Blair Account of the Transfer of Russian America
Transcribed October 15, 2016
From the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library (Yale), an account by Andrew Alexander Blair (1848-1932), midshipman on the U.S.S. Resaca expedition.
Sica Entrance off Pr. of Wales Arch.
Friday, September 12th 1867
We got underway this morning about 7 O’clock and left Port Swipsur. We are going to Sitka direct outside of the Prince of Wales Archipelago and at 10 o’clock tonight we might to be about 120 miles from there so we may get in tomorrow night. The weather was very disagreeable all the morning, equals of wind rain and hail. But this afternoon it cleared off and was very pleasant. …. into the cabin last night and ready my notes on the passage up to the Captain. He thinks he may… but in Sitka and all through R.A. they speak the Stichine language.
I am going to try and learn the latter as it… useful to me if I stay up here any length of time as I think I …. surveying in this country.
Sitka Harbor H.A.
Monday September 16th `867
I have been so busy for the last two days that I have not had time to write at all. Early Saturday morning we sighted Cape Addington and about 4 o’clock we made Cape our many the southern…. of Baranoff the island at which Sitka is situated. About 1 o’clock we made Cape Edgecumbe the first point of Sitka sound and about 5 o’clock we got in the sound. From Mt Edgecumbe we could see C Ourmany although it was nearly 70 miles off. The atmosphere was so clear. The survey all up the coast was sufficient high peaks all along generally topped with snow. Some more conical, some more … flat and some jagged and mist around the base. Some ha their peaks just sticking out of a bank of clouds. When we got in… the islands of the sound we found severals guns and hoisted the jack for the pilot. He came alongside in a seal skin
canoe. just after dark but we had a light morn so it did not make much difference. From one side we could see the Governor’s House a large white building at the base of a very sharp peak but the rest of the town was behind the islands. The cause the pilot came off in had three lock in it and there was another course with him that had no holds in it. When they hauled over you could see through them.
Sitka Harbor is full of little islands and we came in among them and around a long island that lay just in front of the turn. We had to let go the anchor and near with …. as the harbor is so named that there is not room for the ships to…
It was after nine o’clock when we came to and after that we untied sails to store them away dry. We found the “Jamestown” safety moved here she had turn in three days and left a few days before us for this place.
Saturday morning when I got on deck I took a look at town. Abreast of us is the Indian village consisting of huts just as we say them all the way up. Back of them are the Totems, most of the painted and carved in the most fantastic manner. To the right of the village is the town which consists of the stone houses and dwellings of the Russian Fur Co., a church with tall steeples painted green and looking as I should imagine a mosque would look, and the… On the island opposite the town there are only one or two houses. There are… vessels here and several suen are expected in there have been a great many indians alongside in canoes. The indians are very much like all that we have seen before but their canoes are some what different being alike at both ends. In here they all day yesterday getting chains of the back and carrying up anchors 10. Saturday and Sunday were beautiful days but it has been raining all day today.
Sitka Harbor R.A.
Tuesday September 17th 1867
The Governor came on board this morning and had a chat with the Captain. We went ashore for another anchor and 90 farthings of chain to put ashore to secure us against the S. E. gales. The steward went share and got a mess of magnificent sea bass much the first kind of fish we have had this cruise. The Indians do not seem to care much for money but… whiskey in exchange for everything they have. They have venison, praine—chickens, ducks, salum, potatoes, etc. I… up on the foremast and practiced fixing at a mark with my revolver. I … Hank and Mr. Ames hit a rock about as large as a saucer 120 yds off. I got a book from Doctor named “Diarda” by Nuer Braddon. A house is to be built on deck over the storage hatch and it mis take in the ward move doors. It will be a splendid place to smoke in on rainy days. Rainy all day.
Sitka Harbor Ret.
Wednesday September 18th 1867
We went to working moving ship again early this morning and have been hard at it all day. Jeff brought off two more anchors and 90 fees chain. I hope …. be able to get through with it this week. Hank and I moulded 40 balls for my revolver today.
I think I shall go ashore tomorrow or the next day to see what sort of a place it is. I saw a large flock of geese flying southward, this morning. The Indians at the village seem to be in a terrible state of excitement this morning, gesticulating and speaking at a great rate. One of them had on a pair of red … and seemed to be the chief which a great many of them had their legs painted red as a substitute I supposed. All the Indians in the territory are mean and treacherous and many of them are here to succeed highly …. whites. Rainy, clear at intervals.
Sitka Harbor R.A.
Friday September 20th 1867
To the best of my recollection, 19 years ago I was a pretty small chap. Yesterday I was turned out at one o’clock in the morning and all hands were on deck hard at work getting some chain out of the “Jamestown’s” launch, for the Captain thought we were going to have a gale of wind. At half past time I was on board the “Jamestown” and… Capt’s orders to strike…. Yesterday after dinner we went to work… down all on yards and housed our top-masts and finished about six o’clock.
The pilot brought Hank and I a canoe today, it cost us $8.50. It is small, but is quite good. I went ashore in it with Law and we went all over the place but did not see much except the… the church and the… Mr. Ames came back with us although he was a little afraid of tipping here. It rained hard all day yesterday and today it was cloudy in the morning and rainy afternoon.
Sitka Harbor R.A.
Saturday September 21st 1867
At 5 o’clock this morning I… the canoe which was hoised to the strongback of the 1st cuter and found that some we had emptied stops of all kinds into.. I got a his and a paint swab and to the beach and chained her… The Revenue Cutter “Lincoln” came in this morning about 10 o’clock and is a very fine looking vessel after Captain carries a Commander’s broad at half mast head. I went ashore with Chap to get a piece of …
We went up to a shanty called “the market” and saw a great many Esquimaux curiosities. A shirt made of duck skins, one of caribou, a great many harpoons… They had services at the Upik church ashore today as this is their Sabbath. There is a Lutheran Church ashore but their services are in German I suppose. It has been raining or drizzling all day.
Sitka Harbor R.A.
Sunday September 22nd 1867
Sam and I started off at 5 o’clock this morning and take a short paddle in their canoe and I suddenly found out that I had asked permission to leave the ship. So the long and short of it is that although Mr. Ames tried to tell us off we are both quarantined until further notice. Mickey bought a seal skin craft and cup that $40 for crab $2 for the cap. I went ashore to the island with Mr. Ames and a brat over of men and put a chain around a large rock and shackled it to the chain from the second quarter. Once men from shore went on board the “Alexander,” a Russian Steamer near us, and in sending some of the yards un of the new was badly hurt aloft.
We went nearly all our sails on board the “Jamestown” this morning for safe keeping as we have no place to store them here. There was no rain for a short time this morning but it rained hard all the next day.
Sitka Harbor R.A.
Tuesday September 24th 1867
Yesterday morning Mr. Reed sent for me and said that I must send the canoe ashore, but I went to the Captain and I hope to be able to keep it after all.
I am still quarantined so I have not yet been net of the ship. Yesterday afternoon the “Lincoln” got underway and steamed net of the harbor in search of… of a deposit of magnetic in one of the islands. It is said I have very … very much interested in a book by Mr. Oliphant called “Laida.” It is beautifully written and the characters are strongly drawn the plot of very good. We have been sending all our rigging gear ashore and a loft. I sent my wash clothes ashore but how they need be fixed in this out of the many place I cannot say. It has been raining hard yesterday and today and last night it blew a gale of wind for a short time.
Sitka Harbor R.A.
Thursday September 28th 1867
We painted ship … yesterday and will probably cral ship Saturday.
They have a canoe on board the “Jamestown”and yesterday they had hw in the hangway giving hw a coat of blue paint. We had a fine tender goose for dinner today I went to the main top this afternoon and saw a large shop cruising in in hw of the steamer hue and a bark in the offing. The ship got in a little while ago and Hand was sent aboard in the dinghy and see what she was.
She is 14 days from San Francisco and Hand found a friend of May… Dana on board. She has mail for us which we will get as soon as she is safely moored in her beth… and the “Alexander.”
The sun was out yesterday morning and staid out until 10 o’clock then it was cloudy until 6 o’clock and has rained steadily last night and all day today.
Sitka Harbor R.A.
Friday September 29th 1876
The mail came over last night and I got seven letters from mother and the children. This was indeed a treat.
I went to the mast head this morning and saw the bark inside. The little side wheel steamer went net and toward hw in about 12 o’clock. She is an American bark 20 days from San Francisco. She brought us no mail.
We got a deer today and had some nice venison for supper. We got 8 tons of crab from the “Jamestown” this afternoon. The Russian ship that came in last night hauled ahead of us this morning. Gen Davis came up in hw as an agent for the American Fur Company. The launch was fitted not today with hw and Mr. Reed went in hw to get water.
As we had only 550 gals on hand at noon today. He did not get much. It has been raining nearly all day today.
Sitka Harbor R.A.
I have not had such good eating for some time as I have had today, salmon, venison, pheasant, and dick. The Captain told me today that Capt Howard of the Revenue Lorice is going to Washington and as he knows rather I shall go to see him tomorrow if I can get out of limbo. Mr. Ames went out hunting early this morning with some of the officers of the “Jamestown” in their canoe, but they did not get anything. Poor little “Fauny” the black and tan pup we got in Pauwa did today. She was very… indeed and was the pet of the ship. She could sit up, stand and walk and dance on her hind legs and her forms varies with tricks. She was a beautiful dog indeed.
There are two more vessels outside here but it has been blowing a gale of wind from the N.E. all day and they could not get in as there is no steamer in harbor and two them against the wind. It has been raining and blowing hard all day.
Sitka Harbor R.A.
Sunday September 29th 1867.
We had inspection this morning at quarters and afterwards our Red told Sam and I that we were released from quarantine. So I immediately went out paddling in the canoe. The bark that I saw… came in today. Other name is the “Maineluke” and she flies the land flag. She anchored ashore after and at low tide she got aground. They will probably get hereafter high tide. She brings coal and for the “Lincoln.”
I went out in the canoe in the afternoon with Mr. Maes and we went about 3 or 4 miles. I keep the canoe ashore on the island at night I think I shall make a sail for her. I am going hunting on the island for geese some time this month. The captain Mr. Ames at the Paymaster went ashore and call in the Governor today. Mr. Ames says his wife is a very… lady about 23 years old. The weather has been beautiful today. Clear and cool.
Sitka Harbor R.A.
Monday September 30th 1867.
I put my shirt on… part before this morning and left it that way for good luck which caim to me me in a most satisfactory manner. I first returned the ink stained…
Then I was out hunting all day with Mr. Ames and did not kill a single thing. We first went ashore and passed through the town to the lake behind it. Then we walked along the lake shore for some distance in a swamp sinking to our knees in mud at nearly every step. We left the lake and struck in for the beach which was finally gained after a struggle through thick under brush and mud. We walked along the… which we finally gained after… We found the Captain and Doctor there and the “Jamestown” launch getting water. We looked at som.. Coming back and Capt and Mrs . McDougal. We took the course and spent the rest of the day had got nothing. This has been another fine day clear and pleasant.
Tuesday October 1st 1867.
I found the canoe split and leaking badly yesterday afternoon but this morning Hank and I took her ashore and caulked her so that she is perfectly tight again. When I went to the last head I saw a large steamer coming in which… the Russians Fur Co’s vessel the “Constantine.” Hank and I went ashore after dinner and took a walk around town. Went to the bowling alley and… a couple of games nine pins. Coming back we met Mickley and the pilot at the market. Mickley accompanied us on board the “Constantine” the first mate invited us down with the captain and gave us some champagne and cigarettes. He had no Osgaimaux curiosities though she said the cargo up front was valued at over $1,000,000.00. AFter we came back Chief and Hank went out in the canoe and saw several ducks. Another beautiful day clear and pleasant.
Sitka Harbor Alaska Terr. U.S.
Friday October 18th 1867.
Early this morning I saw a steamer coming in and soon after she made her … When she got in the Captain went on board and I went to the “John L Stevens” and took Gen. Davis and two of his staff over to the “Osoifer.” When we got onboard I saw McCormick, Cutte Lotter, Rohen, and Judd. Turbull, Dayton, and Sprague having seen undue from here to the “Deusacola” at Man Island. The “Ospiger” brought up the Rousseau, the… Russian Commissioner, the collector of the Port and one or two others. They came up the inside passage all the way from Victoria to Cape Ourneaney. Making the passage from San Francisco in 22 days. Gen Rousseau seemed to be in a pretty big hurry and got back so he have orders to have the troops landed and everything ready for the ceremony at 3 o’clock. We sent all the brats we could
shore , the “Jamestown” and “Orsuphus” sent theirs and the troops were all landed at the brat house and marched up to the open place in front of the Governor’s House where the flag staff is. All the Russian troops were there also. I went over at 3 o’clock in the gig with the Captain and Mr. Ames, we called at the “Stevens” for the ladies but found that they had all gone over some time before we got there. We went to the Governor’s House and went into the parlor where we found the Governor, the two Russian Commissioners Gen. Rousseau, Gen. Davis, Capt. Emmons of the “Ossiphus” and a great many others.
When they all got ready we went out to the flag staff while the troops were drawn out. The troops presented arms we all took off our caps and they started the Russian flag down but it pulled some way or other and the inside edge tore off leaving the main part of the flag hanging aloft and no way to get it down.
Several of the Russian soldiers started up the guy to get it down but they were all tired out before they got up. See this time the “Ossipu” and the battery shore were laughing array at a salute of 21 gous apiece and the colors were shore from the masthead at the front. American at the main and mizzu. After fooling for about 15 minutes they suddenly thought of hoisting a man up with a tackle of which there were two on the flag staff. They hoisted him up in a jiffy and he got the flag but instead of bringing it down with him he dropped it on the heads of the soldiers below.
After some delay on account of the battery, the American flag was hoisted saluted by the battery on shore and the shipping in the harbor. The people around have three cheers, the highs played the troops were marched off and embarked and we all returned the parlor and took a glass of cham-
-pagne and returned on board.
As the reporter for the “Herald” was Jesuit that paper will probably contain the pretty sentiment about the “stars and stripes” waving triumphantly, etc.
At the indian village the headchief Michael Kenkau hauled down the Russian flag from the staff in front of his house and after a …. Twisted it up again and they all came to the conclusion that although they have the country to the Russians they did not agree to give it to every one that happened to come along. So Uncle Samuel must move off. “Lo! The poor Indians.”