimes he would cool down and commend me for my forbearance, and promise that he would not swear when I was present. But his promises were always soon forgotten.LELJB 227.2

    When his vessel was getting under way to leave for home, I wrote him a letter, entreating him to turn from his wicked course and serve the Lord, and spoke of the consequences that might follow if he still continued in the course he was pursuing, and gave it to him to read when he had more leisure. He proceeded on his voyage, and was approaching near his destined port, when one day, while the officers and crew were down at dinner, suddenly and unexpectedly a squall struck his vessel and capsized her. The crew just escaped with their lives. They were picked up by another vessel, and the supercargo arrived in New York. He there fell in company with an old acquaintance of mine, to whom he related the circumstance of his becoming acquainted with me in Rio Grande, and referring to the religious instruction I gave him in the letter before referred to, he cursed and railed against me for being the cause of his misfortune and present suffering. This judgment, which God suffered to overtake him in such a sudden and irrevocable manner, made him feel, undoubtedly, that it was for the blasphemous course which he had pursued and was still indulging in. In seeking for some way to ease his troubled conscience and justify self, he doubtless found some relief in charging it all to me.LELJB 228.1

    After some detention we sold our cargo to the government, and invested the most of our funds in dry hides, and cleared for St. Catherine’s. After sailing some eight miles from our anchorage, to the light-house at the entrance of the harbor, we were compelled to anchor for the night, and wait for daylight and a fair wind to pass safely over the sand bars.LELJB 229.1

    On receiving my account current from Mr. Carroll, the Brazilian merchant whom I employed to transact my foreign business, I ran it over without discovering any error. But still it seemed to me that I had received more cash in balance than was my due. But many other things then necessarily occupied my mind (as is usual on weighing anchor to proceed on a voyage), until we were obliged to anchor near the lighthouse. I then discovered that the merchant had balanced the account wrong, in my favor. This, of course, was no fault of mine; but he had paid me over my due five hundred dollars in gold doubloons. Only one way was now open for me to communicate with him, and that was by sending my boat. Our unsafe position near the sand bars and breakers seemed to demand that not only our boat, but also our crew, should be at hand, in case our anchors should fail to hold us during the night. But the money was not mine, and I felt that I should not be blessed of the Lord if I attempted to proceed on my voyage without an exertion on my part to pay it over. My vessel might never be heard from again, neither Mr. C. ’s money; then, of course, the fault would be charged to me. I therefore dispatched my boat with the following letter:—LELJB 229.2

    “MR. CARROLL, Dear Sir: Since I parted with you, I have been wondering how I came by so much money. Once I overhauled the accounts and concluded they were right. This evening, being more collected and free from care, and not satisfied, I have again spread them before me and made a memorandum of sales and purchases, which led me to discover the error-five hundred dollars and thirty-four cents. I have been devising the best way to get this money safe to you; as it is now late, and a prospect of a fair wind early in the morning, I have concluded to send my boat. To double the diligence of my men, I have promised them 960 ‘reis’ each. I do not know of any other way that would be safe.LELJB 230.1

    “Brig Empress, at the bar off Rio Grande, March 8, 1828.”

    By the blessing of God our boat returned in safety, with the thanks of the merchant, in time for us to put to sea early in the morning, with a fair wind. We were prospered with a safe voyage to St. Catherine’s, where we finished our lading with hides and coffee, and cleared for New York. The Brazilian government was in such an unsettled state, owing to the war with Buenos Ayres, that their business was very much depressed.LELJB 230.2

    Our passage home was pleasant and prosperous. We were cheered once more with the well-known north star as we advanced a little way north of the equator, out of the South Atlantic Ocean. After passing the north-eastern extremity of South America, as we steered away north-west, we soon came under the quickening influence of the north-east and east trade-winds, which wafted us onward toward our home and friends, sometimes at the rate of two hundred miles in twenty-four hours. Sailors reckon their days as astronomers do, from noon to noon. Every night, on the appearance of the north star, her ascension in the northern hemisphere was very perceptible, and also encouraging, proving our onward course northward.LELJB 231.1

    As we were proceeding on our way toward the windward of the West India Islands, on coming on deck one morning, I observed that the sails looked red. I hailed one of our seamen, who was aloft, and told him to rub his hand on the top-gallant sail, and tell me what was there. He answered, “It is sand!” I requested him to brush off some in his hand, and come down with it. He brought down what he could shut up in his hand of fine red and gray sand. As soon as the sails became dry, by the shining of the sun, it all dropped off, and our sails were as white as they were the day before. On a thorough examination of my charts and book of directions, I ascertained that the nearest land eastward of us, from whence the wind was continually blowing, was the coast of Africa, some fifteen hundred miles distant! The Atlantic Ocean lay before and behind us. Stretching along under our lee, many hundreds of miles west of us, lay the northern coast of South America. It was therefore clear that the quantity of sand on our sails, which was held there by reason of their being quite wet, came not from the west, the north, nor the south, but from the flying clouds passing over the Desert of Sahara, where we are told by travelers that the sand has frequently been seen whirling upward in heavy columns to the clouds by whirlwinds. The same is referred to by the prophet Isaiah, chapter 22:1.LELJB 231.2

    According to the rate clouds are said to fly before a strong gale, these passed over us in about forty-eight hours after leaving the coast of Africa, and sifted out their loads of sand some fifteen hundred miles across the North Atlantic Ocean, and most likely also over the northern coast of South America and into the Pacific.LELJB 232.1

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