Letter #92

Not dated at head, but begun at Barbados on 8 December 1837 

New books arrived in Barbados in good time. Jack Brag was a novel by Theodore Edward Hook, famous as a practical joker, published in 1837. 

Rebels seeking to overthrow British rule in Upper Canada (now Ontario) took up arms in November, but they were defeated at the Battle of Montgomery’s Tavern on 7 December. However, armed protests against undemocratic British rule continued in Lower Canada throughout 1838. 

The naval base at English Harbour, Antigua would be of great interest to English. It had been established for over a century, and included the well-equipped Nelson’s Dockyard.

Had not the sailing of the Packet been deferred for two days, I verily believe it would have puzzled me to have found time to give you my dear Kate more than a note, as will appear by the account of events that have transpired since my last letter was dispatched. You have already learnt that the Seringapatam arrived a few days before I forwarded the November report and that young Henry Naghten was with me. Since he has passed much of his time here. He’s a fine warm hearted boy with much talent and full of life & fun. He and a mess mate named West have just gone aboard in my Dingy. The latter, in the attempt to save his trowsers, got a good wetting from a surf, much to my amusement. They slept here last night & were present at my levée, which shall be described so soon as Major Hamilton departs. He is now riding up to the entrance. ‘Good morning, Mjr Hamilton, how are you this morning?’ ‘All right, start tomorrow by the Mail for Antigua, have come to say good by and thank you for the appointment of Assistant Engr.’ ‘That’s it, is it – eh? Straight up, right down and no mistakes’ – quotation, Jack Brag by the Author of sayings and doings. I have been under the necessity of ordering Capt Hope to Demerara from Antigua which will account for the above arrangement in consequence of a disposition at the King Comical country, or our Dept there running a little riot. Well, the Major is off, and now to continue, but must give my story in my own fashion. A few days after writing to you my dear Kate, a vessel arrived with intelligence of disturbance amounting to rebellion have broken out in Canada, which you may suppose in this monotonous place gave all parties somewhat of novelty, in converse about, many and various have been and still are the conjectures. Amongst others at the General levée last tuesday I had my joke and started the ‘on dit’ that a Man of War would be sent off immediately for assistance, that the 65th & 36th would of course embark as the two first Regts to be relieved, that two troops of Volunteer Cavalry, brave Barbadians, were to be formed for the defence of little England, & some more nonsense. The same day, Capt Leith dined at our mess. I like him every day more. But the second sight part is to come. The following morning, Wed – signal: Man of War bearing down which proved to be the Cornwallis, but how is this? No Admiral’s flag, no salute from the Seringapatam, but a recall from the latter to all shore gone men, & such a skelter, for most of the Crew, or a portion of them, were on leave. The Admiral not being expected until after Xmas [word missing] very shortly made know that [word missing] flag ship had sailed from Halifax at a few hours’ notice when it was blowing a gale of wind, has been to Bermuda, I think, or direct from thence & was sent off for Two Regts to Barbados. This was about 10 oclock. Away gallop’d the staff to order the departure of the 65th, another Regt could not be spared, but half the 76th embarked to relieve the wing of the 65th at Grenada. Away went the Engineer to the famed Betsy Austin’s to call on Sir Richard Grant who was off to the Gen & Govr, but I found I was to meet him at dinner, so home the Engr gallopped again, dressed & proceeded to Col Tyler’s where I had a most hearty shake by the hand, talked of you all & thought of you all, asked him to breakfast with Capt Leith and Capt Lawlor RA, an old acquaintance. Home to bed. At six they were at the Pier arranging for the embarkation. At nine we breakfasted in the Marble gallery and did they not tuck in? That’s all and ‘no mistake’. Sir R and your transported husband went in one gig & Capt Leith with Lawlor in the other. We hail’d the packet: ‘Don’t sail till Saturday, Sir’, went on board the Frigate and then all to the Cornwallis, then the two Capts went to the Town and the Engr & Bumbardier were put ashore at the Engr Wharf where the bustle had commenced. The 2 Mids soon afterwards joined on leave. To amuse this party, I man’d or boy’d my gig, the Hand Grenade, and started them on a commission across the Bay to Bridgetown, 7 happy fellows. At three the troops embarked with cheers and the Bands playing, Mrs Senior 65th, Mrs Gardiner 76 &c &c taking refuge in Shot Hall until all was clear and the barge ready to take them on board. Of course I took care to have the needful in the way of Turkey legs, Pickle, salmon, cake, fruit with Iced wine, beer and water laid out the aforesaid marble gallery. The gates at the end of the garden were thrown open when all those so disposed attended the Levée & the adieu to Mrs Senior, which consisted of Genl, his staff & the several comdg officers. When all were clear away the two Mid made a set two and payed at the remains in excellent stile – ‘no mistake’. I dined with the 36th to meet the officers of the Frigate, leaving the Reefers to take charge of my quarters, well tired, both were in bed on their sophas when I returned about 10. Today we werethat is the elite – to have the first meeting of our Club or Maroon party. It fell to my lot to send a cold roast pig. The weather being unfavorable, all the provision is sent to Col Tyler’s, where we are to partake of the collection at 4 oclock. It being now past three, as Capt Trollope 36th Regt who just rode up & told me, I shall conclude & close this tomorrow morning. Capt Leith is going for a few days to Antigua. He has offered to take me which I think of accepting, having business there. The Genl has requested me to attend him round the stations, which of course I shall do so soon as the Admiral leaves this for Jamaica. The affairs in Canada may alter this arrangement as we are to go in the Seringapatam. God bless you dear Kit.

9th Decr: Merry Xmas dear Kate & a happy new year to you all including my first wife MOB. I am much gratified to find you are so frequently together. I have already stated my present intention of going to Antigua with Capt Leith. Our first trip there will be for a few days only to look at the Dockyard & probably touch at Martinique or Guadeloupe and return in a week as the Admiral is expected soon after Xmas in the Pearl. After his departure the Genl & all his staff make a start. We get on capitally together – the contrast with Sir Com and Sir Sam is beyond description. Our party yesterday was agreeable enough and we were early home. It amounted to about 34 – the Genl & staff, Capt Leith and officers, Lts Thomas and Anson – Lt Allen the 1st did not come ashore, he dined with me last tuesday & frequently comes here to breakfast or to lounge about the shaddy walks. What a run away you have been from ‘the bosom of your little family’. The last accounts from those who saw you, I hear you all look bloomingly. I wish I could get a peep at the fire side. The Belvidera has reached home, Capt Leith informs me, & you must have recd the ginger. Young Bingham has been here, I find, but did not call. Like a Luby he little knows what a good friend he might have at court in the acquaintance of the Comd E. However, I find so many to pay attention to that it is an escape. I have recd intimation from Pall Mall that 3 officers only are to embark for this comd whereas I want 5. I suppose they will jockey me when my turn arrives to return home & make difficulty as to the relief. I want to be with you dear Kate. Comd is very flattering & one may play the big man, but I prefer the comd of my own frigate – yourself and the 4 fillies – with love to them. Have you and Mr Marriott made out the Comd pay? I continue to send the Returns which are not questioned – ‘no mistake’. The stock yard has been increased by various gifts – a Deer from St Domingo by Lt Owen, Carron steamer, a pig by another, pigeons by Mrs Monins &c &c &c. The lady sow I bought from the Sovereign transport has six children. Adieu dear Kate, regards to my Uncle, Mrs H & Mary OB.

I am delighted to learn that my Uncle looks so well – most likely I look the elder now. It would not do me service applying for another comd until my time here is up. The brevet will add 4 or 5 shillings pr diem to our pay. Regards to Capt Tait & Col Reid, Mrs Reid. I was in a fright about the sadlery but luck is on my side. It is much required in my ménage. Lots of Rain here, the hay 2d crop looks queer. Love to my Dr girls & Gusto, with regards to Miss P. G must learn Spanish. Rgd to John, Eliza, Ed & Louisa &c.

Your afft Fred

How are Lady & the Misses Gardiners? Remember me.

Does ‘your heart sicken within thee’ dear Kit. Your afft FE.