Joseph Bates 1




My first European voyage from New York to 

London and back, opened new scenes before me,

 not  uncommon to a sea-faring life.

One circumstance occurred on our homeward 

voyage some eighteen days after departing from

 Land's End, of England, which I will here relate,

In the morning, (Sunday,) a large shark was 

following us. A large piece of meat was fastened

 to a rope and thrown over the stern to tempt 

him to come up a little nearer, that we might 

fasten to him with a barbed iron made for such 

purposes; but no inducement

of ours seemed to affect him. He maintained

his position where he could grasp whatever fell

from either side of the ship. A SHARK is a voracious sea-fish.

On such occasions the old stories about sharks 

are revived. How they swallow sailors alive, and

 at other times bite them in two, and swallow 

them at two mouth-fulls, &c. They hear so much

 about them that they attribute more to their 

sagacity than what really belongs to them. It is

 said that sharks have followed vessels on the 

ocean for many days when there were any sick

 on board, that they may satiate theirvoracious

 appetites on the dead bodies that are cast

into the sea. Sailors are generally brave and

 fearless men; they dare meet their fellows in

 almost any conflict, and brave the raging storms

 of the sea; but the idea of being swallowed 

alive, or even when dead by these voracious 

creatures, often causes their stout hearts to 

tremble. Still they are often credulous and 


Towards the evening of the day referred to, when

we had ceased our fruitless labors to draw the

 shark away from his determined position astern

 of the ship, I ascended to the main-top-gallant

 mast-head to ascertain if there was any vessel

 in sight, or anything to be seen but sky and 

water. On my way down, having reached about

 fifty feet from the deck, and sixty from the 

water, I missed reaching the place which I 

designed grasping with my hand, and fell 

backwards, striking a rope in my fall which 

prevented my being dashed upon the deck, but 

whirled me into the sea. As I came up on the top

 of the waves, struggling and panting for breath,

 I saw at a glance the ship (my only hope) was 

passing onward beyond my reach. With the 

encumbrance of my thick heavy clothing, I 

exerted all my strength to, follow. I saw the 

captain, officers and crew had rushed towards

 the ship's stern. The first officer hurled a coil of

 rope with all his strength, the end of which I

 caught with my hand. He cried out, "Hold on!" I

 did so until they hauled me through the sea to

 the ship, and set my feet upon the deck.

To the question if I was hurt, I answered, "No."

Said another, "Where is the shark?" I began to

tremble even as they had done, while they were

 in anxious suspense fearing he would grasp me

 every moment. The thought of the shark had 

never entered my mind while I was in the water,

 I then crossed over to the other side of the ship,

 and behold he was quietly gliding his way along

 with us, not far from the side of the vessel, 

seemingly unconscious of our gaze. And we did 

not disturb him in any way; for the sailors and 

passengers were all so glad that the cabin-boy

 was rescued, not only from a watery grave but

 from his ferocious jaws, that they had no

disposition to trouble him. He was soon missing

 and we saw him no more. But the wonder to all

 was, how he came to change his position to a

 place where he could neither see nor hear what

 was transpiring on the other side and stern of

 the ship. Surely Noah's and Daniel's God was

 there! The very same God that so recently 

commissioned the Advent Angel [Rev. x] to 

proclaim to all on land and SEA that Jesus

the Messiah is coming, A second, and then a

third following them, saying, "Here are they that

keep the Commandments of God, and the faith of  


Dear children, if you have a desire to join this

highly honored, home-bound company, and be 

forever saved in the kingdom of God, lay fast 

hold of the rope, and HOLD ON!



Battle Creek, Michigan



PROCEEDING on another voyage from New York

to Archangel, in Russia, about the middle of May,

in the afternoon, we discovered a number of 

islands of ice, many of them appearing like large

 cities. This was an unmistakable sign that we 

were nearing the banks of Newfoundland, about

 one thousand miles on the mariner's track from

 Boston to Liverpool. These large masses, or 

islands of ice, are driven by wind and current 

from the ice-bound regions of the North, and 

strike the bottom more than three hundred feet

 from the surface of the sea, and some seasons

 they are from two to three months dissolving 

and tumbling to pieces, which lightens them, of

 their prodigious burdens, and thereby are driven

 onward over this deep water into the fathomless

 part of the ocean, and are soon dissolved in 

warm sea water. A strong westerly gale was 

wafting us rapidly in our onward course, and as

 the night set in we were past this cluster. The 

fog then became so dense that it was impossible

 to see ten feet before us. About this time while

 one W. Palmer was steering the ship, he 

overheard the chief mate expostulating with the

captain, desiring him to round the ship to, and 

lay by until morning light. The captain deemed 

we were past all the ice, and said the ship must

 continue to run, and have a good lookout ahead.

 Midnight came, and we were relieved from our 

post by the captain's watch, to retire below for

 four hours. In about an hour from this we were

 aroused by the dreadful cry from the helmsman,

 "AN ISLAND OF ICE!" The next moment came the

 dreadful crash! When I came to my senses from

 the blow I received from being tossed from one

 side of the forecastle to the other, I found 

myself fast clinched with Palmer. The rest of the

 watch had made their escape on deck, and shut

 down the scuttle. After several unsuccessful 

attempts to find the ladder to reach the scuttle,

 we gave up in despair. We placed our arms 

around each other's, necks, and gave up to die.

 Amid the creaking and rending of the ship with

 her grappled foe, we could once in a while hear

 some of the screams and cries of some of our

 wretched companions on the deck above us, 

begging God for mercy, which only augmented

 our desperate feelings. Thoughts came rushing

 like the light that seemed to choke, and for a 

few moments block up all way to utterance.

O, the dreadful thought! Here to yield up my 

account and die, and sink with the wretched ship

 to the bottom of the ocean, so far from home 

and friends, without the least preparation, or 

hope of heaven and eternal life, only to be 

numbered with the damned and forever banished

 from the presence of the Lord.

It seemed that something must give way to vent

 my feelings of unutterable anguish!

In this agonizing moment the scuttle was thrown

open, with a cry, "Is there any one below?" In a

moment we were both on deck. I stood for a 

moment surveying our position; the ship's bow

 partly under a shelf of the ice, everything gone

 but her stem. All her square sails filled with the

 wind, and a heavy sea rushing her onward in 

closer connection with her unyielding 

antagonist. Without some immediate change it

 was evident that our destiny, and hers, would be

sealed up in a few moments.

With some difficulty I made my way to the 

quarter deck where the captain and second mate

 were on their knees begging God for mercy. The

 chief mate with as many as could rally around

 him, were making fruitless efforts to hoist the

 long boat, which could not have been kept from

 dashing against the ice for two moments. Amid

 the crash of matter and cry of others, my 

attention was arrested by the captain's crying 

out, "What are you going to do with me, Palmer?"

Said P, "I am going to heave you overboard!" "For

 God's sake let me alone, said he, for we shall all

 be in eternity in less than five minutes!" Said P.

 with a dreadful oath, "I don't care for that, you

 have been the cause of all this! It will be some

 satisfaction to me to see you go first!" I laid fast

 hold of him, and entreated him to let go of the 

captain and go with roe and try the pump. He 

readily yielded to my request; but to our utter 

astonishment the pump sucked. This unexpected

 good news arrested the attention of the chief 

mate, who immediately turned from his fruitless

 labor, and after a moment's survey of the ship's

 crashing position, cried out with a stentorian 

shout, "Let go the top gallant and the top-sail 

halyards! Let go the tacks and sheets! Haul up

 the courses! Clew down and clew up the 

topsails!" Perhaps orders were never obeyed in 

a more prompt and instantaneous manner. The wind thrown out of the sails relieved

the ship immediately, and like a lever sliding

from under a rock, she broke away from her 

disastrous position, and settled down upon an

 even keel broadside to the ice.

We now saw that our strong built and gallant 

ship was a perfect wreck forward of her fore-

mast, and that mast, to all appearances, about

 to go too; but what we most feared was, the 

ship's yards and mast coming in contact with the

 ice, in which case the heavy sea on her other 

side would rush over her deck, and sink us in a

 few moments. While anxiously waiting for this,

 we saw that the sea which passed by our stern bounded against the western side of the ice, and

rushed back impetuously against the ship, and 

thus prevented her coming in contact with the 

ice, and also moved her onward towards the 

southern extremity of the island which was so

 high that we failed to see the top of it from the

 mast head.

In this state of suspense we were unable to 

devise any way for our escape, other than that 

God in his providence was manifesting to us, as

 above described. Praise his holy name! “His 

ways are past finding out." About four o'clock in

 the morning while all hands were intensely 

engaged in clearing away the the wreck, a shout

 was raised, "Yonder is the eastern horizon, and

 it's daylight!" This was indication enough that 

we were just passing from the western side,

 beyond the southern extremity of the ice, where

the ship's course could be changed by human 


"Hard up your helm," cried the captain, "and 

keep the ship before the wind! Secure the fore-

mast! Clear away the wreck!" Suffice it to say

 that fourteen days brought us safely into the

 river Shannon, in Ireland, where we refitted for

 our Russian voyage.

"They that go down to the sea in ships, that do

business in great waters: these see the works of

 the Lord, aid his wonders in the deep. . . . Their

soul is melted because of trouble, . . . then they

cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he 

bringeth them out their distresses. . . . Oh, that

 men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and

 for his wonderful works to the children of men."

 Psalms 107:8.

Dear young friends, whatever be your calling

 here, "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his


[Matthew 6:33,] and get your feet planted on

board the gospel ship. The owner of this 

majestic homeward-bound vessel, shows the

 utmost care for every mariner on board; even to

 the numbering of the hairs of their heads. He not

 only pays the highest wages, but has promised 

every one who faithfully performs their duty an 

exceeding great reward. That all the perils of 

this voyage may be passed in safety, he has 

commanded his holy ones [Hebrews 1:14] to 

attend and watch over this precious company,

 who fail not to flee through all the mist and 

fogs, and give warning of all the dangers in the 

pathway. Moreover he has invested his dear Son

 with all power, and given him for a Commander

 and skillful Pilot to convey this good ship and 

her company into her destined haven. Then he 

will clothe them with immortality, and give them

 the earth made new for an everlasting 

inheritance; and make them kings and priests

 unto God, to "reign on the earth."

Eaton Rapids, Michigan






AFTER repairing damages in Ireland we sailed

again on our Russian voyage, and in a few

days we fell in with & joined an English convoy

of two or three hundred sail of merchant vessels

bound into the Baltic sea, convoyed by British

ships of war to protect them from their enemies.

On reaching a difficult place called the "Mooner

passage," a violent gale overtook us which in 

spite  of our efforts was driving us on a dismal, 

shelterless shore. With the increasing fury of the

 gale and darkness of the night, our condition 

became more and more alarming, until finally our

 Commodore hoisted the "lighted lantern." a 

signal for all the fleet to anchor without delay. 

The long wished for morning at length came 

which revealed to us our alarming position. All 

that were provided with cables were contending

 with the boisterous seas driven against us by

 the furious gale. It seemed almost a miracle to

 us that our cables and anchors still held. While

 watching one after another as they parted their

 cables and were drifting towards the rocks to 

be dashed in pieces, our own cable broke!

With all haste we crowded what sail we dared on

the ship, and she being a fast sailor we found by

the next day that we had gained some distance

 in the offing. Here a council was called which 

decided that we should make sail from the 

convoy and take a lone chance through the 

sound, by the coast of Denmark.

Not many hours from this, while we were 

congratulating ourselves respecting our narrow

 escape from shipwreck, and out of reach of the

 Commodore's guns, two suspicious looking

 vessels were endeavoring to cut us off from the

 shore. Their cannon balls soon began to fall 

around us. And it became advisable for us to 

round too and let them come aboard. They 

proved to be two Danish privateers,  who

 captured and took us to Copenhagen, where

 ship and cargo were finally condemned, in

accordance with Bonaparte's decrees, because

 of our intercourse with the English.

In the course of a few weeks we were all called

to the court house to give testimony respecting

our voyage. Previous to this, our supercargo and

part owner had promised us a handsome reward

if we would testify that our voyage was direct

from New York to Copenhagen, and that we had

no intercourse with the English. To this 

proposition we were not all agreed. We were 

finally examined! separately, my turn coming 

first. I suppose they first called me into court 

because I was the only youth among the sailors.

 One of the three judges asked me in English if I 

understood the nature of an oath. After 

answering in the affirmative he bid me look at 

a box near by, (about 15 inches long and 8 high.)

 and said, that box contains a machine to cut off

 the two fore-fingers and thumb of every one who

 swears falsely here. Now, said he, hold up your

 two fore-fingers & thumb on your right hand. In

 this manner I was sworn to tell the truth, and

 regardless of any consideration I testified to the

 facts concerning our voyage.

Afterwards when we were permitted to go 

aboard it was clear enough that the "little box" 

had brought out the truthful testimony from all; 

viz., that we had been wrecked by running 

against an island of ice fourteen days from New

 York; refitted in Ireland, after which we joined

 the British convoy, and were captured by the 

privateers. After this, some of our crew as they

 were returning from a walk where they had been

 viewing the prison, said that some of the 

prisoners thrust their hands through the gratings

 to show them that they had lost the two fore-

fingers and thumb of their right hand. They were

 a crew of Dutchmen that were likewise taken 

and had sworn falsely. We now felt thankful for

 another narrow escape by telling the truth.

" We want the truth on every point,

We want it too, to practice by."

With the condemnation of our ship and cargo,

and loss of our wages, in company with a 

strange people who had stripped us of all but our

 clothing, ended our Russian voyage. But before

 Winter set in I obtained a birth on board a 

Danish brig bound to Pillau, in Prussia, where we

 arrived after a tedious passage, our vessel 

leaking so badly that it was with difficulty we 

kept her from sinking until we reached the 

wharf. In this extremity I obtained a berth on an

 American brig from Russia, bound to Belfast, 

Ireland. But I must close now.

Dear Youth: By reading the foregoing sketch

you will at once see how soon troubles came

 after our cable parted from the anchor. This will

 illustrate the perilous condition of those who 

while on the voyage of life" to the port of eternal

 rest, suffer their cable to part from the heavenly


This cable is faith, End the anchor to which it is

secured is hope. As the strength of the mariner's

cable is tried by storms and tempests, so the

Christian's cable, (faith.) is proved by the various

trials and commotions of life. Therefore we

 should watch and pray and be sure that our

 cable is firmly fastened to the blessed hope,

 which we have as an anchor of the soul both



Leslie, Michigan





OUR voyage from Prussia to Ireland was replete

with trials and suffering. It was a Winter passage

down the Baltic Sea. And through the winding

passages of the High lands of Scotland, under

a cruel, drunken, parsimonious captain, who

denied us enough of the most common food

 allowed to sailors. And when through his 

neglect to furnish such, we were in a famishing

 condition and almost exhausted with pumping to

 keep us from sinking, he would swear and 

threaten us with severer usage if we failed to

 comply with his wishes. Finally after putting 

into an Island and furnishing a fresh supply of 

provisions, we sailed again for Belfast, in 

Ireland, where the voyage ended. From thence

 two of us crossed the Irish Channel to Liverpool,

 to seek a voyage to America. A few days after 

our arrival ''a press-gang" (an officer and twelve

 men) entered our boarding house in the evening

 and asked to what country we belonged. We 

produced our American protections which proved

 us to be citizens of the United States. 

Protections and arguments would not satisfy 

them. They seized and dragged us to the 

"rendezvous," a place of close confinement. In

 the morning we were examined before a naval

 Lieutenant, and ordered to join the British Navy.

 To prevent our escape, four stout men seized 

us, and the Lieutenant with his drawn sword 

going before we were conducted through the

 middle of one of the principal streets of 

Liverpool like condemned criminals ordered to

 the gallows. When we reached the river side,

 a boat well manned with men was in readiness,

 and conveyed us on board the Princess, of the 

Royal Navy. Here we were measured, and a 

minute description of our persons taken and then

 confined in the prison room on the lower deck, 

with about sixty others who claimed to be 

Americans, and impressed in like manner as 

ourselves. This eventful epoch occurred April 

27th, 1810.

One feeling seemed to pervade the minds of all

who claimed to be Americans; viz., that we were

unlawfully seized, without any provocation on

 our part, hence any way by which we could 

regain our liberty would be justifiable. In a few

 days the greater portion of the officers and crew

 took one of their dead on shore to be buried. It 

was then suggested by some that this was a 

favorable time for us to brake the iron bars and

 bolts in the porthole and make our escape by

 swimming in the strong current that was 

rushing by us. In breaking the bars we 

succeeded beyond our expectation, and when all

 ready to cast ourselves overboard, one after 

another, the boats came along side with the

 officers, and our open place was discovered.

For this they began by taking one after another

and whipping them on their naked backs in a 

most inhuman-manner. This dreadful work was in

progress for several hours, and closed about 

nine o'clock at night, intending to finish next 

day. But they did not have time to carry out their

 cruel work, for orders were given to trans-ship 

us all on board a Frigate near by, that was 

weighing her anchors to put to sea. In a few days

 we came to Plymouth, where we were 

reexamined, and all such as were pronounced 

in good condition for service in the British Navy

 were transferred to one of their largest sized 

stationary ships, called the “Saint Salvador Del

 Hondo." On this monstrous floating castle were

 fifteen hundred persons in the same condition 

as myself.

Here, in conversation with a young man from

Massachusetts, we agreed to try to make our 

escape if we perished in the attempt. We 

prepared us a rope and closely watched the 

soldiers and sailors on guard till they were being

 relieved from their posts at midnight. We then

 raised the ''hanging port" about eighteen inches,

 and put the "tackle fall" in the hands of a friend 

in the secret, to lower it down when we were 

beyond the reach of the musket balls. Our rope 

and blanket, about thirty feet long, reached the 

water. Forbes, my companion, whispered, 

“Will you follow?" I replied,

"Yes." By the time he reached the water

I was slipping down after him, when the alarm

ran through the ship,. "A man overboard." Our

friend dropt the "port" for fear of being detected,

which left me exposed to the fire of the 


But I was soon in the water, and swam to a

 hiding place under the "accommodation ladder"

 by the time the boats were manned, with 

lanterns, to hunt us out. We watched for an 

opportunity to take an opposite direction from

 our pursuers, who were repeatedly hailed from

 the ship to know if they had found any one. We

 had about three miles to swim with our clothes

 on except our jacket and shoes;

these I had fastened on the back of my neck to

screen me from a chance shot from the ship. An

officer with men and lanterns descended the 

"accommodation ladder," and sliding his hand 

over the "slat" he touched my hand, and 

immediately shouted, "Here is one of them! Come

 out of that, you sir! Here is another! Come out, 

you sir!"

We swam round to them and were drawn upon

the stage, "Who are you?" demanded the officer.

"An American." "How dare you undertake to

swim away from the ship? Did you not know

that you were liable to be shot?" I answered that

I was not a subject of King George, and had done

this to gain my liberty. ''Bring them up here!"

was the order from the ship. After another 

examination we were put into close confinement

 with a number of criminals awaiting their 


DEAR YOUNG FRIENDS; I never fully realized the

oppressive nature of bondage nor the value of 

freedom before. Since that time God in great 

mercy enabled me to see that I was in willing 

bondage to the most cruel tyrant that ever lived,

 and that there was but one way to escape his 

power, and that by believing on the name of the

 only begotten Son of God. My prayer also is that

 no consideration may prevent

you from fleeing from the murderous power of 

the Devil, [John 8:44,] and by faith laying hold of

 the Son of the living God for freedom. "For if the

 Son makes you free, then are you free indeed."

Blackman, Michigan



Introduction into the British service Spanish war

ships —A Leranter Image worship—Another attempt

for freedom—Battle— Storm—Spanish -war ship wrecked—

Blockading squadron—Church service on board a

king's ship.

AFTER some thirty hour's of close confinement

   I was separated from my friend and hurried 

away with about one hundred and fifty sailors 

(all strangers to me) to join his Majesty's ship 

"Rodney," of 74 guns, whose crew numbered 

about seven hundred men. As soon as we had 

passed our muster on the quarter deck of the 

Rodney, all were permitted to go below and get 

    their dinners but Bates,— Commander Bolton

 handed the First Lieutenant a paper, on reading

 of which he looked at me and muttered," 

scoundrel." All the boats' crews amounting to 

more than, one hundred men were immediately 

assembled on the quarter deck. Said Capt. 

Bolton, "Do you see that fellow?" "Yes sir." " If 

ever you allow him to get into one of your boats,

 I will flog every one of the boat's crew." " Do 

you understand me?” 

     "Yes sir, yes sir." was the reply. "Then go 

down to your dinners, and you may go too, sir."

     I now began to learn something of the nature

 of my punishment for attempting in a quiet and

 peaceable manner to quit his majesty's service.

 In the commanding officer's view this seemed to

 amount to an unpardonable crime, and never to

 be forgotten. In a few hours the Rodney under a

 cloud of sail, was leaving Old Plymouth in the

 distance, steering for the French coast to make

 war with Frenchmen. "Hope deferred makes the

 heart sick;" thus my hope of freedom from this

 oppressive state, seemed to wane from my view

 like the land we were leaving in the distance.

     As our final destination was to join the British

 squadron in the Gulf of Lyons, in the 

Mediterranean sea, we made a stop at Cadiz in

 Spain. Here the French troops of Napoleon

 Bonaparte were bombarding the city, and British

 and Spanish ships of war in the harbor. These

 comprised a part of the Spanish fleet that finally

 escaped from the battle of Trafalgar, under Lord

 Nelson in 1805, and were now to be refitted by

 their ally the English, and sail for Port Mahon in

 the Mediterranean.   Unexpectedly I was one of

 fifty selected to refit and man one of them, the

 ''Apollo." A few days after passing the straits of

 Gibraltar we encountered a most violent gale of

 wind, called a "Levanter," common in those 

seas, which caused our ship to labor so 

excessively that it was with the utmost 

exertions at the pumps that we kept her from


     We were finally favored to return back to

 Gibraltar and refit.

     A number of Spanish officers with their 

families still belonged to the ship. It was 

wonderful and strange to us to see how 

tenaciously this people hung around their 

images, surrounded with burning wax candles, 

as though they could save them in this perilous

 hour, when nothing short of our continual labor 

at the pumps, prevented the ship from sinking 

with us all.

     After refitting at Gibraltar, we sailed again

 and arrived safely at the Island of Mahon. Here I

 made another attempt to regain my liberty with

 two others, by inducing a native to take us to 

land in his market boat. After some two days and

 nights of fruitless labor to escape from the 

Island by boats or otherwise, or from those who

 were well paid for apprehending deserters, we

 deemed it best to venture back. Our voluntary

 return to the ship was finally accepted as 

evidence that we did not design to desert from

 the service of King George III.    Thus we 

escaped from being publicly whipped.

     Our crew was now taken back to Gibraltar to

 join the Rodney, our own ship, who had just

 arrived in charge of another Spanish line of

 battle ship for Port Mahon, having a crew of fifty

 of the Rodney's men. In company with our 

Spanish consort we sailed some eighty miles on

 the way to Malaga, where we discovered the 

combined armies of the English and Spanish in

 close engagement with the French army on the

 seaboard. Our ship was soon moored broad side

 to the shore. As the orders for furling the sails

 were not promptly obeyed by reason of the

 Frenchmen's shot from the fort, all hands were

 ordered aloft, and there remained exposed to 

the enemy's shot until the sails were furled. This

 was done out of anger. While in this condition a

 single well directed shot might have killed a

 score, but fortunately none were shot till all had

 reached the deck, Our thirty two pound balls

 made dreadful havoc for a little while with the

 enemy's ranks: nevertheless they soon managed

 to bring their enemies between us and thereby

 check our firing.   Then with a furious onset they

 drove them to their fortress, and many seeing

 our boats near the shore, rushed into the sea

 and were either shot by the French or drowned,

 except what the boats floated to our ship, This 

work commenced about 2 P. M., and closed with

 the setting sun. After disposing of the dead and

 washing their blood from the decks, we sailed

 away with our Spanish consort for Port Mahon.

 Just before reaching there, another "Levanter" 

came on so suddenly that it was with much 

difficulty that we could manage our new built

 ship. Oar Spanish consort unprepared for such a

 violent gale, was dashed to pieces on the rocks

 on the Island of Sardinia, and most every one of

 the crew perished.  After the gale we joined the

 British fleet consisting of about thirty line of 

battle ships, carrying from eighty to one hundred

 and thirty guns apiece, besides frigates and 

sloops of war, Our work was to blockade a much

 larger fleet of French men of war, mostly in the

 harbor of Toulon.

     With these we occasionally had skirmishes or

 running fights. 

     They were not prepared, neither disposed to

 meet the English in battle.

     To improve oar mental faculties when we had

 a few leisure moments from ship duty and naval

 tactics, we were furnished with a library of two

 choice books for every ten men (We had seventy

 of these libraries in all.)

     The first book was an abridgement of the life

 of Lord Nelson, calculated to inspire the mind 

with deeds of valor, and the most summary way

 of disposing of an unyielding enemy. This, one of

 the ten men could read, when he had leisure, 

during the last six days or each week. The 

second was a small Church of England prayer

 book, for special use, about one hour on the first day of the week.


 As a general thing a chaplain was allowed for 

every large ship.

When the weather was pleasant the quarter deck

 was fitted with awnings, flags, benches, &c. for

 meeting At 11 A. M., came the order from the

 officer of the deck,

     "Strike six bells there!"     

 ''Yes sir." " Boatswain's mate?" 

''Sir." "Call all hands to church! Hurry them up

 there!" (These mates were required to carry a

 piece of rope in their pocket to start sailors 

with) Immediately their stentorian voices were 

heard sounding on the other decks, "Away up to

 church there every soul of you and take your 

prayer books with you!"

     If any one felt disinclined to such a mode of

 worship, and attempted to evade the loud call to

 church, then look out for the men with the rope!

 When I was asked."    Of what religion are you?"

 I replied, "A Presbyterian."

     But I was now given to understand that there

 was no religious toleration on board the king's

 war ships."  Only one denomination here away

 with you to church!"   The officers before taking

 their seats unbuckled their swords and dirks 

and piled them on the head of the capstan, in the

 midst of the worshipping assembly, all ready to

 grasp them in a moment if necessary before the

 hour's service should close. When the 

benediction was pronounced, the officers

 clinched their side arms, and buckled them on

 for active service. The quarter deck was 

immediately cleared, and the floating Bethel 

again becomes the same old weekly war ship for

 six days and twenty-three hour's more.

     Respecting the church service, the chaplain,

 or in his absence, the Captain reads from the 

prayer book, and the officers and sailors 

respond. And when he read about the Law of 

God, the loud response would fill the quarter 

deck, "0 Lord, incline our hearts to keep thy 


     Poor wicked, deluded souls! How little their 

hearts were inclined to keep the holy Law of 

God, when almost every other hour of the week

 their tongues were employed in blaspheming his

 holy name; and at the same time learning and 

practicing the way and manner of shooting, 

slaying, and sinking to the bottom of the ocean 

all that refused to surrender and become their 

prisoners; or who dared to oppose or array 

themselves in opposition to a proclamation of

 war issued from their good old Christian king.

     King George III not only assumed the right to

 impress American seaman to man his war ships,

 and fight his unjust battles, but he also required

 them to attend his church and learn to respond 

to his preachers.   And whenever the band of 

musicians on ship board commenced with "God

 save the king!" they, with all his loyal subjects

 were also required to take off their hats in 

obeisance to his royal authority.

     At that time I felt a wicked spirit towards 

those who deprived me of my liberty, and held 

me in this state of oppression, and required me

 in their way to serve God, and honor their king 

But I thank God who teaches us to forgive and

 love our enemies; that through his rich mercy in

 Jesus Christ I have since found forgiveness of

 my sins; that all such feelings are subdued, and

 my only wish is that I could teach them the way

 of life and salvation. 


Battle Creek, Michigan,


Port Mahon—Subterranean passage Holy

stone—Wash day—Threatened punishment—

Trying hour—-Dreadful storm——Twenty-four

hours' liberty—New situation.

THE winter rendezvous of the Mediterranean

British squadron was in the isle of Minorca,

 harbor of Port Mahon. Sailing after the middle of

the seventh month is dangerous. See St. Paul's

 testimony, Acts 27:9,10.  While endeavoring to

 escape the vigilance of our pursuers, after we

 stepped out of the Spaniard's market boat (see

 No. 6,) away beyond the city, at the base of a

rocky mountain we discovered a wooden door

which we opened, and away in the distance it 

appeared quite light. We ventured on through

 this subterranean passage till we came to a

 large open space where the light was shining

 down through a small hole wrought from the top

 of the mountain, down through the dome. This 

subterranean passage continued on in a winding

 direction which we attempted to explore as far

 as we dared to for the want of light to return to

 the center. On both sides of this-main road we

 discovered similar passages all beyond our 

exploration. Afterwards we were told that this 

mountain had been excavated in past ages for 

the purpose of sheltering a besieged army. In the

 center or light place was a large house chiseled

 out of a rock, with door way and window frames,

 designed undoubtedly for the officers

of the besieged, and rallying place of the army.

After a close survey of this wonderful place, we

became satisfied that we had now found a 

secure retreat from our pursuers, where we 

could breathe and talk aloud without fear of 

being heard, or seized by any of the subjects of

 King George III.

But alas, our joy soon vanished when we thought

again that there was nothing here to eat. When

we ventured to a farm house to seek for

bread, the people eyed us with suspicion, and 

fearing they would seize us, and hand us over to

 our pursuers, we avoided them, until we became

 satisfied that it was in vain to escape from this

 place and so returned to the ship. The stone of 

this mountain is a kind of sand-stone, much 

harder than chalk, called “holy stone" which is

 abundant on the island, and made use of by the

 British squadron to scour or holy-stone the 

decks with every morning, to make them white

 and clean. In the mild seasons, the sailor's 

uniform was white duck frocks and trousers, and

 straw hats. The discipline was, to muster all 

hands at nine o'clock in the morning, and if our

 dress was reported soiled or unclean, then all

 such were doomed to have their names put on

 the ''black list," and required to do all kinds of 

scouring brass, iron and filthy work, in addition 

to their stationed duty, depriving them of their 

allotted time for rest and sleep in their morning 

watch below. There was no punishment more 

dreaded and disgraceful to which we were daily


If sufficient changes of dress had been allowed

us, and sufficient time to wash and dry the same,

it would have been a great pleasure, and also a

benefit to us to have appeared daily with 

unsoiled white dresses on, notwithstanding the

 dirty work we had to perform. I do not remember

 of ever being allowed more than three suits at

 one time to make changes, and then only one

 day in the week to cleanse them, viz. about two

 hours before daylight once a week, all hands

 (about 700) called on the upper decks to wash

 and scrub clothes.

Not more than three quarters of these could be

 accommodated to do this work for themselves

 at a time; but no matter, when daylight came at

 the expiration of the two hours, all washed 

clothes were ordered to be hung on the clothes-

lines immediately.

Some would say, I have not been able to

get water nor a place to wash mine yet. "I can't

help that! Clear out your clothes, and begin to

holy-stone and wash the decks." Orders were

most strict that whoever should be found drying

his clothes at any other but this time in the wash

 day should be punished. To avoid detection and

 punishment, I have scrubbed my trousers early 

in the morning, and put them on and dried them.

Not liking this method, I ventured at one time to

hang up my wet trousers in a concealed place

 behind the main top sail; but the sail was 

ordered to be furled in a hurry, and the 

lieutenant discovered them. The maintop men

 (about fifty) were immediately ordered from 

their dinner hour to appear on the quarter deck.

 "All here Sir," said the under officer that 

mustered us. "Very well, whose trousers are

 these found hanging in the maintop?"

I stepped forward from the ranks, and said,

 ''They are mine, Sir." "Yours, are they? You!"

and when he had finished cursing me he asked

 me, how they came there? "I hung them there to

dry, Sir." "You see how I will hang you, directly.

 Go down to your dinner, the rest of you." said 

he, "and call the chief boatswain's mate up 

here." Up he came in great haste from his dinner.

 "Have you got a rope's end in your pocket?" He 

began to feel and said, "No Sir."

"Then away down below directly and get one and

give that fellow there one of the floggings he

ever had." "Yes, Sir, bare a hand."

Thus far, I had escaped all his threats of 

punishment from my first introduction into the


I had often applied for more clothes to enable me

 to muster with a clean dress, but had been 


I expected now, according to his threats, that he

would wreak his vengeance on me by having the

flesh cut off my back for attempting to have a

clean dress, when he knew I could not have it 

without venturing some way as I had done. While

thoughts of the unjustness of this matter were

rapidly passing through my mind, he cried out,

"Where is that fellow with the rope? Why don't

he hurry up here? " At this instant he was heard

rushing up from below. The lieutenant stopped

short and turned to me saying. "If you don't want

one of the floggings you ever had, do you

run." I looked at him to see if he was in earnest.

The under officer, who seemed to feel the

 injustice of my case, repeated, "Run!" The

 lieutenant cried to the man with the rope, "Give

 it to him!"

''Aye, aye, Sir." I bounded forward, and by the

time he reached the head of the ship, I was over

the bow getting a position to receive him near

down by the water, on the ship's bobstays. He

saw at a glance it would require his utmost skill

to perform his pleasing task there. He therefore

commanded me to come up to him. "No," said I,

"if you want me, come here."

In this position, the Devil, the enemy of all right

and just motives, tempted me to seek a summary

redress of my grievances, viz. if he followed me

and persisted in inflicting on me the threatened

punishment, to grasp him and plunge into the water.

Of the many that stood above looking on.

none spake to me that I remember but my 

pursuer. To the best of my memory I remained in

 this position more than an hour. To the wonder

 of myself and others, the lieutenant issued no 

me, neither questioned me afterwards, only the

 next morning I learned that I was numbered with

 the black list men for about six months.

Thanks to the Father of all mercies for delivering

me from premeditated destruction by his 

overruling providence in that trying hour.

Ships belonging to the blockading squadron in

the Mediterranean sea were generally relieved 

and returned to England at the expiration of 

three years; then the sailors were paid their 

wages, and twenty-four hours' liberty given them

 to spend their money on shore. As the Rodney

 was NOW on her third year out, my strong hope

 of freedom from the British yoke would often 

cheer me while looking forward to that one day's

 liberty in the which I was resolving to put forth 

every energy of my being to gain my freedom. 

About this time the fleet encountered a most dreadful storm in the gulf of Lyons. For a while it

 was doubted whether any of us would ever see

 the rising of another sun. These huge ships 

would rise like mountains on the top of the 

coming sea, and suddenly tumble again into the

 trough of the same with such a dreadful

crash that it seemed almost impossible they

could ever rise again. They became 

unmanageable, and the mariners were at their 

wit's end. See the Psalmist's description. Psalms

 197:23-30. On our arrival at Port Mahon in the 

island of Minorca, ten ships were reported much


The Rodney was so badly damaged that the 

commander was ordered to get her ready to 

proceed to England. Joyful sound to us all! 

"Homeward bound! Twenty-four hour's liberty!"

 was the joyous sound. All hearts glad. One 

evening after dark, just before the Rodney's 

departure for England, some fifty of us were 

called out by name and ordered to get our 

baggage ready and get into the boats. "What's 

the matter? Where are we going?" "On board the

 Swiftshore 74." ' What, that ship that has just 

arrived for a three year's station?" "Yes.”: A sad

 disappointment indeed; but what was still 

worse, I began to learn that I was doomed to 

drag out a miserable existence in the British 

navy. Once more I was among strangers, but well

 known as one who had attempted to escape 

from the service of King George III.

-The Swiftshore was soon under way for her 

station off Toulon. A few days after we sailed, a

friend of try father's arrived from the United 

States bringing documents to prove my 

citizenship and a demand for my release from 

the British Government.


Springport, Michigan 

June 14, 1859.



Impressing American seaman — Documents of 


— Declaration of war — Voluntary surrender as 


of war — Preparation for a battle on the ocean

— Unjust treatment — Close confinement.

ONE of the most prominent causes of our last 

war of 1812 with England was her oppressive 

and unjust acts in impressing American seaman

 on sea or land, wherever they could be found. 

This was denied by one political party in the 

United States. The British government also 

continued to deny the fact, and the regard of 

American citizens was of but little importance.

Such proof of American citizenship as was 

required by them was not very readily obtained.

 Hence their continued acts of aggression until

 the war.

Another additional and grievous act was that all

 letters to our friends were required to be 

examined by the first lieutenant before leaving 

the ship. By accident I found one of mine torn 

and thrown aside, hence the impossibility of my

 parents learning even that I was among the

 living. With as genuine a protection as could be

 obtained from the collector of the custom house

 at N. Y. city, I nevertheless was passed off for

 an Irishman, because an Irish officer declared

 that my parents lived in Belfast, Ireland.

Previous to the war of 1812 one of my letters

reached my father. He then procured for me 

another protection from the collector of the port

 of New Bedford, Mass., who had known me from


He also wrote to the president of the United

States (Madison) presenting him with the facts

in my case, and for proof of his own citizenship 

referred him to the archives in the war 

department for his commissions returned and 

deposited thereafter his services closed with the

 Revolutionary war.

The president's reply and documents were 

satisfactory. Gen. Brooks, then Gov. of Mass., 

who was intimately acquainted with my father 

as a captain under his immediate command in

 the Revolutionary war, added to the foregoing

 another strong document, all of which were 

afterwards critically reviewed in England and 

sent out in pamphlet form. Subsequently, during

 my imprisonment there, it was placed in my 


Capt. C. Delano, townsman and friend of my

 father, preparing for a voyage to Minorca, in the

Mediterranean, generously offered his services

 to be bearer of the above named documents, 

and so sanguine was he that no other proof 

would be required that he really expected to 

bring me with him on his return voyage.

On his arrival at port*Mahon, he was rejoiced to

learn that the Rodney, 74, was in port. As he 

approached the R. in his boat, he was asked 

what he wanted. He said he wished to see a 

young man by the name of Joseph Bates. The

 lieutenant forbid his coming alongside. Finally

 one of the under officers, a friend of mine, 

informed him that I had been transferred to the

 Swiftshore, 74, (see No. 7,) and she had sailed 

to join the British fleet off Toulon. Capt. D. then 

presented my documents to the United

States Consul, who transmitted them to Sir 

Edward Pelew, the commander-in-chief of the 


On the arrival of the mail, I received a letter from

Capt. D. informing me of his arrival, and visit to

the R., his disappointment, and what he had 

done, and of the anxiety of my parents. I think 

this was the first intelligence from home for over

 three years.

I was told that the Capt. had sent for me to see 

him on the quarter deck. I saw he was 

surrounded by signal men and officers replying

 by signal flags to the admiral's ship which was

 some distance from us. Said the Capt., Is your 

name Joseph Bates? Yes sir.

Are you an American? Yes sir. To what part of

America do you belong? New Bedford, in Mass.,

sir. Said he, the admiral is inquiring to know if

you are on board this ship. He will probably send

for you, or something to the like import. You may

go below. The news spread throughout the ship

that that Bates was an American, and his 

government had demanded his release, and the 

commander-in-chief was signalizing our ship 

about it, &c. What a lucky fellow he was, &c.

Weeks and months rolled away, however, and

nothing but anxious suspense and uncertainty in

 my case, till at length I received another letter

 from Capt. D. informing me my case was still

 hanging in uncertainty, and it was probable war

 had commenced and he was obliged to leave, 

and if I could not obtain an honorable discharge,

 I had better become a prisoner of war.

It was now the fall of 1812. On our arrival at

port Mahon to winter, the British consul sent me

what money I then needed, saying that it was 

Capt. D.'s request that he should furnish me with

 money and clothing while I needed. Owing to 

sickness in the fleet, it was ordered that each 

ship's company should have 24 hours liberty on 

shore. I improved this opportunity to call at the 

offices of the British and American consuls. The

 former furnished me with some more money. The

 latter said that the admiral had done nothing in

 my case, and now it was too late, for it was 

ascertained that war was declared

between the United States and Great Britain.

There were about two hundred Americans on

board the ships in our squadron, and 22 on board

the Swiftshore. We had ventured several times to

say what we ought to do, but the result appeared

 to some very doubtful. At last some six of us 

united and walked to the quarter deck with our

 hats in hand, and thus addressed the first 

lieutenant: we understand, sir, that war has 

commenced between Great Britain and the 

United States, and we do not wish to be found

 fighting against our own country;

therefore it is our wish to become prisoners of 


“Go below.” At dinner hour all the Americans 

were ordered between the pumps, and not 

permitted to associate with the crew. Our scanty

 allowance was ordered to be reduced one third,

 and no strong drink. This we felt we could 

endure, and not a little comforted that we had

 made one effectual change, and the next would

 most likely free us from the British yoke.

From our ship the work spread until about all

the Americans in the fleet became prisoners of


During eight dreary months we were thus 

retained and frequently called upon the quarter 

deck and harangued and urged to enter the 

British navy. I had already suffered on for thirty

 months an unwilling subject. I was therefore 

fully decided not to listen to any proposal they 

could make.

A few months after our becoming prisoners of

war, our lookout ships appeared off the harbor,

 and signalized that the French fleet (which we

 were attempting to blockade) were all out and

 making the best of their way down the 

Mediterranean. With this startling information 

orders were immediately issued for all the 

squadron to be ready to proceed in pursuit of 

them at an early hour in the morning.

The most of the night was spent preparing for 

this expected onset. The prisoners were invited 

to assist.

I alone refused to aid or assist in any way

whatever, it being unjustifiable except when

 forced to do so. In the morning the whole fleet

 was sailing out of the harbor in line of battle. 

Gunners were ordered to double-shot the guns,

 and clear away for action. The first lieutenant

 was passing by where I stood reading the life of

 Nelson. (One of the library books.) Take up that

 hammock, sir, and carry it on deck. I looked off

 from the book and said it's not mine, sir. Take it

 up. It's not mine, sir. He cursed me for a 

scoundrel, snatched the book from me, and 

dashed it out of the gun port, and struck me 

down with his fist. As soon as I got up, said he, 

Take that hammock (some one's bed and 

blankets lashed up) on deck.  I shall not  do it,

 sir!  I am a prisoner of war, and hope you

will treat me as such. Yes, you Yankee 

scoundrel, I will. Here, said he to two under

 officers, take that hammock and lash it on to 

that fellow's back, and make him walk the poop 

deck 24 hours with it. And because I put my 

hands on them to keep them from doing so, and

 requested them to let me alone, he became 

outrageous, and cried out, Blaster at arms! Take

 this fellow into the gun-room and put him double

 legs in irons! That you can do, sir, said I, but I 

shall not work. When we come into action I'll 

have you lashed up in the main rigging

for a target, for the Frenchmen to fire at!

That you can do, sir, but I hope you will 

remember that I am a prisoner of war. Another

 volley of oaths and imprecations followed, with

 an inquiry why the master-at-arms did not hurry

 up with the irons.

The poor old man was so dismayed and galled 

that he could not find them. He changed his 

mind, and ordered him to come up and make me 

a close prisoner in the gun room, and not allow 

me to come near any one, nor even to speak with

 one of my countrymen.

With this he hurried up on the upper gun

deck where orders were given to throw all the

 hammocks and bags into the ship's hold, break

 down all cabin and berth partitions, break up 

and throw overboard all the cow and sheep pens,

 and clear the deck fore and aft for action. Every

 ship was now in its station for battle, rushing 

across the Mediterranean for the Turkish shore,

 watching to see and grapple with their deadly



Monterey, July 18th, 1859.


Release from close confinement—British fleet out-


Removed to a prison-ship in England—Provisions

for a London newspaper—General excitement

in relation to our bread—Another movement.

WHEN all the preparation was made for battle,

one of my countrymen, in the absence of the

 master of arms, ventured to speak with me

 through the musket gratings of the gun-room, 

to warn me of the perilous position I should be 

placed in when the French fleet hove in sight 

unless I submitted, and acknowledged myself 

ready to take my former station [second captain

 of one of the big guns on the forecastle] and 

fight the Frenchmen, as he and the rest of my 

countrymen, were about to do. I endeavored

to show him how unjustifiable and inconsistent

 such a course would be for us as prisoners of 

war, and assured him that my mind was fully and

 clearly settled to adhere to our position as 

American prisoners of war, notwithstanding the

 perilous position I was to be placed in.

In the course of a few hours, after the lieutenant

had finished his arrangements for a battle, he

 came down into my prison-room. Well sir, said

 he, will you take up a hammock when you are

 ordered again? I replied that I would take one up

 for any gentleman in the ship. You would, ha! 

Yes sir: without inquiring who I considered 

gentlemen, he ordered me released. My 

countrymen were somewhat surprised to see 

me so soon a prisoner at large.

The first lieutenant is next in command to the

captain, and presides over all the duties of the

 ship during the day, and keeps no watch, 

whereas all other officers do. As we had not yet

 seen the French fleet, the first lieutenant was 

aware that my case would have to be reported 

to the captain; in which case if I, as an 

acknowledged prisoner of war, belonging to the

 United States, was allowed to answer for 

myself, his unlawful, abusive, and ungentlemanly

conduct would come to the captain's knowledge.

 Hence his willingness to release me.

The British fleet continued their course across

 the Mediterranean for the Turkish coast until

 they were satisfied that the French fleet was

 not to the west of them. They then steered 

north and east (to meet them) until we arrived 

off the harbor of Toulon, where we saw them all

 snugly moored, and dismantled in their old 

winter quarters; their officers and crews 

undoubtedly highly gratified that the ruse they

 had practiced had so well effected their design,

 viz., to start the British squadron out of their 

snug winter quarters to hunt for them over the 

 Mediterranean sea. They had remantled, and 

sailed out of their harbor, and chased our few 

lookout ships a distance down the Mediterranean

  and when unperceived by them returned and 

dismantled again.

After retaining us prisoners of war about eight

months, we with others that continued to refuse

 all solicitation to rejoin the British service, 

were sent to Gibralter, and from thence to 

England, and finally locked up on board an old

 sheer-hulk, called the crown Princen, formerly a

 Danish 74 gun ship, a few miles below Chatham

 dock-yard, and seventy miles from London. Here

 were many others of like description, many of 

them containing prisoners.

Here about seven hundred prisoners were 

crowded between two decks, and locked up 

every night, on a scanty allowance of food, and

 in crowded quarters.

Cut off from all intercourse except floating news,

a plan was devised to obtain a newspaper, which

often relieved us in our anxious, desponding

 moments, although we had to feel the pressing

 claims of hunger for it. The plan was this: One

 day in each week we were allowed salt fish; this

 we  sold to the contractor for cash, and paid out

 to one of our enemies to smuggle us in one of 

the weekly journals from London. This being 

common stock, good readers were chosen to

 stand in an elevated position and read aloud. It

 was often interesting and amusing to see the

 perfect rush to hear every word of American 

news, several voices crying out, "Read that over

 again, we could not hear it distinctly;"  and the 

same from another, and another quarter. 

Good news from home often cheered us

more than our scanty allowance of food. If more

means had been required for the paper, I believe

another portion of our daily allowance would

 have been freely offered, rather than give it up.

Our daily allowance of bread consisted of coarse

brown loaves from the bakery, served out every

morning. At the commencement of the severe

cold weather, a quantity of ship biscuit was 

deposited on board for our use in case the 

weather or ice should prevent the soft bread 

from coming daily.

In the spring, our first lieutenant, or commander,

ordered the biscuit to be served out to the 

prisoners, and directed that one quarter of the

 daily allowance should be deducted, because

 nine ounces of biscuit were equal to twelve

 ounces of soft bread. We utterly refused to

 receive the biscuit, or hard bread,

unless he would allow us as many ounces as we

 had had of the soft. At the close of the day he 

wished to know again if we would receive the

 bread on his terms. No! No! Then I will keep you

 below until you comply. Hatchways unlocked in

 the morning again. Will you come up for your

 bread? No.

At noon again, Will you have your meat that is

cooked for you? No! Will you come up for your

water? No, we will have nothing from you until

you serve us out our full allowance of bread. To

make us comply, the port holes had been closed,

thus depriving us of light and fresh air. Our 

president also had been called up and conferred

 with, [we had a president, and committee of

 twelve chosen, as we found it necessary to 

keep some kind of order]. He told the commander

 that the prisoners would not yield.

By this time hunger and the want of water, and

especially fresh air, had thrown us into a state of

feverish excitement. Some appeared almost 

savage, others endeavored to bear it as well as

 they could.

The president was called for again. After awhile

the port where he messed was thrown open, and

two officers from the hatchway came down on 

the lower deck and passed to his table, enquiring

 for the president's trunk. What do you want with


said his friends. The commander has sent us for

it. What for? He is going to send him on board

the next prison ship. Do you drop it! He shall

not have it! By this time the officers became

alarmed for their safety, and attempted to make

their escape up the ladder, to the hatchway. A

number of the prisoners who seemed fired with

 desperation, stopped them, and declared on the

 peril of their lives that they should go no further

 until the president was permitted to come down.

 Other port holes were now thrown open, and the

 commander appeared at one of them, demanding

 the release of his officers. The reply from within

 was, When you release our president we will 

release your officers. If you do not release them,

 said the commander, I will open these ports (all

 of them grated with heavy bars of iron) and fire

 in upon you. Fire away! Was the cry from within,

 we may as well die this way as by famine; but 

mark, if you kill one prisoner we will have two 

for one as long as they last.

His officers now began to beg him most pitifully

 not to fire, for if you do, said they, they will kill

 us; they stand here around us with their knives

 open, declaring if we stir one foot they will take

 our lives. The president being permitted to come

 to the port, begged his countrymen to shed no

 blood on his account, for he did not desire to 

remain on board the ship any longer, and he 

entreated that for his sake the officers be

 released. The officers were then released.

Double plank bulkheads at each end of our prison

rooms, with musket holes in them to fire in upon

us if necessary, separated us from the officers,

 sailors and soldiers. Again we were asked if we

 would receive our allowance of bread? No. Some

 threats were thrown out by the prisoners that 

he would hear from us before morning. About ten

 o'clock at night, when all were quiet but the 

guard and watch on deck, a torch light was got

 up by setting some soap grease on fire in tin

 pans. By the aid of this light, a heavy oak 

stanchion was taken down which served us for 

a battering-ram. Then with our large-empty tin

 water cans for drums, and tin pails, kettles, 

pans, pots, and spoons for drum sticks, and

whatever would make a stunning noise, the torch

lights and battering-ram moved onward to the 

after bulkhead that separated us from the 

commander and his officers, soldiers and their

 families. For a few moments the ram was 

applied with power, and so successfully that 

consternation seized the sleepers, and they fled,

 crying for help, declaring that the prisoners

 were breaking through upon them. Without 

stopping for them to rally and fire in upon us, a 

rush was made for the forward bulkhead, where

 a portion of the ship's company with their 

families lived. The application of the battering 

ram was quite as successful here, so that all our

 enemies starving prisoners, devising the best

 means for  were now as wide awake as their 

hungry, their defense. Here our torch-lights went

 out, leaving us in total darkness in the midst of 

our so far successful operations. We grouped 

together in huddles, to sleep, if our enemies 

would allow us, until another day should dawn to

 enable us to use our little remaining strength in

 obtaining if possible, our full allowance of bread

 and water.


Orleans, Ionia Co., Michigan

August. 1859.



Reconciliation. Full allowance of bread granted— 


a hole through the ship—Perilous adventure of

a Narragansett Indian—Hole finished Eighteen

prisoners escape—Singular device to keep the number


THE welcome fresh air, and morning light came

suddenly upon us, by an order from the 

commander to open our port-holes, unbar the

 hatchways, and call the prisoners up to get 

their bread. In a few moments it was clearly 

understood that our enemies had capitulated by

 yielding to our terms, and were now ready to

 make peace by 'serving us with our full 

allowance of bread.’  While one from each

mess of ten was up getting their three days' 

allowance of brown loaves, others were up to

 the tank filling their tin cans with water, so that

 in a short space of time a great and wonderful 

change had taken place in our midst. On most 

amicable terms of peace with all our keepers, 

grouped in messes of ten, with three days' 

allowance of bread, and cans filled with water,

 we ate and drank, laughed and shouted 

immoderately over our great feast, and

vanquished foe. The wonder was that we did not

kill ourselves with over-eating and drinking.

The commissary, on hearing the state of things

in our midst, sent orders from the shore, to the

commander to serve out our bread forthwith.

Our keepers were in the habit of examining the

inside of our prison every evening before we

 were ordered up to be counted down, to 

ascertain whether we were cutting through the

 ship to gain our liberty.

We observed that, they seldom stopped at a

certain place on the lower deck, but passed it

 with a slight examination. On examining this

 place, a number of us decided to cut a hole here

 if we could effect it without detection by the

 soldier who was stationed but a few inches

 above where we must come out and yet have

 room above water.

Having nothing better than a common table knife

fitted with teeth, after some time we sawed out

 a heavy three-inch oak plank, which afterwards

 served us successfully for a cover when our 

keepers were approaching. We now began to 

demolish a very heavy oak timber, splinter by

 splinter. Even this had to be done with great 

caution, that the soldier might not hear us on the

 outside. While one was at work in his turn, some

 others were watching that our keepers should 

not approach and find the hole uncovered. About

 forty were engaged in this work. Before the 

heavy timber was splintered out, one of our 

number obtained the cook's iron poker. This was

 a great help to pry off small splinters around the

 heavy iron bolts. In this way,after laboring 

between thirty and forty days, we reached the

 copper on the ship's bottom some two to three

 feet from the top of our cover, on an angle at 

about 25° downward. By working the poker

through the copper, on the upper side of the 

hole, we learned to our joy that it came out 

beneath the stage where the soldier stood. Then

 on opening the lower side of the hole the water

 flowed in some, but not in sufficient quantities 

to sink the ship for some time, unless by change

 of wind and weather, she became more 

unsteady in her motion, and rolled the hole under

 water, in which case we should doubtless have

 been left to share her fate. The commander had

 before this, stated that if by any means the ship

 caught fire from our lights in the night, he would

 throw the keys of our hatchways overboard, and

 leave the ship and us to burn and perish 

together. Hence we had chosen officers to 

extinguish every light at 10 P. M.

Sunday P. M., while I was at work in my turn

 enlarging the hole in the copper, a shout of 

hundreds of voices from the outside so alarmed

 me for fear that we were discovered, that in my

 hurry to cover up the hole the poker slipped 

from my hands through the hole into the sea. The

 hole covered, we made our way with the rushing

 crowd, up the long stairway to the upper deck,

 to learn the cause of the shouting. The 

circumstances were these:

Another ship like our own, containing American

prisoners, was moored about one eighth of a mile

from us. People from the country in their boats

were visiting the prison ships, as was their 

custom on Sundays, to see what looking 

creatures American prisoners were. Soldiers 

with loaded muskets, about twenty feet apart, on

 the lower and upper stages outside of the ship,

 were guarding the prisoners' escape. One of the

 countrymen's boats rowed by one man, lay 

fastened to the lower stage, at the foot of the

 main gangway ladder, where also one of these

 soldiers was on guard. A tall, athletic 

Narragansett Indian, who like the rest of his

 country-men, was ready to risk his life for 

liberty, caught sight of the boat, and watching

 the English officers who were walking the 

quarter deck, as they turned their backs to walk

 off he bolted down the gangway ladder, clinched

 the soldier, musket and all, and crowded him 

under the seats, cleared the boat,

grasped the two oars, and with the man (who

 most likely would have shot him before he could

 clear himself) under his feet, he shaped his 

course for the opposite unguarded shore, about

 two miles distant!

The soldiers seeing their comrade with all his 

ammunition, snatched from his post, and stowed

 away in such a summary manner, and moving 

out of their sight like a streak over the water by

 the giant power of this North American Indian, 

were either so stunned with amazement at the 

scene before them, or it may be with fear of 

another Indian after them, that they failed to hit 

him with their shot. Well-manned boats with 

sailors and soldiers were soon dashing after him,

 firing and hallooing to bring him too; all of which

 seemed only to animate and nerve him to ply his

 oars with Herculean strength.

When his fellow-prisoners saw him moving away

from his pursuers in such a giant-like manner, 

they shouted, and gave him three cheers. The 

prisoners on board our ship followed with three 

more. This was the noise which I had heard 

while working at the hole. The officers were so 

exasperated at this, that they declared if we did

 not cease this cheering and noise they would

 lock us down below. We therefore stifled our

 voices, that we might be permitted to see the

 poor Indian make his escape.

Before reaching the shore his pursuers gained on

him so that they shot him in his arm (as we were

told), which made it difficult to ply the oar; 

nevertheless he reached the shore, sprang from 

the boat, and cleared himself from all his 

pursuers, and was soon out of the reach of all 

their musket balls. Rising to our sight upon an 

inclined plain, he rushed on, bounding over 

hedges and ditches like a chased deer, and 

without doubt would have been out of sight of 

his pursuers in a few hours, and gained his 

liberty, had not the people in the country rushed

 upon him from various quarters, and delivered

 him up to his pursuers, who brought him back

 and for some days locked him up in the dungeon.

 Poor Indian!

He deserved a better fate.

The prisoners now understood that the hole was

completed, and a great many were preparing to

make their escape. The committee men decided

that those who had labored to cut the hole 

should have the privilege of going first. They also

 selected four judicious and careful men, who

 could not swim, to take charge of the hole and

 help all out that wished to go.

With some difficulty we at length obtained some

tarred canvass, with which we made ourselves 

small bags, just large enough to pack our jacket,

 shirt and shoes in, then a stout string about ten

 feet long fastened to the end, and the other end

 made with a loop to pass around the neck. With

 hat and pants on, and bag in one hand and the

 other fast hold of our fellow, we took our rank

 and file for a desperate effort for liberty. At the

 given signal, (10 p. M.,) every light was

 extinguished, and the men for liberty were in

 their stations.

Soldiers, as already described, above and below

were on guard all around the ship with loaded


Our landing place, if we reached it, about

half a mile distant, with a continued line of 

soldiers just above high-water mark. The heads

 of those who passed out, came only a few 

inches from the soldier's feet, i. e., a grating

 stage between.

A company of good singers stationed themselves

at, the after port-hole where the soldier stood

 that was next, to the one over the hole. Their

 interesting sailor, and war songs took the 

attention of the two soldiers some, and a glass

 of strong drink now and then drew them to the

 port-hole, while those inside made believe drink.

 While this was working, the committee were 

putting the prisoners through feet foremost, and

 as their bag string began to draw, they slipped

 that out also, being thus assured that they were

 shaping their course for the shore.

In the mean time when the ship's bell was 

struck, denoting the lapse of another half-hour, 

the soldiers' loud cry would resound, All's well! 

The soldier that troubled us the most, would 

take his station over the hole and shout, All's

 well! Then when he stepped forward to hear the

 sailors' song, the committee would put a few 

more through, and he would step back and cry

 again, All's well!! It surely was most cheering to

 our friends while struggling for liberty in the 

watery element, to hear behind and before them

 the peace and safety cry, All's well!

Midnight came; the watch was changed, the

cheering music had ceased. The stillness that

reigned without and within, retarded our work.

At length it was whispered along the ranks that 

the few that had passed out during the stillness

 had caused great, uneasiness with the soldiers,

 and they judged it best for no more to attempt 

to leave for fear of detection. It was also near 

daylight, and we had better retire quietly to our


Edmond Alien and myself, of New Bedford, 

covenanted to go, and keep together. We had 

been hold of each other during the night, and had

 advanced near the hole when it was thought 

best for no more to go. In the morning the cover

 was off, and E. A. was among the missing.

The committee reported seventeen, and E. A.

made eighteen that had passed out during the 


The prisoners were greatly elated at the last

night's successful movement, and took measures

 to keep the hole undiscovered for another 

attempt at 10 P. M.

We were confined between two decks, with no

communication after we were counted down at 

night and locked up. During the day some tools 

were obtained, and a scuttle was cut through the

 upper deck and covered up undiscovered. Word

was then circulated among the prisoners to go 

up from the upper deck as soon as the soldiers

 ordered the prisoners up to be counted down for

 the night. But those on the lower deck were to 

move tardily, so that those on the upper deck 

might be counted down before the lower deck 

was cleared. This was done, and eighteen that 

had just been counted, slipped through the 

scuttle unperceived by the soldiers mingled with

 the crowd up the lower deck ladder, and were

 counted over again. At 10 p. M. the lights

were again extinguished, and the ranks formed

 for another attempt to escape.


Burns, Michigan

 September, 1859.