The following document is a faithful transcription from a photocopy of a letterpress set pamphlet style publication with light-colored paper wraps, measuring approximately 8 1/8” x 4 3/8”. Text pages number 31 pages. There is no date of publication, but the text is dated Dec. 20, 1899 at the end of the story. The cover bears the following information; handwritten at the top of the wrap in ink (“No. 3.)”, title is indicated as “STORY OF THE SEA”, author is listed as “By LEWIS E. JONES, SR.”*, and imprint is “Herald Printing House, Hartington”. The original appeared in the 1899 Christmas edition of the Cedar County News.
* Note that Lewis E. Jones Sr. is actually indicated as Lewis Evan Jones Jr. for the sake of this archive, as his father’s name was also Lewis Evan Jones. Once in America, this author had a son, also named Lewis Evan Jones, who for the sake of this archive is denominated as Lewis Evan Jones III.
“Story of the Sea
By L.E. Jones, Sr.
Full-rigged ship before a gentle gale,
Sight for the gods to see:
Her sails well filled with nature’s breath,
Proud monarch of the sea.
Your last Christmas edition contained a story, not of fiction, but of facts, written by me, with the promise of continuation at some future time. With your permission, I continue that story.
I left your readers then at Charleston, South Carolina, but did not tell them what business brought me there. You will recollect I left there on the English brig Alpha, of London; that after reaching Liverpool I went with the same vessel to the gulf of Finland, that on our passage from there to Limerick, Ireland, we were ship-wrecked on the north coast of Scotland. After that catastrophe I worked my way to Liverpool and then home to Wales. From there I drifted over to France. There’s where my last story ends and this commences.
In the spring of 1845, as I was strolling leisurely along the docks at Havre-de-Grace, in France, looking at sail and steamships, going out and coming in the harbor, I spied one steamer I had seen before coming in. She had a large number of passengers on deck, all dressed in tight moleskin clothes. I could not imagine what they were. I soon learned they were English railroad builders, coming over to work on French railroads. After they had all landed I went on board and saw Capt. Geo. Evans, an old friend of my father, who owned and commanded this steamer, called the St. David. She made regular semi-monthly trips between Liverpool and Havre. I found that all the crew also hailed from my native town. I had never sailed with any of my acquaintances before, but Capt. Evans being short of a full compliment of hands, that the English board of Admiralty require, prevailed on me to make a trip or two with him for a change. I must acknowledge that I was very sorry I consented, for after unloading the vessel, her advertised to leave Havre for Liverpool had arrived, steam up and the wind blowing a gale, with tremendous waves against the piers in the harbor. No other steamer, not even first-class mail boats had made any preparations for leaving in the face of such storm. But Capt. Geo. Evans, owner of the vessel, was no seaman, and would take no advice from captains who had vessels far superior to ours.
Dare-devil fashion we steamed out of the harbor, in presence of several thousand Frenchmen. We had been taking in freight, until the last moment, which consisted mostly of French brandy in barrels. These barrels were hurriedly rolled on board by landsmen, so hurriedly that we had no time to properly fasten them. They were intended for deck load; the hold being full of finer goods. As soon as we cleared the harbor these barrels commenced dancing around the most fantastically, as the vessel plunged and rolled, as great waves dashed over us. Some of the barrels floated about, and we, poor devils, capturing one after the other, like police charging a mob, and secure them fast with ropes, for we had no calaboose like police. The wind, blowing from the north, square in our teeth, seemed to increase rather than diminish. We steamed with all the power of the engines. When dark came on, we had not made more than ten miles from the mouth of the harbor. About the middle of this dark and dismal night, I went to the cabin to see the captain, for he was a kind and considerate man, lacking only in seamanship. He was certain the old St. David would survive the storm, and, took me by the hand, saying as he did so, “There is a decanter of the best French brandy on the side-board, and should you become numb and cold, come down and help yourself.” I thanked him and asked if it would not be better to send it up to the men on deck, who suffered more than myself. He said “no.” Pointing to an ax that was close by, said “Take that ax and the tin can on the table and tell them to knock the head in of one of those barrels on deck, for I am not sure but Davy Jones will claim them before morning.” This name, Davy Jones, is what sailors give to the sea. Taking him at his word, I crawled over the brandy barrels to where the men were, and shouted at the top of my voice: “Here comes Samaritan.” Picking out a barrel in the dryest spot I could, gave Jack Thomas the ax and told him at the very same time, for he was a trust-worthy man, to give each one double allowance of this “Balm of Gilead,” and to be careful that none got too much, for we had hard work before us, when day appeared. To their credit, no one was the worst in the morning, after imbibing three or four times. When daylight made its appearance, we had made not more than about twenty miles from the French coast, the storm exhausting itself, when we could see the mail packets, having waited the storm to pass, steaming lively across the channel. We made as straight a course as we could for Falmouth, England, where we always replenished our coal bunkers. But lo! And behold, our coal was giving out rapidly, and we were about twenty or thirty miles from the English coast. The flood tide was coming in and we could hardly make headway against it with-out more steam. The only thing we could do was send a boat to Falmouth, where we could find a lighter that would bring us enough coal to bring us there. I was one of those who went in the boat, and finding a steam launch, hired her to take sufficient coal to St. David, lying off about fifteen miles, to enable her to steam in, having burned everything that would make steam, including most of the cabin furniture. With this coal we got to Falmouth. After coaling there, we went on to Liverpool, rejoicing.
After reaching there, two custom house officers came aboard and finding one barrel of brandy but half full, thought the crew had been committing larceny and were going to have us all arrested. I happened to be acquainted with one of these officers, explained the circumstances that caused the barrel to be but half full, that the captain had ordered it. After seeing the captain and he corroborating what I had stated, they sent for a liquor-gager to measure how much had been taken out. This settled, you understand there was a duty of one-hundred per cent on French brandy; other liquor fifty percent. The twenty gallons our men had consumed and splashed during the rolling of the vessel, was allowed to go free of duty. The other thirty gallons, that our boys did not care to drink, was charged 100 per cent – the captain paying the French price for the 20 gallons minus.
I had intended after every voyage to go home and finish my apprenticeship as printer, but more I saw of Capt. Evans more I liked him. Seafaring being pleasant and exciting life and myself young, my resolutions of going home were from time to time postponed.
I made some six or eight trips to France with the St. David. Nothing out of the ordinary happening, until one day on the dock in Liverpool, having arrived from France that morning, and everything in confusion, a neat, well-dressed elderly gentleman, wearing a white necktie, alighted from a carriage, asked me if the captain was on board. I answered in the affirmative by pointing him out. They were speaking together when I had occasion to pass them. I heard him ask if there was a person of the name John Brown among his crew. Capt. Evans answered there was not, and did not think a person had ever been on that vessel. Hearing that name mentioned, and knowing that I went under that name for years, but now had assumed my own name again, I stepped up and said that I had gone by that name some time ago. He then asked me if I was ever at Charleston, South Carolina. I said I had been. He then asked if I ever worked at a Karr & Bullocks cotton press. I answered in the affirmative. He then asked the captain if he would allow me to go to Mr. Dowling’s office, that he would bring me back in short time. The captain promptly asked him who this Mr. Dowling was. On learning that he was the chief police magistrate of Liverpool, the captain was alarmed and asked the gentleman if he had any papers to arrest me. On learning he had not, the captain asked by what authority Mr. Dowling wanted me to appear before him. He answered that the mayor of Liverpool had received an important letter from the mayor of Charleston; that it had been sent to Mr. Dowling for investigation, and assured the captain I would not be detained long, and that he would bring me back in his carriage. Upon hearing this I consented to go with the gentleman. Arriving at the office of Mr. Dowling, after stating who I was, he read the letter from Charleston, by which I learned a murder had been committed two days after I had sailed away from there. After finishing reading the letter, Mr. Dowling said that I was not implicated at all but wanted at Charleston as a witness, if I would go voluntarily. Finding by the letter that I was some 200 miles from the scene, I stated that I would go there if my salary and expenses were guaranteed. He stated that I was a British subject, and it was their duty to see that I should be properly treated. He spoke to me as a father and said it was my duty to save a human from the gibbet, if in my power to do so. I answered, “Enough said, I will go.” He then asked me to call on him at 10 o’clock next morning, and find what arrangement could be made for my voyage. The old gentleman took me back in his carriage to the St. David, as he promised he would. The captain, kind hearted man, would not consent for me to take this hurried step without further investigation; he would go with me next morning to Mr. Dowling’s office. We found there and old cotton merchant, who had offices both in Liverpool and Charleston, who was sent for to make arrangements for my passage and my comfort in Liverpool. He stated the ship, James N. Cooper of Bath, Maine, would sail for Charleston in about a week. He was instructed to make every arrangement as cabin passenger. Thus I left Liverpool and arrived in Charleston in about six weeks, having had pleasant weather during the whole trip.
During the passage I was a diligent student, having bought suitable books at Liverpool, as my education had been badly neglected, for the previous few years. Besides myself, there were three other passengers – a miller going to Savannah, Ga., to take charge of a mill there, and a young merchant of Charleston, who had been over to marry the girl he had left behind him. She was a delightful companion and happy to be my school teacher. From this young merchant I learned the terrible tragedy that caused me to be sent for by the state of South Carolina. The murder had taken place a year previous. A rich old Jew of the name Lyons, who kept a large jewelry store, had his throat cut from ear to ear, which was not discovered until late the next morning, and a large amount of money and jewelry carried away by the murderers.
This happened on the 12th of June, 1844. Many arrests were made, and Charleston was ablaze with excitement, but no clue could be had of the guilty parties. The city offered a reward of $1000 and a like amount by the friends of Lyons, for the apprehension of the guilty parties, but to no avail. One year after, a simple young man, who had been working about the cotton press where I had been engaged, swore out an affidavit that he and I saw the murder committed, at least said that we saw a young jeweler of the name Geo. W. Flash, with two Mexican officers, climbing the awning posts and gaining entrance to Lyons’ bedroom through the window, about 12 o’clock at night, and that articles from Lyons’ store were found at Flash’s store afterwards. This affidavit before the mayor was complete and voluminous. The only hitch made was that I was not with him that terrible night. Flash was committed to answer the crime. The only salvation his friends had was to find me. The mayor took the task upon himself, as you have seen how I was found in Liverpool. This I learned from my passenger friend.
On a Sunday evening our vessel dropped anchor in Charleston harbor. The young passenger and his bride went ashore in a yawl. We did not get to the wharf until next morning. The morning papers announced that the James N. Cooper had arrived from Liverpool and that the important witness in the case of Lyons was o board. When we came to the wharf it seemed to me that all the people in Charleston were there. The sheriff, Moses Levi, stepped on board and asked me if I was that witness. I answered that I was; then he asked me to come with him to the office of the district attorney. Arriving there, the officials expected us and had my bond ready. They asked me who were my bondsmen that I would appear in court, when it met. I was astounded and told them it was very unfair to make me give bonds, when I had come from England voluntarily. But this was the law of South Carolina; they could not violate it. Two gentlemen I had never seen before stepped forward and signed the bond. I had more invitations and visiting cards placed in my hand that day than I could fill in twelve months. The reason of all this was that the prisoner, Flash, was a German, and nearly one-third of the white population of the same nationality. It was no wonder they showed this friendship to me – a poor young man who had braved the tempest of the stormy ocean, to save their countryman, who was an entire stranger. I had a gala time during my short stay at Charleston, and was sorry my stay was so brief.
The second day, Tuesday, the court met, when the case was opened. I appeared at the sheriff’s office on time, but was informed by a deputy to stay there until my name was called as a witness. I was not allowed to know the other witnesses’ testimony. When adjournment for dinner arrived, the sheriff kindly took me with him to a hotel, where we both got excellent dinner. In the afternoon nearly all my acquaintances whom I had known there before, visited me at the sheriff’s office. The day passed by and many witnesses were examined but the time came to adjourn and my name was not called. The sheriff said my bondsmen were not there to renew my bond and the officers said jokingly that I would have to go to jail for the night. He stated this was the law and could not be obviated. He said he would give me a room as comfortable as any hotel. Nothing daunted, I went arm in arm with him through the streets, for the jail was about a mile from the court house. Arriving there, we had a good supper, and, as it was getting late, I was shown my room. It was a large room in the second story, containing about twelve or fifteen prisoners, committed there for debt. They had every comfort a rich man could wish – fruit, liquors, cigars, daily papers and latest magazines, in fact everything a man could wish, but liberty outside the walls. This was the most pleasant night I ever passed. They played cards, dominoes and whist until about midnight, when they all took to the downy cots and all slept comfortably, at least I did. In the morning the sheriff called on me and we both took a good breakfast at a restaurant, on our way to the court house.
Arriving at the sheriff’s office, there were a number of witnesses waiting to be called, as well as myself. About ten o’clock a gentleman with a young man entered the room. The gentleman was a turpentine manufacturer in North Carolina, who had gone bond for the chief witness in the case of Lyons. This bondsman had gone surety for the sole purpose of getting him to work making turpentine, in place of going to jail, which otherwise he would. His bond required him to produce this witness in court today. When they entered, I jumped up, extending my hand to this young man, saying “How are you Levi Messer.” He stood trembling like an aspen leaf. He had not heard that I had arrived, thinking I had left such a long time they would not be able to trace me up. He had sworn that himself and me had worked two months together at the cotton press. He had heard that I had gone to England on a certain ship, but he knew I did not go then. He stated that I owed him money, and that he went to look for me, in order to get this money, the very night Lyons was killed. He stated that I owed him three dollars and the least money I had was a ten dollar bill, that we both walked quite a distance before we could change this bill and pay him. East Bay in Charleston then (over fifty years ago) was a very prominent thoroughfare, the present street facing two wharves. One side contained a row of business houses. Here is where Lyons’ jewelry store stood. The office of the Charleston Evening News stood but a block distant on one side, and the French Coffee House, one of the most aristocratic saloons in the city, but few doors from Lyons. Both these places being lighted up all night so part of the street was almost as light as day. This witness swore that myself and him stood by a big pile of cotton on Magwood’s wharf straight across the street, when we saw three men. Flash, he said, he recognized as one, the other two as Mexican officer’s, as there happened to be a Mexican war ship in the harbor at the time, climbing up the awning posts in front of Lyons’ store, going in through the window of the room in which Lyons slept; that we heard scuffling in the room, and thought we heard some one choking, and that I proposed to run over and capture them. He swore that the young man he saw in the sheriff’s office was not the Lewis that was with him that night and worked in the cotton press, but some other young man of that name. Everyone in the court room knew he was a perjured liar. The proprietors of the cotton press, book-keeper, time-keeper, draymen, who hauled cotton to and from the press, half a dozen others who had worked with us, the man I boarded with and several others swore I was the one he swore was with him that night, for no other Lewis ever worked at that press, and all knew me when they saw me.
When I was called to the witness box, I stated my name, but when I left Charleston on the 10th day of June, 1844, more than a year since, I shipped on the brig, Alpha of London, by the name John Brown – that I worked at the cotton press over two months, and that Levi Messer worked about loading and unloading drays that brought cotton to the press. I never went by other name than Lewis while I worked at the cotton press. The state’s attorney asked me if I would know Levi Messer, if I saw him. “Yes,” said I, pointing my finger at him, “there he stands. I would know him among thousands.” Few more questions were asked me and answered. All the witnesses had testified that I was the one Lewis who worked for the cotton press, and the one referred to by Messer at the Mayor’s office.
I was not in the witness box more than from five to ten minutes before they were through with me, and I was at liberty to go where I pleased. The only thing I wondered as was that the state attorney or none of the lawyers questioned me about the reason I had for changing my names, as every one of the witnesses and all knew me only by the name of Lewis, and my leaving Charleston under a fictitious name of John Brown. If they had, I could have given them satisfactory reason.
Several witnesses were examined after me and night coming on, the court adjourned until next morning.
Next day arguments of lawyers consumed and continued most of the day, and Judge Evans, a very able man, announced that he would review the case and instruct the jury the next morning.
Friday morning arrived (the fourth day of this remarkable case). The court room corridors and streets were full of excited spectators. The judge at great length reviewed the case minutely and stated to the jury among other things that the presence of Lewis in person, broke down the eloquence of the state attorney, and instructed the jury to bring in a verdict of not guilty. The jury did not leave the jury box before they handed down a verdict of “Not Guilty.” The excitement in the court room and in the street baffles my powers to describe it. I managed to get out to the street through the great jam of excited people, when I was picked up and carried on the shoulders of several men a long distance down the street and landed in the parlor of the Charleston hotel, the most aristocratic hostelry in the city, where a lunch was spread for about fifty. Flash was also carried in like manner. I was bewildered by the popping of champagne bottles. I escaped as soon as I could. I was told that they kept it up nearly all night.
The next morning (Saturday) when I got up, the first thing I heard was that the police had to protect poor, unfortunate Levi Messer to get out of town, as the excited mob was determined to lynch him. The police took him quite a distance out of town, and his life was not safe, if he remained. Fool-like he came back and bought a bottle of whiskey in one of the many small saloons that are found in the suburbs of all large towns, and was found on the roadside as dead as a toenail. After breakfast I went out and avoided seeing those who had invited me to call on them. The first thing, I went to the sheriff to find how they were to dispose of me, as my mission was at an end. He stated that Mr. Brown, the mayor, was on point of death, and that he would see some of Flash’s friends and raise for me a purse to go home with. I turned around on him and said passionately: “You shall do no such thing. The people of South Carolina, or at least the people of the ancient city of Charleston, the descendents of those who held that fort (pointing to Fort Moultrie) against overwhelming odds, that inspired the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ did not invite me here to become a beggar.”* The sheriff, and those with him in his office at the time, stared at one another, I inquired where the mayor lived and found the house. Mrs. Brown after I told her who I was, stated that her husband was very low, and did not think it safe to disturb him, however she took me to his bedside. He was the picture of death and could talk with great pain. With the assistance of his wife, he wrote a few lines with pencil, instructing me to take it to a friends of his, Capt. Cavendish, an old sea captain, keeping a ship-chandler store in East Bay street. Mrs. Brown stated her husband often spoke to her of me, and hoped I would be found, for he believed Flash was innocent. Mrs. Brown gave me a glass of wine in the sick-apartment when her poor husband fell back in a swoon.
Finding Capt. Cavendish a jolly old tar, the letter instructed him to make every provision to send me home. He stated it gave him great satisfaction of my coming and that he would deal liberally with me. I asked the old captain how he intended to send me home. He stated the ship Tyrone of Thomaston, Maine, was going to leave for Liverpool in a day or two and I could go with her. I asked him if he was going to deal liberally with me, as instructed by the mayor. He said, “Why not?” I stated that I had been idle then about fifty days, and if he would allow me forty days to go home, making ninety days in all and allow me fifty dollars, that the Tyrone would charge for my passage, I would find my way home in my own way and relieve them of the responsibility. The captain took me by the hand and said, “Bravo, boy,” I then turned round to him and said as the mayor had instructed him to deal liberally with me, he must have faith in him to do what was right. I would do the same, “Give me what you think my services have been worth to the people of this city and state, and I will be perfectly satisfied.” He went to his desk and drew me a check on the Bank of South Carolina for a sum that dazzled my eyes. After shaking hands with Capt. Cavendish and some others who were present, he said to his friends, who had been eye-witness to the whole negotiation: “Jack would sooner be before the mast than behind, sailor fashion.”
From there I went to a shipping office to inquire if the Tyrone had shipped all her crew. The answer was, they needed one able-bodied seaman. I asked to see the shipping list. It was from Charleston to Liverpool and from there to New Orleans. I signed it at once. She was to leave at eight o’clock that evening. I hustled around and saw all that I could in so short a time of the people that had befriended me. How disappointed they were that I did not stay a few days at least. They thought I was not satisfied with the welcome I had received at their hands. I told them I would have liked to stay with them at least for a month, if it had not been for one thing – I had left a mother prostrated with grief, for fear that I had come to some serious trouble in America, and that I would give all I had if I could send word to her that I was on my way home. We did not have telegraphs and but poor mail service at that time, and I could reach Liverpool as quickly as a letter could reach there. Many of these kind Germans that I have not seen since, saw me safe on board, with many tokens in remembrance of my visit to Charleston. Just before we left Capt. Cavendish came on board and informed me that the flag at half-mast, just hoisted on the court house, was in token respect of their kind and revered mayor, stating he had come down to inform me, by request of Mrs. Brown, that the last word he uttered was “Lewis.” Was it possible that my sudden appearance gave him such joy that his weakened frame could not withstand. I know that he had done much to discover the genuine Lewis, and that by his energy he was found. My mission at Charleston was at an end, and the good ship Tyrone arrived in Liverpool in thirty days. My joy knew no bounds when I arrived there, to tell the events and incidents of the short time I had been away, but imagine the first news I received when arriving there, was that the steamer St. David had been lost with all on board. There was joy and grief done-tailed together. It seemed that nothing but surprises followed me wherever I went. If it had not been for indefatigable exertions of the Liverpool police in tracing up the John Brown that left Charleston a year before, the next week after the discovery he too would have been among the list of those who went to their watery graves by the loss of the St. David, and poor Flash would most likely would have been sacrificed by rascally money mongers, for a reward of two thousand dollars. But providence would not have it that way. He would save me in order to save another.
God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps on the sea
And rides upon the storm.
The St. David left Liverpool on her regular trip to Havre, France, about the same time I left for Charleston. But not a word was heard of her after that time, or anyone on board. She could not founder in a storm, because for the first day or two after leaving Liverpool, she would not be very far from course, and the weather was fine and pleasant for a week after. The supposition was that he boilers had exploded, for they were not very safe, and that the vessel, with all on board, went to the bottom. When I learned this, I went on board the Tyrone and told this awful tale to Capt. Gardener, and asked for a furlough in order to go home for a few days, which he willingly granted. All on the St. David, mostly married men with families, were natives of that little town, all well-known to me – old shipmates. Imagine the surprise among the inhabitants of this little town, where I was born and brought up, known to every man and woman there, the only person alive from that jolly crew, and myself reported by some rascally miscreant to have been hung in America. Here, as in Liverpool, joy and grief intermingled. After visiting friends and the families of my old shipmates who were under the waters of the St. George or English channels, I had to return to my ship, after promising my parents that this was the last voyage I would make. My voyage, according to the articles signed, ended at New Orleans, and when I got there I was honorably discharged, I could come home on some English ship, and my voyage would expire as soon as we arrived at some port in England. You understand that when a vessel ship crew it is for the round voyage, to come back to your own country. When sailors leave their ships at foreign ports, they are deserters, but what does Jack care if he becomes dissatisfied, about the little wages due him. Of course he leaves this for the benefit of the ship-owners.
When Tyrone arrived at New Orleans my voyage was at an end. I was paid off, together with the remainder of the crew. I was not long there before I felt indisposed and needing rest. I went to the custom house and got a permit to go to the Marine hospital. I was not very sick, but needed rest more than anything else. This was a private hospital, for seamen only. Few doctors had built this with their own means, having contract with the government to furnish medicine, board, keep perfect vigilance and one or more doctors constantly in attendance. I prepared to be in this hospital, where everything was quiet, neat and clean, with a fine reading room. I was perfectly happy here. There were three wards, so that those not very sick, need not be in a sick room. The ward which I was in contained about twenty patients, some of whom were intelligent men. We would sit in the reading room for hours, narrating our experiences in different parts of the world. Some playing billiards, others dominoes, cards, etc. One evening in the month of April, 1846, all had retired to our clean, comfortable cots, most all had gone to sleep, when the greatest noise I had ever heard in this street (Circus street) broke out in our ears. We all jumped up and looked out through the windows, to see a large crowd of people shouting, dancing, and singing patriotic airs, with two men at the head of the lively crowd rattling away with fife and drum, calling for volunteers to go to the aid of Gen. Taylor, who was surrounded by Mexican soldiers at Point Isabel, mouth of the Rio Grande.
This news had reached New Orleans by relay riders, changing horses at every opportunity. There was no telegraph nor railroads in the whole country at that time. New Orleans had sent two thousand men by steamer down the Mississippi river and Mexican gulf before they had received the news at Washington. This was a lively night at New Orleans. Before noon next day two thousand men had enrolled their names as volunteers to relieve Gen. Taylor and his garrison; among those were the names of every one of my mess-mates in the third ward of Circus Street hospital, including myself. In front of the St. Charles hotel next day we were formed into companies and marched to the camp, formed two or three miles below the city. Next day was consumed in forming companies and selecting officers. Arms were brought down from the arsenal and steamers chartered. Drilling commenced as soon as arms were received and an army sprang up as large as Gen. Jackson’s near the place where he won his famous battle. Here on the third day I was taken down with yellow fever, the doctor stating I was not fit for this arduous campaign, and recommending me to return to my old quarters at Circus street hospital, with three or for others who were returned in like manner in the same ambulance.
He who fights and runs away
Will live to fight another day.
The volunteers left and reached Point Isabel in about two weeks from the time news had reached New Orleans. The siege was raised, the Mexicans retreating. In few days after this war against Mexico was declared, and on the 24th day of April, 1846, the first engagement took place. Most all your readers the disaster to Mexico after their capital city was taken, and they crushed to earth, poor in pocket, but rich in land. To pay the expense of that war they had to give us California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah.
To come back to my story, I stopped at the Circus street hospital, gained my usual health, the weather becoming very warm, I commenced thinking about going home, as I had promised. I took a stroll around the printing offices to find that all the newspaper offices were short of regular number of printers, and wages fabulous. The cause of all this – all the printers had gone to the Mexican war. Wages had always been higher here than any other place. My mind was now made up for good. I would go the first opportunity to finish my apprenticeship and return to this place. Next day I found a shipping office was shipping men for an English ship going to Liverpool. This was my chance, and signed articles to go on the large and splendid ship, the Magnificent, from New Orleans to Liverpool, where my voyage would be finished, and there paid off.
I may here mention the reason this English ship was here in a foreign port without hands. It has always been the habit of sailors to leave their ship, if they find wages higher in some other place. They can always find in large seaport towns plenty of boarding house keepers and runners to spirit them to leave their ships and stop at their houses until their money has gone. All men shipping from these houses are in debt, and the boarding house keeper collects their month’s advance, which is always a rule, and poor Jack made drunk, if possible, and taken with a bundle clothing, in a cab, with a bottle of rum in his pocket, often not knowing the name of the ship nor what part of the world he is going to. New Orleans was noted for this kind of work. The ship captains never troubled themselves to get them back, especially if wages were coming to them over the month advance. This was the case with all the crew shipped for the Magnificent. They would keep me from going with this vessel, because I came right from the hospital, and I did not enter any of their houses.
We left with a tug boat in the evening, going down the Mississippi all night, ready to cross the bar next day. It puzzled me to know how a vessel drawing 18 feet of water could cross a bar where there was but 16 feet of water. One tug boat took us down, but when we got to the Belize, the pilot station at the mouth of the river, two more tugs came out to us. Here one placed ahead of the ship, and one on each side, they tugged away, making tremendous puffs, actually lifting the vessel and dragging her through mud bottom. It took more than an hour to cross the bar. This was hot summer weather with light southerly winds. In the course of a week or ten days we were in the midst of terrible mountains of ice on the banks of Newfoundland, here in a gale of wind, running under bare poles, the wind so strong we could carry no sails, heavy fog and vessel rolling hard, as cotton those days was not pressed as it is now, and in danger of running on an ice berg, made one wish he were in some quiet hospital in the sunny south, or at home among friends. We made the run to Liverpool in about seven weeks and there were honorably discharged.
In the course of forty-eight hours after landing I was setting type for John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, from the cases that had been always been reserved for me in my father’s office.
Farewell, dear Neptune – your beard is gray,
Perhaps we shall meet again some other day;
The sails are furled – my decks are clear,
The craft is staunch – I’ll tie up here.
Neptune replied in his old, gruff way,
Good-bye, my lad, we’ll meet on Christmas Day;
Your ship has freedom over my wide domain,
So, dear boy, we are bound to meet again.
St. James, Neb., Dec. 20, 1899.
[The foregoing story was written by Mr. Lewis E. Jones, Sr. for the Christmas edition of the Cedar County News. We published one in the Christmas edition last year, when he promised to follow it up. It is written in his own peculiar style and vouched for every word to be true. – Ed.]
* While I suspect there is a great deal of exaggeration and hyperbole included in this story, I cannot let it pass without mentioning that Lewis got his facts patently wrong regarding the origin of the “Star Spangled Banner”. “The Star-Spangled Banner” is the national anthem of the United States. The lyrics come from “Defence of Fort M’Henry”, a poem written in 1814 by the 35-year-old lawyer and amateur poet Francis Scott Key after witnessing the bombardment of Fort McHenry by British ships of the Royal Navy in the Chesapeake Bay during the Battle of Fort McHenry in the War of 1812. Ft. McHenry is in the state of Maryland, nowhere near Charleston, S.C.