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Being now about a hundred miles
South of the Mauritius, in fine weather with a light breeze, Dodd's marine
barometer began to fall steadily: and by the afternoon the declension had become
so remarkable that he felt uneasy, and, somewhat to the surprise of the crew—for
there was now scarce a breath of air—furled his slight sails, treble reefed his
top-sails, had his top-gallant, and royal, yards, and gaff top-sail sent on
deck, got his flying jib-boom in, etc., and made the ship snug.
Kenealy asked him what was the
"Barometer going down; moon at
the full; and Jonah aboard," was the reply, uttered doggedly.
Kenealy assured him it was a
beautiful evening, precursor of a fine day. "See how red the sunset is:
Evening red and morning gray Are
the sure signs of a fine day."
Dodd looked, and shook his head.
The sun was red: but the wrong red: an angry red: and, as he dipped into the
wave, discharged a lurid coppery hue that rushed in a moment like an embodied
menace over the entire heavens. The wind ceased altogether: and in the middle of
an unnatural and suspicious calm the glass went down, down, down.
The moon rose: and instantly all
eyes were bent on her with suspicion; for in this latitude the hurricanes
generally come at the full moon. She was tolerably clear, however; but a light
scud sailing across her disk showed there was wind in the upper regions.
The glass fell lower than Dodd
had ever seen it.
He trusted to science; barred the
lee-ports, and had the dead lights put into the stern cabin and secured: then
turned in for an hour's sleep.
Science proved a prophet. Just at
seven bells, in one moment, like a thunder-bolt from the sky, a heavy squall
struck the ship, and laid her almost on her beam ends. Under a less careful
captain her lee-ports would have been open, and she would have gone to the
bottom like a bullet.
"Ease the main sheet!" cried
Sharpe, hastily, to a hand he had placed there on purpose: the man, in his
hurry, took too many turns off the cleet, the strain overpowered him, he let go,
and there was the sail flapping like thunder, and the sheet lashing every thing
in the most dangerous way. Dodd was on deck in a moment. "Up mainsel! Get hold
of the clue garnets, bunt-lines, and leech-lines; run them up!—Now then, over to
wind'ard! Let go the main-bowling!—Keep to the run men!—Belay!"
And so the sail was saved.
"Hands up: furl sails!"
"Ay, ay, Sir."
(Pipe.) "All hands furl sail,
Up tumbled the crew, went
cheerily to work, and by three bells in the middle watch had furled the few
remaining sails, and treble reefed the main top-sail: under this last the ship
lay to, with her head as near the wind as they could bring it, and so the voyage
A heavy sea got up under a
scourging wind that rose and rose, till the Agra under the pressure of that
single sail treble reefed, heeled over so as to dip her lee channels. This went
on till the waves rolled so high, and the squalls were so bitter, that sheets of
water were actually torn off their crests and launched incessantly on deck, not
only drenching Dodd and his officers, which they did not mind, but threatening
to flood the ship.
Dodd battened down the hatches,
and stopped that game.
Then came a danger no skill could
avert: the ship lurched so rapidly that the seams of her works opened and shut:
she also heeled over so violently now, as not merely to dip, but bury, her lower
deck port-pendants: and so a good deal of water found ingress through the
windage. Then Dodd net a gang to the pumps: for he said: "We can hardly hope to
weather this out without shipping a sea: and I won't have water coming in upon
And now the wind, raging and
roaring like discharges of artillery, and not like wind as known in our seas,
seemed to have put out all the lights of heaven. The sky was inky black, and
quite close to their heads: and the wind still increasing, the vessel came down
to her extreme bearings, and it was plain she would soon be on her beam ends.
Sharpe and Dodd met, and holding on by the life-lines, applied their
speaking-trumpets tight to each other's ears: and even then they had to bawl.
"She can't carry a rag much
"No, Sir; not half an hour."
"Can we furl that main taupsle?"
Sharpe shook his head. "The first
moment we start a sheet, the sail will whip the mast out of her."
"You are right. Well then, I'll
cut it away."
"Ay, twelve: no more. Send them
to my cabin."
Sharpe's difficulty was to keep
the men back, so eager were the fine fellows to risk their lives. However, he
brought twelve to the cabin, headed by Mr. Grey, who had a right, as captain of
the watch, to go with them; on which right he insisted in spite of Dodd's
earnest request that he would forego it. When Dodd saw his resolution, he
dropped the friend, and resumed the captain: and spoke to them through a
trumpet; the first time he had ever used one in a cabin, or seen one used.
"Mr. Grey, and men, going aloft
to save the mainmast, by cutting the sail away."
"Ay, ay, Sir!"
"Service of danger, great
"But great dangers can be made
smaller by working the right way. Attend! Lay out all on the yard, and take your
time from one; man
at the lee yard arm: don't know
who that will be; but one of the smartest men in the ship. Order to him is; hold
his knife hand well up; rest to see; and then in knives altogether: mind and cut
from you, and below the reef band; and then I hope to see all come down alive."
Mr. Grey and his twelve men left
the cabin; and hey! for the maintop. The men let the officer lead them as far as
Jacob's ladder, and then hurrah for the lee yard arm! That was where all wanted
to be, and but one could be: Grey was as anxious as the rest: but officers of
his rank seldom go aloft, and soon fall out of their cat-like habits. He had
done about six ratlines, when instead of going hand over head, he spread his
arms to seize a shroud on each side of him: by this he weakened his leverage,
and the wind just then came fiercer, caught him, and flattened him against the
rigging as tight as if Nature had caught up a mountain for a hammer and nailed
him with a cedar; he was spread-eagled. The men accepted him at once as a new
patent ratline with a fine resisting power: they went up him, and bounded three
ordinary ratlines at a go off all his promontories, especially his shoulders,
and his head, receiving his compliments in the shape of hearty curses: they
gained the top and lay out on the yard with their hair flying like streamers:
and who got the place of honor, but Thompson, the jolly foretopman, who couldn't
stand smoked pea soup. So strong and so weak are men.
Thompson raised his knife high;
there was a pause: then in went all their knives, and away went the sail into
the night of the storm, and soon seemed a sheet of writing paper, and more
likely to hit the sky than the sea. The men came down, picked their officer off
the rigging, had a dram in the captain's cabin, and saw him enter their names in
the log-book for good service, and in the purser's for extra grog on Sundays
from there to Gravesend.
The ship was relieved; and all
looked well, till the chronometer, their only guide now, announced sunset: when
the wind, incredible as it may appear, increased, and one frightful squall
dipped the muzzles of the lee carronades in the water.
Then was heard the first cry of
distress: an appalling sound; the wail of brave men. And they had borne it all
so bravely, so cheerfully, till now. But now they knew something must go, or
else the ship; the suspense was awful, but very short. Crack! crash! the fore
and main top mast both gone; short off by the caps; and the ship recovered
slowly, hesitatingly, tremblingly.
Relieving her from one danger
this subjected her to another and a terrible one. The heavy spars that had
fallen, unable to break loose from the rigging, pounded the ship so savagely as
to threaten to stave in her side.
But neither this stout captain
nor his crew shirked any danger men had ever grappled with since men were; Dodd
ordered them to cut away the wreck to leeward: it was done: then to windward:
this, the more ticklish operation, was also done smartly: the wreck passed under
the ship's quarter, and she drifted clear of it. They breathed again.
At eight bells in the first watch
it began to thunder and lighten furiously; but the thunder, though close, was
quite inaudible in the tremendous uproar of the wind and sea. It blew a
hurricane: there were no more squalls now; but one continuous tornado, which in
its passage through that great gaunt skeleton, the ship's rigging and bare
poles, howled and yelled and roared so terrifically, as would have silenced a
salvo of artillery fired alongside. The overwhelming sea ran in dark watery
mountains crested with devilish fire. The inky blackness added supernatural
horror; the wrath of the Almighty seemed upon them: and his hand to drop the
black sky down on them for their funeral pall. Surely Noah from his ark saw
nothing more terrible.
What is that? close on the lee
bow: close: the flash of a gun: another; another; another. A ship in distress
firing minute-guns, in their ears; yet no sound: human thunder silenced, as
God's thunder was silenced by the uproar of his greater creatures in their mad
rage. The Agra fired two minute-guns to let the other poor ship know she had a
companion in her helplessness, and her distress, and probably a companion in her
fate. Even this companionship added its mite of danger: for both ships were mere
playthings of the elements; they might be tossed together; and then what would
be their fate? Two eggs clashed together in a great boiling caldron, and all the
life spilt out.
Yet did each flash shoot a ray of
humanity and sympathy into the thick black supernatural horror.
And now came calamity upon
calamity. A tremendous sea broke the tiller at the rudder-head, and not only was
the ship in danger of falling off and shipping the sea, but the rudder hammered
her awfully, and bade fair to stave in her counter, which is another word for
Destruction. Thus death came at them with two hands open at once.
These vessels always carry a
spare tiller: they tried to ship it: but the difficulty was prodigious. No light
but the miserable deck lantern—one glow-worm in Egypt supernaturally
darkened—the Agra never on an even keel, and heeling over like a sea-saw more
than a ship; and then every time they did place the tiller, and get the strain
on with their luff tackles, the awful sea gave it a blow and knocked it away
like a hair.
At last they hit it off, or
thought they had, for the ponderous thumps of the rudder ceased entirely.
However, the ship did not obey this new tiller like the old one: her head fell
off in an unlucky moment when seven waves were rolling in one, and, on coming to
again, she shipped a sea. It came
in over her bow transversely; broke as high as the mainstay, and hid and buried
the whole ship before the mast: carried away the waist bulwarks on both sides,
filled the launch, and drowned the live-stock which were in it: swept four
water-butts and three men away into the sea, like corns and straws; and sent
tons of water down the forescuttle and main hatchway, which was partly opened
not to stifle the crew; and flooded the gun deck ankle-deep.
Dodd, who was in his cabin, sent
the whole crew to the pumps, except the man at the wheel; and prepared for the
In men so brave as he was, when
Hope dies, Fear dies. His chief care now was to separate the fate of those he
loved from his own. He took a bottle, inserted the fatal money in it, with a few
words of love to his wife, and of direction to any stranger that should fall in
with it; secured the cork with melted sealing-wax, tied oil-skin over it, and
melted wax on that; applied a preparation to the glass to close the pores: and
to protect it against other accidents, and attract attention, fastened a black
painted bladder to it by a stout tarred twine, and painted "Agra, lost at sea,"
in white on the bladder. He had logged each main incident of the storm with that
curt, business-like accuracy, which reads so cold and small a record of these
great and terrible tragedies. He now made a final entry a little more in
character with the situation: "About eight bells in the morning watch shipped a
heavy sea forward. The rudder being now damaged, and the ship hardly manageable,
brought the log and case on deck, expecting to founder shortly. Sun and moon
hidden this two days, and no observation possible; but by calculation of wind
and current, we should be about fifty miles to the southward of the Mauritius.
God's will be done."
He got on deck with the bottle in
his pocket, and the bladder peeping out: put the log, and its case, down on
deck, and by means of the life-lines crawled along on his knees, and with great
difficulty, to the wheel. Finding the man could hardly hold on, and dreading
another sea, Dodd, with his own hands, lashed him to the helm.
While thus employed he felt the
ship give a slight roll, a very slight roll, to windward. His experienced eye
lightened with hope; he cast his eager glance to leeward. There it is a sailor
looks for the first spark of hope. Ay, thereaway was a little, little gleam of
light. He patted the helmsman on the shoulder and pointed to it; for now neither
could one man speak for the wind, nor another hear. The sailor nodded joyfully.
Presently the continuous tornado
broke into squalls.
Hope grew brighter.
But, unfortunately, in one
furious squall the ship broke round off so as to present her quarter to the sea
at an unlucky moment: for it came seven deep again, a roaring mountain, and
hurled itself over her stern and quarter. The mighty mass struck her stern frame
with the weight of a hundred thousand tons of water, and drove her forward as a
boy launches his toy-boat on a pond; and, though she made so little resistance,
stove in the dead-lights and the port frames, burst through the cabin
bulk-heads, and washed out all the furniture, and Colonel Kenealy in his
night-gown with a table in his arms borne on water three feet deep; and carried
him under the poop awning away to the lee quarter-deck scuppers; and flooded the
lower deck. Above, it swept the quarter-deck clean of every thing except the
shrieking helmsman; washed Dodd away like a cork, and would have carried him
overboard if he had not brought up against the mainmast and grasped it like grim
death, half drowned, half stunned, sorely bruised, and gasping like a porpoise
He held on by the mast in water
and foam, panting. He rolled his despairing eyes around: the bulwarks fore and
aft were all in ruins, with wide chasms, as between the battlements of some
decayed castle: and through the gaps he saw the sea yawning wide for him. He
dare not move: no man was safe a moment, unless lashed to mast or helm. He held
on, expecting death. But presently it struck him he could see much farther than
before. He looked up: it was clearing overhead; and the uproar abating visibly.
And now the wind did not decline as after a gale; extraordinary to the last, it
blew itself out.
Sharpe came on deck, and crawled
on all fours to his captain, and helped him to a life-line. He held on by it,
and gave his orders. The wind was blown out; but the sea was as dangerous as
ever. The ship began to roll to windward. If that was not stopped, her fate was
sealed. Dodd had the main trysail set, and then the fore trysail, before he
would yield to go below, though drenched, and sore, and hungry, and worn out.
Those sails steadied the ship; the sea began to go down by degrees; the
celestial part of nature was more generous: away flew every cloud, out came the
heavenly sky bluer and lovelier than ever they had seen it: the sun flamed in
its centre. Nature, after three days' eclipse, was so lovely: it seemed a new
heavens and a new earth. If there was an infidel on board who did not believe in
God, now his soul felt Him, in spite of the poor little head: as for Dodd, who
was naturally pious, he raised his eyes toward that lovely sky in heart-felt,
though silent, gratitude to its Maker for saving the ship and cargo and her
peoples' lives, not forgetting the private treasure he was carrying home to his
dear wife and children at home.
With this thought, he naturally
looked down: but missed the bladder that had lately protruded from his pocket;
he clapped his hand to his pocket all in a flutter. The bottle was gone.
In a fever of alarm and anxiety,
but with good hopes of finding it, he searched the deck: he looked in every
cranny, behind every coil of rope the sea had not carried away.
The sea, acting on the buoyant
bladder attached, had clearly torn the bottle out of his pocket, when it washed
him against the mast. His treasure then must have been driven much farther: and
how far? Who could tell?
It flashed on the poor man with
fearful distinctness that it must either have been picked up by somebody in the
ship ere now, or else carried out to sea.
Strict inquiry was made among the
No one had seen it.
The fruit of his toil and
prudence, the treasure Love, not Avarice, had twined with his heart-strings; was
gone. In its defense he had defeated two pirates, each his superior in force;
and now conquered the elements at their maddest. And in the very moment of that
great victory—It was gone.
SIEGE OF PORT HUDSON.
page 412 we reproduce a sketch
by our special artist, Mr. Hamilton, illustrating the COMMENCEMENT OF THE ATTACK
ON PORT HUDSON, Louisiana, by the capture by General Grover's division of the
first rebel rifle-pit. The correspondent of the Times thus describes the affair:
General Grover started from
Newport, six miles from Port Hudson, at 8 A.M. on Sunday the 24th, taking the
Clinton direct road, the second brigade in advance, under Colonel Kimball of the
Twelfth Maine, and the Twenty-fourth Connecticut thrown out as skirmishers along
the whole road through dense woods. They met no opposition until they
encountered the outer rifle-pits, about half past eleven o'clock. The reserve of
the Twenty-fourth Connecticut was sent in the woods which flank the pits, and
after a brisk and hard engagement of only half an hour drove out the enemy and
took possession of the pits.
General Grover then took a
position right on the edge of the woods, 800 yards front the main portion of the
enemy's works, but, owing to the position of the land, could only bring two
pieces into play, and an artillery fight commenced, lasting from one to six
o'clock, and leaving our men in their position. During the height of the
artillery engagement General Grover went to the front, and a Parrott shot struck
off the fore-leg of his horse, but the General himself escaped unhurt.
On page 413 we give another
picture, also from a sketch by Mr. Hamilton, illustrating GENERAL AUGUR'S RECENT
ASSAULT UPON THE FORTIFICATIONS OF PORT HUDSON—one of the most dashing acts of
bravery in this war, so replete with heroic incidents. Mr. Hamilton writes:
It having been understood that a
grand and simultaneous attack from every part of our lines encircling Port
Hudson was to be made on Wednesday, the 27th, General Augur, as early as 6 A.M.
of that day, commenced a heavy cannonading upon the works, and continued
incessantly until 2 o'clock P.M., by which time Brigadier-General Sherman, who
was intended to commence his assault at the same time on the left, had his
troops in readiness.
General Augur's assaulting forces
consisted only of Colonel E. P. Chapin's brigade, viz., the 48th Massachusetts,
led by Lieutenant-Colonel O'Brien; the 49th Massachusetts, by Colonel F. W.
Bartlett; the 116th New York, led by Major Love; and the 21st Maine, by Colonel
Johnson; also two regiments of Colonel Dudley's brigade, called up from the
right, viz., the 2d Louisiana, under Colonel Paine; and parts of the 50th
Massachusetts, under Colonel Messer.
Before commencing the assault
Captain Holcomb's Vermont battery played upon the works to draw their fire,
which he did very effectively; and then the order for the assault was given. A
number of brave fellows from each regiment had volunteered to go in advance with
the fascines, for the purpose of making a roadway through the moat; these were
immediately followed by others who had volunteered to form the assaulting party;
and after them the various regiments with their colonels, all under the
immediate direction of Major-General Augur in person.
The scene that presented itself
to the view of our devoted men as they emerged from the wood was really
appalling. Between them and the fortifications to be assaulted lay an immense
open space, at least a mile in length, from right to left, and at least half a
mile in depth from the edge of the wood. This space was originally a dense
forest, but the rebels had ingeniously felled the trees, leaving the huge
branches to interlace each other, and forming, with the thick brushwood
underneath, a barrier all but impassable to any thing in human shape.
It was enough to daunt the
stoutest hearts; but our men are not of the stuff to be scared by any
difficulties. The order had been given that Port Hudson must be taken that day,
and at it they went.
In so horrible a place, where men
could scarcely keep their footing, and were sinking at every step up to their
arm-pits, and tumbling along as best they could with their muskets and fasciues
through the impenetrable rubbish—the enemy all the while blazing away at them
with grape, shell, and canister—the result may easily be imagined. It was
But it was glorious to see the
heroism and endurance of our men. Onward they went—the old flag streaming
proudly above them (the fascine-bearers falling in every direction)—until they
actually, many of them, fought their way clean through the half mile of tangled
rubbish to the narrow open space between it and the breast-works, where, as a
matter of course, the gallant fellows perished. The unequal contest had lasted
from 3 P.M. to 5 P.M., when General Augur, finding it utterly impossible to
carry out the instructions he had received, withdrew his men in perfect
order—returning shot for shot as they got back to the wood.
During these two mortal hours
many a brave soul went to rest. The gallant and much-beloved Colonel Chapin,
wounded in the leg, still went on, until he received a Minie ball in the head,
which killed him, after he had got within it very few yards of the breast-works.
Lieutenant-Colonel O'Brien also fell, eagerly cheering his troops in the
thickest of the fray. Our loss in that brief space of time amounted to 64 killed
and 316 wounded—among them 27 officers killed and wounded.
One of the most extraordinary
instances of courage exhibited on this eventful day was that of Colonel F. W.
Bartlett. This desperately brave young officer—who had already lost a leg in the
Peninsula—finding it impossible to go through the impediments on foot, actually
had the audacity to go on horseback—forming, of course, a conspicuous target for
the whole rebel batteries and sharp-shooters.
Even the rebels were awed into
respect by such an instance of heroism. Who, in God's name, was that man on
horseback?" said a rebel officer to Captain Cutting, of General Augur's staff,
when he went under a flag of truce for our dead. On being told the name, the
rebel officer exclaimed, "He is a brave man, and we actually gave orders not to
shoot him." The good intention was, however, not fulfilled, as Colonel Bartlett
was twice wounded, in the wrist and ankle, but fortunately only slightly.
Another daring act recorded in
our picture is that of Captain Holcomb, who, at the request of Major G. B.
Halsted, the Assistant Adjutant-General to General Augur, brought up one little
field-piece of the Vermont battery, and dashed about the road, from place to
place, drawing the fire of the enemy, and thus saving many lives. In this daring
feat Captain Holcomb was accompanied only by Major Halsted and six other men.