Memoirs of General W.T. Sherman

Text to Speech

about a dollar, but being a paper-money was at a discount, so as

only to be worth about fifty-six cents in coin.

The Lexington remained in Rio about a week, during which we visited

the Palace, a few miles in the country, also the Botanic Gardens, a

place of infinite interest, with its specimens of tropical fruits,

spices; etc., etc., and indeed every place of note. The thing I

best recall is a visit Halleck and I made to the Corcovado, a high

mountain whence the water is conveyed for the supply of the city.

We started to take a walk, and passed along the aqueduct, which

approaches the city by a aeries of arches; thence up the point of

the hill to a place known as the Madre, or fountain, to which all

the water that drips from the leaves is conducted by tile gutters,

and is carried to the city by an open stone aqueduct.

Here we found Mr. Henry A. Wise, of Virginia, the United States

minister to Brazil, and a Dr. Garnett, United States Navy, his

intended son-in-law. We had a very interesting conversation, in

which Mr. Wise enlarged on the fact that Rio was supplied from the

"dews of heaven," for in the dry season the water comes from the

mists and fogs which hang around the Corcovado, drips from the

leaves of the trees, and is conducted to the Madre fountain by

miles of tile gutters. Halleck and I continued our ascent of the

mountain, catching from points of the way magnificent views of the

scenery round about Rio Janeiro. We reached near the summit what

was called the emperor's coffee-plantation, where we saw

coffee-berries in their various stages, and the scaffolds on which

the berries were dried before being cleaned. The coffee-tree

reminded me of the red haw-tree of Ohio, and the berries were

somewhat like those of the same tree, two grains of coffee being

inclosed in one berry. These were dried and cleaned of the husk by

hand or by machinery. A short, steep ascent from this place

carried us to the summit, from which is beheld one of the most

picturesque views on earth. The Organ Mountains to the west and

north, the ocean to the east, the city of Rio with its red-tiled

houses at our feet, and the entire harbor like a map spread out,

with innumerable bright valleys, make up a landscape that cannot be

described by mere words. This spot is universally visited by

strangers, and has often been described. After enjoying it

immeasurably, we returned to the city by another route, tired but

amply repaid by our long walk.

In due time all had been done that was requisite, and the Lexington

put to sea and resumed her voyage. In October we approached Cape

Horn, the first land descried was Staten Island, white with snow,

and the ship seemed to be aiming for the channel to its west,

straits of Le Maire, but her course was changed and we passed

around to the east. In time we saw Cape Horn; an island rounded

like an oven, after which it takes its name (Ornos) oven. Here we

experienced very rough weather, buffeting about under storm

stay-sails, and spending nearly a month before the wind favored our

passage and enabled the course of the ship to be changed for

Valparaiso. One day we sailed parallel with a French sloop-of-war,

and it was sublime to watch the two ships rising and falling in

those long deep swells of the ocean. All the time we were followed

by the usual large flocks of Cape-pigeons and albatrosses of every

color. The former resembled the common barn-pigeon exactly, but

are in fact gulls of beautiful and varied colors, mostly

dove-color. We caught many with fishing-lines baited with pork.

We also took in the same way many albatrosses. The white ones are

very large, and their down is equal to that of the swan. At last

Cape Horn and its swelling seas were left behind, and we reached

Valparaiso in about sixty days from Rio. We anchored in the open

roadstead, and spent there about ten days, visiting all the usual

places of interest, its foretop, main-top, mizzen-top, etc.

Halleck and Ord went up to Santiago, the capital of Chili, some

sixty miles inland, but I did not go. Valparaiso did not impress

me favorably at all. Seen from the sea, it looked like a long

string of houses along the narrow beach, surmounted with red banks

of earth, with little verdure, and no trees at all. Northward the

space widened out somewhat, and gave room for a plaza, but the mass

of houses in that quarter were poor. We were there in November,

corresponding to our early spring, and we enjoyed the large

strawberries which abounded. The Independence frigate, Commodore

Shubrick, came in while we were there, having overtaken us, bound

also for California. We met there also the sloop-of-war levant,

from California, and from the officers heard of many of the events

that had transpired about the time the navy, under Commodore Sloat,

had taken possession of the country.

All the necessary supplies being renewed in Valparaiso, the voyage

was resumed. For nearly forty days we had uninterrupted favorable

winds, being in the "trades," and, having settled down to sailor

habits, time passed without notice. We had brought with us all the

books we could find in New York about California, and had read them

over and over again: Wilkes's "Exploring Expedition;" Dana's "Two

Years before the Mast;" and Forbes's "Account of the Missions." It

was generally understood we were bound for Monterey, then the

capital of Upper California. We knew, of course, that General

Kearney was enroute for the same country overland; that Fremont was

therewith his exploring party; that the navy had already taken

possession, and that a regiment of volunteers, Stevenson's, was

to follow us from New York; but nevertheless we were impatient to

reach our destination. About the middle of January the ship began

to approach the California coast, of which the captain was duly

cautious, because the English and Spanish charts differed some

fifteen miles in the longitude, and on all the charts a current of

two miles an hour was indicated northward along the coast. At last

land was made one morning, and here occurred one of those accidents

so provoking after a long and tedious voyage. Macomb, the master

and regular navigator, had made the correct observations, but

Nicholson during the night, by an observation on the north star,

put the ship some twenty miles farther south than was the case by

the regular reckoning, so that Captain Bailey gave directions to

alter the course of the ship more to the north, and to follow the

coast up, and to keep a good lookout for Point Pinos that marks the

location of Monterey Bay. The usual north wind slackened, so that

when noon allowed Macomb to get a good observation, it was found

that we were north of Ano Nuevo, the northern headland of Monterey

Bay. The ship was put about, but little by little arose one of

those southeast storms so common on the coast in winter, and we

buffeted about for several days, cursing that unfortunate

observation on the north star, for, on first sighting the coast,

had we turned for Monterey, instead of away to the north, we would

have been snugly anchored before the storm. But the southeaster

abated, and the usual northwest wind came out again, and we sailed

steadily down into the roadstead of Monterey Bay. This is shaped

somewhat like a fish hook, the barb being the harbor, the point

being Point Pinos, the southern headland. Slowly the land came out

of the water, the high mountains about Santa Cruz, the low beach of

the Saunas, and the strongly-marked ridge terminating in the sea in

a point of dark pine-trees. Then the line of whitewashed houses of

adobe, backed by the groves of dark oaks, resembling old

apple-trees; and then we saw two vessels anchored close to the

town. One was a small merchant-brig and another a large ship

apparently dismasted. At last we saw a boat coming out to meet us,

and when it came alongside, we were surprised to find Lieutenant

Henry Wise, master of the Independence frigate, that we had left at

Valparaiso. Wise had come off to pilot us to our anchorage. While

giving orders to the man at the wheel, he, in his peculiar fluent

style, told to us, gathered about him, that the Independence had

sailed from Valparaiso a week after us and had been in Monterey a

week; that the Californians had broken out into an insurrection;

that the naval fleet under Commodore Stockton was all down the

coast about San Diego; that General Kearney had reached the

country, but had had a severe battle at San Pascual, and had been

worsted, losing several officers and men, himself and others

wounded; that war was then going on at Los Angeles; that the whole

country was full of guerrillas, and that recently at Yerba Buena

the alcalde, Lieutenant Bartlett, United States Navy, while out

after cattle, had been lassoed, etc., etc. Indeed, in the short

space of time that Wise was piloting our ship in, he told us more

news than we could have learned on shore in a week, and, being

unfamiliar with the great distances, we imagined that we should

have to debark and begin fighting at once. Swords were brought

out, guns oiled and made ready, and every thing was in a bustle

when the old Lexington dropped her anchor on January 26, 1847, in

Monterey Bay, after a voyage of one hundred and ninety-eight days

from New York. Every thing on shore looked bright and beautiful,

the hills covered with grass and flowers, the live-oaks so serene

and homelike, and the low adobe houses, with red-tiled roofs and

whitened walls, contrasted well with the dark pine-trees behind,

making a decidedly good impression upon us who had come so far to

spy out the land. Nothing could be more peaceful in its looks than

Monterey in January, 1847. We had already made the acquaintance of

Commodore Shubrick and the officers of the Independence in

Valparaiso, so that we again met as old friends. Immediate

preparations were made for landing, and, as I was quartermaster and

commissary, I had plenty to do. There was a small wharf and an

adobe custom-house in possession of the navy; also a barrack of two

stories, occupied by some marines, commanded by Lieutenant Maddox;

and on a hill to the west of the town had been built a two-story

block-house of hewed logs occupied by a guard of sailors under

command of Lieutenant Baldwin, United States Navy. Not a single

modern wagon or cart was to be had in Monterey, nothing but the old

Mexican cart with wooden wheels, drawn by two or three pairs of

oxen, yoked by the horns. A man named Tom Cole had two or more of

these, and he came into immediate requisition. The United States

consul, and most prominent man there at the time, was Thomas O.

Larkin, who had a store and a pretty good two-story house occupied

by his family. It was soon determined that our company was to land

and encamp on the hill at the block-house, and we were also to have

possession of the warehouse, or custom-house, for storage. The

company was landed on the wharf, and we all marched in full dress

with knapsacks and arms, to the hill and relieved the guard under

Lieutenant Baldwin. Tents and camp-equipage were hauled up, and

soon the camp was established. I remained in a room at the

customhouse, where I could superintend the landing of the stores

and their proper distribution. I had brought out from New York

twenty thousand dollars commissary funds, and eight thousand

dollars quartermaster funds, and as the ship contained about six

months' supply of provisions, also a saw-mill, grist-mill, and

almost every thing needed, we were soon established comfortably.

We found the people of Monterey a mixed set of Americans, native

Mexicans, and Indians, about one thousand all told. They were kind

and pleasant, and seemed to have nothing to do, except such as

owned ranches in the country for the rearing of horses and cattle.

Horses could be bought at any price from four dollars up to

sixteen, but no horse was ever valued above a doubloon or Mexican

ounce (sixteen dollars). Cattle cost eight dollars fifty cents for

the best, and this made beef net about two cents a pound, but at

that time nobody bought beef by the pound, but by the carcass.

Game of all kinds--elk, deer, wild geese, and ducks--was abundant;

but coffee, sugar, and small stores, were rare and costly.

There were some half-dozen shops or stores, but their shelves were

empty. The people were very fond of riding, dancing, and of shows

of any kind. The young fellows took great delight in showing off

their horsemanship, and would dash along, picking up a half-dollar

from the ground, stop their horses in full career and turn about on

the space of a bullock's hide, and their skill with the lasso was

certainly wonderful. At full speed they could cast their lasso

about the horns of a bull, or so throw it as to catch any

particular foot. These fellows would work all day on horseback in

driving cattle or catching wildhorses for a mere nothing, but all

the money offered would not have hired one of them to walk a mile.

The girls were very fond of dancing, and they did dance gracefully

and well. Every Sunday, regularly, we had a baile, or dance, and

sometimes interspersed through the week.

I remember very well, soon after our arrival, that we were all

invited to witness a play called "Adam and Eve." Eve was

personated by a pretty young girl known as Dolores Gomez, who,

however, was dressed very unlike Eve, for she was covered with a

petticoat and spangles. Adam was personated by her brother--the

same who has since become somewhat famous as the person on whom is

founded the McGarrahan claim. God Almighty was personated, and

heaven's occupants seemed very human. Yet the play was pretty,

interesting, and elicited universal applause. All the month of

February we were by day preparing for our long stay in the country,

and at night making the most of the balls and parties of the most

primitive kind, picking up a smattering of Spanish, and extending

our acquaintance with the people and the costumbrea del pais. I

can well recall that Ord and I, impatient to look inland, got

permission and started for the Mission of San Juan Bautista.

Mounted on horses, and with our carbines, we took the road by El

Toro, quite a prominent hill, around which passes the road to the

south, following the Saunas or Monterey River. After about twenty

miles over a sandy country covered with oak-bushes and scrub, we

entered quite a pretty valley in which there was a ranch at the

foot of the Toro. Resting there a while and getting some

information, we again started in the direction of a mountain to the

north of the Saunas, called the Gavillano. It was quite dark when

we reached the Saunas River, which we attempted to pass at several

points, but found it full of water, and the quicksands were bad.

Hearing the bark of a dog, we changed our course in that direction,

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