men in the lower troop-deck were drowned in their hammocks. The rest of the men and all the officers appeared on deck, when Lieut.-Col. Seton called all the officers about him, and impressed on them the necessity of preserving order and silence among the men. He directed me to take and have executed whatever orders the commander might give me. Sixty men. were immediately put on to the chain-pumps on the lower afterdeck, and told off in three reliefs; sixty men were put on to the tackles of the paddle-box boats, and the remainder of the men were brought on to the poop, so as to ease the fore part of the ship. She was at this time rolling heavily. The commander ordered the horses to be pitched out of the port gangway, and the cutter to be got ready for the women and children, who had all been collected under the poopawning. As soon as the horses were got over the side, the women and children were passed into the cutter, and under charge of Mr. Richards, master's-assistant, the boat then stood off about a hundred and fifty yards. Just after they were out of the ship the entire bow broke off at the foremast, the bowsprit going up in the air towards the fore-topmast, and the funnel went over the side, carrying away the starboard paddle-box and boat. The paddle-box boat capsized when being lowered. The large boat, in the centre of the ship, could not be got at.

"It was about twelve or fifteen minutes after she struck that the bow broke off. The men then all went the and in about five minutes more the up on poop, vessel broke in two, crosswise, just abaft the engineroom, and the stern part immediately filled and went down. A few men jumped off just before she did so,

but the greater number remained to the last, and so did every officer belonging to the troops. All the men I put on the tackles, I fear, were crushed when the funnel fell; and the men and officers below at the pumps could not, I think, have reached the deck before the vessel broke up and went down. The survivors clung, some to the rigging of the mainmast, part of which was out of the water, and others got hold of floating pieces of wood. I think there must have been about two hundred on the drift wood. I was on a large piece along with five others, and we picked up nine or ten more. The swell carried the wood in the direction of Point Danger. As soon as it got to the weeds and breakers, finding that it would not support all that were on it, I jumped off and swam on shore; and when the others, and also those that were on the other pieces of wood, reached the shore, we proceeded into the country, to try to find a habitation of any sort where we could obtain shelter. Many of the men were naked, and almost all without shoes. Owing to the country being covered with thick, thorny bushes, our progress was slow; but, after walking till about three P.M., having reached land about twelve, we came to where a waggon was outspanned, and the driver of it directed us to a small bay, where there is a hut of a fisherman. The bay is called Sandford's Cove. We arrived there about sunset; and, as the men had nothing to eat, I went on to a farm-house about eight or nine miles from the Cove, and sent back provisions for that day. The next morning I sent another day's provisions, and the men were removed up to a farm of Captain Smales', about twelve or fourteen miles up the country. Lieutenant

[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]

Girardot, of the Forty-third, and Cornet Bond, of the Twelfth Lancers, accompanied this party, which amounted to sixty-eight men, including eighteen sailors. "I then went down to the coast, and during Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I examined the rocks for more than twenty miles, in the hope of finding some men who might have drifted in. I fortunately fell in with the crew of a whale boat, that is employed sealing on Dyer's Island; I got them to take the boat outside the seaweed, while I went along the shore. The seaweed on the coast is very thick, and of immense length, so that it would have caught most of the drift wood. Happily, the boat picked up two men, and I also found two. Although they were all much exhausted, two of them having been in the water thirtyeight hours, they were all right the next day except a few bruises. It was eighty-six hours on Sunday afternoon when I left the coast since the wreck had taken place; and as I had carefully examined every part of the rocks, and also sent the whale boat over to Dyer's Island, I can safely assert that when I left, there was not a living soul on the coast, of those that had been on board the ill-fated' Birkenhead.'

[ocr errors]

"On Saturday I met Mr. Mackay, the Civil Commissioner of Caledon, and also Field-cornet Villiers. The former told me that he had ordered the men who had been at Captain Smales' to be clothed by him, he having a store at his farm. Forty soldiers received clothing there. Mr. Mackay, the field-cornet, and myself, accompanied by a party of men brought down by Mr. Villiers, went along the coast as far as the point that runs out to Dyer's Island, and all the bodies that were met with were interred. There were

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]


not many, however, and I regret to say it could be easily accounted for. Five of the horses got to the shore, and were caught and brought to me. One belonged to myself, one to Mr. Bond, of the Twelfth Lancers, and the other three to Lieut.-Col. Seton, of the Seventy-fourth, Dr. Laing, and Lieutenant Booth, of the Seventy-third. I handed the horses over to Mr. Mackay, and he is to send them on to me here, so that they may be sold, and that I may account for the proceeds.




"On the 28th of February her Majesty's ship 'Rhadamanthus was seen off Sandford's Cove; so I went down there, and found that Captain Bunce, the commander of the Castor' frigate, had landed and gone up to Captain Smales', to order the men down to the Cove, so as to embark in the steamer to be conveyed to Simon's Bay. On Sunday, when I was down on the coast, the field-cornet told me that at a part where he and his men had been a few bodies were washed up and buried; also a few boxes, which were broken in pieces and the contents strewed about the rocks. I then ceased to hope that any more were living, and came down to the Cove to join the other men. We arrived there about six P.M.

"The order and regularity that prevailed on board, from the time the ship struck till she totally disappeared, far exceeded anything that I thought could be effected by the best discipline; and it is the more to be wondered at, seeing that most of the soldiers had been but a short time in the service. Every one did as he was directed; and there was not a murmur or a cry among them until the vessel made her final plunge. I could not name any individual officer who did more

than another. All received their orders, and had them carried out, as if the men were embarking, instead of going to the bottom; there was only this difference, that I never saw any embarkation conducted with so little noise or confusion.

"I enclose a list of those embarked, distinguishing those saved. I think it is correct, except one man of the Ninety-first, whose name I cannot find out. The only means I had of ascertaining the names of the men of the different drafts, was by getting them from their comrades who are saved. You will see by the list inclosed, that the loss amounts to 9 officers and 349 men, besides those of the crew; the total number embarked being 15 officers and 476 men (one officer and 18 men were disembarked in Simon's Bay).

"I am happy to say that all the women and children were put safely on board a schooner that was about seven miles off when the steamer was wrecked. This vessel returned to the wreck about three P.M., and took off forty or fifty men that were clinging to the rigging, and then proceeded to Simon's Bay. One of the ship's boats, with the assistant-surgeon of the vessel and eight men, went off, and landed about fifteen miles from the wreck. Had the boat remained about the wreck, or returned after landing the assistant-surgeon on Point Danger-about which there was no difficulty-I am quite confident that nearly every man of the two hundred who were on the drift wood might have been saved, for they might have been. picked up here and there, where they had got in among the weeds, and landed as soon as eight or nine were got into the boat. Where most of the drift wood stuck in the weeds the distance to the shore was not

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors]
« ElőzőTovább »