Thursday, July 1, 2010

Naval Vessel Hijacked Crossing the Line


Aboard the Battleship Louisiana in 1907 the following incident occurred and was recorded in,

WITH THE BATTLE FLEET: CRUISE OF THE SIXTEEN BATTLESHIPS OF THE UNITED STATES ATLANTIC FLEET FROM HAMPTON ROADS TO THE GOLDEN GATE DECEMBER, 1907 - MAY, 1908 by Franklin Matthews (Courtesy of Collier's Weekly) 1909


The Commander-in-Chief U. S. Atlantic Fleet received the following signal:
"By virtue of the authority invested in me by his Majesty, Neptunus Rex, ruler of the Royal Domain, I have to inform you that I have this night boarded the good ship Louisiana for the purpose of informing the commanding officer that he has entered the domain ruled by his Majesty and that he has a cargo of landlubbers, polly-wogs and sea lawyers on board whom it will be necessary to initiate into the royal realm before he can pass through, and as such his Most Gracious Majesty will tomorrow morning board the good ship Louisiana and carry out the ceremonies as prescribed by the regulations of the royal realm. His Majesty wishes me to convey his compliments to you and to state that he is pleased to have you with him once more in his royal domain, although it has been some time since he has been able to greet you personally."

MAIN TOP BOWLINE, Secretary of His Most Gracious Majesty,

NEPTUNE REX,

Ruler of the Royal Domain.


Admiral Evans signalled back his thanks for the greeting, sent his compliments to Neptune and expressed the hope that Neptune and his party would have a "royal good time on the Louisiana."

The next morning ...his Majesty and consort and their court of fifty-two persons in stately step trod the deck to greet Capt. Wainwright. Neptune swung his trident proudly, and as he came to a full stop he said:
" Sir : I have come to-day to your ship to exercise the full command that pertains to the rule of my domain. I have come to initiate the landlubbers and pollywogs on this vessel. You will relinquish command to me and I expect that full honors will be paid to my rank. I am honoring this ship of the fleet especially because my distinguished friend and colleague, the President of the country from which you come, once used this ship on a near approach to my dominions. I am informed that he would be here today in person if the cares of State did not prevent. I am told he is here in spirit. I shall order, therefore, a special honorary certificate of membership for him. [Aside, "Can't some of you keep that damned monkey from screeching so much?"] I shall now proceed to your cabin, after which the ceremonies of the royal initiations will proceed."


... Neptune himself wore a scarlet robe with sea serpents em- broidered on it and with a golden hemp fringe all around the edges. His face and legs and arms were stained a beautiful mahogany color. A great beard of yellow rope hung down over his fat belly. Amphitrite was in white. She wore a sea green flat hat and carried a black cat done up in baby's clothes. That cat stayed with her for two hours without moving. "My!" said one of the ordinary seamen who had cruised many a time along the Bowery, "don't she look just as if she came straight from the Bowery and Hester street? How are ye, Amph?" A clout on the head by a mate made him "shorten his chin sail."

The lawyers opened their books to certain paragraphs of the "Revised Statutes," chiefly paragraph 4-11-44; the barbers sharpened their enormous razors, "made in Yarmany" ; the policemen drew up in line, the orderlies rolled up the barrel of lather, made of oatmeal and water, and another barrel of "tonic," to be used in enormous squirt guns. It was Neptune's "dope" for the unruly. Then Neptune, with a flourish of his trident and settling his gilt crown well back on his head, as Amphitrite nestled to his side, asked if all prep- arations had been completed. "Yes, your Majesty," replied Main Top Bowline. "Then let the initiations proceed. Bring forward as the first victim that newspaper man. He shall have special attention," was the command. The Sun man mounted the steps to the howls of 800 persons. Dr. Flip sounded his lungs, examined his teeth, felt his arms and legs, made him wiggle his fingers and then said: "Your Majesty, a very bad case. 'E's got a ingrowin' brain!" "What do you prescribe?" "Well, your Majesty, we have here medicines for the cure of spavin, sore throat, consumption, chilblains, diphtheria, eczema, measles, neuralgia, heartburn "Never mind the rest," said the King. "What is the treatment?" "The same for all, sire," was the response. "A good shave, an injection in the arm of my 'dope' [composed of molasses and water] some powder on his head and a ducking in the briny seas." "Very good!" replied his Majesty. Then the trouble began.

... While the initiations were going on Neptune ordered this message semaphored to Admiral Evans, the Commander in Chief: Admiral R. D. Evans, U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
I am happy to inform you that your son and the son of the captain of your noble flagship have this day declared their allegiance as my loyal subjects.
Lieuts. F. T. Evans and H. W. Osterhaus are attached to the Louisiana and occasionally they have to take a good deal of chaffing and no favors when an "unofficial message" from "father " comes over the signals. This was the reply that Neptune received from the flagship:
Neptune Rex: We are delighted that our sons are at last real sailors. They have Served a long time. Soak 'em, boys !
... Occasionally a sea lawyer, one with an established reputation as such among the crew, would come up. He was asked if he wanted to argue his case. Not one of them did. "Give it to him good," Neptune would shout. And they did. The rest of the crew understood the significance of the extra ducking and howls of glee resulted. The sea lawyers usually had to be helped out of the tank.

...So hour after hour the initiation went on until the last man had been rounded up and Neptune pronounced the day's work well done. He sent this signal to Admiral Evans : The Commander-in-Chief, U. S. Atlantic Fleet.
I have to inform the Commander-in-Chief that I have completed the ceremonies on board the good ship Louisiana, will haul down my standard and take my departure. The Commander-in-Chief will accept my best wishes for himself, officers and men of the United States Atlantic fleet for a most pleasant voyage, and may all the royal subjects meet again.

NEPTUNUS REX, Ruler of the Royal Domain.


Neptune then retreated into the fo'c'sle for refreshment and remained there until darkness came. Then a barrel filled with oakum and oil and tar was set on fire and put afloat. It sailed away in the night. It was "Neptune's boat," and he was going back to his royal domains. After he had gone certificates duly signed and embellished with mermaids and sea urchins and starfish and ropes, with an octopus for a background and a picture of Neptune rising from the sea at the top and with the ship's seal affixed to bits of red, white and blue ribbon, were presented to all hands. Never again will a man who can show one of them have to take a dousing and barbering with suitable medical treatment on crossing the line.

3 comments:

The Underground Pewster said...

Love it. I still have my gradfather's certificate from when he was initiated into the Order of Neptune in 1919. It looks like he "crossed the line" very near the same line of longitude as the one the U.S.S. Louisian was on in 1907!

Wallace H. Hartley said...

I would love to see it. You should make a blog post out of it.

The Underground Pewster said...

Here is the link to my post. Myths and Legends: Pollywogs and Shellbacks.