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Herbert Benezet Tyson Letters

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Document Type: Autograph Letter Signed

Author: Herbert B. Tyson
Date: March 24 - April 8, 1865
Place: Basseterre, St. Christopher Island; Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe; Fort-de-France, Martinique; Bridgetown, Barbados
To: Carroll S. Tyson

Physical Description: ink on paper; 10 pages (26 x 20 cm) on 2 folded sheets and 1 sheet

Number: MSN/CW 5010-4

Transcribed by: Paul Patterson and George Rugg, 2002, 2006

(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.
Off Basse Terre. Island of St. Christopher.
March 24th, 1865.

My dearest Brother,

     My last letter I sent to you two days since by a British Schooner, which was bound to New York. I finished it in a great hurry, and will try in future to keep our adventures written up to the day of their occurrence, I believe I left off on the 22nd. and to "Continue my narrative." ([illeg] blast.) On the morning in question, Nones, the Doctor and I went ashore, for the purpose of calling on Mr. Fry and thanking him for the pleasant ride he had given us the day before. We remained at his house about half an hour and, wishing to take a stroll about the town, he kindly offered to pilot us; and show us all there was of interest to be seen, which by the way was not much, as the town of Fredericksted is not large. We killed time however in this way until three o'clock and there adjourned to the Consul's. Here we met the two Mrs. Moore again and their father, one of the former had been on board ship to invite us to dinner, but not finding us there had obtained the Capt's. permision for us to remain until after dark. of course we accepted and played billiards on their table until

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just before dinner. We sat down to the table at five, and must have presented quite a heavy appearance. We three were there, with Capt. Boggs,--Mr. Fry, Mr. Moore his two Sons and three or four other gentlemen. The dinner passed off with great success, being even handsomer than the one at St. Thomas. If this thing continues, I shall have the gout in a few weeks more. In the evening Mrs. Fry, a Mrs. Hood and a Miss Dearing joined our party and while some of the genlemen played Eucre, the remainder of us blew until about eleven. The Captain, has a very bad way of never knowing when it is time to leave, which we must endeavor to correct. Before going we arranged a party to come on board ship in the morning. Mrs. Fry, I suppose some of you know. She is very pretty and ladylike. She and her husband are going to leave Santa Cruz the middle of next month, for Southampton, England. As we were going Fry again very kindly offered us horses to ride the next morning before breakfast, but thinking it would hardly pay to turn out so early, and receive company afterwards, we thanked him and declined. Yesterday at ten in the Morning, Nones and I went ashore with two boats for the party. This was larger than we had anticipated, the ladies and gentlemen amounting to about twenty five. However we stored them all in the boats and took them aboard where they remained until two o'clock, having, I hope, a tolerably fair time. I know I enjoyed it very

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much. I accompanied them on shore and saying good bye, turned my steps toward the boat, lamenting the necessity of our going to sea in the afternoon for I should have liked exceedingly to remain longer, as we had we had such a very good time here; and now I suppose I will never see any of them again, unless it may be Mr. & Mrs. Fry on their return to America. But this is part of my profession (?) In the afternoon at five O clock we were under way for this place. I was on deck at daylight and discovered we were just passing the Island of St. Eustatius. By [illeg] 2 o'clock we were close to the Island of St. Christopher, (or St. Kitts as it is often called,) and the prospect presented to our view, was without exception, the handsomest I have ever looked upon. The land rises, at first, gradually from the Sea and then towers into lofty mountains. All the Island, where it is possible for a plough to enter, is in a state of cultivation: and the vast fields of Sugar Cane, of every color from the bright yellow, to the lightest green, give it the appearance of the richest carpet having been spread over all. Behind rises Mount Misery, its summit far in the clouds, and almost down to the water's edge is Brimstone Hill, crowned with the ruins of ancient fortifications. At the time of our approach the Island presented a singularly beautiful appearance. All around Mount Misery the black clouds had gathered, and half way up many of the hills the rain was descending heavily, while the fields and valleys were bathed in Sunlight, their many shades rendered more

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striking by the contrast with the dark shaddows above. We anchored off the town of Basse Terre about half past ten A.M. and the Doc. and myself went on shore and paid a visit to the Consul. In the afternoon the Capt., Docter, Chief Eng'r., Paymaster and I went to pay a visit to the Governor. He resides a short distance out of town in a very pleasant part of the Island. His carriage met us at the landing and took us to his house. Here we saw two English ladies, but whether they were relations of the Governor or not I do not know, none of us having heard their names on being introduced After sitting an hour we took a ride in the Governors Carriage, and returned on board a little after dark. This evening we will start for the Island of Guadaloupe. Good Night.

March 25th, off Pointe á Pitre, Guadaloupe

     Last evening we left Basse Terre to continue our cruise further South. I can write but little to night as I am so universal through; I turned out at daylight and for ten or eleven consecutive hours have been standing on my feet in the hot sun, navigating the vessel through the different passes and among dangerous shoals. This Island bears much resemblance to St. Christopher, but is not so pretty. We arrived and anchored about one oclock and I called on the Consul and brought him aboard. I did not walk about the town any because of [illeg] through feeling, so will reserve a description of it

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until I have another opportunity of visiting it Most probably we shall remain here a week or ten days, in which case we may become acquainted with some of the people on shore, whom we expect to do the "handsome" thing,--Feeding us and so on--But to night I can say no more. So for the present adieu.

April 2 3rd.
Off Fort Royal, Island of "Martinique"

     Our adventures for the past ten days, having presented no striking peculiarities, I have delayed my writing until to-day. We remained at Guadaloupe about a week coaling, I spending most of my time on shore. We had a very good time,--going to the Opera and playing billiards, being our principal amusements. The day before yesterday we got underway at daylight and Stood to the Sd. for this Island. In the afternoon, having come in sight of St. Pierre, we discovered the U.S.S. Wacheussetts [sp. Wachusett] at anchor, off the town and Stood in for her. Here we anchored until the following evening. In the evening nearly all of her officers came on board, and we had quite a pleasant time, talking over past adventures. She is ordered to the East Indies, where she will remain [illeg] three years. Yesterday we got underway again and in a little more than an hour [illeg] anchored safely off this place. The town is similar

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to all the others of the West Indies so I will not attempt a description. Yesterday afternoon the Capt. Nones, Docter, Paymaster, & myself went ashore and took a stroll, enjoying ourselves very much observing the various things of interest. At the present time (11.30 A.M.) I have just returned from paying an official visit, with the Capt., to the French Admiral & Governor. This cruise is probably as pleasant a one as has ever been taken. We seem to have nothing to do but enjoy ourselves, and yet, how willingly would I forego the whole for one day at home! I was struck with the truthfulness of a few lines, the other day, which pardon me if I bore you with;

"Who has not felt how Sadly sweet
"The dream of home, the dream of home,
"Steals o'er the heart too soon to fleet
"When far o'er Sea or land we roam
"Sunlight more soft may o'er us fall
"To greener shores our bark may come;
"But far more bright, more dear than all,
"That dream of home, that dream of home.

"Ask of the Sailor youth when far
"His light bark bounds o'ver Ocean's foam,
"What charms him most when ev'ning's Star
"Smiles o'er the wave? To dream of home.

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"Fond thoughts of absent friends and loves
"At that sweet hour around him come;
"His hearts best joy where'er he roves,
"That dream of home, that dream of home.

     By this time I have got acquainted pretty well with all our officers, and each one has chosen his companions. The volunteers, (five in number) generally go together. They are very good hearted fellows, but not such as I should care to call my intimate friends. The Executive officer is a great talker; the greater part of his conversation having little or no sense in it. He is a small man, married and miserable. Lamenting bitterly on the day he ever entered the Naval Service, and saving every cent, with a view of resigning as soon as the war is over. He is about twenty eight or nine years of age. The Paymaster, a young fellow of twenty four or five, is always in a good humour, Possessing excellent sense he is nevertheless quite green and boyish about many things. He is however, generous and openhearted and a real good fellow. The Chief Engineer, is a man of twenty eight years of age. He I probably am more intimately acquainted with than the Docter, and like him exceeedingly. He is a person who has seen much of the world and has many fine qualities. Doctor Hubbard (from Boston,) is a very fine gentleman for whom I entertain a high regard. He is a very well informed man and his good qualities are numerous. So you see, I am very pleasantly Situated.

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April 7th.
On the road to Barbadoes.

There, again of course, I have botted one of the back pages. I am really ashamed to send this scrall home, but my appartments are so confined that I have not free use of my arms, and if I touch ink, am sure to get it all over my fingers, Add to this the Ship rolling heavily & the ink stand upset two or three times! Of course you will not show this to any one out of the family. At Fort Royal, or Fort France, as it is called, we had quite a pleasant time. We went on shore, as usual, and listened to a very fine band, which plays every evening. The day before yesterday, at five in the afternoon, the Captain, Paymaster and myself, went on board the French Flag ship, by invitation, and dined with the Admiral. Quite a number of French officers were present, and in talking with them, they said if I remained in the Island a month longer, I could talk French like a native. This, however was probably a little blarney. The dinner lasted nearly three hours, and I was glad when it was over. We had at least fifteen or Sixteen courses! Such an endless variety of dishes I never saw before and many kinds of the light wines of France. It was altogether a very georgeus affair, and only Frenchmen know how to get up such things. Yesterday morning we left Fort Royal and arrived in the Port of Castries (or Le Casenage) Island of

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St. Lucia, about two in the Afternoon. Here we remained until 4 this afternoon, at which time we got underway and, rounding the Southern part of the Island are now Standing for Barbadoes. We expect to anchor of the town of Bridetown [sp. Bridgetown], in the morning--This since starting from Boston is the first time that I have spoken about leaving the service, on board ship; and really I was a little surprised to find how many others are of the same opinion as I on the Subject. The Exec. Officer's aim of life is to honorably hand in his resignation, a thing which could not well be accomplished while the war last. The chief Eng'r. has tried to resign but the Dept. would not accept his resignation until the war is over. The first time I knew the Docter intended to leave the Navy, was one day after we all had returned from shore. Some one remarked "Well we have had a first rate time today, but after all what are we living for what are we doing?" I replied, "We are dragging out a worthless existence." The Docter turned Sharply round and, in his earnest way, remarked, "You never made a truer speach in your life, and I for one, am going to stop it." I have since then talked much with him on the subject, and his ideas are mine exactly. He has never advised me to resign, but on the contrary, has pointed out the advantages of my position, I only 22 years of age holding a Lieut's Commission, getting such a slalary

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always sure of my pay &c. but on asking him how he would like to change places, he had no more to say; and seeing that I had resolved, come what might, to resign, acknowledged that he also would do the same had he double my salary and half my age. How little a person outside the Navy understands it! They think they know all about it when they have not the faintest idea of anything connected with it. But I must not write about it or it will give one the blues. I am looking forward and this makes life worth striving for. May our Father in Heaven bless you all at home, dear Carroll and keep you safely until my return. I will now say good night, as I shall have to rize at early daylight.

April 8th, off Bridgetown Island of Barbados.

We arrived here this morning at 8 A.M. English Neutrality compels us to leave in 24 hours. I will explain more fully in my next. At present I must close this in time to go on shore with the others. Our next port will probably be Cumana on the North Coast of Venezuala, I will, however, write you at every opportunity. So until my next, dear Carroll, good bye, My dearest and fondest love to all at home. In a month we expect to be at Aspinwal, then hurra for news from home. Good bye.

Your most affec Brother
Herbert B. Tyson.

Transcription last modified: 06 Mar 2007 at 10:44 AM EST

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