Royal Naval Biography/O’Brien, Donat Henchy
DONAT HENCHY O’BRIEN, Esq.
[Post-Captain of 1821.]
Is lineally descended from one of the ancient monarchs of Ireland, and was born in the county of Clare about the year 1785. He entered the navy, as midshipman on board the Overyssel 64, in Dec. 1796; and commanded a flat-bottomed boat at the landing of the British army, near the Helder, Aug, 27, 1799. After the invasion of Holland, he was placed in charge of a merchant vessel laden with granite, one of a dozen or thirteen similarly filled, intended to be sunk at the entrance of Goree Harbour, to prevent the egress of three Dutch line-of-battle ships. The whole of these vessels, we believe, foundered in a heavy gale of wind, on their passage across the North Sea, and Mr. O’Brien appears to have owed his preservation to the humanity and intrepidity of Lieutenant Tatham and a boat’s crew belonging to the Lion hired armed cutter, by whom he was rescued, together with the few men under him, only three minutes before his stone-ship went to the bottom.
Mr. O’Brien next joined the Amphion 32,and served in that frigate; under Captains Richard Henry A. Bennett, Alexander Frazer, and Thomas Masterman Hardy, until the renewal of hostilities with France, in 1803. He was then removed to the Hussar 38, Captain Philip Wilkinson (now Vice-Admiral Stephens); the destruction of which ship has been noticed at p. 577 of Vol. I. Part II. The circumstances attending her loss are thus detailed in a “Narrative” published by the subject of this memoir, in 1814, containing “An Account of his Shipwreck, Captivity, and Escape from France, after undergoing a series of sufferings which lasted for nearly five years.”
“On the 6th February, 1804, the Hussar made sail from Ayres bay, in Spain, with despatches from Sir Edward Pellew, for England, with a fresh breeze from the S.W. – Wednesday, 8th, wind and weather the same, steering (as near as I can recollect) N.E.b.E. running nine knots an hour. At about 10-45, steering the same course, and running about seven knots, in dark hazy weather, we struck on the southernmost part of the Saints, beat over an immense reef of rocks, carried away our tiller, unshipped the rudder, and, from the violence of beating over, damaged the ship’s bottom considerably, so that she made a great deal of water. At length we got into deep water, and let go our bower anchors to prevent being dashed to pieces on immense rocks a-head, on which we were fore-reaching. Sent top-gallant-yards and masts upon deck, and used every possible means to ease and lighten the ship; the major part of the crew were at the pumps; the remainder, with the officers, employed as most expedient, staving the water casks in the hold, and shoring the ship up, as the ebb tide had now made, and she was inclining to starboard. The carpenter reported her to be bilged, and we could distinctly hear the rocks grinding and working through her, as the tide fell.
“At day-light, Mr. Weymouth (master) was sent to sound for a passage amongst the rocks, imagining we might be able to buoy the ship through: but he returned without success, though had he accomplished it, from the state the ship was in, there could have been little hope of getting her out. A division of the seamen and marines, with their respective officers, was then ordered to go and take possession of the island, that in the last extremity there might be an asylum secured for the crew and officers. The rest of the men remained at the pumps, hut with very little success, as the leak kept gaining upon them. The island was taken without any opposition, the only people on it being a few distressed fishermen, and their families.
“Feb. 9th, at about 1 p.m. every body was safe landed, with two or three pigs and some biscuit, which were the only subsistence we had secured. Captain Wilkinson and Mr. Weymouth came in the last boat. At about 1-30, Lieutenant Pridham, Messrs. Carey, Simpson, and Thomas (warrant officers), with myself, were ordered to return to the ship, to cut her masts away, and destroy every thing we possibly could get at. On our arrival on board, the water was nearly square with the combings of the lower deck. At about 3-30, quitted her, having executed with the greatest accuracy the duty we were ordered upon; the wind still increasing, which left us but little hopes of her hanging together for the night.
“We joined the officers and crew in a little church, and this was the only place on the island where we could conveniently take up our residence. The weather was excessively inclement during the night. At day-light, discovered the ship still apparently whole. Captain Wilkinson despatched Lieutenant Pridham and Mr. Mahoney. master’s mate, with a party of men, to destroy her by fire. The other officers and people were employed in equipping thirteen fishing boats for the purpose of transporting the ship’s company, either to our fleet off Brest, or to England, as circumstances might admit. Mr. Pridham and party returned, and the report of the ship’s guns announced the execution of the duty they had been sent upon.
“On the lOth, at about 1-30 p.m., our boats were in readiness, it then blowing hard from the S.W. We all embarked in them. I had the honor to command one, with 25 men; Captain Wilkinson, with the master, leading in the barge, which was the only ship’s boat in company. We made sail out of the little creeks in which the boats had been moored, the sea running excessively high, and at about 2, the barge hauled up to the N.W. We all, of course, followed. At 2-30, or three o’clock, we bore up again; several of the boats were in distress, being very badly found, having neither sails, rigging, nor ground tackling that could be at all trusted to. Lieutenants Pridham, Lutwidge, and Barker, were to keep a-head, as no other boats had compasses. At about 5, in a very severe squall, with rain, we lost sight of the barge; and at 5-30, of all the boats. At about 6, observed St. Matthew’s light on the weather bow. The wind now chopped round to the N.W. in a heavy squall, which carried away our main-mast and fore-tye, and very nearly swamped us, having almost filled the boat with water: rove the main-tye and halliards forward, which enabled us to set the foresail and keep scudding towards Rock fort, with the expectation of falling in with some of the other boats, but were disappointed. At 11, determined to anchor in the bottom of Bertheaume bay, though with very little or no hopes of riding long, our only ground tackling being a small grapnel and a few fathoms of l&inch. We fortunately succeeded in bringing up, though most miserably situated. The weather tide running strong against a violent gale from the N.W., occasioned such a sea, as to bury us frequently in its abyss.
“At 2 a.m., the sea breaking in a most dreadful manner over us, and expecting every second to be dashed on the rocks a-stern, we hauled in briskly on the grapnel-rope, hoisted the fore-sail and wore round, paying out the rope just hauled in, until we brought it right over the quarter, which enabled us to get our grapnel on board with case; while we stood over to the Carmaret bay side, in the hope of falling in with some little haven to shelter us, or with one of the other boats; but we were disappointed in each expectation.
“At about 4-30, finding we advanced towards Brest harbour considerably, we resolved to try the grapnel once more; although we were not in the smallest degree sheltered from the inclemency of the weather, and were placed immediately under a fort, which we distinguished by lights, that enabled us to see the sentinels on their posts walking to and fro. We made, if possible, worse weather here, than at our former anchorage, with the exception that the grapnel held. At 7-30, the wind and weather became more inclement than on the preceding night. Not a boat in sight, every minute expecting to be hailed by the fort, and not a soul amongst us that could speak a word of French, almost perished and starved from the fatigue and sufferings of the night, the few provisions we had being totally destroyed by the salt water. Seeing no alternative, but the pain and mortification of delivering myself and boat’s crew prisoners of war, I came at length to that resolution, ordered all the small arms to be thrown overboard, cut the grapnel-rope, and ran into Brest harbour.”
Imagining that the boat’s crew and himself might be better treated on board the commander-in-chiefs ship, than in a private one, Mr. O’Brien went alongside l’Alexandre, bearing his flag, where he was received with the utmost civility, and every attention paid to his wants. The French officers informed him, that eleven of the other boats had arrived in the night; the thirteenth fishing boat, commanded by Mr. Gordon, midshipman, effected a landing at Conquet, about 12 miles west of Brest.
“On the 11th,” says Captain O’Brien, “we were all sent on shore to the hospital, each of us being more or less indisposed. The officers who conducted us, insisted upon my wearing my sword all the way, which the French captain had refused to receive on board, observing that I had been unfortunately wrecked, and not taken in fight, and consequently had no right to lose it; and he further remarked, that in his opinion, we ought to be returned to our native country, and should not be considered as prisoners; but, he added, that the jailor on shore would deprive me of my sword, which was afterwards the case. On the 18th, we received information, that we should commence our march towards our dépôt the following day, and were ordered to be ready at a moment’s notice. Accordingly, on the 19th, we were all drawn up in the hospital yard. Mr. Mahoney and myself stood next to the lieutenants; but, to our great surprise, on calling the names over, we were moved, and placed next to the people, together with the boatswain and gunner. We demanded an explanation of this conduct: they informed us, we were of a class (master’s mates) different from any in their navy; that we were ranked as adjutants, sous officiers, and that they could not alter it. Lieutenant Pridham now interfered; who, it appeared, bad been acquainted that we should be thus ranked, but not being versed in military regulations, he supposed that an adjutant was between a midshipman and lieutenant, which he, of course, thought our proper place. After remonstrating a long time on the impropriety of our being placed in the ranks, among the people, the officer agreed to go to the Minister of Marine, to have the business, as he termed it, arranged. He shortly returned – the Minister of Marine was out, but his head clerk, or secretary, assured us that the mistake should be rectified the moment he returned, and that a courier would be despatched after us to the next stage, with another feuille de route: thus far reconciled, we commenced our march, and as they informed us, for Verdun in Lorraine. Our allowance was eleven sols per day, and the youngest midshipman had fifty.”
Instead of to Verdun, Messrs. Mahoney and O’Brien were conducted to Charlemont, the sailors’ dépôt, near 700 miles from Brest, where several of the stoutest, and, apparently, most healthy of the Hussar’s crew, died of a fever supposed to have been caught in some of the common jails on the road. Their route thither was through Morlaix, Guingamp, St. Brieux, Lamballe, Rennes, Vitre, Laval, Alençon (where they parted with the lieutenants and midshipmen, who were marched from thence, by the Paris route to Verdun), Rouen, Amiens, Cambray, Landrecy, Rocroy, and Fuimez, a village on the Meuse, from whence they proceeded to Givet, of which Charlemont is the citadel, on the 2Sth March 1804. The morning previous to their arrival at Rouen, they halted in a village on the banks of the Seine, to get some refreshment, but could only procure bread and eggs, served up with large pewter spoons. Mr. O’Brien observed to the commander of their guard, that a small spoon would be much more convenient; upon which he asked the old lady of the house a she had any. She replied in the affirmative, opened a large coffer, and took out six silver tea-spoons, which she placed on the table. They finished their repast, called for the bill, and found that this parsimonious old wretch had charged them a penny each for the use of her plate. The French officer, quite amazed, asked her what she could mean by such a demand? She replied, with sang froid, – “You see those Englishmen are so particular they cannot eat like other people. My spoons have not been out of my chest for a number of years; and I am determined they shall pay for the trouble they have put me to.” This circumstance, trivial as it may be considered, will give the reader an idea of the imposition to which Messrs. O’Brien and Mahoney were subjected throughout the whole of their long journey, during which they were pinched with cold and hunger, worn out by fatigue, often forced to herd with felons and sleep on straw, and frequently obliged to suffer insults from their guards that could not be resented.
About the 10th or 12th July, 1804, Messrs. O’Brien and Mahoney received a letter from Captain (now Sir Jahleel) Brenton, senior British officer at Verdun, stating that General Wirvion, commander-in-chief over the prisoners of war, had, after many applications, sent an order for them to be conducted to the officers’ dépôt; at which they arrived on the 23rd of the same month, after revisiting Fiumez and Rocroy, and passing through Mezieres, Sedan, and Stenay.
“We continued at Verdun,” says Captain O’Brien, “from July, 1804, amusing ourselves by study, learning to fence, skating in the winter, &c. until August, 1807, when I began to consider my situation minutely, and to deliberate upon n»y unfortunate captivity; and those deliberations had the effect of making me very uncomfortable and dissatisfied: I could not afterwards reconcile myself to study, or to any amusement. I reasoned with myself, that I was losing the prime of my youth in captivity. I saw no prospect of peace, or an exchange of prisoners; no hope of being promoted in my present state, nor of recommending myself through any personal exertions to the notice of the admiralty; deprived, while in France, of being able to afford my country, my friends, or myself, the least assistance.
“In this horrible state, almost of stupefaction, I remained for some days: when my poor friend Ashworth observed to me, that he and Mr. Tuthill, a particular friend of mine, and midshipman also, had been canvassing the cruelty and hardships they laboured under; and had, in consequence, formed the intention, if I would join them, of transgressing and getting deprived of their permission to go out of town (what the French termed parole), and making their escape to their native country. This was to me the most flattering intelligence – it was what I had been revolving in my own brain for some days. We accordingly met to deliberate upon the best method of putting in execution the business we were about to commence; and agreed it was necessary to procure knapsacks, provisions, bladders to contain water, &c. prior to our getting close confined; as we should be under the necessity of travelling by night, and concealing ourselves in the woods during the day-time.
“The requisite materials having been provided, viz, files, gimlets, saws, &c.; that, in case of being taken, we might be able to break our fetters and to escape from the slavery and punishment we were well aware would await us, we commenced by missing one appel; but to our great astonishment this breach of discipline was overlooked. We next remained out of town very late; this was also forgiven, though we got into the guard-house, &c. In short, it was several days before we succeeded in being deprived of our passports or permissions; and we now felt confident, from the lenity shewn us, that they suspected our intentions. However, August 28ih, 1807, having found, from the opinion of several officers whom we consulted, that no tie of honor could, under our present circumstances, retain us, being literally in close confinement, and that, perhaps, we might never have so good an opportunity again, we determined to lake ‘French leave,’ having an excellent rope to scale the ramparts.
“The sea coast was the place fixed upon for us to make for; and we agreed, that about Etaples was the most likely part to procure a boat. The anxiety and uneasiness which we felt the next day, were beyond description. Some of our countrymen, who called to see us, en passant, threw out such insinuations and made such remarks upon our conduct of late, that we were under the most serious apprehensions of being shackled, and on the road to Bitche, before the much desired hour, eleven at night: being well aware, that there were several Englishmen employed and paid regularly, for conveying the most trivial occurrence that might take place amongst the prisoners, to the French general. I have frequently known prisoners of war, through malice, to be taken out of their beds in the night, fettered and conducted to the dépôts of punishment, without ever being informed of the crime or fault they had been accused of, from some of those rascals giving false information, to be revenged for any private animosity they might have had against the persons so treated. These spies were so numerous, I repeat it with regret, that it was morally impossible to know them all; consequently, the most watchful and cautious amongst us were liable to be entrapped. We fortunately escaped their unnatural and detestable snares.”
The desired and long wished for moment at length arrived, Messrs. O’Brien, Ashworth, Tuthill, and Easel (the latter a naval lieutenant, who wished to be off also), met agreeably to appointment. Every thing was favorable and quiet; and in a very few minutes, with the assistance of their rope and a friend, they got down the ramparts, about 72 feet high, with very little injury, except losing some of the skin off their hands. Each had his knapsack, &c. properly placed: their course was N.W. which they carefully followed, over ploughed fields, mountains, and marshes – nothing was allowed to interrupt their progress. The happiness they, even at this moment felt, was inexpressible; they considered themselves “literally as regenerated creatures.” Their stock of provisions principally consisted of light biscuit and sausages; their hats were destroyed before day-light in a wood near Varennes, and replaced with caps á la Française. Captain O’Brien thus describes a very serious accident he met with, on the morning of Sept. 1st., and his consequent sufferings.
“Just before day-light we entered a most excellent thick wood, admirably well calculated for night-walkers; took some refreshment, and endeavoured to sleep a little after the fatigues of the night, and after congratulating one another at being thus far successful. At about ten o’clock, we were alarmed by the voices of people apparently close to us. We found that they were passing on an adjacent path-way, which we had not before discovered; but we were too well placed to be under any dread of being perceived. The number of squirrels, rats, mice, &c. about us this day was very great. Having made our customary preparations, at seven p.m., the usual hour for starting, we got out of our lurking hole, and proceeded to the border of the wood, on that side towards which we had to direct our course. On our arrival, we discovered some labourers still at work, in a field close by, which occasioned us lo halt until they disappeared. We then proceeded with some anxiety, as we saw a village exactly in our tract, which we could not avoid without making a very great circuit. In about two hours after we had quitted the wood, we found our course suddenly impeded by a ditch or moat, which upon sounding with our clubs, that were of a tolerably good length, we found very deep; in fact it surpassed any conception we could form of it. We surveyed it, marching first in one direction, then in another, without coming to any resolution: however it was evident that we must cross it. I at length discovered one part apparently narrower than the rest, which made me resolve to try and leap over it. I accordingly gave myself room for a run to that narrow part, and landed on the opposite side some feet from the edge of the bank. It was not near so broad as it appeared; and knowing that it was excessively deep, made, me the more anxious to secure a good landing, lest I might fall back into it: the consequence was, the opposite bank being extremely sandy and hard, and the knapsack on my shoulders lifting and coming with a sudden jerk – the moment I touched on it I was thrown on my side, and my right knee twisted in the joint to that degree, that I absolutely thought it was snapped in two. In this condition I remained, extended in the most excruciating pain, recommending to my companions to be more cautious, until Lieutenant Essel and the other two joined me. They examined, and found, to my inexpressible joy, that the bone was not broken; but this unfortunate business, at the moment, deprived me of every hope of being able to prosecute my intended journey. Divine Providence, always ready to assist those who repose confidence in it, deigned to interpose its clemency. My comrades began to chafe and rub the part affected with spirits, a small quantity of which each of us carried. I found instant relief from this remedy, and, in a short time, with their assistance, I was able to stand up. To their repeated inquiries about my knee, I replied, that I felt much better, though in fact I had little ____s of being able to continue with them; but I feared discouraging these brave fellows, who declared their determination not to quit me.
“This noble declaration inspired me with enthusiasm, and gave me fresh vigour and courage. I made an effort to step out, but was under the necessity of requesting that one would assist me on each side, which they did. Thus we moved on slowly, and passed the village that we were so anxious about. My knee, I was happy to feel, was gradually getting better; and we managed to get on in this state about three leagues, when we discovered a very fine commodious wood. It was about two o’clock on the 2d, my comrades proposed that we should rest there during the ensuing day; they would not on my account proceed farther; besides, it was uncertain whether they might fall in with another wood before daylight.
“No intelligence could be more congenial to my feelings than this. I was excessively weary and fatigued. So having found a proper part of the wood, each took his position and a little refreshment, and then endeavoured to take rest: but so violently did my knee pain me, that I was obliged to have two of my friends lying with their whole weight on my leg, thigh, and right side. They fell fast asleep in a very short time, yet I could nut close an eye. The distressing and melancholy reflection of being left behind in consequence of my lameness still recurred. The thought of being picked up and conducted to some dreadful dungeon, or other ignominious habitation, was constantly present; replete with such ideas, what mortal could think of sleeping? Thus occupied in thought, wavering between hope and despair, I remained nearly two hours – my friends in a sound sleep the whole time. At last, finding their weight on my side troublesome, I extricated myself from them without awaking or causing them the least disturbance. I now imagined I had an excellent opportunity of trying whether I could move by myself, without alarming or discouraging my fellow-travellers. I accordingly made an effort to stand up, which I accomplished with some difficulty, and then attempted to walk; but I immediately tumbled backwards, owing to the excessive pain and weakness of my knee. I afterwards made several similar essays in the course of the ensuing day, when my companions were asleep, but with no better success: I encouraged them, notwithstanding, by saying I was much better. At the usual hour, all arrangements having been made, we stole to the edge of the wood, which I never expected to to able to leave. I was assisted by two, similar to the preceding night. We found it was too early to quit the wood. There was a very high tree at the border where we came to, and it was proposed that Mr. Tuthill should climb up it, to discover what kind of country lay in our course, which he immediately did; and, to my great satisfaction, stated it to he a beautiful plain, without woods, river, or any thing to impede us. From the excessive height of the tree, we had no doubt but he could extend his view several leagues.
“We now proceeded, and I insisted upon their leaving me in the rear, to hop on and struggle for myself. I felt excessively dejected, but determined not to expose it. At first the pain I endured was terrible; however; at length brought my leg to the ground, and limped on with the assistance of my club. We had not advanced above a league, when we perceived a beautiful vineyard right in our way. They halted to taste the grapes, which was a most heavenly relief to me, as I was almost knocked up. The grapes, though sour, we found of great service, and they revived our spirits amazingly. After eating a great many, we loaded our pockets with them. I found my knee much better, the gloom that hung over me was dispersing fast; in short, I proceeded with very good spirits, and in about an hour afterwards we providentially arrived at an orchard; found its apples delicious, cleared our pockets of the grapes, and replaced them with this most exquisite fruit. We then proceeded with great joy, each congratulating me on my getting on so well. Indeed I was never more surprised than at the sudden change in my frame altogether, my knee improving every mile I walked.
“At day-light on the 3d, we were much alarmed, not being able to make out a wood in any direction. At last, to our unspeakable delight, we perceived at a small distance a kind of little forest, not more than three or four acres in circumference. We repaired to it without hesitation, and found it thick and well adapted for our reception. Having pitched upon a convenient spot, we deposited our knapsacks, disburdened ourselves of our apples, &c. and after refreshing ourselves with a little biscuit and sausage, together with a dessert of fruit which we could now afford, we betook ourselves to rest. I had not closed an eye before since I had received the hurt; but at that moment I no sooner extended my weary limbs upon the ground, than I was in a profound sleep; nor did I awake until roused by my comrades, who were alarmed by the voices of two men, who came to work adjacent to our concealment. We could hear them so very distinctly, that we were of opinion they could not be distant more than fifty paces; their conversation was chiefly respecting Charleville and Mezieres; they continued their work until sun-set.
“From hearing them mention those towns so repeatedly, in addition to other parts of the conversation, we were convinced of our being too far to the northward of our proper course. Travelling by night, frequently extremely dark, though we had an excellent compass, it was impossible to avoid sometimes erring a little, more especially whenever a river turned us out of our proper direction. Those labourers being gone, we commenced our preparations, and at the usual time proceeded forward; my knee rather painful and stiff, which in a great measure gradually decreased by exercising it.
“At midnight we came directly on a small town, situated in a valley, without perceiving it until it was too late to return. As it was an open town we did not apprehend any danger, particularly at so late an hour. We however passed through it as quick as possible, without meeting a soul until we got into the fauxbourg, where we met a peasant on horseback. Mr. Ashworth asked him the name of the small town or village we had just passed; he replied Neuville. We thanked him, and continued our route. We travelled a considerable distance this night, having fruit to abate our thirst, which was in general very great; we often experienced a dreadful scarcity of water.”
In the night of Sept. 5th, our travellers passed through the town of Moncornet, crossed an inconsiderable river called the Serre, and again halted in a wood, where they were alarmed the following afternoon by the barking and yelling of a fowler’s dog, which, barked precipitately on discovering them, leading its master almost in a direct line towards them. The joy they felt at this hair-breadth escape, can only be conceived by people who have been in a similar situation. The ensuing night was excessively dark, and everyone of the party had a vast number of falls; they, however, managed to cross the Oise, a very serpentine river, in two different places, and took up their abode for the following day in a most commodious wood. Lieutenant Essel was now very much indisposed, and from the great alteration in his appearance apprehensions were entertained that he would be under the necessity of stopping on the way. Their stock of provisions was reduced to less than a pound of biscuit, literally crumbled to dust, a very small quantity of sausage, and some apples. Next night, however, they had a hearty meal of bread, cheese, and small wine, at an obscure village, where they also obtained a large loaf and some brandy for their future sustenance.
On the 8th, the poor fugitives were again alarmed by a well dressed woman and two children, passing so close as to touch the very bush that covered them, preceded by a servant shaking the brambles and knocking the wet off the trees. On the 9th, at day-light, after a tedious march, having traversed a number of deep-ploughed and stubble-fields, crossing hills and vales, they found themselves in open ground; Mr. Essel scarcely able to move.
“This,” says Captain O’Brien, “was the worst situation we had been placed in since we began our journey. On surveying with the utmost attention all around, we thought we could descry trees at a considerable distance, yet out of our course. We nevertheless made towards them. It commenced raining very fast; and, when we had reached the much-desired spot, it proved to be only a thin orchard, with a few scattered apple-trees. We still kept walking on, being well assured there was no shelter for us in our rear, at least close at hand. We soon discovered a little village in the very direction we were going, and near it appeared a small wood. We advanced tolerably fast; poor Essel a great way behind – Met an old peasant, and enquired the name of the village (Petit Essigny). He told us there was a path-way on the right of it, if we wished to avoid passing through. We were, he said, five leagues from St. Quentin. This old man’s remarks appeared to us very singular: he took his leave, and we walked on. It rained, and the morning was advancing, now nearly 8 o’clock. What we imagined to be a wood, adjacent to the village, proved, upon approaching it, to be only a few shrubs. We arrived at these shrubs, and found they were pretty thick and the grass very high, surrounded by a quick-set hedge. We instantly got through the hedge, and lay close down. Our situation was very unpleasant; the grass, which was excessively wet, added to our having been wet nearly to the skin before we entered it. The rain came literally upon our poor bodies in sluices, off the bushes. Poor Essel was now hardly able to move or speak; however, this was preferable, we thought, to the risk of going into the village, where we suspected that gens d’armes might be lurking, being so near a large town. We continued in this miserable plight until about four o’clock, when Mr. Essel became quite weak and feeble, and the rest of our little party were not much better; which induced as to quit this wretched place and endeavour to get shelter in a house, let the consequence be what it might. Accordingly we approached a single hut at a short distance from the village – entered it, and found in it a poor old peasant and two lads, who proved to be his sons; they were shivering over a few cinders, and appeared very miserable. We requested they would make a fire, and allow us to dry our things and warm ourselves; which they did, upon our promising payment; they seemed to be very much astonished at our appearance, and greatly at a loss to know who and what we were. The fire being now made, we proceeded to wring the water out of our clothes, and to endeavour to get them dry. We made the old peasant bring us some bread; he also gave us a little butter, which by chance he had in the house, the old dame, his wife, having taken all the rest that morning to St. Quentin’s market. We imagined we should do extremely well, if he would allow us to remain all night even by the fire-side; as it was impossible to attempt to travel, it rained so excessively hard. This we intimated to our venerable host; but he without hesitation assured us it was out of his power. There was a public house in the village, he observed, where we could get supplied with every thing we might want; and as it was so very near, there could be no great difficulty attending our getting there. At that moment two peasants were passing his door, and he added, ‘those two men belong to the village, they will point out the house to you.’ He then called them; they appeared very civil – there was no alternative, so we paid the old man for his fire, bread, butter, &c. and accepted of the offer of these men. The figure of this said host of ours, is still before me. He was a tall, thin, squinting fellow, with an iron countenance, that gave the unfortunate but little to expect. We soon arrived at the village, and to our inexpressible joy found it to be a very miserable one. Our guides shewed us the public house, and went away. We entered it, and found the good landlady had nothing to give us but bread and eggs: and no bed, but a loft full of clean hay. This was the only inn (as they termed it) in the village. We appeared to hesitate, whether we should remain here or proceed to the next considerable town, St. Quentin; inquiring what distance it might be. Our hostess replied, not above three or four miles to a tolerably large village. It rained too hard, we told her, to go that distance, and inconvenient as it was, we would remain with her and sleep in the hay-loft that night, in preference to being exposed any longer to the inclemency of the weather. This was indeed the kind of tavern and lodgings that suited us; I was never more pleased than at this reception. We got a good fire made, completed the drying of our clothes, get some supper, and retired to the hay-loft. The good woman gave us two blankets to cover us. We found this accommodation sufficiently good, and very soon fell fast asleep.
“The next day, fortunately for us, (as it kept us under cover) was very bad, raining without intermission. We kept in our loft, except one who went to procure breakfast, and to inform the landlady, (who we found was a widow) that we would stay until evening, in hopes that the rain might cease. We sent her our trowsers, stockings, &c. to mend for us. We could move about without much fear in this place, and found they were utter strangers to the sight of a gen d’arme. The good lady took us for conscripts, and commiserated our situation. She had a brother in the army, then in Prussia; and she brought us a letter to read that she had lately received from him. – I had served in the same regiment: She was very much pleased to hear it. At about seven we paid this worthy old hostess, and took our leave. The night was clear star-light and promised favourably; but the ground was so excessively slippery and muddy, that we could scarcely prevent ourselves from falling every step we took. At about ten Mr. Essel was seized with a violent bleeding of the nose and mouth. We feared that he had burst a blood vessel. This, together with a dysentery, which he had been troubled with some time, rendered him so excessively weak, that he could not move a step. We were greatly affected at this misfortune, and agreed to convey him to the next house we should find. Fortunately the village alluded to by our landlady, when we first arrived at her house, was in sight, and the view of it gave our sick friend fresh courage; but we were apprehensive it was too large; however, we were resolved at all events, to procure him a lodging there; and, if we perceived any danger, to be off instantly. About half-past 11, we arrived at this village, which proved to be far inferior to what we had expected. Mr. Ashworth went into a public house to reconnoitre, and to inquire if our friend could be supplied; he returned shortly, and said he had succeeded, and assured us, from every appearance therein, that there was not the smallest risk attending our remaining there for the night, and even the next day. We wished very much to continue if possible together; indeed, from their very great attention to me, when scarcely able to move, I was determined not to desert or abandon any of them that might be indisposed, unless impelled by the greatest necessity. We accordingly agreed to remain with our friend, sincerely hoping that he might, by the next night, recruit his strength. The bleeding had ceased, which was a great deal in his favor: we accordingly went into the public house, the sick gentleman and myself last. We were very civilly received by the landlord, who was a young decent man; he shewed us into a nice, clean, back room, where we had beds for each of us: he assured us we were perfectly safe with him. ‘I have been situated in a similar manner once myself’, said he, ‘and shall have a fellow-feeling for others: when I quitted the army as a conscript, I travelled several hundred miles by night, and concealed myself in woods in the day time.’ We gave him nods of approbation, took some refreshment; found our friend was already better, and each retired (happy as any creature could be) to his bed, – My God! what a paradise! It is not in my power to express, or to give any idea of the delight and happiness I felt, at being once more in a comfortable bed, with every thing neat and clean about me. This was our thirteenth night without stripping or resting, except the preceding one in the hay-loft. I need not observe, that we remained in bed most part of the next day.” * * * *
“At a little before day-light on the 14th, we entered a wood, and found a convenient place to conceal ourselves. We conjectured we were nearly five leagues from Arras. At about eleven, we were alarmed by the noise and whistling of a fowler with a dog, and in a few minutes we heard the report of his piece; the shot rattled through the bushes in which we lay, and a partridge perched close to us. This circumstance alarmed us prodigiously, as we could hear the man and dog advancing towards the very spot. To move would have been imprudent, since he was so close, that it was impossible to avoid being discovered. We waited the event, without the smallest hope of escaping detection – the dog advanced – flushed the partridge nearly at our feet – the fowler close to us: fortunately the bird took an opposite direction to the spot where we remained concealed, the master and dog followed, and in a few minutes relieved us from the consternation they had thrown us into.”
The wanderers subsequently passed through Nieuville, a municipal town, by day-light; crossed the river Canche in a ferry-boat; and at length took up their quarters in a barn not far from Estaples, from which they sallied towards the sea coast, at noon on the 18th September, Captain O’Brien’s narrative now runs thus:
“We kept advancing towards the sand-hills with great celerity, little suspecting that the moment was near at hand, when all hope of regaining our native soil would be destroyed. – Every pleasure which we had anticipated on our arrival there, the visiting of our friends, our advancement in our profession – in fact, every thing pleasing to the human mind which we had indulged and cherished during our long and fatiguing journey, was soon to be frustrated. But to proceed. We had now a poor sorry village to pass; and at the very last house, Mr.Ashworth expressed a desire to ask for a draught of water, as he felt excessively low: On these occasions every one was consulted – none of us saw any danger at that moment arising from this circumstance, having passed through the village, and by a number of people, without the smallest inconvenience. He accordingly entered the house, and we advanced slowly, waiting his return. He appeared to be a long time absent. Mr. Tuthill wished to go and see what detained him. Mr, Essel and myself remained on the side of the road, anxiously looking out. They very soon appeared; and, to our inexpressible grief and mortification, were conducted by two armed men in an uniform entirely foreign to us. I clearly perceived that these fellows had taken them into custody, from the manner in which they approached. When they had joined us, Mr. Ashworth introduced me to them, as Captain Cox, of the ship Favourite, of New York – This had been the story fixed upon in case of being stopped. – We had been cast away near Marseilles, and all hands had perished, except Florence Neath (Mr. Ashworth) mate, William Dixon (Mr. Tuthill) supercargo, and Mr. Essell, (whose new name I now forget) passenger. We were bound to Barcelona. Cargo – slaves and cotton. Only the supercargo and mate could speak French: consequently, I had an opportunity of disclosing my sentiments more freely, to those who stood interpreters. They appeared to commiserate our situation, and had not the least doubt but what we alledged was true: But they must take us to the mayor of the town, who would (no doubt) grant us passports to proceed to some sea-port, whence we could take shipping for America, or any other place we pleased. We expressed our warmest thanks for this mark of their attention; but (if they pleased) we did not wish to put them to the inconvenience of going out of their way on our account. – It was entirely in their way, and it was impossible we could proceed along the coast without papers – they were only astonished how we had crossed the kingdom of France, without being arrested. We had been much to blame in not having procured passports prior to our quitting Marseilles. We assured them. We were ignorant of its being in the smallest degree necessary – We had been born in a country where nothing of the bind was required, and where it would be deemed a very great insult, to ask any person where he came from, or whither he was going. They gave a shrug at this – and declared it was bien different dans ce pays ci. We regretted that we had not been more enlightened with respect to the laws of their country, &c. &c.; and by that time we arrived at the ferry boat, and in a few minutes were in the town of Estaples. We had a number of articles in our possession that we wished to get rid of; so I desired my mate to mention to them, that I wished to take a little refreshment at some convenient inn, before we waited on the mayor. They consented, without hesitation, and we arrived at a small cabaret; called for some bread and wine, and, one at a time had occasion to withdraw for a few minutes – Thus, we got clear of several things, that might have produced disagreeable consequences.
“We now cheerfully accompanied (at least in appearance) our conductors. They were under the necessity of waiting upon their captain, before they went to the mayor’s. He received us with politeness, and sent for the mayor to be present at our examination. His worship arrived, and with him an American gentleman: They interrogated us very strictly and minutely. We repeated our former story. The American gave us to understand, that as they suspected we were English, which we had no possible means of disproving, we should be sent to Boulogne prison until they heard from our consul, at Paris, or until they were well convinced of the veracity of our statement. Accordingly we were conducted lo the town prison, and given in charge to the gend’armerie. Their brigadier, who was commanding officer, after surveying us with one of the eyes of Argus, inquired if we had been searched – they replied, no. “Search them instantly,’ cried he, ‘they are Englishmen, depend on it, who have escaped from one of the dépôts.’ – His orders were readily obeyed. I was first rummaged. They opened my pocket book, in which were several English letters, &c. I asserted that the pocket-book belonged to a cousin of mine, who had perished with the wreck. – But any thing I could affirm was rendered useless, for on the others were found maps of the departments that we had gone through, with several other papers which identified.us to be what they suspected.
“However, we still persisted in being Americans: They remonstrated on the folly of such conduct, and ordered us into a dungeon, assuring us we should be now very roughly treated, and considered as dangerous people; whereas, a frank confession might cause some mitigation. After a little deliberation, we clearly perceived the inutility of holding out; so acknowledged at once, who and what we were. The brigadier assured us, he had been confident from the moment he first saw as, that we were English – and he would now do every thing in his power to comfort us under our present embarrassments – but he had no superior officer of his corps nearer than Boulogne, where he should send us the next day; and, for that night, he would allow us to go to an inn to get ourselves a little in order, but with a strong escort, and we should be obliged to find it in every necessary, and to pay them six livres (five shillings) each for the night. This we readily agreed to – our situation and state of mind were truly miserable. At 8 o’clock the next morning, we were placed in a cart and escorted to Boulogne; where we were given in charge to the jailer, who sent one of his turnkeys to shew us our lodgings, which were certainly extensive enough: two small sheafs of straw and a bucket of water were shortly after sent us to supply the places of beds and refreshments, after about twelve leagues journey, as well as to strengthen us for a most fatiguing march back into the interior.
“Tuesday 22nd, we were called betimes by the guard, and in a few minutes were once more en route. The day was excessively wet and the roads heavy, which prevented them from chaining us, more especially as we had a very long march to Montreuil, 12 or 13 leagues distant. About five in the afternoon, we were placed in the common jail, which we found a tolerably good one; but the jailer and his wife imposed upon us in a shameful manner. They told us, that a Mr. Kemp, an Englishman, resided at the mayor’s, and was considered a prisoner on his parole. We sent him a note, which he answered, by declaring, ‘he would willingly come and see us, but he was afraid of compromising himself.’ Our route was through Hesdia and St. Paul to Arras, where we saw several of our countrymen, who were not so extremely cautious as Mr. Kemp, although we were conducted through the main street, loaded with chains. At Cambray, the Arras escort quitted us, and we were conducted to Chateau Cambressi, where we were put into a most horrible dungeon under ground, nor could any thing in our power have the smallest effect on the flint-hearted keeper of it; thence we were conducted to Landrecy, encumbered with fetters and handcuffs.
“On the 29th, we arrived at Avesnes jail, and were placed amongst criminals of every denomination, by order of General Wirrion; who it appeared had sent express to all those places, to desire that we should be treated as severely as possible. The report here was, that we were going to be shot as spies, who had been inspecting the naval preparations along the coast. One of our companions in this horrible prison was a wretch condemned to perpetual irons for having murdered his father and mother; he had cut them in quarters and buried them in a pit – it appeared that he was insane.
“About 5 o’clock on the 30th, we halted at Hirson. We had passed through this village formerly, and were then billeted on the inhabitants, as they had no jail. I was in great hopes we should escape the horrors of a dungeon for one night at least, but found myself mistaken. They placed us in a small cachot, calculated to contain about our number, and gave us a little straw to lie on. The next day was very rainy, and the roads prodigiously heavy; our march long and fatiguing. I cannot omit observing, that one of the party, having occasion to be unchained from his comrades, could not obtain permission before one of the guard had pinioned him with a strong cord, which the gens d’armes carried for that purpose.
“October 1st. About 6, we arrived at Maubertfontaine, in a most miserable plight, covered with mud and dirt. We found a new dungeon in this village just built, where we were very soon deposited: The guards visited us every hour during the night. On the 2nd, at day-break, we were chained to a cart and hand-cuffed; the roads, from the late fall of rain, being too heavy to proceed on foot. Our treatment was pretty nearly the same throughout unto Verdun, where we arrived at the latter end of October. I was then separated from my companions, being considered as the chef du complot, and was thrown into a miserable dungeon, wherein was another prisoner, supposed to have been a spy, and who expected to be brought to trial in a few days.”
After a close confinement of some days, and undergoing repeated separate examinations, Mr. O’Brien and his late travelling companions were ordered to prepare themselves for a march to the fortress of Bitche, in Lorraine, a wretched place, in the dreadful caverns of which many a valuable British subject, during the late war, terminated his existence in all the agony that illness and despondency can create.
“The morning of our departure arrived,” says Captain O’Brien. “We joined eight culprits at twilight, and were placed in a large waggon, under a very strong escort of gend’armerie, with a brigadier to command it. We were confined the first night in a village called Malatour. The dungeon was so very small, and there were so many of us, that we could scarcely breathe. Our allowance of straw, a pound and a half each, was given us to lie on; it was so short, that it had exactly the appearance of so many bundles of tooth-picks. The following night we were lodged in Metreuil, where we remained several days.
“At last an order came for half of us to proceed towards our destination; two others, with us four, were accordingly commanded to get ready. We were now in hopes of having another chance of getting out of these scoundrels’ clutches, but were much mistaken; our guard watched us so closely. – We were so well secured with handcuffs and chains, that it was impossible to attempt it, and we were safely lodged in Sarre Louis jail. This is a dépôt for seamen, and one of punishment for officers who may transgress; but it is many degrees superior to the one at Bitche. which we were ordered to. Several of our countrymen obtained permission to see us; and from one I received a small map of Germany, torn out of small book of geography, which I carefully stitched in the lining of my waistcoat. We were now joined by those left in Metz prison, and were soon again on the march towards our destined habitation; the same precautions were taken for securing us, and but little or no hopes ware left of our escaping. We arrived at Sarreguemine, only 6 or 7 leagues from Bitche, and were secured as usual in the jail. The next day we expected to arrive at our horrible abode, about four in the afternoon. In the morning our guards came with a large waggon, in which we were placed, and to my great astonishment and delight we were not chained. I considered this as a most wonderful circumstance, and as a favourable opportunity that ought to be embraced, particularly as there could he no hopes of any other chance; indeed it appeared an interposition of Divine Providence in our favour. I communicated my intentions to my companions, and after we had got out of the town, we descended from our waggon, observing to the guards that we preferred walking a little. Mr. Essel remained in the waggon. Messrs. Askworth, Tuthill, and Baker, of the merchant service, with myself, were walking a-head of the waggon. We had not got more than two or three miles when I discovered a wood at about 150 yards from the road; our guards were about 60 yards behind us; they were on horseback. Although there were no leaves on the trees, we were certain our guards could not pursue us without a great deal of difficulty, owing to the branches; and if they dismounted, we were well assured we could out-run them. – The important and anxious moment arrived! – I gave my friends the signal, which was a loud cheer, and away we ran – the guard in full speed at our heels. The ground being very heavy, a kind of fallow field between the road and the wood, Mr. Baker fell down and was instantly seized. We were more fortunate – crossed each other frequently in the wood, quite out of breath. I called out to them, that they must be very cautious in keeping out of pistol shot of the guards, who were now riding in all directions through the trees, exclaiming – Arretes coquins! They quitted me, and I, fortunately at that instant having a tree between me and them, sat down. I observed the guards pursuing my companions. The moment I lost sight of the former I drew towards the borders of the wood, on the opposite side to the direction which they had taken, and perceived an extensive plain, and a wood, about a mile distant. Without any more deliberation, I entered the plain, and was in a very few minutes in the next wood, without seeing or being seen by any body. Having thus far providentially succeeded, I began to consider what step I had better next take; and after a few minutes rest, being quite exhausted, I determined upon quitting this wood also, but at the opposite extremity from that where I supposed my pursuers were – being of opinion they would visit that part, after they had diligently searched the other, which was now surrounded by the peasantry, men, women, and children, it being Sunday. And 50 livres reward (2l. 1s. 8d. sterling) having been offered for each prisoner of war, brought a prodigious concourse of people, and left me but very little hope of remaining in safety in any place, where they could suspect a man might be concealed. On quitting this wood, I conjectured that I was about three or four miles from the road whence I had at first escaped. Immense plains, stubble ground, &c. presented themselves to my view, with the river Sarre close to the southward of me, but extremely rapid, and no part fordable.
“I next observed several people at a distance, running towards the first wood. My case appeared desperate; and, to avoid suspicion, I thought the best method would be to walk deliberately across those plains, taking a different direction from every other person in them, without appearing to avoid any. I put a night-cap on which I had carried in my pocket, instead of the cap I usually wore – that being a common dress with the peasantry of Lorrain. I passed several at very short distances, stopping frequently, and seeming to walk very carelessly. At length, I found myself in a small vale, through which ran two rivulets, forming a kind of island that was covered with a hawthorn-bush, briars, &c. sufficiently large to conceal one man. This I conceived admirably well calculated for a hiding place; as it was so excessively small and wet, I was of opinion nobody would even think of searching it. I entered it, and was so completely covered, as to be scarcely able to discern the part through which I had first penetrated. I found it in one sense very uncomfortable, with respect to the mud, wet, and dirt that I was obliged to wallow in; but, otherwise, it was a perfect paradise to me, and all I regretted was, not having my poor comrades with me, although I comforted myself, in feeling assured that they must all have escaped, even those who did not run in the beginning, as they were left with only the waggoner, the guard having pursued us. I was indeed some time afterwards informed, that not one of the remaining eight ever attempted to quit the waggoner, but were quietly conducted to Bitche; where, as the reader will find, I was again compelled to rejoin them>
“I lay cold and quiet enough in my wet and muddy bed, anxiously wishing for night to arrive and dispel part of my apprehensions. I was obliged frequently to shift from one side to the other, the moisture becoming very severe; in a short time I was wet through in every part, and extremely chilly, having been in great perspiration when I entered the islet. I could distinctly hear the alarm bells ringing in the adjacent villages, and the whistling, howling, and shouting of the peasantry in the direction ; had just quitted; and frequently I heard voices close to me.
“But now the much desired moment of darkness was approaching fast; the sun was setting, and, to my great mortification, with every appearance of bad weather. It already began to rain very hard, which obscured the moon, about that time eight or nine days old. Reflecting on my present state, I found it truly pitiable – with only the small old map already mentioned to direct my course; without compass or guide, meat, drink, or companion, and in the dreary month of November. The nearest friendly town to me was Salsburgh (in Austria), between 7 and 800 miles distant. Nevertheless, having escaped from the clutches of tyrants, and being my own master, more than compensated for a thousand severe hardships. I cut a stick out of the bush I had lain all day concealed in, and picked a number of haws off it, which I put in my pocket, and swallowed stones and all, occasionally. About half-past seven I ventured out, shook and cleaned my cloathes as well as I could, recommended myself to a Merciful Creator; and proceeded, with great precaution, towards the wood, in which I had separated from my companions, supposing that they would return there also, to meet me. It rained very hard, and every thing was profoundly silent. I traversed the wood about three or four miles in different directions, but to no purpose: now and then I whistled, which was a former signal established amongst us, but all without success. I remained alone – cold, fatigued, and drenched with wet.
“The moon being again entirely hid, in consequence of the inclemency of the weather, prevented my knowing to a certainty what course to take. The risk was too great to venture on the high road: I knew this from sad experience, and yet I was so nearly perished with cold and wet, that it was impossible to remain still. I, therefore, kept running and walking onwards during the night, frequently impeded by the course of the Sarre, which confused me greatly. At length, being very much fatigued, from the commons, deserts, &c. which I had gone through, and finding a convenient wood, though destitute of leaves, I got into it an<l concealed myself in a tolerably good part, a little before day-light. I never recollect feeling or suffering so much from cold – it had rained incessantly all that day. I swallowed a few of my haws, and endeavoured to comfort myself by imagining that the ensuing night might be fine, and that I might possibly fall in with my comrades; which would indeed have been the greatest consolation. I also felicitated myself on not being much more than 15 leagues from the Rhine; that being the distance when I quitted my companions: admitting that had I been going in the opposite direction all night, I could not have increased the distance much.
“On the 16th, I was very much annoyed all day by moles, rats, and other small animals, somewhat like squirrels; the rats often approached so near, as to lick my shoes. Their tricks and advances rather amused me, and abated in some measure the lowness and disquietude of my mind. At the close of the evening, a swineherd passed by, conducting his hogs near my hiding place – I saw him very distinctly. One of them took flight exactly towards me; he sent his dog in pursuit of it, which providentially turned the hog, otherwise it would have absolutely ran over me. I need not observe how much I was alarmed, especially as I could not have been far from the place whence I had escaped.
“About 8 o’clock I quitted my retreat. The night was again very bad; it kept raining and blowing hard. I was equally at a loss which direction to take, not being able to see either moon or stars. About 9 o’clock, I discovered a hut; and imagined that would be a good opportunity to endeavour to procure a morsel of food of some kind. I reconnoitred it very attentively, and approached most cautiously the door. The struggle between the desire of procuring some sustenance (which I so much wanted) and the dread of being arrested in the attempt, is easier to be conceived than described. After deliberating some length of time, agitated alternately with different sensations, without coming to a determination (so powerfully did the fear of being again brought back operate) – -the want of sustenance at length preponderated, and I knocked at the door. It was opened by a woman. I asked for some bread in German, which is the language spoken by the peasantry of Lorrain. She made signs for me to enter, which I did. There were three men and another woman in the house; an elderly man, who was the only person that could speak French, instantly told me, that he was certain I was one of the Englishmen who had escaped from the guards the preceding day; one of whom had just quitted the house, who had been on the look out all day, and came, in his way home, to give them information. Pleasing intelligence! – I did not dispute who or what I was. He dwelt upon the 50 livres reward for arresting a prisoner of war. It was an object, he said, to poor people like them. I understood him perfectly; and observed, that, although his government had promised that reward, he was not certain when it might be paid; besides, what honest man would prevent a poor prisoner of war, who had been guilty of no crime whatever, from revisiting his wife and children after an imprisonment of four or five years, for that paltry sum? He explained what I said to the others – I found the women were advocates for me. Upon which, I addressed the old gentleman again, and said, ‘as you appear to me to be very worthy and honest people, accept of this trifle amongst you;’ giving him a louis d’or, and presenting the women with six livres, as a mark of my respect for them; which they received very graciously. I saw that matters now bore a more favourable aspect, and, accordingly, took an opportunity of observing, how sorry I was at not having more to present them with. I now begged they would supply me with a little bread, but they had none baked. I then requested they would shew me the nearest way to Bitche, as I had friends there who would find means of supplying me with a little cash, to enable me to proceed on my journey. After a long discussion in German, dining which I perfectly discovered their uneasiness at not receiving more than 30 livres, the old man observed – ‘As there is but one of them, it is of no great consequence; but if they were all here, it would hare been well worth while:’ meaning the other eleven of my companions. I again repeated my wish to be directed towards Bitche. I knew there was a direct road from thence to the Rhine, which was my motive to go that way. The women again pleaded in my favour, and the two young men offered their services. They accordingly equipped themselves, informed me they were ready, and I took a most joyful leave of the women and old man, and followed my guides, inexpressibly rejoiced at getting out of this danger; although I did not consider myself particularly in safety, whilst I remained with these fellows.
“They conducted me through very intricate ways, deserts and commons; they were generally behind me, and whispering to one another. I had no great opinion of them; so feigned occasion to remain behind a little, which time I occupied in concealing my watch, and money, and small map that hitherto had been in the pocket of my pantaloons. I then again advanced, but never went before them. The inclemency of the night, the melancholy state of my mind, with the awful aspect of the mountains and forests I passed through, together with the discordant screaming of the screech owl, filled my very soul with horror. My white thorn club was my only weapon; I regarded it with secret comfort, and was determined to use it, should I have occasion, to the utmost it my nearly exhausted strength. Yet, perhaps, my opinion of these fellows had been ill founded. About midnight they left me, on a pathway to the road to Bitche, and took their leave. I felt much pleased at so happy a deliverance, and continued in that direction until about 3 o’clock; when, supposing myself near enough to the ‘Unhappy Mansion,’ I directed my course (as I thought) towards the Rhine. Sometime before day-light it ceased raining; the stars shewed themselves, and I had the mortification of discovering that I had been going diametrically opposite to my proper course. What added to my miserable situation, there was neither wood nor any place in sight to cover me for the ensuing day.
“In this unhappy dilemma, I still kept advancing, being confident I had no secure retreat behind me. When, at length, some time after day-light, I discovered a very thin wood, on the side of a hill, which I immediately betook myself to, and there remained until night. There was a drizzling rain the whole of the day; the cold was extreme. I did not feel hungry, but excessively weak. During the preceding night, I had taken several draughts of water, which satisfied my appetite. The only annoyance I had this day, was a man, who was cutting wood below me in the valley. I could see every motion of his; but it was impossible he could see me, in consequence of my breaking small branches, and sticking them close round me.
“At night, about the usual time, I commenced my journey, and took the direction back which I had followed the preceding morning; and I confess, notwithstanding my disappointment, I felt some consolation in knowing I was at length in the right track. During the whole of this night, my escapes from being dashed to pieces, by repeated falls down precipices which the darkness concealed, were quite incredible. About 11, I felt very much harassed from crossing fields, morasses, &c. and happening to hit the high road, I resolved to follow it for some time, especially as I thought it led my way, but could not be certain as the moon and stars were still obscured. I supposed it was too late for travellers to interrupt me: However, after quitting a wood on the side of the road, when I had to crawl up a sort of gravel pit to get on it, imagine my astonishment! – I had no sooner stepped on the road than I was challenged. Qui Vive in an audible voice, by a gend’arme on horseback. I need not point out how ready I was to quit the highway at that moment; I shall only say, that I made but one jump down the gravel pit, and crawled thence back into the wood; where I remained for some time to gather strength, being quite exhausted. I then proceeded along the wood without having any idea where I was going, the night being very dark, wet and inclement. The weather was much against me, and added greatly to a despondency which fatigue and hunger had increased – I, however, was resolved to struggle against it to the last. I fortunately fell in with a cabbage garden, close to a cottage near the wood, and eat plentifully, and I stowed a good supply in my pockets for the ensuing day. Afterwards, I re-entered the wood, in which I remained all day. At night I recommenced my journey, still embarrassed in consequence of the weather to know which way to go. This was the most severe night (if possible) I had yet experienced – the roads, pathways, and fields were deep and heavy from the constant rains; rivulets had become dangerous rivers, and I had to wade through several. I had an opportunity again this night of feasting upon cabbage stalks, leaves, and turnips, and filled my pockets also.
“My feet now began to get blistered, and very sore. I was also becoming excessively weak, it being my fifth day of living upon cabbage leaves and stalks. About half-past 2, in the morning, I perceived a lonely house on the side of a wood. I imagined I might approach it and thus endeavour to procure some refreshment; being of opinion, that after so long a ramble (even allowing for the traverse I must unavoidably have made) I was still a great distance from the place whence I had escaped; I was therefore tempted to try. Accordingly made towards it. Saw a light in the window, got close to the door, peeped through the key-hole and window alternately, and at last saw a woman spinning by a rousing fire. How anxiously did I wish to be seated by it! Twice had I the knocker of the door in my hand, and as often did I drop it; so great were my apprehensions and fears of approaching any dwelling place. My last rencontre had greatly heightened them, and not having plenty of cash to purchase myself off, was another powerful reason for alarm. Notwithstanding all my fears and all the embarrassments I laboured under, I at last seized the knocker the third time, and rapped. The door was opened by a man, who surveyed me from top to toe. I was covered all over with mud and dirt, and dripping wet. He could clearly perceive from my appearance and miserable aspect, that I had been secluded for some time from any fellow creature, and had been doomed to associate or rather herd with the animals that inhabit the forests; indeed the voice of the screech-owls, during my night wanderings, was the only one I had heard for some time, which had become quite habitual to me. Whilst this fellow remained with his eyes rivetted upon me, I assured him in French, that I was very thirsty, and asked him if he would have the kindness to give me something to drink? – He could not speak French, but made me understand he had nothing whatever to give me. – I discovered a pail of water and pointed to it, upon which he brought me a ladle full. I then took the liberty of sitting down by the fire, though this inhospitable boor never asked me. I did not much like the appearance of the place, nor did it offer any thing that could be of the smallest service. I asked him the road to Strasbourgh – it was close by. I was about to quit his fire side, when a tailor arrived to work for the family; and he also began to survey me very closely. I heard him whisper to the man of the house, and mention very distinctly the words Englander and Bitche. He then addressed me, and asked, if I were authorised to travel? whether I had a passport? &c. &c. I replied, he must be a very impudent fellow to ask such inquisitive questions, that i should not gratify a gossiping rascal of his description, and that I wished to know by what authority he could presume to interrogate any stranger in so unhandsome a manner – The scoundrel smiled. I then observed to the landlord, that the inclemency of the morning was what had occasioned my stopping at his house, particularly as I had seen neither village nor public house contiguous; but as there were no hopes of the weather becoming fair, I should continue my road to Strasbourg, which was twelve leagues off, and Bitche I was given to understand, was only three leagues; which mortified me greatly, to find what little progress I had made in so many days. But to return, – They sat down, tailor and family, to breakfast, without asking the unfortunate stranger to partake. So he of course took his leave, and pursued his solitary journey.”
After wandering for nine days through woods and marshes, over mountains, &c. during which period he met with many extraordinary adventures, and had some almost miraculous escapes, Mr. O’Brien succeeded in crossing the Rhine at Khel; from whence he travelled, with feet dreadfully blistered and legs much swollen, through Baden, Suabia, and Wirtemberg. He was also fortunate enough to obtain a conveyance over part of the lake of Constance; and had nearly reached Lindau, a town then forming part of the Bavarian territory, before he was again arrested. This event happened on the 2d December, 1807. He thus describes his subsequent treatment:
“They proceeded to search me, took away the whole of my clothes, and the few pieces of silver they found on me, my knife, razor, &c. observing that I should have them returned in due time. I prevailed on them to leave my pantaloons; and as only the collar and sleeves of my shirt remained, I did not fear being deprived of the comfort of reserving it. They then locked me up and retired. I found myself excessively cold during the night: a severe frost had set in; and I could not expect it otherwise. * * * *
“On the thirteenth morning, at day-break, the jailor appeared with breakfast and my clothes; and informed me, I was instantly to prepare for my journey back into France; that my escort would be at the door in a few minutes. I had scarcely swallowed my breakfast, when two military men were shewn in; the foremost carrying an immense iron chain, with shackles, and a large padlock. This man spoke a little French – saluted me civilly, and asked if I were prepared? ‘Yes,’ said I, ‘perfectly so.’ ‘I am sorry’ resumed he, ‘to be under the necessity of using these machines – it is the commandant’s orders, and, as you are an officer yourself, I need not observe how necessary it is to obey the orders of a superior. – We are brothers of the volunteer corps of this town, chosen on purpose to re-conduct you into France, lest you might have been ill treated by soldiers of the line! The commandant’s secretary now joined the party, and he expressed his satisfaction at his brothers being appointed to escort me. I pointed out to him the cruelty of putting so enormous a chain upon any human creature; – he replied, ‘you have escaped. Sir, even from the gend’armerie of France; and those are volunteers only, so that the commandant thinks it very necessary – we have no small chains; there is a carriage ordered to transport you, consequently the inconvenience will not be so great! A little more palaver followed; and my right arm and left leg were chained together, with the large padlock, &c. as before observed. I was then carried to the jail door, where there was an immense concourse of people to behold me thus decorated.
“We halted at midnight in a walled town, the name of which I have never found out; and they informed me I might go to bed for two hours. I never closed an eye. The night at length elapsed; I was placed in another vehicle, and soon discovered they were taking a more northerly direction towards Strasbourg. We had three relays before four in the afternoon, when we arrived at Tatlingen, a small open town in Wirtemberg. At midnight, we shifted waggon at Rotheweil. At four p.m., next day, we passed through Gegenbach, in the circle of Suabia; and about midnight arrived at Offenburgh, a fortified town in Baden. Here we went to bed, my guards having first placed theirs on each side of mine.
“In the morning, we quitted Offenburgh for Strasbourg; breakfasted at Khel, crossed the bridge about one o’clock, and were very strictly searched by custom-house officers, lest we might have any smuggled goods. Those fellows, as well as the sentries, were very much enraged on my telling them, they had not been so particular a few mornings bark, when I passed the bridge, without their deigning to speak to me. How mad the rascals were ! In half an hour I was delivered up to the French gend’armerie, and found myself securely lodged in the military jail. The lieutenant of that corps came to interrogate me, appeared very much astonished at my sufferings, wondered greatly at my being able to cross the bridge without interruption, and informed me, that at daylight the following morning, I should be conducted towards Bitche, in company with eleven Corsican soldiers, who had lately deserted from their regiment, and would be shot. He was very sorry that I should have such companions, but could not remedy it.
“December 19th. I was chained and handcuffed to the eleventh Corsican, and another chain was then passed through the whole of the party, which completely linked us together. The brigade that escorted us were the most cruel scoundrels I ever beheld. They placed the chain around my neck, under my handkerchief, and on my observing to them, that it must certainly be their design to strangle me by putting the chain on so tight, they took in another link, damned me for a rascally Englishman, and clapped on an immense padlock, which was dangling as an ornament under my chin the whole way; and they then screwed on my handcuffs until the skin was literally twisted off my wrists. At night we arrived at Haguenau jail.
“December 20th. We arrived at an open town, the name of which I have forgotten. The cold was very intense – snowing hard all day. For our comfort, we were put into one of the most filthy dungeons that ever mortal beheld – with scarcely room to turn round in it, and only a small hole in the door to admit air. The Corsicans appeared to feel a great deal for my situation, and observed, that they ought not to complain, when a British officer was used in so horrid a manner. They were permitted to go out of the dungeon to get some refreshments, which the charitable inhabitants sent them; but the ‘Sacre Anglois’ was not suffered to move; and I had great difficulty to procure a morsel of food. My companions soon returned, and they placed their knapsacks for me to lie on. The air hole was so small, and there was such an abominable smell, that I never expected to survive it. Two of these unfortunate wretches were seized with a diarrhoea, which continued the whole night, and added greatly to the stench we already had. The misery I endured was beyond description; the night appeared to have no end. At last the cheering moment arrived, which was announced by the usual sounds – rattling of keys, creeking of bolts, doors, &c. A gend’arme presented himself, and with a gruff overbearing voice, desired us to prepare for our march. He had very little difficulty in getting this summons obeyed, but he told us we must first of all clean out our cell! ‘Where is the Englishman?’ said he, ‘let him do that part!’ I advanced, and told him, I absolutely would not – I had caused no accumulation of filth since my arrival, therefore was determined not even to assist. The fellow was getting into a rage, when the deserters interfered, and assured him that what I stated was true, and they insisted upon their emptying it out; which being done, we commenced our journey as before; the two sick wretches were not exempted from fetters, although the weather was excessively inclement – blowing and snowing right in our teeth. My wrists were swollen and sore: however this was the last stage, and I expected at least to get clear of the handcuffs. The sick repeatedly requested permission to halt where they saw a frozen rivulet, to endeavour to procure some water, but to no effect. Those flint-hearted brutes would not suffer them, and the poor creatures ate handfuls of snow, to try to extinguish their burning thirst. The guard would not even condescend to unchain them on any occasion, and they were consequently exposed on the high road to every one.
“On the 21st, at noon, the high turrets of the gloomy mansion I was going to inhabit presented themselves to my sight. The outward appearance was of itself sufficient to strike the mind with horror. The idea of being shut up in that detestable fortress for, perhaps, the remainder of my existence, was not of the most pleasing nature; however, death was much more preferable than a continuation of my persecutions, and I sometimes wished to he at rest. In an hour I was in the centre of the fort of Bitche – stared at on all sides by my unfortunate countrymen, who happened to be out of their souterrains at this moment to respire. Several I could hear arguing whether I was a British subject. ‘He must have been,’ said they, ‘at the head of some banditti – perhaps he is the officer who commanded the soldiers he is chained to – It is impossible that any prisoner of war could be loaded in such a manner with fetters!’ Others, who recognized me, shook their heads, and dared not approach near enough to ask a question: but I could perceive they imagined I had committed some atrocious offence. Indeed it struck me, that they thought I had killed somebody, which I afterwards found was the general opinion.
“It was not many seconds before my old friends and companions, Messrs. Ashworth and Tuthill, found means to get to me. I never was more thunderstruck in my life, as I supposed they were, by that time, on their passage to, or had safely arrived in, England. Mr. Baker, of the merchant service, and all the others, except Lieutenant Essel, who had been lately dashed to pieces in endeavouring to go over the walls, likewise came to see me. Messrs. Ashworth and Tuthill had been arrested, about two hours after they parted from me in the wood. It had been so suddenly surrounded by soldiers, peasantry, &c. that it was impossible to escape from it. They could not account for my getting clear. The others, whom we had left with the waggon, never attempted to escape.
“I shall not attempt to describe the fortress of Bitche; to give a minute detail of its strength, souterrains, &c. would fill a volume; therefore I shall only observe, that it is reckoned the strongest fortification in France, built on the summit of an immense rock, out of which all its subterraneous caves are hollowed. It has three ramparts; the first, from 90 to 100 feet high; the second, from 40 to 50; and the third, from 25 to 30; with redoubts, entrenchments, &c. innumerable. It appeared, at that moment, a moral impossibility to escape from it; and I was filled with despair on beholding its works. Being now arrived at the wretched dungeon I was to inhabit, my handcuffs and chains were taken off; and the Corsican deserters were conducted to the condemned cells; they were, I believe, soon afterwards shot. I found a Mr. Worth, midshipman, and a Captain Brine, of the merchant service, here. The latter was one of those who came from Verdun with me. They were on a door, which they had managed to unhinge, and which lay as a platform to keep them out of excrement and wet, which was more than ancle deep. They informed me they had been companions of the unfortunate Essel, in the late attempt to get over the ramparts; six in number had broken out of their cave – had got a rope made of sheets, and were on the point of lowering themselves down, when they were discovered, and the alarm given; which made them all clap on the rope together, that was only strong enough to bear the weight of one at a time, and consequently broke. One was dashed to pieces, and three others were so severely mangled and bruised, that little hopes were at first entertained of their recovery: however, they were then improving fast, and expected in the dungeon the moment the surgeon reported them well enough; after which they would have to remain therein thirty-one days, the usual time of being buried alive in the first and most horrible gradation of our captivity. It was about fifty deep stone steps underground, and the most dark and intricate passages led from it to the jailer’s house * * * * * *
“We now again began to devise and meditate upon plans for escaping. One of us proposed undermining the dungeon. I saw no prospect whatever of succeeding in this point; I, however, was willing to try every means to regain my liberty. Hammers and chisels, with great difficulty, were procured, and we carried them always about us, as the dungeon was ransacked every day in our absence. We hung an old coat up against that part of the rock which we intended to begin upon. Rope was necessary to descend the ramparts with, after we had got out of the dungeon; we accordingly, through some friends, who had obtained permission to come and see us, contrived to purchase some stout linen for shirts (which we really much wanted) and from the shoemakers amongst the prisoners, we got now and then a ball of twine. We procured needles, bees-wax, &c. by degrees, and made a rope of four or five fathom for each, which we marled with the remainder of the twine, and passed tight round our bodies underneath the shirt. Our working time was immediately on being locked up after breathing the fresh air. Night would not do; as it would be necessary to have candlelight, and we might have been seen through the bars by our sentinels.
“The undermining business was found impracticable and was consequently dropped. Having a rope, we flattered ourselves we might some day, whilst allowed to breathe the fresh air, be able to elude the vigilance of the sentinels and scale the walls: however, it was a thing difficult to be accomplished; and our best hopes appeared, when we should be liberated from our present dungeon, at which time we expected to have an opportunity of using the rope, if not before. These ideas were very consoling to us; the prospect of once more getting out of their clutches was cherished by each of us, and we entertained one another with the pleasant sensations occasioned by such thoughts, with the direction we should next take, and how we should act in case of being again enlarged. These were the subjects of our constant conversation.
“January 23, 1808. We were at length conducted from the dungeon to a miserable hole under ground, to which I descended by thirty steep stone steps, where Messrs. Tuthill and Ashworth, with fifty of our countrymen, were already burled alive. Here I remained, planning and scheming every thing possible to effect my escape, but in vain: I, however, wore the rope constantly round me; yet the guards were so watchful, that I had very little hopes of being able to make the intended use of it.
“This continued during the months of February, March, April, May, and June, at the expiration of which the commandant had the kindness to allow me to go up into a room, Adhere there were already twelve more. This indulgence, he had the courtesy to say, was in consequence of my good conduct. Messrs. Tuthill, Ashworth, and Brine, were of the number; the latter wore his rope as I did, and was the only person of the party, then in the room, who knew I had one. We became daily more intimate from this confidence in each other; and after a vast number of fruitless endeavours, on the 17th July 1808, the term of our slavery appeared to be drawing to a conclusion: I was on that day told in confidence by one of the seamen, that a party had thoughts of breaking out that night from the souterrain – that he was one of them, and he informed me who the other principal people were. I began to regret having ever left the cave. However, I imagined there was a probability of getting down to them for the night. I accordingly wailed on the heads of the party, during their breathing time, and requested they would have the goodness to allow me to visit them that evening, without intimating my motives. They stared; and it immediately struck them, that I had a knowledge of their project. I therefore did not hesitate telling them the truth. They assure! me, they could not permit my coming down to them, as it had been already fixed, that none of those upstairs were to he admitted: their reason was, that they supposed it might cause suspicion, as it would be necessary to obtain the marèchal de logis’s leave, before any of us could get below. I felt greatly mortified at their resolution. They were locked down at the usual hour (6 o’clock), and I told them at parting, that I had still hopes of spending the evening amongst them. After they had been locked down, the marèchal de logis generally quitted the fort for some time, and I watched until I saw him go out, which was about half-past six: – At seven we were to be locked up in our room. I therefore lost no time, went instantly to the guard, whose name was Buché, and told him, I had been invited to celebrate the anniversary of a friend’s birth-night in the souterrain, and that he would oblige me greatly by allowing me to descend. He hesitated; but when I observed ‘What apprehensions can you possibly be under? am I not more secure below, than up stairs?’ he then granted it. I immediately apprized Messrs. Tuthill, Ashworth, and Brine, my companions in the above mentioned room, of what I had done; when they also persuaded the guard to allow them to join in celebrating the birth-night. I was afraid that their applying would cause suspicion, and prevent even my being allowed; however it did not. As we approached the cave, the noise which was made to prevent the working of saws, chisels, and other tools from being heard, convinced me they had already commenced their operations. Some wire singing, others shouting, dancing, and their dogs barking. Before seven we were amongst them, having taken a few necessaries with us for the night, which could not be observed, in our pockets. They received us with open arms, and admired our perseverance. I found they were getting on rapidly; the miners were very active. One door was already forced; the second door was an immense iron one; it was impossible to break through it, the miners had therefore worked away the earth and rock under it. It was half-past 10 before we got a hole large enough for a small man to creep through, which enabled him to force the bolts and bars at the opposite side, and to open the door. The principal obstacles were now removed in every one’s opinion, and there remained but two slight doors more to impede our advancing to a subterraneous passage that led out of the fort. This was a very intricate passage, and we had to feel our way to those slight doors, as it was dangerous to have candlelight. Some unfortunate English prisoners, owing to treachery amongst themselves, had been sabred in the same passage about two years before, in a vain attempt to escape during the night. How valuable would a dark-lanthorn have been at that moment! Every body, except the few that were appointed to force the doors, were preparing for their escape. It was now nearly midnight. Our over eagerness in forcing the third door, shot the bolt back, which caused a noise and alarmed the centinels outside. This occasioned a general alarm to be instantly beat – all hopes were then at an end. ‘What unfortunate wretches!’ were the only words that could be heard, every body endeavouring to get to his respective place before the guards entered. Those who were all over dirt trying to strip and hide their clothes: the confusion was great in all parts of the cave; people running against one another, mistaking each other’s beds and clothes. The visitors were of all others worst off; their friends, whom they came to spend the evening with, had no beds to offer them. The doors were now opening, the guards entering; and I, who was all over dirt, was rambling about without being able to find any place to creep into. By accident I stumbled over a bed, and I immediately crawled under the blankets, with my boots and every thing on. The guards passed close by me in going to the spot whence they conjectured they heard the noise. Every thing was silent, and you would have supposed that all the prisoners were in a sound sleep, some even were snoring. By the guard’s light, after they had passed, I discovered I was in a servant’s bed; the fellow was quite intoxicated, and I was some time before I could make him understand who I was. and what brought me to partake of his bed: however, this being done, he desired me to cover myself over, and assisted me as well as he could. It afterwards appeared that he had gone to bed with an idea of getting sober by the time we should be ready to be off. On discovering the first door opened, the commanding officer observed, with a sneer, that he would give them weeks to get through the next, meaning the iron one; but on advancing a few paces, one of (he guards attested with a horrid oath that the second was also open. This made the officer swear vehemently at the ‘sucres coquins,’ that he would find out the ‘chiefs of this horrible conspiracy! ‘Where are those visitors,’ cried he, ‘who, I understand, prevailed on the gend’arme to be admitted down; they must be the heads of this business?’ They then called over the names of Tuthill, Ashworth, and O’Brien. I was too old a man of war’s man to answer the first call. The two former answered, who were stripped and by this time in bed: However, this did not protect them; they were desired to put on their clothes instantly, and ordered to be conducted to my former habitation, the dungeon. They again repeated my name; Mr. Brine, through mistake, answered; and he was immediately ordered to join the other two. I remained close covered, whilst the servant sat up in the bed, and declared (when they were advancing towards him), that there was only himself there. This they took for granted, and passed to the next bed. I saw no prospect whatever of escaping from being discovered (as they were certain of my being below), and I was frequently on the point of jumping up and joining my comrades, who were now marching out for the dungeon. The servant (though intoxicated) observed, it would be time enough to join that party when I was discovered, and that I ought to wait patiently the result. I found a good deal of reason in what this man said, and remained quiet. There were three or more ringleaders (as they called them) discovered by the clay and stuff found about their garments, and the whole were escorted to the dungeon. The doors were then again locked, having placed centinels on those that had been broken open: I expected that the guards would return to search for another set of ringleaders, and I remained full of anxiety waiting for them. In the mean time I was of opinion, it would be as well to take my boots and clothes off also; I accordingly stripped, and concealed those that were full of earth and dirt in different parts of the souterrain. Some time elapsed, yet no return of the guards. I then composed myself as well as I could; my bed-fellow left me full possession, and I fell into a profound sleep.
“When I awoke it was day-light. The usual hour for allowing the prisoners to breathe the fresh air arrived; but the doors were not opened as before, and they were soon informed that they would be kept locked down, until they thought proper to deliver up the names of all those who had intended to escape on the preceding night. The prisoners laughed at such a proposition, since there was nothing more certain, than that all who had been capable of walking out of their dungeon, would have embraced so excellent an opportunity of regaining their liberty. On second consideration, it was agreed to give only the names of those already in the dungeon, as they were certain of punishment. The commandant would not credit the assertion of so small a number of names, and the souterrain was kept locked. At all events I was now certain of being missed from my room, as there was no possibility of getting back to it: At 11 o’clock they generally mustered – the gend’arme who gave us permission was confined; and it appeared that he had not given the correct names in the beginning, and had not been interrogated particularly afterwards, which accounted for the mistake between my name and Mr. Brine’s: however the moment, which left no hope of avoiding detection, was approaching fast. The commandant, and all the other officers of the fortress of Bitche, descended about 9 o’clock, to see the havoc that had been made the night before. They were all astonished how we could have made so much progress in so short a time, and with so few tools; having only found a broken saw, a hammer, and a couple of old chisels. I had a great deal of difficulty to conceal myself while below, but effected it; although it seemed to be of little consequence, as I imagined that 11 o’clock would decide my fate.
“At about 10, a waggon of wood came for the prisoners. Permission was then asked to have the doors opened, that they might come up for it. This was denied, and the prisoners in the rooms were ordered to throw the billets down into the dungeon, through the liars of the air holes; but fortunately for me, the wood was too large. They were then compelled to open the sonterrain, and allow a certain number up to take it down, a guard being first placed on the door. I got some clean things conveyed to me through the bars, and concerted a plan with one of those who was bringing the wood down: he was to make a particular sign when the guard’s eyes were off the door; which he did, and I that instant jumped out. The sentinels seized me, and desired I would descend again. I asked why they had just before permitted me to pass them and go down? That I did not belong to the souterrain, and went merely through curiosity, to see what the prisoners had been about the last night. I reminded them (who had been in the habit of mustering the room I belonged to) of the mistake they were making. They were convinced, and supposed they had actually let me pass a few minutes before; begged my pardon, and suffered me to return to my apartment, where I was in a few seconds indisposed, and snug in bed: Thus did I avoid being sent to the gallies, since I had often been informed that my next attempt to escape would be punished in that severe and horrid manner.
“There was no danger now of my being discovered, until the gend’arme who gave us permission should be liberated. In the afternoon, I obtained leave to go to the dungeon, to see my poor comrades, and condole with them. They were much rejoiced at my good fortune, but feared it would soon be found out. Eight days passed on. – I frequently paid those poor fellows a visit during the time, Buché was then released, and I was obliged to keep constantly in the room when he was on duty; and, when he came to muster us, I was covered over in bed. They never call the names, to count beads is their method, which suited me admirably. Five more days had passed away in a similar manner, when we received orders to prepare for a general review, which usually takes place once a month.
“August 4th. On this day we were all placed in ranks and minutely inspected. It appeared to my friends and myself, that I could not now avoid discovery, as all the gend’armes attended. There is no exception or excuse of sickness to be made; if a prisoner be able to crawl he must attend, and frequently they are carried. I took my station in the ranks, expecting in a few minutes to be lodged with my old companions in limbo. Buché, whom I had so long avoided, rivetted his eyes upon me. I had received information that he was going to make known to the commandant or general, that I had importuned him more than the rest, and was the person who prevailed on him to let any down. He was astonished at seeing me, having been informed that I was in the dungeon. Shortly afterwards he passed me, and I saw him go and speak to the above-mentioned officers: I was then confident he had completed the business. The review took place; every one was inspected, and some were asked several questions. I was passed over with very little notice. I could not account for it – yet was of opinion, they would have said something on the subject had they been made acquainted with it. We were all dismissed, and the officers retired. I was confounded at my additional success, yet feared there was some mischief brewing.
“Whilst I was walking to and fro, in a kind of a dilemma, I was accosted by Buché, in nearly those words: – ‘By what miracle have you escaped from the dungeon? and how did you get up out of the souterrain? I have seen you walking about some days, although perhaps you did not see me.’ – ‘Pray, Sir,’ I replied, ‘why should I be put in the dungeon?’ ‘My God!’ exclaimed he, ‘were you not the person, who was chiefly the occasion of my letting the other three and yourself down to visit your friends, as you called it?’ – ‘You must certainly, Sir, have made a mistake, it was not me.’ he replied, he was certain it was me; but added, that it would afford him no satisfaction to have me punished, since his own punishment was over. It had been his intention to tell the general and commandant; but his wife had persuaded him not to do it. I assured him that he should lose nothing by what he had suffered, and that I knew the generosity of the gentlemen on whose account he had been confined. The fellow laughed – we became good friends, and ho took me to the dungeon that afternoon to see my companions.
“August 5th, 1808. – The next day my poor comrades received orders to prepare for a march to Metz; whither they would be escorted to take their trial as conspirators, and Buché to go as prosecutor. I now deemed myself fortunate indeed. I had the mortification to see them loaded with irons, after being a number of days in a most abominable dungeon. In a few days I received a letter from Mr. Ashworth, giving me a detail of the trial, &c. and stating, that himself, Mr. Brine, and several others, were sentenced to remain as slaves fifteen years in the gallies – Mr. Tuthill only nine.”
At the moment these unfortunate gentlemen were on the point of being marched to their destination, an order from Paris came to repeal the sentence, and to re-conduct them to Bitche, from which fortress they subsequently effected their escape. A biographical memoir of Mr. Ashworth was published in the Naval Chronicle, Vol. 33. We now come to the period when Mr. O’Brien made his fourth effort for liberty, Sept. 1808.
“By this time,” says he, “I had another plan of escaping in contemplation, and with every hope of success. The arrival of Messrs. Hewson and Butterfield, midshipmen, who in March that had escaped from Verdun, favored my scheme very much. Mr. Hewson held an intimate friend and very old acquaintance, I communicated it to him, and he rejoiced exceedingly at an opportunity so soon offering for another attempt to escape. However it was necessary to wait some lime, as he was placed in the souterrain. In a few days he contrived, owing to real indisposition, to be moved up stairs into a room appointed for the sick. I now hoped to be soon able to execute our project, and had procured keys, with which I could at any time get out of my own room; it then only remained to open the hospital room door, and the wished-for meeting between us would he formed. This I attempted two nights successively, but without effect. – I found it was impossible. – As I only waited for the worthy Hewson, it was necessary to endeavour to get him up into my room – no other prospect was left. He made application by letter, to the commandant; and on the 11th of September succeeded. We wanted nothing now but a favorable moment. The next day Dr. Barklimore, an acquaintance of ours, also received permission to reside in our apartment. We were, fortunately, only seven in number; and of these seven three were confined to their beds. The fourth was a Mr. Battley, a dragoon officer of the East India Company’s service; who had been a long time in the room, and informed me that he had conjectured what we were about, and requested to be allowed to join and partake of our danger, – which we agreed to. No opportunity of getting by the sentinels yet presented itself. Our friends arrived from Metz, but were put below. I communicated the business to them, they thought it a very dangerous and hazardous plan: however, they would have willingly run the same risk with us, if they could; but that was impossible.
“It was now the 13th of September, and the third night since Mr. Hewson had joined. Our poor friends were secured, after taking an affectionate leave of us. The night was very inclement, and proved much in our favour. Every thing was put in readiness; our rope made into a ball, and tied up in a handkerchief. Darkness at last set in. It rained – blew – thundered – and lightened; I never recollect a more desperate night. We unlocked our door with the keys already mentioned, and remained at the bottom of the stairs, waiting to see the sentinel go into their boxes; it was about 8 o’clock, and we continued in this position until midnight, without any success. The sentinels were on the alert during the whole time, and without their great coats. It was then agreed to return to our apartments until the ensuing night, and to deposit all our apparatus in places that had been fixed on; but, upon second consideration, we imagined that the relief at midnight might not be so very active, and therefore continued in expectation until two in the morning, when we returned, having secured our door, &c. and went to bed. The souterrain was opened at the usual hour, and our friends came running up, imagining, from the inclemency of the night, that we must have succeeded; but were greatly disappointed at finding us all in our beds. I related the circumstances to them; and they, with ourselves, were not sanguine at our being able to pass in fair weather, if we could not in such a night an the last had been. I never saw soldiers more on the alert than the French sentinels.
“Doctor Barklimore had recently recovered from a severe fit of the ague, and was still very weak: I was much afraid, even if we did succeed in getting out of the fort, that he would not be able to perform the very long journey we were going to take. However, he was resolved to try.
“On the 14th, we dined early, that we might have the pleasure of our souterrain friends’ company at a farewell dinner, during their breathing time. We got a good large piece of beef, and had it roasted; we had also bread, vegetables, and beer. They stated the number of difficulties we should have to surmount in passing the guards: the danger that would attend it; and expressed the anxiety they were under for us. We, however, were determined not to relinquish our undertaking, and to be ready every night until an opportunity offered. We parted as we had done the night before. They did not suppose we should have any chance that night, us the weather was moderate and fair. At our usual hour we were locked up, and immediately re-commenced our preparations. We thought, perhaps, the sentinels might be more careless early in the evening, that is to say, before 8, which was the usual time to set the night watch and give the necessary orders.
“We were now all ready – Our door was opened, and we could see the sentinel, whom we had most to fear, walk up and down before our windows. His box was in front of the door, in the yard through which we had to go; but us our guards lived underneath our apartments, we thought, he would take any body’s moving about so early, for one of them; and it was unusual to challenge any one before 8 o’clock.
“At about 7, the fellow entered his box. I instantly descended the stairs that led into the yard – It was just dusk; and I was to take six minutes on the forlorn hope, as it might justly be termed, to fix our rope to a palisade and to descend the first rampart, before Mr. Hewson followed, who was next on the list. I passed the sentinel quite close, and could see him leaning over his musket. He never moved, though I met his eye, probably taking me for one of the guards; and I arrived providentially, at the spot fixed upon to make fast the rope, which I very soon accomplished, and was just in the act of descending, when my friend Hewson arrived. In a few minutes, to my inexpressible satisfaction, all four were at the bottom of the first wall. Our principal object being now accomplished, we felicitated each other. We had two walls yet to descend; the heights I have already mentioned in a former page. We all clapped on to the rope, in order to break off as much of it as would enable us to descend the other ramparts; it soon gave way to our weight, and left us an abundance. We then made it fast to one of the upper stones of the embrasure, and again descended, – then clapped on again, and broke enough to go down the third rampart. We had taken the precaution of providing two long boot-hooks to stick in the wall, to make our rope fast to, in case we had no other means; and these we found of the greatest service in descending the last rampart, as there was nothing whatever besides that we could fasten it to. Having now descended three walls, we had only to pass the outside sentinels, who were few, and which we fortunately succeeded in doing; after descending the third wall, we remained in a large fosse or ditch, and had to watch the turn of a sentinel whom we observed walking just above us. – As soon as bis back was turned we rolled on our sides down the glacis. In a short time, we were on the high road to Strasbourg; on which we continued, running as fast as we could for nearly half an hour. We then halted to put on our shoes, which we had hung round our necks; and also to take a last view of the ‘mansion of tears.’ We returned our thanks to God, and shook hands with each other, replete with joy at this miraculous escape. Each took a little spirits out of a cantine procured for the journey; and which, from experience, I knew was necessary to preserve health when lying in the woods, dripping wet, in the day time. The transactions of the last hour actually appeared to me like a dream. I wished only that our three sick comrades who were in the room, had been with us; but we had left our door locked, and the window open, to deceive the commandant and save our friends. – I could hardly suppose I was again free and my own master. I frequently stared at my companions, and said to myself, ‘my God! is it then possible, that we are clear of the tyrants, and are delivered from abject slavery?’ I now addressed them, and observed how much it behoved us to proceed cautiously. It was Messrs. Hewson’s and Barklimore’s second attempt, Mr. Battley’s first, but my fourth. I, consequently, had most reason to be on my guard; and, of course, became the leader. I, therefore, candidly observed, that I should run no risks that could by any means be avoided; the moment they should attempt any thing that I deemed rash or imprudent, I would quit them, They expressed the utmost satisfaction at my observations, and ardently desired to conform to them. We unanimously directed our course (by the stars) due east, which would take us directly to the Rhine, and a considerable distance to the northward of Strasbourg.”
On this occasion, Mr. O’Brien and his companions succeeded in crossing the Rhine close to Dourlach, having in the night of Sept. 19th, providentially found a boat made fast to some wood, with which they supposed she was to have been loaded at day-light. Up to this period they had never once approached the abode of any human being. On the 20th, they passed Rastat, four miles north of Baden. and dined at a small village, where Mr. Battley was obliged to remain behind until he could recover the use of his limbs, which had now entirely failed him. The others then proceeded past Offenburgh and Gibenbach; through Hornberg, the Black Forest, Kriemshieldach, and Tutlingen; across the rivers Andalspach, Iler, Wardach, Lech, Amper, and Inn; over a branch of the lake of Kempzee; and past the last Bavarian barrier, into the Austrian dominions, where they arrived, after an anxious and most harassing journey, Oct. 17, 1808. Their subsequent adventures are thus related by Mr. O’Brien:
“We were now, as one might say, between the frontiers of two nations; one would not allow us to advance without the proper documents, and the other, if we remained a moment, would pursue and arrest us for having passed theirs without showing them what entitled us to do so. Well knowing which power we had to apprehend most, I proposed to endeavour to avoid the Austrian officer, and to get into their territory as soon as possible. We accordingly chose a pathway that led into a wood, on the side of an immense mountain, expecting to be followed instantly by the Austrian guard; but also calculating in being too far in their dominions, for any one to return us to the Bavarians. I need not say that we advanced very briskly, until we got into the wood, quite out of breath, tolerably sure that we were now in Austria, and astonished that we were not pursued. After stopping some little lime to breathe, we again proceeded. It was impossible to cross the mountains, they were quite inaccessible. We therefore kept the wood as long as it lay in the direction that suited us; and, in a short time, we saw the high road, and found we were about a mile within the Imperial barrier. This was an inexpressible consolation.
“We proceeded with confidence to the road; when, just as we had stepped on it, four men sprang up from behind a rock where they had lain concealed, and presented their pieces at us. The headmost of them took his hat off, and asked us for our papers. I shewed him an old pocket book, pretending to look for mine: the man said, we must accompany him to his officer, for he himself was no judge, and pointcd towards the Austrian turnpike. ‘With a great deal of pleasure,’ we replied, and asked if we were not in ‘the Emperor’s dominions?’ he answered, ‘Yes.’ – We accompanied these soldiers to their officer, who was a young man, and spoke no other language than the German. However, we comprehended perfectly that he was displeased at our attempting to elude him and the guard. He examined us; and we made him understand as well as we possibly could, ‘That we were American seamen, who had escaped from the Danes at Altona, and were making the best of our way to Trieste, where we expected to procure a passage to our native country.’ He desired one of his soldiers to go, and inform the Bavarian at the next barrier, that he wanted him. This circumstance occasioned me much uneasiness. I endeavoured to learn from him, if he intended to send us to Salzburgh. He said we should be conveyed there immediately. We were much pleased at this, as we dreaded being given up to the man at the next barrier; who now had arrived, and was astonished, when the officer observed that he had let us pass without examining or interrogating us. My friend the Bavarian was excessively nettled at the information.
“Our escort for Salzburgh being appointed, we proceeded once more in bondage. Every thing now depended upon the disposition of the Austrians with respect to America and England. We resolved to persevere in our American tale, unless we had some great inducement for acting otherwise. At about 2, we arrived at Salzburgh, and were instantly conducted to the town house. We were interrogated by the director of police, a very civil gentleman, who spoke several languages fluently. He asked us in French, what countrymen we were? We would not understand him. He then asked the same in Italian and German? we were equally ignorant. At last he asked us in English; we then perfectly understood him, and answered, ‘Americans.’ ‘How have you contrived’, said he, ’to enter the Emperor of Austria’s territories without regular passports? You will be considered as spies.’ – ‘We belonged,’ said I, ‘to an American ship taken by the Danes, in consequence of being boarded by two English frigates in the British channel, on her passage up the Baltic. Our names are Manuel, chief mate; Henderson, surgeon; and Lincoln, myself, a passenger.
“The director requested we would each make out a regular declaration, who and what we were; and bring it him the next morning – he should send us to a tavern for the night, and requested we would not stir from it without his permission. He expressed also his astonishment at our having crossed the continent, without being able to speak any other language than the English; and added, ‘That if we were Englishmen we had nothing to fear from the Austrian government.’ My God! I never felt more happy than at hearing these words – how they soothed my mind! – I, however, feigned not to comprehend him perfectly, that my ears might again hear them. He repeated the same expressions; which caused me so much emotion, being confident that a man in his station would not tell an untruth, that I was actually on the point of declaring what we were. However, I governed myself and restrained my desire to relate the truth, although I am at a loss to explain how I was able to do so; and turning to my companions, I observed, that we had better proceed to the tavern, as we were very much fatigued. The director ordered a sergeant to shew us the way. We took a cordial leave of this worthy old man, and followed our guide. So delighted were we with the last news, which I still heard re-echo in my ears, that we had arrived at the tavern, which was at a considerable distance from the town house, before we thought we had advanced a hundred steps towards it. Here we were received as American gentlemen, and had an excellent supper and good beds; we felt superlatively happy. What a vast difference between our present situation, and that in the morning when between the two barriers!
“The next morning, we rose early, and endeavoured to adjust ourselves as well as we could, at least as well as our tattered garments would admit of; so procured a shift of linen, and prepared to wait on the director. We agreed to continue the American story, until we could be well assured of the disposition of the Austrian government. For my own part I would not have hesitated a moment to tell the whole truth, so fervently did I rely on this gentleman’s veracity; but the others were more cautious, for which I commended them. At ten, we visited the director; who again expressed great astonishment at our travelling with such success so great a distance, and wondered that we had nothing whatever to certify that we were Americans. Mr. Manuel (Hewson) was at the same time writing his declaration. The old gentleman again observed to me, that there were frequently Englishmen passing through Salzburgh, who had escaped from France, and who always found an asylum in Austria. I paid very great attention to this conversation. The chief mate had now finished his declaration; and Mr. Lincoln, passenger, was to begin next. – I really could not bring myself to begin so false a declaration, especially as it appeared that we ran no risk in declaring ourselves; and I therefore again pointed out the consequences that such a step might occasion, with the certainty of being found out, as no doubt the court of Vienna would make every necessary enquiry through their consul at Altona, before they would pay any credit to our statement: the result of which would of course be detrimental to us, as we should be found impostors, and perhaps not be believed when we declared what we were in reality. They all agreed that my remarks were just; and I was requested by them, to take the old gentleman aside and make him acquainted with the whole circumstance. I accordingly did so, and proved to him by a certificate which I kept always sewed up in my clothes, that we were British officers. He said, it had appeared to him at first sight, that we were English prisoners of war, escaping from the French. I related the whole of our history. He regretted much, that he could not instantly grant us passports, since it was necessary to acquaint the government at Vienna, and have their sanction. But we should have an answer in fifteen days at most; and he jocosely added, ‘You have been five years nearly in France, so you cannot have any objection to remain amongst us for a few days.’ He was excessively kind; and I could not avoid observing, that our finances were greatly reduced – upon which, he very handsomely removed the difficulty, by saying, that the government would allow us a certain sum per day, agreeable to our rank, &c. whilst we were detained by them. We all felt very sensible of his goodness, and returned him our warmest thanks. He requested we would make ourselves as comfortable as possible, and keep at our tavern, until we heard from him. We took our leave, and returned to the inn. Mr. Hewson wrote the same evening to a Mr. Concannon, in Vienna, to assist in forwarding our wishes there. the director sent daily to know, how the American gentlemen did? We sometimes stole out in the dusk of the evening, to reconnoitre and survey the town, and we had fixed on a part to get out at, in case of receiving unfavourable news.
“It was on the eleventh morning, before we were out of bed, that a police officer rapped at our door, and informed us that the director wished to see one of us. Hewson dressed himself and waited on him. During our friend’s absence, the doctor and myself were in a most perplexed state. Hope and fear alternately took possession of us. It was impossible to have had an answer from Vienna in so short a time. I dreaded lest the French or Bavarian governments should have demanded us; yet still I concealed my fears from my companion, who was again very ill with a fever and ague. – Hewson shortly returned, and dissipated all these apprehensions, although he endeavoured to suppress his joy on the occasion. He had composed his countenance, and entered the bed chamber very grave and pensive, informing us, he was fearful we should again be sent back to France. We were not so ignorant of physiognomy, as not to be able to discern that he had no such apprehension; but had, on the contrary, received some joyful intelligence. He then congratulated us upon being once more freemen, and informed us, that the director had received an order from the Austrian government, to grant us passports to proceed where we pleased; and that we might quit the town that day if we wished. Good God! what intelligence to people who had been nearly five years in slavery! We sprang out of bed, fell on our knees, and greeted each other as free people. It is impossible to describe our joy and happiness at that moment. We instantly agreed to wait upon our old and worthy friend, the director, and shew him how grateful we were for his attention and kindliness. He received us in the most handsome manner, and appeared as much elated as if he had been in our situation. He wished to know how we meant to travel to Trieste? We answered on foot, as our finances were low; though we dreaded the doctor’s incapacity, on account of his late indisposition: His last fit having been so severe, that he was under the necessity of employing medical assistance; and had been bled and blistered several times, but he was then somewhat better, though weak.
“Our passport for Trieste was at this time making out, and in half an hour we were to return for it. In the mean time we went hack to the tavern to make the necessary preparations, and get some breakfast. It was a luxurious meal. The moment we entered, the landlord presented us with an answer to Mr. Hewson’s letter from his friend at Vienna; and what joyful news did we receive in that letter! It informed us of the success that had attended our application at that city, with respect to our passport, and contained an order on his banker at Salztburgh, to supply us with what money we might deem necessary to defray our expences, and enable us to travel with case and comfort – a mode of conveyance that we had hitherto been strangers to. Providence appeared too bountiful. We waited on the banker, got the sum necessary, and called on the director, to give him the intelligence, he appeared much pleased, congratulated us on our success, and ordered our passport to be made out to go by the diligence. This proved very fortunate for our sick companion, who feared much we should have been separated had we been obliged to walk.
“The wished for morning at length arrived; we took a grateful leave of the director, and placed ourselves in the diligence. The first night we had a most intricate and difficult road to pass, through immense mountains covered with snow. Nothing particular occurred. The conductor of the vehicle was inclined to be insolent, and assisted the innkeepers to extort from us; however, at the fourth stage we fortunately got clear of him, and were placed in a waggon that took us to Villach, and thence to Clagenfurt, the capital of Carinthia. There we were apprised that we had better perform the next day’s journey on foot, as the mountains were so excessively high, that if even we had a carriage we should be obliged to walk the greater part of the way. Next morning (Sunday, 30th Oct.) we rose at day-break, and commenced our journey. We walked twelve leagues before 7 p.m., six of them ascending almost perpendicularly, and the rest descending in the opposite direction. After undergoing a strict inspection at a small post town, we took carriage for Laubach, the capital of Carniola, and travelled all night. On the 31st we departed thence for Trieste, where we arrived on the 4th Nov. 1808.
“I need not dwell on the pleasure we felt this morning at beholding the gulf of Trieste, and the ships and vessels lying in the harbour, among which was a Russian squadron, consisting of four sail of the line, one frigate, and a store-ship. We also discovered a ship at anchor, some leagues out, which we were informed, was his Britannic Majesty’s frigate, l’Unité, Captain (Patrick) Campbell, who, they said, blockaded that port. This was the most welcome news imaginable. We were now certain of being able to get entirely away from the clutches of tyranny and oppression.
“We waited on the Director of police, who received us with great politeness, and had us conducted to the first tavern in the town; requesting that we would still say we were Americans. A borea, or N.E. wind, which in the Adriatic is most violent, was then setting in: he assured us, it would be impossible to get embarked until the gale abated, hut that he would render us every assistance in due time; we took our leave, greatly rejoiced at this reception, and proceeded to the inn; thence we went and waited on the American consul. He received us civilly, and informed us, there was a gentleman named Donolan (who was formerly the English vice-consul) then in town. We waited on this gentleman, and he proved, in every sense of the word, a real friend; he engaged to get us embarked, supplied us with cash, and offered us to remain at his house if we wished; his wife was equally polite and attentive. The inclemency of the weather was the only thing at this moment that prevented our happiness being complete.
“We returned to the tavern, and passed our moments as comfortably as possible; dined at the table d’hote, with the officers of the Russian squadron, who at first supposed we actually were Americans; but afterwards, from a number of insinuations thrown out by them, and the marked attention they paid us, I am confident they discovered what we were.
“Notwithstanding the severity of the weather, Mr. Hewson and myself used to walk out to on adjacent height, to contemplate the ocean, and to Bee our frigate, that lay violently tossed and agitated on that boisterous clement. Not another British vessel was to be seen; and the idea of this single ship blockading, as the inhabitants termed it, so superior a force, increased our admiration. It was highly flattering to us to feel at that moment, that we belonged to so superior a country, and to that service which ruled so triumphantly, feared and admired by the whole world.
“On Monday night (November 7th), the weather became moderate. The frigate got under weigh, and I feared she might, perhaps, be quitting the station. We waited instantly on our friend Donolan, who assured us we should be embarked that night, and he kept his promise. Every matter was arranged, the boat, &c. in readiness; and at about half-past eight we embarked, and were in a very short time clear of the harbour.
“Our crew kept rowing towards the point they expected to find the frigate in; hut to our mortification we were disappointed. They then agreed to get close in on the coast of Istria, until the moon rose, and to come to a grapnel, which was executed. The moon being up, we weighed and rowed out again, in the hope of discovering the frigate; but with no better success. I protest I thought she had gone off the station, and felt very unhappy, but did not disclose my ideas to my companions, lest I should make them also miserable. In this kind of manner we kept rowing in different directions until day-break, when we discovered a boat pulling right down for us. We concealed ourselves in the bottom of our little bark; imagining it might be a boat sent after us by one of the Russian ships; and thinking that their officers’ attention to us, had been to enable them the better to discover the time of our departure from Trieste. I must here remark, that I have been since frequently sorry I ever harboured so bad an opinion of them, they behaved so very kind. The boat ran alongside of us, and asked in English what we were. I sprang up at hearing the voice, and with inexpressible joy saw, that it was a ship of war’s yawl. I answered that we were three British subjects, who had escaped from a French prison. Having been informed it was the Amphion’s boat, I assured the officer we should be very happy to quit our present one, and take a passage with him to the frigate. He replied, ‘The ship is at present at a considerable distance off, I shall not return until 8 o’clock.’ I answered, that was of little consequence, two of us belonged to the navy, and we would willingly take a cruise along the coast with him, if he had no objection. He agreed; so we paid our people, dismissed them, and had the happiness of being once more under our proper colours, and on our own element.
“Upon turning round and looking at the officer who commanded the boat, I immediately recognized Lieutenant (George Matthew) Jones, who had belonged to the Amphion when I had the honor of serving as midshipman on board her. I made myself known to him, and he had the goodness to say, that he felt very happy, in being the fortunate person that had picked us up. I was astonished at finding the Amphion, instead of l’Unité, which we had been informed was the frigate lying at anchor during the gale off Trieste. But Lieutenant Jones cleared the point up, by informing us, that they only arrived that night. l’Unité had stood lower down the gulf.
“Nov. 8th, 1808. This day I shall never forget. We felt in perfect security, and were amusing ourselves relating some particulars respecting our escape, &c. until nearly 8 o’clock, when we discovered two sail under Capo d’Istria. We supposed them to be enemy’s merchant vessels stealing along shore. Lieutenant Jones made instantly towards them. We soon perceived one was full of men, pulling in shore from the other; it had the appearance of a row-boat, the other was larger and rigged like a trabacolo, under Venetian colours. We imagined that the major part of the crew had abandoned the latter, and were endeavouring to get on shore. Fired several muskets to bring them to, which the trabacolo returned with a four or six-pounder at intervals. Our gallant officer did not hesitate a moment, but rowed directly towards her. We could not discover many men upon her decks; but those that were there, kept up a smart fire, until we got close alongside, when upwards of twenty shewed themselves, and fired a volley of muskets and musketoons, which killed our bowman and another, and wounded three, one of whom died the next day. Lieutenant Jones and myself were also wounded. The conflict was severe. The other vessel seeing how much we were inferior in strength, and observing the loss we had sustained, made towards the trabacolo, with twenty-two men. We had no alternative, but were under the necessity of sheering off, and it was only to their cowardly and dastardly conduct, that we remained indebted for not being again made prisoners. The frigate was out of sight, and the confused state of our little crew, two killed and five wounded, would have rendered us no difficult conquest to so superior a force, had they but persevered.
“Lieutenant Jones never made the slightest complaint, nor did he let any one know he was wounded, until we were well clear of them, although it proved to be a most painful and dangerous wound which he had received; he had also several musket balls through the crown of his hat. My wound was from a musketoon shot through the right arm, which entirely disabled it then; nor do I ever expect it will recover its former strength.
“At about half-past noon, we got alongside my good old ship. Captain Hoste, although a stranger to us, behaved like a parent; his very great humanity will never be erased from my mind. The other two lieutenants, William Bennett and C. G. R. Phillott, had been on board the Amphion also, in my time; consequently I felt quite at home amongst my friends: the whole of the officers vied with one another in paying us attention, and afforded us every succour that could be expected by people in our destitute situation from their generous countrymen.
“Sixteen days had elapsed, most of which time I was confined to my bed, when H.M. brig Spider, Lieutenant (William Sanford) Oliver, commander, arrived from Malta, with despatches, and to return immediately. We solicited Captain Hoste’s permission to take a passage in her, which he readily granted, giving us a letter of introduction and recommendation to Sir Alexander Ball, the port-admiral and governor, who ordered Dr. Barklimore a passage to England, and advised Mr. Hewson and myself to join the fleet off Toulon with all possible expedition.”
Off Corfu, the Spider captured a French bombard, laden with great coats and wool, and she was not released from quarantine until the arrival of the Amphion at Malta, with Mr. Battley on board, whom that frigate had picked up off Trieste, a few days after the departure of his late companions. On joining Lord Collingwood’s flag-ship, Messrs. O’Brien and Hewson had the gratification of seeing five more of their fellow sufferers, who had fled from Bitche in consequence of letters they had written at Trieste, pointing out the best course for them to pursue. Among these were Messrs. Tuthill and Brine.
On the 29th Mar. 1809, Lord Collingwood appointed Mr. O’Brien lieutenant of the Warrior 74, Captain John William Spranger, in which ship he assisted at the capture of the islands of Ischia and Procida, Zante, Cephalonia, &c. &c. &c., in June and October following.
On the 2nd Mar. 1810, he joined the Amphion, as junior lieutenant of that frigate; and shortly afterwards bore a part in a gallant exploit, the result of which was the surrender of the garrison of Grao, in the Friule, and the capture and destruction of about 35 vessels, chiefly laden with steel, iron, and merchandize.
Lieutenant O’Brien was second of the Amphion at the brilliant battle near Lissa, Mar. 13, 1811; and after that event we find him conducting la Bellona, one of the captured French frigates, to Malta. His next appointment was, Nov. 16th in the same year, to be first of the Bacchante 38, on that day launched at Deptford.
The Bacchante sailed from Spithead, for Cadiz and the Mediterranean, June 2nd, 1812; captured la Victoire French privateer, near Palermo, July 26th, and arrived at Lissa on the 10th of the ensuing month. Three weeks afterwards, Lieutenant O’Brien conducted a dashing enterprise, which was thus officially reported to the senior officer in the Adriatic:
“H.M.S. Bacchante, off Rovigno, Sept. 1, 1812.
“Sir,– Having received information that seven vessels were laden with ship timber for the Venetian government, at Port Lema, on the coast of Istria, I yesterday evening detached the boats of this ship, under the direction of Lieutenant O’Brien, to bring them out, which I am happy to say he completely effected, though they were lying under the protection of a French xebec and two gun-boats.
“Lieutenant O’Brien received information of this unexpected force of the enemy from two merchant vessel he captured at the entrance of the port, and who stated their force to be very superior to his own; notwithstanding which he proceeded to the attack, and very gallantly carried them by boarding, as well as the timber vessels. At day light, I had the pleasure of seeing the whole coming towards the ship.
“I am happy to say this service has been executed without any loss on our part, which I consider as chiefly owing to the arrangements of Lieutenant O’Brien, the gallantry and promptitude with which he led the boats to the attack, and the brave, determined support he received from those under his command. He speaks in high terms of Lieutenant (Francis) Goatling, Lieutenant (William) Haig, R.M. and all the officers and men under his orders, for their gallantry and coolness.
“The enemy’s force consisted of la Tisiphone, French national xebec, of one 6-pounder, two 3-pounders, and 28 men; a gun-boat with one 9-pounder, two 3-pounders, and 24 men; and another of one 9-pounder and 20 men; intended for the protection of the trade on the coast of Istria, from Pola to Trieste. I have the honor to be, &c.
“To Rear-admiral Freemantle.”
The next service performed by the Bacchante’s boats was reported in a public letter to the same flag-officer, dated Sept. 18, 1812, of which the following is a copy:
“Sir,– I have the honor to inform you, that this morning, at day-break, I discovered an enemy’s convoy between Tremite and Vasto, on the coast of Apulia, standing alongshore to the N.W.; calm and baffling winds prevented my closing with them in the ship, and I therefore detached the boats, under the command of Lieutenant O’Brien, to endeavour to intercept them, which, I am happy to say, he completely succeeded in.
“I had an opportunity from the ship of seeing the nature of this service, and the gallantry displayed in the execution of it. The merchantmen, on the approach of the boats, anchored, and hauled themselves aground, leaving eight armed vessels to protect them outside, who took up an excellent position for that purpose. The crews of those aground quitted their vessels, and lined a thick wood astern of them, well adapted for their defence and for bush-fighting, and which completely commanded the coast.
“In this situation they awaited our boats, which were led to the attack by Lieutenant O’Brien with his accustomed gallantry; and I want words. Sir, to convey to you my admiration of the determined manner in which this service was performed. The boats, pushing through a very heavy fire of grape and musketry, carried all before them; boarding and driving the enemy from their vessels in every direction. The marines at the same time landing, forced them from their position in the wood, leaving our brave men in quiet possession of this valuable convoy, consisting of twenty-six vessels, laden chiefly with oil and almonds, from Barri, bound to Venice. I enclose herewith a statement of their armed force.
“Lieutenant O’Brien was most ably seconded by Lieutenant (Silas Thomson) Hood, second of this ship; also by Lieutenant Haig, R.M., who lets no opportunity of distinguishing himself escape; and he speaks in the highest terms of the whole of the petty officers and men employed with him. I have the honor to be, &c.
The captured armed vessels consisted of the Andre Roguing, and Vincenzo del Mondo, each mounting one long 12-pounder and three swivels, with a crew of 16 men; the Nicolo Pascolicio, of one 12-pounder and 16 men; and five others (names unknown) of one 12-pounder and 12 men each. In the performance of this very gallant and important service, the British had not a man killed, and only two wounded.
The foregoing letters were published by the Admiralty, Jan. 22, 1813; and on the same day Lieutenant O’Brien was advanced to the rank of commander: he did not hear of his promotion, however, for nearly three months afterwards. On the 13th and 14th Nov. 1812, he assisted in bringing off a large quantity of government oak timber from the beach near Fesano, a small town in the vicinity of Pola, where the enemy had 300 soldiers, but made no effort to prevent its being taken away. Only a very brief extract of the following official letter was ever published in the London Gazette:
“Bacchante, off Otranto, Jan. 6, 1813.
"Sir,– I have to inform you, that at day-break this morning, in company with H.M. sloop Weazle, I discovered a division of the enemy’s flotilla close to us, steering for the coast of Italy; it was nearly a calm. The enemy, on seeing us, separated; and I detached the boats of this ship, under Lieutenant O’Brien, to attack one division, and directed the Weazle’s boats, with one from the Bacchante, to pursue the other, then endeavouring to gain the island of Funo. The Weazle was directed to support her boats, whilst I continued, with what little wind there was, the chase of those my own boats were after; and I have much satisfaction in stating the capture of the whole without the loss of a man. the enemy waited in line to receive the attack; but the judicious disposition of the commanding lieutenant, and his prompt measures for boarding them, occasioned their surrender after a good deal of firing, and a very spirited resistance from the sternmost gun-boat. It is my duty to state the conduct of my first lieutenant, O’Brien, whose judgment and bravery are highly conspicuous: and it is only a continuation of a variety of boat services which that officer has been engaged in, and which has been invariably crowned with success.
“I beg leave to recommend him to the notice of the commander-in-chief, as a brave deserving officer.
“The officers and men displayed the same eager desire to distinguish themselves which I have had occasion to mention more than once, and are deserving of praise for their exemplary conduct; Captain Black assures me, that the conduct of the officers and men employed in the Weazle’s boats was equally meritorious.
“The Weazle joined me in the evening with the two gun-boats she had been sent in pursuit of; and a circumstance occurred in the capture of them, which will, I trust, recommend the midshipman to the notice of the commander in chief. Notwithstanding the exertions of the Weazle, the boats were enabled to close with the enemy before her, and the then leading boat, commanded by Mr. Webb, of the Bacchante, got up with the sternmost, who received him very warmly: he, however, boarded and carried her. She mounted one 14-pounder in the bow, one 6-pounder in the stern, and had forty men actually on board. He left her to be taken possession of by the boats that were coming up, and pushed on after the headmost, which he boarded and carried in the same gallant manner. This one had a 9-pounder in the bow, a 6-pounder in the stern, and 32 men actually on board. Mr. Webb’s boat mounted a 3-pounder in the bow, and he had 18 men only with him. He has passed his examination as lieutenant, has been two years acting lieutenant, and is a very promising meritorious young man.
“The enemy had quitted Corfu the evening before, and were bound to Otranto to convey money for the payment of the troops on that island. They are very fine vessels, and sail remarkably fast. Their guns are fitted so as to turn on a pivot, and may be fired in any direction without altering the course, which enabled them to keep up a very smart fire, as our boats approached. As it is the only force of this description the enemy have at Corfu, the capture of them will be of considerable annoyance to the island. The enemy had two men severely wounded. I am happy to say, we had no casualty whatever. I have the honor to be, &c.
“To Rear-Admiral Freemantle.”
The Corfu flotilla consisted of l’Arrogante, la Diligente, and l’Indomptable, each mounting two guns (long 14 and 6-pounders), rowing 30 sweeps, and manned with from 36 to 40 men; la Salamine, of two guns (9 and 6-pounders), 30 sweeps, and 32 men; and la Calypso, of one long 12-pounder, 28 sweeps, and 30 men. Three of them were commanded by enseignes de vaisseaux, the others by aspirants. The following officers and midshipmen were employed in the boats of the Bacchante and her consort on this occasion:
Lieutenants Hood and Gostling; Lieutenant Haig, R.M.; Messrs. George Eyre Powell, Edward Webb, Hon. Henry John Rous, Hon. William Waldegrave, James M‘Kean, James Leonard Few, Thomas Edward Hoste, and Edward O. Pocock; Lieutenant Thomas Whaley, of the Weazle; and Mr. James Steuart, ditto.
The following is a copy of the last night-order issued by Captain Hoste, while Commander O’Brien was doing the duty of first lieutenant:
“H.M.S. Bacchante, Malta, April 20th, 1813.
“Turn the hands up at day-light, let the decks be swept and swabbed, the hammocks stowed under the half-deck, the boats to go for bread, and every thing be ready for unmooring after breakfast. – Painting the quarterdeck or fore-castle out of the question, as the ship will certainly go to sea. As Captain O’Brien will most probably resign the duty of first lieutenant on the ship’s going to sea – he having been promoted to the rank of commander – to which his gallant services have so justly entitled him, I beg leave, in this most public way, to express my most sincere thanks for the ready assistance and cordial co-operation for the benefit of the service which he has at all times afforded me; and though I am sure I can bear witness that no stimulus is necessary to the exertions of the officers of this ship, yet Lieutenant O’Brien’s promotion, as it has been gained entirely by his own exertions, unassisted by interest, holds further to the remaining officers a striking example that meritorious service will meet its own reward.
“Lieutenant Hood will take on him the charge of first lieutenant whenever Captain O’Brien gives up the duty.
On the 4th May, 1813, the plague broke out at Malta, and Captain O’Brien could find no opportunity of quitting that island until the 29th, when he embarked, and sailed for England, in the Thunder bomb, Captain Watkin Owen Pell. As we have been obliged to pass over many interesting parts of his printed narrative, without any notice whatever, we shall here transcribe two letters, which were addressed to him by Admirals Lord Radstock and Viscount Exmouth, after reading the account of his extraordinary adventures.
“Shirley Cottage, Croydon, Aug. 22, 1814.
“My dear Sir,– Your kind letter, and its accompanying valuable present although dated June the 12th, did not reach my hands until my return from viewing the fire-works in the Park, August 12th. As my family were then in the country, and I myself was compelled to remain in town upon business, it was not till the other day that we could begin your narrative, as I determined that it should be read by us aloud, well knowing the interest that each individual would take in the adventures and miraculous escapes of our dear William’s friend. And now, my dear Sir, how shall I ever find words to express to you the various strong feelings, the anxiety of mind, the successive hopes and fears, which we all experienced during the course of your wonderful flight; and above all, the inexpressible joy and delight we felt at the moment of your obtaining the Austrian pasport! But I will not attempt that which I know to be impossible. Suffice it then to say, that if I before esteemed you for your general character, and the parental kindness which you so long showed to my dear boy, to these feelings must now be added, that admiration of your talents and of that almost unparalleled fortitude of mind which you so nobly displayed in the hour of trial. Your narrative is so artlessly, so naturally related, that I can assure, without the slightest exaggeration, there were moments when I so strongly imagined myself to be one of your party, that I could scarcely venture to stir, or even draw my breath. My wife and daughters experienced nearly similar feelings, and we all regretted that such courage and talents should have been employed during so long and cruel a captivity, instead of having been exerted against the enemies of your country, the foes of mankind. I hope and trust that you have sent a copy of your narrative, not only to every lord of the admiralty, and the two secretaries, but to all the leading members of the cabinet; and then, a well directed and well backed memorial cannot, I should apprehend, fail of obtaining for you that promotion which your merits so richly deserve. Lady R. and my daughters unite in best wishes for all that can contribute to the happiness of a man of Captain O’Brien’s worth. Yours most truly and sincerely.
“London, 14th May, 1825.
“My dear Sir,– I found on my table, on my return home, your kind note and your narrative. I feel very much obliged to you for both, but particularly for the latter, which I shall preserve well bound, that my grand-children may read and admire your manly and unconquerable spirit, your indefatigable zeal and perseverance, giving a noble example to their young minds of what a British officer can do for the honor of his country and his own. Accept my sincere and cordial thanks, and believe me, my very sincere good wishes will ever attend you. I have the honor to be, my dear sir, most faithfully and much yours,
As Captain O’Brien was made commander for services performed antecedent to the capture of the Corfu flotilla, he naturally indulged the hope that that exploit would have procured him immediate employment. He remained on half pay, however, until Aug. 1818, when he received an appointment to the Slaney ship-sloop, of 20 guns, fitting at Plymouth for the South American station.
After visiting Madeira, Rio Janeiro, and Buenos Ayres, Captain O’Brien proceeded round Cape Horn, and was placed, by Commodore Bowles, under the orders of Captain William Henry Shirreff, then at Valparaiso, and employed as senior officer in the Pacific. The numerous and complicated duties which of necessity devolved upon him, in common with other officers commanding ships of war at the different ports in South America, have been described in our memoirs of Sir Thomas M. Hardy and Captain Basil Hall; and the following copies of letters addressed to Captain O’Brien will serve in some degree as an illustration of part of them. The first, second, and third, allude to circumstances which occurred through an attempt made by Lord Cochrane, at the commencement of the blockade of Callao, to take possession of some British merchantmen then under the protection of the Slaney:
“Lima, 2d October, 1819.
“Dear Sir,– I assure you it is with sentiments of the greatest respect and admiration, that I take up my pen to return you thanks for the zeal and resolution you displayed on the 29th ultimo, in so happily preserving from a ruinous detention, my own, and other British property, in defiance of such a powerful force as was opposed to you; and I hope you will accept these my most grateful acknowledgments, as a small testimony of the sentiments I cherish towards you, for the protection so happily afforded to my property; and am, dear Sir, with respect, your most obedient and humble servant,
(Signed)“Thomas Guthrie, commander of the
Indian Oak, extra East Indiaman.”
“Lima, 25th October, 1819.
“Sir,– From the kind attention with which you have been pleased to view our interests, and the exertions you have made to forward our views, we cannot commence this letter but by assuring you of our gratitude for the protection we have received, and the advantages we have obtained, since this port has been favored by your presence; nor should we thus have intruded ourselves upon you, did not the exigency of the case urge his to make this appeal to your goodness; and we trust that in continuance of your consideration will induce you to favor us with the grant of our request.
“You having pleased to notify to us, that to-morrow is the day appointed for the sailing of H.M. ship under your command, we beg leave to represent to you, that the conflicting circumstances which have occurred since your arrival have prevented us from conducting our affairs to that termination which we had hoped for, that your sailing to-morrow would leave us in a state of great incertitude with regard to our present situation, and future plans; and that, as the British merchants in Chili, as well as ourselves, will be greatly benefited by your protracting for a few days your departure hence, you will, by thus favoring us, be producing a great benefit to British commerce. We therefore earnestly request you, as the protector of British commerce and interests, to favor us with the advantage of your influential presence for a few days longer than the period fixed on for your intended departure; assuring you, that nothing could induce us to make this request, but the conviction of the very important effects which will result from your determination, the distressed situation in which we shall be left by your speedy departure, and the important benefits which will be the consequence of your acceding to our request. We have the honor to subscribe ourselves, with the utmost respect, &c.
(Signed)“Joh. Geo. Heim,
“Geo. A. Waddington.
In reply to the above, Captain O’Brien informed Messrs. Heim and Waddington, that the Viceroy of Peru had made an official application to the same effect as their own, and that he had been induced thereby to suspend the sailing of the Slaney for some days.
“Ship Merope, at Sea, 8th Nov. 1819.
“My dear Sir,– Allow me to sincerely thank you in the name of Messrs. Mackintosh and Co., in whose employ I am, for the very great assistance and benefit you have rendered them in protecting and expediting the returns of a large amount of their property to be conveyed to Calcutta in the Merope, under my command, I doubt not they will find means to convey to you the sense they feel of the obligation they are under, as soon as the same is made known to them. In the mean time, I beg to give you my own particular thanks, and, wishing you a happy voyage, remain, my dear Sir, yours ever sincerely,
The returns spoken of by Mr. Lihou were shipped on board the Slaney, at Callao, and not transferred to the Merope until after Captain O’Brien had escorted her clear of every danger.
The next service performed by this officer was that of obtaining the liberation of the English merchant brig Nightingale, which had been detained by the Viceroy of Peru on suspicion of smuggling British manufactures into that country. Two different log books having been found on board that vessel, tended to confirm the false assertions of one of her crew, who had deserted to a Spanish frigate, and greatly increased the difficulty of saving her from condemnation. Captain O’Brien’s exertions were thus gratefully acknowledged:
“Brig Nightingale, Callao, 12th April, 1820.
“My dear Sir,– So we are free! I suppose you think that the good news has almost turned my head, I have had a letter from Mr. * * * *, who writes in great spirits, which of course shine upon me. They have been all this morning to what they call a ratification of the declarations. I don’t know whether they have finished on board the St. Sebastian yet or not, but I have no doubt now but all will go well. I am perfectly unable to express to you how very much I am indebted for your many kindnesses, and must wait until I can make my bow to you: I expect they will still detain us a day or two yet. I have already written three times for permission to communicate with the captains of the British ships of war, but as yet without success. Believe me, my dear Sir, very respectfully and sincerely yours,
When about to return to the eastern coast of South America, Captain O’Brien received the following from the Director of the republic of Chili.
“Valparaiso, 25th June, 1820.
“My dear Sir,– With the most unfeigned regret have I heard of your indisposition, and the more so as I fear the press of public business which at present occupies the whole of my time, will not allow me the pleasure of seeing you previous to your departure.
“Accept the assurances of my sincere friendship as an individual, and, as a public magistrate, the expressions of the high sense I entertain of the uprightness, integrity, and gentlemanly conduct which have characterized you during your residence with us. I had hoped you would have remained a longer time in Chili; but a soldier myself, I well know the calls of duty are imperious, and paramount to every feeling of private friendship. I shall feel highly gratified to hear from you. With best wishes for your speedy recovery, and the prosperity of your voyage, I remain, my dear Sir, your very faithful friend,
Captain O’Brien now returned to the Rio de la Plata, where his sloop was obliged to be hove down, in consequence of her grounding on a bank near Maldonado. He had previously received a very friendly farewell letter from Commodore Bowles; and the following was there addressed to him by the new commander-in-chief, who afterwards did him the honor to hoist his broad pendant on board the Slaney:
“H.M.S. Creole, off Buenos Ayres, 8th Jan. 1821.”
“Sir,– Having witnessed the exertions of yourself, officers and ship’s company, and others employed in preparing H.M. sloop under your command for sea, when recently heaving down and refitting at Ensenada, I beg you to accept my best thanks, and that you will convey the same, in my name, to the officers and ship’s company of the Slaney, and to those belonging to other ships, serving under your orders, for the laudable zeal and exemplary conduct manifested on this occasion. I have the honor to be, &c.
(Signed)“T. M. Hardy, Commodore.”
Captain O’Brien was senior officer in the Rio de la Plata, at the period when the government of Buenos Ayres made an attempt to compel all the British merchants, &c. residing there, to organise themselves for the purpose of taking arms against the neighbouring provinces, so as to identify them with the natives; the result of which measure would have been the sacrifice of property to a very great amount. This design, however, Captain O’Brien fortunately succeeded in defeating; and he ultimately obtained, from the existing authorities of that distracted republic, an official document exempting every British resident from being drawn for military service, or in any way required to act hostilely against its recently declared enemies. It is necessary to observe, that this great point was not gained until after a most painful and persevering correspondence, many discussions upon the laws of nations. Sec. &,c., nor until it had been officially intimated to the said authorities that all our fellow subjects would be driven to the necessity of quitting the country. Captain Adam Mackenzie, then commanding the Superb 78, and entrusted with the direction of the naval force on the eastern coast of South America, addressed a letter to the Admiralty, dated April 30th, 1821, and in mentioning Buenos Ayres, observed, that “Captain O’Brien, the senior officer on the spot, had been ordered to avail himself of the many direct opportunities from thence to England, to forward such details as he might think worthy of their Lordships’ notice. Through that zealous and intelligent officer,” added he, “I doubt not their Lordships have been put in full possession of the passing events in that capital and its neighbourhood as they arose.”
Captain O’Brien’s correspondence relative to South American affairs is too voluminous to be here inserted. We must therefore content ourselves with observing, that he was advanced to post rank, March 5th, and superseded in the command of the Slaney, Oct. 20th, 1821. He returned home passenger on board the Owen Glendower frigate, in Jan. 1822; and married, June 28th, 1825, Hannah, youngest daughter of the late John Walmsley, of Castle-meer, in Lancashire, Esq. who, as high sheriff of that county, had the honor of proclaiming the accession of his present Majesty; and sister to George Walmsley, Esq., proprietor of Bolesworth Castle, co. Chester.
Agent.– Messrs. Maude and Co.
- See Vol. I, Part I, note at pp. 414–417.
- Captain Bennett died at North Court, in the Isle of Wight, Oct. 11, 1818, aged 48 years.
- The publication of the papers entitled “Naval Bulletins,” which appeared in the Naval Chronicle for 1812, 1813, and 1814, was not sanctioned by Captain O’Brien: the pamphlet now before us is the only production he acknowledges as his own.
- The carpenter (Mr. Thomas) was drowned in attempting to land in Berthaume bay.
- Midshipmen were allowed to walk in the suburbs of Verdun, but ordered to attend two appels or musters per day; and offenders against this regulation were generally sent either to $t. Louis or Bitche, the dépôts of punishment.
- Captain O’Brien has seen the man who arrested Louis XVI. his queen, sister, and two children, in their flight from the Thuilleries, in 1791.
- 22 miles south of Cambray.
- The chief town of the department du pas de Calais, province of Artois.
- They were douaniers or custom-house officers – the sea-coast abounded with them.
- “These fellows in general had very large heavy boots, and were otherwise badly equipped for running.”
- In summer they allowed us to remain until seven.
- A name given to Bitche by the prisoners.
- Mr. Barklimore is now in practice as a surgeon, &c. at No. 10, Charlotte Street, Bloomsbury, London.
- See Supplement, Part I p. 89 et seq. and Vol. I. Part II. p. 7l9.
- See Commander William Slaughter.
- See Vol. II. Part I. p. 472 et seq.
- The latter afterwards killed near Manfredonia – see Nav. Chron, xxxi, 512.
- Drowned near Zante, when in charge of a prize.
- Lost in a captured vessel on the coast of Apulia.
- Died in Oct. 1920.
- See Suppl. Part III. p. 121.