Loss Of The Duke William Transport

The Duke William Transport, commanded by Captain Nicholls, was fitted

out by him with all possible expedition in the year 1758, and lay at

Spithead to receive orders. At length he proceeded to Cork, under

convoy of the York man-of-war to take in soldiers for America, but

just on approaching the Irish coast, a thick fog came on whereby he

lost sight of the ship, and as it began to blow hard that night and

the next day, he was obliged to bear away for Waterford. When off

Credenhead, guns were fired for a pilot; none, however, came off, and

Captain Nicholls, being unacquainted with the harbor, brought the ship

up, though the sea ran very high. A pilot at last came on board, but

the transport broke from her anchor, and on getting under sail, it was

almost dark. After running along for some time under the fore-topsail,

triple-reefed, and scarce in sight of land, Captain Nicholls cast

anchor; and next morning to his great surprise, found high rocks so

close astern, that he durst not veer away a cable.--The sheet anchor

had been let go in the night, and was the chief means of preservation;

the yards and topmasts were now got down, a signal of distress

hoisted, and many guns fired. A boat then came from the windward, and

a man in her said, if Captain Nicholls would give him fifty pounds, he

would come on board, which being promised, he ascended the stern

ladder. But when he found the ship so near the rocks, he declared that

he would not remain on board for all the ship was worth. However,

Captain Nicholls told him, that having come off as a pilot acquainted

with the harbor, he should stay and called to the people in the boat

to hoist their sails, as he was going to cut her adrift, which he did

accordingly. Meantime the pilot was in the greatest confusion; but the

captain said it was in vain to complain, and if by cutting, or

slipping the cables, he could carry the ship to a place of safety, he

was ready to do it. The pilot replied, that he could neither take

charge of her, nor venture to carry her in, for he apprehended the

ship would be on shore, and dashed to pieces against the rocks, before

she would veer; and if she did veer, that a large French East Indiaman

had been lost upon the bar, which made the channel very narrow, and he

did not know the marks, so as to carry her clear of the wreck. The

ship now rode very hard, and it being Sunday a great many people were

ready on shore to plunder her, should she strike. Of this Captain

Nicholls entertained many apprehensions at low water, as she pitched

so much; but fortunately, as the weather became more moderate, two

English frigates which lay in the harbor, sent their boats to his

assistance, and the custom-house smack arriving, he escaped, though

very narrowly, from the threatened danger.

The Duke William soon afterwards proceeded to Cork to receive

soldiers, and sailed from thence with a fleet of transports to

Halifax, where they arrived safe, and went to besiege Louisbourg.

After landing the troops, the transports, and some of the men of war,

went into Gabarus Bay, where the admiral allowed the captains of the

former to land their men, being sickly, on a small peninsula, which

they engaged to defend from the enemy. Four or five hundred people,

therefore, immediately set to work, and cut a ditch, six feet wide and

four feet deep, quite across the peninsula, as a protection against

the Indians; they planted cannon, and also placed several swivels on

the stumps of trees cut down for the purpose. Huts were next erected,

gardens made, and the whole ground cleared and converted into pleasant

arbours, from selecting portions of the shrubs and trees.

Here the captains of the transports remained some time, during which

the sick recovered surprisingly, and cures were operated by a

remarkable expedient, called a ground-sweat. This was digging a hole

in the ground, and, being put into it naked, the earth was thrown over

the patient up to the chin, for a few minutes. At first the earth felt

cold, but it quickly brought on a gentle perspiration, which cured the

disorder.--No one person died who underwent such treatment.

On the reduction of Louisbourg, the island of St. John, in the

entrance of the Gulf of St. Lawrence, capitulated, and the inhabitants

were to be sent to France in the English transports. They therefore

left the peninsula, which the people had entrenched, and, after much

bad weather, in which the Duke William parted her cable, and after a

tedious passage, arrived at St. John's; but not without the whole

fleet being in danger of shipwreck. A party of soldiers brought the

inhabitants down the country to the different transports, and the Duke

William, being the largest, the missionary priest, who was the

principal man there, was ordered to go with Captain Nicholls. On his

arrival, he requested permission for the other people who wished it,

to come on board to be married, and a great many marriages followed,

from an idea prevailing that all the single men would be made


Nine transports sailed in company; Captain Wilson with Lord Rollo and

some soldiers, and Captain Moore also with soldiers, under convoy of

the Hind sloop of war; the rest being cartels, had no occasion for

convoy. Captain Moore's vessel was lost going through the Gut of

Canso, by striking on a sunken rock, whence the soldiers whom she

carried were put on board Captain Wilson's ship bound to Louisbourg.

Captain Moore, his son, mate and carpenter, took a passage in the Duke


Contrary winds obliged the fleet to lie in the Gut of Canso, where

the French prisoners were permitted to go ashore frequently, and

remain there all night, making fires in a wood to keep themselves

warm, and some of them obtained muskets from Captain Nicholls for

shooting game, as they were not afraid of meeting with the Indians.

About three hours after departing, one of them came running back, and

begged, for God's sake, that the Captain would immediately return on

board with his people, as they had met with a party of Indians, who

were coming down to scalp them. Captain Nicholls, with the other

masters and sailors, hastily went off, and had scarce got on board

when the Indians actually reached the place that they had left. Thus

they had a very narrow escape of being murdered and scalped, had not

the French been faithful, and Providence interposed.

The fleet, in gaining the Gut of Canso, had been assailed by dangers.

During a fine night, some of the transports, worked within the Gut,

but Captain Nicholls, and Captain Johnson of the Parnassus, cast

anchor without it.

In the night a hard gale arose, and increased so much, that the latter

let go three anchors, yet the ship drove ashore and was lost. Another

ship, the Narcissus, also parted from her anchors, and was obliged to

run ashore, and most of the rest suffered damage. When the weather

became somewhat moderate, Captain Nicholls, found that all the French

prisoners on board the Parnassus, had gained the land, and had made

themselves large fires in the woods, on account of the cold showery

weather which prevailed; and, on joining them there, he told them, to

their great joy, that he would send boats to carry them off. This he

did next morning, and, finding it impossible to save the hull of the

Parnassus, though another ship was got off shore, every thing worth

saving was taken out of her, and in particular one of the pumps, which

was carried on board the Duke William to serve in case of emergency.

On the 25th of November 1758, Captain Nicholls sailed from the Bay of

Canso, leading other six transports, with a strong breeze at

north-west. All the captains agreed to make the best of their way to

France, and not to go to Louisbourg, as it was a bad time of the year

to beat on that coast, and then took leave of the agent who was bound


The third day after being at sea, a storm blew in the night; being

dark with thick weather and sleet, the Duke William parted company

with three of the ships, and the storm still continuing, in a day or

two parted with the rest. Nevertheless the ship remained in good

condition, and, though the sea was mountains high, she went over it

like a bird, and made no water. On the 10th of December, Captain

Nicholls saw a sail, which proved to be one of the transports, the

Violet, Captain Sugget. On coming up he asked how all were on board,

to which Captain Sugget replied, "In a terrible situation. He had a

great deal of water in the ship; her pumps were choked, and he was

much afraid that she would sink before morning." Captain Nicholls

begged him to keep up his spirits, and said, that, if possible, he

would stay by him and spare him the pump he had got out of the

Parnassus; he also told him that, as the gale had continued so long,

he hoped that it would moderate after twelve o'clock. Unfortunately,

however, it rather increased, and, on changing the watch at twelve, he

found that he went fast a-head of the Violet, whence, if he did not

shorten sail, he would be out of sight of her before morning. Captain

Nicholls then consulted with Captain Moore and the mate, on what was

most proper to be done, and all were unanimous, that the only means of

saving the people in the Violet, was to keep company with her until

the weather should moderate, and that the main-topsail should be taken


Therefore, the main-topsail of the Duke William was taken in, and

three pumps got out to be ready in case of necessity. The spare pump

was forced down an after hatchway, and shipped in an empty butt, of

which the French had brought several on board to wash in. Every thing

was preparing, both for pumping and bailing, should it be required,

and the people of the transport thought themselves secure against all

hazards; they now believed that the Violet gained on them, and were

glad to see her quite plain about four o'clock in the afternoon.

On changing the watch they found the ship still tight and going very

well, the carpenter assuring Captain Nicholls that there was no water

to strike a pump. He, fatigued with walking the deck so long, designed

going below to smoke a pipe of tobacco to beguile time, and desired

the mate to acquaint him immediately should any alteration take place.

The board next the lower part of the pump had been driven to see how

much water was in the well; and every half hour, when the ball was

struck, the carpenter went down. As he had hitherto found no water,

Captain Nicholls felt quite comfortable in his situation in

particular, and, on going below, ordered a little negro boy, whom he

had as an apprentice, to get him a pipe of tobacco.

Soon after filling and lighting his pipe, he was thrown from his

chair, while sitting in his state-room, by a blow that the ship

received from a terrible sea; on which he dispatched the boy to ask

Mr. Fox, the mate, whether any thing was washed over. Mr. Fox returned

answer, that all was safe, and he saw the Violet coming up fast.

Captain Nicholls then being greatly fatigued, thought he would

endeavor to procure refreshment from a little sleep, and, without

undressing, threw himself on the side of his bed. But before his eyes

were closed, Mr. Fox came to inform him that the carpenter had found

the water above the kelson, and that the ship had certainly sprung a

leak; he immediately rose and took the carpenter down to the hold

along with him, when, to his infinite surprise, he heard the water

roaring in dreadfully. On further examination, he found that a butt

had started, and the more they endeavored to press any thing into it

the more the plank forsook the timber. Therefore they went on deck, to

encourage the people at the pumps, after making a mark with chalk to

ascertain how the water gained upon them.

Captain Nicholls, considering the case desperate, went to all the

Frenchmen's cabins, begging them to rise; he said, that, although

their lives were not in danger, their assistance was desired at the

pumps, where it would be of the greatest service. They got up

accordingly, and cheerfully lent their aid. By this time it was

day-light, when, to the great surprise and concern of the Duke

William's people, they saw the Violet on her broadside at a little

distance, the fore yard broke in the slings, the fore-topsail set, and

her crew endeavoring to free her of the mizen-mast; probably she had

just then broached to by the fore-yard giving way. A violent squall

came on, which lasted for ten minutes, and when it cleared up, they

discovered that the unfortunate ship had gone to the bottom, with

nearly four hundred souls. The stoutest was appalled by the event,

especially as their own fate seemed to be approaching.

All the tubs above mentioned were prepared, and gangways made; the

Frenchmen assisted, and also the women, who behaved with uncommon

resolution. The hatches were then opened, and as the water flowed fast

into the hold, the tubs being filled, were hauled up and emptied on

the upper deck, which, with three pumps constantly at work, and

bailing out of the gun-room scuttle, discharged a great quantity of

water. A seam would have done them little injury; but a butt's end was

more than they could manage, though every method that could be deemed

serviceable was tried. The spritsail was quilted with oakum and flax,

and one of the top-gallant sails was prepared in the same manner, to

see whether any thing would sink into the leak, but all in vain.

In this dismal condition the transport continued three days;

notwithstanding all the exertions of the people, she was full of

water, and they expected her to sink every minute. They had already

got the whole liquor and provisions. The hold now being full, and the

ship swimming only by the decks from the buoyancy of empty casks

below, the people, about six o'clock on the fourth morning, came to

Captain Nicholls, declaring that they had done all that lay in their

power, that the ship was full of water, and that it was in vain to

pump any more. Captain Nicholls acknowledged the truth of what they

said; he told them that he could not desire them to do more, that they

had behaved like brave men, and must now trust in Providence alone, as

there was no expedient left for saving their lives.

He then acquainted the priest with their situation; that every method

for saving the ship and the lives of the people had been adopted, but

that he expected the decks to blow up every moment. The priest was

stunned by the intelligence, but answered, that he would immediately

go and give his people absolution for dying; "which he did," says

Captain Nicholls; "and I think a more melancholy scene cannot be

supposed than so many people, hearty, strong and in health, looking at

each other with tears in their eyes, bewailing their unhappy

condition. No fancy can picture the seeming distraction of the poor

unhappy children clinging to their mothers, and the wives hanging over

their husbands, lamenting their miserable fate:--Shocking situation!

words cannot describe it."

Captain Nicholls then called the men down the main-hatchway, along

with him, to examine the leak in the hold. He told them they must be

content with their fate; and as they were certain they had done their

duty, they should submit to Providence with pious resignation. He

walked on deck with Captain Moore, desiring him to devise any

expedient to save them from perishing. With tears in his eyes, Captain

Moore assured him that he knew of none, as all that could be thought

of had been used. Providence, in Captain Nicholls' belief, induced him

to propose attempting to hoist out the boats, so that if a ship should

appear, their lives might be saved, as the gale was more moderate. But

to this proposal, Captain Moore said it would be impossible, as every

body would endeavor to get into them. Captain Nicholls, however, was

of a different opinion, observing, that, under their severe trial, the

sailors had behaved with uncommon resolution, and were very obedient

to his commands, he flattered himself that they would all continue so;

and all were sensible, that in case the ship broached to, the masts

must be cut away, to prevent her from oversetting; when it would be

beyond their power to hoist out the boats. He then called the mates,

carpenters and men and proposed to get out the boats, at the same time

acquainting them that it was to save every soul on board if possible,

and declaring that if any person should be so rash as to insist on

going into them, besides those he should think proper, that they

should immediately be scuttled. But all solemnly maintained that his

commands should be as implicitly obeyed as if the ship had been in her

former good condition; thus setting an example which is rarely to be


Captain Nicholls then went to acquaint the chief prisoner on board

with what was about to be attempted. He was an hundred and ten years

old, the father of the whole island of St. John's, and had a number of

children, grand-children and other relations, in the ship. His

observation was, that he was convinced Captain Nicholls would not do a

bad action, for, by experience, he had found how much care he had

taken of him and his friends, and likewise what endeavors had been

used to save the ship and their lives; therefore they were ready to

assist in any thing he should propose. Captain Nicholls assured him

that he would not forsake them, but run an equal chance; this he

thought the only means of saving their lives, should it please

Providence to send any ship to their assistance, and it was their duty

to use all means given to them.

He next asked Mr. Fox and the carpenter whether they were willing to

venture in the long-boat, to which they boldly answered in the

affirmative, as, whether they perished on the spot, or a mile or two

farther off, was a matter of very little consequence, and as there was

no prospect but death in remaining, they would willingly make the

attempt. Captain Moore, the carpenter and mate, also willingly agreed

to his proposal to go in the cutter.

The cutter was accordingly got over the side, and the ship lying

pretty quiet, they cut the tackles, when she dropt very well into the

water, and the penter brought her up. They next went to work with the

long-boat, and day-light having fairly come in, gave them great

spirits, as they flattered themselves, should it please God Almighty

to send a ship, it would be in their power to save all their lives,

the weather being now much more moderate than before.

The mate and carpenter having cut the runners, the long-boat fell into

the water as well as the cutter had done, and a proper penter being

made fast, she brought up properly.

People were stationed at the main and fore-topmast-heads to look out

for a sail, when to the unspeakable joy of all on board, the man at

the main-topmast cried out that he saw two ships right astern making

after the transport. Captain Nicholls having acquainted the priest,

and the old gentleman, with the good news, the latter took him in his

aged arms, and wept for joy. The captain ordered the ensign to be

hoisted to the main-topmast shrouds, and the guns to be got all clear

for firing. The weather was very hazy, and the ships not far distant

when first discovered; whenever the transport hoisted her signal of

distress, they shewed English colors, and seemed to be West Indiamen;

of about three or four hundred tons.

Captain Nicholls continued loading and firing as fast as possible,

when he perceived the two ships speak with each other, and setting

their foresail and topsails, they hauled their wind, and stood off.

Supposing that the size of his ship, and her having so many men on

board, added to its being the time of war, might occasion distrust, he

ordered the main-mast to be cut away to undeceive them. People had

been placed in the shrouds to cut away in case of necessity; but one

of the shrouds not being properly cut, checked the main-mast and made

it fall right across the boats. On this Captain Nicholls hastily ran

aft, and cut the penters of both the boats, otherwise they would have

been staved to pieces, and sunk immediately. A dismal thing it was to

cut away what could be the only means of saving the people's lives,

and at the same time see the ships so basely leave them. No words can

picture their distress; driven from the greatest joy to the utmost

despair, death now appeared more dreadful. They had only the foresail

hanging in the brails; and the braces of both penters being rendered

useless by the fall of the main-mast, and the yard flying backward and

forward by the rolling of the ship, rendered them apprehensive that

she would instantly overset. The ship ran from the boats, until they

remained just in sight; and finding they made no endeavor to join her,

though each was provided with oars, foremast and foresail, Captain

Nicholls consulted with the boatswain on what was most proper to be

done in their dangerous condition. He said that he thought they

should bring the ship to at all events, though he acknowledged it a

dreadful alternative to hazard her oversetting; the boatswain agreed

that it was extremely dangerous, as the vessel steered very well.

However, Captain Nicholls finding that the men in the boat did not

attempt to join him, called the people aft, and told them his

resolution. They said it was desperate, and so was their condition,

but they were ready to do whatever he thought best. But Captain Moore

seemed to be quite against it. Captain Nicholls then acquainted the

old gentleman, the priest and the rest of the people, who were pleased

to say, let the consequence be what it might, they should be

satisfied, he had acted for the best, and all were resigned to the


He therefore ordered men to every fore shroud, and one with an axe to

the foremast to cut it away should that measure become indispensable.

But his own situation he declares to have been in the meantime

dreadful; in reflecting that this alternative, though in his judgment

right, might be the means of sending nearly four hundred souls to

eternity. However, the Almighty endowed him with resolution to

persevere, and he gave orders to bring the ship to. In hauling out the

mizen, which had been greatly chafed, it split; a new staysail was

then bent to bring the ship to, which had the desired effect after a

considerable time, for a heavy sea striking on the starboard quarter,

excited an apprehension that it would be necessary to cut away the

mast. When the men in the yawl saw the ship lying to for them, they

got up their foremast, and ran on board, holding the sheets in their

hands on account of the wind; and as soon as they arrived some men

were sent to row to the assistance of the long-boat. They soon joined

her, got her foremast up, set the sail, as the cutter likewise did,

and to the great joy of all, reached the ship in safety.

Just as the boats came up, the people at the mast-head exclaimed, "A

sail! a sail!" and the captain thought it better to let the ship lie,

as by seeing the main-mast gone, it might be known that she was in

distress. The weather was hazy, and he could see to no great distance,

but the strange vessel was soon near enough to perceive and hear his

guns. She had scarce hoisted her colors, which were Danish, when her

main-topsail sheet gave way; on observing which, Captain Nicholls

conceiving her main-topsail was to be clewed up, and she would come to

his assistance, immediately imparted the good news to the priest and

the rest. Poor deluded people, they hugged him in their arms, calling

him their friend and preserver; but, alas! it was short lived joy,

for as soon as the Dane had knotted, or spliced her topsail sheet, she

stood away, and left them. "What pen is able," says Captain Nicholls,

"to describe the despair that reigned in the ship!" The poor unhappy

people wringing their hands, cried out, "that God had forsaken them."

It was now about three in the afternoon; Captain Nicholls wore the

ship, which she bore very well, and steered tolerably before the wind.

Towards half an hour afterwards, the old gentleman came to him in

tears, and taking him in his arms, said he came by desire of the whole

people to request that he and his men would endeavor to save their

lives in the boats, and as these were insufficient to carry more, they

would by no means be accessory to their destruction; they were well

convinced by their whole conduct that they had done every thing in

their power for their preservation; but that God Almighty had ordained

them to perish, though they trusted he and his men would get safe on

shore. Such gratitude for only doing a duty in endeavoring to save the

lives of the prisoners, as well as their own, astonished Captain

Nicholls; he replied, that there was no hopes of life, and as all had

embarked in the same unhappy voyage, they should all take the same

chance. He thought that they ought to share the same fate. The old

gentleman said that should not be, and if he did not acquaint his

people with the offer he should have their lives to answer for.

Accordingly the captain mentioned it to Captain Moore and the people.

They said that they would with the greatest satisfaction remain, could

any thing be devised for the preservation of the others; but that

being impossible, they would not refuse to comply with their request.

The people then thanking them for their great kindness, with tears in

the eyes of all, hastened down the stern ladder.

As the boats ranged up by the sea under the ships counter, those that

went last cast themselves down, and were caught by the men in the

boat. Captain Nicholls told them, he trusted to their honor that they

would not leave him, as he was determined not to quit the ship until

it was dark, in hopes that Providence would yet send something to

their aid; the whole assured him that he should not be deserted.

He had a little Norse boy on board, whom no entreaties could persuade

to enter the boat until he himself had done so; but as it was growing

dark, he insisted on the boy's going, saying he would immediately

follow him. The boy obeyed, and got on the stern ladder, when a

Frenchman whom the dread of death induced to quit his wife and

children unperceived, made over the taffrail and trod on the Norse

boy's fingers. The boy screamed aloud, which led Captain Nicholls to

believe that some person was in danger, and on repairing to the place,

followed by the old gentleman, they found to their great surprise,

that the man, who had a wife and children on board, was attempting to

get away and save himself. The old gentleman calling him by his name,

said he was sorry to find him base enough to desert his family. He

seemed ashamed of what he had done, and returned over the taffrail. By

this time, the people of the boat begged the captain to come, as the

blows she received from below the ship's counter, were like to sink


Captain Nicholls seeing the priest stretching his arms over the rails

in great emotion, and apparently under strong apprehensions of death,

asked him whether he was willing to take his chance in the boat. He

replied in the affirmative, if there was room; and on learning that

there was, he immediately went and gave the people his benediction;

and after saluting the old gentleman, tucked up his conical robes and

forsook the vessel. Captain Nicholls saluted him likewise, and several

others, and then left them praying for his safety.

When he entered the boat he bid the sailors cast her adrift; it was

very dark, and they had neither moon nor stars to direct them. "What a

terrible situation!" he exclaims, "we were twenty-seven in the

long-boat, and nine in the cutter, without victuals or drink."

Uncertain of their distance from the English coast, they agreed to

keep as close as possible to the ship.

It began to blow very fresh, with sleet and snow; the people were

fatigued to the uttermost, from working so long at the pumps, and

after sitting in the wet and cold, they began to wish that they had

staid in the ship and perished, as now they might die a lingering

death. Either alternative was awful. Destitute of provision, it was

most probable that one must be sacrificed by lot to keep the others

alive; and their dismal situation, in arousing the most horrible

anticipations, made them forbode the worst.

The boats now began to make water, yet the men refused to bail them,

they were in a state of such extreme weariness, and not having slept

for four nights, became regardless of their fate. Captain Nicholls,

nevertheless, prevailed on them to free the long-boat of water.

Having a brisk gale, they soon ran a long way from their unfortunate

ship, when to their great distress, it fell quite calm at ten in the

morning. This threw the people in despair, their courage began to

fail, and as they could not expect to live so long as to make the

land, death seemed again staring them in the face.

Some time after this unlucky party forsook the ship, four of the

French prisoners let a small jolly-boat, which was still remaining,

overboard, with two small paddles, and swam to her; and just as they

left the vessel, her decks blew up with a report like a gun. She sunk

in the ocean, and three hundred and sixty souls perished with her.

Captain Nicholls, at length observing the water colored, asked whether

they had any twine, on which one of them gave him a ball from his

pocket; they knocked the bolts off the knees of the long-boat,

wherewith to make a deep-sea lead, and sounding with it were rejoiced

to find only 45 fathom water. But the people complaining greatly of

hunger and thirst, Captain Nicholls said he was sorry to acquaint them

that he had nothing for them to eat or drink, yet encouraged them to

bear up with manly resolution, as by their soundings they were near

Scilly, and he doubted not, if it cleared, that they should see the


The little Norse boy, who had always kept close by the captain, now

said that he had got some bread, and on taking it from the bosom of

his shirt, it proved to be like baker's dough; however, it was bread,

and very acceptable. The whole might amount to about four pounds; and

Captain Nicholls having put it into his hat, distributed it equally,

calling for those in the yawl to receive their share. But instead of

being a relief, it increased their troubles, for being wet and clammy,

it hung to the roof of their mouths, having nothing to wash it down.

Mr. Fox had some allspice also, which was of little service; having

been cut in pieces, the people forced it down their throats, which

created some saliva, and by that means it was swallowed.

About noon, a light air sprung up at south-west. Each boat had a

foremast, foresail and oars; but owing to the boats having been foul

of the main-mast, all the oars were washed away except two from each.

Captain Nicholls was told, in answer to his inquiries concerning a

noise among the crew, that two seamen were disputing about a couple of

blankets, which one of them had brought from the ship. These blankets

he ordered to be thrown overboard, rather than they should be

suffered to breed any quarrel, as in their unhappy condition it was no

time to have disputes. But on reflection having desired that they

should be brought to him, he thought of converting them to use, by

forming each into a main-sail. Therefore, one oar was erected for a

main-mast, and the other broke to the breadth of the blankets for a

yard. The people in the cutter observing what was done in the

long-boat, converted a hammock which they had on board into a


At four in the afternoon it cleared up, when the adventurers descried

a brig about two miles distant, to which Captain Nicholls ordered the

cutter to give chase, as it being lighter than the long-boat, would

sooner get up, and let her know their distress. But the brig, seeing

the boats after their course, directly stood from them, owing, as

Captain Nicholls supposed, to their odd appearance. For war then

prevailing, they were probably taken for the French lugsail-boats,

that used to frequent the lands off Scilly. The cutter, however,

gained fast on the brig, when, having got about half way, a very thick

fog came on, and neither the brig nor the cutter were again seen from

the long-boat.

Night fell, and the weather still continuing very foggy, the people,

almost dead for want of sleep, reposed themselves, sitting half way in

water, it being impossible for so many to find seats. Their captain,

anxious for their lives and his own, strove to keep his eyes open,

though it was the fifth night that he had taken no rest. About eleven

o'clock, when every one was asleep but the helmsman and himself, he

thought that he saw land. Yet he was determined not to call out land

until he should be sure that it was so. He squeezed his eyelids

together to let the water run out of his eyes, as he found them very


Again he thought he saw land very plain, and was convinced that he

could not be deceived. By this time the man at the helm had dropped

asleep, and he took the tiller himself.--Some space longer elapsed

before he would disturb any body, but at last he awoke Captain Moore,

telling him he thought he saw land. Captain Moore only answered that

they should never see land again. Captain Nicholls then awoke Mr. Fox,

who had obtained a sound sleep, and seemed quite refreshed. He

immediately cried out that they were near land and close in with the

breakers. Lucky it was that he had been awakened, otherwise, Captain

Nicholls, from being absolutely unacquainted with them, was satisfied

that all on board would have perished.

At the word land every one awoke, and, with some difficulty, the boat

cleared the rocks. At first the precise part of the English coast

could not be ascertained, but, as it cleared more and more every

moment, Captain Nicholls, on looking under the lee-leech of the

blanket main-sail, discerned St. Michael's Mount in Mount's Bay. The

boat would not fetch the land near Penzance, and, as she had no oars,

it was determined to avoid steering round the Lizard and so for

Falmouth, but to run her boldly on shore, whatever place she might

chance to make. It was a fine night, and, after getting round the

point, the people found the water very smooth; keeping the boat close

to the wind, they made between Penzance and the point.

Their joy at finding themselves in so favorable a situation, is not to

be conceived; it gave them new life and strength.--Those who were

forward, exclaimed that there were two rocks ahead, Captain Nicholls

hastened before, and his sight having come well to him, he carried the

boat between them without touching ground, and in a little time ran

her ashore on a sandy beach.

The seamen leapt into the water, and carried the priest and the

captain ashore. The former, kneeling down, made a short prayer, and

then coming to embrace Captain Nicholls, called him his preserver, and

said that he had rescued him from death.

Leaving the boat as she lay, all made the best of their way to the

town of Penzance. But some of the people, with sleeping wet, were so

much benumbed, that they could scarce get along; and captain Nicholls

himself declares, that, from the time of the ship's springing a leak,

until that hour, he had had no sleep, and very little sustenance.

However, having fallen in with a run of fresh water on the road to

Penzance, all were revived by drinking heartily of it.

The party, reaching the town about three in the morning, made up to a

tavern where they saw a light, and, as it had been a market day, the

mistress of the house was still up.--When Captain Nicholls entered by

the door, which was not locked, she was undressing, with her back to a

fire, the light he had seen, and being greatly alarmed, screamed,

"Murder! thieves!"

The appearance of twenty-seven people at such an unseasonable hour,

was certainly enough to create apprehension, especially from the

condition which they were in. But the captain endeavoring to pacify

her, requested she would call her husband or servants, as they were

shipwrecked men, and give them some refreshment. The landlord soon

came, and, having provided provisions, the people got into as many

beds as were there, while the rest of them slept on the floor by the

side of the fire.

Next morning the captain, accompanied by the priest, went to the Mayor

of the town to make a protest before a notary, and to see if he could

get credit, as both he and the people were in want of every necessary,

and it was many miles to London. The Mayor received him kindly, but

told him that he was no merchant, and that he never supplied people in

the condition that he was in, with money, but if he pleased, he would

send a servant with him to Mr. Charles Langford, a merchant who

generally supplied the masters of vessels in distress with

necessaries. Mr. Langford received Captain Nicholls politely, but, in

answer to his request for credit, said, that he had made a resolution

not to supply with credit any man to whom he was an entire stranger,

as he had been deceived by one very lately; and, though his might have

been a large ship, to judge by the boat which was come on shore, he,

the captain, might not be concerned in her, and, as he should want a

great deal of money, he should beg to be excused.--Captain Nicholls

answered, that he was partly owner of the ship, and Mr. Langford might

be certain that his bills were duly honored. However, he said he could

not do it.

Captain Nicholls, grievously disappointed, returned to the inn, where

several tradesmen had arrived to furnish the people with clothes and

other necessaries. He told the latter he could get no credit, but that

they must travel on as far as Exeter, where he was sure of obtaining

relief, which was very unwelcome news, as most of the people wanted

shoes. The captain next requested the landlord of the inn to get them

some breakfast, but he desired to be excused, and wished to know if

the captain could get no credit, how he was to be paid. Captain

Nicholls was quite at a loss how to act; being denied both credit and

victuals, he thought that he would pawn or sell his ring, watch,

buckles and buttons. Accordingly, returning to Mr. Langford, he begged

he would give him what he thought proper for these things. He took the

ring from his finger, the watch from his pocket, and, with tears in

his eyes was going to take the buckles from his shoes, when Mr.

Langford prevented him, saying he should have credit for as much as he

pleased, for he believed him to be an honest man, and saw that his

people's distress touched him more, if possible, than his own

misfortunes. He then gave what money the captain required.

During these transactions, the second mate and the eight men belonging

to the cutter arrived. They said it was so very thick they could not

come up with the brig which they were in pursuit of, and that, seeing

the Lands-End when it cleared, they got ashore. As nobody would buy

the cutter, they had left her, and had inquired the way to Penzance,

where, being in great distress, they rejoiced to meet their comrades.

Captain Nicholls went to the inn and discharged what was owing; on

account of the unkindness which he had experienced, he resolved to

stay no longer, and repaired to another house to breakfast. He next

procured the necessaries wanted by his people, and then went with his

mates to make a protest. But, not choosing that the declaration should

proceed from his own mouth, Mr. Langford's son acted as interpreter to

the French priest, who was to make it. The priest accordingly made a

strong and full affidavit, that Captain Nicholls and his people had

tried every means to keep the ship above water; that they had used the

French all the time they were on board, with the greatest kindness and

humanity, and that Captain Nicholls had parted from them with the

greatest reluctance, and even at their own desire went into the boat,

after all hopes of life were gone.

Having remained another day at Penzance to refresh the people, and

getting credit for what was wanted, Captain Nicholls, Captain Moore

and the officers set out in a carriage for Exeter, while the people,

who had got a pass from the Mayor, walked on foot. At Redruth, a town

in Cornwall, there were many French officers on parole, as also an

English Commissary. Captain Nicholls accompanied the priest to the

latter in quest of a pass to Falmouth, that he might embark in the

first cartel for France; and here took leave of him.

Captain Nicholls having reached London, was under the necessity of

being examined at the Admiralty and Navy Office, about the loss of the

people and the ship, she being a transport in the service of

government. The Lords of the Admiralty and Commissioners of the Navy

told him that he might say more than any man living, as he had brought

ashore with him the first man of France, a priest, of course an enemy

to both their religion and country: if his behaviour had not been

good, he would not have attempted it; but at the same time, they

acknowledged that without such a proof, they could not have believed,

but finding all hopes gone, he and his people got away by some

stratagem. They would pay they said to the hour that the ship

foundered, and were very sorry that they could do no more.

The four Frenchmen above mentioned, who had left the transport in the

little boat subsequent to the departure of Captain Nicholls and his

men, got into Falmouth within two days.

So ended this dreadful and unfortunate voyage, with the loss of a fine

ship and three hundred and sixty souls.

Loss Of The Catharine Venus And Piedmont Transports And Three Merchant Ships Loss Of The Halsewell facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail