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THE various preparatory arrangements being completed; the stores, fc., of every description embarked; and the ship ready for sea, peremptory orders were issued for the officers to proceed on board without further delay.
Dec. 2d, 1817. I accordingly on this day departed from London for Gravesend, and there embarked on board the Britannia, which was in every respect prepared for sailing at an hour's notice. The Emerald, destined for the transport of Colonel Hippesley's corps, lay at anchor about half a mile lower down the river, and was likewise in momentary expectation of receiving orders for finally proceeding for our common destination. All the other vessels, appointed for the conveyance of
the before-mentioned corps to South America, had put to sea a few days previously.
The Britannia was a beautiful ship, and appeared to have been fitted
up respect, with an anxiety for the comfort and ease of her passengers. She was commanded by Captain Thomas Sharpe, who, on several trying occasions, evinced the most perfect knowledge of his hazardous profession. Her freight consisted exclusively of an immense quantity of military stores, the property of a great mercantile firm in London, by whom they had been embarked, partly on speculation, but principally as I was informed, in consequence of a previous understanding with Don Mendez, that the entire cargo would be purchased by the Independents immediately on the Britannia's arrival at the main. This property was intrusted to the care of Mr. John Ritchie as supercargo, a gentleman of whom I shall hereafter have occasion to speak in terms of grateful eulogy; and whose conduct throughout the voyage secured the esteem and respect of every individual on board. His anxious exertions
were at all times contributed towards
preserving good humour, contentment, and cheerfulness, whilst his generous and feeling heart, ever sympathized with those who suffered under the pressure of disappointment or distress.
A printer, armourer, and several other artificers and mechanics, likewise embarked on board the Britannia, for the purpose of exercising their respective arts in the service of the South American Patriots. Some of these individuals had been furnished by Don Mendez with letters of introduction to General Bolivar, and the Indepen, dent Government; and the printer was proceeding for the especial purpose of being attached to Bolivar's army, for whose use a most valuable and extensive printing apparatus' was sent out in the Britannia, by the merchants to whom the cargo belonged, under an assurance of being in like manner immediately purchased on the vessel arriving at her destination. The armourer had on board a verylarge quantityof fire-arms of various descriptions, for which he anticipated a ready sale on reaching the Spanish main.
These facts are no otherwise important, than as tending further to exemplify the extraordinary delusion at this time practised by the Patriot agents, and the strange misconception which generally existed as to the state of affairs in Spanish America.
There were, besides myself, nine commissioned officers on board, viz., Colonel Gilmore, one captain, one first lieutenant, four second lieutenants, and two surgeons; all of whom appeared in the highest spirits, confidently anticipating an honourable and successful termination to the extraordinary enterprise in which they had embarked. To me the situation was both novel and interesting. I now for the first time found myself cast on the wide and stormy sea of life, on the eve of being far removed from those who were endeared to me by the ties of kindred and friendship. My sphere of action had heretofore been confined within the limits of my native land; for although my natural feelings induced a prejudice in favour of the military profession, until now my inclination in this respect had never been gratified. All these circumstances tended
to produce thoughtfulness, and mental anxiety; nor could I, for a considerable time, shake off the feelings of melancholy with which I was oppressed, by having so recently undergone the distressing ceremony of bidding farewell to friends for whom I entertained the most affectionate esteem, and whose reciprocal regard I felt confident of possessing. The bustle, however, of the surrounding scene; the diffusion of mirth; and the hope which I fondly entertained of being ere long enabled to revisit my native country, gradually dispelled every gloomy sentiment, and qualified me to partake of the general happiness.
The mild and gentlemanly manners of my immediate senior officer, Captain and his anxiety to afford me that advice and information for which his experience so well qualified him, induced me to form the highest opinion of his character and military talent; and the closest subsequent intimacy and friendship fully justified my original prepossession. In all the vicissitudes of fortune to which we were afterwards subjected, our destiny was the same,