Letter from Hattie to Edward, April 1, 1870


Dublin Core


Letter from Hattie to Edward, April 1, 1870


Missionaries; Steamboats; Collisions at sea; Shipwrecks; Music; Meetings


In this overdue letter to her brother, Edward, Harriet Noyes writes about the sinking of the USS Oneida at the hands of the English steamer, the Bombay, which led to the death of 150 men. She discusses the resulting 'Oneida case.' Her emotions drive this narrative as she seems to feel the Bombay and the captain are at fault. Harriet changes the subject, and thus the letter concludes with some lines about music, particularly the music of mission meetings.


Noyes, Harriet Newell


The College of Wooster, Special Collections, Noyes Collection, Box #1






Council on Library and Information Resources Hidden Special Collections Grant




eng (English)






Sinking of the USS Oneida, 1870

Text Item Type Metadata


April 1st 1870 -
My dear Edward,
I am sure it has
been a long time since I have
written to you but believe me it
has not been from want of inclination.
I am trying to improve some of
the spare time on this boat trip
by writing to some long neglected
correspondents & I imagine your
claim is as good as any on the
some of time & a good deal better
on that of relationship. I feel quite
ashamed that we have neither
of us yet written to Mr or Mrs Lyon
to welcome them to China &
not even thanked them for the
nice books they sent us. Some of
the home letters spoke of our meeting
them but that is not at all probable
for they are a [u]long[/u] distance from
us. An effort has been made
to form a synod in China the
first meeting to be held next
fall at Chefoo, but it would not be
possible for the Canton missionaries
to attend. We are far to the south
a long way removed from the
nearest station of our Board.

When we went on board the
America with the Prestons we had
the pleasure of being introduced
to Admiral Rowan, the commander
of our naval forces in these waters.
He was on his way up to Yokohama
to see about the Oneida case.
I have written & you have no doubt
seen in the papers an account of
our gunboat Oneida being sunk
by the English steamer Bombay,
who held on her way leaving 150
men to go down to a watery grave.
Of course the Capt was tried for his
inhuman cruelty. & what do you
think was the sentence an [u]English[/u]
court passed upon the [u]English[/u]
captain of an English steamer
that had cut nearly in two one of our
steamers & without stopping to render
the assistance which it would
seem no human being could
refuse an enemy. this captain
left 150 of our gallant sailors to
die & went to Yokohama to say
there that he had just ^[run] down a
Yankee cruiser about 20 miles
back and the punishment for this
crime is "suspension from his
command for six months". The Oneida
came out from home the same month

that I did & after lying on this
coast for two years was just
starting out of the port of Yokohama
"homeward bound". They sunk
in a few minutes after being struck
but several guns of distress were fired
the last one just as the muzzle of the
gun went under water. It was a very
dark night but the officers of the Bombay
deny that they saw the flash or heard
the guns although close by. They admit that
they heard from the Oneida the hail
"Steamer ahoy lie by us you have cut us
down". but say they did not hear the
last of the sentence as though that was
the [u]shadow of an an excuse[/u] for their not
stopping to see the extent of the injury done.
If they had only stopped all say it would
have been an easy matter to have saved
all on board. We shall wait with intense
interest to hear what Admiral Rowen
does about it. I felt so indignant some
time since when at a gathering the conversation
turned on the Oneida case & the prevailing
sentiment expressed by the English was
[u]sympathy for the unfortunate captain
in his temporary disgrace.[/u] We did not
express our feelings it is doubtless the best
policy to keep the peace but it is not
always the easiest. Perhaps this
will not interest you as it does me &
if not I beg your pardon for filling up
your letter with it I have not written a
hundredth part of what I feel. Some of my
very best friends here are among the
English [--here--] but I do [u]not[/u] like the

way the English as a nation feel
towards USA. And now to change
the subject let us turn to music.
After our Wednesday Eve meeting we
sometimes have a sing. The other eve
Dr Happer wanted us to sing "Behold
what manner of Love". After we had
finished he said "it was very good but it
was'nt equal to Guilford". Then Mrs H
spoke up & said "O that singing at Guildford
it seemed to raise the Dr to the third
heavens" so I saw it was something
he has remembered. & talked of I was
the more surprised because I did'nt know as
he was enough of a musician to tell good
music. I presume I told you that
our Sabbath eve meetings are consolidated
& now held at our house. & I am organist.
We used to have most miserable music
but it was the fault of the players &
if you had ever listened to it you
would not think it saying much
to say that it ^[now] goes very much better.
You used to say you did'nt think it
was boasting to tell the truth so I hope you
will not think so if I tell you that I think &
that I think it is generally acknowledged
that our firm can get up the best music
in Canton. The principal reason that
I am glad it is so is because I am an
[u]American[/u]. And whenever any one
compliments us I always tell them that
we have the least musical talent of any
in the family. How I would enjoy a trio with
you & Em. I think I have improved some
since the days of yore studying Chinese
strengthens the voice. Goodbye with love from

Original Format



Noyes, Harriet Newell, “Letter from Hattie to Edward, April 1, 1870,” Letters from Harriet Noyes: Missionaries and Women's Education in Nineteenth Century China, accessed August 15, 2022, https://noyesletters.org/items/show/36.

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