MY CRUISE ON THE “BROOKLYN”
During my early store-keeping career in St. Louis, visitors and customers were so infrequent some days that it would be impossible to recall anything worthy to go into an autobiography. But I had one caller who made a certain obscure day conspicuous among the days of my life. Here again I see an example of the amazing enchainment of events in the course of a life-time.
I was at work in my store one day during 1851 when a boy of fourteen came in waving an official looking document. The boy was my brother, Edmund Orville. The document he was exhibiting with so much pride and elation was his commission from President Millard Fillmore to enter the Naval Academy as a cadet. My father had applied for the appointment a year before but for some strange reason no acknowledgement of the letter was received and it was thought that the application had been pigeonholed for good and all. Without any warning, or preparation for the news, the commission was brought one morning from the postoffice, connecting the name Matthews forever with the Naval annals of the United States.
Naturally I have taken immense pride in the patriotic service of my brother, and your uncle, Rear Admiral Edmund Orville Matthews, U. S. N. You need not be told of my delight when, in December, 1885, my brother invited me to join him on a long cruise of the Caribbean Sea. He had been ordered to take command of the frigate “Brooklyn” sailing under a “rover commission” or as the term was as a “tramp,” i.e., unattached to any fleet, to try to capture three filibuster vessels, the “City of Mexico,” the “Fram,” and one other. These ships had been fitted out, and equipped in the United States by ex-President Soto of Honduras. I left St. Louis January 1, 1886, joining the vessel at Pensacola, Florida. From there we went to Key West, remaining ten days with a Court Martial aboard trying some seamen. During the trial there was an alarm of fire and we were asked to help extinguish it. Attaching a hose to our pumps we went ashore with a number of men, doing some good work. Having ordered the saloons closed, when the proprietor of one of them made some ugly remarks, someone called out, “He is guying our Captain by keeping the saloon open.” Then we turned the hose on the saloon and it was unnecessary to close it. That season the weather was unusually severe. The water at Pensacola was so cold that red snapper were benumbed and floated so that boat loads could be picked up.
At Colon, Panama, we came under the jurisdiction of an Admiral, ceasing to be a “tramp” for a while. In about ten days we proceeded on our hunt for the filibusters.