Part 9 – The Reminiscences of Capt. Thomas Chatfield — Night Assault on St. Marks

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“Land your men, Mr. Chatfield ..”

Take one young bored officer itching for some glory, combine with eighty men in rowboats at night, head up a Florida river to spike a river battery and run immediately into trouble with some river sentries. The good Captain Chatfield keeps his head, and remembers his Cotuit roots before ordering his men out of a boat to attack the pickets when he takes an oar to test the bottom before leaping over the side and sinking dink-deep into the muck (something I forget to do everytime I go clamming).

Enjoy. This brings me up to page 131 of the typescript – fifty-six to go. Working from the original leather-bound manuscript is a treat. The frontispiece says:

The property of Florentine Chatfield Churbuck, youngest daughter of Capt. Thomas Chatfield, author of this book. The binding was done by hand by Thomas H. H. Knight, husband of Maud Chatfield Knight, third daughter of the family. Through the kindness of Mr. Abbott Lawrence Lowell, the typing was done by his secretary, who, not familiar with nautical terms, or Father’s pensmanship, made many errors in typing. A typed copy was given to each of the five Chatfield daughters.”

Florentine, or Oie, was my great-grandmother. I remember her sneaking me chunks of milk chocolate she kept in a cleaned-out Hellman’s Mayonnaise jar she kept behind her armchair when I was about three years old. She was also fond of overly ripe black bananas, which she hid from my grandmother (who hated fruit flies). I found one once in the drawer of the sewing machine and stuck my finger in it. It was one of my earliest memories.

Abbot Lawrence Lowell was the president of Harvard University and a next-door neighbor to the family in Cotuit. He instituted the “house system” at Harvard but is rather infamously known for his role in the Sacco-Vanzetti case and the expulsion of eight alleged homosexuals from Harvard. He was a pal of Thomas Chatfield and urged him to pen his reminiscences after hearing many of these stories told on the porch over the course of several summer evenings.

A. Lawrence Lowell

Author: David Churbuck

Cape Codder with an itch to write

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