Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter - Cover

Anthony Carter and the Admiral’s Daughter

Copyright© 2024 by Argon

Chapter 7: Haiti

Slowly waking up, Tony felt the unfamiliar sensation of another person stirring at his side. Slowly, the memory of the last night seeped back into his conscience. Elizabeth Wilson had proven to be a passionate and resourceful lover, once she dropped the assumed image of a shy and proper girl. Before long, a tousled Elizabeth turned to face him with a languid smile.

“Good morning, you darling man! I get the feeling that you are awake?”

“Very much so. How do you feel, Elizabeth?”

“Splendid,” she answered, stretching like a cat. “I have to leave for work soon, you know.”

“I thought you wanted to open your own shop? What’s the hurry?”

“I haven’t given my master notice yet, and I have never been late for work. I should hate for him to be disappointed in me.”

That was an admirable attitude, Tony thought.

“So you won’t give me a chance to say good morning properly?” Tony grinned nevertheless.

“We may have a few spare minutes,” she conceded.

It was only after another quarter hour before Elizabeth reluctantly dislodged herself from Tony with an apologetic smile. Within a few minutes, she had washed herself, using the wash basin, cloth and soap. Tony quickly threw on some clothes and ordered breakfast. Elizabeth wanted to decline breakfast, but Tony insisted. They were both famished after their night together, and they made short work of the wholesome breakfast. Tony hired a carriage to transport Elizabeth to her lodgings for a quick change into her everyday clothes and then to the tailor’s shop where she worked. They made quick arrangements to meet in the evening to conduct their business, and then she went to work.

Tony had himself driven to Mr. Hogsbotham’s house and informed him of his plan to purchase a tailor’s shop on Mulberry Road. Tony asked the attorney to attend to this business and to make out a lease for his new tenant, Miss Wilson. If Mr. Hogsbotham had any comments on the way Tony conducted business, he kept them to himself. After all, he would earn another commission, and the investment appeared to be sound.

There was a small snag, however. Elizabeth Wilson was unwed, and she could not own a business or property. Only a widow was allowed to run a business if she had inherited it from her late husband. Mr. Hogsbotham therefore suggested and Tony agreed, to set up a limited company owned by Tony, with Hogsbotham as treasurer, and with Elizabeth as caretaker and sole employee, her salary defined as the surplus of the business, after rent, supply costs, taxes and tithe.

When Tony arrived back at the dockyard, it was to learn that the refitting of his ship was nearing completion. The taking of her stores would take another four to five days, but they would be able to sail for San Domingue within a week.

In his mail, he found a letter from Anita Heyworth. He had written the week before, thanking her for a wonderful evening. He had carefully avoided to appear possessive, not knowing how she would feel about their affair in the light of the next day. In her answer, Anita was noncommittal herself, but it was written in a very friendly form. She wrote that she wished him luck on his journey and reiterated her invitation to visit her upon his return. Tony felt encouraged to write an answer in kind.

HMS Clyde

Portsmouth Harbour

April 5, 1804

My dearest Anita,

with great joy I have received and read your letter. It makes me very happy indeed that you will see me again when I shall return from my impending journey. My new ship, the Clyde, is almost ready for sea, and I assume that we shall sail by Sunday next. Although I cannot reveal my destination, I can tell you that my present task should be finished within a span of six to eight months.

I have purchased a house in Portsmouth, in High Street Nº 18. It will be furnished and made fit for living during my absence. In the meantime, you may send correspondence care of my attorney, Mr. Reginald Hogsbotham, Solicitor, of King’s Street, Portsmouth. I sincerely hope that one day, upon my return, you will be my guest here and allow me to return some of the friendliness you extended to me. Whilst I do not want to appear rash, I would nonetheless express my hope that we shall have a chance see more of each other.

Yours in friendship,


His conscience was not entirely at ease with his recent behaviour. He had, after all, seduced the lovely Elizabeth Wilson. To write a letter to Anita Heyworth in this fashion almost felt like cheating. He would have to sort out the different women in his life very soon. After all, when all was said and done, he had to consider Rose Mulcahy as well. His long time housekeeper did not expect him to remain celibate, of that he was sure. But she would not take kindly to sharing him with a host of other women once she was leading his household again.

The next days were spent with the final preparations. Things were entirely different for Tony. He had spent his entire career on board the Medusa. To ready a different ship for sea felt very strange. The former Frenchman had its advantages though. The main cabin was decidedly larger than Medusa’s and furnished to his tastes, as they were. Fortunately, his new house contained a number of furniture items that had been stored in a third floor chamber, which were of good quality and sturdy enough for use on board, and those completed the cabin fixings. His parents being frugal, there were no portraits of either of them, and the bulkheads had to remain bare and empty, for Tony was alone in the world and owned no paintings with which to decorate them.

When, on the following Sunday, the newly minted HMS Clyde weighed anchor and set sail, captain and crew quickly fell in love with their new ship. She was no run-down workhorse, like Medusa had become; she was almost new. Once she caught the wind in her sails, she felt springy, like a good sword, and there was no doubt that she was a much faster ship.

The week in port had allowed the petty officers to acquaint the landsmen with their duties, but when Clyde left the Spithead and entered the open Channel, the raw hands had their introduction to seasickness. Having lived his entire grown up life on board a ship, Tony was not disposed towards this accursed condition. Yet, the new people, amongst them young Samuel Wilson, spent the first hours and even days of the journey retching and heaving and shivering in the cold. Tony saw to it that the new people were kept busy to detract them from their misery, and he worked them constantly around the clock so that they were too tired to stay awake in their watch-free time. After a few days, the recruits grew sea legs, and by that time they had cleared the Irish coast and were on a westward course.

After passing the Azores, they caught the northeastern trade winds, and Clyde showed what a fine ship she was. Once on their westward course, they logged over 200 miles on most days. They had long passed the Azores when the lookout hailed his “Ship ho!”.

It was a ship-rigged vessel that sailed on a converging course with them. It soon became apparent that the strange sail tried to avoid the encounter by laying rudder to southwest. However, in the jungle and on the seas, flight provokes immediate pursuit. Tony had Clyde change course, too, and the race was on. He soon noted with satisfaction that the strange ship was no match for his fast frigate. It still took over ten hours before the chase was hull up over the horizon. Night was setting in, but the sky was clear, and the full moon guaranteed that the strange sail would not give them the slip during the night.

The fast subtropical dawn saw the two ships less than two miles apart. After letting the men have breakfast, Tony ordered the Clyde cleared for action and her flag hoisted. Once the bustle died down he saw to it that extra water was distributed to the men on their stations since temperatures were quickly rising. Finally, shortly before noon, the strange ship was in range, and he ordered a shot over her bows. The long 9-pounder bow chasers roared out, and a fountain of water rose ahead of the chase. The stranger hove to and hoisted the red and gold flag of Spain. Officers and crew of the Clyde began to curse, since Spain was still at peace with England, and they could not capture a Spanish ship, suspicious though she might behave. Clyde closed in quickly to half pistol shot range, her guns run out. The supposed Spaniard was a flush decked, square rigged ship that would have passed for a sloop of war. Tony decided that she did not look Spanish at all. The lines of her hull and the cut of her sails were decidedly French. There could be an explanation for that, but his suspicion was roused.

“What do you make of her, Mr. Mills?” he asked his new sailing master.

“Slaver, Sir, French built or I don’t know ships. She could still be owned by the Dons.”

Tony raised his speaking trumpet.

“Ship ho! What ship is this?”

The answer came in Spanish.

Alicante, merchant ship out of Algeciras.”

“What is your destination?”

“Porto Bello, we have a cargo of slaves from the Ivory Coast.”

Tony thought for a moment. The answers were coming too matter-of-factly, too well rehearsed. A real merchant captain would have protested, would have shown anger and indignation at being intercepted. Again, he rose his speaking trumpet.

“Stay hove to and await my boats! My officer will verify your claims.” Tony saw movement on the deck of the slaver. “Stay hove to or I shall fire into you!” he shouted.

“Mr. Fortescue, take the longboat and the cutter and take possession! Mind that you stay out of our line of fire whilst you cross!”

“Aye aye, Sir!”

“Control the ship’s papers. If she is indeed Spanish, you will apologise and let her go.”

The boats were lowered on the Clyde’s fire lee, and they pulled over to the other ship in a wide berth. Tony saw his First Lieutenant enter the ship with a large detachment of sailors and soldiers. Every telescope on board the Clyde was trained on the other ship. After a quarter hour, Tony saw Mr. Fortescue appear on deck again. The British sailors apparently took control of the ship as one could see how the foreign sailors were herded forward to the forecastle. Tony sent his gig with a midshipman to learn the news. It returned with Mr. Fortescue.

“It’s a Frog, Sir, Le Chasseur, out of Toulon. Not two of the crew even speak Spanish,” he chuckled. “She has 140 slaves on board and was heading for Porto Bello. That part was true. What shall we do with her, Sir?”

Tony thought for a moment. British ships of war were already forbidden to engage in the slave trade, and therefore he had to find a way to set those poor souls free. Sailing them to the Ivory Coast, though, was out of the question. The north-eastern trade winds would not allow that without a great waste of time. On the other hand, there was a neat solution to this problem.

“The slaver is our prize,” he answered. People on the quarterdeck grinned openly at the prospect of prize money. “We shall take the prize with the slaves to San Domingue. There we shall release the captives into the care of the Black leaders.”

“That’s brilliant, Sir! They will be set free without us losing time and you will gain some footing with those Blacks.”

“Precisely, Mr. Fortescue. Now we need somebody to tell those poor devils about their change of fate. Little!”

The coxswain stepped forward. Tony had come to trust him implicitly.

“Little, I want you to go over and try to talk to the captives. Even if you do not speak their tongue, they may feel more comfortable with you. Try to tell them that I shall set them free on an island that is ruled by freed slaves. They will not be slaves but live a life in freedom.”

“Aye aye, Sir. I shall try to make them understand. What island will that be, Sir?”

“Saint Domingue, the former French part. You may take the gig.”

Little crossed over to Le Chasseur. He explained his task to the prize master, and the captives were brought on deck. Little had to try all the languages and dialects he remembered before one of the women was able to understand him. Using her as a translator, he was able to convey the fact to them that they were to be set free on a foreign island, instead of being sold into slavery. Of course there were the inevitable questions of why they could not return to Africa. Patiently, Little explained the reasons why they could not.

It was late afternoon before HMS Clyde and her prize set course for Saint Domingue. Tony planned to land at Cap Francais, the former centre of the French settlements. He assumed that any new government the former slaves might try to establish would use the facilities of the former capital. The last news he had received was that General Dessalines had succeeded the ill-fated Haitian hero, Toussaint L’Ouverture, and that the French forces had been conquered, not only due to the military skills of the Black leaders, but also due to horrendous losses incurred from malaria and yellow fever.

Tony had been warned not to embark on any large-scale landing operation as this would spell disaster. He was not too worried, though, since his was a mostly West Indian crew and more hardy in the climate than the Polish and French troops under the command of Napoleon’s ill-fated General Leclerc.

It was early June of 1804 when HMS Clyde made the final approach on Cap Haitien. She was gliding along under doubly reefed topsails, her decks cleared and her guns ready. They did not know what to expect. Tony had been briefed by the Foreign Office; he had even met one of the officers who had participated in the failed British attempt to conquer Saint Domingue. He knew the names of the most important figures of the rebellion who now formed the leadership. He also knew of the pathological, if understandable, hatred that General Dessalines bore towards Whites and even Creoles. He therefore anchored in the roads for a day, just to give the local powers the opportunity to summon someone of weight.

The next day, he sent John Little ashore. He was rowed by several of the freed slaves and carried a letter in French stating the wish of Captain Carter to speak to the local commander. Little returned with a carefully written answer in which he was asked to state his business. Tony sat down at his desk and drafted a reply in which he expressed his wish to land over a hundred Africans who had been freed from a slave ship. Secondly, he stated that he wished to open negotiations between the new government of Saint Domingue and the British side with the aim to prevent future hostilities.

Little was rowed back to the shore with that message. He came back with an answer in which Captain Carter was invited to a meeting on the beach just after sun up the next morning. The local commander, General Vaval, allowed the captain to bring a guard of 10 soldiers, whilst Vaval reserved the same right for himself. Tony studied the beach through his telescope. It was wide and open and ill-suited for any ambush.

“What do you think, Little, is the General sincere?”

“Hard to say, Captain, Sir.”

“Mr. Fortescue!”

“Sir?”, the 1st lieutenant queried.

“I shall go ashore for a meeting with the local military commander, a General Vaval. I shall take the launch, and I’ll take a sergeant and nine marines. Have two swivel guns mounted in the launch. Mr. Weaver will be in command. See to it that the guns are properly manned. You will be in command of the ship. We shall clear for action now. I want a spring on the anchor cable, too.”

“Aye aye, Sir. What are your orders if there is trouble?”

“Then you have my order to take the beach under fire with the main deck guns. Under no circumstances will you send a landing party to our rescue. We shall try to escape in the launch.”

“Aye-aye, Sir.” Fortescue nodded with some reluctance.

The drums of the marines rolled and the Clyde was cleared for action. A heavy cable, the spring line, was attached to the bow anchor cable and run through the aftermost gun port and to the windlass. By paying out or shortening the spring line, the ship could be turned to any direction to bring her guns to bear. This was a cautionary measure necessary in this anchorage. In addition to that, the boarding nets were rigged, and the guns were loaded and run out.

After a rather uncomfortable night, Tony was rowed ashore in the launch and accompanied by ten Marines. The launch cleared from the beach, and stood off, ready to assist or to pick them up.

They had hardly landed when a small troop approached them from the tree line. A short but stocky Black man was leading. When the two groups met, Tony bowed shortly, and introduced himself, speaking French as best he could.

The short man introduced himself as General Vaval. Tony had heard of the man. He had been Toussaint L’Ouverture’s trusted sidekick, and he had continued the fight against the French General Leclerc after L’Ouverture had been betrayed and captured.

“What is it you wish to discuss with me, mon capitaine?” the general enquired next.

“Firstly, mon general, would you be willing to offer hospitality to 130 captives? They are from Africa, and we freed them from a French slave ship headed for Porto Bello. As you may know, British ships are not allowed to engage in the slave trade, and I would like to free them as soon as possible.”

The General thought for a moment and nodded.

“We shall welcome our brothers and sisters. You may land them.”

“Thank you, mon general. Now, if you will allow me to come to the reason for my arrival here. His majesty, King George, and his government wish to put an end to the hostilities between England and your young nation. I am here to offer assurances that British forces will not aim to occupy Saint Domingue in the future. In return, His Majesty’s government would like to extract an assurance from your government that you will not attack His Majesty’s dominions and that you will not engage in naval warfare nor offer shelter to pirates and privateers.”

Again the black general thought for a moment before he answered.

“I must inform the Emperor Dessaline of your offer. Only he can give you such assurances. This will take time, at least a week. You could land the freed slaves in the meantime. Other than that, I suggest you will refrain from coming to the shore. Our Emperor is not a friend of White people, I am afraid.”

“So I have heard,” Tony agreed sardonically. If anything, Dessaline had the reputation of being a murderous madman. “I shall wait for your answer then.”

Bon,” the general answered. “There is another issue that I would like to raise, mon capitaine. There is a convent on the coast to the east. It is the home to Spanish nuns, and the Spanish have abandoned them when they retreated. They are a thorn in our side, and we want them gone. Our Emperor is reluctant to clear the convent by force. The Madre Superior is a scary woman, she is obayifo, a witch, and she has the evil eye. If you could persuade them to leave the convent and sail away with you, our president may consider your offer more favourably.”

“How many nuns are there?” Tony asked, fencing for time.

“We do not know exactly, between twenty five and thirty I think.”

“How will I get there? My orders are not to undertake any landings on your island, except for the purpose of making contact.”

“You would not have to do that. The convent is located on a cove, the Bahia de Gracias, and ships can anchor there.”

“What if they don’t want to evacuate?”

“They will,” Vaval said with a grim expression, “or else they will starve.”

Tony relented.

“Let us assume, I agree. I do not have any authority. I would need an official of your government to conduct any operation. My orders are quite clear on that.”

“I am glad to hear that, mon capitaine, and I shall be there myself.”

D’accord. I shall try. Do you wish to travel in my ship?”

“That would be convenient, unless it would trouble you overly much.”

“Not at all, mon general. When shall we start?”

“I need to inform our Emperor of the plan. But I suppose we can sail this afternoon. It is a 150 mile distance.”

Tony calculated. That would be 125 nautical miles. With the prevailing wind that distance could be covered in less than a day. If they sailed in the afternoon, they would make a landfall in the early morning, with the high tide running. He nodded.

“That will be agreeable, mon general,” he said. “When can we expect your Excellency?”

“I shall be ready at 3 o’clock.”

“Six bells in the afternoon watch,” Tony mused. “We shall be ready to sail then.”

They parted, and the British returned to the Clyde. Orders were given to land the freed slaves on the beach where a few of General Vaval’s soldiers were awaiting them. The disembarkation went largely without a hitch. With his glass, Tony could see that at least one of the Haitian soldiers was able to speak to the freed slaves. Greeting rituals were performed too, and the landed men and women appeared to smile. This was confirmed by the returning boat crews, and Tony was able to chalk off one of his problems.

By early afternoon, a boat came from the shore carrying the general and two officers. He was received on board with military honours, including the 15-gun salute for a lieutenant general. General Vaval was obviously pleased with the respect shown to him.

Immediately afterwards, the Clyde and the captured slaver weighed anchor and set sail for an east-north-eastern course. Luckily, the wind favoured them, and both ships made good speed all through the afternoon and evening. At sunset, Tony ordered a straight eastern course and a shortening of sails for the night. That evening, he entertained the general, his aides and his own officers in the main cabin. To Tony’s surprise, his guests drank little wine and no spirits at all. At four bells on the first watch, they all turned in to sleep.

Sunrise was at four bells in the morning watch. Even before that, Tony was on deck again. When the sun rose brilliantly over their bowsprit, he noticed the prize close to them to leeward. Everything was going according to plan. It was time now to alter course to south-east to reach the coast. Tony had a table placed on the quarterdeck and he invited his guests to a breakfast. They chatted amiably in French. Tony tried to gather as much information as possible from General Vaval about the plans of the new rulers.

He also pointed out that peace with the British side would depend on a complete non-interference of Haiti in Jamaica and other British dominions. Under L’Ouverture, an attempt had been undertaken to start a slave rebellion in Jamaica. This had scared H.M. government to no end. The sugar trade, so important for England, depended on the cheap slave labour, or so it was argued by the representatives of the sugar interest. Therefore, it was his most important task to extract some form of assurance from the Haitian government that they would not stir up trouble in Jamaica.

For his part, Vaval asked how long the British would still tolerate the forcible abduction of people from West Africa into slavery. Tony answered cautiously that there was a strong and vocal anti-slavery movement in England and that it was gaining momentum in parliament. Vaval looked at Tony with his head tilted to the side.

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