George Coggeshall's name is a renowned one among American merchant seafaring men of the early nineteenth century. His writings on his own experiences and his history of the American Privateers are considered classics of the genre. In this, the first volume of Coggeshall's voyages, we join the author at the age of just sixteen aboard the schooner 'Charlotte'. These lively memoirs recount voyages, incidents at sea, colourful personalities, interesting ports and destinations and of course the true heroines of the sea themselves including 'Industry', 'Leo', 'Sea Serpent', 'Nymph' and others. This book is a must for all captivated by sailors and ships from the time when the maritime highways of the world were the domain of majestic sail. Available in soft cover and hard cover with dust jacket for collectors.
At 1 p. m. saw a ship on our weather quarter, coming up with us very fast. I made sail, steering to the westward, to get to windward of the ship, in order to ascertain her character. It was then blowing a strong breeze from the N. N. W., and the weather was somewhat squally; a head-sea was running. About half-past 2 p. m. the schooner gave a sudden pitch, when, to the astonishment of every person on board, the foremast broke, about one-third below its head, and in a moment after it broke again, close to the deck. While in this situation, I had the mortification to see the ship pass us, within pistol-shot, without being able to pursue her. I believe she was an English packet, which was just out of Lisbon, and bound for England; and, I doubt not, if this unfortunate accident had not occurred, we should have captured her in less than one hour from the time she was first seen. At this time the packets transported large quantities of specie to England, and this ship would, in all probability, have proved a rich prize to us. I have no doubt the mast was defective, and that it should have been renewed before leaving port. From this untoward circumstance, resulted all the misfortunes attending the cruise.<br>
I cannot express the disappointment and mortification I now felt, not so much on my own account, as for the loss incurred by the gentlemen who planned and fitted out the expedition. The Rock of Lisbon bore E. S. E., eighty miles distant, and my only hope was to get into Lisbon or St. Ubes before daylight the next morning, and thus escape capture. I accordingly cleared away the wreck, rigged a jury foremast, and bore away. At 4 p. m., an hour after the accident occurred, we were going at the rate of seven knots an hour, and had the breeze continued through the night, should have got into port by daylight next morning. But, unfortunately, the wind became light during the night, and we made little progress. At 5 a. m., daylight, made Cape Espartel and the Rock of Lisbon, when it became almost calm. We then commenced sweeping and towing, with two boats ahead, until 1 p. m., when a light air sprung up from the westward, and I had strong hopes of being able to get in, or run the vessel on shore and destroy her, and thus escape capture.<br>
At 2 p. m., being about four miles from the land, I received a Lisbon pilot on board. The ebb-tide now commenced running out of the Tagus, and I had the mortification to see a British frigate coming out with the first of it, with a light breeze from off the land. At 2 p. m. I was under her guns. She proved to be the Granicus, a thirty-eight gun frigate, Captain W. F. Wise. We were all removed to the frigate, and the schooner taken in tow for Gibraltar.<br>
Two days after our capture, viz. on the 3rd of December, we arrived at Gibraltar. Nearly all my officers and my men were distributed and sent to England in different ships; the first and second lieutenants, with myself, were retained on board the Granicus to undergo an examination at the admiralty court.<br>
The next day after our arrival the frigate left port for Tetuan Bay, Morocco, opposite Gibraltar, to obtain water and to be painted. We were taken on this little voyage, and had I not been a prisoner, I should have enjoyed very much the novelty of the excursion, which occupied three or four days. Captain Wise was a fine, gentlemanly man, and always treated me and my officers with respect and kindness. We messed in the ward-room, and I had a state-room to myself, and was as comfortable and happy as I could be under the circumstances.<br>
I used to dine with Captain Wise almost daily; he frequently said to me, “Don't feel depressed by captivity, but strive to forget that you are a prisoner, and imagine that you are only a passenger.”<br>
He also invited my first lieutenant, Mr. Depeyster, occasionally to dine with him, and said he would endeavour to get us paroled, and thus prevent our being sent to England. We stated to him, that we had voluntarily released more than thirty British prisoners notwithstanding the American government gave a bounty (to letters-of-marque and privateers) of one hundred dollars per head for British prisoners brought into the United States. These facts, Captain Wise represented to the governor, and also added, that the five English prisoners, found on board the Leo, said they had been very kindly treated, and he hoped His Excellency would release me and my two lieutenants upon our parole, and let us return direct to the United States.<br>
The governor refused to comply with the kind request of Captain Wise, and said he had positive orders from the British government to send every American prisoner, brought to that port, to England. When Captain Wise informed us that he was unable to obtain our liberty on parole, he gave me a letter of introduction to a friend in England, requesting him to use his best interest to get myself and my first and second lieutenants released on parole, and thus enable us to return forthwith to the United States. Mr. Daly, an Irish gentleman, second lieutenant of the Granicus, who was connected with several persons of distinction in England, also gave me a letter to a noble lady of great influence at court. I regret I do not recollect her name, but I well remember the emphatic expression of the kind-hearted and generous Daly when he handed me the letter to his noble friend.<br>
“Cause this letter to be presented,” said he, “and rely upon it this lady will never allow you or your two friends to be sent to prison in England.” Mr. Depeyster was a high-spirited man, and when he learned that we could not obtain our liberty on parole, he became extremely vexed and excited, and told the ward-room officers that if it should ever please God to place him in a letter-of-marque or privateer, during the war, he would never again release an English prisoner, but would have a place built in the vessel to confine them until he should arrive in the United States; that the bounty of one hundred dollars given by the United States government rendered it an object to carry them into port, but from motives of humanity we had released many of their countrymen; and now they refused to parole three unfortunate men who were in their power. I said but little on the subject, but from that moment resolved to make my escape upon the first opportunity.<br>
The next day after this conversation (December 8th), Captain Wise said “Captain Coggeshall, it is necessary that you and your officers should go on shore to the admiralty office, there to be examined with respect to the condemnation of your schooner, your late cruise, &c, and if you will pledge me your word and honour that you and your officers will not attempt to make your escape, I will permit you and the other two gentlemen to go on shore without a guard.”<br>
I told him at once that I would give the pledge not to attempt in any way to make my escape, and would also be answerable for Mr. Depeyster and Mr. Allen. This ready compliance on my part resulted from a desire to gain an opportunity to reconnoitre the garrison, or in seamen's phrase, “to see how the land lay,” in order to profit by the first chance to make my escape when not on parole.