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News & Tall Tales. 1800s. A Tough Life at Sea


World Map 1850.

Daily Alta California, July 23, 1851


MASSACRE OF A CAPTAIN AND FOUR OF HIS CREW AT THE LADRONE ISLANDS.

By the arrival of the schooner Odd Fellow, from the Ladrone Islands, we have received an account of the massacre of a captain and part of his crew, by the natives of a small island, known as McCoskell's, belonging to the group of the Ladrones. The particulars were written for us, and subscribed to by Mr. George Dawson, who was second officer under command of Captain Luce. The occurrence mentioned took place on the 17th of January last.

The sperm whaler Boy of Warren, of R.I., arrived off the island of McCoskell, and was boarded by two men in a canoe, who, in reply to a demand for provisions, informed Capt. Luce, master of the ship, that the Island only afforded green turtle, and that the native were hostile to strangers, advising him not to land. Capt. L., however, ordered a boat to be got in readiness, and calling for volunteers, was joined by four of his crew, and accompanied by one of the strangers, who were sailors, and had been stopping on the island for two years. He gave orders to the first officer to send a boat for him in the morning, and pulled ashore.

Polynesian Islands.

The ship lay off and on, and the next morning a boat was sent for the Captain, in which was the other stranger, and also two natives, who had paddled off to the ship. On nearing the shore, the natives assembled on the beach, refusing to allow the boat to land. They were all armed with spears, and beckoned their comrades to join them from the boat, which they did. The sailor resident was then about to follow, when one of the natives warned him to remain in the boat. They refused to hold any communication whatever with the crew, and Mr. Dawson, who went in command of the boat, rejoined the ship and related his adventure.

(Map: Polnesian islands of the Pacific. 1840)

Mr. Merry, first officer, then provided the ship's crew with arms, and the boat was again sent ashore, under a white flag. The men lay on their oars within a cable's length of the beach, where the natives continued to assemble, armed with spears, and threatening an attack if an attempt was made to land. Joseph Percy, the companion of the sailor who accompanied the Captain ashore the previous evening, endeavored to gain some particulars from the natives concerning the fate of the Captain and party, but was refused all information; and having stated his belief to the second officer that they had been killed by the natives, a fire was opened upon them from the boat. The relief party continued outside the reef until a signal from the ship recalled them.

Mr. Merry waited until dark off the island, when, receiving no tiding from the unfortunate, he bore off for Ascension.

The names of the seamen who landed with Capt. Luce, were James Mackay, James Sweeny, William Taylor and Edward Rion. There is no doubt that the whole party were massacred by the natives, who perhaps suspected from the absence of their two comrades on board the vessel during the night that they had been killed or detained as prisoners.


Life of a Sailor (Seafarers' Voices) Life of a Sailor.Life At Sea.Life of a Sailor.
Frederick Chamier
Chamier went to sea in 1809 as an officer in the Royal Navy. Like his contemporary, Captain Frederick Marryat, he enjoyed a successful literary career and is remembered for his naval novels. This book, his first, is usually catalogued as fiction, although it is an exact account of his naval experiences, with every individual, ship, and event he described corroborated by his service records. Told with humor and insight, it is considered an authentic account of a young officer's service. From anti-slavery patrols off Africa to punitive raids on the American coast during the War of 1812, Chamier provides details of many lesser-known campaigns. His descriptions of British naval operations in America, which reflected his objection to bringing the war to the civilian population, were highly criticized by his seniors.

The Nagle Journal: A Diary of the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor, from the Year 1775 to 1841Stories of the Sea and Ships.
John C. Dann

Great Stories of the Sea & Ships Sea Stories and the history of America.
N. C. Wyeth
Life at sea.Sea Stories and the history of America.More than 50,000 copies of this collection of high-seas adventures are in print. It showcases the fiction of such classic writers as Daniel Defoe, Jules Verne, and Jack London, and the entries also feature historic first-person narratives including Christopher Columbus’s own account of his voyage in 1492. Vivid tales of heroic naval battles and dangerous journeys of exploration to the stories of castaways and smugglers. The variety of works includes “The Raft of Odysseus,” by Homer; Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Mermaid”; “The Specksioneer,” by Elizabeth Gaskell; Washington Irving’s “The Phantom Island”; and “Rounding Cape Horn,” by Herman Melville. Eighteen extraordinary black and white illustrations by Peter Hurd add to the volume's beauty.

The Mammoth Book of Life Before the Mast:
Sailors' Eyewitness Stories from the Age of Fighting Ships

Jon E. Lewis, Editor
Firsthand accounts of the real-life naval adventures behind the popular historical sagas of Patrick O'Brian and C. F. Forester. Twenty true-life adventures capture the glory and gore of the great age of naval warfare from the late eighteenth to the early nineteenth century -- the age of the French Revolutionary War, the Napoleonic Wars, and the War of 1812 -- when combat at sea was won by sheer human wit, courage, and endurance. Culled from memoirs, diaries, and letters of celebrated officers as well as sailors, the collection includes accounts of such decisive naval engagements as Admiral Horatio Nelson's on the Battle of the Nile in 1798 or Midshipman Roberts' on the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805 and also offers glimpses into daily hardships aboard a man-of-war: scurvy, whippings, storms, piracy, press gangs, drudgery, boredom, and cannibalism.

The Rebel Raiders
Life at sea. The Astonishing History of the Confederacy's Secret NavyShips, Shipping, Migration, World Seaports.

James T. deKay
During its construction in Liverpool, the ship was known as “Number 290.” It was unleashed as the CSS Alabama, the Confederate gunship that triggered the last great military campaign of the Civil War; yet another infamous example of British political treachery, and the largest retribution settlement ever negotiated by an international tribunal: $15,500,000 in gold paid by Britain to the United States.

This true story of the Anglo-Confederate alliance that led to the creation of a Southern navy illuminates the dramatic and crucial global impact of the American Civil War. Like most things in the War between the States, it started over cotton: Lincoln’s naval blockade prevented the South from exporting their prize commodity to England. In response, the Confederacy came up with a plan to divert the North’s vessels and open the waterways–a plan that would mean covertly building a navy in Britain, a strategy that involved a cast of clandestine characters.

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; Maritime Library, San Francisco, California, various Maritime Museums around the world.

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