The Whales: Leviathans and “Fish”

I’m no scientist, but I do know whales are mammals. However, it’s not uncommon to find them called “fish” in 19th Century writings. What’s going on?

Today’s blog post explores some of the origins of 19th Century names for whales, briefly discusses the catalog of whales found in Moby Dick, and reviews the differences between toothed and baleen whales. Continue reading

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1862: “Helpless Woman That I Am!”

June 16, 1862

I think of the many mothers, wives and sisters who wait as anxiously, pray as fervently in their far away lonesome homes from their dear ones, as we do here; I fancy them waiting day after day for footsteps that will never come, growing more sad, lonely, and heartbroken as the days wear on.

What woman has stretched out her hand to save them, to give them a cup of cold water? Where is the charity that should ignore nations and creeds, and administer help to the Indian or heathen indifferently? Gone! All gone in Union versus Secession. That is what the American war has brought us. Continue reading

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John Y. Beall – A Confederate Spy (Who Got Hanged)

Oops! I guess I put the spoiler in the title. Oh, well. Hopefully, it makes you more curious. After-all, unless you’ve really researched Confederate spies, hangings, secret agents, or sabotage along the Great Lakes/Canadian border, you probably haven’t heard of John Yates Beall.

How did I discover this historical character? The McGuires. If you’ve been following Gazette665 for a while or check our photos on social media, you’ll know that I’ve been researching the McGuire Family of Winchester, Virginia, for about three years now. One of the McGuire boys (Edward) was involved in some secret agent or spy stuff with John Beall. In fact, Edward was so secretive that I’m still looking for clear information about his activities. That will have to be another story at another time.

Today, we’re talking about John Yates Beall, a Confederate spy. Why was he a spy? What did he do? How did he get caught? Let’s find out: Continue reading

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Whaling Ships – A Few Historical Details

It’s time to talk about the actual whale ships. But don’t confuse them with the whaleboats – there is a difference. Whaleboats were the smaller vessels used in the actual hunt; they were about 28-30 feet in length and not designed for a long voyage and equipped with oars, steering oar, and long lengths of rope which would be connected to the harpoon.

Today, we’ll focus on the big ship. The one that left harbor, sailed around the world, carried the smaller whaleboats, housed the crew, provided a platform for the boiling pots, and stored the barrels and bundles of profit. How big were these ships? What was the layout of the decks? How much could a ship stand from weather and other forces of nature? Let’s explore…

(For those of you who might be wondering about a new post on Thursday… Since we skipped a maritime post on Wednesday last week, you’ll get two this week to keep the series on schedule.) Continue reading

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Captains & Crews On Whaling Ships

Recently, a friend told me how much she was enjoying this series on 19th Century American Whaling, and she followed the compliment with this observation, “But what a hard and horrible way to make a living.” That’s true. Whaling – even with its economic potential – had hard work. It was gross, messy, and back-breaking.

In some of the previous posts, we’ve discussed some of the ranks and demographics of whaling. Today, we’ll try to explore this a little more in-depth. Who was who on a whaling ship? Why did men work in the industry? (Were captains really as infamous as Captain Ahab from Moby Dick?) Continue reading

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1862: “Crude Procedures”

One spectacle of anguish and agony only succeed another. The mind was overwhelmed and benumbed by such scenes of accumulated misery…. Great must be the cause which demands such a sacrifice. Continue reading

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