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the Alert hauled into her berth at the North End.

One cold winter evening, a pull at the bell, and a woman in distress wished to see me. Her poor son George,--George Somerby,--"you remember him, sir; he was a boy in the Alert; he always talks of you,--he is dying in my poor house." I went with her, and in a small room, with the most scanty furniture, upon a mattress on the floor,--emaciated, ashy pale, with hollow voice and sunken eyes,--lay the boy George, whom we took out a small, bright boy of fourteen from a Boston public school, who fought himself into a position on board ship (ante, p. 231), and whom we brought home a tall, athletic youth, that might have been the pride and support of his widowed mother. There he lay, not over nineteen years of age, ruined by every vice a sailor's life absorbs. He took my hand in his wasted feeble fingers, and talked a little with his hollow, death-smitten voice. I was to leave town the next day for a fortnight's absence, and whom had they to see to them? The mother named her landlord,--she knew no one else able to do much for them. It was the name of a physician of wealth and high social position, well known in the city as the owner of many small tenements, and of whom hard things had been said as to his strictness in collecting what he thought his dues. Be that as it may, my memory associates him only with ready and active beneficence. His name has since been known the civilized world over, from his having been the victim of one of the most painful tragedies in the records of the criminal law. I tried the experiment of calling upon him; and, having drawn him away from the cheerful fire, sofa, and curtains of a luxurious parlor, I told him the simple tale of woe, of one of his tenants, unknown to him even by name. He did not hesitate; and I well remember how, in that biting, eager air, at a late hour, he drew his cloak about his thin and bent form, and walked off with me across the Common, and to the South End, nearly two miles of an exposed walk, to the scene of misery. He gave his full share, and more, of kindness and material aid; and, as George's mother told me, on my return, had with medical aid and stores, and a clergyman, made the boy's end as comfortable and hopeful as possible.

The Alert made two more voyages to the coast of California, successful, and without a mishap, as usual, and was sold by Messrs. Bryant and Sturgis, in 1843, to Mr. Thomas W. Williams, a merchant of New London, Connecticut, who employed her in the whale-trade in the Pacific. She was as lucky and prosperous there as in the merchant service. When I was at the Sandwich Islands in 1860, a man was introduced to me as having commanded the Alert on two cruises, and his friends told me that he was as proud of it as if he had commanded a frigate.

I am permitted to publish the following letter from the owner of the Alert, giving her later record and her historic end,--captured and burned by the rebel Alabama:--

New London, March 17, 1868.

Richard H. Dana, Esq.:

Dear Sir,--I am happy to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of the 14th inst., and to answer your inquiries about the good ship Alert. I bought her of Messrs. Bryant and Sturgis in the year 1843, for my firm of Williams and Haven, for a whaler, in which business she was successful until captured by the rebel steamer Alabama, September, 1862, making a period of more than nineteen years, during which she took and delivered at New London upwards of twenty-five thousand barrels of whale and sperm oil. She sailed last from this port, August 30, 1862, for Hurd's Island (the newly discovered land south of Kerguelen's), commanded by Edwin Church, and was captured and burned on the 9th of September following, only ten days out, near or close to the Azores, with thirty barrels of sperm oil on board, and while her boats were off in pursuit of whales.

The Alert was a favorite ship with all owners, officers, and men who had anything to do with her; and I may add almost all who heard her name asked if that was the ship the man went in who wrote the book called "Two Years before the Mast"; and thus we feel, with you, no doubt, a sort of sympathy at her loss, and that, too, in such a manner, and by wicked acts of our own countrymen.

My partner, Mr. Haven, sends me a note from the office this P. M., saying that he had just found the last log-book, and would send up this evening a copy of the last entry on it; and if there should be anything of importance I will enclose it to you, and if you have any further inquiries to put, I will, with great pleasure, endeavor to answer them.

Remaining very respectfully and truly yours,


P. S.--Since writing the above I have received the extract from the log-book, and enclose the same.


"September 9, 1862.

"Shortly after the ship came to the wind, with the main yard aback, we went alongside and were hoisted up, when we found we were prisoners of war, and our ship a prize to the Confederate steamer Alabama. We were then ordered to give up all nautical instruments and letters appertaining to any of us. Afterwards we were offered the privilege, as they called it, of joining the steamer or signing a parole of honor not to serve in the army or navy of the United States. Thank God no one accepted the former of these offers. We were all then ordered to get our things ready in haste, to go on shore,--the ship running off shore all the time. We were allowed four boats to go on shore in, and when we had got what things we could take in them, were ordered to get into the boats and pull for the shore,--the nearest land being about fourteen miles off,--which we reached in safety, and, shortly after, saw the ship in flames.

"So end all our bright prospects, blasted by a gang of miscreants, who certainly can have no regard for humanity so long as they continue to foster their so-called peculiar institution, which is now destroying our country."

I love to think that our noble ship, with her long record of good service and uniform success, attractive and beloved in her life, should have passed, at her death, into the lofty regions of international jurisprudence and debate, forming a part of the body of the "Alabama Claims"; that, like a true ship, committed to her element once for all at her launching, she perished at sea, and, without an extreme use of language, we may say, a victim in the cause of her country.

R. H. D., Jr.

BOSTON, May 6, 1869.


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