« PreviousContinue »
Commodore George E. Bead.
The late East India Squadron, in its circuit of the world under your command, has done honor to our country and professional credit to yourself. No voyage of equal length in distance and in time can be made, without encountering many hazards and circumstances of frequent difficulty. These have been met by yourself—the cruise successfully completed—and the purposes of the government accomplished. Though it has not been
my design to enter into all the details of the cruise of the East India Squadron, its action will be found sufficiently developed in the succeeding pages for the general reader. But it is as an acknowledgment of the invariable courtesy, which I have received from yourself during the voyage which has originated the following pages, that I beg you to accept these volumes, with the assurances of my great respect and esteem.
Fitch W. TAYLOR. New-York, October, 1840.
VOYAGE AROUND THE WORLD.
The eve before sailing. View of the two ships from shore. A bright omen.
Author's adieus. The Lieutenant and miniature of his boy. An officer's farewell to his wife. Social sacrifices on the part of the officers of the Navy. The ships in the Roads. Lines to Mrs. R. The sailing of the ships from the Roads. Ships at sea.
I shall never forget the sunset scene of the last evening I spent on shore. The sky had been lowering with April showers, and the sun stood yet on his declining course behind the fleecy clouds, but, occasionally, broke forth again through the opening vistas of their dark layers, as if to assure us that life, even the most shaded, has its smiles as well as tears. The mild air, at this hour, touched the cheek as blandly as rests the head of lady on the down of velvet; and since the slight peals of thunder, which had rolled far off and high above the city, the clouds had parted ; and now, here and there, the blue distance beyond them was seen, in its deepness and beauty.
I went to call upon my friends. It was the last evening I could hope to meet them, before our ships would take their long course to distant seas. Besides, I had been thinking of other friends, and dearer kindred, whom I had already left to the chances of a world of change, until another three years, perhaps, should permit us again to meet.
It is at such a moment, when the reality nears us, we feel that there is sorrow in the parting of friends. Some foreboding thought, with its dark wing, will sail across the imagination, and leave the heart deeply sensible of the shadow it has cast. We may have much in our anticipations of onward pleasure; we may be looking forward to opportunities for observation, in our extended associations with men and things, and promise to ourselves improvement as we shall read foreign manners, and commune with foreign intellects, and compare foreign institutions and homes with the government and society and peaceful dwellings of our own native land ; but, as we think that a few hours more, and each day, for months and years, we shall be receding yet further and still further from those we love, and, perhaps, meet them no more ; it is then the heart, that can ever feel, wakes its deepest flowing sympathies. Such moments of deep feeling, doubtless, come over all who travel, on the eve of their leaving their native land. , Before this hour, they may have been busy in their preparations; or, the time of their departure may have been unfixed, as to the day; and various things contributed to dissipate the thoughts, and to conceal, from the full perception of the mind, the reality of one's leaving, it may be for ever, those hearts to whom bis is most devoted. But the calm hour that precedes his departure has now come. The moment is fixed, and he is to bid adieu, for years, to the objects he holds dearest of earth.
My own moveables had been sent on board the Columbia. We were to sail the next day. This evening I met the welcome of my friends. With two of them I walked to the edge of the stream, on the bosom of which the two ships were now so gently reposing, still half enveloped in the fog that weighed on the still surface of the stream. But it soon lifted, while we yet lingered on the green bank and heard the music beat the call, as the sun went down in its glory behind the pillars of the dark clouds, piled like Alps on Alps above each other, as the sunbeams threw upon their castellated peaks the last gleams of its departing and indescribable glories. Here we still lingered, to watch the tints of gold, and crimson, and emerald green, as they melted away into the dun of earliest twilight; when, as if by magic, the still lingering stratum of vapor, which hung around the two ships, rolled back, and left every cord of the beautiful frigate and her consort lined on the distant horizon beyond them; while the crescent of the new moon, from the point where we were standing, seemed fixed, in its momentary rest, on the main-truck of the beautiful Columbia. Surely, if I could have ever believed in omens, I should have interpreted this as a bright one, as I carried on my thoughts to the lands whither that dark courser was soon to speed, and heard at the same moment the roll, as the few.beats of the drum came over the water, only to render doubly more still the breathless silence of this enchanting scene.
We slowly paced our way back to the circle which we had left, and soon, my last land-adieu was spoken; and the next morning, at sunrise, I was on board our gallant ship. In another half-hour our anchors were aweighi
, and we dropped, with a fair wind, down to the Roads, some fifteen miles from Norfolk, with the John Adams, our consort, following our motions.
While our new ship was gliding, like enchantment, through the waters from Norfolk to the Roads, to the delight of all the officers, who were solicitous to mark her first movements, and were trimming the yards, and directing as to the different sails, there was one officer, whose epaulet (usually worn when on duty) rested not upon his shoulder. He stood upon the horse-block, as the side-steps of the ship are called, his elbow resting upon the hammock-nettings, and sometimes his temples rested upon his hand. I know not what were his thoughts, but he had been unwell, and was yet off duty, and had now parted with a loved and lovely wise, and a cherished boy, who is his “only and beautiful.” He did not long remain on deck, but returned to the ward-room ; and there, soon after, he showed me, as I went below and found him contemplating it, a beautiful picture and striking resemblance of his child, which the mother had caused to be taken for the father, that it might go with him on the seas.
Another officer said to me last evening, as he was walking in Norfolk with some rapidity in the edge of the evening to say adieu to his wife before he went on board, “ Death were a blessing to me rather than this farewell !”
There is much in the world which casts its mists, and