It was early spring of 1802 sailing north by north west towards the island of ROATAN. We were short of trained seaman nevertheless we made out the best we could with what we had. I was to busy training my forty gunners, the new first mate had to worry about that, and the riggers would be the best men that he had. We were in the bottom deck of guns near the water line that meant that in a fight the guns could be underwater in a quick turn. My garcons had to learn to close the water hatches as soon as we felt the ship turning or the guns could be flooded. The Captaine had us train while he was maneuvering the ship every other day and the rest of the time, we were top side learning the deck guns. The work was back braking and I had to replace many of the older men due to the fact they could not keep up with the younger men. One of the old timers lost his leg in a maneuver, he now has a job in the galley as a helper to the cook. We had some young Haitian boys who were pressed into the service of the ship by the first mate. These boys were the powder monkey’s as they were called in the British Navy, they did the most dangerous work of bring the powder to the gunners. One slip and the ship would go up in flames. Some of the Haitians were great climbers and were used top side and rigging. The sails of the ship would be where they would work. They were far faster than the old timers, who best days were behind them. All they could do was teach the younger sailors the ropes. As the weather became more tropical the French suffer the most, they were not use to the heat of the tropics even thou we were headed north. Once we were in reach of the coast of Roatan, the Captaine took a small row boat and the first mate and some others to the island. When the Captaine and the others returned the large boats were put in the waters with a landing party of fifty of the French Guards men. Here comes the invasion of Roatan we laughed, but it was no joke to the Spanish garrison on this sleepy island. Without any loss of life, we captured the Spanish garrison and pressed them into service of the ship there was twenty of them the officers were shot by the French there was no use for them. They had two small sloops that were added to the new fleet maned by the pick of the first mate mostly the new Haitians. What surprised us the most was what the Captaine brought back with him a Noir woman who was most stately and very beautiful although she covered her face. The French woman looked at her in amazement. This must have been the first time they saw a free Noir. We were just beside ourselves seeing a free woman and one so pretty, I fell in love at first sight. I knew that I had to get to know who she was. The long boats returned full of new recruits most willingly and some unwieldy. The two sloops pulled up beside the Queen to tack on new crew members most of the old hands went over to the sloops to command and man the few guns that were on them. One thing was for sure this woman knew something that we didn’t know, and we would never know by the way the Captaine had her guarded day and night by French Guardsmen. We now were sailing due north toward another island that the Spanish held called Cozumel. Once we were there the same thing the French overpowered the Spanish with little loss of life and two more slopes, and a large barge were added to the fleet. It was as if this was planned by the French, to capture all the Spanish islands before news got back to Spain.
With his new fleet of four sloops and one barge and one man of war we might be ready to take the long voyage to our destination. I could tell that we were headed north from Mexico and not towards Mexico. What was north of Mexico that the Captaine needed a fleet to get him there? Yes, the Americans were north of us but where in America would we end up not in New Orleans that was too big a gamble! It had to be small enough that this little fleet could handle in a fight and good enough that the French would pay to get there. What was north of us I looked at the charts that I had hid in my bunk under my canvas that kept the bugs off us at night or whenever I had a chance to rest. Out of know where shots were fired at the barge, the water splashed up and about the large tug, I bet the crew on the old barge were frightened out of their hair if they had any on. Then another hit the slowest sloop knocking down its main sail, where in the hell were these cannon balls coming from? I was training my garcon at the time below the main deck all we could see and hear was happening above deck. We heard the first officer call out “Pirates”, who were over the horizons. Beat the drums to general quarters someone get the Captain, he yelled.
Life on the ship was routine till we had to move top side with the other crew members. Trying to get use to top side living was bad enough but some of the crew members above deck were unbearable. Fighting was forever braking out between the below deck sailors and the above deck. If I said anything in a way as a command, it was evil looks and pull your blade out. I had to tell one, Big Al, that I would shoot him if the Captaine didn’t for allowing duels on the high seas. Any way the above deck sailors were a bunch of hens, with one chief roaster that did all the crowing. I just stayed out of the way of him and his hens and kept to my own people that’s what it was coming down to them and us. I made a few friends, but the chief Rooster made sure that was short lived they sent poor Mario to the store room to work or die that was a real chicken dung thing to do.
Join us next time on the fight on the High Seas.