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Historical Materials from Southern Patagonia
Midshipman Alexander Campbell, HMS Wager, 1740-46
Shipwreck and rescue on the Pacific coast of Patagonia
  Preamble   |   Book :    1     2     3     4  
Byron's plagiarism
Bulkeley and Cummins's

or the

Adventures of Capt. Cheap, the Hon. Mr. Byron, Lieut. Hamilton, Alexander Campbell and others, late of his Majesty's ship the Wager, which was wrecked on a desolate island in Lat. 47. S. Long. 81. 40. W. in the South Seas, anno 1741.


A faithful narrative of the unparalleled sufferings of these gentlemen, after being left on the said island by the rest of the officers and crew, who went off in the longboat. Their deplorable condition, desperate enterprises, and prodigious distresses, till they fell into the hands of the Indians, who carried them into New Spain, where they remained prisoners of war, till sent back to Europe, on the terms of the cartel, in 1746.

The whole interspersed with descriptions of the countries in which the various scenes of their adventures lay; the manners, etc. of the American Indians and Spaniards, and their treatment of the author and his companions.

Late midshipman of the Wager.

Printed for the author, and sold by W. Owen, publisher,
at Homer's Head, near Temple Bar, Fleet Street, 1747.
(Price one shilling and sixpence.)


To the Honourable John Bing, Esq;
Rear-Admiral of the Blue.


As I have had the honour of serving under you in his Majesty's ship the Augusta, in 1738, and the year following; and as I am well assured that no one will more impartially read, or is more capable of forming a right judgment of the ensuing pages, so I know not to whom they could have been more properly inscribed.

You will not, Sir, expect a seaman to say fine things in a dedication. Besides, such things as I might be inclinable to say of you, though unquestionably true, would so much resemble the flattery usual on these occasions, as not only would ill-become a maritime pen, but, I dare say, be no way acceptable to your Honour.

All I have to say in behalf of the following sheets, is, that they are void of art, malice, or misrepresentation. The facts related in them are undeniable, dressed in the plain unsophisticated language of an honest tar, whose principal view in publishing them, is to clear his character from a very gross calumny. Most of the hardships I suffered in following the fortune of Captain Cheap, were the consequence of my voluntary attachment to that gentleman, and the distresses I underwent with him, and for him, are such as perhaps have never been equalled. In reward for this the Captain has approved himself the greatest enemy I have in the world. On my return to my native country, after such a voyage as God grant no other man may ever make, I hoped that my services and sufferings would have sufficiently pleaded my cause, and at last have turned out to my advantage. But instead of this, I now find myself destitute of employment, and without the least prospect of being provided for in the service of my King and Country. Whether or not I have merited from either so hard a fate, I leave to your Honour's judgment, on the perusal of the ensuing narrative; in opposition to which I should rejoice at your being thoroughly acquainted with the very worst that my enemies can prove against me; for as your penetration cannot be imposed on by gross untruths, and palpable misrepresentations, and as they have nothing else to bring against me, so, in proportion to the weakness of such evidence, the more strongly must the innocence appear of

Your Honour's most humble,
And most obedient servant,

Alexander Campbell.

Nov. 1, 1746.


Having been cruelly aspersed by those who, of all persons in the world, ought to have spoken, if not kindly, at least fairly of me, I thought it necessary to publish the ensuing narrative, in order to justify my conduct, and make it appear to the World, that I have not been generously treated. This is a piece of justice which I owe to myself, and which any other man in the like circumstances would be willing to pay.

I shall not say much of my services to Captain Cheap, in order to aggravate his ungenerous returns. Had I never done, or endeavoured to do him the least service, yet he ought not to have aspersed my character, nor to have charged me with a crime which I would be the last man in his Majesty's Navy to commit. The Captain was a witness all my sufferings, and was it not cruel in him to prevent my receiving any recompense? Had I even been the aggressor in any misunderstanding with him, yet it ought to have been beneath him to pursue with so much malice, and take so severe a revenge on his fellow-sufferer and faithful servant, for such I voluntarily became to him in his greatest distress. But I was not the aggressor; nor did I ever imagine he would have proved my enemy, who was never his, but the very reverse.

Happening to come home a little before me, he takes the opportunity of reporting that I was gone into the Spanish service. And what more could he have done to render me odious among my brother-sailors, and hinder me from being again employed, and getting my bread as formerly in the service of my King and Country? This groundless charge has been propagated with so much success, and (unfortunately for me) has been so generally believed at the Admiralty Office, and by some gentleman in the Navy, who might else have done me service, that I am looked on as a traitor, or traitorously inclined, and am therefore ejected out of his Majesty's service, and indeed out of all other service, unless I will actually go over to the enemy, as it has been falsely said I have done. But rather than do this, I will submit to beg my bread, or, starving, die a reproach to ungrateful and cruel men.

That the public may truly be informed of my innocence, I have printed this account of the voyage I was so unfortunately engaged in. When the Wager was shipwrecked on the desolate island in the South Seas, mentioned in the title, the crew thought themselves no longer obliged to obey their Captain; and when they found that he would not give up his command, they took arms and freed themselves from it by confining him. But when all, except the very few whom anon I shall have occasion to mention, despised and left the Captain, I remained steadily attached to him, even in his greatest extremity; and on this account was myself despised, and without regret abandoned to an almost hopeless fate.

Indeed while I was necessary to him the Captain expressed great kindness for me, and made me large promises; but after following his desperate fortune for three years, his ungenerous usage of me, forced me to quit his company, and embark for Europe in a Spanish ship, rather than go home with him in a French one. This however gave him the opportunity of arriving in England, a few weeks before me: and an opportunity for doing me a prejudice which the Captain industriously improved; very generously and honestly reporting that I had entered into the Spanish service; though I do not believe he himself suspected it. As to my not being come home when he arrived, that was no proof, nor even ground for suspicion that I was voluntarily absent. He could not know whether I was still alive, or whether detained by sickness, imprisonment in old Spain, or by contrary winds, or twenty other means which a generous man would have supposed, rather than judge so uncharitably.

But if I live to be again employed in the Royal Navy, I hope that opportunities may occur for convincing my countrymen (by all the services one in my station can perform) that my zeal for, and fidelity to my King and Country, ever have been, and ever will be incapable of being moved either by temptations or dangers. I desire no greater happiness in this world, than to make it publicly appear, that there is not a Briton this day alive, who has a greater regard for his own and his Country's honour, than I have ever preserved. To one proof of this Captain Cheap himself is no stranger. Namely, that I might have had, in New Spain, as well as at Madrid, the command of a Spanish man-of-war given me, if I would have quitted the King of Great Britain's service.

If the reader should think that anything in this narrative borders in any degree upon the marvellous, let it be tried by a collation with the accounts of other voyagers; and then it will appear that never any traveller more avoided exaggeration than I have done. I have designed this tract as a plain simple relation of facts, intended chiefly to place my own actions in a just light. If here and there I have introduced descriptions of the countries, etc. which I had the misfortune to see, it is only in complaisance to the custom of journalists. However I have been scrupulously careful not to insert one word of untruth: for falsities of any kind would be highly absurd in a work designed to rescue the author's character from the imputation of unfaithfulness.

A. C.

... Book 1