« PreviousContinue »
we were about six weeks, consuming our sea stores, and obliged to procure more. At length the fleet sailed, the general and all his army on board, bound to Louisburg, with intent to besiege and take that fortress; and all the packet boats în company were ordered to attend the general's ship ready to receive his dispatches when they should be ready. We were out five days before we got a letter with leave to part; and then our ship quitted the fleet and steered for England. The other two packets he still detained, carried them with him to Halifax, where he stayed some time to exercise the men in sham attacks upon sham forts, then altered his mind as to besieging Louisburg, and returned to New York, with all his troops, together with the two packets above mentioned, and all their passengers ! During his absence, the French and savages had taken Fort George, on the frontier of that province, and the Indians had massacred many of the garrison after capitulation.
I saw, afterwards, in London, Captain Bound, who commanded one of those packets. He told me, that, when he had been detained a month, he acquainted his lordship, that his ship was grown foul, to a degree that must necessarily hinder her fast sailing, a point of consequence for a packet boat, and requested an allowance of time to heave her down, and clean her bottom. His lordship asked how long time that would require. He answered, three days. The general replied, “If you can do it in one day, I give leave; otherwise, not; for you must certainly sail the day after to-morrow.” So he never obtained leave, though detained afterwards, from day to day, during full three months.
I saw, also in London, one of Bonell's passengers, who was so enraged against his lordship for deceiving and detaining him so long at New York, and then carrying him to Halifax and back again, that he swore he would sue him for damages. Whether he did or not,
I never heard; but, as he represented it, the injury to his affairs was very considerable.
On the whole, I wondered much how such a man came to be intrusted with so important a business as the conduct of a great army; but, having since seen more of the great world, and the means of obtaining, and motives for giving, places and employments, my wonder is diminished. General Shirley, on whom the command of the army devolved, upon the death of Braddock, would, in my opinion, if continued in place, have made a much better campaign than that of Loudoun, in 1756, which was frivolous, expensive, and disgraceful to our nation beyond conception. For, though Shirley was not bred a soldier, he was sensible and sagacious in himself, and attentive to good advice from others, capable of forming judicious pians, and quick and active in carrying them into execution. Loudon, instead of defending the colonies with his great army, left them totally exposed, while he paraded idly at Halifax, by which means Fort George was lost; besides, he deranged all our mercantile operations, and distressed our trade, by a long embargo on the exportation of provisions, on pretense of keeping supplies from being obtained by the enemy, but, in reality, for beating down their price in favor of the contractors, in whose profits, it was said, perhaps from suspicion only, he had a share; and when, at length, the embargo was taken off, neglecting to send notice of it to Charleston, where the Carolina fleet was detained near three months; and whereby their bottoms were so much damaged by the worm, that a great part of them foundered in their passage home.
Shirley was, I believe, sincerely glad of being relieved from so burdensome a charge, as the conduct of an army must be to a man unacquainted with military business. I was at the entertainment given by the city of New York to Lord Loudoun, on his taking upon him the command. Shirley, though thereby superseded, was present also. There was a great company of officers, citizens, and strangers, and, some chairs having been borrowed in the neighbors hood, there was one among them very low, which fell to the lot of Mr. Shirley. I sat by him, and perceiving it, I said, “They have given you a very low seat.' “ No matter, Mr. Franklin,” said he, “I End a low seat the easiest."
While I was, as before mentioned, detained at New York, I received all the accounts of the provisions, &c., that I had furnished to Braddock; some of which accounts could not sooner be obtained from the different persons I had employed to assist in the business. I presented them to Lord Loudoun, desiring to be paid the balance. He caused them to be examined by the proper officer, who, after comparing every article with its voucher, certified them to be right; and his lordship promised to give me an order on the paymaster for the balance due to me. This was, however, put off from time to time; and, though I called often for it by appointment, I did not get it. At length, just before my departure, he told me he had, on better consideration, concluded not to mix his accounts with those of his predecessors. “And you,” said he, “when in England, have only to exhibit your accounts to the treasury, and you will be paid immediately.”
I mentioned, but without effect, a great and unexpected expense I had been put to by being detained so long at New York, as a reason for my desiring to be presently paid ; and, on my observing, that it was not right I should be put to any further trouble or delay in obtaining the money I had advanced, as I charged no commission for my service, “O," said he, - you must not think of persuading us, that you are no gainer; we understand better those matters, and know, that every one concerned in supplying the army finds means, in the doing it, to fill his own pockets." I assured him, that was not my case, and that I bad not pocketed a farthing; but he appeared clearly not to believe me; and indeed I afterwards learned, that immense fortunes are often made in such employments. As to my balance, I am not paid it to this day; of which more hereafter.
Our captain of the packet boasted much, before we sailed, of the swiftness of his ship; unfortunately when we came to sea, she proved the dullest of ninety-six sail, to his no small mortification. After many conjectures respecting the cause, when we were near another ship almost as dull as ours, which, however, gained upon us, tbe captain ordered all hands to come aft, and stand as near the ensign staff as possible. We were, passengers included, about forty persons. While we stood there, the ship mended her pace, and soon left her neighbor far behind, which proved clearly what our captain suspected, that she was loaded too much by the head. The casks of water, it seems, had been all placed forward ; these he therefore ordered to be moved further aft, on which the ship recovered her character, and proved the best sailer in the fleet.
The captain said, she had gone at the rate of thirteen knots, which is accounted thirteen miles per hour. We had on board, as a passenger, Captain Archibald Kennedy, of the Royal Navy, who con. tended that it was impossible, and that no ship ever sailed so fast, and that there must have been some error in the division of the log line, or some mistake in heaving the log. A wager ensued between the two captains, to be decided when there should be sufficient wind. Kennedy therefore examined the log line, and being satisfied with it, he determined to throw the log himself. Some days after, when the wind was very fair and fresh, and the captain of the packet, Lutwidge, said he believed she then went at the rate of thirteen knots, Kennedy made the experiment, and owned his wager lost.
The foregoing fact I give for the sake of the following observation. It has been remarked, as an imperfection in the art of ship building, that it can never be known, till she is tried, whether a new
ship will, or will not, be a good sailer; for that the model of a good sailing ship has been exactly followed in a new one, which has been proved, on the contrary, remarkably dull. I apprehend, that this may partly be occasioned by the different opinions of seamen respecting the modes of loading, rigging, and sailing of a ship; each has his method; and the same vessel, laden by the method and orders of one captain, shall sail worse than when by the orders of another. Besides, it scarce ever happens, that a ship is formed, fitted for the sea, and sailed by the same person. One man builds the hull, another rigs her, à third loads and sails her. No one of these has the advantage of knowing all the ideas and experience of the others, and, therefore, can not draw just conclusions from a combination of the whole.
Even in the simple operation of sailing when at sea, I have often observed different judgments in the officers who commanded the successive watches, the wind being the same. One would have the sails trimmed sharper or flatter than another, so that they seemed to have no certain rule to govern by. Yet, I think, a set of experiments might be instituted, first, to determine the most proper form of the hull for swift sailing; next, the best dimensions and most proper place for the masts; then, the form and quantity of sails, and their position, as the winds may be; and, lastly, the disposition of the lading. This is an age of experiments, and I think a set accurately made and combined, would be of great use.
We were several times chased in our passage, but outsailed every thing; and in thirty days had soundings. We bad a good observation, and the
captain judged himself so near our port, Falmouth, that, if we made a good run in the night, we might be off the mouth of that harbor in the morning; and, by running in the night, might escape the notice of the enemy's privateers, who often cruised near the entrance of the Channel. Accordingly, all the sail was set that we could possibly carry, and the wind being