Letter #38

Diamond Rock is an outcrop at the southern extremity of the French island of Martinique. It was captured by the Royal Navy in 1804, enabling them to control the channel between Martinique and St Lucia, and to render the base at Port Royal unusable. The garrison was finally overcome by superior French forces in June 1805. 

There is another reference here to young Fred’s promotion hopes, with a warning against sharp practice. In line regiments, where promotion depended on vacancies, some officers wishing to sell out delayed the sale in the hope of getting a higher price than the regulations allowed.

                                     Barbados Tuesday 21st July 1835

Here am I again all right and well my dear Kate, seated in the precise spot in the same room and about the same time before breakfast that I was the latter part of last Jany 20th occupied in writing to you. The time appears actually to have flown away or that I have had a long sleep and the adventures of 5 or 6 months at St Lucia an amusing dream. However, most undoubtedly this is Barbados and it is likely to be my lot to remain some few weeks here. In the morning previous to sailing from Dominica I closed and posted a letter for you, and the mail boat came to anchor as we left the Bay. I trust the news of my having quitted St Lucia will reach you before you can hear of it from Mrs Studd, whose good husband looked the picture of health when I parted from him, and I must confess is one of most agreeable companions I have met for a long time. I had not many regrets in leaving St Lucia but the loss of his society was one of the principal. Capt Tait has just rode up to the door and now mounts the stairs, not crying but bawling for his breakfast, and the Sergt Major has this moment informed me that I am President of a Regt Court Martial at ½ past nine to try one of the black soldiers named Mi Lord or commonly called Mi Lor for stealing wood. It will be rather amusing, but happens at an unfortunate time when I wish to write you and my dear girls a long account of what has occurred. ‘English! Breakfast’ Capt Tait vociferates – adieu. A delicious breakfast it was off shrimps. The Court Martial is also over and Mi Lor found guilty. In his defence he said, ‘Me swear by de six toes Got e Mity gave me Massa on dis right fut dat me no teef, it de first time me no ask nobody, me take de wood for mine vife, me wrong, me no teef’. He has six toes on his right foot. Our voyage was unpleasant in the extreme. Before we were clear of Scott Head, Dominica, a wild and fearful looking headland, the highest ground I think certainly that I have seen in the West Indies, we experienced some severe squalls. Every quarter of an hour the crew had to take in sail or make sail, constantly on the watch for these young hurricanes. The morning of the 13th July we were beating off Martinique and close to the famed Diamond Rock which was taken possession of by a Capt of British Man of War and a gun mounted on it, causing considerable annoyance to the french during the war. [sketch of Diamond Rock] Mr Hawker will tell you more of this little history. The garrison were at last starved out. The night of the 13th I thought would be the last time I shd see this object so often gazed upon from my windows at St Lucia when thinking of home, but both the Diamond Rock of Martinique and the Island of St Lucia were both to be said adieu to again, and were objects upon which our eyes were fixed the whole of the 14th July. In the morning of this date we found the ship driven by current and contrary wind off Pigeon Island with a rough sea & wind ahead. Our Skipper did all man could do to beat clear of the St Lucia rocky shore, the land of serpents, but it would not do, and towards midday we tacked towards Martinique, making after some hours’ sail about 4 miles to the Southward of the diamond. At last we cleared the land and a fine kicking about we had that night, the poor women all sick. Mrs Ireland, whose late husband was in the 76 with 7 children packed into a small cabin, was an object of pity and suffered greatly. Towards the evening of the 15 Wednesday we thought we could observe the land of Barbados, which at daybreak the following morning was ascertained to be the case, but, the wind so completely in our teeth, I had no hopes of landing before friday. By some lucky slant of wind we made Carlisle Bay and anchored just as the Gun fired at 8 oclock PM and shortly afterwards my old friend Capt Martin 76, now in the Q Master Genl Department, came off with boats for our baggage. At Capt Tait’s quarters I found all the Mess collected & the evening was passed with lots of laughing. ‘Laugh when you can!!’ It was no laughing matter when I got to bed, a temporary one made up until I get my own. Oh how those rascally Mosquitos did annoy me – I could not get a wink of sleep, it was even worse than the terrific squalls we experienced on the night of the 15th when the Duke of York had to take in all sail as quickly as possible. Friday – my horse and Toby were safely landed. I was invited to dine with Sir C Smith, but there being a large party at the Mess I declined. The composition of this gathering was as follows – Capt Martin in chair, Lt Col Bridgeman with whom I dine today left, Lt Col Tyler right, Capt Grubbe, Capt English, Dr of the 1st Royals, Capt Hamilton Staff, Capt Jones RN comdg the Vestal, the ship that lost 40 or 50 of her men at Jamaica, Capt Warren Mily Sect, Pickard 76, R Artillery & R Engrs, some plain coats &c &c &c – rather a gay evening and went to bed sober. In the morning Sir C drove me into town to make some visits and told me that Demerara & Berbice were to be made my comd, thus poor little Thompson is to report to me. Sir C says he has no confidence in him. On Saturday, we – that is Sir C & FE – dined at Mr McCleary’s, meeting lots of Navy people. I sat next to Capt Jones, who in the middle of a hot mess of turtle soup exclaimed ‘I say, are you a brother of Charley English?’ On my replying in the affirmative he gave me such a shake by the hand that nearly sent the soup over my white Calimandecoes. On Sunday I dined at Sir C Smith’s. After dinner he drove Lady S, Leicester Smith and myself into the country on the coast where we make a visit & were made to drink champagne, and ended the evening at Shot Hall. Yesterday they had a party to dinner at which I was present – excellent fare and bad music in the evening. A Lt Watson RN of the Vestal was the only naval officer, the party having been made up previous to the arrival of the Savage Brig, Cruiser Brig and Spitfire Steamer, the latter bring news of a revolution in some of the Dutch settlements on the Main or Continent. I overheard some of the plain coats talking of it last evening, who feel interested in the trafic there. Today I meet the Tylers where I expect to dine tomorrow, and thursday I have an engagement at a Mr Le Fevre’s – these are all the overwhelming feelings of hospitality rushing upon me like a torrent on first arriving. It will all subside long ere I obtain a passage to Guiana & from thence you shall have an account of the welcome I receive from the acquaintance made under Sir Charles’s wing. The Auldborys are, I regret to add, gone to England – a family I almost lived with when at Demerara. Your letters will of course be still directed to this office here unless you communicate with the W India Docks. Vessels are sailing from thence every week nearly. Did not Mrs Naghten give me a letter for Mr Fitzgerald – I think it is the name – who married a daughter of Col Goodman in Demerara? I received great attention from the latter. Remember me to that little woman when you see her. I must not forget to give my thanks, my best thanks, to Aunt OB & MOB for the preserves. I have just sent a jar to Lady Smith. It has arrived in very good order. Your letters of the 12th May – your date, it should be June – I met here. The packet had a fine passage and left Barbados before the Duke arrived, & Capt Tait had the foresight to stop my Dispatch in place of sending it to St Lucia. I recd them on the 16th Inst. You had better leave these official people to themselves and not write to them. Sir H Vivian would not stir in a Corps arrangement without consulting the Inspector General. The latter is the man, but until I have served my two years I doubt the probability of getting out of this climate. The Master Genl’s first note proved what I have always heard of him – a cold hearted worldly person. He had read your letter and only wished to put you off. The letter you took so much trouble to write my dear Kate I thank you for with all my heart. It can do no harm as the M Gen cannot suppose you were addressing him by my consent. If you are troubled my dear Kate in your finances you must use the power of Attorney to liquidate what you require and send me another. Fred has been a little sanguine respecting his promotion. The youth or whoever he may be, if he has joined to sell, will remain until those under him will subscribe and increase the sum considerably above the regulations to get him to leave and give the step. This is a common practice – it is a villainous trafic but winked at. I never have drawn any wine allowance – the only sum that could have been drawn on that account is for the Mess here during the periods I have stopped at Barbados, which Capt Tait tells me Sir C gives over to the joint RA & RE Mess. This changing of station and moving is extremely expensive, & I have been under the necessity of drawing much more than I wished. Still, I shall keep at the end of the year within what I expected would be necessary. Since I last mentioned drawing 25£ which sum you allude to in your last letter, I have drawn two bills of 25£, one dated I think the latter part of May or beginning of June, the other 9th July, the day I left St Lucia. I did not write about the former as it had not been sent home. They both went together from St Lucia on the 10th by 8 day Mail boat that I sent my letter forward by from Dominica. I was vexed to draw again & left it to the last moment before departing, when I found my money running too low. How I wish we had a joint purse again & that I was with you again. Yesterday I dined with Col Bridgeman, meeting Col & Mrs Tyler, Capt Martin & Capt Grubbe – pleasant enough. I have just read a letter from Mrs Reed to Capt Tait from Weedon. No mention is made of the people there – I suppose they are not yet acquainted.

God bless you my dear Kate, love to the children, regards to Miss Parker & best of wishes to my Uncle H, Mrs, Mrs OB & MOB, not forgetting the Henry Hawkers. How is Jenny? How I am kicked about, it makes the time fly – adieu dear Kitty.

I want a Forrage Cap, New Pattern. Never send them out by friends unless they are coming to Barbados or direct to Demerara. The Jam is delicious.

Right well up to 22 July 1835.