W. Ford diary, 1837-1841 | Rare Book & Manuscript Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
This 104-page diary recounts W. Ford's travels to the Caribbean Sea, Canada, and the Iberian Peninsula between December 21, 1837, and September 10, 1841. Ford, a crewman on the HMS Racehorse, often wrote in detail about the ports and cities he visited and also discussed other aspects of his life at sea.
After joining the Racehorse in Plymouth, England, in December 1837, Ford traveled to the Caribbean, where the ship called on ports in Bermuda, Jamaica, and other locales. In his diary, Ford often noted the names of ships the Racehorse encountered at sea and in port; on one occasion, he wrote that a sailor had drowned after going overboard. The Racehorse embarked for Canada in the spring of 1838 and sailed primarily around Quebec throughout the spring and summer, returning to Bermuda in October by way of New York City. During the ship's time in New York, Ford described the local geography and customs.
The Racehorse intended to sail for Veracruz, Mexico, in the fall of 1838 but, as Ford mentioned, altered its course after the city's capture by French forces that November. The ship sailed along the Mexican coast and around the Caribbean until the spring of 1839. In March 1839, Ford maintained daily records of the prevailing winds, the Racehorse's position and course, and weather conditions throughout the transatlantic crossing back to Plymouth.
The Racehorse departed for the Iberian Peninsula in mid-1839, calling at Lisbon, Portugal, and Cadiz, Spain. During this time, Ford wrote detailed descriptions of his extended visits to Seville, Spain, and Sintra, Portugal. Thereafter, Ford wrote less frequently, mentioning his return to England in December 1840 and expressing his frustration with the lack of promotional opportunities within the British Admiralty in 1841. The diary ends with the Racehorse approaching Tenerife in September 1841.
The diary includes pencil drawings of Tenerife and Porto Santo Island, both in profile (p. 227), and an unattributed, untitled poem (p. 228). The poem, previously published elsewhere, begins with the line "Let not false mercy aid sedition's cause" and includes an anti-Catholic acrostic message. The volume's inscriptions indicate ownership by W. Ford, HMS Racehorse, Plymouth, and Arabella Taylor, High Cross House, Sampford Peverell, Devon.