Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Narrative of Captain David Woodard

Travel books, especially older ones, can transport you to a world completely different from the one we know today.  

A well told adventure gives us a vivid image of a place and the people.  Cultural differences between the author and the new people they encounter seem more pronounced and descriptions are tailored toward the intended audience.  Maps and the names of places are different from what we know today.  Yet in the course of reading these stories, we discover that basic human nature hasn't changed very much.

Below is one such book and its subtitle doubles as a summary:

The narrative of Captain David Woodard and Four Seamen:  who lost their ship while in a boat at sea, and surrendered themselves up to the Malays in the island of Celebes; containing an interesting account of their sufferings from hungar and various hardships, and their escape from the Malays, after a captivity of two years and a half:  also an account of the manners and customs of the country, and a description of the harbours and coast, &C.  Together with an Introduction, and an Appendix, containing Narratives of Various escapes from Shipwrecks, under great hardships and abstinence; holding out a valuable seaman's guide, And the Importance of Union, Confidence, and Perseverance, in the Midst of Distress.

Who was Captain David Woodard?  Though there isn't a lot of information about him, he was an American sailor born around 1759.  His age and naval experience suggest he likely participated in the American Revolution.  A much older Captain David Woodward is mentioned several times in historical papers of the period. In the Mariners of the American Revolution lists a David Woodard of the HMS Jason which was captured by the British. In the Bibliotheca Britannica of 1824, there is also a reference to this discrepancy in the spelling of his name. At the end of the book, it is suggested that by 1805, Captain Woodard had retired on "a little farm near Boston and was living independently".

    Although the story is told from Captain Woodard's perspective, his narrative was actually written by William Vaughn, a prominent merchant of the time, who met Woodard in London. Vaughn relates the story of meeting Woodard in the introduction:


    "On Captain Woodard's arrival off the Isle of Wight he 27th of July, 1796, in a ship called the America, bound from the Isle of France to Hamburgh, he came up to London, conformably to his orders, to the address of Messrs. Vaugh and Son, to receive the instructions that were waiting for him from his owners in America.  Accident led to a discovery that he had been a prisoner amongst the Malays in the island of Celebes between two and three years, under great hardships and great trials.  He related his adventures; and having ever felt an interest in voyages of discovery and their most remarkable occurrences, I solicited him, during the few days he was under my roof, to allow his narrative to be committed to paper, to which he readily consented....The account was then shown to him, and corrected under his own direction, with permission to print the same at my own discretion....This narrative was drawn up under many disadvantages; which were increased by the shortness of captain Woodard's residence in England.  He came to London on the 29th of July, and a few days after returned to Cowes to bring his ship round to the river Thames, where she was discharged; and he sailed for America on the 27th of August, 1796.  The causes which delayed its publication were want of leisure, from various avocations of a public and a private nature for the last ten years..."

Vaughn's original story was first published in 1804 and again in 1805.  Praise and criticism for his account were given in The Monthly Review; or Literary Journal in July 1805.  The same year, The Naval Chronicle also included a summary and criticism of the original book by Vaughn.  

In 1808, his story was reprinted under a different title, Extraordinary Hardships and Adventures of Captain David Woodard and Five Companions, who Lost Their Vessel, the Resistance, and Afterwards Their Boat at Sea: Including Their Escape from the Malays, After Captivity of Near Three Years, and the Horrid Murder of Archibald Millar, One of the Above Party, by Thomas Tegg.

A History of Shipwrecks, and Disasters at Sea from Most Authentic Sources published as a two volume set in 1833, includes the story of Captain Woodard and his men as well as many other narratives.  

Lost Ships and Lonely Seas by Ralph D. Paine, published in 1921, retells the story of Captain David Woodard.   
"LONG before the art of Joseph Conrad created Lord Jim to follow the star of his
romantic destiny to the somber, misty coast of Patusan, an American sailor lived and dared amazingly among the sullen people of those same mysterious islands of the Far East. He was of the race of mariners whose ships were first to display the Stars and Stripes in those far-distant waters and to challenge the powerful monopolies of the British and Dutch East India companies. Only seven years earlier, in fact, the American ship Empress of China had ventured on the pioneering voyage to Canton. The seas still swarmed with pirates and every merchantman carried a heavy battery of guns and a crew which knew to use them.  Amid such conditions were trained the sailors who were to man the Constitution  and the other matchless frigates of 1812."

Woodard is given credit as one of the inspirations to Charles Boardman Hawes when he wrote the following in his 1923 book, The Mutineers:

    To master, mate, and men of the ship Hunter, whose voyage is the backbone of my story; to Captain David Woodard, English mariner, who more than a hundred and twenty years ago was wrecked on the island of Celebes; to
Captain R.G.F. Candage of Brookline, Massachusetts, who was party to the
original contract in melon seeds; and to certain blue-water skippers who
have left sailing directions for eastern ports and seas, I am grateful for fascinating narratives and journals, and indebted for incidents in this tale of an earlier generation.

In the narrative of Captain Woodard, the intended destination was Makassar, under Dutch control at the time, to resupply their ship on the way to Manila. Today Celebes is known as the island of Sulwesi.

The Malays, as described here, was a general description, but the people of Celebes were made up of several tribes. Though they spoke a common language there were variations from village to village and tribe to tribe. As Captain Woodard and his men encountered different situations on the island, he describes the differences in how they were treated or perceived.  
Also the way in which the Malays were described or perceived by the intended audience of Georgian era England needs to be taken into account.   In 1818, the History of the Island of Celebes by Mr. Roelof Blok is published in which it gives the history and abandonment of the slave trade in Macassar.  

There are many other books from later periods which describe more adventures.
John Crawfurd gives a description of Celebes in his 1856 A Descriptive Dictionary of the Indian Islands and Adjacent Countries. In 1869, Arthur Russell Wallace wrote The Malay Archipelago.


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