"Feelings Understood Only by Southern Men"
Famed blockade-running Captain Mike Usina of Charleston stated that the South truly had no naval traditions prior to the war, “but the record of the Southern sailors during the war is second to none that the world has ever produced, and should the emergency arise again, the descendants of the same men will emulate the example set by their fathers.” His faithful leadsman was a slave named Irwin.
Bernhard Thuersam, www.circa1865.org
“Feelings Understood Only by Southern Men”
“My leadsman was a slave owned by myself. On the last trip of the Atalanta, while under fire, the ship going very fast toward shoal water, I thought possibly he might get rattled, and to test him I said: “Irwin, you cant get correct soundings, the ship is going too fast, I’ll slow her down for you.”
He answered, “This is no time to slow down sir, you let her go, I’ll give you the bottom”; and he did, he being a leadsman without peer. I have had him in the chains [lashed to the spar] for hours in cold winter weather, with the spray flying over him cold enough to freeze the marrow in his bones, the ship very often in very shoal water, frequently but a foot to spare under her, and sometimes not that.
Yet I never knew him to make a mistake or give an incorrect cast of the lead. He is the man whom, when pointing to the island of New Providence I said: “Every man on that island is as free as I am, so will you when we get there.”
He answered: “I did not want to come here to be free, I could have gone to the Yankees long ago if I had wished.” And afterwards when the war was over, I said to him: “I am going to England, perhaps never to see Savannah again, you had better go home.”
His answer was: “I cannot go without you”; and he did not. The feeling that existed between us can only be understood by a Southern man; by a Northern man, never.”
(Chronicles of the Cape Fear, James Sprunt, Broadfoot Publishing, 1916/1992, pg. 426)