Sea History 149 - Winter 2014-2015

Page 22

"Go to H-l you d-d Yankee Son ofa B-ch" A Gold Rush Voyage Journal he Smirhsonian's Narional Museum of American Hisrory acquired rwo California Gold Rush voyage diaries quire independenrly of each orher, bur rogerher rhey add considerably to our undersranding of rhe real-life experiences of rhose who made a go of gerring ro rhe Wesr Coasr in 1849. The firsr was rhe Alexander Van Valen archive, acquired in 2006 and published in parr in Sea History 137; rhe second was wrirren by Benjamin S. Buckley and came to rhe museum from rhe public library in Loda, Illinois, in 2010. The Van Valen archive preserved rhe story of a young New Yorker who lefr behind his wife and rwo toddler daughrers in January 1849 ro seek his forrune in California. He rerurned rwo years larer, having nerred less rhan $500. The Buckley manuscripr rells a complerely differenr story. Alrhough ir, too, was wrirren by a young forry-niner from rhe Norrheasr, rhe rwo stories diverge radically. Benjamin S. Buckley was born in norrhern Connecricur (possibly Charham) around 1821 inro a prominenr family wirh eighr siblings. A farher is menrioned in rhe journal, bur no morher. Buckley was unmarried and in his !are 20s when he lefr for rhe California gold fields in !are January 1849. Judging from rhe conrenr and penmanship of his journal enrries, he was very well educared.

Buckley booked passage wirh a friend from his hometown of Manchesrer, Connecricur, on rhe Boston sailing ship Capitol. A relarively new vessel, Capitol was builr in 1847 ar Newburyporr, Massachuserrs, for Salem owners named Neal, and measured 149 fr. 3 in. long and 687 tons burrhen. She was re-regisrered on 22 January 1849rhe day before she lefr for California-ro Boston owners George K. Sampson and Lewis W Tappan. Specifically charrered for rhe voyage to San Francisco, jusr before she cleared Lewis Wharf on 23 January, rhe charrer principals "Brigham and orhers" boarded, collecred rhe passengers' "cerrificares of passage," and inspecred rhe ship for stowaways. A ricker for rhe voyage among rhe Moses Chase papers ar rhe Bancrofr Library ar rhe Universiry of California, Berkeley, indicares rhar rhe fare allowed each passenger 75 0 pounds of luggage wirhour addirional fees, bur rhe price of rhe ricker irself is nor lisred. Ir did sripulare rhar passengers were required ro furnish rheir own bed and bedding. The Capitol rransporred somewhere berween 213 and 248 passengers, divided among rhe firsr (ca. 12) and second cabins (201 or more)-rhe numbers vary among rhe various record-keepers. The Boston ship carried more forry-niners on rhis single voyage rhan any orher Gold Rush ship; rhere were also a couple of wives and children aboard. The prospectors were divided into


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rwenry-rwo companies varying in size from rhree to rhirry-five individuals, wirh rwenry-nine unaffiliared ar boarding. These were stock companies, which rhe prospecrors paid a fee to join and from which rhey received such benefirs as room, board, mining tools and supplies, a share of any ner profirs, and orher perquisires. Buckley was a member of rhe eighr-man Springfield (Massachuserrs) Company. The crew numbered four officers (a masrer and rhree mares), four cooks, rwo srewards and rwenry-one crewmen. Capitol's 1849 voyage was an especially well documenred one; rhere are no fewer rhan rhree orher journals from rhe same California passage. One by William J. Towne, a machinisr from Andover, Massachuserrs, is ar rhe Bancrofr Library ar rhe Universiry of California, Berkeley. Anorher is by Chesrer C. Hosmer (b. 1823) of Springfield, Massachuserrs. Hosmer married in California in April 1850 and srayed rhere unril his dearh in 1879. His illusrrared voyage journal is ar rhe Jones Library in Amhersr, Massachuserrs. A rhird, by Louis K. Adams, is ar rhe Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachuserrs. The Peabody Essex also has rhe small pocker diary from Capitol's caprain, Thorndike Proctor, from rhar voyage, conraining daily navigarional posirions and rhe ship's passenger lisr (wirh hometowns and some professions) . Buckley's journal is unique wirhin rhe Capitol group in rhar ir conrains a wealrh of derail abour rhe life and rimes of rhe passengers aboard an 1849 Gold Rush sailing ship. Mosr voyage diaries merely recorded rhe winds, wearher, and daily posirions, commonly copied from rhe ship's official logbook. Occasionally wrirers srrayed inro philosophical or emorional reB.ecrions or offered brief snapshors of daily evenrs, bur none recorded rhe deprh and detail of social acriviry sustained in the Buckley journal over rhe 178-day journey to California. Buckley was a keen observer of human nature and a derail-orienred reporrer-some mighr say a gossip-of how the crew and

Moses Chase of Newburyport, Massachusetts, was a member of the one of the largest companies aboard the Capitol, the 35-man Newburyport Company. SEA HISTORY 149, WINTER 2014- 15