Mary N. Matthews’ Journal
November 30, 1865
New Orleans, LA
Novembers 1865, we left St. Louis for Europe, starting from New Orleans.
The Portland Vase
On the boat going down to New Orleans, we met an English gentleman who
told us we must be sure to see the Portland Vase in the British Museum.
We were much disappointed when we saw it, not knowing its famous history
or having time to study it.
My husband, sister and I left New Orleans on Saturday, December the second,
after having had a very pleasant trip from St. Louis down the river to
New Orleans. After leaving N.O. we noticed either shore of the river dotted
with plantations, as they are along the coast above N.O. They are many
of them very large with beautiful residences surrounded by handsomely
improved grounds. On every plantation may be seen large sugar houses and
a long row of negro cabins. They are now making sugar, but very little
will be made this year, as they wish to save the seed for next year. The
shores on both sides are very flat and swampy. They are now quite green.
As we draw near the mouth we see on one side a long strip of land, while
on the other it will be all water, until we gradually emerge into the
We took passage from New Orleans on the Florida, a staunch English vessel,
but very small. We were conducted down the river and over what is called
the bar by pilots from N.O. We have besides our two former passengers,
Mr. and Mrs. Delbaneo, passengers from several nations, English, German,
Danish, Spanish, American and perhaps some others. We are only traveling
at 4½ knots an hour, as the wind is against us. The first day we
were at sea nearly all on board were sick. This is my first experience
of sea sickness and as I am not at all sick today, I think I am the better
for it. The Gulf which we are crossing on our way to Havana is not very
rough, but going against a head sea causes the steamer to pitch violently
at times. We have fair weather and at night bright moonlight.
Monday, the second day out, Nora and Mr. M. have been lying down all
day, but I have been very well.
December 5th – A lovely morning – All on board comparatively
well. We enjoyed our breakfast. I saw flying fish for the first time this
morning. They look beautiful, skipping from wave to wave. The sun is very
warm this morning. I fear we will have a hot day. At times we see a great
deal of Gulf weed, which is a bright orange color. We have set sail today
for the first time since we left New Orleans.
Dec. 6th – Another fine morning. We still continue to see numbers
of flying fish, which look like white birds flying from wave to wave.
I fear we will not get to Havana today. The usual time is sixty hours,
but we have had head winds all the time. We are now thinking of changing
our course, as we are all tired of the sea. From Havana, we speak of going
to New York, but will determine when we arrive. This is a British crew
steamer. Though it is small, we are quite comfortable. We have every attention
from the Captain and crew. The stewardess is particularly attentive. The
Physician of the vessel is very amusing. He tries to be agreeable to all.
Yesterday he read to us some sketches of his travels in Africa and repeated
some very good poetry. We have just arrived at Havana at six o’clock.
The pilot has taken us as far up the harbor as we will be permitted to
go tonight, so it is a law in all Spanish ports to permit no vessels to
go in or out of the Harbor after this hour. This seems a barbarous custom
to us. It is too bad after being so long at sea to be obliged to remain
in the harbor of a city all night. It is now twilight and the city looks
very pretty; from this distance, the buildings look all white and as the
gas lights are being lighted, it gives the appearance of an illumination.