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Chapter 54

This webpage reproduces an addendum to
Fortescue Cuming's
Sketches of a Tour to the Western Country

published in
Thwaites, Early Western Travels, Vol. IV.

The text is in the public domain.

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[Addendum to Cuming's Tour]

[325] Vol. IV
p354

In order to complete the description of the Mississippi, we subjoin the following, being Extracts of Notes of a voyage from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, thence by sea to Philadelphia, in the year 1799, made by a gentleman of accurate observation, a passenger in a New Orleans boat, who has been polite enough to grant us his manuscript for this purpose.

Mr. Cuming having stopped at the Bayau Pierre, we commence this narrative a little above that river, in order to shew the state of the settlements of the country at that time.

February 9. This evening we made a good landing on the Spanish shore, with the river even with the top of the bank. When we had got our boat tied to a tree, I took a walk on the shore, and found it covered with herbs, briers, blackberries and oak trees, all in leaf. I measured the leaf of a sycamore tree and it was twenty inches over. The evening was calm and clear, but the air rather cool, the new moon looked beautiful.

Feb. 10. We proceeded early and got ten miles before sunrise. At half past one o'clock we came to a part of the river where some little time before there had been a hurricane; it overspread an extent of about half a mile in breadth, and crossed the river in two places about one league apart. The tops of the trees had been twisted off, others torn up by the roots and hurled into the river, some lying with their roots above the bank, and their tops in the river. The route it had taken was clearly perceptible, and how far it extended on each hand. Its appearance was like the wreck of creation, or the subsiding of some general deluge. Over this whole extent there was not the least vestige of a tree left, the deserted stumps excepted. At four o'clock, after taking a circuitous [326]route in a very long bend of the river, the vestiges of this hurricane again appeared. It had  p355 taken a north east course, spreading destruction in its train; even the elastick cane brakes were torn up and extirpated.

Feb. 11. At half past seven arrived at the mouth of the Yazoo river. It has a beautiful appearance, rising in the mountains of Georgia, and taking a south west course, empties itself here. Our expectations were now raised on seeing once more the dwellings of men, having floated six hundred miles through savage nations, without seeing a dwelling of civilized people, and were not a little pleased with discovering over the tops of the trees at a remote distance the Walnut hills, upon which is a garrison and some dwellings of United States' citizens. When opposite the garrison the flag was hoisted as a token for us to bring too, which we obeyed. Mr. M–––––'s boat was a mile ahead, but was labouring hard to make the shore, knowing the necessity of coming too, he landed, but was obliged to let loose again, and left us to offer an apology to the commandant. All along the bank we saw numbers of Indians of the Choctaw nation, men, women, and children, decorated with beads, broaches, deer tails, buffaloe horns, &c. We had no sooner landed than the whole garrison was in an uproar, making preparations to fire upon Mr. M–––––'s boat.

The sergeant came down to inform us of the intention of the garrison. Mr. E–––––, the owner of the boat in which I was, replied that that boat was his property, and the garrison saw the endeavours of the men of the land, but without effect, that he was ready to give the necessary information respecting her and cargo, and if any damage was done, he knew where to apply for redress; this spirited reply quieted the mind of the sergeant, and the storm of the garrison subsided. We tarried here a few hours, sold some [327]apples, cider, &c. and then dropped down about four miles where we landed.

Feb. 12. Two hours before sunrise we resumed our voyage,  p356 overtook two other boats for Natchez, met a large keel boat rowing up with twenty oars working, and the men were singing and shouting at a wonderful rate, I suppose the effect of their morning dram, being informed each man gets three a day.

At 12, we took our canoe and got a quantity of neat Bamboo canes, which we spent the day in trimming. At 5, after passing the mouth of Bayau Pierre, we entered the Grand Gulph, a place formed by a large bluff or high land on the east shore, and a short point of land on the opposite side. The river here is very much contracted, on each hand there are prodigious whirlpools, between which the current runs.

Feb. 13. The country is now a little more agreeable, being partly settled, nor are we in danger from sawyers, they being chiefly swept away by the large rafts of timber taken down every season to Natchez and Orleans, for the purpose of building, &c. The banks of the river are now lined with that beautiful species of cane called fan pernato, or lettania, the stem is of an oval form, and when twisted, makes a handsome walking stick (some of which we got), its top is formed like a fan, and is used for that purpose by some, when dried and bound. Peach trees in blossom were scattered along the banks. Half past 5, we came in sight of Natchez, a town situated on a high hill, about a quarter of a mile from the river. This is in the territory of the United States; here is a garrison, the country round which is rich and fertile, thickly inhabited, the climate favourable for producing Indian corn, figs, indigo, cotton, &c.

Feb. 14. I walked up into town after breakfast, found it contained about one hundred houses, and [328]beautifully situated, the inhabitants however are much incommoded for the want of water in the summer; staple commodity  p357 cotton, which when separated from the seed and packed in bags, fetches twenty dollars per 100 lbs. There are fig trees in every garden, the ground covered with perpetual green, except when burnt up in the summer by the heat of the sun. There is a beautiful Roman chapel, and a formidable garrison about a quarter of a mile below the town. The hills were every where covered with wild pepper grass, which furnishes the town with excellent sallad. Within a few miles I am told improved plantations may be purchased at from two to ten dollars an acre, and unimproved lands at 50 cents. The head quarters being removed from Natchez to Loftus's heights, fifty miles lower down the river, we concluded to loose our hold and drop down to that place, which we reached about two o'clock next day, but were not able to make a landing until two miles below the garrison. We collected our papers, and with difficulty from the badness of the route up the bank, we reached head quarters, and inquired of the centinel for the general (Wilkinson.) After waiting a few minutes the general came out of his tent; recognizing us, and after a few compliments, he insisted on our walking in and dining with him, which we accepted. We found him surrounded by his officers, after introducing us to them, he ordered each of us a chair, one on his right hand and the other on his left,º he made some inquiry about our Pittsburgh friends, conversed on politicks, theology, &c. and observed that the soldiers were full of money, having just been paid off, and if we had been so fortunate as to have landed at the camp, we might have made great sales. After taking a few glasses of wine I requested to speak to the general in private. Having informed him of my business, and shewed him my documents, &c. I requested him to oblige me with a [329]letter of introduction to the governour at New Orleans, which he  p358 promised he would have ready the next morning. On taking leave of the general for the evening, he ordered a periogue to convey us down to our boat where we arrived in safety.

Feb. 16. The general's barge came down for some apples, cider, and onions, in it we returned to the camp and dined with doctor C–––––, and went with him to the general's, who received us politely, and who furnished me with a letter to the Orleans governour as he had promised, together with the papers I left in his hands. I took my leave and returned to the boat.

Feb. 17. Having the general's periogue still with us, Mr. E. and four others rowed her up to the camp, and got his business settled with the captain. This and yesterday had been wet and disagreeable.

Feb. 18. At 4, A.M. we left Loftus' heights camp, with an encrease of two passengers for New Orleans. Half past nine, we passed the mouth of Red River, which comes in from the Spanish shore, and which is almost full of alligators. We floated during the night about sixty miles, and on

Feb. 19. We entered the settled parts of the banks of the Mississippi. At 7, we met two large periogues from New Orleans. The men called to us in French, and asked where we were from, we answered from Pittsburgh. The country here is generally low and flat, and all along the banks are beautiful plantations. The river is here and for one hundred and fifty miles above New Orleans, kept within its bounds by artificial banks raised sufficiently high for this purpose, called the levee, a step very necessary, as the country on either side is lower than the surface of the river. These banks were raised at an enormous expense by order of the Spanish government. At 2, we crossed the mouth of Bayau Sara river, two miles from which resides a Mr. [330]Bradford [since dead] greatly celebrated in the late western  p359 insurrection, in Pennsylvania.219 A little above this river, on the opposite shore, is a Roman church, at a settlement known by the name of Pointe Coupée, which signifies a point cut off.220 At half past three we proceeded with difficulty, owing to high winds, and getting a little alarmed we made shore. Half past six, P.M. we came to the head of two islands both of which stood athwart our way; they are the more remarkable being the last in the Mississippi, except below New Orleans. Between these islands the navigation is dangerous, but a safe and good passage for boats or vessels of any burden may be had on either side. During the night we floated a considerable way, but were driven by the wind to the eastern shore. Our canoe getting entangled in the limbs of a tree, we lost it.

Feb. 20. At 5, A.M. we got imperceptibly into an eddy, and were detained in it about an hour. We were now much amused with the many beautiful plantations which covered the banks on both sides of the river. On the east side is a handsome Roman chapel called Manshack, about thirty leagues above Orleans.221 At 10, the wind rose and  p360 blew violently, the river much agitated, our boat rocked, and it was with difficulty we could retain our footing, we rowed hard to make the lee shore, which we accomplished at half past ten, opposite a small but neat house on the western bank, which was occupied by a French family, chiefly of females. They came to our boat, purchased some apples, and we made out to understand them. I took a walk upon the bank, found the garden full of herbs in flower; by invitation I went to the cottage, and in my way picked up a sprig of parsley, the family observing me smelling it, the mother of the children spoke of the one of them, and she ran into the garden and fetched me a nosegay of various potherbs and flowers, which was a treat so early [331]in the season — add to this, in consequence of something said to her by the mother, the little female presented me with about a quarter of a yard of green riband, with which she tied the posy. I tarried about twenty minutes and returned to the boat. The wind having subsided, we pushed off. At 4, we got into a whirlpool, in which we were detained a considerable time; this eddy was two miles in circumference, and the quantity of drift wood in it was astonishing. After much difficulty we extricated ourselves and regained the current. As we had now a very quick point to turn, called Judas's point, we were forced to the opposite shore, and dashed against a heap of drift wood. Mr. E. jumped out on the logs, fixed his shoulder against the boat, and with the hardness of pushing and thrusting, the blood flew from his nose; by these efforts however we got off, but no sooner were we out of this difficulty than we were drawn into a second eddy; after taking a round in it we got out into the current again, and proceeded. During these disasters, it rained, thundered, and lightened prodigiously. A few miles lower down, we got into another eddy, and were actually floating round in it without having observed our  p361 awkward situation, until called to and informed of it by a person on shore, who advised us to land until the next morning, which we did. It thundered, lightened and rained all night, notwithstanding we slept comfortably.

Feb. 21. We were again blown on shore, but the wind abating and shifting in our favour we proceeded. We saw for the first time oranges on the trees hanging in great plenty. The wind rose in the evening and dashed us against a tree, the storm continued and we were detained until

Feb. 22. We walked through the fine orange groves, plucked some fruit, and pushed off, and continued floating through a country lined with small plantations, and beautiful houses screened from the [332]sun by orange trees, whose fruit we saw hanging everywhere in the greatest abundance. Having floated nearly all night we landed two leagues above New Orleans.

Feb. 23. We thought it advisable to tarry here until sunrise, on account of the probable difficulty of making a landing at the city.

At 7, we pushed off. Here indeed the banks of the river have a beautiful appearance, elegant houses encompassed by orange groves, sugar plantations, fine gardens, shady avenues, and the river covered with multitudes of market boats rowing, some up and others down, all tend to enliven the views of the passenger, and form a scene truly delightful.

At a quarter before ten we landed at the city, and after collecting and packing up my affairs, I went on shore with captain Payton, of the United States' army, who had accompanied us from the camp at Loftus' heights. We went in search of lodgings, and after seeing the captain safe, he being sick, I walked to Madam Shaboo's, an Irish lady, who kept a boarding house, chiefly for English and Americans. She had about fourteen boarders at this time, English  p362 and American merchants, sea captains, &c. They were very polite, viewed me obliquely, and no doubt considered me an eccentrick character. After dinner I went in quest of Mr. Clark,222 to whom I was recommended for advice and assistance. He conducted me to Mr. Lanthois, who I found indisposed. Leaving him I went in quest of Mons. Gourhon, with whom I also had private business. Walking afterwards on the levee with Mr. Clark, I was a little surprised by a gentleman coming up behind me and catching hold of my hand — it was my old friend doctor Lacassigne. I had been wishing to see him, he being of a turn of mind somewhat philosophical, and could interpret for me, and instruct me in the French language, and having confidence in him, he [333]was a valuable friend and companion to me while at Orleans. From the long confinement to the boat, I found my hams, ancles, and knees so weak I was obliged to retire from our walk to my lodgings to rest.

At 4, I got my documents, with general Wilkinson's letter of introduction to the governour, and after passing the guards, was introduced into the presence of his excellency.223 After examining my papers, he asked me if I had a friend who could assist me in negociating my business; I replied I had,  p363 then said he, you must apply to your friend, and if you find any difficulty, I will redress your grievances, I bowed, thanked him, and took my leave, feeling well pleased so far.

Sunday, Feb. 24. After breakfast I went to Mr. E–––––'s boat, who I found selling apples wholesale and retail, to a crowd of people on the shore. Not relishing this kind of throng of business on a Sunday, I soon retired to my lodgings. And here I must remark, that there is no distinction or difference made by the inhabitants between a Sabbath and any other day in the week, only the stores are fuller of purchasers on the former, the stalls in the streets covered with merchandize, the mechanicks engaged at their work, women seen sewing, and at my lodgings, the female slaves were ironing linen in the publick room. After dinner, Dr. Lacassigne called on me and we took a walk around the skirts of the city. On our way to the upper fort we saw vast numbers of negro slaves, men, women, and children, assembled together on the levee, druming, fifing, and dancing, in large rings. Passing by the taverns or coffee houses, you may discover gentlemen playing at billiards, and as these tables are all exposed to publick view by reason of the large wide doors being left open, no one need be at the trouble of entering in to satisfy [334]his curiosity. We traversed round the whole city, which afforded me much amusement.

Feb. 25. In company with the doctor I went up the river half a mile to the house of Mr. Sarpe, which was situated in a handsome garden of considerable extent, in which were fig trees in abundance, pomegranates, and a large grove of orange trees. And what a little surprised me was to see three stages of the progression of vegetation on the same tree at the same time, that is, the blossom, the green fruit, and those yellow and fully ripe, which was the situation of the orange trees in Mr. Sarpe's garden. I had  p364 not been made acquainted with this fact before, and therefore was obliged to shew my ignorance on the occasion. Dr. Lacassigne kept his residence here, and had his room detached from Mr. Sarpe's house, but in the same garden. It was surrounded with palisadoes of cypress and lined within by orange trees, whose fruit suspended on all hands. The door opened to the river, over the top of the room was an electrical conductor, the point of which was elevated three yards above, but divided at the ridge of the house, and ran down each side of the roof and sides of the wall into the ground. Owing to the extreme heat of the climate the air is more frequently inpregnated with electrical fluid, the clouds more frequently charged and discharged, the explosions louder, and the preparations to ward off the effect produced by it more general than in colder climates. The doctor's apartment was furnished with a table, two or three chairs, two beds, and a handsome library, composed of the Encyclopedia, the works of Voltaire, Rosseau,º and a variety of other works, mathematical, astronomical, philosophical, French and English. Knowing that I walked with a stick, the doctor had prepared two, of the young orange tree, and presented them to me.

[335]Feb. 26. Paid Mr. E––––– a visit and found him still busy in selling off his apples, &c.

March 1. Having a fifteen hundred gallon still consigned to me for sale by Mr. S–––––, of Pittsburgh, I walked into the country with the doctor to a Mr. Delongua's, a distiller of rum, to see if he would purchase it.

Sunday, March 3, went in company with Mr. Buckley to the Roman church, found it elegantly ornamented, and upon the whole to exceed my most sanguine expectations.224 The service was conducted in a manner as bespoke the conductors  p365 to be no novices. After baptising an infant in a closet near me, the sermon was introduced by singing, in which a number of boys and men were engaged, accompanied by the soft sound of an organ, after which, one of the priests, (there being three) delivered in the Spanish language a discourse on the sanctification of the Sabbath. The energetick manner in which this was done, gave me reason to believe he felt the force of his own arguments, and the necessity of a reformation of the Sabbath day in New Orleans. The service was, as is usual among the Romans, performed in Latin. It concluded with singing, reading, &c. and I returned to my lodgings.

At 3 o'clock, P.M. six or eight of the boarders with myself and the doctor took a walk about two miles from the city to view an Indian encampment of the Choctaw nation. We had a shade of full bearing orange trees, to the gate which we had to pass, near which marched a centinel to guard a fort a little below, detached from the palisadoes which surrounded the city. Outside of the gate we saw a large circular shade for drying and manufacturing bricks, under which were upwards of fifty Indians of both sexes, chiefly intoxicated, singing, drinking, rolling in the dirt, and upon the whole exhibiting a scene very disgustful. We soon came to another company of [336]ten men sitting in the middle of the road, all intoxicated, amongst them was one standing, with a bottle of rum in his hand, whose contents he alternately administered to the rest, first by shaking the bottle and then pouring part of its contents into their mouths. We proceeded, and in our way out, we met numbers of Indian women with large bundles of wood on their backs, first tied together and then held by a strap carried over their foreheads. Thus loaded, they proceed to the city, while their husbands, (if they may be allowed this appellation) are spending their time in indolence and intoxication.  p366 We saw numbers of other women sitting on the ground making baskets, mats, and sifters for Indian corn. The children were entirely naked. The chief part of the men and women that were engaged (for some of them were sober) were also naked, except a piece of cloth which the men wore for decency, and a remarkably short petticoat worn by the women; in every other respect they were entirely naked. They were thickly encamped in the fields, on the road, and in almost every direction, some in small cabins covered over with a large shrub like a large fan, called latania, others seated on the ground and exposed to the heat of the sun. We walked about among them for an hour, and returned to the city, where we found upwards of one hundred negroes of both sexes assembled on the levee, fiddling, dancing, and singing.

Monday, March 4. Settled some private business, and some I could not get settled, for some men are not honest, and others disposed to equivocate, such I found Mons. G–––––n, who I should be glad to call by a better name than v–––––n or r–––––l. With whom, however I found Mr. Daniel Clark, merchant, very useful to me in getting my business settled. I wrote to Mr. Peacock of Philadelphia by captain Bradberry.

[337]Thinking about homeward, I visited the brig Guyoso,º in which I intended to sail to Philadelphia. Captain Mason politely gave up his birth in the cabin to me. Mr. E––––– and four of his men were to go in the same brig, having sold out his cargo to Mr. M–––––. Mr. E––––– being a good provider, we engaged him to lay in stores for the cabin.

Having two hours to spare, it may not be amiss to make a few remarks as to the situation of New Orleans: It is situated in 29° 59′ north latitude, 14° 53′ west from Philadelphia. The city is built in an oblong square, parallel with the river, which runs here nearly north and south. Its  p367 bed is remarkably deep, but owing to the astonishing quantity of water which it receives and conducts to the sea, this scooped cavity is filled and sometimes overflows its banks and inundates the country for miles, hence the city is low and flat, and the adjacent grounds damp, of which the following circumstance is an evidence. In digging the graves for the dead, before they are dug sufficiently deep, they are filled with water, and the coffins are generally held just below the surface until a quantity of sand and gravel is thrown on to sink them to the bottom. The city is surrounded by a deep ditch, and pallisadoes on its interior bank with picketed cypress. This barrier takes its route round those sides of the city exposed to the land, and joining the river above and below the town, and is guarded by three tolerably strong square forts. There are two gates leading to the interior of the country, guarded by mounts raised on each side, upon which, cannon are planted. There are also two other gates about one milesº asunder, the one up, the other down the river, whose entrance is guarded by the most formidable cannon, with some of their mouths pointing to the river. Between these two gates are five row gallies, stationed opposite to the governour's house, which are always kept in order and manned [338]ready for action. The streets are laid out in a straight line from the river to the ditch and palisadoes, and cross each other in parallel lines. The principal part of the original plot of the city is built upon, particularly that next the river. There is a space of 50 yards between the river and the front row of houses, which has a beautiful appearance. The houses in general are not more than one story high, some two, and a few three stories; the rooms are lofty, and the doors very wide, to admit a free circulation of air, which in this warm climate is very necessary.

The channel of the Mississippi, though very deep, and  p368 upwards of a mile wide, would not admit the astonishing body of water to which it serves as a conduit, had not nature and art combined to aid this element in its descent to the ocean: the first in having made a number of outlets, by which a considerable quantity of the overplus water is carried off into the swamps and low lands, thence in channels to the sea: the second in forming a number of mill races cut through the levee. On these races saw mills are erected for sawing plank, boards for building houses, and others for making sugar boxes, which are cut in proper lengths and exported to the Havannah, where they are bartered for excellent sugar. It is worthy of remark that the plantations along the banks of the Mississippi from Natchez to New Orleans and still lower down, were formerly appropriated to the culture of indigo and rice, but the demand for these articles, particularly the first, being on the decline, the attention of the planters is now turned to that of sugar and cotton, both of which articles bid for making excellent shipments, and consequently remittances for dry goods and other articles imported from Europe.

The houses are in general neat, and some elegant. There is an elegant Roman church, with a nunnery, in [339]which the females are instructed and prepared, some for active life, others for the veil, which is not unfrequent here.225 I observed one day while standing in the street a little distance from them, a priest walking with hasty steps on the levee carrying the host, and three or four other persons carrying candles in lanthorns; these were followed by a file of musketeers with bayonets fixed. I was a little struck with surprise  p369 at this parade, and more so on seeing the inhabitants kneeling down as it approached. While I was satisfying my curiosity in observing these people at a distance, the remark of a certain poet struck me with particular force:

Eye nature's walks, shoot folly as it flies,

And catch the manners, living as they rise.a

Monday, March 11. Having got my box and trunk examined at the custom house, and my mattress and blankets on board the brig Guyoso, I took my station in the cabin, where I slept as well as the musquitoes would permit.

March 12. At 12, we set sail, receiving three cheers from a number of American merchants, supercargoes, and seamen, all assembled on the shore, to whom we replied in the same manner. Half past three o'clock, we passed the English turn, five leagues below New Orleans. Wind rather ahead. At 4, we passed an old fort called St. Mary, on the right going down. At 7, dropped our anchor and went to rest.

March 13. As soon as day broke, we were pestered with astonishing swarms of musquitoes. At six, went on shore for wood, in getting which the mate got his foot cut very badly; wheat flour was applied to the wound, by direction of a prescription book the captain had, and the foot bound up. Set sail at eight, having been detained by the fog. At six, [340]came to an old Spanish garrison, called the Plaquemines, here the flag was hoisted as a signal for us to bring too, which we obeyed. The captain and supercargo went on shore in a boat, and produced our passports. The captain soon hallooed to us to drop the cage anchor. In this we discovered the ignorance of the Spaniards, for they informed the captain the water was but fifteen fathoms deep, and it proved upwards of thirty, which circumstance gave us a great deal of trouble.

March 14. Detained by the fog till nine o'clock. Beat  p370 down and tacked, the wind being ahead at one o'clock the river was still covered with a thick fog. The ocean on each hand was visible from the main-yard, and on the right hand side we saw the South West pass, one of the outlets or mouths of the Mississippi to the gulph of Mexico. Ahead we saw the South and on the left the South East pass, there being three principal passes to the sea. At three o'clock we came to these mouths, and the fog mislead us into the South pass, and we did not discover our error until Mr. E––––– and myself for amusement went up the shrouds upon the maintop and discovered ahead an island. As soon as this was proclaimed, the brig put about, and after stemming the current for an hour we got into the South East pass, which turns off gradually to the left, and appears to be well exhibited in Jefferson's chart, printed in London 12th May, 1794. At 5 o'clock we ran on a shoal on the right hand side of the South East pass, from which we got off without damage at six o'clock, when we dropped anchor.

March 15. At 7, went upon deck and found the morning very damp and raw, a thick mist covered the river, and obscured the land from our view. In a half an hour the fog blew over and we could clearly discover about two miles to the light house, at Balize, and a vessel riding at anchor a little above it. [341]At nine o'clock came to an anchor opposite the Balize. Here we took our long boat on board and prepared for sea. At one o'clock P.M. the pilot came on board, anchor weighed, we put about, and was under way in a few minutes. But we were soon enveloped in a thick fog, and obliged to return to our late station and drop anchor again.

In the evening I was much pleased with the beauty of nature as exhibited by the setting sun reflecting its rays upon the clouds in the western hemisphere, which were beautifully tinged with a fiery red. The fog had cleared away,  p371 and there being nothing to interrupt the prospect, it was delightful beyond description.

March 16. At six A.M. the pilot came on board; at seven we despatched him again, and we now entered the gulph of Mexico, our course directly S. E. The brig rolled and we got sea-sick. Latitude 27 and 46.

March 17. In the evening saw numbers of beautiful flying fish endeavouring to escape from the pursuit of their inveterate foe the dolphin.

March 18. Strong N. W. breezes, lat. 25 55. The 19th, 20th and 21st, head winds, much rolling and tossing, sickness encreased. The 22d, fine weather, becalmed in the afternoon. At 7, more flying fish skimming the surface of the sea, indicating the approach of dolphins, to take which the captain, he being an adept in this business, made preparations, and caught one weighing 13 pounds, which was cleansed and set apart for to‑morrow's dinner.

March 23. Saw to the leeward five sail of British ships of war, one of which was the sloop Stark, 16 guns. After chasing another American ship, she came after us: we knew it was in vain to flee, therefore backed our sails till she came up. She spoke us, sent a boat on board, took our captain and supercargo, and the brig's papers. After examining them, [342]and keeping us two hours in suspense, we were suffered to depart. We were now in lat. 23. 32, six miles off the isle of Cuba.

We steered N. W. by N. knowing this direction, aided by the gulph stream, would bring us to the Marter's reef on the Florida shore. At one, dined on our dolphin, a delicious dish. At four, having passed the tropick of Cancer, saw a beautiful tropick bird, with a long divided tail, all over white, shaped like a pigeon, but longer. In the evening we tacked and steered east, the gulph stream still pushing us forward.

March 24. A British privateer, from Province,º with  p372 twelve guns, paid us a visit, and after the usual compliments of boarding us, and scrutinizing our papers, &c. &c. and finding all the property on board belonging to American citizens, on this account we were permitted to depart in peace, otherwise we should have seen the isle of Providence without doubt. Another schooner appearing to the windward, while the lieutenant was yet examining our papers, hastened him to his own ship, when he immediately gave chase to it. At 12, we came again in sight of isle of Cuba, about four leagues off. By the high lands and lofty mountains we knew it to be that part of the island called the bay of Hundor, or Honda.

March 25. At 6, we saw to the windward a ship belonging to Savannah in Georgia, from Jamaica. She had been driven by the current and contrary winds to a remote part of the bay, and detained upwards of 30 days. Most of her hands were sick and in great distress. We this day experienced a terrible storm, which continued the most of the night. There is something tremendously awful in the approach, and raging of a storm at sea, accompanied by dreadful peals of thunder, quickly following each other, and the quick flashes of lightning bursting in streams from the dark and heavy loaded clouds pouring [343]down rain in torrents. This was the case now, and we prepared for it. It was the most dreadful storm I ever experienced, and I could not forbear singing a hymn, applicable to our situation, namely, "The God that rules on high, and all the earth surveys," &c.

March 26. Fine clear morning, with a smooth sea. A sight of the island of Cuba afforded us a pleasing prospect, and its high and mountainous banks exhibited a most romantick scenery.

At 3 o'clock, were agreeably entertained with a fine view of the city of Havannah, and the Moro castle. We were  p373 warned of our approach to it by two hills called in the chart the Maiden's Paps, on account of their representing the two breasts of a woman. These two hills, though five leagues in shore, are plainly discoverable six leagues before you get opposite to them, and as they are due south of Havannah, we began to look out for the city, and with our glasses soon discovered its lofty towers and white buildings, of which there appeared to be a great number; the strong castle and battery which guard the city were also in view. From the Havannah we steered eastward, with a view to see another hill called the Pan of Matanzas, from which we were to steer north.

March 27. From the top-mast saw several keys or islands to the south east. Saw a large shark playing and rolling along side, and a big turtle.

March 28. Being out of the gulfº stream, we were all day becalmed in lat. 23. 27, opposite the keys on the west end of the great Bahama bank. Saw swarms of fish, and birds trying to ca them as they came to the surface of the water. During our being becalmed, I heard murmurs of certain individuals as to the cause. One says this is too much — another, we have some devilment on board, &c. &c. The breeze springing up in the evening we again hoisted sail, [344]and during the night had like to have run on some keys, but fortunately discovered them in time to tack about.

March 29. Lat. 24. 21. The gulf stream carries us three knots an hour, but no wind. Saw a large shark along side, for which the captain threw out a bait of pork; as soon as the shark saw this he dived, and turned his white belly upwards, then gradually rising in this position to take the bait, which he missed, and in turning again the hook caught him by one of his fins, or broad pieces projecting from his side which assists him in swimming, and as the cord was  p374 strong, the captain and three others drew against him, and after a few flounces, got him along side and drew him upon the quarter deck. After beating and thumping the deck like a fury with his head, tail, and fins, the captain laid him for dead by repeated strokes with the pole of an axe on the head. He had a small fish called a sucker adhering so closely to him that it scarcely could be separated. This small fish was shaped like a cat-fish, and under its head was a large round substance by which it adhered, or held itself to the shark. The shark being opened by the cook, its bowels taken out, and eighteen inches of its body next the tail (that being the most delicious part) cut out, and its tail cut off, it was then thrown overboard; and what surprised me most was that it instantly swam under the brig, and we perceived it swimming on the other side as far as our eyes could distinguish an object under water.

March 30 and 31. Gentle breezes, sailed however about six knots an hour, being assisted by the gulf stream. I had now read over all my books, among which I found the most pleasure in the delightful pages of Baxter's Saint's Rest. My chief companion in the cabin was a Frenchman of the name of Branie. We reciprocated in improving each other in our several languages. I found this extremely [345]useful to me, for I was thereby enabled to count, and ask questions of business, and for almost any thing I wanted. At 12, lat. 27. 22.

April 1. At 12, lat. 29. 43. Quantity of sea-weed — high sea — large shark skulking on the star-board side — numbers of herring hogs playing around us. At nine A.M. the clouds assumed a threatening aspect, wind, rain, thunder and lightning unite and rush upon us with fury. The sea also seemed to enter into the combination against us. In alternate succession we were raised to the clouds, and the next moment apparently sunk to the bottom of the sea. In  p375 the cabin we were all struggling to keep ourselves from being dashed against each other. At half past ten the storm ceased, and a bowl of grog sent upon deck to treat the sailors. Lat. 31. 6. The storm again commenced at one, and continued until 12 o'clock at night.

April 3. Head winds and cloudy, had no observation to day. The night produced such sudden gusts of wind, as nearly to throw the brig on her beam ends.

April 4. In the afternoon saw two ships outward bound, steering S. E. High and contrary winds. Lat. 33. 10. Another dreadful storm was now preparing to attack us. At two in the morning was called upon deck by the captain to view appearances, which were indeed dreadful. The masts were now all naked, the sails being furled except a small part of the main sail. The sea swelled, roared, and by the friction of the vessel acting against the saline and fiery particles with which the sea is impregnated, it appeared to vomit forth or emit streams of fire, from the light of which, and that from the light charged circles with which the gloomy clouds were environed, we could perceive something of our situation. The ragings of the storm continued until

Saturday morning, 7 o'clock, April 6. When we flattered ourselves with a calm, but in this we were [346]disappointed, for a hurricane, of which the last was but a prelude, was now preparing. At 8, the wind shifted from E. to N. One of the oldest seamen saw the approach of the storm and gave the alarm. All was on deck in a moment. It came roaring and foaming upon us most tremendously. A cotton bag of 317 lbs. which was suspended over the quarter rail by strong ropes, was blown up and lodged inside of the rail. The seas broke over us, and I must confess I expected nothing but a watery grave ere long, for which I bethought myself, composed my mind to prayer,  p376 recommending my family, and my fellows to the protection of heaven. In two hours however this dreadful scourge abated. Not having been able to take any observation, we supposed ourselves a few miles of that south of cape Hatterass, off the coast of Carolina.

Sunday, April 7. A fine clear day, not a cloud discoverable, the sea calm and smooth. With the approbation of the captain I offered thanks to heaven for our late deliverance. Observation 35. 25. In the morning saw a brig to windward making for shore. She appeared to have been labouring under the same if not more difficulties in the late storm than ourselves.

Monday, April 8. The wind sprung up from the west and we shaped our course for Philadelphia. At 12, lat. 36. 48. Seven or eight knots an hour.

April 9. In expectation of making the light house from the west at cape Henlopen by 4, A.M. we had the preceding evening made every preparation, the watch was fixed, the lead and line for sounding during the night. At 12, we got soundings in 25 fathoms water. Sounding was continued every hour and at 4, A.M. had 14 fathoms. At 11, a pilot boat boarded us. At 12, we were opposite the capes of Delaware, and the light house fair in view. A head wind blowing up, the pilot steered us over to cape May, and intended [347]to make cape island, but was prevented, therefore continued along the Jersey coast, and passed the two miles and five miles beach, and at four o'clock P.M. anchored in seven fathoms water about two miles from shore opposite seven miles beach. The evening was exceedingly cold, after having come immediately from so warm a climate; this was very disagreeable to us. We retired however to the cabin, amusing ourselves by recounting the difficulties of our voyage.

Thursday, April 11. Dropped anchor at 3, P.M. 20  p377 miles within the bay of Delaware. Friday 12th, the wind failed and we dropped anchor again a little below Reedy island. At 10, A.M. tide being favourable we raised anchor and continued tacking, and at 6 o'clock dropped our anchor about four miles below New Castle.


The Editor's Notes:

219 David Bradford was a native of Maryland, who removed to Washington County, Pennsylvania, in 1781, and two years later was made deputy attorney-general for the county. His speeches greatly inflamed the mob element in the Whiskey Rebellion, and he was considered the head of the movement; hence, when amnesty was proclaimed for those who laid down arms, Bradford was omitted therefrom. He succeeded in escaping, first to Kentucky, where public sentiment shielded him, then to Bayou Sara, where he obtained a large land grant from the Spaniards. — Ed.

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220 Point Coupee is the oldest settlement on the lower Mississippi, having been made by some wandering Canadian trappers as early as 1708. Bienville established this place as a military post, before the commencement of New Orleans. — Ed.

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221 The importance of Manchac began with the English occupation of West Florida, when a fort was built at this point (Fort Bute) to control the pass of the Manchac (or Iberville) River. It was the centre of an illicit trade up the river, so that the expression "by way of Little Manchac" became proverbial with the people of New Orleans to express any form of smuggling. Willing took possession of Fort Bute for the Americans in 1778, and it was later garrisoned by the Spanish. Jackson closed the route through the Manchac River in 1814, to prevent British occupation and it has never since been reopened. — Ed.

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222 Daniel Clark was the richest and most prominent American in New Orleans. He came to America from his native Ireland to assist his relative, Colonel George Croghan, in the conduct of Indian affairs, serving as a clerk to the latter. At the close of the Revolution, he removed to New Orleans and became a Spanish subject; but was deeply involved in the plots and intrigues of the Americans. Clark acted as Wilkinson's agent throughout, and served Burr on behalf of his principal. He was chosen member of the first legislative council of Louisiana Territory, but out of dislike for Claiborne, the governor, declined to serve. The first legislature of Orleans Territory elected him congressional delegate, and he was in Washington when Burr was arrested. Later, he turned against Wilkinson because of the latter's duplicity to all his accomplices. Clark died in New Orleans in 1815. — Ed.

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223 The governor of Louisiana at this time was Don Manuel Gayoso de Lemos; for a sketch, see Michaux's Travels, vol. III of this series, p81, note 155. — Ed.

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224 The cathedral of New Orleans was built by the Spanish on the site of the older French parish church, which was burned in 1788. — Ed.

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225 The convent of the Ursulines is probably the oldest building now extant in the Mississippi Valley. It was first occupied in 1734, and employed as a seminary for instructing young women. After the battle of New Orleans, the Ursuline nuns cared for the sick and wounded, and received the public thanks of General Jackson. The convent was removed to the suburbs in 1824; but the building is still used as the (Roman Catholic) archiepiscopal palace of New Orleans. — Ed.

Thayer's Note: Grace King devotes Chapter 4 of New Orleans, The Place and the People exclusively to this convent; illustrated.


Thayer's Note:

a One wonders what Alexander Pope, the author of this couplet (Essay on Man, I:13‑14) and a Roman Catholic, would have made of its use here.


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