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I was on my way to Japantown in San Francisco when I came across this row of beautiful old Queen Anne Victorians on Sutter Street. I’m sure all these houses would have fascinating stories to tell, but only one bears a sign naming its first — and possibly most famous — inhabitant, Captain John M. Cavarly. Captain Cavarly enjoyed a very long career as a sea captain which only ended a short time before his death in 1895. He survived more than one shipwreck, and during the Civil War his ship, the Anglo Saxon, was seized and then sunk by a Confederate vessel off the coast of Ireland.

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Friday morning, August 21, at 5, the second officer came to my room and said there was a steamer near us coming towards the ship. I went on deck at once. The ship lay becalmed; her courses were hauled up. The steamer came under our stern, hailed the ship, and asked where from and where bound. He then sent a boat on board the ship; told me to take my papers and go on board the steamer.

I went on board the steamer; the captain took my papers and looked at them; he then said: Your ship is a prize to the confederate steamer Florida, Captain Mufiitt. He told me to take my clothing — my ship’s company the same — and come on board the Florida at once. I then asked him to bond the ship. His reply was, my cargo was a contraband of war; he should burn the ship.

They took all the provisions, sails, cordage, canvas, &c., they wanted from the ship, besides my two chronometers, barometer, all my charts, sextant octant, in fact, all the nautical instruments belonging to the ship, besides some spars, and many other things. They did not allow any of my crew or officers to take their trunks or chests.

When my ship’s company were on board, all but myself and my officers and cook were put in irons. I had a channel pilot on board when the ship was captured. We both judged the ship to be twenty five miles from Queenstown. At noon on Friday, August 21, after they had taken all they wished from the Anglo Saxon, they set my ship on fire and fired two broadsides of shot and shell at her. The Florida then steered to the SW.; spoke two vessels the same afternoon; both were British and refused to take their prisoners. On Sunday morning saw the land, which was Ushant. In the afternoon anchored in the harbor; were quarantined till Monday afternoon, when we were landed in Brest. The American consul took charge of myself, officers, and crew. (House Documents, Volume 2; Volume 199, House Documents, USA House of Representatives, 1864.)

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You never know when you might bump into a bit of history!

 

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