United States Ship Peacock
At Sea September 10th 1833
Lat 17o 17¹ North
Long 58o 08¹ East
My Dear Father
We sailed from Anger on the 29th of July and arrived, (after a pleasant passage) at Mocha on the 31st of August. The town has a very beautiful appearance from the roads, extending in length a mile along the beach it is encompassed by a wall, which is some of the strongest, but sufficiently so, to keep out the native tribes, who have no artillery. The houses are white interspersed with several mosques, whose domes show to great advantage. But when you find yourself in town the scene is changed. The houses are small, old, dirty, and tenanted by miserable looking ½ starved beings who importune you for money; the streets narrow & muddy & the heat of the Sun almost insufferable, so that you would scarcely be inside the walls, before you wished yourself aboard your ship again. The Mosques were not opened to us.
During our stay (which was only until the evening of the 1st Sept) the weather was hot & sultry in the extreme. Beef, Mutton, Fish, Milk, Dates, Walnuts, Pomegranates, Coffee, were plenty & at a very moderate prices.
About 7 months ago, the town was taken by the Turks, who have it now in their possession, but daily expect a visit from the Pasha of Egypt, as in taking the town they took some of his ships & subjects. The inhabitants are principally Turks, Arabs & Negroes who are governed by a Sheik His power is Despotic.
On the 1st we sailed from Mocha passed safely through the ³Gates of Death², (Babelmandel Strait) and are now within 400 miles of Muscat we shall leave there about the 1st of October, arrive at the Cape of Good Hope in November, in Rio de Janeiro in December & if they do not keep us out on the Brazil Station, shall be in the United States in March.
I find this vessel much more comfortable than the Boxer & the Officers I like very much. We both sail nearly equal & have kept close together all the time (i.e.) the Boxer & Peacock not me & the officers.
November 12th 1833
Channel of Mozambique
We arrived at Muscat September 18th it is in Lat 23o 38¹ N Long 58o 41¹ East. The Harbour is of a Semi Circular form; capable of containing 50 vessels in safety, sheltered from the winds, but N.E. which at some seasons blows with great violence. The land or rather rocks which form the Harbour side rise perpendicularly from the water edge, to the height of 200 feet, are very rugged, numerous Forts & Watch Towers crown the sides & summit, and being of a white colour, contrast strongly with the dark coloured rocks which they stand and make a very romantic & picturesque appearance.
In a small valley to the South¹d is situated the town, immediately in its rear the rocks rise with the same abruptness and entirely exclude all view of the interior. In the rainy season the water rushes down the rocks in torrents & frequently carries away a portion of the town. The streets are very narrow and intricate, very few of them wide enough to admit a person on Horseback & turn & twist in every direction. The Houses are of all sizes and shapes, and as they were not very substantially constructed at first, most of them appear to be going to pieces, the materials of which they are constructed are stone & brick, plastered over & whitened. I did not visit the interior of any. The Negroes live in huts. The town is walled round; every evening the gates are shut (at sunset) and all in & egress stop until sunrise, several large apertures are left in different parts of the wall grated over with Iron to permit water to pass through in the rainy season. In the Bazaar copious articles are exposed for sale, Swords, Spears, Shields, Firelocks, Saddles, &c, &c. The Fruit & Fish market is held outside the walls.
The Sultans Palace stands near the water, is of 3 stories of no particular shape and Gothic windows. The Teraglio fronts the water, a Balcony projects from the house, which is carefully latticed, but so as to permit the fair inmates a view of things outside while they are screened from the gaze of the passer bys. All the women here at Mocha wear a black mask which covers the whole face, having an opening for the eyes.
The Inhabitants are in a number about 5000; Arabs & Negroes an extensive trade of the latter is carried on from the neighboring coast of Africa. A slave market is held daily in the town, prices from 5 to 20 dollars each. As fish of every variety are in the greatest abundance in the Harbour (much more so than I have seen elsewhere) a number of the Inhabitants are fisherman – One of their methods of catching fish appeared to me to be original & singular. A large net of circular form is gathered upon the arm when the boat is over a place where plenty of fish are seen (for the clearness of the water enables you to see to a great depth) he casts the net in the water, it spreads over a considerable surface, and sinking gradually covers a number of fish. Two Negroes then dive from the Boat and close the lower part of the net. Those in the Boat then haul up Divers, net & fish. The Divers stay under water a great length of time, they are so accustomed to the water from their infancy. Fish form the principal support of the Inhabitants.
There are 3 classes of Arabs in & about Muscat, Arabs of Muscat, Bedouins of the desert & Banians, but as you have read many descriptions of their persons, dress &c it is unnecessary for me to describe them. I will only say that the Bedouins are a thievish race, & the Banians live entirely on vegetable food, their religion forbidding the use of flesh.
Beef, Mutton, Goats, Fish, Milk, Dates, Pomegranates, Grapes, & a variety of Fruit and vegetables were in plenty & at a very moderate price. As none of us would have the heat of the sun in attempting to scale the barrier of rocks between us & the interior we did not obtain a view of it. We remained until October 7 *[marked ³Private² in margin] ( when having executed a treaty of Commerce between his Highness the Imams of Muscat & the United States of America)* we got underweigh, and stood for ³Mozambique² a settlement on the East coast of Africa Lat 15o 01¹ S Long 40o 41¹ East belonging to Portuguese Government, after a pleasant & short passage of 30 days we arrived there on the 6th inst. The town is small containing about 1100 inhabitants, 100 of whom are Portuguese, the rest Banians and Negroes. Several Person are here in Exile from Portugal. An extensive slave trade is carried on from this place to the Brazils, upwards of 10,000 slaves annually are taken away. Filled up our water, Provisions being very scarce & hardly any fresh Beef to be had & very few foods, and those at enormous prices. Fruit out of season, on the morning got underweigh & stood to sea, expect to reach the Cape in 15 days where I hope to spend my next birthday.
November 21st 1833
At Sea Lat 26o 40¹ S Long 34o 40¹ East
Until yesterday at 12 o¹clock we had been favored with moderate breezes and generally pleasant weather since leaving Mozambique. The weather during the morning of yesterday, was rather squally wind from the South at Meridian a haze was spread round the horizon, but appearance did not indicate such a blow as that which came up 15 minutes past meridian. The men were all sent below to dinner (so little suspicions had any one that a blow was at hand) in a few minutes appearance to windward had changed and indicated a coming squall the men were sent on deck and a portion of sail taken in, on come the winds and so much of it as not one of us had seen before, every sheet of sail was taken in, and the vessel kept away bore the wind, as the only means of safety, at the first sound of the wind rushing over us, the officers who were below came immediately on deck and all hands both officers and men were busily employed for several hours, sending on deck the loftier yards and masts, and getting everything snug for the gale; for such it was a most violent gale of wind.² It came from the S¹d & W¹d the very point to which we wished to steer and drove us to the N¹d & E¹d toward Madagascar Island. The sea rose ³ mountains high² as Robinson Crusoe has it, but our ship behaved bravely and rode over them secure from their threatened invasion. At 8 P.M. there being no sign of the wind abating & as we were running right away from the Cape the Captain determined ³to heave too² that is to cause the ship to assume a stationary position with her head to the wind & sea. So we lay too until 11 A.M. on the 21st when the gale had moderated so much as to admit our making sail on the sip the wind also favored us some, so that we could stand to the S¹d. Had a merchant vessel with his usual crew of 12 or 14 men been in our situation they would inevitably have been lost as it would have been utterly impossible for her scant crew to have reduced sail in time to save her. In our own case we did not get it in one minute too soon. The Boxer too, soon after the commencement of the blow and we soon lost sight of her.
All signs of the late gale have disappeared, and we are now going merrily along with all sails set before a fine NE breeze, a clear sky and the sun shinning highly upon us, which I assure you we find very agreeable, as some days ago I put on flannels, thick clothes and stockings.
December 28th Long 00.00 Lat 23o 30¹ South
December 4th arrived at the Cape, the Boxer had arrived on the 1st (I forgot to mention that when the gale came on, on the 21st she hove too immediately, and we did not again fall in with her) I enjoyed myself very much during our stay there. The place, the people, every thing had so much the appearance of HOME to me after Mocha & Muscat that I could hardly realize it. The market too afforded us excellent dining much superior to any of the few good things which in that time have fallen to our lot since we left that beloved land called America; Cape Mutton you know is famous excellent beef, green peas, Apricot & a variety of the good things too numerous to mention were in abundance and we did ample justice to them. And then a greater pleasure which we enjoyed the society of some very pretty English Ladies at their houses on shore & at our home on board the ship you may be sure it delighted us highly & put me much in mind of our own firesides. But we could not remain long to enjoy and on the 21st we bid adieu to Cape Town, its Fair Inhabitants, its Apricots and to everything. Today we passed the Meridian of Greenwich and at this time are once more in West Long. Under full sail for Rio de Janeiro from whenced hope to dispatch this lengthily epistle (and soon after to follow it myself) to the Land of Liberty.
Rio de Janeiro January 13th 1834
Here once more, yesterday evening we got off the mouth of the Habour but there being little wind & that ahead could not get it, I got permission from the Captain to go in at 4 A.M. in a boat with several of the officers, as you may imagine how anxious we all were to get to our letters, & learn our future destinations. After a pull of 4 hours we got in, and I found much to my delight and gratification 9 letters from you, Mother, Samuel & Aunt. In which I found much pleasing intelligence, and also some that distressed me very much, indeed, but we must submit to the will of him who orders all things for the best, it is unnecessary to revive the distressing recollection of that event, let us be contented that he has spared the rest of us to meet once more. Mr. Clarke¹s death surprised me very much, as he appeared to enjoy excellent health when I left you. I hope Mrs. Clarke¹s circumstances will better. Indeed, I have no doubt but that they will, as all her friends will aid, each in their own way.
The Chorea passed over you very lightly, at which I am much rejoiced. I was under apprehensions it might prove much more fatal from the specimens it had previously given in other in other places which it had visited. In Samuels letter he appears to think very hard of my not having written to him to tell the truth there are many obstacles which occur on board ship to prevent one from writing, even when he is in the humor for it, & I assure you I have not omitted one single opportunity of writing to you which occurred, those letters of course Samuel would see, or a copy of them by Lydia, so that he cannot have lost any information which I have sent to you. Those obstacles I will tell you by word of mouth in a few months at the furtherest. The loss of the Forge did not affect Mr. Coleman much of course, and you mentioned was soon rebuilt, I think it was peculiarly unfortunate that the next Forge to which Mr. Eaton removed was also burnt down, although no blame could be imputed to him. A short time more & I hope Samuel will rise to the dignity of Master of a Forge, and be able manage it for you if you should purchase it which I sincerely hope you will. I think with you it would be productive of more advantages to you than the further editing of the Lancaster Journal.
It affords me much pleasure to hear the name you have bestowed on the new comer I hope she will in future ways prove herself worthy of it for a kinder or more affectionate woman than Miss Summer never did exit, she, her mother & Mr. Coffin have written me several letters in which they speak in high terms of the honor you have done them; they think my representation of their kindness to me were over rated, but I assure you my language was inadequate to express their attentions. I wrote them from Batavia and Anger at the same time I wrote you, & also to Mr. Thatcher from whom I have rec¹d several very kind letters. I shall send answers to them by the same ship which carries this.
I saw the arrival of the Globe, I think, whilst we were in Batavia in a Baltimore paper, at the Port, She was the vessel Cap. Page took passage in for home & she tried to said the morning we went from here, but got only half way out and was obliged to anchor, she certainly sailed next day I think it was very strange you have not heard from him, for he promised to call on you on his way to New York for Baltimore and pass two or three days in Lancaster.
I agree with Mother in thinking one in the family sufficient to be at sea & that John had better turn his attention to some business on shore, though I like the profession very well, the ship in which I am at present & my brother officers likewise. The Captain has been very kind to me, from what he has said to me. Cap. Jones was kind enough to write to him respecting me, Dr. Parkman also, with who he is well acquainted mentioned me to him & I have no doubt those two circumstances, aided the success of my application for orders to this ship very much as it was preferred to those of two others.
I have seen by the newspaper accounts of Mr. Buchanan¹s health and progress at the Court of Petersburg & the treaty which he concluded with it. I hope to see him with you at Charming Forge when I return, reading the Ex – Lancaster Journal. You will see that we have had something to do with Treaties also, though among a more uncivilized race of beings.
I have a small collection of shells and other curiosities from the countries which I have visited though my means were not enough to enable me to branch out highly. It will be a treat for you to look at them such as they are.
Since I have been on board this Ship I have learnt that the Secretary takes great pleasure in forwarding letters to officers from their friends, all that is necessary is to send them in an envelope direct to him & they are sent by the first store ship which goes to the station, or indeed any other. He always knows where we are to be found so that would be not difficulty. Had I known this before, I should have been made happy by hearing from you previous to this & saved you a world of trouble.
I cannot describe to you what my feelings & emotions were, when I sat down to open the letters which I found here, so long a time having elapsed since I had heard from you, & so many conjectures having passed in my mind respecting you during that time, that many curious & indefinable emotions were excited within me; I did not know which to open first and so went at random.
My chances for improving myself by the acquisition of Foreign Languages have been few, or none at all, amid the innumerous noises & calls to duty on board ship it is impossible to fix attention on any thing; besides the studies with which you must be acquainted in order to pass an examination, must engross your attention to them along – after that era in a Midshipman¹s life, he may have time & opportunity to turn his attentions to other studies.
We found here the Sloop of War Hatches, Cap. Fantsinger, the Lexington, Como¹d Moolsey is at the river; the Hatches proceeds there in two days, and the Commodore comes here, He will arrive perhaps in a month until them it is impossible to say when we will arrive at home, although it is the general belief we will sail from here in the beginning of March should that be the case you may expect us in April or May, as soon as I receive certain information I will write you. The Ontario expected here daily from Norfolk. I hope you sent letters by her. These which I have rec¹d are one from you date Sep 11th 1832 by [ ] Rhine, one from Aunt dated September 30th same year, One from [ ] dated October 1st by Brig Serene, one from Samuel dated Aug 7th [ ] [ ] from you date Dec 11th 1832 by Braque Superior one from [ ] date March 18th 1833, by way of Baltimore, one from you date March 6th by Parachute, one from you date April 18th by the U. S. Gazette, & one from Mother same date & same conveyance. I daily expect more of another date. The Brig Barbara from Alexandria has arrived here with stores for the Squadron as I saw she was advertised in the Globe, perhaps she has some for me, all letters are in envelopes to the Commodore, so they must go to him before they are opened; she brings dates to the 14th November which is the latest we have they inform us that you are all quiet & contented now, no more multifcation under weigh, I think Gen. Jackson will keep all hands in order for the next few years. His proclamation turned several of our officers to his party, they considered it a Masterpiece of composition.
Tell Samuel that time will not permit me to write to him this opportunity, but as he is so anxious to have a letter from beyond the seas, I will write him by next vessel, though in reality I can say nothing to him, but he will see in my letters to you.
It pleases me much to hear of Sharp¹s continued good health, I hope he will survive until I get home, I have though of him frequently – during the many night watches which have fallen to my lot. I have had time to think upon you all and a great many other things besides – thoughts of your friends have beguiled away many a weary 4 hours, frequently when it has been midnight with us, it was just breakfast time with you and I have fancied you all assembled round the table, glad to be by a cheerful fire, while I at the same time was almost roasted by heat or wet through by the rain. My cognitions were often disturbed by various calls, among which, the most agreeable one to me was the bell striking ³8² and the Officer of the Deck bawling out through his trumpet ³call the watch² & in a very few minutes I would be in the arms of Morpheus to dream of you and the good things which smoked away on your table, for a Middy¹s table is none of the most savory – by the way Mother thinks I can relish anything now – she is quite right any thing has a relish to me now any young gentleman of your acquaintance who has no appetite, or cannot ³take meat² send him to sea, in the ³reefers mess: and he will come home a different being in all respects. As Dennis said ³go to sea a boy & you will come back a man.²
[THE FOLLOWING WAS WRITTEN ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE ENVELOPE]
Read the second page first as that will give you the latest news. [at the top]
[at the bottom he finished the letter]
But I must conclude with my love to you all
I am your most affectionate Son
I am happy to hear Wm Fraser prospering at West Point & hope that the two Williams may rise equally in their several professions. Remember me to his mother & all my friends who inquire for me.
P.S. The Barbara bought letters for officers but left them all for the Ontario to bring – I hope you continue to send letters by every opportunity, as late as December but, after that date, any sent would probably not find me here.
I must beg you to excuse the innumerable mistakes, & the bad writing in this letter, I have been so agitated & hurried, that it was impossible to do better – I am now writing this on the 19th , this vessel sails this afternoon & it is my watch, but matters & things considered, I have leave to finish this letter.