Elizabeth Haven Appleton.

The sufferings and escape of Capt. Chas. H. Brown from an awful imprisonment by Chilian convicts online

. (page 1 of 8)
Online LibraryElizabeth Haven AppletonThe sufferings and escape of Capt. Chas. H. Brown from an awful imprisonment by Chilian convicts → online text (page 1 of 8)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook





IS .




lie 1


|l»| I 19 [ |g^["^ \2l\22\


' 1












\32\33\34 \35\
28\2d\ P ^4_, !3e1 [37138

30 3i



1. Front gate. 2. House in which Cambiaso and Garcia lived.

3. Rooms where Sir. Shaw and myself were first confined.

4. The room I was afterwards removed to.

5. Where Mr. Dunn, Capt. Avalos, and others were confined.

6. TVhere my crew were confined. 7. Cillows.

8. Tree wlicre the woman and others were shot.

9. The platform. 10. Flag-staflT. 11. Guns.
12. Officers' house. 13. Cook and bake houses.

14. Gate to the yard where the cattle were kept.

15. Trees where Mr. Shaw, Capt. Talbot, and the passenger were shot.

16. Where they were burnt, with the governor.

17. Where the vessels' papers were burnt.

18 to 44. Houses or huts for the soldiers and prisoners.

45. Calaboose. 46 to 43. Store houses.

50. Gate. 51. Sometimes used for calaboose.

£2. Dog house.

J p^l^^^ ''

A-, i ,.'-^l '^ i/^\i



km mmi

. H.

g^n Jtoful |iitpris0itmcnt




20 Washinoton Street.


Bntered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1854,
in the Cletlt'a Office of the District Court of the District of


The preface to a book ia very often nothing
more than a respectable cloak, allowed by the
conventionalities of literature, in which an author
may wrap his excuses and apologies for troubling
the public with his lucubrations. This dressing
up of excuses in order to introduce them into
notice under another name, is a thing so tempting
to poor human nature, such a pleasant little off-
ering to self esteem and vanity, that it would be
very hard if authors were to be debarred from
♦a luxury in which all their fellow mortals indulge.
Yet, if it be true that a good wine needs no
bush, it is equally true that a good book needs
no excuse ; and in this age of ready writers, it
is very certain that no excuse or apology can
justify the publishing a bad one. To apologise
for poor or careless writing, because there haa
not been time or opportunity to make it better,
provokes the question, " What necessity was there
for writing at all ? " — a question not always easily

But this is not an apology for my own book;
it is simply a preface to the narrative of another
person, in which I can claim no part except that

8 P R K F A C K .

of collecting the facts from different sources, of
arranging and compiling them. If in performing
this task, I have in any way " come tardy off,"
my excuses are due to both captain Brown and
his readers.

In writing out this account, I have labored un-
der the disadvantage of being able to hold no
communication with captain Brown,^ except by
letters. His legal papers connected with his claim
for salvage, and his own concise narrative of his
sufferings and escape, dra"^^'n up for Mr. Webster's
information at the time the claim for salvage was
first made, were put into my hands; and his
letters from time to time have supplied me ■w'ith
the details. I have, in every case where it was
possible, retained his own spirited language j but
I feel that had it been possible for me to have
seen and heard him, the narrative as taken down
from his lips might have been, not, I believe, ,
more correct as to facts, but perhaps more graphic
and life-like as to detail.

Still, I am convinced that the simple account
of his adventures, his sufferings, his unquenchable
spirit, and the manner in which he sustained and
did honor to the reputation of our American
seamen, amid dangers before which the bravest
might shrink, cannot be without its interest to
his countrymen, and especially to those of his pro-
fes.-iion ; while every American must feel that his
services to the Chilian government were received
by them without even an acknowledgement of
their value; his just and legal claims being re-


fusetl almost with contumely. Had captain Brown's
demand for salvage on the treasure rescued by
him been backed by the presence of an American
frigate, commanded by such a man as captain
Ingraham, we should not have seen the British
admiral allowed to carry it off from under the
eyes of the Chilian authorities, while they feared
to serve the process of detainer issued according
to the law of the country ; nor should Ave have
seen an American citizen brow-beaten by an Eng-
lish officer, while in the discharge of his duty to
his owners and to the government in whose em-
ploy he was sailing. An American frigate would
have taught captain Stewart that no orders from
the Chilian government could give him power to
seize a vessel sailing under the American flag,
commanded by an American citizen.

Such outrages and such injustice to our citizens
will never occur when that can be said of the
American navy, which one of our own authors
has lately said so well of the British. " An Eng-
lish man-of-war seems to be always within one
day's sail of every where. Let political agitation
break out in any port on the globe, if there be
even a roll of English broadcloth or a pound of
English tea, to be endangered thereby, within
forty-eight hours an English steamer or frigate is
pretty sure to drop anchor in the harbor with an
air which seems to say, ' here I am ; does any
body want any thing of me ? ' " *

* Six months in Italy. By George S. Hillard.


Our country should be the guardian of her
children, wherever the rights of civilized society
are respected, that our citizens may be in danger
of outrage and injustice only among savages and
outlaws ; • and we may be assured that in such
extremities, they will, for the most part, like cap-
tain Brown, be found fully able to protect them-

To return to my preface or apology : in offering
this narrative to the public, let me repeat my
assurance, that captain Brown is answerable only
for the facts ; for whatever literary defects there
may be, I alone am responsible.



C N TEN ^ S.


Valparaiso — The barque Florida — Cu/tered by the Chilian
government — Prisoners for convict colony put on board —
Captain Avalos and soldiers sent for protection — We set
saU — Arrangement of the vessel — llr. Shaw's sickness —
Attempted insurrection among the prisoners — Prompt
conduct of Captain Avalos — All quiet again — We reach
the Straits of Magellan — Williwaws — We anchor in
Sandy Bay 15


Sandy Bay Colony — Governor Benjamin Munoz Gamero —
Insurrection of Cambiaso — Forged Message from the Gov-
ernor — Landing of Captain Avalos — Escape of Governor
Gamero — Boat sent on shore — Return of the boat — Cap-
ture of the Florida — Mr. Shaw and myself seized — Taken
on shore — Our imprisonment at the baiTacks — Privations
—Mr. Shaw removed 30




My prison — My guards — An English hymn book — A fellow
prisoner — Capture of the Eliza Cornish — Fears of the
English mate — Death of Mr. Shaw — Of Captain Talbot
and boy — Barbarity of their execution — The Chilian pris-
oners sympathize with us — Cambiaso's bravado — Captain
Avalos and others led out to view the dead bodies —
Treacherous betrayal of Governor Gamero — Execution
of the traitor — My walk 51


Capture of the Governor — His execution — I nm led out of
my prison — The burning of the bodies — Governor Ga-
mero's character — His intercourse with the native tribes

— The Priest Acuna — Arrival of H. B. M. war steamer
Virago — Mr. Dunn, the Secretary — Cambiaso plans the
capture of the steamer — He fears her force and discipline

— The officers invited on shore — No suspicions aroused

— The Virago sets sail 71


We are better treated — Captain Avalos again — His priva-
tions — The sergeant shot — Mr. Buela — Cambiaso's dis-
cipline — His code of laws — Personal appearance — His
vanity — Threats of poison — Improved faro — The coffee


— The mate secures the E. Cornish — Cambiaso and
Garcia visit me — I go on board the Florida — My stew-
ard 94


Comparative comfort — The American ensign — Christmas
day — My visit to the barracks — The Indian boys — Cam-
biaso's rage — Execution of the Indian woman — The
cattle slaughtered — Escape of the Indians — Fears of the
rebels — Preparations for leaving — The Florida re-christ-
ened — Interview with Cambiaso — The embarking of the
colonists — Prisoners sent to the Florida 123


Cambiaso's orders — We set sail — Wood's Bay — The old
French ship — A drunken riot — The officer condemned —
Garcia's interference — Jlen deserted at Wood's Bay — The
Eliza Cornish left behind — Stonny weather — Sandy Bay
again — The Indians — Cape Gregory — Interview with
Cambiaso — His promises — Conversation with Mr. Dunn
— My determination 145


The re-taking of the vessel planned — Mr. Dunn — Captain
Avalos — Preito — The corporal — Three bells — The strug-



gle — Cambiaso overpowered — Garcia — Cheers for victory

— The crew swear fidelity to rae — Our course — Cambiaso
put in irons — His cowardice — The prisoners from the
hold — River Gallegos — Voyage roimd Cape Horn — At-
tempted outbreaks — Our danger — We reach San Car-
los 169


Reports of the revolt reach San Carlos — American Ministei
sends assistance — Chilian Government despatches forces
to the Straits — The Virago — Fears of the inhabitants of
San Carlos — I deliver the Florida to the Chilian authorities

— Arrival of the E. Cornish — The Virago takes the pris-
oners and treasure — Passage to Valparaiso — Protest and
claim of salvage — Mr. Duer — Don Antonio Varas — In
justice done me by the Chilian government — The British
Admiral claims the treasure — I protest again— Com pro
mise — Don Antonio denies all claim — My claims put intc
the hands of tlie United States Authorities 19J


Cambiaso's trial — His execution — His character — Garcit

— My interview with him — The officer saved bj' Garcia —
His wife's gratitude — Mr. Duer's kindness — Mr. Dunn —
Captain Avalos — Conclusion 220



Valparaiso — The barque Florida — Chartered by the Chilian
government — Prisoners for convict colony put on board —
Captain Avalos and soldiers sent for protection — We set
sail — Arrangement of the vessel — Mr. Shaw's sickness —
Attempted insurrection among the prisoners — Prompt
conduct of Captain Avalos — All quiet again — We reach
the Straits of Magellan — Williwaws — We anchor in
Sandy Bay.

In the latter part of October, 1851,
1 was at the port of Valparaiso, Chili,
having command of the barque Florida,
of New Orleans, of about two hundred
tons burden. My orders from my own-
ers were to take the Florida through
the Straits of Magellan to Rio Janeiro,
where we were to take in freight for


the United States ; and ^j first business
was to secure my officers and crew.
One of my owners was now at Valpa-
raiso, and would accompany me on the

To a sea-faring man like myself, such
a voyage was no new thing, and I
looked forward with some interest, but
with no excitement, to the prospect of
many days' tiresome battling with the
wind and waves, to the annoyances of
clearing, and to the perils and labors
of a tedious navigation through the
Straits. Had I known what perils and
sufferings awaited me, with what different
feelings should I have left the beautiful
city where I had received much kind-
ness and hospitality, and trusted myself
to the treacherous elements, and to men
far more treacherous than they ! But,
happily, Providence has given to us 6\\\y


a knowledge of the present, and the
blessing of hope for the future, without
any foreshadowing of coming evil.

The barque Florida was a long, low,
straight-built vessel, and a fast sailer.
She had been employed formerly in sail-
ing between Panama and San Francisco,
conveying passengers to and fro, and
was well fitted up for that purpose, with
a large cabin, extending as far forward
as her mainmast, and fourteen well fur-
nished state rooms. She was also
furnished with four brass cannon, four
pounders, and one iron swivel mounted
forward. Her owners were Capt. John
Lovett, of Beverly, Mass., and his brother-
in-law, Mr. Benjamin G. Shaw ; Mr.
Shaw being the principal owner. On
board of her were Mr. Shaw, the owner,
and one cabin passenger, Mr. Raraon

Biiela, belonging to New Orlean'^



The vessel having at that time no
cargo, we were applied to by the gov-
ernment of Chili, to convey certain
State prisoners, charged with political
offences, to the penal colony established
by that government at Sandy Bay, Straits
of Magellan. This was at the time when
the Chilians, disaffected to the govern-
ment at Santiago, had risen, under
General Cruz, and had seized the Prov-
ince of Conception ; and the political
offenders whom we were to convey to
Sandy i?d,y, were, some of them, impli-
cated in that rebellion.

After some consideration, Mr. Shaw
determined to accept the offer of the
government, and to allow it to charter
the Florida for the conveyance of the
prisoners to Sandy Bay, where wc were
to leave them, and proceed on our
voyage. The authorities were to seno


with the prisoners a sufficient number of
troops to secure us against ' any dis-
turbance during the voyage, and accor-
dingly, Captain Pedro Avalos, with a
corporal and twelve soldiers were drafted
on that service.

On the morning of October 30, I took
command of the vessel, with the in-
tention of getting her ready for sea the
same evening, that I might be prepared
to receive the prisoners, who were to be
sent on board of her the same night.
By hard work on my part, and plenty
of pushing up my men, we were all
ready by night, and at eleven o'clock,
P. M., the prisoners began to come on

Hard featured, desperate looking men,
some of them were, with the downcast,
heavy look of criminals. Men were
among them who had set law at defiance,


■whose hands liad been against every .
man, and in whose hearts the kindly
affections had long been deadened; and
I felt as I looked at their countenances,
made, perhaps, more repulsive to me by
the dark, foreign cast of features which
my early education and prejudices had
taught me to associate with men of
desperate fortunes, that there was no
rasy task before me. There were, how-
ever, among them men of high rank,
who, for having joined in one of those
political struggles which so constantly
shake the South American Republics,
were now condemned to a long impris-
onment on the savage shores of Pata-
gonia, in the society of convicts and
felons of the worst kind ; some sen-
tenced for a tedious term of three years,
some doomed to a life-long imprisonment.
On the evening of Sunday, November


3d, 1 received a notice from Commodore
R. Simpson, acting Intendente of Val-
paraiso, by the captain of the port, that
all the prisoners were now on board,
the notice being accompanied by an
order for me to proceed to sea at once,
without any further communication with
the shore. The Intendente evidently
feared the escape of some of our pris-
oners, or perhaps some communication be-
tween them and their political associates,
The evening being calm, the sea breeze
having died away, and no appearance of
the land breeze springing up, I asked
the captain of the port, to whom the
regulation of all the shipping in the
harbor belongs, for the assistance of two
boats from the Chilian man-of-war which
was lying in the harbor at the time, to
tow my vessel out to sea. They were
sent, and assisted us till midnight, when


a land breeze springing up, they left
us, and returned to the harbor.

I had made every preparation to in-
sure order and security during the
voyage, had mounted two of the four
pounders upon the poop deck, pointing
forward so as to rake the whole deck,
and kept them constantly loaded. The
prisoners, about eighty in number, were
put into the hold of the vessel, and
were only allowed to come on deck for
air and refreshment, in small detach-
ments. A sentinel was stationed at the
gangway, and the deck was constantly
guarded by seven soldiers and half my
crew. The crew consisted of eight men
before the mast, part Americaii^, and
part foreigners, first and second mate,
cook, and cabin boy. Mr. Shaw, Captain
Avalos, Mr. Buela, the first and r,econd
mates, and myself shared the cabin.


The wind continued light until the
afternoon of Monday, the 4th, when a
fresh breeze sprung up from the south-
west, right ahead : which head wind
and rough sea continued through the
first part of our voyage. Our little
vessel was a fast sailer, but with these
obstacles in our way, we made but slow
progress, and our passengers began to
feel the tediousness of a sea voyage.
For my part, my responsibility was too
heavy, and my avocations somewhat too
numerous, for time to hang heavily upon
my hands, for my officers were neither
very efficient or entirely to be depended

My anxieties and responsibilities were
increased when we were some days out,
by the >:iickness of Mr. Shaw, who was
seized with a relapse of the Panama
fever. My relation to Mr. Shaw was


something more than the mere business
connection between the owner and mas-
ter of a vessel. We had been thrown
together yery closely, and I had always
found him ready and prompt with advice
and sympathy in every difficulty that
might arise, and most considerate in &V
business arrangements. "We were Amer-
icans, from the same State, away from
our families and friends, and bounr
together by many common subjects of
interest ; subjects which grow in im-
portance when men are far away from
their homes. His sickness, where so
little could be done for his comfort,
was a source of considerable anxiety to
me, and deprived me of almost all so-
ciety, for Captain Avalos talked very
little English.

"We had been out about a fortnight,
when, as Captain Avalos and myself


wore sitting in the cabin, we were
startled by word being brougl t from the
sentinel ' at the gangway, that one of
the prisoners had informed him that
there nad been a proposition among the
prisoners to rise and take the vessel.

I sprang upon the deck and called up
all hands, while Captain Avalos ordered
up the soldiers who were not on duty.
The soldiers were all under arras, and
the captain proved himself soldier-like
and efficient in any emergency ; for his
first order was, that in case of any
disturbance among the prisoners, the first
man that made his appearance was lo
be shot down. We waited in some
anxiety, but all was quiet ; then, or-
dering the soldiers and the crew to
remain on their guard, Captain Avalos
and ni^ielf went to the gangway and
inquired into the cause of the alarm.


It seems that the proposition to tako
tlie vessel had Leen made hy one of
the prisoners, — one of those confined for
political offences. His plan had prob-
ably been to run the vessel into land,
and join General Cruz and the revolu-
tionary party in the province of Con-
ception ; but few of the prisoners were
ready to join him, and one of them had
found an opportunity to communicate tho
design to the sentinel at the gangway.

We had no further difficultyj and I
was glad that this little disturbance had
occurred, as it gave me confidence in
the promptitude and courage of my own
crew, and in the presence of mind and
soldier-like character of Captain Avalos.

On the morning of November 24th, the
weather was thick and foggy, and the
running became difficult. I run till
about eleven o'clock, and then, judging


myself near the western entrance of the
Straits, I hove the main-top-sail aback,
waiting for clear weather, so that I
could see land. At twelve, the sun
came out, clear and glorious, and I
found myself within ten miles of the
entrance. Cape Pillar bearing east from
us. Mr. Shaw and myself congratulated
each other on being near the end of
the disagreeable part of our voyage, for
there was something repugnant to us, in
the idea of standing jailors, as it were,
to men for some or wnom our sym-
pathies were enlisted ; for the freedom
of our political institutions makes the
idea of imprisonment for political offences
repulsive to an American ; and, indeed,
no free man likes to stand jailor to
another, be his offences what they may.
We were, however, not so near our
destination as we supposed, for the


weather continued very mucL against
U3. I put the vessel before the wind,
intending that afternoon to anchor in
the harbor of Mercy, but on account of
the thick, squally weather, I was unable
to make the harbor, and ran past the
entrance, which is so small that it may
easily be overlooked. I was therefore
obliged to run all night, and as the
wind was blowing fresh, and the weather
thick, I took ii) sail, and put her under
double-reefed top-sails. • At daylight on
the morning of the 25th, I set all
sail, and during the day we had a
fine, pleasant breeze from the westward.
In the evening, not being able to make
a harbor, we hovc-to, for the night, a
short distance from Cape Froward, a
high point of. land within tlic Straits.
These high lands 1 had learned to dread,
as from oflf them, and out of the valley


come fresh, fitful winds, called by the
Indians " williwaws," blo'w ing sometimes
with such violence as to take the masts
out of vessels. These williwaws give
you no warning, when your vessel is
near shore, and require constant watch-

The morning of the 26t]i broke, how-
ever, with a light breeze from the
west, under favor of whiVh I run along
the shore until noon, when the wind
suddenly canted to the northward, and
blew so fresh and hard that at 3, P.
M., the main-top-sail split, and wo were
obliged to reef it. At six in the af-
ternoon we were glad to drop anchor
in Sandy Bay, and to give notice of
our arrival by a salute of two guns,
which was answered from the shore.


Sandy Bay Cyiony — Governor Benjamin Numoz Gameix —
lusun-ection of Cambiaso — Forged Message from the Gov-
ernor — Landing of Captain Avalos — Escape of Governor
Gamero — Boat sent on shore — Return of the boat — Cap-
ture of the Florida — Mr. Shaw and myself seized — Taken
on shore — Oiur imprisonment at the barracks — Privations
— Jlr. Shaw removed.

Sandy Bay Colony lies on the Pata-
gonian side of the Straits of Magellan,
on a level spot of ground which slopes
down gently towards the water on the
south-east. The settlement had formerly
been made at Port Famine, at a short
distance to tlie south-west of tlie prescni
colony ; but that situation was found to
be very bleak, the site of tlic buildings
being on a hill somewhat higher than
the surrounding country, and exposed to


the Bweep of the williwaws. The chauge
had been made under the direction of
Don Benjamin Nuraoz Gamero, governor
of the colony, and the new site had
been selected with great judgment. The
land proved very fertile, being well
fitted to raise all the crops which the
short summers of that latitude will allow
to come to maturity ; and the governor
had cleared a good deal of ground
around the barracks, and laid out many
gardens, which were cultivated by the
convicts. A street ran in front of the
barracks, towards the water, and on the
slope of the shore were some very good
houses. These houses were made of
boards that had been sawed from logs
by the convicts. They used hand-saws,
and usually sawed about twelve or four-
teen boards a day.

1 3 4 5 6 7 8

Online LibraryElizabeth Haven AppletonThe sufferings and escape of Capt. Chas. H. Brown from an awful imprisonment by Chilian convicts → online text (page 1 of 8)