Chapters

9 - The Stone Fleet Herman Melville The Stone Fleet: b An Old Sailor's Lament. (December, 1861.) I have a feeling for those ships, Each worn and ancient one, With great bluff bowsA broad and rounded rather than pointed bow, more suited for warfare though not speed. Melville's usage here echoes an entry in the Rebellion Record, a reprint of an account of the event in the New York Tribune: "her bluff bows nod to us rather gracefully" (Cohen 219)., and broad in the beam: Ay, it was unkindly done. But so they serve the Obsolete— Even so, Stone Fleet! You'll say I'm doting; do but think I scudded round the Horn in one— The Tenedos, a glorious Good old craft as ever run— Sunk (how all unmeet!) With the Old Stone Fleet. An India ship of fame was she, Spices and shawls and fans she bore; A whaler when her wrinkles came— Turned off! till, spent and poor, Her bones were sold (escheatIn probate law, the government's right to take ownership of unclaimed estate assets and properties unassigned in a will. In this case, the sea claims final ownership of the decommissioned and scuttled ships (Cohen 219).)! Ah! Stone Fleet. Four were erst patrician keels (Names attest what families be), The Kensington, and Richmond too, Leonidas, and Lee: But now they have their seat With the Old Stone Fleet. To scuttle them—a pirate deed— Sack them, and dismast; They sunk so slow, they died so hard, But gurgling dropped at last. Their ghosts in gales repeat Woe's us, Stone Fleet! And all for naught. The waters pass— Currents will have their way; Nature is nobody's ally; 'tis well; The harbor is bettered—will stay. A failure, and complete, Was your Old Stone Fleet. [Melville's] Note b, page 31. "The terrible Stone Fleet, on a mission as pitiless as the granite that feights it, sailed this morning from Port Royal, and before two days are past will have made Charleston an inland city. The ships are all old whalers, and cost the government from $2500 to $5000 each. Some of them were once famous ships." —(From Newspaper Correspondence of the day.)Sixteen vessels were accordingly sunk on the bar at the river entrance. Their names were as follows:Amazon, America, American, Archer, Courier, Fortune, Herald, Kensington,Leonidas, Maria Theresa, Potomac, Rebecca Simms, L. C. Richmond, Robin Hood, Tenedos, William Lee.All accounts seem to agree that the object proposed was not accomplished. The channel is even said to have become ultimately benefited by the means employed to obstruct it.