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Herbert Benezet Tyson Letters

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Document Type: Autograph Letter Signed

Author: Herbert B. Tyson
Date: February 27 - March 6, 1865
Place: At sea, and off Cape Haitien, Haiti
To: Carroll S. Tyson

Physical Description: ink on paper; 10 pages (26 x 20 cm) on 3 sheets, 2 folded

Number: MSN/CW 5010-2

Transcribed by: Paul Patterson and George Rugg, 2002, 2005

(Please click on our Technical Details button at left
for more information on transcription conventions,
image scanning conventions, etc.)

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U. S. Str. "Connecticut."
February 27th, 1865
At Sea
Lat. 24° 34' N
Long. 66° 33' W

My dearest Brother,

     Now that things are getting shaken down to their places, I shall have a little more time to myself. I wrote to you last, in the evening of our arrival at Bermuda. That letter I suppose will reach you in about a week from this time. I stated that we should probably have an opportunity of going on shore in the morning, and so it proved. The Captain and Paymaster went to pay a visit to the Governor and Sent the Surgeon and myself to call on the American Consul. We took our pilot with us to show us the way, and after pulling about a mile in the boat, were safely landed under the lee of a huge Coral Rock. It was a walk of about three quarters of a mile to the Consul's house, and as we had to climb up several hills, the day being quite warm, we were altogether [illeg] when when we arrived. We expected, of course, that the Consul would do the decent thing, but to our in tense disgust he was out. We found nearly every one very sesesh, and received nothing but scowling looks from all. This however did not bother us much, as we

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had not come ashore to see the people, but to take a stroll over the Island. On our walk to the town of St. George, I picked up a pocket book containing a two and a half dollar gold piece, and on looking round, saw a lady in front of us some fifty yards. Supposing she had dropped it I hurried after her and presenting the pocket book, asked if it was hers. She thanked me very graciously but at the same time looked a little astonished, that a "Yankee officer" should have so much honesty. This will doubtless establish a good caracter for the Connecticut in the Islands of Bermuda. As the Consul was not to be seen the Doctor and I concluded to walk about the Island for an hour or two before going off to the ship. Accordingly we strolled down the main street of St. Georges into the country and mounting to the Summit of one of the highest hills, the most beautiful landscape was presented to our view, that I have seen for a long time. Far below us was the town of St. George with its beautiful harbor looking like fairy land. The Sea was a bright light green and blue colour, dotted here and there with little Islands of coral and trees. Small boats were sailing about, and in the Stream were anchored several large blockade runners, painted lead color. These latter are evidently puzzled and are at a loss where to go. I trust we may fall in with some of them although it is rather late in the day. Directly opposite us, on the other side of the harbor was St. Davids Island

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This Island contains a large cave, which we of course, had not time to visit. Several white houses rising from the trees along the slope of the hills, give it a very pretty and interesting appearance. Further to the right was Cooper's Island and several others of coral rock, and away to the westward, on our right, streached the Great Bermuda Island. Behind us lay the broad Atlantic and the reef upon which the breakers dash and foam. We could see the Connecticut riding at her anchor inside the reef looking like a small vessel. After enjoying the prospect for some time we continued our walk, gathering wild flowers as we went. The docter, being something of a botanist, taking more interest in them than I did. Feeling thirsty we stopped at a house and an old woman gave us a glass of water. It tasted strongly of limestone. Water is not plenty on the Islands, there being few wells, and these only resorted to in extremities. Most of the houses have a large tank connected with them in which rain water is caught and this furnishes the inhabitants with that necessary article. We next visited Fort Albert on a neighboring hill and then walked down to the boat. In pulling off I was struck with the clearness of the water; the vegitation and coral on the bottom, being distinctly visible at a depth of from forty to fifty feet. The Captain arrived on board soon after we did and the docter told him about the pocket book. He immediately sent for me and said he was sorry to hear to such a bad account of

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me -- that of course the pocket book had been droppped on purpose,-- that when he was a young man he would have made the lady's acquaintance at once and been invited up to her house,-- In fact he did not think he would throw away the opportunity now, old as he was. He wanted all his officers to "pitch in" on the least chance and carry all such things by storm. I made the best excuse possible, telling him Bermuda was not Boston, at which he smiled knowingly, and I believe succeeded finally in convincing him the pocket book had been dropped accidentally as it was open when found, and told him if the slightest encouragement had been given I should have "pitched in" without the least hesitation, and satisfied him with the assurance that another chance in the West Indies would not be thrown away. He is a thorough Seaman and a very sociable old gentleman. All of us are very fond of him. Shortly after our interview the Connecticut got underway and we were soon again on the ocean. Last evening while in the cabin marking the Ships position on the chart, the Captain told me several of the places we would first visit. At present we are standing for Cape Haitien on the North coast of St. Domingo. Here we will fill up with coal and then start for Jamaica; from here to the town of St. Domingo on the South side of St. Domingo, then to St. Thomas one of the Windward Isles after this we will be guided by circumstances but will probably cruise on the Spanish Main, along the North coast of South America. This after ten oclock and

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and as I must turn our early in the morning I will now, dear Carroll, say good night.

March 2nd At Anchor off Cape Haïtien,
Island of St. Domingo.

     Since writing the above, nothing, dear Carroll, has occurred of interest, until today, when we arrived at this town. During our passage down the weather has been most delightful; very similar to that experienced by the man who wrote "Life on the Ocean wave." The trade winds blowing a pleasant breeze all the time, we did not feel the heat as much as we otherwise would have done. The thermometer has been as high as 86° in the shade -- White pants and straw hats are fast becoming the fashion, and about ten days ago we were freezing. Yesterday Morning at daylight, we discovered land in sight about thirty miles off. It appeared like a dim blue line of clouds, but was the mountains of Haiti, in the neighborhood of Cape Vieux Français. All day we steamed along the north coast of the Island, hoping to make our port before dark, but at Sunset found ourselves still thirty miles off. We stood on our course however until we had approached the harbour of Cape Haïtien to within six miles, and not deeming it prudent to go further in the dark, on account of the reefs and shoals which lie near the entrance, turned round and steamed slowly until 4 o'clock this morning, when I came on deck and gave the course to

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the Cape. At daylight we discovered land and by seven o'clock the harbor, right ahead of us. The town of Cape Haïtien is situated in a small bay, on the Western side, a few feet above the sea level. Directly behind it, rise the hills of Haut du Cap, the summits of which are frequently in the Clouds These hills are very steep and nearly covered with foliage of various kinds. The town is not, at present, a place of much importance, having been destroyed by an earthquake in 1842, at which time about six thousand people perished. It had then a population of from sixty to seventy thousand, and was one of the largest towns on the Island. Now there are scarcely six thousand persons in it. These are mostly Negros although there are some "Dagos." The southern shore is low and swampy but large mountains may be seen a few miles inland. On the summit of one, the ruins of what was once an extensive castle, can be discerned from our anchorage This place we propose visiting on Saturday on horseback, but I think I will ride very slowly and not forget Port Hudson. At half past eight we received a pilot on board - a darkey -, who carried us through the channel to our anchorage; and shortly after, Nones (Chief Eng'r.) and myself went ashore and paid a visit to the American Consul. The streets were not remarkable for cleanliness, nor did the houses attain even a moderate size; not more than half, being two stories high. The place reminded me strongly

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of the Azores, which you recollect we visited from the Naval Academy. Small mules with pack saddles seem to be the principal quadrupeds. On entering the Harbour this morning we found the Neptune here. Some of her officers, with whom I am acquainted, I met today, and they will probably join our party to the ruined castle. The Galatea, who had been out convoying a mail Steamer, arrived at about Noon. Bacon is her Paymaster, and as I will most likely see him tomorrow shall have an opportunity of asking after Miss Colgate! I can hardly keep my eyes open. Yesterday and today I rose two hours before daylight, and I think the best thing I can do is to try a little of tired Nature's sweet restorer. So with dearest love to all. Good night.

March 4th, 1865.

The last two days I have enjoyed very much, Yesterday morning, while sewing a button on my coat, McFarland and Bacon came on board, to see me. They are both very fine fellows, especially Bacon, for whom I entertain a high regard. It was really quite pleasant to meet after our long separation; and we sat an hour or two smoking and talking over old times in New York and of the people in Philadelphia. They invited our Paymaster and myself to dinner which we accepted, and getting oursleves up in white, returned with them on board. Bacon "messes" with the Captain, who most fortunately was dining out -- so we four with the Capt's. Clerk had undisputed control

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of the Cabin. The "feed" was Capital and I could find no fault with the excellent claret and Havana segars which followed the repast. Claret is about the only wine drank here, and although ale was on hand, none of us drank any as it is not considered wholesome in this warm climate. The variety of tropical fruits, however, we did not go back on. Altogether it was the decent thing and passed off admirably. Dinner being over by half past four, we had one of the Cutters manned and went on shore. Here four pretty little ponies were procured, (Bacon doing it,) which we mounted, and started for the Country. Riding about six miles out the main road, we stopped to rest at a country place, belonging to a friend of Bacons. I have rarely enjoyed a ride more this one. Every variety of plant and tree common to tropical climes is here to be seen, and the large numbers of wild flowers load the air with fragrance. The splendid mangrove, the palm, the cocoa nut, the banana, the orange, the lemon, the fig, and numberless others, the names of which I do not know, were scattered about in rich profusion, in all stages of groth. Some loaded with delicious fruit, others covered with the sweetest blossoms. Up the slope of the mountains, at the foot of which we rode, were endless varieties of forest trees, the trunks of some completely hidden by the convolvuli and other creeping vines, whose brilliant flowers bloomed to the topmost branches, the contrast with the different colored leaves, rendering them all the more beautiful. and then the artillery plant, whose flowers so much resemble a bursting shell, that a traveller remarked he could almost imagine a company of artillery had

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bivouacked beneath its shade. But it is impossible for me to describe even a part of the many natural beauties of this lovely Island, and what I have said can give you but a faint idea of them. We turned our faces towards the town about Sunset and arrived at the American Consuls a little after dark, well pleased with our ride. Our appetite having risen considerably since dinner we concluded to take tea at the English Consul's. His wife is an American lady from Boston -- rather pretty and quite entertaining. She welcomed us very cordially, being about the only American lady in the place, she has no society save that of the officers of the different vessels, all of whom go here, frequently. The Consul, Mr. Dutton, came in shortly after. He is a good enough sort of a fellow, slightly built with black beard and moustache, and looks like a southerner. The supper was fair, consisting of broiled chicken, tongue, bread and butter, cake, Guava Jelly, Claret tea and coffee. After tea we adjoined upstairs to play cards, being joined in the evening by Capt Nicholson of the "Galatea" and a Citizen (white!) named Lyons. Having passed quite a pleasant evening we started for our vessels at half past elevn, receiving very pressing invitations to call whenever we were on shore. This morning I felt rather stiff, but McFarland, coming alongside in his boat after dinner, Nones and I went on shore with him. There we met Lieut. Kane, and all of us took another ride Similar, in all respects to our ride of yesterday. Nones and I took tea on the Galatea and returned to the Connecticut shortly after dark. Bacon and

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McFarland will probably dine with us tomorrow, on board. I believe I have told you everything of interest so will close for the night as I want to take a bath and must rise shortly after daylight to rate Chronometers. Good night dear Carroll. I think of you all very often.

March 6th.

The Str. Galatea leaves to day, to meet the mail Steamer for New York. I will there fore bring this to a close, in order to be in time. I think we will leave this port the latter part of the week, but cannot say for certain what will be our next stopping place. I think however we will go to the town of St. Domingo, on the South side of this Island, and from there to the Windward Isles. But I will keep you advised of all our movements as opportunities occur for sending letters. Doubtless this letter will give you an idea we are having a very good time, and so we are, but it would be real enjoyment, were you all here to share it. For the present, dear Carroll, good bye, the cruise will not be a long one and I may see you "Deo Volante," before the year is out. I fondly trust so at all events. Remember me to all my friends around Penllyn Norristown & Philadelphia. To Uncle Charles' family and the Cleemanses; and give my dearest love to them at home.

As ever dear Carroll,
Your devoted brother,
Herbert B. Tyson.

Mr. Carroll S. Tyson.
Norristown. Pa.

Transcription last modified: 06 Mar 2007 at 10:45 AM EST

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