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Herbert Benezet Tyson Letters

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Document Type: Autograph Letter Signed

Author: Herbert B. Tyson
Date: May 3-5, 1865
Place: Off Aspinwall [Colon], Panama
To: Carroll S. Tyson

Physical Description: ink on paper; 6 pages (26 x 20 cm) on 1 folded sheet and 1 sheet

Number: MSN/CW 5010-5

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
May 3rd. 1865.
Off Aspinwall

My dearest Brother,

     Yesterday was a day of joy and Sorrow to us all--Joy at having news from home--Sorrow on learning the death of the President of the United States. What an awful thing to fall by the hand of an assasin just as his fondest hopes were being realized! But I will not anticipate. My last letter to you was sent from Barbadoes, You may recollect, in it, I mentioned that our Stay at this latter place was very limited. Of course you know the twenty four hour law about belligerants. We arrived at Barbadoes in the morning, as the English line-of-battle-Ship "Duncan" Admiral Sir James Hope, and the English Frigate "Aurora," were standing to Sea. On discovering our vessel a signal floated from the Admiral's mast head, and shortly after the Frigate returned and anchored within two hundred yards of us. Capt. Boggs had communicated with our Consul and the Governor on shore, informing the latter that he would like to remain some days as he had some necessary repairs to make on the Engine. In the afternoon an officer from the Aurora, in full uniform, came on board, presented the Capt. with an official letter and immediately left. The letter was from the Governor or Commander of the frigate. I don't recollect which, informing the Capt. that if he would state, it was impossible for him to proceed to sea

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in his present condition, he could reamin until his repairs were effected. Of course Boggs was rather riled at this as he had already said the repairs were necessary. In his answer he said, "Your letter is a virtual refusal of my request. You wish me to state it is impossible for me to go to sea in my present condition. This I cannot do, for an American man-of-war can go to sea at all times under all circumstances. I shall proceed to sea tomorrow morning after the twenty four hours have expired. Regretting your want of hospitality &c. I remain &c." In the afternoon Our Consul visited the Ship, and was saluted with Seven guns. It is not etiquette to Salute your own people in a foreign port before the Flag of the foreign power. But in this port we did not salute the English Flag, but left in the morning, with no love lost, I suppose, on either side. From this place we had intended going to Trinidad, but that being of the English possessions we concluded to pass it by. This we accordingly did and shaped a course for Cumaná Venezuela. It was at this time we experienced our first rain, which rendered our situation not very comfortable. The navigation among so many Islands and Shoals, and along the Spanish Main, at all times dangerous, is particularly so in the rainy season. On the second evening after leaving Barbadoes we anchored under the west end of the Island of Margarita; and on the following morning at 11 o'clock off the town of Cumaná. This place I took but little pride in. There are a few huts, which compose the town. However we had a very good time walking along the beach Shooting pelicans and a kind of black duck which is found here in large quantities. At Cumaná we

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stayed some days and then Started for La Guayra, the Sea port town of Carracas. This City is built on the Coast, at the foot of a lofty range of hills, which are covered with Stunted foliage. We arrived on the 14th April and remaned until the 17th, during which time it rained almost incessently. On the evening of the 17th, we got underway and in the morning arrived at the Dutch Island of Curaçoa. Here we met a number of very nice people and enjoyed ourselves hugely. The Dutch were very friendly & nearly all of them talked English fluently. On the 24th the Docter, Paymaster, Chief Eng'r. and myself on horseback, with the Capt. and an American Gentleman (the latter doing it) in a carriage, rode out about 9 miles to the plantation of a Dutch gentleman, named De Brot, and spent the day This we enjoyed exceedingly. We strolled over his grounds, which were covered with all kinds of tropical fruit, & drank the milk of the green coco-nuts. These nuts were filled with milk the inside not yet having formed, and were very delecious. In the afternoon we dined and returned, about 8 in the evening much pleased and a little stiff from our long ride. The next day we dined at the Consul's, and the following we received the news of the Capture of Richmond. This of course called for a "big time" at the Consul's which we accordingly had. The Consul's name is Faxan [i.e., James Faxon], a brother to the Chief Clerk of the Navy Department. He is a very worthy man. From Curaçoa we went to Cartagena and from there to Aspinwall, where we arrived yesterday at about half past twelve. Here we received the news of Lee's surrender and the death of the President. At the present

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time there is a flag at each mast head half masted and every half hour a gun from the forecastle proclaims his loss to the country. I received in all, five letters yesterday: two from you, one from Mama, one from Papa and the other from Aunt Hetty and it would be difficult to give you an idea of the pleasure I experienced on reading them. In your last of April 12th you say it is No. 3. so I conclude that one has been lost. I am sorry dear little Ellie has been unwell but as you say nothing about it in the last letter, I suppose she has entirely recovered. I am very glad dear Nev. has come home again, for he was leading a life that would rapidly unfit him, unless great care were taken, for any other life. The Captain yesterday Said that we would be in Hampton Roads in twenty days, So write to me there on the receipt of this. Our vessel may go out of Commission on our return North, in which case I may be permitted once more to see you all. I fondly trust so at all events. But then of what use is it to be at home a few days and again go off for years. I see by the papers all the regulars, especially the younger ones, are being sent on foreign stations, where poor devils! they will have to remain from two and a half to three years. Every day am more and more resolved to lead a life on shore. During this short cruise we have had a splendid cruise no cruise could have been enjoyed more, but when I look back over it, I cannot see how I have in the slightest benifited myself or any one else, either mentally morally or phisically. The Capt. committed himself the other day, I always thought he was an ardent lover of a sea life, but during one of his fits of the blues, he remarked very solemnly, "Well, I never

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made but one mistake in my life, and that was when I did not resign when I had the chance." But I think I have written enough for one sitting so for the present dear Carroll will close.

May 5th.

     Learning that the mail Steamer will sail for New York today, shortly after dinner, I will add a few more lines, before closing, although there is nothing of much interest to communicate. Aspinwall is by no means a place of gaiety, and none of us trouble it a great deal. We went ashore once and were so through by the time we got back, that we have never been Since.
     Here we will most probably remain until the next mail Steamer arrives, which will be on the 9th, when I hope I shall receive some more letters. It is possible on our trip N'd. we may stop at Havana a short time also at Key West or Port Royal for Coal, and reach Hampton Roads about the 25th of this month. If it is decided to put the vessel out of commission we will, I think, go to New York; after this, what will become of any of us, it is impossible to say. A few months leave of absence would be the decent thing, but I can hardly hope for it--so many are ordered off to foreign Stations almost as soon as they arrive North. A pleasant prospect to go to the East Indies for three years! But I will not anticipate such vile luck.
I am glad to hear that the prospects of the Winslow Petroleum are so good, I only wish some pize money had

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been on hand, and I should have gone in "heavier". This prize money, I have heard nothing of since I met McKinlay in Philadelphia. Should you meet him, mention the subject to him, for I suppose he knows all about it. I want to go home very much and see you all again. We have been to such a number of different places and seen so many different things that it seems a much longer period of separation than it really has been. We are all, in fact, in a most singular frame of mind, alternating between hope and fear, doubt and expectation. Everyone is wishing we would make a start, that they might know something with certainty. But "it's the way in the Navy," and we must have patience. Dear Carroll do not omit to write at once to Hampton Roads on the receipt of this. I shall anxiously look for a letter. I don't know which the Flag Ship is at Hampton Roads, but it will be sufficient to direct to the Connecticut. Give my dearest and fondest love to them all at home. Tell them I daily think of them and they are not forgotten my prayers, as I know I am not in theirs. And now dear Carroll good bye. I trust that I may see you before many days. God forever bless you my dear Brother, Good bye.

Your devoted and affectionate brother,
Herbert B. Tyson.

This, I think, is No. 6.

Mr. Carroll L. Tyson

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

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