Story of Liberty - Charles Coffin

The Half-Moon

The storks are building their nests on the chimney-tops in Amsterdam. The spring has come in its beauty. William Brewster and his fellow-pilgrims, in this year of 1609, are hard at work; but quite likely they have time to stop for a few moments, on this 25th day of March, to take a look at a vessel, the Half-moon, which is just starting for a long voyage, in search of a new route to China. Hendrick Hudson, an Englishman, Captain John Smith's friend, is skipper. He stands upon the deck issuing his orders. He has already been two voyages to the North, sailing amidst the icebergs; and now he is going to try to reach China by the way of Nova Zembla.

The East India Company and the Amsterdam burghers have fitted out the ship. The sailors bid good-bye to their friends, and the Half-moon slowly moves away. The winds are fair, and in less than a mouth Captain Hudson is at Cape North; but there he encounters terrible storms. The air is thick with mist. There are dense fogs, and ice-fields block his way. He is not a man, however, to turn back at once to Amsterdam; but turns westward, loses his foremast in a fearful storm, but reaches the Banks of Newfoundland, where the crew catch a great supply of fish, and on July 17th drops anchor in Penobscot Bay. There are tall pines on the shore, and the sailors soon have a new mast in its place. They traffic with the Indians, and then Captain Hudson sails south, coasts along Cape Cod, and on August 18th drops anchor in Chesapeake Bay. From there he turns north, and discovers Delaware Bay. Still farther north, coasting along a sandy shore, he discovers a long, low point of land curved like a hook, and names it Sandy Hook. A little farther, and he drops anchor at the mouth of "the great North River of New Netherlands"—the Hudson. The Indians put out in their canoes from the shores, come on board the ship, bringing tobacco, corn, and bear-skins, which they gladly exchange for knives and trinkets. The next day Captain Hudson sends a party of sailors on shore, where they find a great company of Indians, who give them tobacco and dried currants. The next day Captain Hudson sails through the "Narrows," and finds himself in a beautiful and spacious harbor. He sends a boat to the shore; but suddenly the Indians let their arrows fly, and John Coleman, one of the sailors, is killed. His comrades bury the body on a point of land, which they call Coleman's Point.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


On the 12th of September, the Half-moon begins her voyage up the great river. The Indians, astonished at the sight, come around the ship ill great numbers, bringing corn and tobacco, and making signs for knives and beads. Two days later the ship is amidst the Highlands, and the sailors look out upon the lofty mountains that remind then of the Rhine.

On September 18th, Captain Hudson goes ashore, near the present village of Castleton, to visit the great chief of the region, who has seventeen wives, and who has corn and beans enough to load three ships like the half-moon. The chief gives him a dinner of baked dog, and a dish of pigeons, which the squaws place before them in wooden bowls painted red. The chief would like to have him stay on shore overnight; and when he discovers that the captain is about to return to the ship, he orders his warriors to break their arrows and throw them into the fire, to let him know that no harm shall come to him. For supper they have pumpkins, grapes, and plums.

The Half-moon makes her way nearly to Albany, where, finding that the ship can go no farther, Captain Hudson sends a party in boats, to explore the river. He makes a feast to the Indian chiefs on board the ship, giving them brandy. One drinks so much that he becomes intoxicated, and rolls upon the deck; the others, not knowing what to make of it, leap into their canoes and hasten ashore; but return, bringing presents, and are much pleased to find the chief has come to life again, and who is anxious to stay with the white men, who have such strong water.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


Little does Captain Hudson think that at that moment Samuel Champlain is only a few miles distant, exploring the shores of the lake which bears his nave, and that, after a century has rolled away, the great battle for supremacy between France and England—between the old religion and the new—will be fiercely waged along its peaceful shores.

Retracing his course, Captain Hudson, October 1st, drops anchor in Haverstraw Bay, where an Indian, running his canoe under the stern of the vessel, climbs into the cabin window, and steals Captain Hudson's clothes; but the mate, seeing him, seizes a musket and shoots him. The Indians on the ship, amazed at the lightning, the smoke, and the roar of the gull, leap like frogs into the water, and swim for their boats.

[Illustration] from The Story of Liberty by Charles Coffin


Captain Hudson sends a boat filled with sailors to recover the stolen goods. One of the Indians in the water lays hold of the boat to upset it, but a sailor chops off his hand, and the Indian sinks to rise no more. The next day hundreds of Indians come in their canoes to attack the ship, but Captain Hudson brings a cannon to bear upon them. There is a flash, a roar, a boat is smashed, and those in it killed or wounded. The others flee in consternation before the white man's thunder and lightning. After a little while two canoes filled with savages put off from the shore and approach the ship rapidly; but there conies a second flash, and a rattle of musketry. One of the boats is riddled by the shot, and the poor creatures go down one by one, while those in the other canoe pull for the shore. They are powerless before the strangers. The Half-moon reaches the sea, spreads her sails, and on November 7th casts anchor in Dartmouth harbor, England, from whence Captain Hudson sends an account of his voyage to Holland; but Xing James will not permit him to sail thither. The king is jealous of the Dutch. Henry Hudson is an Englishman, and no Englishman shall be permitted to aid them in making new discoveries in the Western world.