It had, however, become evident to me that the passive system of defence which the Spaniards adopted in Callao, would render it a difficult matter to get at them without more effective means than the guns of the ships, which were greatly inferior in number to those of the enemy’s fortress and shipping combined, whilst their experience in the use of artillery was greater than that of our crews. The Supreme Director having paid a visit to the squadron—on the 21st of June I addressed to him a letter, stating my apprehension that the finances of the Government might be limited, and that I would gladly give up to the exigencies of the Republic the whole of my share of prize-money taken during our recent cruize, provided it were applied to the manufacture of rockets. This offer was declined, with a compliment from the Supreme Director, on the advantage already gained, by compelling the Spaniards ignominiously to shut “themselves up in their port, in spite of their numerical superiority.”
Complimentary addresses from the Chilian people were also presented to me in profusion, and a public panegyric was pronounced at the National Institute of the capital, upon the service rendered; but as this was only a recapitulation of what has been already narrated—conveyed in flowery rhetorical phrases—in the use of which the Occidentals are almost as expert, and often as exaggerated, as are the Orientals—I shall refrain from giving it. Suffice it to say, that the people were not a little delighted with the plain facts, that whereas only a few months before theirs had been the blockaded port, they were now able to beard the enemy in his stronghold, till then believed—both by Spaniards and Chilians—to be inviolable; and that, with only four ships on our part, the Spanish Viceroy had been shut up in his capital, and his convoys, both by sea and land, intercepted, whilst his ships of war did not venture to emerge from their shelter under the batteries of Callao.
The manufacture of rockets was now carried on in earnest, under the superintendence of Mr. Goldsack, an eminent engineer, who had been engaged in England for the purpose. From a mistaken notion of parsimony, the labour of constructing and filling them was allotted to a number of Spanish prisoners, with what result will appear in the sequel.
In these and other preparations two months were consumed, in the course of which another vessel—an American built corvette—was added to the squadron, and named by the Supreme Director the Independencia.
During my absence Lady Cochrane chiefly resided at Valparaiso, where she diligently employed herself in promoting objects essential to the welfare of the squadron; after a time removing to a delightful country house at Quillota, where her life was endangered by a ruffian in the interest of the Spanish faction.
This man, having gained admission to her private apartment, threatened her with instant death if she would not divulge the secret orders which had been given to me. On her declaring firmly that she would not divulge anything, a struggle took place for a paper which she picked off a table; and before her attendants could come to her assistance she received a severe cut from a stiletto. The assassin was seized, condemned, and ordered for execution, without the last offices of the Catholic religion.