“Me no wantee fight!”
by Lieutenant William H. Parker, commanding C. S. S. Beaufort.
“The enemy’s vessels came on at full speed under a heavy fire from our vessels and the fort. The fire from the latter was ineffectual. The officers and men were cool enough; but they had not had time to look about them. Everything was in bad working order, and it was difficult to train the guns. Just before we commenced to fire two of my men brought a man to me and said in the most indignant manner: “Captain here’s a man who says he don’t want to fight!” The idea of one of the Beaufort’s not wanting to fight seemed to irritate them exceedingly. I looked and beheld my poor cook trembling before me. The men held him up by the collar, for his legs refused to do duty. He was a delicate-looking Spaniard and, poor fellow, could speak very little English. He had been captured in a prize and had shipped in the Beaufort for the want of something better to do. He knew nothing about the war and cared less. In the fight at Roanoke he had been stationed in the magazine, and as it was pitch dark there had fondly imagined himself in a safe place; but it was different here in the broad daylight. Falling on his knees before me, he could only say: “Captain, me no wantee fight,” which he kept repeating. Poor fellow, I thought, I don’t wantee fight either – at least, not until after breakfast. “Put him in the magazine,” said I, recalling his former station, and thought no more about him. But he was to be my bete noir that day, for in the heat of the battle two of Henningsen’s horsemen brought him to me between them. He had fled from the magazine, and they had captured him. He was in an exceedingly limp condition; but I said, as before, “put him in the magazine,” which was done. He got away again, however, and beat us all to Norfolk – and that’s saying a good deal.”
- from “Recollections of a Naval Officer” by William H. Parker, originally published in 1883 by Charles Scribners’ Sons, New York, New York
(The Beaufort’s crew was mostly foreigners recruited from the crews of prizes taken by privateers operating out of Hatteras Inlet; they had been left stranded in New Bern with no jobs. Only one member of Parker’s crew was not a foreigner.)