Henry Norton Sulivan on the 1845 Anglo-French action in Uruguay (1/3)
(See also the account by W.L. Clowes)
THE PARANA CAMPAIGN, 1842-46.
It may be well to give an outline of the cause of the disturbances which led to the three years' siege of Monte Video, and to the British interference, resulting in the Parana campaign of 1845-46.
Since the Declaration of Independence in 1816, every state in this part of South America had been in almost a constant condition of anarchy. At length arose a man of great force of character, Juan Manuel de Rosas, who became president of the Argentine Republic. He first drove out the aborigines. Backed up by an army of Gauchos, he obtained unlimited power, and was not scrupulous as to the means of retaining it. After consolidating his power at Buenos Ayres, he turned his attention to the subjugation of the Banda Oriental, the capital of which was Monte Video. In 1842 there were two rival leaders of the hostile factions in this town - Oribe and Riviera. Oribe being worsted, fled to Rosas, by whom he was supplied with men and money. Oribe then returned, overran the Banda Oriental, and laid siege to Monte Video. His operations were conducted with great cruelty. He tried to starve the garrison into a surrender. The Buenos Ayrean squadron, under the command of an Englishman named Brown (previously referred to), cut off the supplies by sea. Mr. Mandeville, the British Minister, and Commodore Purvis encouraged the Monte Videans to resist with hopes of British support. This, however, was a great mistake. When Riviera had been defeated outside the town, had Oribe been allowed to enter, the cruel war extending over nearly four years would have been avoided. As he was not permitted to enter, Oribe gave out that neither life nor property would be respected on the capture of the city. This raised a strong feeling among the foreigners against him. Three thousand residents (chiefly Basques and Piedmontese) were armed, and a nondescript force was raised by an Englishman named "Cockney Sam." To imitate the uniforms of the British regiments, he dressed them in red shirts. The celebrated Garibaldi, having formerly been taken prisoner and treated badly by Urquieza, one of Rosas' generals, raised a party of five hundred Italian sailors from the coasting-vessels. He adopted Sam's idea of the red shirt, a dress which in later years became still more celebrated in Italy.
[The following stories I remember hearing from my father illustrate the power Rosas exercised, and the means he did not hesitate to adopt to strengthen that power. Once one of my father's brothers was dining with some friends in Buenos Ayres during Rosas' reign of terror. Suddenly a friend of the family rushed in, saying he heard a domiciliary visit would be paid them that evening. The head of the house said that he had done nothing against Rosas, and that he had nothing to fear. One of the family recollected that a room upstairs was papered in green, the opposition colour. That would be sufficient to damn them. The whole party, my uncle included, left the table, went upstairs, and with every instrument obtainable scraped the walls clean and removed the debris. They had not long finished when the domiciliary visit was made, but nothing objectionable was found!
An officer was going up-country, so he asked Rosas if he had any commission for him to execute. Rosas replied, "You will pass Fort -----. Will you take this letter to the commandant for me?" "Certainly", the officer said. Before starting, he met a friend, who said, "Be careful; I hear your name is on the black list". "Oh no, I have just left Rosas, who was very friendly, and asked me to take a note for him". "Well, don't take it". But he would not listen to the advice. On reaching the fort, he handed the letter to the commandant, who read it, and said, "Do you know the contents of this letter?". "No", the officer said, "General Rosas asked me to bring it to you". "Well, look at it!". It read, "Shoot him!". He was shot.
Several conspiracies were formed to put an end to Rosas. Once, one of the conspiring party, having undertaken to kill Rosas, actually obtained the post of guard outside the door of Rosas' room. He prepared his pistol, when Rosas appeared. The mere sight of him was sufficient to strike terror into the heart of the conspirator, who dropped upon his knees and confessed his intention.
Rosas' daughter Manuelita was a general favourite. When a young girl, she saw from her balcony an English midshipman at the door of the hotel opposite in difficulties with his horse. She ran down to the street, jumped upon the man's saddle, galloped the animal up and down a few times, and then returned it to the humiliated midshipman in the sight of his shipmates. Manuelita afterwards resided near Southampton, where I believe my father once or twice called to see her.]
Rosas determined to gain possession of both banks of the Rio de la Plata. England and France, having formerly guaranteed the independence of the Banda Oriental, after much vacillation on the part of our authorities, at length actively intervened, and in 1845 summoned Rosas to withdraw his troops. On his refusal, Brown's squadron was captured, and a blockade was proclaimed against Oribe. Admiral Inglefield had succeeded to the command of the British squadron, Admiral Laine being at the head of the French.
While these events were passing, General Urquieza, a nominee of Rosas, was governor of Entre Rios. The president of the revolted province of Corrientes was General Maderiaga, who formed a league against Rosas with the independent province of Paraguay. These two states had collected an army, over which was placed General Paz, a rival of Rosas.
In 1845 the British and French ships were ordered to reopen the Parana, which had been closed by Rosas, who thereupon concentrated his opposition at Obligado. After forcing the defences at this point, the combined squadrons proceeded to Corrientes, eight hundred miles up the river, convoying a large number of merchant-ships, which were sent for the purpose of taking up manufactured goods and releasing the produce of the inland states, which had been accumulating for some time at Corrientes.
At this conjuncture my father's part in the events on the Parana commences. But as the Philomel, which he commanded, worked in the summer on the survey of the Falkland Islands, proceeding during the winter with the surveys of the river Plata, a chronological record would be confusing. I shall therefore not refer further to the work in the Falklands.
H.M.S. Philomel, referred to in the previous chapter, was one of the beautiful Simondite brigs, and well upheld the reputation of her builder. She sailed from Plymouth on July 25th, 1842. Sulivan had put thirty tons of ballast in her, in lieu of the customary fifteen. He believed it was want of sufficient ballast that caused the one or two losses that had occurred in this class of vessel, and wrote a few days after sailing:-
"The officers and crew are all I could possibly wish for. I am delighted with the ship; I was never in a drier vessel."
[The officers were:- Lieutenants: Harston, George H. Richards (afterwards Hydrographer). Master: John F. Ree. Surgeon: William Chartres ('one of the best in the service'). Assistant Surgeon: M.C. French. Clerk: G.W. Pickthorne. Mids: W.S. Sulivan and Steveley.]
He wrote from Rio on September 15th:-
"My men are constantly on shore without officers. There has been no case of drunkenness and no desertion. I have had to disrate one petty officer, one of the best men in the ship, who had been five years in the Beagle, for disrespect to a lieutenant. I hope to avoid the use of the 'cat' by making them feel certain they will have it if they break rules."
He arrived at Monte Video on October 3rd, and found the unsettled state of affairs already referred to (An invasion of Uruguay by Rosas was expected). As it was arranged for his wife to join him with his family at Monte Video later on, he writes to her:-
"If you come out, it is settled in the gun-room you are to go too; but if there is any fighting, you are to be put in a two-ton tank!"
The Philomel left for the Falklands on October 14th, and returned to the river Plata on April 1st, 1843. Mr. Fegan there joined as assistant surveyor. The town of Monte Video was blockaded by land, and the inhabitants were anticipating a blockade to be declared by Rosas' squadron by sea also. The marines of the fleet were landed to protect British property.
By this time, in order, smartness, and discipline, the Philomel would have borne comparison with the best ships in the service. On one occasion, having weighed very quickly from a difficult position in answer to an unexpected signal from the admiral, as the Philomel passed under the flag-ship's stern, the flag-captain, Captain G.B. Martin, a well-known and good officer, was standing there with a number of officers, and hailed her, saying, "Sulivan, we may well call her the pride of the station." The crew of the Philomel were considered smarter than any of the fleet, and she was the admiration of both French and English officers, who would often watch to see what smart thing she would next do.
Various stories could be told illustrating this. Once, Sulivan, having to work the Philomel out to windward between two lines of vessels, could not quite weather a French ship at the head of one line, so he kept her on until she seemed about to touch the ship, when, putting the helm down, he shot the Philomel up dead in the wind's eye some distance, until she cleared the Frenchman's bowsprit; then he paid her off and sailed her clear away. A French officer went on shore to the club, and, after excitedly recounting the manoeuvre, declared that the devil must be on board the Philomel, or she could not be made to do what she did!
Later on Sulivan received the thanks of the Lords of the Admiralty for two years' blank returns of punishment. This was the secret of his method of discipline:-
"I fear too often blank returns show that offences that ought to be punished are not: it has not been the case with us, for I have only had one complaint made to me deserving punishment, the only case of drunkenness that has occurred in the ship. I did not like to go from my word, as I believe that the certainty the men felt that they would not be forgiven if reported for drunkenness or disrespect to an officer has been the means of preventing the necessity for punishment. While other ships complain of not being able to keep their boats' crews sober with officers in all the boats, we never send an officer with them, but trust entirely to the men, and have not yet had a case of drunkenness, and our men are now daily going on leave, and we have not yet had one man come off tipsy or a moment after his time." [In a letter to the Hydrographer, Lieutenant Richards says, "We cannot be other than comfortable with Captain S. Indeed, his chief study is to make every one in the ship so."]
When the Philomel returned to Monte Video, Oribe was encamped two miles outside the town, cutting it off from the country. But the defenders had so strengthened their lines that there was little chance of his getting in. The government of Buenos Ayres then proclaimed a blockade by sea as well as by land, and "Admiral" Brown, with a corvette, two brigs, and seven smaller vessels, was off Monte Video. On the score of there being so many Englishmen in the town, Commodore Purvis said he would not permit a blockade by sea, as this would have resulted in all foreign non-combatants being turned out to starve, nor would he allow any firing on the town from the sea. One day Brown ran in with his fleet to the inner harbour, and took possession of an island, on which was a quantity of gunpowder belonging to British merchants. The Fantome and Philomel were ordered to go in close up to his ships. The Fantome could not go in as close as the Philomel, which was therefore directly exposed to Brown's brig of fourteen guns, and his four vessels with two or three pivot-guns each. Brown was ordered to give up the powder, which he did, and he then ran out. Oribe a day or two after wrote a letter threatening to treat all the foreigners in Monte Video "as rebels and savages." The commodore demanded an explanation, and a guarantee for the lives and properties of British subjects. Before an answer came Brown ran in again to the inner harbour.
The Fantome having previously moved out, the Philomel alone remained close in. The British ships were cleared for action, but the others were three times as far off as the Philomel was; so, had hostilities commenced, poor Philomel would have had to stand the first brunt of the action, and would probably have been sunk the first broadside. As Brown's vessels entered, Sulivan was told to go to the headmost vessel, order her out, and fire into her directly if she refused. He at once made her and the others lay-to. Brown had replied to a message from the commodore, "I am going in for fresh meat; if the commodore wants me out, he must take me out by force." This put the commodore in a great rage. Ordering another signal to be made to prepare for action, he said he would see Brown himself, and went in the Philomel's boat with Sulivan on board Brown's vessel. What occurred is thus described by Sulivan:-
"Brown was standing abaft a large skylight, with only room for one to pass between it and the bulwark, and, as the commodore was very excited, I slipped in first to get between them, and the following conversation then took place:-
"Brown.-'How de do, Captain Sulivan? You don't look quite so much like a billy-goat as you did the last time I saw you.' (I had shaved my beard off since then.)
"Commodore (putting a gold watch with chain and seals down on the skylight).- 'Mr. Brown, if you are not out of this in ten minutes, I will sink you.'
"Brown.- 'MISTER Brown, commodore? I would have you to know that I am Brigadier-General Brown, and I hold a higher rank than you do.'
"Sulivan.- 'No, no, admiral; commodore and brigadier-general are the same rank.'
"Brown.- 'Now, commodore, those people on shore are urging you on. Take my advice; don't let them get you in a scrape. They will not care as long as their own ends are assured.'
"Commodore.- 'I never got in a scrape in my life.'
"Brown.- 'Then the more reason, commodore, you should not get in one now. Now, commodore, is it not hard that Garibaldi may come down here with his gunboats and fire on my friends on shore, and I must not come in to prevent him ?'
"Commodore.- 'Well, I think it is hard.'
"Brown.- 'Now, commodore, to please you, I will only wait to get some beef, and will go out by sunset; but I hope you will prevent the gun-boats coming down here.'
"Commodore (taking up the watch and putting it into his fob).- 'Well, I don't want you to go out to-night, if you will be out by nine to-morrow morning.'
"Brown.- 'No, no, commodore, I will keep to my word and be out by sunset' - which he was.
"All this time I was putting in an occasional word in favour of a peaceful settlement of the dispute; but if I had not got between them, I fear the commodore and the admiral would have come to fisticuffs.
"Thus ended the battle of Rat Island.
"Brown had said he would not give way to force; and as he could not himself fire on the British flag, he would leave with the Englishmen on board the brig, and let the others defend their flag as long as they could."
Brown admitted Oribe was in the wrong and must have written in a moment of passion. Later, Oribe wrote, saying he only meant that those foreigners who took up arms against him should be treated like others in arms. Sulivan and some other captains thought the explanation quite satisfactory; but the commodore and one or two others were not of the same opinion, and demanded a more explicit refutation of the first letter.
As previously mentioned, Sulivan was expecting his wife and three children to come out to Monte Video. They were to leave Falmouth by the March packet. Weeks went by after the date the vessel was due at Monte Video, but there was no news of her. Sulivan's anxiety was very great, especially as there had been a great storm. At length the packet leaving Falmouth a month later arrived, but brought no news of the missing ship. Sulivan used every morning to go up with his glass to the top of the cathedral tower to see if perchance she was in sight. The officers used to shake their heads and say, "There goes poor Sulivan again; but it is of no use - the packet must be lost."
At last, six weeks after her due time, Sulivan one day saw from the tower a packet with the agreed-upon signal. She had suffered in a gale, and had put into Madeira, and thus had been delayed.
Once or twice while Mrs. Sulivan and her three children were living in Monte Video, on an alarm being given that the enemy were entering, all the English ladies went off to the ships. On one such occasion, all the rest having gone, my father said he would go to the walls first to make sure there was real necessity to fly, my mother in the meantime putting the children back in bed. After going to the ramparts, he returned to say he thought the enemy were not likely to get into the town. He was astonished at my mother's coolness in putting the children to bed again, but she showed she had done so with their clothes on. So they remained, the only English family who had not fled.
They used to watch the cannonading from the flat top of the house, until one day, an old woman on the next roof to them being cut in two by a round-shot, this amusement was tabooed. Once my mother, having ridden outside the town, accompanied by my father and a French officer on foot, and skirmishing just then beginning, she induced them to take her nearer, until one of the enemy's cavalry suddenly fired at them, the ball going close between the two gentlemen. The party then bolted, followed by the man, loading and firing as often as he could. Then my mother's rides were restricted to the beach inside the town. One day, when she was riding ahead of my father, a cannon-ball struck the sand so close in front of her horse that the animal in his very next stride leapt the furrow it made. So her rides came to an end altogether!
The siege still went on. Food was scarce, money still more so.
"Martin tells me they are almost starving in Monte Video. Cats three and sixpence apiece, and Parry's fat dog made into cutlets! Many even of the best families are fed entirely by the daily rations of flour and beans given them by the government. It is a dreadful war, and the scenes daily going on are sufficient to make one hate the name of war for ever after. Neither side can do anything decisive, so the time is occupied by trying to shoot individuals. The three hundred dismounted Gauchos - who had scarcely ever moved half a mile on foot in their lives - are the finest body of men the Monte Videans have, and they have behaved uncommonly well on every occasion. The Italians also behaved well, having never given way."
Prisoners were never taken, the lance or knife finishing all off [From a letter written by B.J.S. from Paris, 1864: " In the train one foreigner turned out to be from Monte Video. He was, when a boy of fifteen, under arms during the siege. Talking over old times, I mentioned the dreadful murder of the prisoners after one battle by Urquieza, the truth of which I was sent to inquire into. I found Colonel Flores in command, and all taken were lanced to death. The poor man was much affected; the tears came in his eyes, and he said, 'Colonel Flores was my father.' Was it not a singular coincidence ?"]. What was the warfare of the elders may be imagined from the play of the children. A party of boys would divide themselves into two bands and act pursuers and pursued. Some of the pursued would fall down as if wounded, when it would be the aim of a pursuer to draw his finger across the throat of a fallen one without breaking his stride.
On one occasion (the Monte Videan horses having been all killed by the enemy or by the butcher) a request was made that the merchants would lend their horses, so that a fair show of cavalry might be made at a review in the square. About a hundred and twenty mounted men were thus forthcoming. After a short parade these made a sortie on the merchants' horses by way of the beach; passed the camp of the enemy, four thousand strong, two or three miles to the rear; killed about sixty of the enemy's men; then leisurely recrossed the river with about thirty horses and cattle that they had captured, and eight prisoners, brought in alive, besides two stands of colours.
About September the Gorgon got badly ashore. By very great perseverance Captain Hotham at length got her off. Parties from all the men-of-war were sent to assist the Gorgon's crew in digging a channel for her through the sand. A great compliment was paid to the Philomel in a letter written by Captain Hotham to the admiral, requesting that the men sent from one vessel might be withdrawn in consequence of the trouble they gave, but begging that, as a party of men from the Philomel had shown such an excellent example of order and discipline to the others, an additional number of men from that ship might be sent. This was done; and after the Gorgon was off, Hotham applied for and obtained the promotion of one of the Philomel's petty officers.
Not much surveying work could be done in the Plata, owing to the acute state of affairs; but Sulivan did what he could, notwithstanding the difficulties he met with when landing men for obtaining provisions or making observations on the coast of Colonia. On more than one occasion it was necessary for him to display great firmness in facing parties of soldiers who were trying to bully his seamen and some settlers.
Lieutenant Harston left the Philomel, and Doyle succeeded him as first lieutenant [Harston - now Captain H. - was appointed to a ship on the west coast of Africa. Later on, when every officer and man in her was struck down by fever, he himself being the only one able just to crawl on deck, he shipped a lot of the Krue boys, and with them brought the ship to England in that state - a meritorious performance. Sulivan wrote of him: "A correct, gentlemanly officer, setting all a good example, particularly in his method with the men and internal discipline."].
On October 26th, 1844, the Philomel sailed again for the Falklands, Mrs. Sulivan and family going in her.
The Philomel's surveying expedition had been well timed, for without it the combined fleets would have been at a serious disadvantage. On April 19th, 1845, the Philomel returned to Monte Video from the Falkland Islands. Sulivan, seeing the probability of our interfering in the local war, told Commodore Sir Thomas Paisley, to the astonishment of the latter, that he could, if necessary, take the steamers Gorgon and Firebrand up to Martin Garcia.
Up to July Sulivan was occupied in finishing his Falkland Island charts, and in adding to the survey of the Plata. In August 1845 he found a channel of fifteen feet, mean river-level, to Martin Garcia.
On August 28th active operations were commenced by the combined British and French squadrons operating on the coasts of the Banda Oriental. Mrs. Sulivan, with her children, returned to England.
At Colonia the ships had an engagement with the enemy outside Monte Video. The latter were driven off by the men of the fleet and the Monte Videan troops who landed there. They then repaired the lines, so that the Monte Videans might hold them. Sulivan, having taken a good share in this encounter, then went across to Buenos Ayres, and was well received by the Argentine minister there.
"This very singular state of affairs," he writes to Beaufort, is "owing to its being understood that we are not at war with Buenos Ayres, but only want to turn their troops out of the Banda Oriental. Yet we take their vessels-of-war, and give them up to the Monte Videan Government to be employed in direct warfare against the Buenos Ayrean coasts. If this is not a hostile act, I cannot think what is."
Sulivan then took the Gorgon and Firebrand up to Martin Garcia without touching the ground, except once where it was necessary to drag the Gorgon over the bar, there being some inches less water than she drew [Captain Bingham, of H.M.S. Acorn, had gone as far up the Uruguay as Rincon Gallinos, and had to remain there to protect seven hundred refugees, placed on the island of Viscano. He was the senior commander, and by this lost his chance of service in the Parana. Though the service he performed was arduous, and he was frequently engaged, he was not promoted. The master of the Acorn, Mr. Thomas Goss, had surveyed the river for nine miles. The plan of holding the Rincon, and getting a supply of cattle from it for the fleet and for Monte Video, had been proposed by Sulivan to the minister and the admiral].
The British and French admirals, with some of the ships, remained off Monte Video, a few of the smaller vessels being sent on an expedition to open the Parana. Captain Hotham, who commanded this detached British squadron, determined first to take a force up the Uruguay, to assist the escape of other colonists reported to be hiding. The vessels taken were the Gorgon (s.), the Philomel, Dolphin, and Fanny. They were joined at the Rio Negro by the Buenos Ayrean squadron under Garibaldi - "a regular mosquito fleet of twenty, from a sixteen-gun brig to a whale-boat, little more than a party of buccaneers." It had been supposed that no vessel of more than twelve feet could proceed for more than a few miles up the river, and the enemy had sunk vessels in the regular channels. But Sulivan found other deeper ones, up which he took the ships to within six miles of Paysandu. He had hard work to accomplish this, constantly going ahead in a boat to sound. Once, when the Philomel was ahead alone, a party of fifteen hostile cavalry rode along the bank watching her. Sulivan could easily have knocked them over; but, desirous of avoiding needless slaughter, he, instead of firing, waved his cap to them. They returned the salutation and laughed, seeming to enjoy the fun, and rode by the ship for some distance, till, coming to a point, they galloped on a little way and dismounted, as Sulivan noticed afterwards, the off side, and stood apparently leaning over the backs of the horses. As the ship came abreast of them, they fired a volley at Sulivan, who was conning the ship from the forecastle. The shot rattled round him, but he fortunately escaped unhurt. The men instantly sprang upon their horses, Gaucho fashion, lying concealed along the farther side, and quickly disappeared over a ridge. Sulivan writes:- "The Monte Videans required as much watching as the enemy"; but adds: "I am happy to say that a few days since Garibaldi surprised a town on the Buenos Ayrean side of the river in the night, and took every soul in it, and, so far from putting any to death, he gave them their liberty again when he left, merely putting a forced requisition of clothing on the place. Yet in that very town some years since, Garibaldi, when a prisoner, was tortured by being hung up to a tree for two hours by his thumbs, and then by one arm."
On nearing Paysandu, the Monte Videans, finding that even with the British force they would be far outnumbered by the enemy, refrained from attacking the place. The enemy had seven hundred infantry and one thousand cavalry; the Monte Videans three hundred men and our one hundred and seventy blue-jackets. The ships' guns were ineffectual, owing to the position of the town. Garibaldi then moved his force higher up the river, being escorted past the town by the Philomel and Dolphin, which then returned with the two other British ships. The river having fallen, Sulivan had great difficulty in piloting them down again. But he safely accomplished the task, and the ships joined the rest of the squadron at Martin Garcia. Thus ended Sulivan's service with Garibaldi, whom he singularly resembled in appearance.
The squadron destined for the Parana then assembled near Martin Garcia.
In October, owing to the breakdown in health of his excellent surgeon Dr. Chartres, Sulivan had to run the Philomel to Buenos Ayres. This led to an incident he always looked upon as a providential interposition, a number of circumstances all combining to save the lives of about twenty-five persons. After landing Chartres, Sulivan was delayed two days by his own indisposition. A foul wind drove him to Colonia. Seeing signs of an approaching gale, he anchored near the mouth of the St. John, the coast of which he had surveyed two years previously. A small schooner lay near him. A gale came on of such force that the Philomel scarcely rode it out with three anchors down. Next day nothing could be seen of the schooner, even from the mast-head. The wind moderating in the afternoon, the Philomel proceeded. One of the officers asked Sulivan if such a spot was not the creek they had surveyed. "No, that one," he replied, pointing his glass at St. John's. To his astonishment, in the field of the telescope appeared the schooner's masts, with a reversed ensign. She was inside the breakers at the bar of a river in the enemy's district. Sulivan knew if the Blancos had got the crew, they would all have been murdered. As they got nearer, soldiers were seen on the beach, about seventy yards from her, firing at her. There was a bank of hard sand which Sulivan did not at first like to cross, but, seeing horsemen in the water a few yards from the schooner, and some armed men getting into a launch about two hundred yards from her, he went at the bank, estimating after the gale there would be just water enough for the Philomel. The launch was by this time close to the schooner. Another minute, and it would be too late to save the people. A thirty-two-pounder gun on the Philomel's forecastle being already loaded, Sulivan gave it all the elevation possible, and fired a chance shot. The ball passed directly over the boat, and hit one of the horsemen full in the chest. At the same moment the crew of the schooner poured a volley into the boat, now alongside. The double incident so frightened the Blancos that they retired. When within half a mile, Sulivan and Richards took the boats, and, crossing the bar, came to the schooner, the forty Blancos in sight not venturing to fire again. On board were fifteen men, five women, and four children. The schooner, breaking adrift in the gale, had been driven over the bar, but had brought up in the smoother water. She had been early discovered by the Blancos, who for seven hours had been firing at the people and telling them their throats would all be cut. Having only a few cartridges, the crew reserved their fire. The poor people had been all day watching the Philomel's masts, hoping for succour, and had given up all hope when the Blancos discovered the launch, it fortunately having been overlooked previously. Then they saw the Philomel's signal of assistance. Besides some soldiers' wives, the wife of the commandant at Martin Garcia was on board. Too sea-sick to remain below, she had lain all day on the deck, protected by a few boxes from the shot. One strapping woman had shown great spirit, and had collected a pile of stones from the ballast with which to greet the launch. The schooner was hauled out, and she returned to Colonia, the Philomel taking the women and children on to Martin Garcia. The captain's cabin was given up to them, and they received the first food they had tasted for twenty-four hours. The rescue could not have been attempted but for Sulivan's previous survey. He wrote: "It is the most gratifying thing to me that has occurred."
The Philomel then joined the squadrons at Martin Garcia, and the vessels prepared for the ascent of the Parana.
"I am afraid," he writes to his father from the entrance to the river (November 4th, 1845), "what Captain Villio told you will have made you very anxious, but you will know how little there was to do at Martin Garcia or anywhere yet. Rosas knew that if he left a force in Martin Garcia it must be captured, so he took all the guns up to the point in the river where he is going to dispute the passage. I expect we shall have some sharp work there. We know of about twenty heavy guns and nearly three thousand men of all arms. This sounds very formidable, we having only a hundred and fifty marines, a hundred and eighty English and a hundred and eighty French seamen. It seems a serious thing to have to land and destroy their guns; but it must be done, or the river navigation will not be safe. Certainly I think the authorities at Monte Video have a very serious responsibility resting on them. They know the force there, and yet with six hundred English soldiers and two hundred and fifty marines at their disposal they send only seventy marines, Hotham having suggested at least a hundred. They ought to have sent the two hundred and fifty, and then we should have three hundred marines. They seem to think they want all the force to take care of themselves at Monte Video, forgetting what a serious thing any reverse up the river would be. I do not fear such a thing, but they ought to guard against the possibility of it, as they have the means. How the Admiralty can have acted as they have done, knowing the chance of hostilities, I cannot think. Captain Villio's note to you shows they expect it; yet for shallow rivers the only steam-vessels we have are two of the largest steamers in the service, drawing sixteen and seventeen feet (seventeen and three-quarters feet water); not a single store or munition of war have they sent out. The ships are even short of their usual Pease powder and shot, and there is not a single Congreve rocket in the squadron, though a few would be just the thing for this kind of warfare. The only field-piece we have to land (except one three-pounder I got and one Hope got from the Monte Videans) is one six-pounder; and the whole supply of conical case-shot for that is twenty rounds, and not one shrapnel-shell. So much the authorities have provided for our doing the work efficiently. I hope they do not despise their enemies, for these people have during the last two years shown such courage and performed such acts of gallantry as have never been excelled."