Letter home from a soldiers wife on a voyage to India

Daily Post, Jan 19th 1860

To the editor

Sir,

I enclose a letter received from my daughter. By giving the enclosed letter publicity you will much oblige.

J. LONG

Ogleby St

Woolwich

January 16th.

Ship ACRINGTON, at sea, Nov 19th 1859

My dear father and mother,

I now take the opportunity of writing these few lines to let you know some of the troubles I have experienced since I left your dear, happy home, on board of this dreadful ship. I canít tell you all for my heart fails me to describe the hardships and most cruel treatment we have received since we left England; for, oh, my dear father and mother, this is a dreadful ship - every day some poor mother lamenting for her child, and some of the women have lost three children each.

Dear parents, it is a dreadful sight to see the poor children put overboard morning and evening, one after the other, day after day. We have not been two months on board yet, and we have lost 56 children! And mainly owing to the inattention of the Doctor, who was known to be drunk for 4 days together, and not able to attend upon the dear little sufferers.

Dear Mother, Mrs GADD has lost her little girl, and I am very sorry to tell you that my poor, dear, dear, little Louisa, is very ill, and I am very much afraid she will never get over it in this world; but God is good, I will put my trust in him.

Oh! How I wish I had never come. We are driven out like a lot of convicts and treated like beasts - called up at 5 in the morning and made to scrub the decks, the work of men [and, I am sure if the authorities knew it, they would call the captain to account for it] and this we have to do before we get a bite to eat; and then the poor children taken out of their hot beds at that time in the morning, up on the cold damp deck no matter whether they are sick or well [all are served alike] up they must come; and that I think is the cause of many having died; and they having nothing to eat or put in their dear little mouths, till 9 oí clock and then nothing but a bit of hard biscuit to give them, and the poor little things pine for want, and their mothers canít get anything for them.

Oh, my dear father, could you ever think that man could treat poor helpless women and children like this? The captain is a most dreadful man, he does beat the poor sailors in a dreadful manner.

One poor fellow was sick in his bed, and he made him get up, and, because he was not able to work, he beat him, and knocked him down, and jumped upon him, and almost killed him, and the crew say he will never get over it.

Another instance of his cruelty - we had a pig died the other day, and he blamed the Steward and Cook for the cause of its death. He flogged the Steward and then put him and the Cook in the pig-sty, and chained one on the one-side, the other the other-side as punishment.

Another case of cruelty of the captain and Doctor - one of our womenís children was taken ill with scarletina, it was ordered on deck with the others, and kept there till late evening. A violent storm having come in we were dripping wet. We went below; and the womanís child was so ill she went for the Doctor. He came, and the Captain with him. He ordered her to put the child in the wet bed that had been on deck during the greater part of the storm. She, of course, refused to do so, her child dying. They cursed and swore at her, and the Captain attempted to strike her, and ordered her child to be taken from her, and kept her dear child from her all night! When crying from her child, it was given to her. The Doctor sent for it again, but it was too late, for the child died two hours afterwards.

I have just heard that the Captain has been poisoned, and also the First Mate, and they seem to say it was the Steward that done it. Dear father it is quite true they are both dead and we are left without anyone but the sailors to take us to some port. I have not seen land since I left Birkenhead.

November 19th 1859

Oh, my dear father and mother, I am in sad distress this day. Oh! How can I tell you all my grief! My poor heart is breaking, for my dear, dear little Louisa, is no more. She died this morning about 9 o Ď clock. She took the measles, and she never got over it. She had no attendance and no nourishment to bring her round, being treated as all the rest - neglect and inattention of the Doctor. Oh, it is cruel, cruel to think of it.

Oh! My dear father and mother, what shall I do no kind friend to sympathise with me ? But you must try and bear up with my loss. I know how sorry you will be; but may the Almighty God comfort us ! I have been very poorly, but I trust I will be well again. So now my dear father and mother may the Almighty bless you, is the earnest prayer of your ever-affectionate daughter.

AGNES ELVIN

From my further delving

The ACCRINGTON, Captain William Henderson HORNER, left for India on the 30th Sept 1859, with wives and families of soldiers when it reached Pernambuco a large mortality had taken place amongst the children. The captain was accused of tyranny and oppression towards the emigrants and was dead, as was the chief officer, believed poisoned and an inquiry was instituted. The Accrington was not a regular vessel used by the Emigration Commission and was chartered to carry the families at the request of the War Dept. Out of 67 deaths which occurred before the vessel reached Pernambuco, 60 were of children under 4yrs old.

Trial for the murder of the Capt and Chief Officer of the ACCRINGTON, March, 1860

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