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Insurrection at Magallanes (1851)
A North-American sea-captain is captured by Chilean army mutineers at Punta Arenas.

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We are better treated — Captain Ávalos again — His privations — The sergeant shot — Mr. Buela — Cambiaso's discipline — His code of laws — Personal appearance — His vanity — Threats of poison — Improved fare — The coffee — The mate secures the E. Cornish — Cambiaso and García visit me — I go on board the Florida — My steward.

After the departure of the steamer, the severity of our imprisonment was very much relaxed. The prisoners were allowed to walk about every day, accompanied by a guard, and were even allowed some communication with each other. I saw captain Ávalos again, and shook hands earnestly with him. He told me that he had thought that I had been shot with captain Talbot and Mr. Shaw. Captain Ávalos had been confined in the same building, with captain Salas, and with the first lieutenant of the troops under Muñoz Gamero, of whom Cambiaso had been second lieutenant. He told me that captain Salas had made several attempts to hold communication with some of the soldiers under his command, but that they had been strictly watched by Cambiaso, who feared treachery. One morning, before the execution of Mr. Shaw and the governor, a sergeant who had formerly been a convict, but had been promoted for good conduct was detected receiving a bottle of brandy from captain Salas, and was immediately seized, tried by a summary court martial, and put to death as a traitor, under the sanguinary code established by Cambiaso. After this, the officers in confinement had been more strictly watched, and forbidden to hold any communication with the soldiers on duty.

Mr. Dunn, the secretary, I often met in my walks, and we generally managed to exchange a greeting, and to convey some information to each other in English, as we passed. Mr. Buela I also saw again at this time. He had suffered much privation, being confined in the same room of six feet square in which he was first put with my crew, where they were so crowded that they were obliged to stand up most of the time.

It was good policy in me to cultivate all friendly relations with my captors; and for this reason, I began, at this time, to mingle in their sports, at least as a spectator. In the evenings, the men and women would often collect under a large tent, and dance the Fandango, the so well known Spanish dance. They danced it with handkerchiefs, waving them as each couple separated and retired to the right and left. One evening Cambiaso came up to me as I was standing by the tent ropes, and asked me to join the dance. I had no heart to do this, but pleaded in excuse my American ignorance of the figures. These evenings generally ended with a feast — a pig or calf barbecued.

One night's rude and cruel amusement I cannot even now think of without a shudder. All the dogs of the encampment were driven into a circle, and then chased with clubs. The cries of the poor frightened animals, the howlings of those who were knocked down, rang in my ears all night; and next morning their carcasses could be seen lying around on every side.

I also did my best, during my walks, to keep up my friendly intercourse with the prisoners I had brought down to the Straits with me, and who had been allowed their liberty, on swearing allegiance to Cambiaso. Some of them were very friendly, and brought me such information as they thought would interest me. From them I learnt much of the discipline which Cambiaso had established, and of the sanguinary code of laws which he had drawn up.

Immediately after the escape of the governor, and the success of the insurrection, Cambiaso was proclaimed Commandante by the rebels. Afterwards his title was Major General, and García's, General, or little general, as he was called by most of the soldiers, by way of distinction. On the same day, by order of Cambiaso, the hospital, chapel, with all the sacred vessels on the altar, the house and robes of the priest, were burnt; Cambiaso declaring that he would have nothing to do with any religious rites. A red flag was hoisted, having upon it a skull and cross-bones, with the motto, "I give no quarter;" and upon it the soldiers and released convicts all swore fidelity. This flag I often saw raised in the colony, on parade days, during my imprisonment. I give below the code of laws, a copy of which I afterwards obtained at Valparaíso. Of its atrocity I need say nothing, as it speaks for itself.



Every inferior who speaks disrespectfully of his superior officer, shall be immediately shot.


Every inferior who should raise his hand against his superior officer, shall be immediately hung.


If an inferior strikes his superior officers, with or without arms, he shall he burnt alive.


He who should be a traitor to the flag we have sworn, shall be cut in pieces, alive, and afterwards burnt.


He who is guilty of perjury, incurs the same punishment.


He who communicates with the enemy, incurs the same punishment.


He who speaks against the service, incurs the same punishment.


ROBBERY. He who steals any object, money, or any article whatsoever, shall be hung.


WANT OF PUNCTUALITY. If any person in the military service, (no matter in what capacity,) be wanting in his duty, and does not present himself in the place and at the hour at which he has been ordered to appear, he shall be tried and shot.


COWARDICE. Every man who, for want of courage, flies from the enemy, shall be put to death by the bayonet; and his eyes shall be taken out to prove the fact. The body of a coward shall be burnt.


If any traitor be seized, his tongue shall be cut out, it being the instrument of his falsehood. He shall be burnt with a red hot iron, and he shall afterwards suffer the punishments he has incurred, according to Articles 4th, 5th, and 6th.


Sentinels found asleep at their posts, shall be immediately hung; they being the only persons responsible for said post's security. Therefore, the sergeants are requested to visit the posts every ten minutes, for the observation of this article.


He who in battle gives quarter to an enemy, out of pity, or any other consideration, shall be immediately shot.


The officer, sergeant, or soldier who is not vigilant when on guard, shall be tried and shot.


The infractor of any of these laws, if an officer, shall be hung; if a soldier, shot.


All military persons are charged with the fulfilment of the preceding articles. This is particularly recommended to superior officers: and they are requested to inform their troops that want of information on this head will not excuse them from undergoing the punishments expressed.


He who should steal or hide (or abet another in so doing,) any powder, balls, or article of war, shall be burnt alive.


He who in battle or on march should throw away the cartridges given him, desirous of not injuring the enemy, or of relieving himself of their weight, shall be cut in pieces alive, joint by joint, beginning in preference with the fingers of the right hand. His remains shall afterwards be burnt.


If, on arriving in any province, a Montista be discovered, his house shall be sacked, and the owner or tenant thereof shall be burnt in the said house.


If any person in the troops under my command sells any article with usury, he shall receive one hundred lashes.


The chiefs of this division, desirous of preventing all fraud, prohibit, under pain of the gallows, any attempt to give money or gage, or with any kind of interest.


He who, from this time forward, should lend money on gage, [to lend against security; to take in pawn, Ed.] shall lose all right to the gage given him; losing also what he gave on it, and receiving two hundred lashes in punishment.


The sentinel or advanced post who on seeing the enemy approach, does not give the alarm, shall be cut in pieces alive; considering that from his omission great danger may arise.


The chief, officer, sergeant, or soldier who shall not defend his post unto death, shall be burnt alive; no excuse to be admitted on account of the greater force of the enemy, the bad state of the armament, or any thing else tending to cover his cowardice.


Any officer ordered to assault a post, shall take it, or lose his life in the attempt; if he returns unsuccessful, though he have lost all his soldiers, he shall be immediately shot.


If any sentinel gives the "qui vive," and does not receive in answer, "General Cruz," he shall immediately fire at the person interrogated.


This government, desirous that every individual shall preserve his money, and employ it for useful objects, prohibits all kinds of hazardous games; and if any is resorted to in order to while away time, it must be lottery, and without interest. He who infringes this article, shall be hung.


An ounce of gold shall be given to every body who gives information of the infringement of the preceding Article.


Any sentinel who abandons the post committed to his care, shall be pinched with red hot tongs until he expires. After this, his body shall be exposed publicly during eight days; after which it shall be burnt, and its ashes cast into the air.

Given in the camp of Punta Arenas,
December 13, 1851.

On reading over this code of laws and punishments, many proofs may be seen of either present or intended communication with the insurgents in the province of Concepción, under general Cruz. Articles 18, 19, and 25 would indicate that Cambiaso had in contemplation a march through the country, to join his forces with those of the revolutionists. By "a Montista," is meant an adherent of the government at Santiago, under President Montt.

At this time, I very frequently saw Cambiaso; sometimes on horseback, surrounded by his aids; sometimes walking on the parade ground. He rode well, and generally on a very spirited horse; and always went armed with sword, dirk knife and pistol. His personal appearance was fine; — an open forehead, a fair complexion, with a profusion of dark hair, an ample moustache, and heavy beard. His nose was aquiline, and his profile finely marked, and what an artist would call the coloring of his face was admirable; the bright red lips, fair forehead, and dark hair, softened down by the lighter colored beard and moustache, gave a beauty to his face that would have been a study for a painter. But his eyes revealed the evil passions hid under that fair exterior. They were long, and dark, and hid under their lashes, from beneath which he cast sudden and covert glances. When he was talking to me, he never looked steadily at me, but after ending his remarks, would give me a sideway glance, as if marking the effect of what he said; and in that glance there was something to me stealthy and cat-like. After I observed this, I always took care, during our conversations, to look him directly in the eye, as if afraid I might lose a word, but in fact because I felt and knew that he could not endure any look, much less one so intently given.

From my observation of his character, I should not have called him a brave man. He was very vain, very fond of being admired, and often to gain the applause of his own men, would assume an air of bravado; and doubtless the same love of admiration would have led him into daring acts; but he talked too much of his valor, to impress me with any strong belief in it. He doubtless had the animal courage which belongs to an uneducated man, and one brought up in the profession of arms; but I am convinced that in any situation calling for self reliance and presence of mind, his boasted courage would have failed him. But I am giving now rather the conclusions I drew from all I ever knew of him, than any opinion I could form at this time.

Cambiaso was a young man, not more than twenty-five or six years of age; in person, rather thin than stout, and of not more than middle size. He was vain of his beauty, and fond of ornaments. The day after my capture, he sent word to me that he wanted my watch and chain. I handed them to the officer who brought the message. The watch I never saw again; but the chain I sometimes recognized among the ornaments on Cambiaso's person.

Indeed, it was no uncommon thing for me to recognize my own pistols, cutlasses, and so forth, carried by the officers and guards who surrounded me. And I am conscious of a singular feeling of indignation, — or, to use a more accurate word, of impatience — which would cross my mind whenever I reflected that I might at any moment receive my death-wound from a stroke or a shot from one of my own weapons. At this time I was destitute of even a change of clothing; my trunks, with those of all my passengers, being left on board the Florida, and soon broken open and rifled of their contents, by Cambiaso and his men.

In my conversations with Cambiaso, which now occurred very frequently, I often begged permission to go on board my vessel, and be under guard there, knowing that some of his followers, with their wives, were living on board the Florida; but his answer constantly was, "No: I am making up my mind what to do with you all." At times he would threaten to shoot us at once; this was when he was made angry by reports of the trouble which the care of us gave. These threats were reported to me by the Chilean prisoners; but during his conversations with me, he never broke out into violent expressions, but seemed rather to keep a control over himself, as if to impress me with a sense of his self command.

A few days after the visit of the Virago, I was told that Cambiaso had been heard to say that he had made up his mind to poison me. This seemed to me so idle a threat, when he had me so completely in his power, that it did not make much impression upon me, until I found that a great difference was made in our fare. We were allowed to eat with the guards in the outer apartment, instead of having our food brought to our own room; and the dishes put before us were much better than I had formerly seen served to the soldiers.

I told my suspicions to the mate, and we determined to taste only those dishes which we saw the soldiers eat of. This, however, it was difficult to do when any new dish was sent to us, for the guard being first served, would eat ravenously of the delicacy, and often leave nothing for us.

One morning, a cup of coffee was sent to me, and to me alone, from Cambiaso's own table. I put it down before me, and hesitated; for the conviction flashed across me that the poison was in this coffee; but looking up, I saw the eyes of all the soldiers and the mate fixed upon me. They had all heard of Cambiaso's threat, and probably the same idea was in their minds as in mine. Their fixed gaze roused my pride, and reflecting that I might as well drink it first as last, and indeed, that my death by Cambiaso's hands in one way or other was almost certain, I raised the cup and drank the coffee at one draught. No evil consequences followed, and from that time a cup was sent me every morning; but I never could divest myself of the idea that into some of them the poison would be put.

The weather throughout the time of our imprisonment had been very warm, but interrupted by heavy north-west winds, which swept from between the hills, and sometimes drove across the harbor. The E. Cornish and the Florida had been anchored by the rebels, with two anchors each; but this was done in a very unseamanlike manner, and in one of these high winds the E. Cornish began to drag her anchors. This was reported to me by some of the friendly Chileans, who had been on board, and I began to fear that we should lose the brig. Not that I had any definite idea of any succor which could arise to us from Cambiaso's retaining the vessels, but they seemed a tie between ourselves and our homes; and as long as they were safe, we had at least the means by which we could leave the place, in case it was ever in our power so to do. I therefore advised the mate to send word to Cambiaso by one of his guards, that if he was allowed to go on board his vessel, he could remedy the difficulty; and at the same time I told all our visitors, who were quite plenty at this time, that they should use their influence with the general, to allow the mate to secure the brig for them.

Cambiaso immediately sent an order for the mate to be sent off to the E. Cornish in one of the shore boats, accompanied by three or four of his soldiers, as guards. This was in the evening; and after he left, I was visited by several of the officers, and at last by Cambiaso himself. I fancied I saw some anxiety amongst them, with regard to the mate's proceedings. They were so ignorant of all that pertained to navigation, that I believe they thought it possible for one man to navigate a vessel by himself, and had some idea that the mate's request to go on board was part of a concerted plan between us, by which he could make his escape, and bring succor to the other prisoners. The next morning the wind shifted, and blew directly in shore very fresh, with a heavy sea. Cambiaso at once ran up a flag on the flag-staff, as a signal for the boat to return to shore. I was walking on the platform at the time, and saw her leave the vessel, with four men in her; but the distance was too great for me to distinguish whether or no the mate was among them. As the boat neared the shore, and got among the breakers, I could see that she was rowed very unsteadily, as if by landsmen. Suddenly she was capsized, and the men in the water. Three of the men struggled to the shore, but the fourth was drowned. He never rose after the first struggle. As the remainder came into the barracks, I pressed eagerly forward, to see if my fellow prisoner was with them, and learned that he had remained on the brig. The circumstance of his remaining, added to their half formed suspicions, and during the rest of that day, I was obliged to calm the hourly increasing excitement, by assuring each new visitor to my prison, that the mate was doubtless doing his best to make the brig hold to her anchors; that it was not yet safe for him to leave her, and so forth. That evening, to my great relief, he made his appearance, and I immediately gave him his cue as to what account he should give of his delay. I felt, however, that I had run a great risk, which no thing but the strongest necessity should make me incur again.

During the third week in December, I had frequent visits from Cambiaso and García, during which they questioned me very closely in regard to my knowledge of navigation, sometimes turning to the English mate, and comparing his answer with mine. They asked what I knew of the navigation of the Straits; and would often seem to be cross-examining me with regard to the lay of the shore, and the appearance of the headlands.

I took advantage of their visits, to beg for more indulgence to my crew, who were still shut up in the crowded place where they had first been put, and deprived of almost the necessaries of existence; but it was evident, from Cambiaso's answers, that he had not yet determined what course to take with regard to us.

About the 20th of the month, I received permission from Cambiaso to go on board my vessel, and remain there; and on the same day my crew were released from their prison, and allowed to run at large in the yard, and cook for themselves. After my long confinement in the barracks, under the constant supervision of the guard, never allowed to eat or sleep without being watched, the Florida seemed like home to me, and the face of my steward like that of an old friend. He had been kept on board to cook for the men who were living in the Florida, at the head of whom was an officer by the name of Tapia, (the one who brought my first and second letters to me,) and his wife. My steward had often asked for me while I was on shore, and Tapia would sometimes tease him, by telling him that I was shot or hung, that he would never see me again, and so forth; at which he would cry like a child; and when he saw me come on board, he danced and skipped around me with a true negro-like expression of delight.

I asked him if he wanted to stay in that country with those rebels and pirates. "No, massa; no, massa Captain," he replied, "I want to be with you; I feel safe while you are by me."

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