CHINA AND JAPAN
Reach Woosung -- Escape from Typhoons -- Departure for Hong Kong -- Quick passage -- Arrival -- Meet the Mississippi and Germantown -- The Minnesota arrives -- Court Martial -- Dispersion of the Squadron -- Trip to Whampoa -- Canton -- "Chops" -- Chinese pirates -- Christmas on board a man-of-war -- Arrival at Macao -- Give liberty to the crew -- Wretched accommodations on shore -- The Cave of Camoens -- Luxuriant Valley -- Sail for Hong Kong -- Quick trip over -- Return to Macao -- The 22d of February -- Hong Kong again -- The Mississippi sent to Japan -- Rumors of War -- Orders from Navy Department -- Towing of Germantown -- Sail for Singapore.
The anchorage near Woosung was reached on the third day after leaving Nagasaki, and from the reports we heard through our friends in the vicinity, of the typhoons which had visited the coasts of China and Japan during our stay in the finest harbor of the latter country, or, indeed, anywhere in the East, we had reasons to congratulate ourselves on having made a fortunate escape from the effects of these terrific hurricanes, which are often so violent that even the masts of large vessels lying at anchor are whipped out of them without the slightest warning; and Hong Kong bay in the summer season frequently presents a scene of the most frightful and inextricable confusion among the shipping; anchors and cables affording but slight impediments to the relentless blasts, they sweep fitfully over the bay and send the vessels into one crushing and mutually destructive mass, with masts and spars cracking and falling, and hulls grinding together, in total disregard of the board of underwriters who have to foot the bills of damages.
The Mississippi had gone to Hong Kong; but the Minnesota still remained at Woosung, awaiting the conclusion of Mr. Reed's interviews with the Chinese and European Commissioners, for the regulation of the new tariff demanded by the terms of the recent treaties. Finding that the presence of the Powhatan was not required in this place, we sailed again on the 7th of November for Hong Kong, with fine weather and a favorable monsoon, which enabled us to use the sails with so much advantage that the passage of nine hundred miles was made in three days and ten hours, but little longer than the time usually occupied by the English mail steamers built expressly for speed -- a circumstance which gave occasion for no small amount of good-humored Yankee boasting on the part of our countrymen on shore; a heavy war-steamer not being generally expected to perform any very remarkable feats in the way of making quick passages.
The Germantown and Mississippi were awaiting our arrival, in order that a court martial might be ordered on some of the officers and men of the latter vessel; but it was soon ascertained that the presence of the Minnesota would also be necessary before a sufficient number of officers of proper rank to compose the court could be assembled. In a few days, this vessel made her appearance, and was brought to anchor in splendid style between the Powhatan and the Mississippi; after which the court was immediately organized, and continued in session fourteen days, for the trial of three officers and two seamen. This disagreeable duty being concluded, the vessels were again dispersed in various directions -- the Germantown to Manila -- Mississippi to Whampoa -- the Minnesota to Bombay, to convey the Hon. Mr. Reed thus far on his homeward journey, and the Powhatan soon joined the Mississippi at Whampoa, at which place we anchored on the 11th of December.
The passage up the Canton, or Pearl River, presented many points of interest and beauty, notwithstanding the general sterility of the numerous islands which we passed on the way, steaming through the narrow passages by which they were separated, into the broad expanse of muddy waters lying between the group of islands on the northern side of Hong Kong Bay and the Bogue Forts. According to the custom of the country, the pilot's boat (our old friend Achin, with his numerous progeny,) and the bumboat were towing astern, the former acquiring thereby a new claim to the title of "fast boat," and the pair giving our noble ship somewhat the appearance of a tug-boat of inordinate dimensions.
The barren and rocky hills on each side of the narrow pass between the once formidable-looking fortifications, called the Bogue Forts, seemed as if intended by nature to form a barrier to the entrance of the river; and poor John Chinaman had endeavored to lend her all the assistance in his power, by constructing stone walls at their bases, and placing behind them such means of defence as he innocently supposed would render them impregnable. But they have been twice demolished by his indomitable and persistent enemy, John Bull, who ill never permit them to be rebuilt until his power is properly recognized by the self-sufficient and arrogant, but pitifully weak and helpless Celestials. Passing these significant tokens, which tell at the same time of man's impotence and of h is abuse of power, the character of the country begins to assume an air of thrift and cultivation, the land becoming more level and susceptible of agricultural development. Rice-fields appear on the low-lands, and snug villages are seen stowed away among flourishing trees on the gentle inland slopes, while an occasional pagoda, towering amid the clouds on either side of the broad river, and arising from some favoring height, announces at the same time, the antiquity and religious zeal of the heathen inhabitants.
Fleets of large and small fishing-boats, passenger and trading-boats of all descriptions, covered the river in pursuit of their various employments; and our friend Achin intimated that some of the long, low, rakish-looking junks which we met, might be, and probably were, pirates. They carried twenty oars on each side, and several small guns mounted on carriages, and projecting over the sides at every available point on the deck; and they looked suspicious, certainly, but we had neither the time nor the inclination to investigate their character, and permitted them, therefore, to pass unmolested.
The town of Whampoa is divided into so many parts, that a stranger finds great difficulty in deciding which particular locality, among the four distinct settlements in the neighborhood of the anchorage, is best entitled to that euphonious title. Immediately abreast of the spot where we dropped our anchor, there was a collection of small wooden tenements which had the appearance of standing on stilts, knee-deep in the water -- the receding tides showing their naked foundations, and the returning element seeming to throw a veil of charity over their squalid poverty, and to bear upon its bosom the larger portion of the rickety buildings composing what is called "Bamboo town." Numberless sampans, with their bamboo covers, were fastened to the piles upon which the houses are elevated, and served as the abode of a large number of families. Just above this unsavory and pestiferous collection of houses, which really resembled dilapidated bird-cages more than any human habitations, there was a small collection of brick buildings crowded together on a narrow street running along the river bank, at the upper end of which, several docks for repairing ships had been constructed, and this place, which is situated on Dane's Island, I understood to be Whampoa. Two of these docks are lined with stone, and kept in excellent condition, being capable of admitting vessels of the largest class. Opposite to these, on the low island of Whampoa, is another settlement called "Newtown," where there is a small collection of Chinese shops and sailor boarding-houses, and where, also, the market for foreign shipping is situated. In the rear of this, and some three miles distant, is a walled town which is now known as "old Whampoa," to which interesting spot I paid a short visit during our stay here, and received from the inhabitants more genuine politeness and hospitality than I had experienced at any other place in China -- I allude to the natives only, of course.
There were five or six of us in company, and as we approached the entrance of the town, we were met by a highly respectable old Chinaman, who joined the party with many demonstrations of welcome, and escorted us through the place. He insisted on taking us to the residence of one of the wealthiest inhabitants, who seemed to consider himself highly honored by the visit, and invited us into his spacious dwelling with rather oppressive cordiality. He showed us his quaint little garden, with smoothly-paved walks, and containing rare botanical specimens, evincing some surprise at the interest we manifested in them. But our visit was necessarily brief, as the time allowed us would not admit of a protracted stay in any particular spot -- the whole town was to be overhauled, and the afternoon rapidly wearing away. Our attention was next directed to a really beautiful temple, within a substantial and well-finished enclosure of hewn stone, the building being of the same material, and less disfigured with meretricious ornament than any other I ever saw in the country -- simplicity and neatness, united with massive strength and durability, forming its most prominent characteristics. From this we were taken to a similar edifice outside the walls of the town, which stood upon a slight rising ground, and was surrounded by stately trees, reaching to the margin of the turbid river. The building bore the marks of great antiquity, and differed materially from the one we had just left, in being most elaborately adorned, both inside and on the exterior, with enamelled porcelain, representing, in varied colors, figures of human beings in every conceivable posture, with bird, butterflies, flowers, etc. Buddhist idols of colossal proportions, gaudily painted and gilded, were placed behind the altar within, and surrounded by numerous tokens of adoration.
The houses in this place were mostly built of blue bricks, and were two stories high -- the streets wider and cleaner than they are generally found in Chinese towns, and altogether there was an air of comfort and gentility observable, far surpassing any native town or quarter which I saw during my stay in the country. The females evinced great curiosity to see the "foreign devils" who had so unceremoniously intruded into their quiet and secluded streets; but they evidently had no desire to be seen in return, as they could be perceived stealing furtive glances through the latticed doors, and dodging the return fire with evident trepidation. The practice of cramping the feet appeared to prevail in this ancient town to a greater extent than any other on the sea coast, and we saw numbers of female children hobbling through the streets in a manner that it was painful to witness.
The distance from Hong Kong to the Bogue Forts is about fifty miles, and from thence to the anchorage near Whampoa it is thirty more, Canton being still twelve miles further up the river. One of the most remarkable "institutions" at Whampoa is the style of residence adopted by a majority of the foreigners engaged in mercantile or professional business, which consists of the hull of some old vessel, covered over with a roof of shingles or boards, and fitted up internally as nearly after the manner of a house as practicable. These floating dwelling are denominated Chops, and my experience on board the one occupied by the American Vice-Consul at this place -- Henry P. Blanchard, Esq. -- was certainly calculated to produce the most favorable impression as to their capabilities in the way of affording personal comforts, and the most liberal display of hospitality on the part of the occupants. The lack of suitable houses on shore, and the greater security of property against the thievish propensities of the lower class of Chinese, with other considerations of a political nature, render this mode of living far preferable to a residence in town. The population of the four settlements mentioned here, I conjecture to be about fifty thousand, including those who spend their lives in boats on the river, comprising about one tenth of that number.
While the ship remained at this place, I accompanied a party of officers on an excursion to the famous city of Canton. Embarking early one morning in old Achin's "fast boat," which, in compliance with his urgent request, was armed with half a dozen muskets, and a due proportion of powder, in addition to the small swivel he invariably carried in the hold of his domestic craft; the old fellow protesting that the "pilates were velly bad on the liver," and assuring us that it was absolutely necessary to be "armed to the teeth," if we hoped to reach our destination alive. Two or three Colt's pistols, in the hands of the most bellicose members of the party, and an equal number of a more congenial style of "pocket pistol," loaded with pure cognac, in the possession of others, completed our means of defence against pirates without and thirst within; and as the wind was fair, the passengers merry, and the rowers desperately eager to escape the clutches of their imaginary enemies, the pirates, the two hours passed on the river seemed wonderfully brief.
There was nothing particularly striking or picturesque in the general character of the scenery, though if possessed a degree of peaceful beauty pleasing to the eye, and suggestive of abundance and content -- the extensive rice fields on the river's bank, stretching back to gently sloping hills, which increased gradually in height until they became mountains in the blue distance. We passed many fishing stations, also, where stakes were driven into the bottom of the river for miles, with nets between them, and other with huge drop-nets suspended from poles, reaching fifteen or twenty feet beyond the little bamboo jetties erected to support them; and in viewing such ubiquitous arrangements for entrapping the unsuspecting inhabitants of these muddy waters, I felt much inclined to wonder that any of the finny tribe remained to be caught, at this late period of Chinese history. The general features of the scenery are rural beauty and happiness; but in this case, as in many others, "'tis distance lends enchantment to the view," which is quite dispelled by a more intimate acquaintance with the locality, where neither peace nor happiness are permitted to dwell, for foreign enemies and rebellious "braves" have made the Canton, or Kwang-tung district, any thing but a "bed of roses" for the last twenty years, for those who desired a tranquil life.
About five miles below the city we passed the remains of the Barrier Forts, which were demolished by our squadron in 1856, and I could not repress a feeling of regret that the unfortunate misunderstanding which caused our attack upon them should ever have occurred. But the Chinese required a lesson to teach them to discriminate between friends and enemies, and it was given them with promptness and effect, though without cruelty.
The first view of Canton from the river immediately in the vicinity being so level that only a small portion of it, and that the poorest, lying immediately on the river banks, can be seen. When the foreign "factories" were in existence, with their stately buildings, surrounded by beautiful gardens, this remark would not have applied; but now the long line of their ruins, and the squalid poverty which has usurped the place of former splendor, cannot fail to excite a feeling of sadness in the breasts of those who remember them in their days of elegant and princely hospitalities. The river itself presents one of the most remarkable scenes to be witnessed anywhere, and is emphatically sui generis in character; for the distance of at least four miles along the banks on each side, boats of the singular construction peculiar to the country, are so closely stowed together as almost entirely to exclude the land from view; their broad high sterns, and matted bamboo roofs, reaching generally far above the surface of the ground, as they lie partially embedded in the mud. There is such a variety of special designations for the thousands of boats required in this great liquid thoroughfare of the city, that it would be quite impossible for a foreigner to acquire a knowledge of them all during a brief visit to the place, without making it an object of more particular attention than I was disposed to accord to the subject. The most picturesque and attractive in appearance, however, are called "flower boats," which are highly ornamented with vari-colored paint and gilding, and have vases of flowers placed upon a neat little gallery around the stern. They are used to convey parties of pleasure, consisting of both sexes, of course, up and down the river -- on which occasions singing and other amusements are indulged in with freedom from restraint by no means peculiar to the Chinese. These boats are usually some thirty feet long, by eight or ten in width, and have a house built upon them, extending nearly the whole length, with latticed doors and windows: the interior being fitted up in a style to gratify the luxurious tastes of the pleasure-loving Celestials, who call them in their "pigeon-English" -- "sing-song boats."
Each of the mercantile establishments has its own particular sampan, managed almost entirely by women, and in the most skilful and dexterous manner. Hucksters of vegetables, fish, and meat, the latter being strongly suspected of canine, or feline origin, and peddlers of such wares as were most in demand among this floating population, sculled their frail and tiny craft up and down the long avenues of boats, crying out the names of the articles they had for sale, and making, collectively, the most unearthly clamor possible to imagine. On the "Honan side" of the river, opposite to the city, the hulks of a large number of war-junks, and other useless craft, were resting their worn-out frames in the mud just below that part of the town, on the island of Honan, where the foreign merchants have their residences and places of business. Formerly this was the locality for the warehouses alone, but since the destruction of the "Hongs" by the Chinese in 1856, these "go-downs," which were permitted to remain up, underwent great improvements, and were elevated to the dignity of residences.
There are no hotels in Canton for the accommodation of foreigners, and as none of the party were provided with letters of introduction to any of the American merchants residing in the place, we were compelled to throw ourselves somewhat unceremoniously upon the hospitality of our excellent consul, O.H. Perry, Esq., who had hoisted his flag on board a tolerably comfortable Chop, which was snugly moored just below the small island, or rock, called the "Dutch Folly." Unfortunately, Mr. Perry's accommodations were somewhat limited; consequently, the sudden invasion of such a number of self-invited guests, excited great consternation among his native servants, whose inventive faculties were severely taxed to know how and where to stow us during the two days, or rather nights, we expected to remain in the domicile. As there were only four beds, each of which was provided with a sleeper in perspective in the person of its legitimate occupant, it became imperatively necessary that they should be entirely resigned to the new comers, or made to carry double -- the latter alternative by no means suiting the tastes of any one of our party -- but, I am rather anticipating the dilemma in which the evening found us, instead of proceeding in regular order with the story of our trip to the Celestial city. It was about mid-day when we reached the Chop, and after a few moments' conversation with our host, our "fast boat" was ordered to the gangway, and we struck out for terra firma, which we finally reached after pulling about a mile further up the river and literally squeezing our Chinese man-of-war into the landing between the myriads of sampans by which it was obstructed. Passing hurriedly through the ghastly ruins of the once-magnificent factories, we entered the southern gate, and proceeded through old China street directly to the only two establishments remaining in the city for the sale of the finer descriptions of silks, porcelain, etc. We saw an immense assortment of curious and beautiful articles, consisting of vases of prodigious size -- some of which were quite large enough to have held a portion of the thievish band whom "Morgiana" so cleverly smothered in oil: while others were so diminutive and delicate that they would have answered well for Titania's toilet-table. Then there was carved ebony, or black-wood furniture, in the way of cabinets, tables, and other useful and ornamental articles -- carved ivory, horn, marble, and, in short, an endless variety of temptations to spend more money than we could afford, so that the more prudent of the party deemed it best to make a speedy retreat, especially as everything was extravagantly dear -- causing a general burst of astonishment and indignation, when we came to inquire the prices of such articles as we wished to purchase. After making a few hasty selections of such things as I had determined to buy in Canton, I returned with the rest of the party on board the Chop, having acquired an excellent appetite for the abundant and well-cooked meal prepared for us, to which we sat down at 6 P.M. This essential part of the performance being over, we quietly seated ourselves to chat, smoke, and play whist, until the time arrived for seeking some place of repose for the night. I don't remember what sleeping arrangements were provided for the other guests, but I was placed in the bed usually occupied by the Consul's clerk, he being at the time in a somnolent state in one of the large armchairs in the dining-saloon. My conscience reproached me somewhat for taking possession of another man's bed, although pressed to do so by his employer, and it was sometime before I could compose myself to sleep; nevertheless, I was inexpressibly indignant when the aforesaid clerk, having awoke from his after-dinner nap, came up to the side of the bed, and made demonstrations of an intention to take a part of the same, or else rouse me out, leaving me to pass the remainder of the night in a chair on deck. He protested his ignorance of my presence, however, and apologized for waking me up, leaving the room at the same time to seek other quarters. The night wore away after this in pleasing oblivion, and after breakfast we started again next morning, on a sight-seeing expedition within the walls of the city, a terra incognita hitherto to all "outside barbarians;" appreciating highly the opportunity afforded of exploring the interior of this long-secluded and densely populated place, for which we were indebted, by the way, to the dogged pertinacity of our friend John Bull, who has not only opened its so long closely barred gates, but has established an efficient police for the protection of foreigners after they enter its precincts.
The streets are very irregular, and so narrow that the projecting roofs of the houses nearly meet above, and thus exclude the sunbeams, which at the time of our visit would have been far from unwelcome, as the weather was cool, and the filthy mud through which we had to tramp would at least have been partially dried. The swarms of people who filled not only the streets, but the comfortless and greasy looking houses, most of which were shops for the sale of some commodity peculiar to the country, stared at us in sullen silence as we passed; and we felt assured, from the sinister looks which we encountered on every side, that the wholesome dread inspired by the military police distributed over the eastern part of the city, alone prevented these treacherous and cowardly wretches from insulting, and perhaps murdering us. But without giving the slightest heed to their repulsive scowls, we pursued our way for the distance of about three miles further, through narrow and unsavory streets, to the Temple of the "Five Genii," an immense stone building, ornamented with grotesque carvings in wood, paintings, etc., all wretchedly executed. Entering a narrow gateway, we passed through a paved court to a flight of broad stone steps, leading up to one of smaller extent immediately in front of the building -- on either side of the second court, placed in deep recesses in the walls, were colossal human figures, painted and gilded in the most elaborate and terrific style, and by no means smiling a welcome to us on our entrance, but rather wearing an expression which seemed to ask what business we had on the premises. Passing a little to the right, we were ushered into the august presence of the Five Genii, who, the legend states, at some remote period of antiquity, entered the city seated upon five rams, and promised their protection to it for all future time; and in grateful acknowledgement of their guardianship, the inhabitants caused this temple to be erected for their worship. Their effigies are placed in a hall some thirty feet square, seated in huge arm-chairs, behind a lacquered altar, each holding in the right hand some symbol of power, and resting their feet on a large stone, intended, it is said, to represent the unfortunate rams, whose ungrateful riders had transformed them into stone as soon as they reached their journey's end; thereby setting an example of ingratitude and treachery to their votaries, which they have closely followed ever since. From this place we went to a Mohammedan Mosque, built by the Arabs more than 1000 years ago, situated in the eastern part of the city. It rises to the height of one hundred and sixty feet, and is thirty feet in diameter at the base, sloping gradually upward, and forming rather a graceful object; it is now in a very dilapidated state, as, indeed, is the case with every structure in the Tartar quarter of the city, where it is situated. Leaving this dreary-looking precinct, we directed our steps toward the "Hall of Terrors," returning westward by the great wall of thirty feet width, and sixty feet height, and encountered English soldiers at many points along the route. From this wall we could perceive more plainly the havoc made upon the adjacent buildings, during the bombardment of the city by the English and French, and, indeed, little else but ruin and desolation appeared within our immediate view, though the immense space covered by the dwellings of the inhabitants, gave proof of the vast numbers who are still content to find a home in this troublous community.
Arriving at the "Hall of Terrors," we passed through a shabby wooden gateway into a large unpaved courtyard, on each side of which we saw a range of small rooms, separated by earthen walls, and protected in front from unauthorized intrusion by round pieces of timber firmly fixed in the ground, and secured at the top. In each of these partitions are plaster casts, as large as life, representing the different modes of punishment practiced in China, many of which still exist. One of these scenes represents to the life the operation of boiling a poor wretch in molten lead, another grinding him in a hand-mill, a third sawing him asunder; and others give equally terrible reality to the disgusting cruelties to which the miserable inhabitants of the country have been subjected under the tyrannous sway of the Mandarins. I do not know whether this "Hall" had the effect of inspiring the populace with a wholesome dread of crime, or rather of the future retribution attending it; but I am sure, if they experienced a degree of terror, in any degree proportional to the disgust excited in our party by the exhibition, the result would long since have been a total abjuration of crime throughout the country; but I regret to say, that like all human efforts for the suppression of wickedness, the Hall of Terrors has been rather unsuccessful. We were all glad to get away from this wretched Pandemonium, and to return to the Consul's Chop, where we arrived just in time for the excellent dinner which had been prepared for us, and as our ten miles rambling had given the whole party a somewhat ravenous appetite, we "pitched in" to the edibles with a gusto which our host seemed to admire amazingly. After this, a quiet game of whist concluded the amusements of the day, which was succeeded by an exceedingly unquiet night, the loquacious Purser and myself having concluded to occupy the same bed -- and such a night as I passed, I hope may never again fall to my lot; but it did pass, and the morning found me sound in limb and muscle, but considerably more fatigued than when I retired. Consequently, I rose early, and, accompanied by Dr. Williamson, of the Powhatan, struck out for a walk on shore, for the purpose of visiting some of the smaller shops in the vicinity, and acquiring a good appetite for breakfast. We returned to the Chop at 9 o'clock, and found that the Commodore and several other officers had come up from the ship, and were actively engaged in demolishing the meal prepared for us; so that our efforts to secure an appetite were rather ill-timed, and very indifferently rewarded by the remnants which remained for our consumption. At about 10 A.M. we bade adieu to Canton, and were soon under way down the river in our "fast boat," with a fair tide, but a head wind, which made our return trip rather tedious; and it would h ave been dreadfully so but for the humorous sallies of one of the party, whose unfailing flow of spirits caused us in some degree to forget the passage of time.
We kept a sharp lookout for pirates all the way down the river, but without the slightest idea that they would gratify us by making their appearance; and when the ship appeared in view, old Achin was closely questioned as to what had become of them all, to which he replied in a manner which taxed our credulity very heavily: -- "My spose he hab maky sky pidgin," -- or in other words, the devout buccaneers had all gone to church, to pray, I suppose, for success in their industrious calling. One of our party flourished his revolver about the deck in a most ferocious manner as soon as we were under shelter of the guns of the Powhatan, and even discharged two of his chambers, by way of challenge to any straggling "water rat," or pirate, who might have postponed his devotions to a "more convenient season." But I am sorry to state that we arrived alongside the ship without having had a single shot fired at us, or having the slightest excuse for firing at any one else -- a circumstance much regretted by the party, as we felt our thirst for adventure increase wonderfully as we neared our floating castle.
A few days after our return from Canton, Christmas-day rolled round; and as we were denied the happiness of uniting with our home-friends in the usual festivities of the season, we were fain to console ourselves with such social enjoyments as remained within our reach, by drinking bumpers to our "noble selves," around the hospitable table of our Commander-in-Chief, whose guests the ward-room officers were on the occasion. Our absent friends were duly toasted, of course, and our thoughts reverted to them with more than ordinary tenderness, as we contemplated the great distance by which we were separated from them, and the joy we should experience if we could be reunited even for the day; but as this could not be, we hobnobbed to each other, and put the best face on the privation of which our feelings would admit. The day was not permitted to pass entirely unnoticed by the crew either, but was celebrated by a magnificent dinner in the starboard gangway of the ship, furnished by the bumboatman, who rejoiced in the feminine appellation of "Sally," and found equal source of happiness, no doubt, on this occasion, in the opportunity of swindling "poor Jack" on a larger scale than usual. The maintopmen's mess were the hosts of the entertainment, and the guests consisted of a small number of their special friends belonging to other parts of the ship. The dinner was served on dishes and plates, borrowed from "Sally," and the table was an impromptu affair, constructed with a few of the carpenter's pine planks; but it was very prettily decorated with flowers, and literally groaning under the "delicacies of the season" -- the roast pig at one end, tipping "the day we celebrate" to the turkey at the other, with a decidedly appetizing aspect. Receiving a written invitation to honor the feast with my presence, to decline would have seemed churlish, and to accept might be thought an undue condescension for one in my official position; but feeling that my motive could scarcely be misconstrued by the men themselves, I cheerfully yielded to my natural impulse, and joined them when the dinner was announced. Without taking the seat placed for me at the head of the table, I made a few remarks upon the eventful year we had passed together in harmony, wishing them a "merry Christmas," and a happy reunion with their friends before another year elapsed, after which I retired, leaving on the table the bottle of old rye from which the sentiment had been extracted.
On the 3d of January, 1859, we steamed down to Macao, solely for the purpose of giving liberty to the crew, three months having passed since this indulgence had been granted them. They had a jolly time, of course, according to their peculiar notions of pleasure, with some growling exceptions. One old tar returned on board quite early in the morning, looking extremely "seedy," which was readily accounted for by his saying that he had slept on the pavement in the middle of the street, and when he awoke, finding no landlord to receive the pay for his night's lodging, he had deposited five dollars carefully on a smooth stone and walked off, considering that sum an appropriate fee for so commodious an apartment, and such a luxurious couch. His only objection to it was that he felt a little lonesome. I passed one night on shore at the best hotel in the place, and, so far as personal comfort was concerned, would willingly have exchanged the bed I occupied for Jack's stony couch in the middle of the street. I am not Sybarite enough to cry out because a "rose leaf" chances to touch my dainty limbs; but when I am asked to sleep on a mattrass apparently stuffed with brick-bats loosely stowed together, and pillows hard enough, if placed on end, to serve as pillars to support the roof of the house, I think a little remonstrance natural and justifiable, particularly as the rules of the establishment seemed to doom the inmates to an ascetic life, both at bed and board -- the landlord evidently trying on his guests the experiment of the economical Frenchman, who was astonished to see his horse expire just as he had taught it to exist on a straw per diem. "Ye who enter here, leave hope behind," would have been a most appropriate motto for the penitential establishment kept by this worthy son of Portugal; and I was only prevented from suggesting it to him by the certainty that self-interest had rendered him too obtuse to appreciate its beauty and fitness.
But, although prevented from taking "mine ease in mine inn," I yet found Macao a pleasant place to visit; when, once in the quiet, cleanly streets, and leaving behind the shops for the sale of Chinese puzzles, crape shawls, and bogus jewelry, I could strike out for a walk along the road leading to the "Cave of Camoens" -- the lovely, romantic spot, where this celebrated Portuguese poet is said to have composed the greater part of his "Lusiad" -- or for a ramble toward the rear of the city, where a luxuriant valley opens to the view, covered with neat garden spots and quaint-looking Chinese farm-houses. The old cathedral, and the fort on the hill to the right of the town, as viewed from the anchorage, also form interesting objects to sight-seers, lending an air of antiquity to the already tranquil and peaceful character of the place. There are many handsome buildings here, which are occupied during the summer months by the families of Portuguese merchants doing business in Hong Kong, as the climate at that season is much more salubrious here than at the latter place.
The last batch of "liberty men" having returned on board, we left Macao on the 9th of January for Hong Kong, passing through a group of large though barren islands, almost uninhabited, and making the run of forty-five miles in less than four hours.
We remained in Hong Kong until the 19th of February, as Commodore Tattnall was anxiously expecting instructions from the Navy Department relative to the transportation of the Japanese Embassy to the United States. He had informed the Department several months previously, of his having placed one of the vessels of his squadron at the disposal of the Japanese Government, whenever the Embassy was prepared to embark, and he very reasonably expected the orders of his own Government relative to the extent and character of the preparations he would be authorized to make for its accommodation and entertainment. Mail after mail arrived without the receipt by the Flag-officer of any communication from the Navy Department, except a brief letter approving of his offer of a vessel to convey the Embassy to Panama, or the United States, if they so desired, he determined to despatch the Mississippi to Simoda, for the purpose of communicating with Mr. Harris, and, through him, placing that vessel at the immediate disposal of the Japanese Embassy, in the event of their deciding to embark on the 22d of February, 1859, according to the plan originally contemplated. On the 14th of February, the Mississippi sailed from Hong Kong for Japan on this service, taking with her the materials necessary to erect the temporary quarters to be assigned to the members of the Embassy, which were completed in the course of the thirteen days occupied in the passage to Simoda.
Just at this time rumors were rife in Hong Kong, of a probable disruption of the friendly relations existing between the United States and the allied powers of England and France, growing out of the Central American question. The duplicity attributed by the press of our country to Sir William Gore Ouseley, and the threat of the Emperor of the French, that, "as soon as the Eastern question was settled he intended to test the efficacy of the Monroe doctrine," leading to the general belief that the United States would have to maintain, "e'en at the cannon's mouth," the doctrine of non-intervention on the part of European nations with the affairs of the American continent. Deeply as we were interested in the momentous question to which these rumors referred, they exercised no influence whatever over the disposition of the vessels under Commodore Tattnall's command -- nor were they permitted to interrupt, in any degree, the friendly intercourse which subsisted between the English Admiral, Sir Michael Seymour, and himself. The absence of the Baron Girault de Genouilly, Admiral of the French fleet, who was employed in establish the French Colony at Turon Bay, Couchin China, prevented any intercourse between him and our Commander-in-Chief during our stay at Hong Kong; but whenever they had met, on previous occasions, official courtesies had been exchanged between them with every indication of mutual respect and friendly consideration. Nevertheless, the belligerent aspect of affairs at home gave rise to the usual amount of gasconade among the "Young Americans" on board the "Powhatan," and elicited numerous sapient suggestions relative to the course which our government should pursue in the premises. The near approach of the anniversary of Washington's birthday had a slight tendency to stimulate the patriotic ardor of the bellicose juveniles, and they anticipated the arrival of the glorious day, and the customary salute of twenty-one guns, in honor to the memory of the "Father of his Country," with more than ordinary pleasure. Great, then, was their disappointment, when the 19th of February saw the ship under way for Macao, where the Commodore had occasion to go on business of importance with the American Consul. After remaining two days at this dreary anchorage we returned to Hong Kong, firing the salute to the 22d in the passage between the Lantao Islands, much to the astonishment and dismay of numerous Chinese fishermen, by whose junks we were surrounded, and greatly to the chagrin of the fiery "young Americans" on board, who desired a more appreciative audience for the martial music produced by the "sounding brass" of our beautiful boat-guns.
Preparations were now made for our immediate departure for Japan, but, just as they were completed, an order was received from the Navy Department, directing the Powhatan to proceed without delay to Singapore, and await there the arrival of the Hon. John E. Ward, the newly-appointed Minister to China, whom we were ordered to convey to his destination. As this order conflicted with the Commodore's anxiety to communicate with the Mississippi, he immediately determined to despatch the Germantown, Commander R.L. Page, to Japan, with orders for the government of that vessel's movements; and to facilitate the progress of the Germantown on this mission, the Powhatan left Hong Kong on the 1st of March for Whampoa, for the purpose of towing her down the river, unfavorable winds and tides frequently detaining sailing-vessels several days on this passage of only about eighty miles. The prevalence of fogs, and a slight derangement of the machinery, delayed us in the river until the 4th, on which day we passed through the harbor of Hong Kong with the Germantown in tow, and continued to tow her against the strong north-east monsoon which was prevailing, until the following morning. As she had then reached a point ninety miles to windward of Hong Kong, and could reasonably be expected to make a speedy passage to Japan with ordinarily favorable weather, we parted company, receiving from the Germantown three hearty cheers by way of good-bye, and returning them with good-will; after which each vessel pursued her course according to orders.
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