Caribbean Sea, March 5, 1855.
My Dear President Richards--Through the tender mercy of God, our Heavenly Father, I am at this time permitted to take my pen, in order to give you a brief account of the voyage thus far of the ship Charles Buck, and the Saints on board.
We have been longer in accomplishing the voyage to New Orleans than was expected when we left Liverpool, yet for this I am not sorry, as the Saints in consequence have in many important respects gained a profitable experience; and some of them say, that they have learned more during the last few weeks than they had during as many years previous. We have had peace and quietness, and a ready disposition to receive and obey counsel. [p.300] Indeed, in this respect, the British Saints on board seem previously to have been well instructed, and I have had much joy and satisfaction in my presidency over them.
It is well known to yourself and others, that this company of Saints were much exposed while in Liverpool, and that the general health of the company was somewhat affected thereby. Their long detention had somewhat depressed their spirits, and living in unwholesome places, and on scanty diet, had somewhat impaired their health. When they came on board, seasickness prostrated many, yet through the blessings of the Lord attending the ordinances of laying on of hands and anointing with oil, together with such medicines as the spirit of wisdom dictated us to administer, the sick were raised to health, and only three children have died. One of these three was the son of John Grimmett, a boy about seven years old. He got entangled in the ropes of the ship, about a week after we left Liverpool, was jerked overboard and perished in the sea. This was a most distressing accident, as the ship was sailing fast at the time, and the boats were in such a position, and so fastened, that nothing could be done in time to save him. His father and mother were greatly distressed, but I comforted them, and their feelings were soothed, and they feel to acquiesce and acknowledge the hand of the Lord in this severe affliction. His mother had a dream during the night, concerning this accident, and both of his parents had charged him to be careful, but the little fellow, as if doomed to a watery grave, was soon out of their sight, and while leaning over the bulwarks, was jerked into the foaming ocean. This has been a solemn warning to other parents and children. The next death was the infant child of Brother Charles Hartley. It had been afflicted with dysentery before coming on board, and nothing that we could do was sufficient to save its life. The third was the infant child of Brother William Aitkin.
We have had one birth on board, but the infant is suffering severely from canker, and is in a very precarious condition.
The provisions were not of the best quality, and these consisted of oatmeal, flour, biscuit, rice, sugar, tea, and salt. Having no meat nor butter furnished by the ship, the little of the latter article which you generously donated was gratefully appreciated by all good Saints. Some few have murmured because they had not the variety which you furnished for the Helios, but since the reasons were set before them they have generally been content.
Our voyage upon the whole has thus far been very pleasant. The winds have been light and the sea calm. In consequence of head winds after leaving the Irish Channel, we sailed a more easterly course, and came in sight of the Cape de Verde Islands, on the 10th of February. We then obtained a wind that brought us to the Islands of Guadalupe and Antigua, on the 27th. We did not obtain the trade winds so soon, neither were they so strong as usual, which accounts for the length of the voyage.
The captain has been kind, and has allowed the passengers all the privileges which could be expected. The day after I came on board, he gave me charge of the medicine chest, and has since given me the privilege of using such medicines as he had for his private use.
We have got along well with all on board, only the second mate. He began to use the brethren in a rude and tyrannical manner, and to use improper familiarities with the sisters. . . . . . . In various ways he acted in an abusive manner. Sometimes, when calling the people up, he would put his hands into bed, around the heads and necks of the sisters, which caused me to counsel them to leave a mark upon him, or throw something about his ears; but this coming to his ears, he has since let them alone, and he is now quite peaceable.
The provisions began to fail after being six weeks out, and, since, we have had no flour, nor sugar, except about half a barrel of sugar, which the captain gave me, of his own, to divide as medicine among the feeble, and those who have little children. This gave great relief, as the children could not be pacified without something to their oatmeal and rice. He has also sold about three barrels of pork, and some molasses to the passengers, which have given them a better relish for their food, and proved a great blessing. The pork was sold at 5d. and 6d. per lb., and the molasses at 6d. per quart.
There are yet oatmeal and rice enough; and one pound of biscuit a-piece to be distributed today. Last week there was [p.301] only one pound of biscuit served out to each adult.
It appears there was not a sufficiency of biscuit put on board at Liverpool for the voyage, but of the flour and sugar I am not able to speak positively. I am however inclined to believe that these articles were rather liberally served out during the fore part of the voyage.
I am glad that I took no charge of the provisions, as the captain might have blamed us for extravagance. Neither had any of the brethren the charge of this business. The second mate always got out, and kept an account of, the provisions served out, and neither the captain nor myself knew till the sugar and flour were gone, that there was any danger of being short.
I do no know that any one is to blame, as the voyage was not expected to be so lengthy, except that Mr. S., the broker, did not ship a sufficient quantity of biscuit. The captain did not feel to be stingy nor rigorous, so long as there was plenty, neither did he expect that any article would not hold out. It was served out by measure, instead of being weighed, and this probably is the cause of the sugar and flour failing so soon. But this cannot be said of the biscuit. There never was biscuit enough shipped to serve during the voyage.
Monday Morning, 12th March
I resume my pen, beloved President Richards, to give you a few more items of news. And, first, I would inform you that we got 21 tents made and 20 wagon covers cut out some time ago. The sisters engaged in making the tents with much pleasure, and while thus employed they enjoyed themselves exceedingly.
I would also mention that we held a Conference on board on the 8th and 9th, to refresh the Saints, and much precious instruction was given, and a large portion of the Holy Spirit was enjoyed. Elders Fletcher and Speight are making out the minutes, to be sent to New York and St Louis; and I thought of also sending you a copy of them, but to save postage it may be as well to let you have them through the medium of the Mormon, or Brother Snow's paper.
Many of the Saints have had nothing to eat but oatmeal cakes or porridge for several days, and they have been on two quarts of water daily for three days, yet they feel happy and content. We have excellent health on board, with few exceptions, though the people don't look rugged as they probably would, had they been better fed. The experience we have had in being supplied with provisions by a ship broker in Liverpool, should be a caution to the Saints, and should inspire them with many feelings of gratitude for the liberality you have manifested in providing for them across the ocean.
[It should be borne in mind that the passengers on the Charles Buck were transferred from the Helios by her captain after she had stranded, which is the reason why we had not the provisioning of the Charles Buck. --Ed. Star.]
My health began to give way about two weeks ago, in consequence of much care and anxiety for the Saints, and continual labors in administering to the sick, and imparting instruction, but I am again recruiting; and I thank the Lord that He has enabled me during the whole voyage to be around administering blessings to His people. I hope you have recovered from the excessive fatigues an anxiety that devolved on you through many unfavorable circumstances connected with the shipping of this company and that you have secured payment for damages sustained; and I pray God, our Eternal Father, to bless and uphold you.
The Saints on board, during the Conference, proposed a special vote of thanks to you, for your great care and kindness towards them, and it was heartily and unanimously carried. A very sincere and cordial vote of thanks was also give to Elder Edward Martin, for the valuable services he render to these Saints in Liverpool. And I was very happy to see that neither your kindness nor Elder Martin's has been forgotten.
We are now within thirty or forty miles of the Mississippi River, with a good fair wind, and we hope to be in the river alongside the tug, sometime today.
I might here say, that a full supply of provisions will have to be provided for the company from New Orleans to St. Louis, as there are no surplus stores. About 320 of the Saints will go to St. Louis. The others will have to stay in New Orleans a short time, to obtain means to take them to St. Louis or Cincinnati. I think all the Danish will make their way to St. Louis. They held a Conference, and have had their own meeting during the voyage. They feel well. Elder Hogan has given them good instruction. [p.302]
It has been thought wisdom to provide for the Danish Saints at New Orleans, the same as for the P.E. Fund passengers, as they are not acquainted with the coin of the country, nor the prices of provision, &c. They feel thankful that we have proposed doing so.
Elder Fletcher, and the other three presidents of wards, have been a great help to me; they are good men, and have always been unanimous and cordial in the discharge of every duty. We have had prayer meetings morning and evening, preaching and sacrament meetings on the Sabbath, and a council meeting of the Priesthood once a week. Three have been cut off from the Church--two sisters, and a Danish brother, who was baptized in Liverpool. One of the sisters desired to be cut off that she might have full liberty to keep company with the first mate. The other was cut off for general inconsistency of conduct, and keeping company, during untimely hours, with the second mate. Though these have been a dishonor to us, the sisters generally have respected themselves, obeyed counsel, and maintained a modest and becoming reserve. We have had a guard all the time, which has been a little annoyance to the sailors, but through it they have been kept out of the between-decks, and some that might have fallen have been preserved. As one of the sisters cut off is a P.E. Fund passenger, it is expected that she will pay her own passage, in the event of leaving us.
All the receipts have been signed.
I again take my pen to inform you that we left New Orleans last night, late, on board the fine steamer Michigan. Through the exertions and proffered help of Elder McGaw, together with the liberal contributions of those Saints who had a few shillings, we have taken the company along en masse. One of the sisters before named left us, refused to pay her passage, and secreted what goods or clothing she had. Brother McGaw accompanies us to St. Louis.
The health of the Saints in general is very good, but we are greatly crowded, as there were about 150 deck passengers on board before ours were shipped, and there was no other boat in port for St. Louis, only the Michigan. It was, therefore, our only alternative to crowd our passengers on after the best part of the boat had been taken up. There are on board over 500 deck passengers in all. This may militate against the health, as it does against the convenience and comfort, of the Saints, but we trust, through exertion and care on our part, and the blessings of the Almighty, not may will perish on these waters. The river is very low, which is the cause of so few boats being in the trade at present.
Praying the blessings of the Almighty to rest upon you, I remain your brother in Christ,
R. BallantyneP.S.-- Elder McGaw sends his love, and he will write you soon. R.B. [p.303]
BIB: Ballantyne, Richard, [Letter] Latter-day Saints' Millennial Star. 17:19 (May 12, 1855) pp. 300-303. (CHL)