Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyMaking Do

  • Sun, 23 Feb 2014 01:52:52    Permalink
    My new computer is scheduled to arrive sometime next week. Maybe. Meanwhile I’ve been making do. My temporary office suiteThe big screen in the illustration above is the monitor for my mortally ill computer, which can only run filemaker. So I catalog my books on that one, but slowly, or it’ll freeze up. The little netbook is my Internet access – google, OCLC, ViaLibri and the like – also done slowly, since it’s only got 2 megs of ram. (Just by way of comparison, my new machine will be delivered with 8 gigs of ram.) And the droid, of course, is for quick emails, texting, and other attempts to reach out from computer hell.
    So, to quote material to customers I take the item to be quoted from the big screen, and transfer it onto a flash drive (praying that the computer will not die in the midst of this taxing operation), then I copy the info from the flash drive onto my little computer and manually copy the email address of the person to whom I’m quoting the item from the big computer. Then I email the description. Sorry, no images until the new machine arrives.
    As you can imagine, this is a very tedious operation. Mostly, I’ve been confining my cataloging to more expensive items that require careful study and research. That way, I only have to poke my poor computer back into life two or three times a day.
    Here’s an item I just cataloged. I especially like it because it illustrates how “history” changes depending on who is writing it.
    Manuscript.  LOG OF THE EMILY ST.PIERRE, LIVERPOOL TO CALCUTTA, W. WILSON COMMANDER, 1861. Folio, unpaginated. About 350 partially printed pages accomplished in manuscript.  This long-forgotten incident was big news in its day, and a major embarrassment to the American government and the Union Navy. The Emily St. Pierre was an 884 ton bark built in Bath, Maine in 1854, and owned by the British firm Fraser, Trenholm and Co. On the voyage in question, she sailed from Liverpool to Calcutta, then back to the US, calling at Charlestonon her way to St. John, New Brunswick. She departed Liverpool May 20 and arrived in Calcuttaon September 11. The log, kept by the captain of the Emily St.Pierre, details the voyage to Calcutta. It gives names of crew members on daily watches, position, weather, ships sighted, sails set, and incidents aboard - such as the fight that broke out on deck shortly after their arrival in Calcutta. They discharged cargo until October 19, and took on “government ballast,” “dunnage wood,” and bales of gunny cloth and mats. On November 26 Captain Wilson noted, “total number of bales received 2173.” On November 28 they departed Calcutta (the captain kept a careful record of the way up and down the river). On March 19, 1862, as they approached Charlestonthey were boarded by a prize crew from the Union steamer James Adger. The crew was put aboard the USS Florida, all except for the steward, the cook, and Captain Wilson, the only man familiar with the workings of the Emily. They were accused of smuggling saltpeter and war supplies for the Confederacy. Wilson “told them that thinking the port might be open I had called at to see and if blockaded I was going to St. Johns.” After the ship was taken over, there are two days of log entries in the prize master’s hand. Then, in Wilson's hand, “7 am Recaptured the ship from Prize Capt and his crew.” This is followed by about 200 words written by Captain Wilson, telling how he enlisted the steward and the cook to help him overpower the Union captain and prize crew, how one man resisted and was shot, and how the prize crew were temporarily imprisoned in staterooms. Then, realizing he needed their help to sail the ship, Captain Wilson convinced the prize crew to help. After a harrowing voyage they arrived in Liverpool on September 21, where Wilson became the toast of the town. There are several contemporary newspaper accounts, available through Google, which add to the story. American sources uniformly insist the Emily St. Pierre was a blockade runner. Indeed, Wilson says that the prize captain from the James Adger had orders to seize his ship even before examining his papers and cargo for contraband. In its listing for the James Adger, the Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships makes no mention of this embarrassing recapture, saying only that the Emily was captured “attempting to slip into Charleston with a cargo of 2173 bales of gunny cloth sorely needed for baling cotton.” English sources claim that the Emily St. Pierre was a merchant ship. Wilson himself makes no mention, then or later, of his intention to run the blockade. It is interesting to note, however, that after this episode he commanded several known blockade runners. This is the captain’s own log, and the accounts of the voyage, the capture and the re-capture are entirely his own. As such, it is a unique piece of naval history.
    Next week - back to more bookish matters - I hope!

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