The Service Journal of Charles Usherwood, Sergeant in the 19th Foot, 1857 - 1862

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The formidable rebellion and mutiny which broke out in India in May 1857 having roused the British Government into activity it at once despatched every available regiment to quell the insurrection, the 19th Foot having but recently arrived at Portsmouth from Aldershot was without delay ordered to embark in three vessels by detachments, and proceed to Pont-de-Galle in Ceylon there to receive such orders as would be in readiness for them.

The 1st Detachment under Lt Col Mundy CB, embarked on board the Alnwick Castle, sailing vessel, the 2nd under Lt. Col Bright on board the Merchantman, sailing ship, and the last or Head Qtrs under Lt. Col. I. L. Rooke CB on board the Whilrwind Capt. D Edgell, and which latter took place at Portsmouth Dockyard at 8 am on the 29 July 1857 Wednesday.   After the troops had embarked the vessel was towed from thence to Spithead where they dropped anchor to take on board two companies of the 42nd Highlanders under Capt. McPherson, his detachment consisting of 1 Capt. 1 Sub, 1 Staff, 3 Serjts, 4 Drs & 71 Privates.

In addition to the troops of 19th & 42nd Foot the following ladies accompanied the Corps: Mrs Palmer Wife of Pay M Palmer 19th Foot Mrs Thompson, Wife of Lt Adjt Thos Thompson Elizabeth Thompson and Fanny Alma Thompson, his children.

Mrs Rawding, wife of DMr W Rawding, 19th Foot 30th July 1857.   This evening at 5 ½ o'clock Thursday, the sails of the Whirlwind were unfurled and the ship sailed for the East.

31 July 1857.   In the evening at 5 o'clock passed the Island of Portland tho' we had much to do to get along having to tack ship continually during the day which was a very fine day indeed.

1 Aug 1837.   At 6 pm today the vessel passed the Eddistone Lighthouse.

3 Aug 1857.   By the rolling of the ship caused the inmates much discomfiture and assisted rather than otherwise to place numbers on the list of seasickness; to add to this we had squally weather accompanied with rain.

4 Aug 1857.   Today was much finer than yesterday and on taking the position of the vessel found we were in Lats 49 - Long 4 West where we saw a few swallows or birds resembling them much.

5 Aug 1857.   Another squally visit attended as usual with rain.   Passed a barque at 2 pm.   During the night the wind blew strongly.

6 Aug, 1857.   Wind strong till II a.m. and tho' the day was fine the air was cold.   Today we passed Cape Finistere.

7 Aug 1837.   During the whole of last night the vessel rolled very much and which was not at call compatible with our feelings.   Today for the first time since sailing the troops were supplied with preserved beef.

8 Aug 1837.   We had today an exceedingly smooth sea achieved as it was by an equally fine day.   This evening the moon appeared above the horizon at 9 pm .

9 Aug 1837.   Sunday, Had Divine Service at 10 am; in the course of the day saw a small bird similar to a swallow and at an early hour descried a sail a long way off and which continued in sight the whole of the day.

11 Aug 1837.   Sighted three vessels and during some part of the day passed the Island of Madeira.   For the last two days a small striped fish has continually kept close under the keel bows of the vessel.

13 Aug 1837.   Lime juice served out to the troops for the first time during the voyage.   This day has been hotter than any we have had as yet.

14 Aug 1837   We were greeted today with the appearance of flying fishes, the first we have seen since leaving England.

16 Aug 1857.   Sunday.   Prayers read by the Captain of the Ship.

17 Aug 1837.   The morning breaks upon us at the early hour of 4 ½ am and eventide spreads her mantle over the main at 7 pm.

21 Aug 1837   Friday.   We had a little diversion today by the capture of a shark measuring from 6 to 7 feet in length.   In the afternoon passed a Spanish vessel at so short a distance as to enable the Captains to speak verbally to each other and in the evening a little before dusk sighted another shewing signals of distress and which proved to be a French vessel bound to Havre from California 128 days out, her crew tho consisting of the Commander and eleven men being badly off for provisions, five of whom were laid up with sickness.   Capt. Edgell kindly sent them a sufficiency of tea, biscuit, lime juice etc and on the return of the boats left the Frenchmen to get home as best they could.

31 Aug 1857.   Today we crossed the line in West longitude (Sunday ).

9 Sep 1857.   A beautiful fine day as well calm and smooth sea the' last night there was a. downfall of rain.

14 Sep 1857.   Today the vessel rolled greatly owing to the calm sea and the heaving or swelling of the Atlantic.

15 Sep 1857.   Cape pigeons for the first time made their appearance.   They are about the size of common pigeons but thicker made, and have on each wing a round black spot, and are very pretty to look at.

16 Sep 1857.   Heavy showers of rain greeted us today.

17 Sep 1857.   The breeze having changed into a smart gale about 9 ½ am all sails excepting the fore and main sails and the jib together with the mizzen topsail were taken in the latter however by a couple of reefs.   During the afternoon we passed a vessel homeward bound.

18 Sep l857.   The gale which commenced yesterday morning continued the whole of last night to vent its fury upon the waters and our ship but abated somewhat during the course of the day.   In the afternoon a fine albatross was cleverly caught and was doomed by the sailors to the pot.   Today our latitude was 38, Longitude 11 West.

19 Sep l857.   The temperature of this day is 56.

20 Sep l857 Sunday.   The weather today is much colder and at 6 pm commenced to rain.   By the ship1s reckoning it was discovered that during the last 24 hours the vessel had run 240 miles.

21 Sep l857.   In Latitude 39 South and Longitude 5 West.

22 Sep l857.   Wind from south and squally - passed a large sailing vessel supposed to be the 1t0ctavia" with troops on board and lost sight of her before nightfall.
In Lat. 39-50 South - Long. 0.lm West.

23 Sep l857.   Today the weather is very cold and squally, occasionally had hail then sleet.   In the evening of today just after the sun had descended below the horizon a thick dark cloud swiftly passed over the vessel leaving in its trail a dead calm, the ship being at a standstill for the space of 20 minutes when another denser cloud hurried along through mid air directly over the Whirlwind bringing along with it a smart breeze and which increased as the cloud passed into a semi hurricane completely as it were capsizing not only the vessel but everything on board, the whole of the sails at that moment being full set, and which to right the ship were let go.   Today I was promoted Colour Serjeant.

24 Sept l857.   Today we have reached Lat.40 10 South, and Long l0.30 East.   Here the air is more temperate after sunset than during the day, the daytime being colder than the evening.

25 Sep 1857.   Rain, which makes everyone uncomfortable on board.

26 Sep 1857   Saturday.   During the course of the day we had scarcely any or no breeze, but as evening approached a gentle one sprang up enabling the vessel to sail along with square yards tho1 during the night the ship rolled.

28 Sep 1857.   Early this morning a vessel the "Sussex" having on board the 2nd Rifle Brigade made her appearance bound for India.

29 Sep 1857   During the morning part of the day we were in a dead calm, the Lat. being 39 South, Long 35 East.

30 Sep 1857.   A gale apprehensive took in and furled the Royals and top gallants and also a couple of reefs in top sails. In Lat. 39 South -Long 36 East.

1 Oct 1857   In a smart gale, the tho' sky is clear and the sun shining forth beautifully.   Ship pitching unmercifully to those on board, a few of whom are laid up with sea sickness, and ships occasionally a dose or two of sea water drenching all within the range of the salty waves.   Few or scarcely any birds to be seen excepting storm birds.

2 Oct 1857.   Today we are in Lat 42 South - Long 43 East

3 Oct 1857.   Have got into a stormy region - all the sails being reefed and rain falling fast.

4 Oct 1857.   By the time 9 had struck this morning the rain ceased and with it the heavier winds, thereby enabling the sailors to unfurl the sails, tho' the ship rolls exceedingly owing to the heavy swells.   In Lat 41 South and Long 52 East.   Have sighted no vessel since the 28 Sep - weather cold.

5 Oct 1857.   Weather cold tho' the sun shines splendidly and the day fine with a calm sea.   Today the Captain put out stern sails and squared the yards.

6 Oct 1857.   Course eastward direct in Lat 40 South -Long 61 East.   During the night the breeze increased to a gale.

7 Oct 1857.   Here we are tossed about pretty freely by the gale, foresail and topsail split by the force of the wind, all the others close reefed.   Rain at intervals.

8 Oct 1857.   In Lat 39 South - Long 69-25 East.

9 Oct 1857.   Fine day but cloudy evening and bearing every indications of rain.   In Lat 34 South, Long 74 East.

11 Oct 1857.   Sunday.   Saw two solitary Cape pigeons today in Lat 3l 16 South - Long 81 East.

13 Oct 1857.   No birds or ships to be seen in Lat 28 South - Long 81 East.

14 Oct 1857.   Have reached Lat 24 South - Long 81 East.

15 Oct 1857.   Vessel sailing splendidly being today in Lat 21-40 South, Long 81 East.

17 Oct 1857.   At 6 am this morning a vessel was sighted to leeward and at 9 am another to windward, these being the first ships we have seen for 18 days.

l8 Oct 1857   By the ship's course today we were in Lat. 10 30 South, Long 79-8O East.   During the night had lightning but thunder not heard.

19 Oct 1857.   Saw a ship

20 & 21 Oct 1857.   We begin now to feel the heat of the Equ it being excessively hot.   Today the sea was exceedingly calm and as smooth as a fresh water pond unrippled by the wind.   Saw several dolphins and a shark the latter being captured and hoisted on deck.

22 Oct 1857.   At 3 this morning there was a heavy downfall of rain.   In Lat 4-50 South - Long 79 East.   Ship at a standstill there being no breeze.   Day very hot.

24 Oct 1857.   Day hot, no breeze, sea calm and ship motionless.

25 Oct 1857.   Another shark was caught this morning which created a little amusement as the ship was in a dead calm.   Weather the same as yesterday, too hot to be comfortable.
In the afternoon the Captain of the vessel lowered two of the boats and allowed such men as wished a row to do so; I among the rest went, as also Miss Thompson did in the Captain's gig in company with Col. Rooke and several officers.   After the sun had gone down we had a genial shower of rain.

26 Oct l857.   Heavy rain at 2 am and at 10 o'clock the wind got up which enabled us to sail at about 5 knots an hour and as evening came increased to 7 knots per 60 minutes. In Lat 1 ½ South - Long 79 East

27 Oct 1857.   Today we crossed the Equator in the Indian Ocean our Long being 79 East.
One man 19th Foot (the first death on board) died of pneumonia.

28 Oct 1857.   Wednesday.   At 5 pm this day we came in sight of the Island of Ceylon, being the only land we had seen since leaving England, and as it was too late to enter Galle, the Captain of the vessel sailed to and from the land till morning, when on taking on board a Pilot, we anchored in the harbour of Point-de-Galle at 9 ½ am the 29 Oct l857.

30 Oct l857   Her Majesty's Troop ship "Adventure" Captain Lacy having been sent by the Indian Government at Calcutta to Ceylon to bring up troops expected from England, we being the first that arrived at Point-de-Galle where the vessel was in waiting were consequently transhipped and which occupied the whole of today in doing so, there being a good deal of baggage on board the "Whirlwind".

It would be tedious to describe the boats etc which the natives use off the coast of Ceylon and to their mode of working them.   Suffice, however, to say that the body of the boat so called is nothing else but the trunk of a tree, scooped out and so narrow as to only admit the legs of one person sitting by himself, tho' the boat will hold 4 or 5.   Across the boat at both extremities are tied ten pieces of wood some feet in length projecting into the water and at the end of which is attached crossways another piece these being to prevent the boat from turning over.   In propelling their craft along the Cingalese use a hand paddle striking the water on one side then on the other.   Their complexion is black, have good features, resembling much the Madrasees and are constantly chewing some kind of a root which colors their lips, mouth and teeth to a bright red.

31 Oct 1857.   Today the 2nd Bn Rifle Brigade, which arrived on board the "Sussex" were also transhipped on board the "Adventure" with their baggage thus augmenting the troops to 687 men.

1 Nov 1857.   Employed in the former part of today in getting on board the baggage from the "Sussex" and when 5 pm arrived steamed off from Trincomalee.   What a difference we have already found out there is between the comfortable quarters we have just parted with and our new ones on board H.M. "Adventure".   Not only are we pestered with cockroaches innumerable but with bugs and our fare as regards tea and biscuits complainable especially with the latter - it beirig as hard as iron and full of maggots - besides too there is not sleeping room enough as we are too overcrowded.

2 Nov 1857   A fine day, sailing close to the shore.

5 Nov 1857   At noon today the vessel entered the harbour of Trincomalee a most beautiful and natural sea port, capable of being rendered a most formidable defence for maritime warfare in protecting shipping etc.   Its entrance is narrow and of a circular form land lock on both sides terminating into a deep and extensive basin and protected by a small fort.   In the afternoon 5 Officers, 3 women 6 children and 76 men of 37th Foot, together with a woman of the Royal Artillery came on board and at 7 ½ pm the vessel steamed out again directing her course for Calcutta.   Crowded as we were when leaving Galle we of course were more so now, in fact the troops could scarcely move about on the upper deck to say nothing about sleeping room below.

4 Nov 1857   Today we had a very fine but exceedingly hot day, and what with the addition of the fires and the engines added of course more fuel to keep one's blood to fever heat and especially when now there were no less than 35 Officers, 766 men, 10 women and 12 children on board besides the ship's crew and this in the bay of Bengal.

Unfortunately for us the engine broke down at 10 pm and as the sea was as smooth as a looking glass without a breath of air we were obliged to be content and remain motionless.

5 Nov 1857   No wind, and no engine in working order, here we are at a standstill with bowel complaints prevailing - cause change of diet no doubt.

6 Nov 1857   Unable as yesterday to move from the same causes, till 6 pm.

8 Nov 1857   At 3 o1clock this day the blessed engine again broke down.

9 Nov 1857   Obliged to hoist out canvas to 3 knots per hour because of a broken engine which would not work, tho' the sea was like a mirror and the day as hot as any in Arabian deserts.

10 Nov 1857   Tuesday at 6 pm after patching up the works the engine was again set In motion but under very suspicious notions of another breakdown tho' it kept up well as also it did on the 11 Nov 1857 when we sighted a sail on the starboard bow early in the morning.

12 Nov 1857   As expected down breaks the engine at 10 ½ am thereby constraining us to abide the scorching rays of an Indian sun, without a breeze to fan our swelterIng bodies saturated as our clothes were with perspiration forcibly pressed through the pores of our frames.

l4 Nov 1857   At midnight last evening they again had managed to patch up the engine and set her to work and which enabled us toward evening to sight the Lightships of the sand heads leading to the mouth of the Hoogly where we anchored during the night.

15 Nov l857   Daylight having made its appearance the sailors drew up the anchor and the vessel steamed on till land appeared on the starboard bow.   By the time 30 minutes past eight were signalled by the fingers of the ship's clock when on proceeding onwards we found ourselves beside the ship Belle Isle at 3 pm having on board some of the 88th Foot.

19 Nov l857   This morning about 10 o'clock we cast anchor opposite Fort William, Calcutta, having been about 3 months and 22 or 23 days on one voyage from England.   The detachment under Colonel Mundy CB and which sailed in the "Alnwick Castle" some days before us having only arrived yesterday and landed where we are now.