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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
The proceedings of the officers and crew from the loss of the ship, to the departure of the longboat from Wager Island.

On the seventh day after the ship was lost, we began to want provisions; but the weather being so bad that we could not work on the wreck, most of us went alongshore, and gathered shellfish, of which we found a good quantity.

As soon as the weather would permit, the Captain ordered the boat to the wreck, and several casks of flour with some wine were brought off. All this time the Captain expressed the greatest concern for the safety of the people, and caused a store-tent to be made for securing the provisions: but to little purpose, for some of the men robbed it every night. Hereupon the Captain ordered the petty officers to stand century [sentry, Ed.] at this tent, each four hours at a time, which was a great hardship upon us, who were only four, and the weather rainy for several weeks without intermission.

The ship's company by this time were formed into bodies, and lodged in tents. The Captain with some of his officers occupied the hut aforementioned. The warrant officers were in another, and the master with some of the petty officers in a third.

Going one day aboard the ship, we saw three canoes full of Indians making towards us. We made signals to them with our hats, and thereupon they came near us without further hesitation. They had with them their captain, or cacique, as they called him. I went with them on-shore to our Captain, who treated them with great civility; upon which, the next day they brought us three sheep, and a large quantity of very fine mussels. So just a sense of gratitude had these poor ignorant people, without any other instruction than what Nature gave them. A good example to many well-educated Christians!

These Indians are of a very dark swarthy complexion, of a middling stature; but extremely courteous in their behaviour. Their clothing is but thin, though the climate is very cold. They only wear a clout [piece of cloth, Ed.] about their middle, and something like a blanket which they wear about their shoulders, having a hole to put their head through, and this they call a punch [poncho, Ed.].

The time advancing, the Captain grew uneasy at our stay here, and would have had the people attempt to go to the rendezvous (which we were now told was to be at the island of Juan Fernandez) in order to join the Commodore. But such animosities were now among the people, both officers and sailors, that it was absolutely uncertain what might be the consequence. Many were continually exclaiming against the Captain, and threatening the petty officers that stood by him. As for their reasons for behaving in this manner, I could never rightly comprehend them. In truth, it must be owned that my attachment to the Captain was zealous, even to bigotry. — At last all the people of one tent deserted us, and rambled whither they pleased. It was said that they had a design to blow up the Captain in his tent; but this report was not generally believed, nor did anything of that sort ever happen.

By the Captain's orders we were everyday working on the wreck, except when the weather would not permit us to go on board; and I am sure if it had not been for the Captain, many would have perished before they would have given themselves this necessary trouble, though the preservation of their own lives, and the lives of their friends and companions depended on it.

June 6th, Mr. Cozens, my brother-midshipman, was confined by the Captain, whom he, being drunk, had used with such indecent language as the latter could hardly be expected to receive without punishing. Nevertheless in the evening of the same day the Captain ordered him to be released. Soon after this, Mr. Cozens quarrelled with the surgeon, whose intimacy with, and regard for the Captain was thought to be the chief cause of the midshipman's anger. They went to blows, but the surgeon got the better, and tying the hands of his antagonist behind him, left him to be released by the next that came that way. At last this unhappy gentleman going to the store-tent, where the purser was serving the provisions, a quarrel ensued, and the latter took out a pistol to shoot Mr. Cozens, but was prevented by the cooper, who struck the pistol aside. The Captain hearing the pistol go off, and at the time the purser crying out Captain Cheap! Here is Cozens come to kill us; he thought that Cozens had fired the pistol; and thereupon taking up another, he discharged it at Cozens, and mortally wounded him in the head. The unfortunate midshipman languished several days after, and then died. He was when sober, one of the best-natured men I ever knew. Messrs. Cummins and Bulkeley have brought a heavy charge of cruelty against Captain Cheap, giving us to understand that he would not allow the surgeon to dress Mr. Cozens's wound. This may be true for ought that I can positively say to the contrary, but such a thing was never intimated to me, except by their journal. To which I refer the reader for many occurrences relating to one voyage before these two gentlemen and their associates left us on this desolate island.

About the end of June, the carpenter begun to alter the longboat, intending to make her eleven or twelve foot longer by the keel; but this work was extremely protracted by the disturbances among the people. For in short our animosities and dissensions grew every day worse and worse. Some of the officers being weary of acting under the Captain's command, and having the majority of the people on their side, formed the design of going through the Straits of Magellan for the coast of Brazil, insisting upon it that this was the only probable step towards their returning in safety to England. These projectors drew up a writing, setting forth their reasons for attempting to go that way, rather than to the Commodore; and after it was signed by themselves and their party, they laid it before the Captain (whose consent to this project they had in vain solicited) desiring him also to sign it. But this he refused, telling them. "Their scheme was inconsistent with reason; and that it was also against his honour ever to turn his back on the enemy." On this all the men declared they would not go to the northward, and that in case the Captain should persist in his refusal to sign the paper, he ought to have his command taken from him.

And now all the people came armed with their chiefs to the Captain's tent, telling him he should no longer command them, and used him somewhat rudely. Some days after, the Captain, seeing that the carpenter would not finish the boat, sent for him, and some of the officers, telling them he would go where they pleased. Hereupon the boat was finished, and shortly after launched; and everything was now made ready for our quitting this island. But still they distrusted the Captain, (who in truth, did not sincerely intend to go with them) and therefore they determined to imprison him; which they did in a violent manner, tying his hands behind him with a rope, and leading him out of his tent in his shirt, (for he was in bed when they took him) they confined him in another tent, in which he remained till the boat went off. His guard consisted of six men and one officer.

All this time I never spoke of these things in public, thinking it somewhat dangerous, as I was looked upon as one of the Captain's friends. However, after he was confined, I went to speak with him, but the officer of the guard would not suffer me to speak to him by myself, nor would he let me into the tent until I was searched. When I had admission to the Captain, I told him that I was willing to take my chance with him, as I understood he chose to remain on the island after the boat was gone off; which offer the Captain gladly accepted. However as our new masters only proposed to leave the yawl with us, which was not large enough to carry us off, I went and desired them to leave the barge, which they refused, unless the ten men that were in her would stay with us. But I could only prevail on three of them.

October 16th, by our account (for there was two days difference between the Captain's account and that kept by Bulkeley and Cummins and their party) the longboat put to sea, and the barge with her, in which I also set out as though I would have gone with them. Thus was Captain Cheap left on this desolate island, in a miserable condition, /*/ with only a few friends with him, (whose names the reader will see anon) with no other vessel than a little yawl with her broadside out; and all the fire-arms he had were very much out of order.

* For a particular account of the Captain's unwillingness to go in the boat to the southward, and the people's reasons for not forcing him along with them, and carrying him to England as a prisoner for murdering Cozens, see Bulkeley and Cummins's narrative.

On the 17th, being now out at sea, I had an opportunity of speaking to the people that were with me in the barge, and represented to them what a shame it was to leave their Captain in such a situation; and added "That if they did get home, which they could not reasonably hope to do the way they were going, they would be hanged for mutiny. But if, on the other hand, we should go back to the Captain, and with him to the northward, we had a much better chance."

My discourse wrought upon most of them and they consented to go back; but at the same time objected to our want of provisions, and observed that it would be dangerous to ask those in the boat for any, lest they should take the barge from us. However, as soon as we came to an anchor, and went on board the boat, it luckily happened that Mr. Bulkeley, the gunner, whom we now looked on as Captain, ordered me to return with the barge to Wager Island as we called it, and to bring off a tent belonging to Captain Pemberton of the Marines, which he said he should want to make sails for the boat. Hereupon, determining to let them see no more of the barge, I observed to the Hon. Mr. Byron, midshipman, and brother to the Lord Byron, that now was the time if he had a mind to go back to the Captain. This he immediately resolved to do, but was afraid our new chiefs would suspect our intention, and stop our voyage. But they did not, and we happily got safe to Wager Island that night, where the Captain gladly received us.

Besides, Mr. Byron and myself, eight others went back with us in the barge, viz, William Harvey, David Buckly, William Ross, Richard Noble, Peter Plastow, Joseph Clinch, Rowland Crusset, and John Bosman.

When I went on shore, I asked the Captain what he would have done with the barge; for the wind blew very hard, and as she had no grappling but the ship's bell, I was afraid it would not ride her. And in case she should be stove, we should then be in a most miserable state. However, we were forced to venture her, having no remedy in our power.

This night the Hon. Mr. Byron and I supped with Captain Cheap, Mr. Hamilton lieutenant of Marines, and the surgeon; and having much to talk upon, we went home to our tent very late. The next morning, it blowing so very hard that we could not go out to sea to get shellfish, the Captain gave us some flour, and two pieces of his pork, and the day following, it being moderate weather, we asked the Captain leave to go over to the other side of the lagoon, which we called Long Island; and to travel to the longboat, which we knew would be still waiting there, upon other accounts, besides the expected return of the barge. As our business with the longboat was to ask for our share of provisions, the Captain readily consented to our going over. Accordingly we set out, and after travelling all day through woods and marshes, we came to the vessel in the evening. We found most of the people employed in getting shellfish, and among the rest, the new commanders Mr. Bulkeley and Mr. Beans; one of them asked me, in a surly manner, where the barge was. Which I told them; and at the same time desired a share of the provisions for us who chose to stay with the Captain, and also the few things I had in the boat. No, damn you, it was replied, you shall have nothing except you bring the barge. Mr. Byron went on board, and spoke to the people, but could not prevail on them to give us anything. On the contrary, they told us, "that if we did not return the next day with the barge, they would arm the cutter and send her for it." However, they knew better things; for if the cutter had come, we should have endeavoured to have taken her from them. In short, not being able to obtain anything from this obstinate crew, we went back and told the Captain of our ill success. To which he replied, "Gentlemen, there is no help for it; but the little provisions and clothes they have left me shall be equally shared among us." He gave me three shirts and two white waistcoats, and to the others in proportion.

... Book 3