1848: Capt. James T. Homans to James Edward Homans

How Capt. Homans may have looked

These six letters were written by Navy Captain James T. Homans (1805-1849), the son of Benjamin Homans (1765-1823) and Martha Newell (1766-1850). Capt. Homans married Elizabeth Kay on 6 September 1829 in Albany, New York, and by the time of his death in 1849, the couple had six (living) children: Martha Isabelle Homans (b. 1831), James Edward Homans (1834-1882), Elizabeth (“Libby”) Homans (b. 1835), Henry (“Harry”) Homans (b. 1838), William M. Homans (b. 1839), and John Homans (b. 1843).

Rev. James Edward Homans’ Gravestone

Capt. Homans wrote these letters to his oldest son James Edward Homans (1834-1882) who was at the time 14 years old and working as a book-keeper for the firm M. C. Morgan & Company on West Street in New York City. After his father’s death, James would graduate from Kenyon College in Ohio (A.B. 1857) and the Theological Seminary at Alexandria, VA. (A.M. 1860) and had a long, successful career serving the Episcopal Church.

The first four letters were written from New Orleans just weeks prior to his departure from New Orleans as captain of the 231-ton, iron-screw steamer Scourge. Homans captained the vessel in company with the former American minister to Venezuela (Charge d’ Affaires), Mr. Vespasian Ellis, who had purchased and previously negotiated to sell the vessel for $50,000 to General Jose Antonio Paez, then leading a revolt against the administration of President Jose Tadeo Monagas. The Scourge (formerly named the Bangor) was originally built as a merchant vessel but her iron-hull made her attractive as a war ship so when the War with Mexico erupted in 1846, she was purchased by the U.S. Government, equipped for war, and assigned to the command of Lt. Charles G. Hunter. She won notoriety in March 1847 when Lt. Hunter captured the Mexican port of Alvarado rather than simply “blockading” the port, which were the orders received by Commodore Perry. Hunter was initially suspended by Perry pending an investigation of failing to comply with orders but he was later exhonerated.

The following extract describes the voyage of the Scourge:

“The last registration of the 231-ton Scourge, also an iron-screw steamer, was issued at New Orleans on October 9, 1848, to John Jeter of Lafayette, Louisiana. It sailed from that port with enough coal to get to the island of Aruba, and there Jose Hermenegildo Garcia, agent for Paez, bought it from Vespasian Ellis for $50,000. Unfortunately for the rebels, the ‘enthusiastic Garcia, though very able in making speeches, knew nothing of naval affairs. By his advice and urgent solicitations she [the Scourge] was hurried to San Carlos with as many bundles of brushwood as the barren soil of Aruba could afford. By the time she reached the bar, the steamer had consumed the last chip. Meanwhile, Beluche had mounted three large and two small cannon on the Liberator, rounded up a crew of a hundred men, and sailed on November 8 to join Briceno’s fleet. Beluche arrived off the bar in time to capture the Scourge, send it with a prize crew to Puerto Cabello, and cross the bar into Lake Maracaibo with Briceno’s fleet.”

The last two letters were written by Homans from Curacao and from Caracas, Venezuela while engaged in the voyage as captain of the Sourge.

Capt. James T. Homans is buried in the Old City Cemetery in Sacramento, California. He died 20 July 1849. In 1858, when the Captain’s son, William M. Homans, died in New York, William’s body was conveyed to Sacramento to be buried next to his father.


New Orleans [Louisiana]
August 3d 1848

My Dear James,

Your long letter of July 22d continued on the 23d came to hand this morning with the enclosures from Libby & Harry. I also received at the same time a letter from Mr. Morgan enclosing one from your mother, and one too arrived from Grandpa Kay, making quite a mail for me. There were all truly welcome except the one from your mother because she says in it that she will not send Harry by the present trip of the “Crescent City.”  This is too much for me to bear, after the disappointment of his not coming by the last trip, yet there is room for hope that in the week intervening between the date of her letter & the departure of the Steamer, a different conclusion will be come to. I fear much, my dear boy, that the sorrowful tidings to me alluded to, have interfered with your having so long a letter in reply to yours, or so cheerful as you are entitled to. Another letter from you, announcing the receipt of your present & dated the 17th Ult. came to hand on the 27th but I have not been able sooner to acknowledge it. I am glad to learn you are delighted with the ____ – it is really a valuable one & will last with care many years.

By Libby & Harry’s communications I am informed they likewise appreciate their presents. They have herewith replied to their valuable letters. Libby has really much improved in chirography since she wrote to me last & I trust she will continue thus well doing. By a former letter from Mr. Morgan, I was rejoiced to learn of his having obtained considerable of the [text blurred] from the Pawn Broker: the silver cup & ____ I prize very much. You named this too in your letter of July 17th. There will have been I trust no objection to sending my pistols, Highland ____ by the “Crescent City.” They cannot get sick nor can I, it is to be presumed, [paper creased] or fear as expressed of such a calamity befalling me. I will endeavor to get some of the things named in your letter so as to send by the “C.C.” on her trip home on the 15th inst., but I cannot promise at this moment. The towelling sent in the carpet bag will supply some of the wants. Beds, table linen are expensive articles anywhere, as well as silk drapes, _____ but Matly shall have her items, if things turn up soon as I hope they will.

At this season of the year, New Orleans is not so warm as New York so the thermometer will demonstrate. I have for most of the last month had the windows entirely closed all night but I am sadly lonesome, & were Henry only here, I could be in some measure reconciled to my exile from the rest of you. The next time I leave you, I shall take all I desire to; there can then be no unjustifiable refusals of any one. Should you send as you promise the measures of the boy, I will send some clothes such as you name by the “C.C.

Your poor leg, my dear boy, has been a sad misfortune in confining you so long, but I hope & pray your deliverance will soon be at hand under Dr. Grey’s treatment. Have patience, my son, as I am told you have had in great degree. You will enjoy yet your emancipation & a pleasant visit to Norwich. The second ten dollars, which sent by letter by mail of July 16th, I trust, went safe to hand, but there is no mention made in any of your letters of the cost for Willie’s ___ suit.

Captain Wetmore, about the 10th of July, which he promised to call & deliver himself. He had plenty of time to do so ____ date of your letter received today. Those per Mr. Raulett were no doubt delivered by him in due season. Mr. Morgan said in his letter to me of July 13th, “James is a very faithful, trusty lad, & we miss him very much. If he takes pains with his handwriting (& I urge that continually) I shall make a Book Keeper of him next year.” Thus you see how important it is to try all you can, diligently perseveringly, to improve in that respect. In your last letter I lament to see some mistakes in spelling, which are somewhat excused by your illness, yet you should have reflected more upon them — thus Hemoepathic, Alipathiet, freinds (3 times), inflamation, accompaniing, afects, givin, Treiste, charecter, deasease, veiw; all those words I think you can spell correctly without referring to the dictionary and I do not name them to find fault but to make you more careful hereafter, as well as to show the necessity of caution.

Capt. Homan of the ship ‘Atlas‘ is a very clever man & much respected, but is not your father. I wish you would give me when you have time a precise account of the articles Mr. Morgan took from the Pawn Brokers. He does not name them particularly. With part of the money I sent him, I am glad he paid an old bill at his store for flour, meal, candles, &c. $27.13. The watch at Simpson’s he said was sold, but could be had for $18 or $20, if I wished. I do not, however, desire it as I have a very good one bought since here.

The “Crescent City” will not reach New York on her next trip until the 1st of September. I shall not send any very light clothing for the boys but some suitable for the fall season of the year.

I suppose you read Harry’s letter that you sent me? I was fully amused with this expression in it, “We were much surprised at the great news from France, brought by the  Niagara.” He also says he spent 13 or 14 shillings for five crackers on the 4th of July; where the devil did he get them — the shillings — not the crackers? Libby’s letter is nearly all about the sweetest little chicken I ever saw that she saw: she says when she sleeps in the afternoon, “it goes to sleep too” on her neck. The Doctor says it is a white swelling Jimmy has, but it makes him look blue. It is a very nice letter indeed, for which reason I answered it so soon & because she tells me peremptorily to do so, With love to all, I remain your affectionate father, — J. T. Homans


New Orleans
August 8, 1848

My Dear Son,

By this morning’s mail, your letter of July 28th came to hand and afforded me pleasure to learn you were mending in health, though yet weak and feeble from your long confinement. But every rose of pleasure has its thorn likewise and by it all my two months happy anticipations of Henry’s visit to me are ended on the very day too that the steamer is die, by which he was to come. Since dawn this morning until the forenoon hour of having the mail for delivery, I was on the qui vive for his appearance. Notwithstanding your Mother wrote on the 24th ult. of her concluding not to send him. I had faith that the week between that date & the Steamer’s day of leaving, the 1st inst., would enable her to reflect more upon the matter to determine her to send him, as in duty bound, at my request, so repeatedly made. Martha’s letter from Norwich also came today & I have already answered it by the enclosed.

In your letter of the 23rd July, you promised to send the other boys measures by Henry, that I might send some clothes, but you appear to have forgotten to send them by the Steamer as you readily could have done with my two carpet bags, which I much need, besides which it is equivalent to throwing them (the carpet bags) away to have them about the house where so many children are to exercise their distinctive propensities upon. I have now no vehicle to spare to send things in by return voyage of the “C.C.” however able I may be to provide them. Nor do you mention the ten dollars I enclosed in my letter per mail of July 15th, which however you must have received or a hullaballoo would have been made in some shape.

So Captain Wetmore did arrive at last and did not founder on the journey, as I feared he had. I could, and should have sent Henry a coat by him like Williams but I supposed the boy was then ploughing the briny in the C.C. Captain Wetmore was a donkey and so I shall in person tell him on the first occasion for saying to your mother it was imprudent to send Henry here. It is more healthy at this day in New Orleans than in New York, and not so warm. Besides, there are a dozen watering places on the shores of the Lakes between the rear of New Orleans and the Gulf of Mexico, with six or seven boats daily plying to each & all of them, to resort to in case of an epidemic yellow fever here, added to which it would make the Creole dogs of the place laugh to talk of children Henry’s age having the fever. They are entirely exempt. As to Henry’s coming in the fall, I may be a thousand miles from here then, where it may cost me much money for his passage. He next time I wish any of you where I am, such measures will be taken, as will be sure to prevail in carrying out my desire.

I hope you have managed to get the paper I wanted from Mr. Slosson and had copy of it transmitted agreeably to directives. Henry does not seem to have appreciated the extent of the importance of delay in it. For more than a fortnight, I have worn woolen trousers altogether & I am now writing with a woolen sack coat on, one of the windows in my room closed – so much for summer in New Orleans.

Your letter of July 22s (not 23d) was received on the 3d inst., and answered the same date with others to Libby & Harry, though I did not then think the latter would get his in New York. I then recorded some errors of orthography but have none in your last to allude to. You have, it seems, been reading Willis’s “Pencillings by the Way” & he is Dr. Ruggle’s first cousin. Give my respects to Dr. Ruggles next time you see him and tell him to ask his first cousin named to return a file of American newspapers I loaned him at Matilda in 1833 or ‘34, which he faithfully promised to return, but did not. I believed him & let him have the papers before reading them myself and was served perfectly right for my simplicity, more becoming one however less green than I should have been, but certainly was done ______.

How is Lib’s chicken the darlingest one I ever saw; does it “gose to sleep” yet when she does? Tell her to keep it until I see her, then she can have a nice soup or fricassee made of it for me. You must not, any of you, discontinue writing to me here, until I name it in my letters. I may not leave here in some months & I may in less than one.

I have no regrets about leaving the Steamer I was in, except for the emoluments. I could have remained had I chosen. Everybody is now being discharged gradually and the vessels will be sold at auction to the highest bidder. Some of them will go for one tenth of their real value; many of the schooners & brigs are nearly new & thoroughly furnished in all respects. With only 2000, I can buy I am sire a vessel worth 10,000 in New York selling for cash down, will make them go off very low. Soon after hearing from Mr. Morgan and some others I have written to in New York and Boston, I shall make up my mind what to do. If not hastened by business, I shall go leisurely round via St. Louis, Chicago, and the whole chain of Lakes to Buffalo & Oswego. By the 1st proximo, all my movements will be decided upon. Perhaps a week or fortnight may bring some of my plans to a focus.

I shall look soon for Martha’s answer to the letter Capt. Wetmore was the bearer of. He is a very nice man – very. One day must always intervene between receiving & answering a letter from the North because at 9 A.M. the mail is delivered & the one to go closes at same hour.

I remain your affectionate father, — J. T. Homans


New Orleans [Louisiana]
August 15th 1848

My Dear James,

Your last letter of July 28th was received on the 8th inst., and answered the same day. I have been looking long for a letter from Martha in answer to the one Capt. Wetmore took on, but in vain & now despair of receiving any. The “Crescent City” arrived safely the day after I last wrote to you but alas! did not bring my boy. My love for him is as strong as any parent’s on earth & I am sure I would not endanger him in any shape for all the world. The sea voyage would have done him much good in health & the climate out of the city where I live would be only wholesome. I bought last June for him (when I first telegraphed for him) a nice cot bedstead, mosquito netting, &c. &c. which has stood by the side of mine ever since, & so often & long has been his arrival in my mind that when awaking in the morning, my first looks have been towards the little bed to see if he had not crawled into it while I had been sleeping, All my arrangement have been made with reference to his comfort: a much larger room taken than I needed for myself, all schools in the neighborhood visited to examine, books bought, &c. &c. — all in vain & to no purpose, but expense.

I was much surprised that among so many of you, none could think of sending my carpet bags, pistols, highland d___, etc, by the “Crescent City.” I now need one of them much for my own use & the other would be the very best thing to send some things in that I have purchased. I had to buy the clothes for the boys at a venture as you sent no measure. I have got all the other things you named in your letter that my means permitted. Martha’s silk dress, I was sorry I could not get. There is a dress for both her & Libby which I hope will please. I would get nothing light so near the autumn season. The spoons I have had some time & got for another use. They are Alberta Silver — so called — & useful when real silver ones are parted with. I send a fine cloth Polk’s Jacket to Harry & one to John (Willie I sent one to by Capt. Wetmore) & two pairs of service trousers for them & two for Willie. The reddish plaid is called Saltillo Plaid; the bluish is French cashmere. Of the table cloth diaper, there is 12 yards & of the sheeting, 18 ¼ — the two latter a little soiled on the outside, but not to hurt them & cost less on account of it. The entire parcel cost me $34.75. Should anything turn up placing me in better condition of funds, I will certainly send Martha her dress & mantilla.

On the 10th of this month, I had a very long letter from Mr. Ellis in which he authorized me to buy him a good sea steamer for $15 to $20,000. if I could do so with payment in stock of the Orinoca Co. I have ever since been endeavoring to do so but not yet successfully. In a day or two, I shall know & telegraph the result to him. I am to have command if I make out. You may therefore rely on  my leaving no stone unturned. The first of the Orinoco Co. barks is looked for hourly here — the Venezuela. The other two will soon follow from Pittsburgh. The steamer Mr. Ellis wants to buy is on his own account & to run from the mouth of the Orinoco [River] to some of the West India Islands. He will come on here & go out with me if I succeed in getting a boat suitable for his purpose. I shall telegraph him tomorrow or next day. I am looking daily for a letter from Mr. Morgan & some from other sources North. Nearly every vessel of the Quarter Master Department is laid up & all people paid off.

Mr. Kay has his ten dollars for July & August, but for September you must notify him I am not sure of being able to remit. The weather is comfortable for the season and very healthy. The few cases of fever in the Charity Hospital & other receptacles for the poor are such as arise from habits of intemperance, exposures, &c., and are no wise to be charged to an unhealthy condition of New Orleans than the cases of small pox almost always existing in New York or of the latter city being overwhelmed by it.

Should I succeed in getting a steamer on Mr. Ellis’ terms, I shall of course leave here in a few weeks for the Orinoco region to which point I shall leave an expensive price of passage to pay for Harry & such other of the children as I choose to send for, instead of having them come to me here, free of expense, in the truly safe, and magnificent conveyance of the “Crescent City.” It must be shortly demonstrated beyond c____, that I know what is best for my own children & that I have authority to compel obedience to my wishes respecting them. Should Mr. Ellis’ project fail, I shall leave for either New York via the Lakes, or to make a long stay at Oswego or some other point of the Lake route where I have friends that I may plan out business. I hope your poor leg ‘ere this, obtained rest & ease & that you have been able to get to Norwich for a change of air to recruit. I think it unsafe, on reflection, to trust the things I send in a paper wrapper only. Will therefore try to get a second hand carpet bag of some kind. I beg, howeverm that it may be taken good care of & with my other two (putting two inside the third), put away & the keys by themselves, that they may not be lost or misused.

I remain, my dear boy, your affectionate father. With love to all. — J. T. Homans

Afternoon, 15th August

P. S. I could not get a carpet bag to put the things in. Therefore, brown paper had to answer. The bundle is large and heavy. A man must be the porter for it.


New Orleans [Louisiana]
Sunday, September 3d 1848

My Dear Son,

My last advices to you were under date of the 28th ultimo per mail of the 29th. I also wrote to you on the 23d in answer to yours of the 11th received on the 22d. Since when I am without letter from any of you although we have today New York dates of August 25th which leaves fourteen intermittent days of silence. But I do not often wait having letters to answer before writing to my beloved ones and having you all in my thoughts today, I send you a few lines. I earnestly pray that no return of indisposition or injury to your poor lame leg is the occasion of your taciturnity in epistolography.

This is the Sabbath day and I have sought to comply with the commandment to keep it holy. I give you in the enclosed slip of paper mems from my readings and hope you will for my sake seek out and peruse the verses recorded.

In my last letter, you were notified of my expectation of going to the Orinoco [River] with Mr. [Vespasian] Ellis & I have since had my anticipations more fully realized by conversation with him. Since his arrival on the 29th ult., I could not desire more unqualified confidence from any man than he has shown himself disposed to place in me, and I hope most fervently that he will always be satisfied to do so while with him. He consults me in everything connected with the Steamship Venezuela, & the other one he is about buying. I may say he has bought, as all preliminaries are settled. I have the choice of taking charge of the Venezuela until her arrival at Bolivia or Augesturn, some 400 miles up the Orinoco [River], or the other [the Scourge] & he has expressed himself disposed to go in whichever I do. My preference of course in the latter because I can remain so long in her as I please & have an opportunity of doing other business for myself besides having only Mr. Ellis to consult & refer to.

General Jose Antonio Paez

The Venezuela will, I think, get off by day after tomorrow & the other steamer some ten days after. The latter is intended — I can say to you in confidence & not to be promulgated — for the fleet of General [Jose Antonio] Paez, who is now contending with the forces of [Jose Tadeo] Monagas, the President of Venezuela, again whom Paez has taken arms because he believes Monagas connived at, if he did not authorize, the ____ the mob of Caracas, the Capital of the country, of some [conservative] member of Congress opposed to Monagas, & were about to impeach him, Mr. Ellis is in correspondence with Paez & his friends, whom he esteems highly, & desires anxiously to serve by supplying him with a good sea steamer suitable for a vessel of war that he may more effectually contend with Monagas’ fleet, which he has already (by the latest advices) driven to seek shelter in harbor. Should Paez be ultimately successful & this valuable service rendered him by Mr. Ellis, there will be no bound to Mr. Ellis’ influence & the forces he can command of Paez. Mr. Ellis has told me that one condition of the transfer of such steer to Paez will be that I shall retain the command with a Post Captain’s Commission in the Naval Service, with liberty to retire at end of the war, on half pay, & a handsome bounty of ____ land, etc.

Mr. Ellis, being personally so intimately acquainted with Paez, I have no doubt he can exact any such terms he pleases. The Steamer alluded to in an iron one built at Philadelphia called the Scourge — the identical one that Hunter took Alvarado with, for which he was suspended. This vessel cost the U.S. $45,000 a year or two since, and was recently sold here because, the war being ended, there was no suitable employment for her in the Naval Service. The delay referred to of 10 or 12 days is for the purpose of putting in another boiler which is all ready & will not, I hope, require more than that time to have in its place.

The consummation of these promises of Mr. Ellis to me depends, to be sure, on some contingencies, such as our safe arrival out there & the situation of the contending parties when we arrive among them. But should there then be no warlike uses for the Scourge, she will be employed in another business of another character, already cut and dried for her.

Before leaving here, I shall give you the particulars of my business affairs such as will let you know, generally, upon what terms I embark, when & where to write to me. In the meantime, you will be governed by instructions sent in preceding letters. As the accounts from New York City demonstrated by Telegraph some days ago that the “Crescent City” arrived there safely on the morning of the 23rd ult., I was in hopes that per the mail of the 25th at farthest, I should have some advices from one of the family of the receipt of the package I sent by her and information as to whether the contents of same were satisfactory, suitable, & acceptable. But the mail of the 25th ult. came to hand here this morning without bringing me the expected notice. I must, therefore, await the please of my correspondents (that should be) in that quarter and in the course of the remnant of the current year, or the following one, hope to receive acknowledgement of those articles sent in the carpet bag per former voyage of the “Crescent City.”

My beloved [daughter] Martha’s last letter to me was dated July 27th. It is quite preposterous to tell me that she has not five, or ten minutes of any day within six weeks or two weeks (the usual interval between her letters) to write five or ten lines to her father. Better is one line only, than no letter in those long intervals on the border of some one of your letters, but it is useless to complain. If all I have said to her upon this subject has no avail, I cannot consent to write any more. Her inattention to my requests in this respect amounts to positive _____ of evidence of disinclination to write to me and adds but another motive to the determination I have already been driven to from, to have some day wherever I may settle all my children with me. I can then judge for myself whether their habits of industry are such, & so imperative, that an average of one minute per day cannot with all propriety be spared to address an absent parent.

I have not as yet shipped the chest of sundries alluded to in my last letter, but will remit you the receipt, or bill of lading, when I do. The main incentive of my delay in so doing is to learn whether the “Crescent City” will, or not, be here so as to leave for New York on the 15th inst., and if not, I shall send by first sailing vessel.

I have written today to my friend Mr. Alfred Dorr ¹ of Boston to endeavour to collect some monies due to me there, & in case of success, to remit to Mr. Morgan. I have likewise some due to me here, that I should be thankful to realize. The enclosed note to Mr. [John H.] Redfield, ² I wish you to leave at his office, corner of Cortlandt & West Streets, if yet there, as it was early in 1847, otherwise drop into the Post Office. I have been endeavoring to account for the long absence of a letter from you by the idea of your being in Norwich, and I truly hope you have ‘ere this made & enjoyed your visit there. But again if there, I presume you to have yet more leisure & less interruption than in New York [City]. However, what must be, must, as the old woman said when she smelt the musty egg. And in this consolation, I dismiss the matter.

I omitted heretofore to note that in your last letter, “Teusday” occurs twice instead of Tuesday: “adress” once more: “Docter: advertisement is ancient, out of date. We use advertisement in its stead; “Dissappointed” is not right; one s too many; “tomorrow” — one m too many.

Tell Libby I will send her lots of shells from the bottom of the sea that the gales & storms loosed & wash up when I get to St. Thomas & Curacao & the islands of the West Indies when I get there. She is the only one of the family that knows how to take care of things when she gets them, as well as the only one of you all that has said in letter to their absent father that she longed to see him. Tell Harry to be a good boy ^ he shall soon be mu right hand man. Willy shall have a Donkey and John a r-r-r-r-ing-tailed monkey with a cocked hat on the end of it.

New Orleans appears to be healthy & free from any epidemic, so the reports of the Board of Health determine, & the few cases of yellow fever proves I sent by this morning’s mail, today’s [New Orleans] Delta. It is very uncertain in sending letters to me abroad whether they are ever received by me or not. Therefore, be careful what you write & anything of importance should be repeated in subsequent letter in order that it may more surely reach me. If there is any particular newspaper that Mr. Morgan or you wishes to receive in New York & can pay for it, by an occasional letter from me, say one per month, you can say to him that I will afford that equivalent, punctually wile abroad, & until notified by him to address them, will enclose to you or him some items of news & interesting details such as will suit newspaper publication. Such an arrangement will also supply a regular file to be sent to me. Such must be done too with the New Orleans Delta, in case it is sent to Mr. Morgan.

With love to all. I remain your affectionate father, — J. T. Homans


Bark Jesuran, Capt. Vinal

December 7, 1848

My Dear Son,

Other letters from here of earlier dates by sundry opportunities have made you acquainted with my safe arrival at this place from Oruba [Aruba] Island last when the good steam ship “Scourge” was sold [7 October 1848] into Genl Paez’s service at a very handsome profit to the owners. She went at once to the present seat of war, the Gulf of Maracaibo, and I have no doubt reached there safely.

In my letters from the City of Santo Domingo, I mentioned we should sail direct for Curacao, but being rather scant of fuel, I had to go to Oruba [Aruba] 66 miles to the westward from whence after sale of the “Scourge,” Mr. [Vespasian] Ellis and myself came came on here. My last letter, dated a few days ago, went on the Barque “J. Forbes” this morning early. Mr. Jarvis, a New York lawyer, took charge of them & promised to put his address on the back of one before depositing in the Post Office. That vessel inbound to New Haven, with a cargo of salt – a heavy load always — & the next vessel, the Barque “Jesuran” for New York, which I propose sending this by, I think will be home first. However, the “race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.”

The enclosed letter for Grandma Homans you must send to her soon with one from yourself, if she is yet among the living. Her time to pay the debt to nature is in all human probability so near at hand, if not already past, that I am prepared to hear at any moment of her departure. Yet so long as she lasts, it is our duty to sweeten as many of her remaining moments as we can, by acts of kindness & attention, that are duly appreciated and valued by her.

I commence this letter upon my birth day anniversary but shall probably not conclude it on the same because some days are to elapse before the “Jesuran” is to leave. Capt. Vinal you must see as early as you can after his arrival and he will give you any little thing I send by him. So soon as Genl. Paez has definitely fixed to pay [what] he intends to give me, I shall know how much I can spare to send home of the money Mr. Ellis has paid to me here. If I do not send any by Capt. V., it will be because the matter is yet unsettled. Capt. V. will return here in a week or so after reaching New York. By him, you will send my dirk & pistols in the best of my carpet bags. He will know what to do with them should I not be here when he returns as I shall leave a letter for him when I go away. Besides writing to my mother today, I have written one to Martha and yesterday one to Libby. It is now late in the afternoon and I must take my usual walk on the seashore.

December 8th. The old adage that “no day knoweth what the morrow will bring forth” was strikingly manifested since yesterday. I then firmly believed the “Scourge” to be safe in Maracaibo. Today we have certain information of her having been taken by the blockading squadron & is by this time in Laguayra [La Guaira], the seaport of Caracas, the Capitol of Venezuela, for which place I leave here tomorrow in a vessel Mr. [Vespasian] Ellis has chartered to go there. He writes by her to our Ambassador at Caracas, Mr. Shields, asking him to claim the “Scourge” as American property under the American flag which Mr. Shields will probably do. I shall be back here, I trust, in a week or ten days at farthest when I hope to receive my letters from St. Thomas that I have written for. We have today another arrival from New York, the Brig “Abram” with a very short passage. She was regularly advertised and Mr. Ellis has letters from his brother as late as the 25th of November – only 12 days ago. I shall give to Capt Vinal early tomorrow all the little things I have to send. To wit, a Banbox containing the small baskets: a bottle with two more flying fish: your writing desk: Martha work box: two straw hats: two old umbrellas that the Venezuela went off with & returned to me here: a small box containing shells for Libby, & some minerals for the N.Y. Lyceum of Natural History to be given to Mr. [John H.] Redfield or Dr. [B. W.] Budd: & six bottles of Bay Rum in a basket.

With love to all, I remain your affectionate father, — J. T. Homans


Caracas (Venezuela)
February 6th 1849

My Dear James,

By the above you may see I am yet detained in this place; and continue, I am pained to say yet, without a letter from you, or any one else at home. I have written already to St. Thomas three times for any letter & paper there for me to be sent to Curacao, but to the 1st inst., by a letter from Mr. Jes___, I am informed none had then reached there for me. I hope to leave for there, every day, & expect to find Capt. Vinot there with late dates for me. All letters, or lately said in other letters, I wish sent to Curacao only, or by the Vessels of D_____, Brig to La Guayar to care of the American Counsel.

With love to all, your affectionate father, — J. T. Homans

N. B. [Nota Bene = “Note Well”] I saw a few days ago in the New York Herald of 9th December last two letters advertized for me [to pick up at the post office]. Hope you also saw it. – J. T. H.


¹ The Boston Directory of 1848 lists Alfred C. Dorr as an agent for the New York Railroad & Steamboat Line and that he was also employed as Sectretary of the American Insurance Company.

² John H. Redfield was a commercial merchant in New York City but he shared a passion for natural history with his friend Capt. Homans.

Capt. James T. Homans Grave Marker in San Francisco

Capt. James T. Homans Grave Marker in Sacramento, California


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