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The Trip to Brazil by Dr. John Washington Keyes     1867

This was copied from a diary kept By Dr. John W. Keyes while on a boat going from Montgomery, Alabama, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  The writing was dim with age, written with pencil while the ship was in motion, so it was hard to decipher in some places.  Due to this there are probably some mistakes in it.  If there are any that you know of I would be glad if you can send me the corrections.

Elizabeth Keyes


"The Trip to Brazil"

by Dr. John Washington Keyes 



April 6, 6 ½ p.m. left Mot. ? (Probably Montgomery) on the steamer Dubloon.  Capt. Kirk – Mitchell, clerk – whose beat I commend to all who desire to travel on a good boat and deal with true gentlemen.  Every attention and accommodation was shown – expected or desired.  The "Doubloon" was a river steamer that plied the Alabama Rivers, taking plantation wares to New Orleans.    Once in New Orleans, the passengers caught the "Marmion", a large ocean steamer,  for the rest of the trip to Brazil.  On July 6, 1867, the Doubloon, now owned and captained by W. G. Mitchell,   caught fire and burned to the water line at the lake end of the New Canal, near Selma, Alabama. A complete loss.

Adieus are sad to say when in this instance they are too many tried and true friends whom I never expect to see again the only way is to say them quickly and be gone.

There are many I am rejoiced to say it so – whom I have no desire to see again because having trusted them implicitly they deceived me – others the taking advantage of circumstances and my forbearance defrauded me but among these, it is a consolation that I can not remember one who did his duty to his country in her hour of need.  Not one who did not have his price and put money in his pocket even the dependents of those who were enduring the trials and hardships of the camp suffered.  I do not think that these would not have been moved by kindly impulses and relieved in part by the destitution that might have been brought to their doors – butt hat the love of gain served to induce them to follow a course which they knew was wrong in the abstract and practiced by many would of necessity bring their country to the condition it did.

To all those so-called Confederates, I trust I have bid an eternal adieu.  Before the war, there were few men I would not trust.  Since the war, I have found the rule reversed and what pains me most and urges my departure is that the number worthy of confidence grows less every day.

To the good and true I have left behind, my hand is ever extended and my pocket open to assist so far as I am able to do so with justice to myself.  Many of these I will cherish in my heart as long as it pulsates.

Montgomery and loved friends good-bye!

Saturday – Soft bread, Oatmeal porridge, Coffee.  Soup, fresh meat, potatoes, hard bread.  Hard bread, butter and tea.

Sunday – Soup, salt pork, plum pudding, potatoes, hard bread, apple source, hard bread, butter and tea.

At a quarter past ten on the morning of the 16th, we cast loose and commenced our voyage towards Brazil.  We were to have started at 8 o’clock – but a thief got on board, and we were delayed some time by his hunt for his baggage, etc.  Without incident, we reached the mouth of the river and at 6 o’clock crossed the bar.  I never saw the sea smoother and the sky clearer.  Everything seemed to favor us.

17th.  We had a glorious run last night and today.  Passed one ship under full sail.  The gulls and shearwaters beginning to leave us.  We have had all sail set and this adds about ½ mile per hour to our speed and keeps the ship steady.  Quite a number have been sick but nothing like what I expected.  The ship is so steady that one can write much better than on a river steamer.  We are making 8 ½ knots per hour.

18th.  Thursday, Portuguese men of war, a kind of amclegelatinous fish that spread its sail and looks very pretty have been abundant today.  We saw a vast number of flying fish – a dozen at a time rising near the bow of the ship at a time and winging their way over the water – flying, some of them, over 200 yards.  Tonight made and passed the lights on the Tortugas – at one of which – Fort Jefferson – are confined Dr. Mudd and others – with what justice the future will tell.  We watched the lights until one o’clock A.M. and the bright spots made by the moonlight thru the few clouds reminded me forcibly of life.

18th. Good Friday.  I went on deck early this morning, washed off the soil of the U.S., put on clean clothes and thought I had bid adieu to my native land – but alas we are cruelly reminded of the Puritans and his abominations by having cod fish for dinner.

Our bill of fare says coffee for breakfast but even here we are punished.  Our Yankee friends – ship owners – may have thought there was a pleasant reminiscence for Confederates in corn meal and rye coffee or that it would be more acceptable to the stomach or that we could not bear the more pure article – but I suspect none of these charitable possibilities was the cause.  And yet when the cost for the supply for the passage would have been only about $50, I cannot understand why we should have been denied it.

I call Gen. Girarnnia’s (?) attention to this item and hope some friend will mark the paragraph and see that he gets it.  There have been cruel criminality somewhere either by intention or neglect.

In all other respects our fare, the not such as I most desire is nearly as good as I expected under the circumstances.  I very strongly suspect that there is a Yankee in this coffee and hence I can not stomach it.  The tea is abundant and good.  Our tickets and passports were demanded today and one man found secreted who was minus.  He was sent to the masthead.

20th. Saturday.  Last night we had a little rain and blow.  The wind being against the current made the sea rougher by far than we have yet had it.  Not many however were sick and I turned in about 10 o’clock and slept a deep refreshing sleep rocked in the cradle f the deep.

All day we have been in sight of some rocks or islands belonging to England.  Have had one bite at my squid, but did not catch the fish tho he left marks of his teeth in the tin.

We are now near Great Stump Key one of the group of the Berry, where a negro named Ellis is Governor.  There is here a population of about 200.  The Capt. Says this Gov. used frequently to come aboard of his ship – and in passing once his boat came and he was not in it.  He inquired after him and was told that he was very sick and wished him to send him a piece of pork.

Today at 12 we were 814 miles from New Orleans.

The sea is very smooth again and all the folks seem to enjoy themselves as if on a picknick.  A Chuck Will’s widow, a Bee Martin and beautiful little bird have kept with the ship all day – wearied nearly to death from their continuous flight.  They lighted  about any where on the vessel and seemed to be almost regardless of the presence of man.

21st. Sunday.  Had the dolphin for breakfast and it proved to be a very edible fish and very acceptable to the 20 or more of us.  The ship has rolled a good deal – many sick.  Wind ahead.  Capt. Lead the service.  Several ministers aboard but all sickish or waiting on the nauseated.  Afternoon – wind has hauled toward the north and we are able to spread our canvas.  Latitude 25.31. Longitude 75.15

22nd. Monday.  No incidents today.

23rd. Tuesday.  One week out today and we are 1350 miles from N. Orleans.  Made 189 miles today and this has been travelling.  A case of variacloid was discovered among the passengers today.  Very mild.

24th. Wednesday.  At no time has the thermometer thus far risen above 82 between decks.  Latitude this afternoon 20.22.  A delightful breeze all day.  Some showers in sight.  Made Porta Rica right about 8 P.M.  Distance today 207 miles.

25th Thursday.  Beautiful morning.  Huge rocks standing solitary and high out of the water.  St. Thomas soon came into view – looking very pretty nestled on the hillside.  The roofs were red, covered no doubt with tiles.  Many vessels lay at anchor, many small boats sailing about outside and one having negros aboard had U.S. flag floating from a stick.  Today 165 – making 1745 to St. Thomas, 1762 at 12.

26th Friday.  Lovely morning.  A ship with all sail except the sky scraper set is not far off.  Tis a beautiful sight.  Precipitous rocks in sight and at 8 o’clock we are near Montserrat on the point of which is the town of Plymouth.  Something still to remind one of the Yankee.  I should like to see your morning papers and know what the last turn in the screw of  your radical  masters is.  Sam Slick says “Show me a radical and I ill show you a tyrant!.  You can realize the truth.  Miles today 179 – Lat. 16.21, Long. 61.52.

In the afternoon we were close in to the island Guadeloupe and passed by very near the town of Basse Terre.  A beautiful little town above the banana plantations, etc.  The coconut trees are very graceful – tall, straight trees, looking as if they were whitewashed.  We could see the fruit in the trees.  I cannot enter into minute descriptions but must not forget to mention the volcano here the crater of which we could see.  At night it is said sparks can be seen from it.  It is 5500 feet high.  Many vessels have been in sight today and many small boats.  You must see to appreciate the verdure and beauty of the scenery.  Those lofty mountains, the beautiful farms, the rich vegetation cannot be painted in words.  From what I have seen I think there is no voyage where one can see more of the beauties of nature, sprinkled with the improvements of man than to this.  We see houses perched upon the topmost peak of the tall mountains and embosomed in the beautiful and luxuriant little rolling plains and gorges.  We are tonight sailing close to Dominica and I can see lights from the dwellings all along the beach and upon the mountains.

Saw a great many porpoises and black fish this evening.  The sea is very smooth – a delightful breeze ahead.  Thermometer at noon today83 – distance run since 12 yesterday 179 – latitude 16.21, long. 61.51.

27th Saturday.  Another bright morning, with fresh breeze.  We are passing between Martinique and St. Lucia and out into the Atlantic again.

Our Capt. – Wm. C. Berry verified our bill of fare last night and the result was salt beef and good hash and tea instead of rice, molasses and Union coffee.

The result of this change was manifest in the gusto with which the breakfast was discharged and satisfaction expressed in words and by the face of all.  I am much pleased with the officers of the ship.  From the Capt. Down I have received nothing but kindness and courtesy and an evident desire to do all in their power to accommodate and render our voyage as pleasant as possible.

I was in error in stating the number of passengers at 356.  After we got off and noses were counted again we found 263.  Men 152, women 38 and 73 children.  And it is to be expected that among so many there would be some who could not be satisfied with any fare that could be provided for them.  There would be some complaints but by far the larger part are satisfied and comfortable.  Thermometer 83.  Lat. 13.46 Long. 60.20.  Distance 180 miles.

About 6 o’clock we were near Barbados.  This is one of the most fertile of the British Isles and is not as broken as the others.  As we were passing it in the night, we could only see the lights gleaming out from the homesteads.

Bridgetown is a large town and we could almost see the figures of persons passing between us and the lights in what appeared to be public saloons.  The next land we see will be home.  I saw tonight the Southern Cross.  It is worth the voyage to see the magnificent display of light worlds that are grouped in the southern sky.  I never had a conception of the beauty and grandeur.  How often I have thought of Miss H. and wished she could be with us to feast her eyes upon the firmament.

28th. Sunday.  Another bight Sunday.  Rev. Ballard S. Dunn had service under an awning aft – but the engine was so noisy I could not hear a word.  Our voyage has been so pleasant that we are often wholly oblivious to the fact that we are on a vessel and out of sight of land.  The breeze is perfectly delicious.  Thermometer at 83 between decks.  Lat. 11.49, Long. 55.16 distance run to 12. 181 miles.


The children have a gay time and Reb is the observed of all observers.  The Capt. Says he is everybody miss and nobody’s match.

29th. Monday.  Lat. 10.50  Long. 56.19.   165.

30th. Tuesday.  Latitude 8.23  Long. 54.23

An Albacore was caught on the squid today – He is a beautiful fish with long fins.  Would probably weigh 20 or 25 lbs.  The stomach was filled with small fish.  One kind resembled the bream but being in a very bad humor.

Cloudy more or less with light shower or two.

1st. Wednesday.  We had the Albacore for dinner and our end of the table was very popular.  Still cloudy – some little rain.  Running in the trough of the sea the ship has rolled more than any other time yet.  All the children have their sea legs and Rebel does not seem to be aware that he is not on terra firma.  Lat. 6.37.  Long 52.45. Distance 137 – Thermometer 82 ½.

2nd. Thursday.  More or less cloudy but a fine day and clear night.  It is pleasant to see that our shadows no longer fall towards the North.  We are in lat. 5.13. long. 51.32.  Have made 192 miles but the strong current has retarded us 72 so that we have only got 120 on our way.  Thermometer 83.  The water has discolored by the waters of the Oyapock river in French Guiana.  Mother Cary’s chickens have been incessantly on the wing in the wake of the ship for several days.  This is a small bird much the size and general appearance of a swallow.  I do not know when or where they rest and I think my wife may fitly be compared to them in this respect for she has been running her sewing machine and sewing with her needle just as if this were not a holiday.

Porpoises are the hogs with the devils in them which ran down a steep place.

3rd. Friday.  Another fine day.  The current here runs 3 2/3 miles per hour against us and whilst we go at the rate of 204 we only made 110 miles.  The Capt. Says he has never met it so before and predicts a great rise in the Amazon and other rivers.  The water is only about ¼ salt and is dark.  Thermometer 85 ½ Lat. 4.16  Long. 50.05.  Distance 110.

4th. Saturday.  After a nice shower today the ocean was waveless.  I never before saw it so mirror like.  We are today off the mouth of the Amazon – latitude 1.58  longitude 48.20  distance 164.  Thermometer 83.

The parallels of 27 and 28 are like the space between 4 degrees N. and South of the equator are called windless.  The former are called horse latitudes and get their name from the circumstances of the great many horses usually found floating there when Connecticut supplied so many horses to the West India Islands.  The brigs loaded with horses would reach this place and there being no breeze the vessels rolled so much that many horses died and were thrown overboard and found floating by the vessels passing.  Between 4 N. and 4 S. it is called the doldrums and like the other is windless, but we have been blessed with good breezes.

5th. Sunday.  Today we crossed the equator.  It has rained and cloudy but a good breeze blows.  The gulls have made their appearance again indicating that island is near at hand.  Island Caranasn (?) or Seramboque (?).  Afternoon – Land, Land, Land on the Starboard bow.  And sure enough there is Brazil.  The dream of two years is here and I do indeed behold the land I’ve so longed to see.

We are off the mouth of Para river and streaks of dark water with leaves, some green and fresh – one green banana and drift wood are floating by.  With the naked eye we can see the white sand and dark blue line of vegetation.  A fish has broken the hook in the tin squid and Coachman has procured another hook and lashed I big tin spoon to it,.  Says he is fishing for butter fish.  He stretched a hair between the glasses of the spy glass and showed many of the unsophisticated the “Line” about the time we crossed it.  Bully for Coachman.

Our latitude at noon was 25 miles south of the equator.  Longitude 46.36  dist. 166   Ther. 82.

6th. Monday.  Passing Maranhoa today – running from one headland to another we have only seen land this afternoon.  Light shower today fresh breeze – rather warm.  Thermometer between decks 85.  Lat. 1.57  long. 43.58  distance 170 miles.

Lost my squid – a fish biting it off the line.  Mother Cary’s chickens quitted when we made land yesterday.

Tonight we saw the new moon for the first time south of the equator.  Tonight we have had a fine view of the heavens.  The North star is below the horizon – but the Southern constellations blaze out in magnificence.  For several nights I have observed a cloud just below the Southern Cross and have waited and watched for the cloud to drift away.  Tonight being quite clear I was able to see what I took for a cloud was a vacant space – save by one star which could be dimly seen near the center of the cloud.  Neither Capt. Mate or sailors remember to have noted it before so I concluded that it is the place where the Confederacy went out. The Cross stand to watch the spot.  

7th. Tuesday.  Shower today – lat. 2.27  long.  41.15  dist.  172  Thermometer 84.

8th. Wednesday.  Passing the luxuriant looking coast.  The mountain sides look green and are evidently covered with crops.  Houses are seen occasionally near the beach.  Saw today the first catamorans.  These are made of 7 logs pinned together with a planks on which the men sit.  They are propelled by one sail and run rapidly and the fish are caught by trolls.  These craft go out as far as 50 miles fishing.  We are now passing the town of Ceara – which looks very pretty and the buildings imposing.  There is a light house here on point Mocaripe.  The day is superb – fine cool breeze – lat. 3.25 long. 38.50  distance 158.  Thermometer 84.

9th. Thursday.  Very fine – cool breeze.  No land in sight until late in the afternoon.  Lat. 4.33  long. 36.26  dist. 160,  Ther. 84.

10th. Friday.  I thot a rain in the morning was like an old women’s dance – soon ended but it began to rain this morning and continued to shower at short intervals until 11 o’clock P.M. when I turned in.  Passed two sails today.  If any one will take the map and mark for each day the long. And lat. They will be able to form a very correct idea of the route we have followed.  We passed Cape St. Roque last night and have changed our course from east to west of south.  Lat. 6.26  long. 34.44 dist. 166  ther. 80.

F.M. Ezell,  D.H. and B.C. Yancey, Wm. M. Harris, W.L. Mitchell, T.A. McClure, D. Brazell, Wm. H. Capps, F. Nanfit, J.W. Wysinger, J.M. Ayres, J. Boyles, E.T. Trigg, Jas. Snelling, H. Anderson, Frank Harris, Jose Mores, Jno. Kennedy, F.J. Thomas, Wm.Norris, J. Phillips, W.H. Satterfield, J.S. Triggs, W.L. Owen, Simeon Miller, Patrick Ffahy, W.P. Rutledge, J.W. Coachman, J.A. Dunn, M.D.

11th. Saturday.  This is one of the most delicious days I have ever saw or felt.  One feels like putting some up in cane for future use.  And it reminds me to say that tomato and other catsup are good things to bring among your private stores.  We passed Maceio about 3 P.M. twelve miles distant.  What we could see of the buildings looked imposing.  We have been in sight of the bold shore all day.  The mountains have been plainly visible fifty miles.  Lat. 9.26  long. 35.01  distance 186  thermometer 80.

12th.   Sunday.  Fine day and fair wind.  A little rain at night.  Service by Rev. B.S. Dunn.  Circle around the moon tonight with all the colors of the rainbow.  Lat. 12.35  Long.  36.30  Dist. 207  thermometer 82.  No land in sight today.  Passed Bahia 80 miles off.  The distance from Pernambuco to Rio is 1100 miles, from Bahia 725.

13th. Monday. Another fine day and for the most part, fair wind.  A shower or two.  It is astonishing how rapidly the time slips away.  Lat. 15.37  long. 37.21  distance 189 miles  thermometer 82.  In these reports of the thermometer, I have given what I have noted as the highest and the observations has usually been noon.

14th.  Tuesday. Pretty hard shower last night but clear this morning – vessel in sight.  Tonight and last night there was tripping of light fantastic on deck in the moonlight.  Lat. 18.42 long. 38.30 dist. 196 miles.  Thermometer 81.  But little wind today and for the first time during our voyage the sails were on the port – left – side of ship.

15th. Wednesday, The wind came out stiff from the south west last night and this morning we have it dead ahead and with a heavier sea than at any previous time.  The children are having a grand romp on deck whilst many of the grown ups find some difficulty in keeping their feet or seats under them.

Porpoise and black fish have been for a portion of the day as thick as “leaves in Vallombrosa” or green backs in the U.S.  They seem to enjoy themselves greatly – leap from the water and rolling over in the air.  I think there could not have been more up in the air at a time and the stream to the upward element was incessant.  Bats, roaches, flies, etc.  Lat. 21.12  long. 40.0  distance 173 – therm.  76.

16th  Thursday.  Cloudy today but the sun peeps thru occasionally.  At noon we were close to Cape Frio – where there is a light house, and whence runs a telegraph to Rio. – hence 56 miles.  A light house was first built here upon one of the tip top peaks of the rock but it was so high up that the clouds obscured it and it had to be abandoned and another erected much lower down and on the side of the mountain.  We were close enough to see persons at the house.  From this point our course is west and close by the bold, broken beach we steam until 8 P.M. when turn into the Bay of Rio.  A few more times and the engine ceases – the anchor finds the bottom and we are safe in the haven so long and anxiously desired.

Our propeller with only ½ hours rest has made two million, four hundred, and twelve thousand, four hundred and eighty-four revolutions and now rests.  Thermometer 72.  Dist. 156 miles – making 5450 miles.  We had the most beautiful sunset this evening we have yet had and the sun swept behind Rio and brought out the Sugar Loaf – which marks the entrance to the bay in bold relief.  The scenery here is beyond description.  The mountains covered with rich verdure and broken into all conceivable shapes and sizes.  But come and see -  Your true friend.

Below is an excerpt from Jennie R. Keyes diaries printed in The Alabama Historical Quarterly Summer -1930

Steamship “Marmion” April 27th,1867  -  Saturday morn

On our way to Brazil! The long-anticipated voyage began-Twelve days since we sailed & I have not yet begun a Diary-Not because I have been disappointed -neither has it been from sea sickness. This great terror of the passengers, I have been spared almost entirely, but responsibilities & varied cares, which of a necessity fol-ow me, have prevented my setting down a thought.

So many I have had that were pleasant & grateful I shall ever bear in my heart the memory of them. Ever feel thankful that we were cast with such delightful company-Gentlemen whose manners are so engaging that any circle might be improved by their presence. Not from politeness & delicate attention to ladies alone as these can be assumed on occasion, but we believe that these are the signs of the true gentleman which can not  be mistaken.

Some whose faces we can trust and whose kind forbearance and gentle consideration of ***** children will, at once, win our confidence. Next to those whom our Savior has “suffered to come unto Him” should be those who can dive down into their hearts, inquiring what they need & what they can administer to their comforts-and for those who care not for these helpless ones, remembering not the days of their innocence, let us draw a sigh of intense pity. No domestic happiness will be theirs. They are ignorant of the kindest affections of the human heart & “home” has never any charm for them.

Will we ever forget the parting from our Home & from those we love

Will we ever forget the parting from our Home & from those we love? I think not. It is pleasant to believe that kind hearts, beating so far away, are with us on our voyage, praying to our common Father for our safety and prosperity. It is pleasant also to look forward to the day when we can open a door of hospitable welcome to some that will follow us. If our journey continues as pleasant as it has begun, how much we will have to be thankful for—How earnest we should be to return thanks by our daily actions—and prepare our-selves for another home, not made with hands.

On the morning of the 16th (April) we left N. Orleans—a clear sky above & hopeful hearts around us still we cannot say we were not met by disappointments in regard to our “quarters” between decks.

We knew nothing of the accommodation of an emigrant ship and consequently did not see as we do now that we are far better off in many respects than we might have expected—The rough fare if we keep our health, will never be remembered with thoughts of regret. We will only think of all that has been so very delightful.

Passed out of the Gulf on a moonlight night

We passed out of the Gulf on a lovely moonlight night. The waters as smoothe as a lake—crossed the bar safely between two vessels that were stuck, lying in wait for the rising of the tide— so much so good” we thought. On rounding Florida point we had some clouds, rough water, in consequence of a little blow, and some sea-sickness amongst the passengers. We watched the light-house with some interest, also the faint outline of a home of “Wreckers” who were doubtless watching the red lights on our masts with equal con-cern.

On the 18th we passed the Tortugas. The night previous to the blow—on the 20th passed Great Isaac’s, saw a few rocks and a striped light-house, about breakfast hour—Sunday got into the Atlantic—the rolling waves brought more sea-sickness amongst the passengers. In our family we had more cases with the smaller child-ren, Julia, Charlie and Reb—I suffered some with my head. Our Captain had services on deck. Our two min-isters being sick, he distributed a number of new Episcopal prayer books and it was with great satisfaction we saw the passengers, all that were able, go out to participate.

Most of our time we spent on deck

I think we have a good Captain. Prim, considerate—& seems to know well his duties and his course. Most of our time we spent on deck and we found our Captain very agreeable in conversation. With a rough manner and stern treatment to his crew, he was respected For several days the water remained rough—On Wed. we were annoyed by the appearance on board of a case of varioloid, very slight, but a cause of uneasiness, part-icularly to the Mothers of young families —Passed Porto Rico by night—Those that were up said that the streets, lighted by gas, could be readily distinguished and the scene very beautiful.

One or two small fights occurred

Sunday—28th — Water rough again—

Reverend Ballard Dunn held service on deck. One or two small fights occurred amongst the men. One dutchman who leads a blind man much like him,—probably his brother—had some rough handling, his eye blackened, an uncouth, unpolished set of individuals—If it were not for being obliged to be near some such people as these all the time, we would be more comfortable, So entirely different are they from beings we are accustomed to mingle with, but we have only those to look at and enough of a better class to associate with. Dear me! if we had not been thrown with some pleasant and agreeable people, what a sad & lonely time we might have had.Beautiful weather continued—lasted all the way. Our Captain said he had never made a more beautiful passage—that he had crossed the ocean thirty times.

KEYES JUL 6 1967.jpg
KEYES APR 1867.jpg

The Times-Picayune

New Orleans, Louisiana

06 Apr 1867, Sat  •  Page 7

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