Letter to Mistress Murin McDonough from her cousin Fionntan Murtaugh

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To Mistress Murin McDonough
The Sealkie’s Hyde
Hampton Roads
Virginia
10 December 1720

My dearest Cousyn Murin,

We are nearly Home again. I am sorry that I must send this by Post but I was unable to stop to see you when we arriv’d, we have not the Time. Captain Sterling must first report to the Governor all that has happened and then we must immediately be off to Migdalel, as you know, the Capt.’s plantation. Therefore I will make what I can, known now so that I will have an easier Time of it later. After departing Hampton Roads we traveled swiftly to the Master Gunner’s Cottage where we met the Capt and the remainder of those still ashore. It was most kind of you to travel such a distance to bid us a safe Journey. T’is a shame we had such little Time together.

After we weighed Anchor, we headed south towards the farthest reaches of Spanish Florida with all due haste. We were delay’d by a Spanish Vessel not far from our Destination which came upon our Stern, requesting News, but their Intentions were not honourable, and a small Battle ensued after they fired without just Cause. Both Ships took Damage and neither could continue to fight that Day, so the Capt quick show’d the Spanish our Heels and we continu’d on our set Course. Sadley, we did suffer some Casualties, losing two Men. I can say without any Doubt in my Mind that Captain Sterling was not keen to give up that Ship so easily. He, insisting that since we are now at Peace with Spain, was most assur’d that they were naught but Pirates. Alas, but we could not take the Time to take her, for, as you know, the Capt had been appointed Lieutenant Governor of the Area and was expect’d to make his Presence known no later than the 29th of November past. The Tyral, over which he was to stand as President and Representative of the Vice-Admiralty, must not be delay’d for any such personal Gain. Perhaps you know more of such Things than I, but he seemed unduly concern’d for one of the Prisoners that was been accused and was to be prosecut’d.

The Capt did manage to injure himself in a shipboard Fire during the Battle, severely burning his left Hand. With the skilled Care of our Surgeon and Mistress Legard’s knowledge of Plants and Herbs, he is now well on the Mend. His injur’d Hand has made many Tasks nearly impossible for him. As you well know t’is not in his Nature to depend upon anyone for the Things that he himself can do. This is my Work and he pays me well for it but still he resists much of my Help. I tell you this in Confidence, my dear Cousyn, and only because you know him better than even I. I have found some Amusement in his impatience as he is forc’d to wait while I tend to things as trivial as buttoning his Wescote! Still, you will be pleesed to know that your dear Friend’s Mood is the best I have seen since the passing of his Missus. The Voyage brought back much of the Man we have not seen in the Time since. He has, what you have referr’d to in the Past as “that Spark in his Eye”, once again.

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On the 29 November, we anchored off Shore of the Island with just enough Daytime to allow us to complete the Task of setting up an Encampment, including a few of the Ship’s great Guns, not long after Nightfall.30610472437272091_d78mgQJ4ll We were fed a quick but hearty Meal, most gracious afford’d us by one of the locals, a Mistress Fayma Callhan, then were afforded a Night of rest for most were exhaust’d from the Fight. I found it curious that no one seemed even the least bit interest’d in our Arrival given Captain Sterling’s Business and appoint’d Task. Perhaps none knew of his Assignment.
On 30 November, those of us who came Ashore were up and about with the Crow of the Roosters, which seem to be abundant in the Area. The Reverend Dudley and his Missus, F100D800DSC_3196-001goode Company at any Time, fed us an early Meal of Bacon, fresh Eggs, fresh Bread and ripe Fruit! This Treat was enjoyed by everyone on Shore (for young Mister Merriweather was not with us and there was Bacon a plenty for all)! We are much obliged to the Preacher and his Wife at their Ingenuity in procuring such Things and their Willingness to rise early enough to tend to the Fire and cook. T’is always good to have them with us, they keep us well fed. Yes my dear Cousyn, I know I am too well fed as t’is. I am sure that you will be pleesed to know that the Capt too managed Time for Meals. I am hopeful this is yet another Indication that he is indeed becoming more his old Self.

As I continu’d to cater to the Capt’s Needes, the Officers depart’d to make themselves known to the English. The Crewe Blacksmith, I believe you have met Mister Cyphers, was glad to have access to a large and fully functioning Forge. He was able to attend to many of the Ship’s Needes and make required Repairs caus’d by the spanish Vessel. Much Work was planned for our Time on the Island, for the Capt has desires to put back to Sea as soon as possible, with the Hopes of running down an hostile Vessel or two.

Upon the return of the Officers, Captain Sterling address’d the Crew informing us that Things were not as they should be. The English were not at all pleased with the Capt’s Arrival, his Assignment or the Law for that Matter. Corruption flowed from the highest Rank down and the Capt felt compell’d to join forces with Men who seem’d to be local Militia, many from the Colonies as we now are, Men that the English were referring to as, “common Pirates”; some who had, at one Time or another, sail’d with the very Men we had come to try for the Admiralty in the hopes of curtailing Piracy in the Area. I tell you Cousyn, one would think that the English Soldiers would be most supportive of the Vice-Admiralty’s Efforts. Since their support was wanting, the Capt had come to the Decision to take a position against them.
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Now as an Irishman, we both well know I have little Love for the English, but since we have now been long settled in this Land, I am of the opinion that the Capt has grown something of a rebellious Nature. He questions the Crown’s behavior toward the way Things are done over here, especially when he has been reading Locke again. As long as I have known him, he has always taken a Stand against what many know is unjust, and he is the first to head into a Fight against true Pirates, but here, he did stand against the English, fighting to uphold what he believes to be fair and just. Damn me if we shan’t all be hanged as Traitors some day.

When the Crewe did head for Battle Capt Sterling asked that I remain behind with the other domestic Help. The Surgeon was to see his first land Battle in some Time and was need’d on the Field. Most glad he was of having solid ground under his Feete again. Those of us remaining in the Encampment were to make ready for any Injured as the Crewe took the Field. The Guns that were brought ashore with us were now being readied and the Ship was alert’d. At the end of the Day our Men were able to gain some control of the Island and the scheduled Tryal would take place on the morrow.
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1 December, the Courtroom was full when we walk’d in, Captain Sterling, Quartermaster Roberts and Master Gunner Lasseter were to preside over the Event. I was, as always, along with the Captain’s Body- guard, Matthew Blackhorse,537558_3993073786231_1498880741_n the Archangel’s heathen Pilot, by the Capt’s Side during the Trial, so I was privy to all that was said. Imagine my surprise, dear Murin, when one of the men, who stood accus’d, was none other than Captain William Brad (now a Quartermaster of The Mercury). He was the same Man, of whom the Captain has made mention in Tales, in the Past. And the one, I believe, to be the Cause of the Capt’s Distress regarding this entire Affair. The Proceedings commenced as soon as Mister Lasseter arriv’d, he and the Master-at-arms, having their Hands full with the Threat of another Battle. Mister Roberts, tried his Best to present the Case against the Prisoners, but the Prosecution had no true Evidence of any Crimes against the Crown. They produc’d but one Witness and he provid’d naught but mere Hearsay. The Accused claimed to be Privateers, not unlike Captain Sterling, capturing only Spanish Ships. The Prosecution had no Evidence of any English Ships being harass’d. Capt Sterling was forced to let the Prisoners go. They were freed with only a stern Warning that their Faces not be seen in that Court again. Something about the Capt’s Continence and Bearing told me that he was much relieved in their Release for the Fact that they should never have been brought to Court at all.Mission photo question

The Trial done, we were afford’d a Moment to tend to unfinished Work. The Officers discuss’d Strategies for maintaining Control. I was able to tend to the much need’d polishing of the Capt’s goode Silver. Mae, the washer Woman took advantage of the good Weather and abundant fresh Water to launder much of the Officers’ Shirts. There was Time for all manner of daily Life to resume. 72995_442107115837147_1638353884_n

But we were soon interrupt’d by a Call to Arms. The English had begun to Skirmish against the Archangel and the Pirates. The Battle was short. Our Guns fought head on as those of the Pirates’ flanked the English. The Battle narrowly won by the Archangel and the Pirates. The Pirates parad’d the English through the common Area, making much sport of them. The Capt would take no Part in such, declaring under his Breath, that mayhaps we were dealing with Pirates indeed!

That Night goode Master Roberts provid’d the Officers’ Punch (Not nearly as good as that what you provide at the Hyde, Mistress McDonough!). The Mood was light and all were in goode Humor.

2 December we set sail once again. As fear’d the corrupt’d English Troupes rallied once more and attack’d early this Afternoon. Together those called Pirates by the English and the Crewe of the Archangel fought to hold the English at bay but small Arms fir’d from the walls of the Fortress forced us to take Cover on the Ground. By Battle’s End, what remained of the English Troupes were now dead. Pirates had control of the Island. Although the Officers did have a strategy that would have given the Archangel the upper Hand, t’was decid’d that we could not hold it without Reinforcements. The goode Captain call’d to weigh Anchor, having accomplished his main task and there being more Profit in hunting down the Vessel we encounter’d upon our arrival. We are now in safer Waters where the Captain will give a full Report of the Troubles not only from the Spanish but from the corrupt Officials in the Area.

Your humble Servant & devot’d Cousyn,
James Fionntan Murtaugh

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M.Fleckenstein copyright 2013

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2 Responses to “Letter to Mistress Murin McDonough from her cousin Fionntan Murtaugh”

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