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The Sufferings and Escape of Capt. Chas. H. Brown From an Awful Imprisonment by Chilian Convicts

The Sufferings and Escape of Capt. Chas. H. Brown From an Awful Imprisonment by Chilian Convicts
Title: The Sufferings and Escape of Capt. Chas. H. Brown From an Awful Imprisonment by Chilian Convicts
Release Date: 2018-07-07
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
Date added: 27 March 2019
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The cover image for this eBook was created by the transcriber from the title page of the original and is placed in the public domain.

Obvious typographical errors have been corrected.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation have been standardized.



1. Front gate.     2. House in which Cambiaso and Garcia lived.
3. Rooms where Mr. Shaw and myself were first confined.
4. The room I was afterwards removed to.
5. Where Mr. Dunn, Capt. Avalos, and others were confined.
6. Where my crew were confined.     7. Gallows.
8. Tree where the woman and others were shot.
9. The platform.     10. Flag-staff.     11. Guns.
12. Officers’ house.     13. Cook and bake houses.
14. Gate to the yard where the cattle were kept.
15. Trees where Mr. Shaw, Capt. Talbot, and the passenger were shot.
16. Where they were burnt, with the governor.
17. Where the vessels’ papers were burnt.
18 to 44. Houses or huts for the soldiers and prisoners.
45. Calaboose.     46 to 49. Store houses.
50. Gate.     51. Sometimes used for calaboose.
52. Dog house.


An Awful Imprisonment


20 Washington Street.

Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1854,
in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the District of

[Pg 7]


The preface to a book is very often nothingmore than a respectable cloak, allowed by theconventionalities of literature, in which an authormay wrap his excuses and apologies for troublingthe public with his lucubrations. This dressingup of excuses in order to introduce them intonotice under another name, is a thing so temptingto poor human nature, such a pleasant little offeringto self esteem and vanity, that it would bevery hard if authors were to be debarred froma luxury in which all their fellow mortals indulge.Yet, if it be true that a good wine needs nobush, it is equally true that a good book needsno excuse; and in this age of ready writers, itis very certain that no excuse or apology canjustify the publishing a bad one. To apologisefor poor or careless writing, because there hasnot been time or opportunity to make it better,provokes the question, “What necessity was therefor writing at all?”—a question not always easilyanswered.

But this is not an apology for my own book;it is simply a preface to the narrative of anotherperson, in which I can claim no part except that[Pg 8]of collecting the facts from different sources, ofarranging and compiling them. If in performingthis task, I have in any way “come tardy off,”my excuses are due to both captain Brown andhis readers.

In writing out this account, I have labored underthe disadvantage of being able to hold nocommunication with captain Brown, except byletters. His legal papers connected with his claimfor salvage, and his own concise narrative of hissufferings and escape, drawn up for Mr. Webster’sinformation at the time the claim for salvage wasfirst made, were put into my hands; and hisletters from time to time have supplied me withthe details. I have, in every case where it waspossible, retained his own spirited language; butI feel that had it been possible for me to haveseen and heard him, the narrative as taken downfrom his lips might have been, not, I believe,more correct as to facts, but perhaps more graphicand life-like as to detail.

Still, I am convinced that the simple accountof his adventures, his sufferings, his unquenchablespirit, and the manner in which he sustained anddid honor to the reputation of our Americanseamen, amid dangers before which the bravestmight shrink, cannot be without its interest tohis countrymen, and especially to those of his profession;while every American must feel that hisservices to the Chilian government were receivedby them without even an acknowledgement oftheir value; his just and legal claims being refused[Pg 9]almost with contumely. Had captain Brown’sdemand for salvage on the treasure rescued byhim been backed by the presence of an Americanfrigate, commanded by such a man as captainIngraham, we should not have seen the Britishadmiral allowed to carry it off from under theeyes of the Chilian authorities, while they fearedto serve the process of detainer issued accordingto the law of the country; nor should we haveseen an American citizen brow-beaten by an Englishofficer, while in the discharge of his duty tohis owners and to the government in whose employhe was sailing. An American frigate wouldhave taught captain Stewart that no orders fromthe Chilian government could give him power toseize a vessel sailing under the American flag,commanded by an American citizen.

Such outrages and such injustice to our citizenswill never occur when that can be said of theAmerican navy, which one of our own authorshas lately said so well of the British. “An Englishman-of-war seems to be always within oneday’s sail of every where. Let political agitationbreak out in any port on the globe, if there beeven a roll of English broadcloth or a pound ofEnglish tea, to be endangered thereby, withinforty-eight hours an English steamer or frigate ispretty sure to drop anchor in the harbor with anair which seems to say, ‘here I am; does anybody want any thing of me?’”[A]

[Pg 10]Our country should be the guardian of herchildren, wherever the rights of civilized societyare respected, that our citizens may be in dangerof outrage and injustice only among savages andoutlaws; and we may be assured that in suchextremities, they will, for the most part, like captainBrown, be found fully able to protect themselves.

To return to my preface or apology: in offeringthis narrative to the public, let me repeat myassurance, that captain Brown is answerable onlyfor the facts; for whatever literary defects theremay be, I alone am responsible.



[Pg 11]


Valparaiso—The barque Florida—Chartered by the Chiliangovernment—Prisoners for convict colony put on board—CaptainAvalos and soldiers sent for protection—We setsail—Arrangement of the vessel—Mr. Shaw’s sickness—Attemptedinsurrection among the prisoners—Promptconduct of Captain Avalos—All quiet again—We reachthe Straits of Magellan—Williwaws—We anchor inSandy Bay15
Sandy Bay Colony—Governor Benjamin Munoz Gamero—Insurrectionof Cambiaso—Forged Message from the Governor—Landingof Captain Avalos—Escape of GovernorGamero—Boat sent on shore—Return of the boat—Captureof the Florida—Mr. Shaw and myself seized—Takenon shore—Our imprisonment at the barracks—Privations—Mr.Shaw removed30
My prison—My guards—An English hymn book—A fellowprisoner—Capture of the Eliza Cornish—Fears of theEnglish mate—Death of Mr. Shaw—Of Captain Talbotand boy—Barbarity of their execution—The Chilian prisonerssympathize with us—Cambiaso’s bravado—CaptainAvalos and others led out to view the dead bodies—Treacherousbetrayal of Governor Gamero—Executionof the traitor—My walk51
Capture of the Governor—His execution—I am led out ofmy prison—The burning of the bodies—Governor Gamero’scharacter—His intercourse with the native tribes—ThePriest Acuna—Arrival of H. B. M. war steamerVirago—Mr. Dunn, the Secretary—Cambiaso plans thecapture of the steamer—He fears her force and discipline—Theofficers invited on shore—No suspicions aroused—TheVirago sets sail71
We are better treated—Captain Avalos again—His privations—Thesergeant shot—Mr. Buela—Cambiaso’s discipline—Hiscode of laws—Personal appearance—Hisvanity—Threats of poison—Improved fare—The coffee—The[Pg 13]mate secures the E. Cornish—Cambiaso andGarcia visit me—I go on board the Florida—My steward94
Comparative comfort—The American ensign—Christmasday—My visit to the barracks—The Indian boys—Cambiaso’srage—Execution of the Indian woman—Thecattle slaughtered—Escape of the Indians—Fears of therebels—Preparations for leaving—The Florida re-christened—Interviewwith Cambiaso—The embarking of thecolonists—Prisoners sent to the Florida123
Cambiaso’s orders—We set sail—Wood’s Bay—The oldFrench ship—A drunken riot—The officer condemned—Garcia’sinterference—Men deserted at Wood’s Bay—TheEliza Cornish left behind—Stormy weather—Sandy Bayagain—The Indians—Cape Gregory—Interview withCambiaso—His promises—Conversation with Mr. Dunn—Mydetermination145
The re-taking of the vessel planned—Mr. Dunn—CaptainAvalos—Preito—The corporal—Three bells—The struggle—Cambiaso[Pg 14]overpowered—Garcia—Cheers for victory—Thecrew swear fidelity to me—Our course—Cambiasoput in irons—His cowardice—The prisoners from thehold—River Gallegos—Voyage round Cape Horn—Attemptedoutbreaks—Our danger—We reach San Carlos169
Reports of the revolt reach San Carlos—American Ministersends assistance—Chilian Government despatches forcesto the Straits—The Virago—Fears of the inhabitants ofSan Carlos—I deliver the Florida to the Chilian authorities—Arrivalof the E. Cornish—The Virago takes the prisonersand treasure—Passage to Valparaiso—Protest andclaim of salvage—Mr. Duer—Don Antonio Varas—Injusticedone me by the Chilian government—The BritishAdmiral claims the treasure—I protest again—Compromise—DonAntonio denies all claim—My claims put intothe hands of the United States Authorities191
Cambiaso’s trial—His execution—His character—Garcia—Myinterview with him—The officer saved by Garcia—Hiswife’s gratitude—Mr. Duer’s kindness—Mr. Dunn—CaptainAvalos—Conclusion220

[Pg 15]



Valparaiso—The barque Florida—Chartered by the Chiliangovernment—Prisoners for convict colony put on board—CaptainAvalos and soldiers sent for protection—We setsail—Arrangement of the vessel—Mr. Shaw’s sickness—Attemptedinsurrection among the prisoners—Promptconduct of Captain Avalos—All quiet again—We reachthe Straits of Magellan—Williwaws—We anchor inSandy Bay.

In the latter part of October, 1851,I was at the port of Valparaiso, Chili,having command of the barque Florida,of New Orleans, of about two hundredtons burden. My orders from my ownerswere to take the Florida throughthe Straits of Magellan to Rio Janeiro,where we were to take in freight for[Pg 16]the United States; and my first businesswas to secure my officers and crew.One of my owners was now at Valparaiso,and would accompany me on thevoyage.

To a sea-faring man like myself, sucha voyage was no new thing, and Ilooked forward with some interest, butwith no excitement, to the prospect ofmany days’ tiresome battling with thewind and waves, to the annoyances ofclearing, and to the perils and laborsof a tedious navigation through theStraits. Had I known what perils andsufferings awaited me, with what differentfeelings should I have left the beautifulcity where I had received much kindnessand hospitality, and trusted myselfto the treacherous elements, and to menfar more treacherous than they! But,happily, Providence has given to us only[Pg 17]a knowledge of the present, and theblessing of hope for the future, withoutany foreshadowing of coming evil.

The barque Florida was a long, low,straight-built vessel, and a fast sailer.She had been employed formerly in sailingbetween Panama and San Francisco,conveying passengers to and fro, andwas well fitted up for that purpose, witha large cabin, extending as far forwardas her mainmast, and fourteen well furnishedstate rooms. She was alsofurnished with four brass cannon, fourpounders, and one iron swivel mountedforward. Her owners were Capt. JohnLovett, of Beverly, Mass., and his brother-in-law,Mr. Benjamin G. Shaw; Mr.Shaw being the principal owner. Onboard of her were Mr. Shaw, the owner,and one cabin passenger, Mr. RamonBuela, belonging to New Orleans.

[Pg 18]The vessel having at that time nocargo, we were applied to by the governmentof Chili, to convey certainState prisoners, charged with politicaloffences, to the penal colony establishedby that government at Sandy Bay, Straitsof Magellan. This was at the time whenthe Chilians, disaffected to the governmentat Santiago, had risen, underGeneral Cruz, and had seized the Provinceof Conception; and the politicaloffenders whom we were to convey toSandy Bay, were, some of them, implicatedin that rebellion.

After some consideration, Mr. Shawdetermined to accept the offer of thegovernment, and to allow it to charterthe Florida for the conveyance of theprisoners to Sandy Bay, where we wereto leave them, and proceed on ourvoyage. The authorities were to send[Pg 19]with the prisoners a sufficient number oftroops to secure us against any disturbanceduring the voyage, and accordingly,Captain Pedro Avalos, with acorporal and twelve soldiers were draftedon that service.

On the morning of October 30, I tookcommand of the vessel, with the intentionof getting her ready for sea thesame evening, that I might be preparedto receive the prisoners, who were to besent on board of her the same night.By hard work on my part, and plentyof pushing up my men, we were allready by night, and at eleven o’clock,P. M., the prisoners began

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