Came to hand July 23, 1832

U. S. Schooner Boxer at Sea

March 15th 1832 Lat 31o 23¹

Long 37o 42¹

 

My Dear Father

 

  Yesterday I had been below for 2 or 3 hours, and was just going on deck when I heard the Boatswains mate ³call away the Gigs².  Thinks I what is the meaning of this:  I got on deck and the first thing I saw was ³the Brig² already within speaking distance:  I scrambled down got out my writing apparatus: had not ½ a line wrote before I heard her hailed:  I had not time to write more than I did:  for just as I got on deck with it the officer was getting in the Boat:  she was the Brig George of Boston 28 days from Havre, he gave us a Bundle of French papers and informed us that the Cholera was raging in London.  Thinks I now I will begin and have a long letter ready to send home by next opportunity.

 

  The day we left Boston was excessively cold.  The night before I took the Cap in the Gig to Long Wharf about 1 mile from where we lay, and landed him there; He took two of the Boats Crew, and went off, told me to wait for him.  I waited two hours and at last he came, he had been to the other end of the City to get his things.  He told me to shove off and tell Mr. Leib 1st Lieut to unmoor (that is get one of the anchors up by day light).  Going back I got almost froze and when I got on board I was obliged to go to Bed to get warm.  The next morning I had a terrible cold; but I was very glad that we going to Sea so soon.  There was not much of a breeze at first starting; but it freshened up afterwards.  I thought the Pilot would be with us a day or two, but he left us at 3 o¹clock.  I did not get time to write more than the few lines which I gave him, about 5 o¹clock the sea was middling rough.  I felt sick and beg out to throw up.  A gale of wind came on, with snow, we were covered over.  6 of us in the Steerage and a very offensive smell coming from the Berth Deck where the men sleep, and see sickness the worse kind of sickness any person can experience made me wish myself at home more than once.  So it continued for 4 or 5 days, nothing but squalls wind, rain, snow and ice every one of us was sea sick, every one wishing himself at home, some cursing the Navy, the Schooner, the Ocean and if they got home, they never would go to sea again.  I thought so myself that could I only get home I never would go to see again.  Nearly a week afterwards I began to feel better and eat a little, for during the whole of my sickness, I could not eat anything that we had.  I wanted apple pie milk and [ C ] which I could not get then though we have had the pie since.  When I came off the list, we were in milder weather, the first night watch I kept was a squally one.  I lost my Black Hat over board, towards the end I felt sick again, the two days I was well and off the list, since then I have been quite well, and eat with a good appetite.  We have Mackerel, Herring, Corn Beef, potatoes pickles, Ham, cheese cranberries, apples, and flour, to make pies, tarts, bread, &c.  So we live very well.  I am in the First watch with the 1st Lieut.  There is another reefer in the watch also, I am the oldest, and the Masters Mate of the watch.  I have command of the ³Fore Castle² the principal part of the ship, where most of the rigging works.  At first I did not know anything about it.  The Boatswain or the Gunner attended them, but now I can make out by myself.  The Lieut. stays aft on the Quarter Deck, when he wants anything done Forward he sings out ³Fore Castle there² I answer ³Sir²:  ³Man the Fore Brails², ³Haul down the Jib² or anything else.  I then give the necessary orders and tell him.  ³All ready Sir² He then gives the other orders, and I repeat them and see them obeyed.  I throw the Log, ³write the remarks on the Log Slate², and all the higher duties of the watch one day we have 4 hours watch on deck, the next day six, the next day two, every day a different watch every night four hours.  At 7 bells ½ past 11 o¹clock we are called to go and look out for the Sun with our Quadrants, to find the Latitude, then to work out what is called a days work with to find our true course the distance made good on our course, our Long and C, this we send in to the Cabin every day by 1 o¹clock.

 

Boxer off Monrovia

April 10th

 

  I was called off for something while writing the proceeding and did not get time to commence again until now.  We made St. Anthony the western most of the Cape De Verdo some weeks ago.  It is a high mountain and a very bold shore.  A 74 could anchor 10 fathoms off the shore.  We got becalmed under the lee of the land, and found a strong current setting us in close to the land, got out the sweeps and swept her but into the breeze, and soon after that got into a middling good blow.  It did not injure us, but carried away the Jib Boom of a merchant schooner near us and some of her rigging.  From there to Cape Mount we had calm weather most of the time and made little head way, as we neared it the Captain had nearly a dozen men on the lookout at the mast head, who had seen the Cape before, to let him know if it was the Cape, as he was not certain by his reconing if it was the Cape or not, however it was it and soon afterwards made Cape Misurado:  at about 14 miles distance, ³Calm² the Captain told me to have the Gig lowered down and the crew & myself ready to go in her to the Island.  I got all ready, about then we discovered a canoe pulling for, they soon came up to us 14 miles from any land, two natives, Kroomen in her, naked, but a small cloth over their loins, they had some chickens in the boat, and had had fruit [   ] when they left the land, but the canoe capsizing they lost all.  The canoe was made out of tree hollowed out by a kind of auger, sharp in the stem and stern, not more than 2 feet wide they get down on their knees, and paddle away at the rate of 10 miles an hour they staid aboard a short time and then paddled away, spoke broken English, a 4 knot breeze coming up swept us along to the land pretty fast, and the Cap. gave up the idea of going in the boat, about 2 o¹clock we came to an anchor in Monrovia Harbour as soon as were safe at anchor the Captain, Doctor, myself and the Wardroom Steward, who had been here before and now acted as Pilot to us, got in the Gig and shoved off, but I must explain something before I go further.  The Cape runs pretty well out in to the sea.  The best way however is to draw a rough sketch [see original for sketch].  We hove with to go over the bar, where the surf runs very high in deed and up the river to the town or else go to the beach, beach the boat, and take the path to the town.  The bar is two miles further beaching a boat is pulling her right up on the beach and hauling her up high and dry, the danger is in getting her off the seas meeting her and filling her, there is a danger over the bar of the same kind.  Sea running so high to break over the boat and filling her:  we¹ll run right on for the bar, on the very worst part as we found afterwards, got in to it and a sea come right behind struck us fair on the stern and sent us over at the rate 20 miles an hour, we were not 1 ½ minutes getting over 600 yards, just as we got to the outer edge over struck us on the counter, and whirled us round completely we then run up the river and not knowing the shoals, got aground 2 or 3 times, got the rudder and tipped but in smooth water.  The Captain was pretty well frightened and said he had enough of going over; and he would not try it again.  We soon came to the town, the Capn and the Doctor landed and left me to take care of the boat and men.  There was an American Negro there and I asked him if there was any fruit there;  no not a bit.  I told him I had heard there was plenty of bananas, plantains, limes, oranges &c.  He said the season was nearly out for them, and they grew mostly on the upper settlement up the river, 11 miles.  It was not long before a canoe came down the river with fruits and I seized on them and bought as many as I could, I waited for an hour or so when the Cap came and along with him the Governor of the Colony.  Dr. Mechlin a very fine looking man, he was an old fellow student of our Doctors in Philad. he is in rather bad health at present.  The Captain of an American brig lying here was just going off in his boat, and as he had a good pilot we thought it would be best to follow him, we came down in his wake, and got out safe.  The next morning the Cap asked me if I would go ashore and dine with him at the Governors, I told him I would with great pleasure.  We got in the boat and pulled for the beach, got her up safe the question then was, whether to have the boat hauled over the beach and take the water again up the river or take a walk of a mile up a hill to the town, however we decided to walk as we had not taken much exercise for the last 6 weeks.

 

  The Krooman who manned the Boat pulled round over the bar themselves, and came up to the landing place at the town.  I forgot to mention that we hired 17 Krooman 12 for the launch to water and five for the small boats.  The Governor has a large frame house very airy a fine sea breeze passing through it, it is made of frame; brought out from the U. S. all ready for putting up, we set with him conversing until we got over our heat, and took a walk round the town, the houses are generally of wood, or logs pretty well scattered, the people are clean and seem contented with place of abode there are 2 or 3 in the town who wish to get back to the states.  Old people who have been servants and used to the comforts of a well furnished house and not finding such things here wish to get back again.  We went to look at the ³ant hills² the generality of them are about 9 or 10 feet high and 20 feet in circumference¹s some are much larger there are pinnacles rising from the outside of them.  These are hollow, and soft earth the main part of it is so hard as to resist the force of a six pound ball fired at it by knocking off the pinnacles you bring out a parcel of the ants, ³soldiers² a large kind with red heads and large bodies, they have 2 sharp nippers projecting out from the mouth, which they hold of you and with cut through the skin, as neatly as if done with a fine pen knife.  I seen one fasten on a boy who was standing by, he tried to pull him off, but the head parted from the body and still remained fast; there is a large cell in the center of it next to the lowest part in which Queen bee lays her eggs, as soon as she deposits one a working ant, carries it away to another cell where it remains until they are hatched.  She is the size of a mans thumb, the soldiers stay out a short time, when they give way to the working ones, small white ants who fall to work and soon replace the damage done.  We saw the haul of a small vessel building by a house carpenter, our officers were of the opinion it will sail very well.  We then returned to the Governors to dinner, and I had the pleasure of once more beholding fresh meat, a clean table cloth, clean plates, knifes and forks, soft bread, things of which we are strangers to in our mess.  We had a very fine set of china and Glassware.  They had a great battle but a few weeks since with one of interior tribes.  They would not permit the colonists to pass through their territory, to the upper settlement, and collected men to the number of several thousand and sent word to the Gov that they would march on him in 3 days this he anticipated by collecting his men with a six pounder and marched up in the heart of their country, attacked and defeated them, killing not a few, but one of his men was killed and a few wounded.  He showed us an Arabic writing called ³Toetich² or charm, which they hang up in the house, and believe it preserves them from all evil, any person who enter the house for the purpose of stealing or murder and seeing that charm would not touch a thing, however the Governor burnt the house and took the charm, it was written in a bold hand. The colonist on their first arrival here, are subject to a fever particularity those from the cold parts of the States, which is created by the night air from the marshes on the banks of the river, if they get over it they are then safe, it attacked the Gov. so severely as to oblige him to return to the U. S. for a time:  he looks very bad, though his health is now generally good.  The wealthy inhabitants are very well informed, much more so than the generality of those with you and are agreeable in conversation.  The officers went yesterday to a dinner given by Mr. Waring, he present us with some fresh palm oil put up in tin boxes from England, limes, &c.  I did not go, I had been ashore 2 or 3 times,  & did not wish to go.  The Gov¹n gave a general invitation to all our officers to make his house their home during our stay here.  I have got some shells, and will procure as many curiosities as I can get.  The natives, Krooman, live in small huts round the town they are under different chiefs, and work for the vessels which come into the Harbour, there are one American brig, two American Schooners, one English Schooner & one English Galleon which came in to day, dismasted, she had every mast up, they sent aboard of us to day for our carpenter to survey her.  I will send this letter by one of the Americans which will sail in a few days for Boston any letters which you may send to Rio de Janeiro directed to the care of the Consul will reach me safe.  I have had little the time to write but I will make this as long as possible there are a great many grammatical errors in this which I hope you will excuse as this is the only copy of it written among the bustle, watering, wooding, and overhauling ship, enough to tire a landsmans patience, for I call myself a water animal now.  We catch fish here every night enough for our breakfast next morning, called croakis from a noise which they make.  We seen a great many sharks, Porpoises, Dolphin, Albacores &c near this coast, one day I was aloft on the Topsail yard, and looking astern, where we always had lines well baited towing overboard saw a fish fast to one of them, came down, with out saying a word, walked aft, passed the Lieuts some of whom had been fishing for hours that day, and it was their line which the fish had fastened to, got in the stern boat and hauled away, brought a fine fellow up 2 feet long and had a good mess of him.  I have dined in the Cabin & Wardroom several times.  We had a passage of 51 days to this place and sail tomorrow or next day for [Paru   ] South America.  From there Steer to the Sd along the coast to Rio, where we shall receive orders from the Commander of the Station as to our further destination.  The country here is very beautiful, coming from Boston covered with snow and ice, to a place with beautiful green trees and grass and a warm climate, while you at home are freezing.  The sea has been very pretty high there few days past and the landing has been very difficult.  I am going ashore directly as soon as the boat is ready.  There are no missionaries in the area they have a church school.  Fort look out house & several pieces of Artillery.  I sent 4 ½ doz pieces ashore to be washed they were done very well.  I had my flannels washed at sea & handkerchiefs.  We sent the Gov some things necessary for a war such as Ball Powder &c &c, Ensigns & signal flags.  I have been in good health ever since my seasickness and it would do you good to see me eat.

 

  Remember me to all my friends and when you write please mention how they get on, and ³Sharp² take care of him, my best love to all the family.

 

                                                            Your affectionate Son

                                                                        Wm Reynolds