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Diary Extracts: Empire

Extract 1: Account of the American slaver "Clara Windsor"
Extract 2: Account of Halifax
Extract 3: Account of the emigrant steamer "Glasgow"
Extract 4: Account of British intervention in Haitian conflict

(All extracts taken from GB 0240 FA/67/3)

 

Extract 1: Account of the American slaver "Clara Windsor" captured by HM Gunboat "Espoir"


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Transcription

 

[p 118]


HMS Buffalo  Sierra Leone
January 7, 1861

9. am went on board “the Clara Windsor”.
It would be utterly impossible to describe
the sight which presented itself to us when
we first went on board;- and; it would be equally
difficult for any one who had not seen it, to
comprehend the amount of misery, the suffering
and, the horrors, that were contained within
the wooden walls of that little craft.
The ship is about 250 tons burden, and has her
slave deck running right fore and aft, which
is about 3½ feet in height. The stench from the
vessel is so great, that even at the distance of
two hundred yards to leeward it is almost insufferable.
When I went on board, the majority of the slaves
were on the upper deck, mostly, squatting in rows;
- each row, sitting between the legs of the one behind it.
On the foetid, sloppy, and, sickening slave deck were
to be seen the remainder, consisting of men, women, and,
children, huddled together; some emaciated to skeletons;
some lying sick and heedless of all around; and,
some on the point of passing into another world;
where; it would be hard to imagine they could suffer
more than they had done in this; men and women
lay promiscuously:- some lying on their faces, some
on their backs; and, the more enfeebled sat with their
heads resting on the knees. All were naked and
had their skins besmeared with the filth in which they lay.
On the upper deck were to be seen slaves of all

 

[p 118]

Page 118 extract

 

 

[p 119]

ages from 30 years downwards; here also men women, and,
children lay or sat promiscuously and presented the same
appearances as those on the slave deck. a skeleton woman
- quite naked – might be seen in a dying state, with
an infant sucking the already half dead breast;-
while adjoining; might be seen another apparently dead;
her shrivelled breasts showed that her milk had long
since gone; yet; a starving baby held the nipple in
its mouth and struggled hard to obtain what
man’s cruelty had robbed it of. Here, indeed might
be seen a specimen of that affection which nature
implants in the bosom of woman, for her children, and,
which, would show that the civilized and uncivilized
possess it alike:- in every case of misery, and
where the woman was even senseless, or, apparently
dead, or dying, her little baby was firmly clutched
to her bosom as if it were the only tie that held her to life.
There were amongst those on the upper deck a great
many children of ages varying from 5 to 10 years, every
one of whom presented a most pitiable appearance;
- emaciation in the last degree; filthy bodies; ophthalmia;
scurvy, and, disease of the skin, were in nearly every
case combined, but, by far the most horrible sight
was forty children suffering from Dysentery who were
thickly stowed on the deck of a deck house in the
fore part of the vessel. These poor little wretches
were lying in the filth discharged from their own
bodies; so wasted, that every bone protruded prominently
under the skin, and, their abdomens so collapsed that
the spine could be felt with the most gentle pressure.
Most of them presented a careless and resigned
appearance, but a few wore such an expression
of woe and misery in their skeleton faces as one would
fancy should draw sympathy from the very hardest hearts,
yet, it is not so, the human beings, in the shape of white
men, who traffic in them look on their suffering as
they would on the dying struggles of a slaughtered
ox. Three or four of these little children raised
their heads and looked at us with such a half-dead
and woeful countenance that we were unable
to endure the sight any longer and left them.

 

[p 119]

page 119 extract

[p 120]

After the slaves have been shipped, a few of the strongest
men are selected to look after, and feed the others, and strange
to say these men are more cruel than brutes in the
treatment of their fellow-slaves, thus, when any one becomes
sick and cannot eat he or she is allowed to die of starvation.
While passing between two rows of slaves on the
upper deck I observed a man belonging to the original
crew, (a white American), kick a little negress out of his
way like a football, because she happened to be a slight
obstruction to his passage.
            To stand on the poop of the vessel and look on the
collection on deck, and such as could be seen through
the hatchways, on the slave deck; an honest man must
be impressed with a deep horror of this hellish traffic
which degrades beings of human form a thousand fold
lower than the brute creation. Imagine a mass of
naked black bodies closely packed together, amongst whom were
to be seen emaciated young women with starving infants
sucking their wasted breasts, - infants crawling over sickly
emaciated, and, half dead mothers,- men sitting in a state
of profound apathy, apparently looking forward to death to
relieve them of their sufferings, - the sick and dying lying
in their filth like bodies thrown prematurely to rot in
the sun, - the groans of the sickly,- the quarrelling of
the women, - the chattering of the man, - the cries of
newly born children, - the laughing and enjoyments
of the more healthy children, the apparent contentment
of a few men and women more favoured than the rest
and who were enjoying their tobacco pipes, - and, lastly,
but not least the horrid, horrid stench arising from
the ship and the filth tubs disposed over both
decks, and one can form a pretty close idea
of the appearance of a slaver! What a sight to
witness in an age when civilization is supposed to
be so advanced! Yet, this vessel is but one of
the vast number that annually escapes to the
opposite coast!
10.am Slaver got under weigh to proceed up the river
to “Kissy” to land her slaves at the Slave yard there.
10.30 left her and went on board “Buffalo”
at a little distance she looked like a yacht, so

 

[p 120]

page 120 extract

[p 121]

very white were her sails and so pretty her hull
            3.30 p.m. went up the river in the “Buffalo’s” cutter
to witness the landing of the slaves: all were landed
when I arrived and were arranged in “the yard” in rows –
the men, women, and, children, arranged separately:-
the sick thrown by themselves to be counted for
“head money”. Six hundred and Sixteen were
landed alive.
Returned to “Buffalo” in the evening.

[p 121]

page 121 extract


Extract 2: Account of Halifax


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Transcription

 

[p 220]

HMS Duncan  Halifax
November 11 1864

Went on shore. The town of Halifax presents all
the appearances of a moderate English town, perhaps
not so neat and regular. One street would
not disgrace a very fashionable locality in
London. The Ladies dress well fashionably
and are apparently handsome and possessing good
figures. The shops are very good.
The wharfs are well lined with shipping.
I feel notwithstanding the pleasant appearance of
Halifax, very much dispirited and longely.

[p 220]

page 220 extract 


Extract 3: Account of the emigrant steamer "Glasgow"

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Transcription

 

[p 223]

HMS “Duncan”    Halifax
December 11 1864

Snowed heavily all night: went to the Seamen’s mess
Began to thaw about 10.OC (AM) which almost immediately
caused the streets to be nearly impassable.
No one could preserve dry feet who had not
snow boots on. At 1. P.M. the Inman
passenger steamer “Glasgow” came in to the harbor short of coal
I went down to “the Cunaid Wharf” to have
a look at the ship and emigrants: The ship is
bound to New York with her live freight.
I have seen slaver’s in their greatest misery
but never did I see such a striking appearance
of misery as I saw amongst those wretched
emigrants! Negroes in a slaver have
at any rate the comfort of warm weather
for their nakedness, but here was to be seen
the whole side of the ship (next the wharf)
closely packed with human forms expressive
of all the characters of human nature.
All were so scantily clothed that it made
one freeze to look at their state. None, I
may say, wore any covering on their heads, shoulders
or arms, yet we were wrapped up in the warmest
clothing we could procure, ladies in the streets
were all furs; gentlemen in furs and heavy
coats yet these poor creatures were in the
miserable cotton dresses one sees them
embark in at Queenstown – Ireland. All
the time I was looking on, it snowed, sleeted
thawed, froze, alternately, yet those creatures
remained gazing and devouring the appearance of
the wharfs and those on them.
    To run one’s eye along the crowd you received
a solemn subject for study! Who among
the thousands that are well clad and well fed,
yet always complain of life’s bitters, could look
on their suffering fellow creature in this case and
not say that his lot is an earthly paradise by
comparison? Ah! Are those beings inferior
to the rich, the proud, the tyrants, who look upon
them with mocking eyes and sneering
remarks? The majority of those people think so!

 [p 223]

page 223 extract

[p 224]

This world, in but few instances, decides the question,
but here is the Grand field for faith; and blessed indeed
must those suffering beings be who have faith and suffer
for faith’s sake. Their Crown of happiness beyond this
life must be one beyond all comprehension – aye! beyond
the crowns of the martyrs and the saints of old for their
sufferings were generally short, though severe!
    The sufferings of one of those emigrants in mind and body
is not and cannot be understood by the mass of the
public. Does any one ever picture to himself what
it is to leave one’s Country, ones friends, ones house, ones
birthplace, ones altar; aye! perhaps also ones father
mother, brother and sister, one’s wife and children, or
ones betrothed? !!! This alone is a grief of griefs but
when you add to that what must follow, such as
a long sea passage, with its privations and discomforts,
a strange land to be thrown upon, houseless, and, penniless;
often clothless and starving!!! The hardest heart must
melt in sympathy, the proud must be humbled and the
tyrant and oppressor of those creatures must blush
and tremple [sic]! for, so surely as these beings are exhibited
to the worlds gaze as objects sufficient
to draw a bloody sweat from any one with a
feeling of human sympathy, so sure must there
be a merciful and avenging God watching over that
human freight. Mercy and glory must be great
for the good amongst them and vengeance heavy
against those who have willingly brought all
about!! For the wicked amongst them they draw
their daily punishment with their daily crimes but
it is to be hoped that the sufferings even of the wicked
may plead before Almighty God and cause him to grant
them grace in reason.
    Alas! it is to be feared that in too many cases these
sufferings tend but to blunt the intellect and demoralize
the victim. Many have said so! and many have
remarked that it is no uncommon thing for a youthful
country girl to leave her home full of innocence
and virtue, and a few weeks afterwards to land in the
chosen country, abandoned in mind and body; only
a fit associate for the lowest class of harlots!

 [p 224]

page 224 extract

[p 225]

I regret to day that the Physiognomy in many
cases would tend to support the last remark.
Several of the young girls stared with an expression
of very doubtful meaning – indeed often accompanied
by remarks of a similarly doubtful nature.
One the other hand the expressions of many other
was nothing more than an indication of cold
and wretchedness: some old women were leaning
their heads on their hands in an abstracted moody
state while others possessed a stupid indifference
which may be observed in human beings whose
minds have given way under the pressure
of their thoughts.
    On the whole the impression produced on one’s mind
by the appearance of the female portion of
the freight was not favorable.
    Should it, however, be true that virtue
is in a great measure sacrificed by the immigration
of the poor, we have still more reason to feel
deeply for all their trials of mind and body and
regret that they allowed the devil to take away
the great merit in store for them had they borne
up faithfully. But blessed indeed must
those creatures be who can present to God
in a new land, a faith, an innocence, and a
purity still untarnished!! God grant
they may be many!

 [p 225]

page 225 extract


 

Extract 4: Account of British intervention in Haitian conflict

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Transcription

 

[p 303]

[HMS Galatea]
November 6 1865

My attack of Intermittent Fever quite gone to day
11.30 Met H.M.S. “Lily” off “Pearl Point”
Proceeded together to the Eastward. 8-11 PM passing
along the island of. – Making all preparations
for a bombardment of the forts. I hope, should
a strong resistance be offered, that our small
force may be adequate. Everyone thinks that
a great mistake has been made in not
sending more ships. We are to breakfast
early tomorrow morning; then go to quarters.
Before opening fire an attempt will be
made to rescue the French Consul: our English
Vice Consul, we find, has already escaped. Prisoners
are handed over to the Amazons to be mutilated
We all swear to die first!

[p 303]

page 303 extract 

[p 304]

November 7 1865

Breakfasted at 6.30.AM. – approaching Cape Haitien
we expect to be fired upon by the Fort at the
entrance of the anchorage. 8.15. Went to quarters
for action. Loaded all the starboard guns
alternately with shot and shell. 9. passed
“Fort. Picole” – Every one at his quarters: as
we  steamed before the muzzles of the guns
we each moment expected “a volley”
The guns seem to be about 40 pounders.
There was no appearance of an intention to
attack us. The Haitien flag was hoisted.
9.30.AM Anchored off the town of Cape Haitien.
The wreck of H.M.S “Bulldog” is visible above water
the line of the orlop deck is on a level with the
water and the engines &c are blown into a
confused mass considerably above water.
The paddle wheels without “floats” are quite
out of water.
Found here a French Gunboat.
Noon – The American paddle steamer of war
“De Sota” arrived (no doubt to aid the rebels our
enemies). We are not to bombard till
tomorrow morning. The Lily is to attack
a strong looking fort on the low land to the
Eastward of the town: we are to attack some
strong earth works and the forts towards the town.
    From 7.30. P.M. till 11.P.M. lights flickered all
over the hills, no doubt the seats of guns
or earth works for us or Geggrard’s army.
    The hills are so densely wooded that it
would be impossible to see these in day-time
    If they intend to show fight they may give
us some hot work.
    We warned an English schooner to get
out of our range of fire. The French G.B.
proceeded to sea about 2.P.M. Our guns
are to be kept loaded for the night.
    President Geffrards army is encamped
on the plains about 8 miles off. They
will, no doubt, advance and occupy the forts &c
and town as we destroy or silence them.

[p 304]

page 304 extract

[p 305]

November 8th. /65

During the night the inhabitants sent
off a letter offering as a compensation
for the loss of ‘the Bulldog’ over 1 000,000,
pounds of coffee &c - &c - &c –
No notice taken of this letter.
Breakfasted at 6.AM. 7. proceeded to
moor ship abreast of forts and town.
Lieut. McClean sent to communicate with
President Geffrard’s Army as to an advance
when we bombard. 8.30. A man came
on board, representing himself to be the
Venezuela consul, to beat with us.
His offers were rejected – allowed an
hour to communicate with Genl Solnave and
cause him with the 6 leading rebel generals
to be delivered to us. 10. returned and offered
to give up the 6 leading men but to reserve
Genl Solnave – offer declined:- given
another hour for communication.
These now went to dinner: officers had
a hasty luncheon. 12.30. being over time
and no appearance of a boat, beat to quarters
for action. A broadside of shot and shell was
pointed and ready to be fired on the upper
earth work when Lieut. Butler reported
that a boat had shoved off from the shore.
    Bugle sounded for inaction. The men seemed
like maniacs with disgust. This “Venezuela Consul”
(whom we are told is one of President Geffrard’s deadly
enemies) offers that Genl Solnave with all his
staff will surrender on board the American steamer
and treat with the Consul General (now on board us)
    This is refused, but we offer that if they
will surrender on board her and be removed
to any place they may wish we shall not bombard
the place. They are given till 10.P.M. to surrender
after which time no further communication
will be held with them. Beat the retreat
and the men returned to their messes
evidently greatly disgusted at not having
a small dose of nigger shooting.
Blowing hard and likely to be a bad night – heavy thunder and lighting
Let go S.B. anchor and let ship swing from moorings.

[p 305]

page 305 extract

[p 306]

November 9. /65

6.AM. officers breakfasted: proceeded to shift
ship into position for action. About 8. Four or
Five English residents came on board for
protection: A 2nd letter arrived from Genl Solnave
offering an explanation for the execution
of the English consulate refugees and a
declaration of his ignorance and innocence
of any share in the matter. No notice
taken of the letter. 8.30. a great delay having
already occurred in getting the ship into position
on of the hawser parted causing a still further
loss of time. The Lily now made signal
for permission “to open fire on Fort St. Miguel”
which was answered by “Must wait, our
hawsers are foul”. 9.AM. The signal (Red flag)
went up for action – beating at the same time
to quarters. The Lily almost instantaneously
opened fire on Fort St. Miguel. Two shots
were returned immediately which fell a little
“wide” but as the Lily’s shot, shell, and rockets poured
in very rapidly the troops appeared to fly from
their guns as no further shot was fired on her
    After this the effects of the Lily’s 110 Pr Armstrong
and 68 Pr were terrific: each shot tore
away a large mass of masonry
    We opened fire a few minutes after
the Lily with our main and upper deck
guns on Fort “Bellair”; and, with our after
Pivot Armstrong on Fort “St Miguel” – This
cros fire at about 2500 yards relieved the Lily
very much and assisted in speedily battering
down the ramparts. Our shell dropped with
splendid aim into Fort Bellair and Fort “St Petre”. A
third fort was speedily silenced.
The shots fired at us fell very far short – even
those delivered from a masked battery on the
nearest point. Our ten inch shell seemed
to terrify them, particularly, I suppose because we
were beyond their range, for every battery was quickly
abandoned though their flags still remained

[p 306]

View image from p 306

page 306 extract

 

 

 


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