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 Wybourn: "Sea Soldier" 
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Location: Virginia, USA
Post Wybourn: "Sea Soldier"
Sea Soldier: An Officer of Marines with Duncan, Nelson, Collingwood, and Cockburn; The Letters and Journals of Major T. Marmaduke Wybourn RM, 1797-1813; edited and with notes by Anne Petrides and Jonathan Downs

T. Marmaduke Wybourn wrote regularly to his siblings, primarily to his sister Emily who later copied his letters and had them bound. One of the editors, Anne Petrides, is the g-g-g-granddaughter of another sister, Caroline, so there are plenty of documents from which to pull information. Wybourn also kept a detailed journal from which details appeared in his letters home. The editors have added margin notes to clarify certain points.

In addition to his military accounts, Wybourn (who is fond of good company, good food and "the Dear Ladies") writes of the manners and morals of the time.

One of the first events he on which he comments is his role in arresting the Nore mutineers in 1797. Later he is at the invasion of Holland, at Copenhagen (expedition prior to Nelson), in Egypt, the Mediterranean, the Dardanelles, the Walcheren Expedition, the Baltic, and (especially interesting to me) the War of 1812 (in and around the Chesapeake Bay).

First hand accounts always seem to me to bring history alive; by even the most mundane comments about the weather, the sea, the shore, and the people involved. This book is no exception. Here are a few:

In one land battle in Egypt, his unit was leading the army and "lost only 170 Men out of 500" where every one of the officers was wounded to some extent or another. He and his fellow officers obviously "led from the front." Losing a third of his men seemed to me to be high but he made it seem ordinary.

In one letter from Egypt, he breaks off writing his letter due to "vermin" (fleas?) after noting that he could buy 750 eggs, 36 fowl, 4 geese, or a sheep for one dollar.

He worries that his sister Emily has sent another suitor away and wonders if she will ever marry. He eventually came home to live with Emily for the last six years of his life.

I came to believe that Wybourn had a bit of an ego. Even the smallest honor, like being allowed to accompany the captain ashore, was certain to find itself in his letters.

This book is worth a read just for the difference in perspective.

Don Campbell
"Whoever is strongest at sea, make him your friend."
Corcyraeans to the Athenians, 433 BC

Thu Sep 16, 2010 10:01 am
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