An Occurrence At Sea



In June, 1824, I embarked at Liverpool on board the Vibelia transport

with the head-quarters of my regiment, which was proceeding to

Halifax, Nova Scotia. Our passage across the Atlantic was smooth,

though long and tedious. After passing over the great bank of

Newfoundland, catching large quantities of codfish and halibut, and

encountering the usual fogs, we were one morning, about the end of

July, completely becalmed. All who have performed a voyage, know the

feeling of listlessness to which a landsman abandons himself during a

calm. The morning was slowly passed in looking for appearances of a

breeze--whistling for a wind, and the other idle pursuits usual on

such occasions. Towards noon, a sailor from aloft pointed out to our

observation a vessel at a distance, also, of course, becalmed. All

eyes and glasses were immediately directed towards her, but she was

too far off for the most experienced to determine whether she was

English or foreign, man-of-war or merchantman. After a time it

occurred to me, that it was a favorable opportunity for breaking in

upon the monotony of the day. My influence with our captain obtained

permission for the small cutter to be lowered, but he would not allow

a single seaman to leave the ship. I therefore became coxswain of the

boat, and, accompanied by four of my brother officers as rowers, we

pushed off, determined to pay a visit to the strange sail. To our

landsmen's eyes and judgment, she had appeared to be about four miles

from us, but we found ourselves very much out in our calculation--it

was more than double that distance. The rowers, however, pulled on

bravely--we neared the stranger, making her out to be a large American

merchantman, and as he was approached, we observed a number of persons

on deck reconnoitring us through glasses. At length we were alongside,

and I passed on board, followed by three of my companions, one

remaining in charge of the boat. On reaching the deck, we found it

crowded with men, who seemed to regard us with wondering looks. I

stepped forward and was received by the Captain, who acquainted me

that his vessel was the American ship Cadmus, on her passage from

Havre-de-grace to New York, with General the Marquis de Lafayette and

suite as passengers. A noble, venerable looking veteran advanced from

the poop towards us, and offered his greetings with the courtesy of

the old French school. He was Lafayette. My explanation of who we

were, and the motive of our visit, appeared to excite his surprise.

That five officers of the land service, unaccompanied by a single

sailor, should leave their vessel on the open ocean, and from mere

curiosity, visit a strange sail at such a distance, was, he declared,

most extraordinary. He said they had observed our ship early in the

morning--had been occupied (like ourselves) in vain endeavors to make

us out--had remarked an object, a mere speck upon the sea, leave the

vessel and move towards them, and when at length it was made out to be

a boat, the probable cause of such a circumstance had given rise to

many surmises. I told him in mitigation of what he deemed our

rashness, that we were, as a nation, so essentially maritime, that

every man in England was more or less a sailor. At all events, I

ventured to add if we had encountered some little risk, we had been

amply repaid in seeing a man so celebrated, and of whom we had all

heard and read. Our comrade being relieved by an American sailor in

the care of the boat, we accepted the General's offer of refreshment,

proceeded to the cabin, and passed a most agreeable hour. The fast

approach of evening and appearances of a breeze springing up induced

us to take leave. We separated from the old chief, not as the

acquaintance of an hour, but with all the warmth--the grasp and

pressure of hand--of old friends. As I parted from him at the gangway,

he mentioned having caused a case of claret to be lowered into our

boat, which he begged us to present to our Colonel and the other

officers of our mess. We pulled cheerily back, but it was not until

long after dark that we reached the 'Vibelia,' and which we perhaps

could not have accomplished, but for their having exhibited blue

lights every few minutes to point out her position. We found our

comrades had been in great alarm for our safety. Various had been the

surmises. That we had boarded a pirate, and been sacrificed, or made

prisoners, was most prevalent, and a breeze was anxiously prayed for,

that they might bear down, and release or revenge us. Half an hour

after we returned to our ship, a light wind sprang up, which very

shortly freshened into a gale, so that in the morning we had

completely lost sight of the 'Cadmus.'





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