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History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications
from the first submarine cable of 1850 to the worldwide fiber optic network

1858: Summer Pictures
by Henry M. Field

Introduction: In the summer of 1858 Cyrus Field's younger brother, Henry M. Field DD, travelled with his wife to Europe, keeping a diary and later writing a book on the events of the tour. The book was published in 1859 as Summer Pictures: From Copenhagen to Venice. See below for a contemporary review of the book and a brief biography of Henry Field.

After sailing from New York and arriving in Falmouth, England in early June of 1858, Henry and his wife took the coach to Plymouth in the hope of seeing Cyrus Field before the departure of the Atlantic Cable expedition. This short extract from the book (pages 23-27) describes the brothers' meeting and a visit to the Telegraph Squadron.

-- Bill Burns

From Summer Pictures by Henry M. Field

Plymouth, England, June 7th 1858.

In landing at Falmouth, I had another motive besides mere eagerness to be on shore. I knew that the Telegraph Squadron was to rendezvous at Plymouth, and I thought it possible that I might meet there my brother Cyrus, before the departure of the expedition. At Falmouth the Custom-house officer brought me the London Times, which announced that the ships had sailed a week before on a trial trip, but were to return to Plymouth. It was therefore a great satisfaction, as we drew to the end of our journey, and were just crossing the river which divides Cornwall from Devonshire, to learn that the ships had returned, and were then lying in the harbor. As we entered the town, I sprang from the coach and hastened to the Royal Hotel, to seek for tidings. Imagine my joy to be told that my brother was then in the house! The Directors had come down from London to complete the preparations for the expedition, and were now in session here. The servant had not the words out of his mouth, before he exclaimed, "There is Mr. Field now, coming through the hall!" The surprise and happiness of such a meeting can be understood only by those who have been alone and far from home, and who in a foreign land have suddenly rushed into a brother's arms. We had hardly reached our room before we received an invitation to dine with the Directors, and in half an hour after our long ride, we were dressed and sitting at our first English dinner. Eight or ten gentlemen were present, among them Mr. George Peabody, the well-known American banker; Mr. Brett, the father of submarine telegraphs in Europe; Mr. Brooking, the vice-president of the company, and Mr. Saward, the secretary; Professor Thompson, of Glasgow, and Mr. Lampson, of London.

Such a party of capitalists, with immense business on their hands, you might think, would be very grave and anxious. But on the contrary, it was one of the merriest dinners at which I was ever present. An Englishman, however hard he may work, lays off all care at dinner, and these men, who had been at work all day, and might work all night, were now the most cheerful companions in the world. I sat next to Mr. Peabody, who was full of pleasant and friendly chat about England and America. When the dinner was ended, we left the directors to resume their deliberations, while we walked out to see the beauties of Plymouth, which, viewed from "the Hoe," a promenade on high ground overlooking the bay, with its ships and forts, appears a very picturesque city.

It was now Saturday evening, and Capt. Hudson called to invite us on board the Niagara the next morning, with the special request that I should preach to the officers and crew on the last Sabbath before they sailed to commence their great undertaking, The occasion was one of such interest, that tired as I was, I could not refuse. The captain sent his boat, with a lieutenant and a dozen stalwart seamen to row us to the ship. Again the day was beautiful, and the water was like glass as we glided across the bay. Before us lay the whole telegraphic fleet, four noble ships destined in a few days to undertake one of the most stupendous enterprises ever attempted or conceived by man. A solemn religious service amid such surroundings could not but be deeply impressive. It seemed like the prayers of Columbus and his companions before they sailed from Spain. On the afterdeck an awning was read to shade us from the sun. A table, covered with an American flag, served for desk and pulpit. Before me sat the officers of the ship, with several of the directors and other scientific men; and behind, sitting on cannon, and crowding every spot where a man could sit or stand, four or five hundred seamen. My heart was full. They were my countrymen. And yet we were in a foreign port. Around us were the hills and waters and fleets of England. At that moment I felt how strong were the ties which bind us to the Old World as well as to the New, and most devoutly did I pray that the connection which these ships were sent to establish between two hemispheres, might be a tie to bind them in close and peaceful union. Standing thus in the presence of two nations, it seemed appropriate, by humble, and united, worship, to acknowledge our obligations to Him, who has made both England and America what they are. It was an act most fitting to the hour, that we should bow together on those decks, and stretch out our hands to God, and implore His blessing on the work which we were about to undertake. I opened to the 107th Psalm and read, "They that go down to the sea in ships, these see the works of the Lord, and his wonders in the deep." Then I spoke to the officers and sailors as men especially honored of God and of their country, by being chosen for this work of civilization. They were going on a missionary enterprise, to plant in the depths of the ocean a chord of iron, which should be vital as a chord of flesh, quivering with human life and language, telling the thoughts of men and speaking the glory of God at the bottom of the sea, and I adjured them evermore to bear themselves as members of "a sacred band." Never had I a more attentive audience. The hardy tars bent forward and listened eagerly to catch every word, and the tear that fell on many a bronzed cheek, told that beneath that rugged breast there trembled a gentle and manly heart. I may travel over many lands, but such a scene surely I can never hope to see again.

After service, the captain took us back to the city. In crossing the harbor, we visited the Agamemnon. As we approached the ship, we found it surrounded by a fleet of boats, which were filled with women! The sea was alive with them. We asked what it meant, and were told that these were the wives and sweethearts of the sailors, who had come off to take leave of them, as this was the last Sunday that the ship was to be in port. Jack seemed to be plentifully supplied with friends of the other sex. They swarmed over the ship, clambering up the sides, crowding the decks, and looking out of the portholes.

Captain Preedy was standing at the side of the ship to receive us. As we touched the deck, he reached out his arm to Mrs. F., and led us off straight to his cabin, and gave us a hearty English welcome. It was pleasant to see the cordial relations which exist between the officers of the two nations, and to mark the interest and ambition with which all enter upon their great work.

Before we left, Captain Preedy took us down into the hold of the ship to see the monstrous coils. He showed us one pile forty-six feet in diameter, and fifteen feet deep, in which there were 1,300 miles of cable! Can such a chain ever be stretched across the wild ocean? The undertaking seems almost above the power of man. Yet the preparations are on a corresponding scale of magnitude. All that human skill can do, is done, and the great result, on which so much depends, must now be left with that Being who spreadeth out the heavens, and ruleth the raging of the sea.


Reproduced below is a contemporary review of Henry Field's book, taken from
The North American Review, Volume 89, Issue 184, July 1859.

Summer Pictures from Copenhagen to Venice. By HENRY M. FIELD, New York: Sheldon & Co. 1859. l2mo. pp. 291.

Mr. Field is a keen and kindly observer, and a charming writer. His spirit has the glow of summer sunlight, and the fragrance of summer flowers. In his rapid tour he seizes upon all points of interest to a cultivated and thoughtful traveller, and portrays, with an easy and winning grace, precisely what he has seen and experienced, with no superfluous rhetoric, or fine-spun speculations, or irrelevant episodes. We are most of all delighted with the genuine human sympathy which pervades his book. He writes lovingly of the people of every nation on his route, and finds everywhere noble traits and hopeful elements in human character and condition. Works of art he does not undertake to describe; scenery he paints with warmth and vigor, but cursorily, while he lingers with manifest fondness on every view of home life, of popular customs and amusements, of moral improvement and religious activity. Never have we laid down a record of travel with higher esteem for its author. Such tourists as he have a most important mission in drawing closer the bonds of mutual regard between nation and nation, and in removing those paltry jealousies and calumnies, in which American travellers have sinned to the full measure of those foreigners on our shores whose strictures have so often aggrieved and wounded us.


FIELD, HENRY MARTYN: Presbyterian; b. at Stockbridge, Mass., Apr. 3, 1822; d. there Dec. 29, 1907. He studied at Williams College (B.A., 1838), East Windsor Hill (now Hartford) Theological Seminary (1838-41), and Yale Divinity School (1841-42), and was pastor at St. Louis, Mo. (1842-47), and West Springfield, Mass (1850-54).

From 1854 to 1900 he was editor and proprietor of The Evangelist, a Presbyterian weekly, published in New York City. His travel-sketches enjoyed a great repute.

His published works include: The Irish Confederates, and the Rebellion of 1798 (New York, 1851); Summer Pictures from Copenhagen to Venice (1859); History of the Atlantic Telegraph (1866); From the Lakes of Killarney to the Golden Horn (1876); From Egypt to Japan (1877); On the Desert; with Review of Events in Egypt (1883); Among the Holy Hills (1884); The Greek Islands and Turkey after the War (1885); Blood Thicker than Water: A Few Days among our Southern Brethren (1886); Old and New Spain (1888); Gibraltar (1889); Bright Skies and Dark Shadows (1890); The Story of the Atlantic Telegraph (1893); and The Life of David Dudley Field (1898).

[Source: The New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge, by Philip Schaff. Courtesy of Christian Classics Ethereal Library, Grand Rapids, 2000-01-11, v0.1]


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