U.S. Frigate Potomac

Malta July 23 rd 1835

 

My dear Sister

 

I am afraid that you have been censuring

me for neglecting to write, but since May last, when I

wrote to you from Gibraltar, we have "net with but one vessel

bound home, she is here now, and will sail in a day or two

for Boston.  We are off to-morrow for Mahon for provisions,

from there to Marseilles, for money: I will send this from

the latter place, & it will perhaps reach you sooner than

if I put it on board this crazy old Brig,  I have been

very unfortunate with regard to your letters, Mother's of

Nov'r and Sam’s of January, are all that have reached me.  I

know you have written oftener & I hope to find some at Mahon

& Marseilles.

 

From Gibraltar we went to Naples & remained there a

month; during which time I visited nearly all of the very

many interesting remains of Antiquity, as well as the

modern sights & shows, which are so numerous & various in

Naples & its vicinity.  I explored the hidden depths of

Herculaneum & Pompeii, & I trod the burning summit of Mount

Vesuvius. I wandered 'midst the haunts of the old Camaen

Sybil, over the Elysian Fields, (see Virgil for necessarily I

have read him) & over ground where Hercules had fought &

conquered and among the ruins of many an ancient temple and

Town, my thoughts led me back to the days when they had ranked

with the first cities of the Globe, and the fierce inhabitants

of whom in their pride of victory & learning styling them-

selves conquerors of the world, seemed destined forever to

flourish ad exist; while now their race has become extinct, &

their name is not among the nations of the world, that they

once were, history testifies, and the deserted and solitary

ruins, which are so profusely scattered over Italy, bear ample

but melancholy proof to the fact. The Tomb of Virgil, Lake

Avernus, (the fabled entrance to the lower regions) The

Grotto del Cane (or Dog), (the story of which you have read in

the English reader) and many other spots alike remarkable, I

saw, wondered at and admired.  I took a few notes (merely to

refresh my memory) of all the places which I visited, and as I

have too much to tell you about it in writing, I will when I

get home endeavor to amuse you by some long yarns & curious

tales, of men & manners, cities and towns, as they were many

thousands of years before our own happy country was settled

or discovered.

 

The Opera and riding ( by the way hacks & carriages of

all models are more numerous in Naples than in any of our

cities) or walking to see the various lions were our amuse-

irients while on shore; on the nights of the King's a Queen's

birthdays, some splendid operas and Balles (ballet) were

preformed. The K & Q and all the court being present.  There

I first saw, what, is called a blaze of diamonds, in the Boxes.

 

The Queen is young & pretty.  I with some of my Brother Mids.

passed her several times while riding & had a nod and smile

from her, in return for ours of course, but afterwards had a

row as to who she smiled at in particular, each

swearing he was the favored one.

 

We had many visitors off to see the ship, but there were

no parties interchanged between the officers and citizens,

partly I suppose, because the Commodore & his family, with

many of the officers, immediately upon the expiration of our

quarantine set out for Rome.  I could not go, for want of the

needful, after seeing the lions there, Pope included, the Party

returned with the exception of the ladies & the sons of the Commod.

P-, when or where they will return is not known.

 

From Naples we cruised off Malta, took on board our

Consul & his family (for Tripoli) & proceeded to T., the

Shark took the Consul on board & run into the harbor to land

him, we stood off and in a few days (4th July included) had

no communication with the shore, to save quarantine at Malta,

& after sufficient exhibition had been made we filled away for

this place, & here we are.  At anchor amidst the British Fleet,

they have just come in from the Eastward, to be on the way

should they be wanted, & are as yet in Quarantine, so there

will be no visiting between us, for which thank God, as there

are too many for us, one 3 decker of 120 guns, a huge ship but

not near so large as our Pennsylvania, or so good a model,

6 lines of battle ships, two or three frigates, & several

sloops of war.  Making of the complement, I suspect there are

more guns among them than we have afloat altogether.

 

Malta, under its ancient name of Melita, was the scene of

St. Paul’s shipwreck, the exact place of where the mishap befel

is called St. Paul’s Bay, a chapel dedicated to him, a statue

of him & the fountain at which he is baptised, are shown

to visitors.  The Chapel is adorned with several paintings,

representing scenes in the life of the Apostle, one in part-

icular, his shaking the viper from his hand, is pointed out,

as the occurance happened near to where the Chapel stands.

 

Malta is very strongly fortified, a second Gibraltar in

strength, you have read of the gallant and protracted defence

made by the Knights of Malta, under their Grand Master,

Valette, against the assults of the Turks, & Italians

in the 16th century, also of Bonaparte’s beseiging the town, and his

exclamation on entering it, when through treachery he effected

that entrance; that had not the keys of the place been put into

his hand, all the force which he could have employed against

it would have been of no avail.  Its strength & importance

you may be sure have not diminished since it has had the English

for its possessors.

 

The Armoury, St. John’s Church, and the excavations

(communicating with the various forts & affording subterraneous

passages to different parts of the Island) are the only objects

worth noticing, in the armoury there are besides the modern

implements of warfare, a great number of suits of ancient

armour with the various weapons used in older times, by

different nations; a number of wooden figures of men, clad

in complete armour with lance in hand and sword by side, are

disposed with great taste & effect around the hall, and give

one a complete idea of the appearance of a knight of old,

when he was ready to do battle against all comers, for the

sake of his lady love, for his pure love of fight, or for any

of the numerous causes Which led to strife in the days of

chivalry.  St John’s Church contains the tombs of the Knights

of Malta & a number of valuable gold & silver ornaments.  Ice

is brought here from Etna and of course is a great luxury,

fruits are good, pears, apples, apricots, jazz melons &

nearly all of our summer delicacies.

 

Mahon August 6th, 1834(183?)

 

A few days after our arrival here, the store ship Julia

arrived, & by her I had the pleasure to receive yours & Sams

letters of 8th June.  I need not tell you how happy I was, for

to receive a letter only two months old, was a blessing which

had never fallen to my lot before, i.e. while absent from the

U.S.  Yours was very communicative, & Sam's very facetious, I

thank you both sincerely.  Kiss the new comer for me, I was

not aware of the addition until I rec’d yours, where in one

corner you mention ed that she had been named.  I hope Sam

had success on his tour, & congratulate him on his promotion.

He must have been bewildered at his rapid rise, if he made

all of the laughable bulls of which James accuses him.  I

am very glad that Miss Summer has paid you a visit, but tell

Father my letters are generally written in haste, & I do not

think it is fair to show them to "all hands", I hope you will

take a trip somewhere, I think you deserve one, & just whisper

into Mothers ear, that I advise you to pass part of the

coming winter in Philadelphia.  I am in excellent health, but

as yet undetermined whether I shall return in the Delaware or

stay out,  I wish to remain in this ship, when I am receiving

such important instruction in my profession, & also I should

like to see more of the Medeteranean than I have as yet, the

difficulty is this, that after the Delaware and Shark return

home, which will be sometime this winter, there-will be no other

man of war going to the U.S. until after the period of my

examination.  I could scarcaly expect orders to return in a

merchantman, but might procure leave to do so at my own

expense, which I could not afford, although we do get $40 a

month & by staying out, I might lose my chance to be examined

until a year after my date had passed, an occurance which would

not be at all agreeable to me or to you at home either, when

the Constitution arrives. I shall be able to decide.

 

I regret very much' that Mr. Buchanan thinks the pay of

Midshipmen is too great, and that it leaves them a surplus to

expend in scenes of dissipation. I speak from sad experience

and say truly, that, by proner economy it is now 490 dollars a

year, just sufficient to clothe him as an officer should be

clothed, and to cover the necessary expenses to which all

officers are liable abraod, but which are so little known,

& thought of by persons at home.  A Midshipman of $19 & 1

(I speak for the whole class) was always in misery & distress,

scarcely ever able to make two ends meet, and most generally

debarred from any enjoyment on shore, or not able to make an

appearance tho suitable to his character or station, always in

perplexity as to where & how to get a new jacket when his old

one was worn out, always anxiously wishing for the happy

moment, when he was to sail for home, but dreading lest he

should be in debt to the Purser, and politely required to

remain in the station a year or two longer, be put in the

salt grub mess, and pass through again the like trials

and mortifications.  Now, I rejoice to say, much anxiety is

taken off our minds, we live better, are out of debt to the

Purses, & are happier in all respects than ever we were before,

it would be a terrible visitation to be reduced again in our

finances, & I sincerely hope our felicity may not be marred

by any such transaction, do not think I am jesting; for to me

the subject is no jesting one.

 

Marseilles Roads, August 20

 

We arrived here this morning, just 10 months have passed

since we left Boston, & to me they have passed quickly.

Our boat has gone in for the quarterly allowance of money

for the squadron, and the letters, they will be transmitted

through the Patrique officer, and we will hold no other

communication with the town, in order to save ourselves a

long Quarantine at the next port to which we may go, & which

I believe will be Naples.  I hope to find here Sam’s letter

of June, we sail tomorrow morning at daylight & I will

conclude my somewhat lengthy letter.  Remember me to all

the young ladies & all else who do not forget me, and with my

love to all of you

I am your affectionate brother

 

Wm Reynolds

 

Aunt writes long letters when she writes at all I hope she will

favour me with an epistle and when you write to Frederic

remember me to all of Aunt Elinor’s family.

 

Our Schoolmaster & Parson, both write letters to some of

the Boston editors, I think the Boston Traveler is the name

 of one of the Papers, perhaps some of the letters would give

you some information & amusememt.  I hope you wrote a second

time by the Constitution, and continue to do so as often as

possible, I shall always be happy to hear from Jim and John,

from Sam also.

 

(note:  the “new addition” mentioned above was Eleanor born 1835)