The correspondences of Captain Arman
Narrative of Captain Arkman, to the Owners in London.
Kinsale, Feb. 5, 1816.
I expect ‘ere this you will have been made acquainted with the dreadful loss of the Lord Melville last Tuesday, near the Old Head of Kinsale. I should have written you before this, but have been confined by illness from the wet and fatigue I endured in getting the troops on shore, as well as endeavouring all the succeeding day to save what stores we could. I sailed from Ramsgate on Thursday, Jan. 25, in company with the Seahorse and William Pitt, who had part of same regiment as myself, but parted company in steering down the channel.
On Monday 29th, in the morning, I doubled the Scilly Islands, and at 6a.m. St Agnes Light bore S.E. and shaped my course to make the old Head of Kinsale, the wind then blowing strong from the southward, and the ship running 9 ½ and ten knots, with every appearance of bad weather approaching. About noon the wind and sea increased very much; sent down top gallant yards and struck the masts; got in cabin dark lights; closed reefed the topsails and reefed the courses; made all the other sails fast; got the gaff down, and doubly secured the boats, &c. &c. for a gale, which appearances fully convinced me would be heavy, though I little thought the consequences would prove so destructive. At 4 p.m. it became pitch dark, and the very elements seemed combined to destroy us; we furled the fore and mizzen topsails. At 6p.m. thinking it no longer prudent to scud, with such an iron bound shore at no more than forty miles distant under my lee, furled the foresail and hove to under close reefed main topsail, with the ship’s head to westward, and lay to, as easy as might be expected in such dreadful weather. At midnight I wore with her head to the eastward, and the ship then laboured very much, and some heavy though chace seas struck us. At three a.m. on Tuesday morning, I wore with our head to the westward again, and observed two lights at some distance from each other to leeward.
At 4 the wind seemed to lull a little, and I could at intervals distinguish some stars.- But at 6 the gale came, if possible, with increased violence, and the weather continued so hard, that it was not until 9 a.m. that I could discern what the lights were, then I observed them to be two brigs. I then bore up, and set the foresail and fore topsail, having been hove to something longer than 14 hours. At 11 a.m. I supposed myself to be about 10 miles from the land, and although the weather seemed rather cloudy, I had no doubt that we might see that distance at least, and the wind being then to the westward of south, I could haul off if necessary; however neither the man at the mast head, nor any on deck could see anything like it. I no felt very uneasy in my own mind, when a little after noon (sun obscure) the breakers and land appeared all in an instant to those on deck, but could not be perceived from aloft. I immediately braced the yard up, and brought the ship to the wind on the starboard tack-set the mizzen topsail, mizzen staysail, and foretopmast stay sail, and afterwards got the main and foretacks well aboard. By this time the sky was quite clear, and I too soon found myself completely embayed between the Seven heads and the Old Head of Kinsale, the sea running so high that when the ship fell in the trough between the billows, the sails fell to the masts, until the wind, which blew a hurricane, caught the sails with a terrible force over the waves again. The land then on our weather quarter, with breakers far outside of that, and the ship drifting very fast, broad on in the Bight; and although she looked near to the South East, I really saw there was no possibility of our weathering the Head. I therefore hauled the courses snug up, got the anchors clear, and ranged the cables on deck.
I now communicated our horrid situation to Colonel Darnley, 62nd, Captain Fuller, and Lieutenant Carmichael of the 59th, whose prompt and willing assistance, as well as eighteen other officers on board, I cannot sufficiently praise, in preventing the confusion, that cannot, at such times, and on such occasions, be altogether avoided, when everyone thinks he is entitled to judge which way he thinks proper to dispose of his own life. I then stood up on the quarter-rail, abreast the men at the wheel, which was put a weather, and gave direction for clewing up the fore and main-topsails, which was smartly done-and although we seemed almost to fly before the wind, I could distinctly observe the foul and rocky ground which lay in the only place that appeared in any shape practicable to anchor, and which convinced me would be inevitable destruction to attempt. I therefore called the sailors from the anchors, without having time to give my reason to anybody, and directed them to brace the yard sharp, and we again set the fore topsail, and the mizzen topsail and mizzen staysail, brought to on the starboard tack; we had been in broken water some time. I now cast my eyes round for a place which I thought would give me a chance of saving our lives; I for a moment considered, the tide was then only half flood by the shore. I would have given the world, could I have commanded it, for a respite of two or three hours from our awful fate; but even moments were precious, so I cunned the ship in, under a reef that the sea broke under tremendously, and at half past three p.m. she struck, and sent the pumps up, knocked the rudder away, and made all aloft sneer again. I still pressed the sail on her, and we run a full length higher up before she filled with water, which was shortly up to the tween deck beams.
I now got five of by brave fellows in the quarter boat, and lowered her down, and gave them the end of a deep sea line, with strict directions how, and where, to haul the end of a thicker rope to; this they got safe on shore, but soon got so entangled amongst the sharp and cragged rocks, that it did not prove of that service which my expectations pointed out. The reef, which before had afforded us some shelter, had now become quite overflowed, and the sea ran tremendously high. The boat now came off again towards the ship, and although I called to them, with all the persuasion and authority I had in my power, not to come along side, or they would lose their lives, they still persisted, and here they remained, until filled with fourteen persons, and just as they shoved off they were completely overwhelmed by a sea which threw them half way on shore, and all perished, except one seaman (out of seven that were in her,) who was washed on was washed on shore and is now recovered. Amongst those that perished, were two captains’ ladies and another female with a child, all under the eye of their distressed husbands, The sea now began to make a dreadful progress, and the ship stern was beat to atoms; finding the sails of no further use in driving us up, I directed to cut away the foremast: and, by the assistance of a hauling rope on the pulley of the forestay, I got it to fall over the bow, thinking that it might make a gangway, if the ship only held together until low water, but the sea washed it away, and the lower mast was washed on shore among the cragged rocks in several pieces. Finding the ship lay somewhat easier, I resolved on cutting away the main mast, which became a very critical job, and required some management to get the wreck to fall clear of so many men on deck; however, we succeeded, as I have not heard of any accident.
The sea now raged with such fury over us, and had made such progress in the stern, as to wash down all the bulk heads and soldiers’ bed places, which with the officers’ baggage, and every article belonging to myself, became a confused and broken mass in the fore part of the ship, and the empty casks having had already burst up the hatches in the hold, with every floating substance, soon completed the dreadful havoc, and I could perceive, from the stumps of the masts, that the bottom was gone. It was now too high water, six pm and our upper works still fast. It was pitch dark for two hours, except what light the awful reflection of the glittering surf shewed; at length one sea came and completely overwhelmed us fore and aft, and for a moment not a sigh could be heard, but such a crash beneath us as cannot be conceived. As soon as I could take breath, and the drift of the surf permitted me to look, I saw we had been thrown upon a large cragged rock, with a chasm on each side. I cheered all around me, and assured them the tide was then beginning to ebb, and that our situation was becoming better than it was before; and although some heavy seas came over us, there was none strong enough to lift the whole body any more.
At ten pm, the peaks of the rocks or heads began to shew themselves and the water began to ebb inside the ship. I sent one of my faithful fellows, Robert Pierve, carpenter, down into the cabin, who fished out some bottles of famous ale, of which Colonel Darnley, and all the officers, and some others around, cheerfully partook. It now drew fast on to low water, and I was doubtful whether the rock would dry, so as to get over the bows by ladders I had already fixed. I therefore, with the assistance of the officers, got a rough spar that lay on the main deck, 60 feet long, and launched it over the bows, and while one end lay on the rocks, the other rested between the Cat and the Knights Heads, and about midnight we commenced disembarking. Before the tide rose to cut off my retreat, about 450 people, amongst whom were 60 women and children, had got safe on shore, and were conducted over the almost inaccessible rocks by a private gentleman of the name of Mr James Gibbons and Lieutenant Harty, Royal Navy, who went before them with lighted clumps of wood in their hands.
We arrived at Mr Gibbon’s house, where we got a most friendly reception, and every refreshment we wanted. It was now about 5 am. On Wednesday morning I met at Mr Gibbons’s Capt. Montague and Lieut. Starkey 82d, who had been washed ashore from the Boadicea, which had unfortunately anchored in the place I before mentioned, and parted her cables in the night. I proceeded down to the wreck of the Lord Melville, and on my way, I passed the wreck of the unfortunate Boadicea, when I saw the most afflicting scene I ever witnessed, and which completely veiled my own situation. Some other person must give you a description of it, for I cannot attempt it.
I here give you the names of my poor fellows, that lost their lives, five of whom have been washed on shore. I have done the last services, by having them interred, and reading the Funeral Service over them, on which occasion the remainder of my crew attended; and not until then, had I seen any symptoms of fear or change of countenance, upon any of them, when some manly tears fell.
Charles Taylor, steward; John Thompson, seaman; John Brown, do. ; Wm. Bennet, do. ; Benjamin Bell, apprentice, interred; and Wm. Brown, seaman, whose body was not found.
I have appointed Messrs. Gibbons and Barry (Agents for Lloyds) to assist me in the execution of any directions you may be pleased to send me. I remain,
Your unfortunate, but
Much obliged and humble servant,
Letter addressed to Captain Arman, of the Lord Melville transport, for his able exertions on the late melancholy occurrence:-
Kinsale, 4th Feb 1816
Sir- Impressed as both Captain Fuller, 59th Regiment, and myself are, together with every officer embarked on board the lord Melville transport, of your highly justifiable prompt and determined conduct, at a period the most critical and dangerous, when the slightest degree of indecision would have insured inevitable destruction to every soul on board, we should be guilty of the height of injustice, did we not acknowledge that such firm, judicious conduct was the instrumental means of saving the lives of nearly four hundred souls on board; none having perished, but those who unfortunately endeavoured making the shore in a boat.
And we feel that this presumption is fully realized, by the melancholy fatality of the Brig having part of the 82d Regiment on board, which was near in with us and whose ultimate deplorable loss appeared the consequence of anchoring- a measure which you strenuously resisted in the repeated solicitations of your crew, and remained to the last rendering and affording the assistance that so much contributed to our providential preservation.
We are, Sir, with sentiments of esteem, your most obedient servants,
E Darley, Lieut. Col and Major 62d Commanding- F. Fuller, Captain 59th Regiment, commanding detachments- A Mancor Captain 59th Regiment- J Fawson, Captain 59th Regiment- J. Mahon, Lieutenant 62d Regiment- E Duncan, Lieutenant 59th Regiment- L. Carmichael, Lieutenant 59th Regiment- P O’Hara, Lieutenant 59th Regiment- A. Colvin Assistant Surgeon 59th Regiment- W Pitman, Lieutenant 59th Regiment- W Whitfield, Lieutenant 62d Regiment- W. H. Hill, Lieutenant 59th Regiment- P. Robertson, Lieutenant 59th Regiment- F. Sweeney, Ensign 62d Regiment- J. H. Whitney, Ensign 62d Regiment- J. Stewart, Ensign 59th Regiment- R. Proctor, Ensign 59th Regiment- J. Ward, Ensign 59th regiment.
To Mr. Thomas Arman, Master of the Lord Melville, Transport
The Lord Melville
Gentlemen, Kinsale, Feb. 6.
I have the honour to acknowledge the receipt of your letter, under date the 4th instant, in which you so generously set forth my conduct in preserving the lives of those I had on board the Lord Melville Transport, when stranded to westward of the Old Head of Kinsale, on the dreadful evening of Tuesday the 31st ult.
I can assure you I am at a loss to express the high import of the honor done me by Gentlemen whose esteem, I hope I shall continue to merit-at the same time, I cannot but think you value my services too much, for without the steady support I received from all around me, I could not have assailed the grand object of saving the brave soldiers I had the honor to have on board.
I have the honor to be, Gentlemen
With the greatest respect
Your most obedient and humble servant
Master of the Lord Melville.
To Colonel Darley, 62nd Regiment
And the other Gentlemen of the 62nd and 59th Regiments, embarked on board the Lord Melville.