In the beginning of the year 1862 I was chief officer of the ship "Ballaarat," with Captain Henry Jones, of Far East fame. We loaded in the East India Docks, London, a full cargo of piece goods for Shanghai and for Taku Bar. We arrived at Shanghai, and, as the war was finished, we were ordered to proceed to Taku to discharge our cargo for Tientsin. In due time we reached Taku Bar, where we found several of the British warships anchored, and the South Forts occupied by British troops.
We anchored in the forenoon very near to a vessel flying the Prussian flag, and when we had furled sails and cleared up decks it was tiffin-time. To our surprise, a boat came from the Prussian, bringing the captain. I met him at the gangway, and reported him to our captain, with the result that he stayed to tiffin with us. And then he stated his business on board our ship. He said he wanted to buy provisions and stores of any kind, sailors' clothing, boots, or anything we could sell, which our captain laughingly agreed to do.
The following conversation then took place: "What is the name of the vessel you command?"
"She is now the 'Hertha,' and was the British sailing-sloop 'Thetis.' The British Government had her converted into a screw vessel, and presented her to us to bring our Minister, Count von Eulenberg, to negotiate a treaty with China as soon as the war should be ended, and that is why we are here; and the barque with the American flag flying near to us carries extra coals for our use."
"But," said our captain, "you are not a German. How is it that you are in command of that ship?"
"No," said he; "I am an ex-Danish naval officer, and all my officers are Danes, and we have German cadets. There being no German navy, there are no officers yet trained."
Business then began, and the transfer of provisions and stores of almost every kind was made from one ship to the other. After this we used to have daily friendly intercourse for about three weeks, and one fine morning the "Hertha" left her anchorage. A fresh easterly breeze was blowing, and the "Hertha" was working under sail against the wind, which was increasing, and a nasty, short sea rising. After a couple of hours we saw her yards squared, and the vessel put back and she anchored near to us. In the afternoon, the wind having moderated, an officer from her came to buy a grindstone.
This caused some little merriment. Then the officer explained that in the forenoon, when beating down the gulf, in one of the plunges, the grindstone had been washed off the forecastle-head, where the men had been employed in grinding their cutlasses.
They were expecting to hear news of a rupture between France and Germany, and they were on the way to Hongkong for shelter.
It is highly creditable to the Germans that from so humble a beginning they have raised such a fine fleet as they now possess.
After our return to Shanghai from Taku I was permitted to leave the "Ballaarat" and take command of the "Neimen" on the Yangtse.