Cornelius Gold, U.S. Navy, January 12, 1864 (i.e. 1865]


Cornelius Gold, U.S. Navy, January 12, 1864 (i.e. 1865]


United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Sources
United States.--Navy.--East Gulf Blockading Squadron.
United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865--Blockades


Cornelius Gold writes of his passage from New York to Key West, provides his impression of Key West, and describes his assignment in the Gulf of Mexico.




Key West Florida Thursday Jan. 12. 1864. [i.e. 1865]
My dear Mother
My hands are rather shaky, have
scarcely yet attained the firmness of dry land, but having
safely set my feet with a skip + jump of delight on
this little piece of terra, I make if my first business to
express gratitude by a letter to you.
We arrived at the Key and made fast to the wharf about
8 o’clock this morning just a week to an hour from
the time of weighing anchor and steaming through
the narrows of New York Bay.
Our first day out was fin though cold, and we
skirted the Jersey coast in quite comfortable style. But
as night drew on and the ship made off from land, sad
symptoms of the “vomito” appeared among the passengers.
I was attacked among the first in regular banditto fashion
by some spirit of the vasty deep who whispered in my
ear, “your supper or your life”! I felt very poor very
reduced in my circumstances next morning, but was
cheered somewhat when the sun rose + sea grew less
turbulent, with a hope that for me the battle was over. Mistaken
youth! The wind freshened, + hauling ahead was soon
blowing a gale right in our teeth, and the “Fort Morgan”

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rolled, pitched, tossed her head and snorted like a donkey in
distress. I ran to my kennel tumbled into bed and lay
there forty eight hours without stoppoing. Of the thirty officers
who took passage to the Gulf nearly all were sick, and
most of the ward-room servants ditto. one poor little “nig.” and
the steward alon escaping the latter only by keeping himself
primed with whiskey. One of the officers tried the same
preventive, but barely succeeded in drinking himself into
the tremens. He reports himself to the naval surgeon here
to day for treatment. Of personal mishaps I had few,
once my bed broke down, and stayed down thirty six hours for
want of strength in me or any aid to put it up, and once a
sea broke through the dead light completely drenching my
mattress and body, clothing, striking me full in the face
with such force as nearly to knock me out of my birth.
I had no dry change within reach, no choice but to lie down again
all wet as I was and sleep myself dry. Those were dismal
days to all of us, and more disagreeable I scarce ever
experienced on sea or land. The passage to Key West has been
unusually rough and long, and not until yesterday were we
favored with 24 hours of melting sun shine. Then as we
entered the straits of Florida the air grew soft + the sea
charming. The last trace of rudeness passed off, and for
the first time since Thursday last I sat down to a
satisfactory meal, indeed it was my first appearance at table.

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The ordeal was over, a tough one, but much needed, + well
adapted to fit me for life in the gulf. I began with a
“clean record” and shall endeavor henceforth to steer clear
of the Bilious Reefs. Today, I am quite well and strong.
Have taken a walk on the Island, and strolling away
to the military barracks fell in with a lieutenant who
politely asked me in and has furnished me with the
writing table and materials I am now using for you.
This is a very pleasant place for troops in Winter,
quartered in any buildings close upon the beach but
in summer exposed to Yellow Fever. Twelve or Fifteen
officers of this regiment (the 20 US Colored) died here
the last sesason from that disease. We shall remain
in port one two or three days to take in coal + discharge
freight. Our next stopping place after three days
sail will be Pensacola, + the enxt Mobile Bay. From
the latter shall probably be transferred by despatch
boat to New Orleans, whicle the Fort Morgan pursues
her course to the coast of Texas. Lo in the distance I
dimly see my own “Vincennes”. and though I rather wonted
now to this unsettled life, I look forward with pleasant
anticipation to a home even on a ship, a room, a corner that
for one month at least I may call my own.
I must go again now + finish my soup, take a good bath
if I can find it, + get a taste of Havana Banannas.

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It is the wrong season for cocoanuts, trees are plenty here
but the nuts are small + green. The Steamer “Empire City”
arrived close in our wake + today or tomorrow will proceed
on her way to New Orleans, with the Key West Mail.
This letter must go in her bag and may reach you in two
or three weeks. Very likely at the same time you will
receive another dated “New Orleans” or on board the
“Vincennes”. You of course will keep me informed of Henry’s
plans, doings + state as to health, should he not do so
himself, and he may consider my letter to you as half
his own. I hope he will do the best thing, whatever it may
be, remembering that the best is always cheapest, though
the first cost be a little greater.
I have some agreeable travelling companions and
anticipate a pleasant remnant to the trip. Many officers
leave us at this point, so the ship will be less crowded.
My love to Grandpa, Grandma, Aunt Julia ect. and
all the Washington friends who wish it. I think there
will be “enough to go around”.
Your aff. Son
P.O. Address A.A Pay’r Cornelius B. Gold
USS “Vincennes”
West Gulf Squadron

Cornelius received orders to remain in Mobile
Bay on reaching there. Post Office address is now
AA Payr. Cornelius B. Gold
USS Stockdale
Mobile Bay,




“Cornelius Gold, U.S. Navy, January 12, 1864 (i.e. 1865],” Linda Lear Center Digital Collections and Exhibitions, accessed June 14, 2024,