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New Orleans to San Francisco in '49

To Sea Again

The vessels were anchored at a long distance out in the bay, and all freight and passengers had to be carried out to them in small boats. When on the 10th of May, the day for the sailing of the Callao, we walked to the landing, we found that we should have to wait two hours for a boat to carry us to the bark. I shall never forget what a long two hours that was. We were too exhausted to go back to the town, so we stayed on the beach. I stood as long as I could, and then lay down on the ground. I did not know when I was carried aboard the vessel; nor, indeed, was I conscious of anything for a week, with the exception that at intervals I experienced a sensation as of burning, and a dreadful thirst. I then got better, and was able to see where I was, and found that my brothers and sisters were very sick.

As the Callao was a whaler, there was only cabin-room for the officers and four or five passengers; and the space between decks that had been used for storing oil-casks was now fitted out to carry passengers. There were two rows of rough berths all around the sides, and another row in the middle. There were also some hammocks hung in different places. There was no place for the entrance of light or air except through the hatchway. I do not know how many passengers there were on board, but I do know that every berth and hammock was filled, and that some had beds on the floor. It was a filthy-looking place, and the atmosphere was almost stifling Everything was swarming with cockroaches; they were in our beds and in our food. There was no dining table, and the passengers were divided into companies, or messes, as they were called. At meal time the steward would call the roll, and one person from each mess would receive the rations for his company. They would then form into groups anywhere they chose, and eat the food if they could. But the food was not of the best quality, and those in poor health suffered for want of proper nourishment. The water was bad also.

There were four American women, one Mexican woman, and one negro woman on board, and two little American children, besides the children of our family. These two children were both little girls under two years of age. There was also one negro child, and a large number of male passengers. The children were all sick, and suffering for proper food.

One of the babies was the child of Doctor Hurslener and wife, of Tennessee; the other was the child of Mr. and Mrs. Angar, of the same State. The other American woman was Mrs. Steinbach; she and her husband were young people from Florida. The negroes were the property of a Mr. Cassidy, who was taking them from Mississippi to California, in order that they might be free. The Mexican woman and her husband were to stop at Mazatlan.

We had not been on board long before the measles broke out among the children. The negro boy died with the disease on the seventh day out from Panama. Mr. Frank Lemon, the supercargo of the vessel, read the beautiful and impressive sea-burial service at all the burials between Panama and San Francisco. The night after the burial of the little negro, Doctor Mott, the ship's doctor, died from the effects of hard drinking; he had been under the influence of liquor ever since leaving Panama.

Our poor little baby sister was the next to go. It seemed a terrible thing to us children to see her little body sewed up in canvas, weighted with lead, and consigned to the mighty deep. In the course of three days the other two babies were buried. They, like my sister, died more from want of proper food than from any other cause. Another old drunken doctor, whose name I have forgotten, died next. One of the mates, a Frenchman, became insane, and had to be confined in irons until we reached Mazatlan, where he was left.

By this time the supply of water ran low, and we were put on an allowance, but it was so impure that we never drank more than we were obliged to for the purpose of sustaining life.

My brothers and sisters now began to feel well enough to go on deck, but I did not seem to gain any strength. Doctor Hurslener, who was now employed as ship's doctor, said that I never would be any better, if I was not put where I could breathe pure air. Therefore, the captain ordered a little awning to be fixed up on deck, and every day I was carried up and laid under it.

 

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