The Abduction of Anna Petrovna Bulygin in 1808. Female Agency and the Russian Colonial Gaze in Early to Mid-19th Century Popular Culture

This article analyzes a chapter from Charles Ellms’s book “The Tragedy of the Seas” (1848). The chapter recounts the historical events around a schooner belonging to the Russian American Company, which was shipwrecked close to the Olympic Peninsula in 1808. After the disaster, the ship’s crew, and Anna Petrovna Bulygin, the captain’s wife, were taken hostage by indigenous people. The article examines Anna Petrovna Bulygin’s female agency within Ellms’s narrative, arguing that it is exceptional within the genre of maritime frontier adventures, as well as early 19th century Russian culture. Importantly, a focus on her agency offers interesting insights into the Russian colonial gaze on the indigenous peoples of America.

The Abduction of Anna Petrovna Bulygin in 1808: Female Agency and the Russian Colonial Gaze in early to mid-19th Century Popular Culture[1]

By Katharina Wiedlack

In 1841, American readers were introduced to the sensational, and ultimately tragic story of Anna Petrovna Bulygin,[2] the eighteen-year-old Russian woman and wife of a navigator employed by the Russian American Company, in Charles Ellms’s book “The Tragedy of the Seas; or, Sorrow on the Ocean, Lake, and River, from Shipwreck, Plague, Fire and Famine.”[3] The chapter, titled “The fights and adventures of the Russian American Company’s ship TheSt. Nicholai during a sojourn of a year spent among the hostile Natives of the North West Coast of America; November 1808,” recounts the historical events of the shipwrecking of the Russian schooner (Sv. Nikolai),[4] and Anna Petrovna’s abduction and subsequent enslavement by members of the indigenous population. The story is told from the perspective of its supercargo (as the representative in charge of the ship’s cargo was called).

The historian Kenneth N. Owens,[5] who thoroughly researched the story of the Sv. Nikolai, comparing it to other sources relating its fate, discovered that the real Anna Petrovna was one of the first European women to live in what is today Alaska. Moreover, she was very likely the first white woman ever to set foot on the territory of Oregon Country. What seems particularly interesting about her in the context of early 19th-century frontier literature, however, is not simply that she appears in the story, but the role that Ellms presents her in. Not only is Anna Petrovna represented as an autonomous individual, but her ideas and actions significantly influence the fates of all the other people involved in the event. And while such autonomy and agency might not surprise us in our contemporary context, they are nearly unprecedented in early 19th-century storytelling about historical events. The unusual publication history of the stories suggests that it was Anna Petrovna’s exceptional female autonomy and agency that contributed to Ellms’s decision to include in his anthology a version almost unchanged from its Russian original. What is further remarkable is that Anna Petrovna’s decisions and actions reflect rather positively on the indigenous communities, in particular the Quileute, and the Makah.

In my paper, I will first contextualize Anna Petrovna’s actions and voice within Ellms’s anthology. Thereafter, I will analyze why Ellms’s characterization of Anna Petrovna is unique within the context of early 19th-century popular culture more generally. I will do this by focusing on the gendered power dynamics of early 19th-century North America, where Ellms’s book was published and circulated, as well as on Russian conventions that the story is based on. Following this, I will focus how Anna Petrovna’s agency reflects on and supports the narrative’s depictions of the Hoh, the Quileute, and the Makah. I will argue that by introducing a Russian colonial perspective to North American readers, the story subverts the views on indigenous peoples that prevailed among Ellms’s contemporaries.

Contextualizing the Plot

“The fights and adventures of the Russian-American Company’s ship The St. Nicholai,” the subject of Ellms’s book, is set against the background of the Russian-American company and its vessel, the actual Sv. Nikolai. The Russian-American Company, under the leadership of its Chief Manager Alexander Baranov, governed the territory of Russian America, the name conferred on the land claims made by the Russian Empire in North America between 1799 and 1867. This territory included much of the southeast of today’s state of Alaska, as well as the Aleutian Islands, Fort Ross in California, and three forts in Hawaií. The Russian-American capital was Novo Arkhangelsk, today called Sitka. It was from there that in 1808 the Sv. Nikolai set out on an expedition to locate a site for establishing a permanent Russian post on the coast of Oregon Country.

Less than five weeks after it had departed from Novo Arkhangelsk, the Sv. Nikolai suffered shipwreck at the southwestern Olympic Peninsula, close to the mouth of the Quillayute River, on the territory that is today the Quileute Indian Reservation. The crew of twenty-two people, including captain Nikolai Isaakovich Bulygin, his wife Anna Petrovna, and the supercargo Tarakanov, were able to save themselves. On shore, however, the party were met with hostility by the Quileute people, on whose lands they were encroaching. To escape attack by the Quileute, the party fled south into the territory of the Hoh people. The local people expressed a willingness to help the crew, while in fact leading them into a trap. This resulted in the abduction of Anna Petrovna, and one of the Kodiak Aleut women.

Ellms’s narrative, which is written in the first person, from the perspective of supercargo Tarakanov, does not diverge from what we know of the historical facts. It is, in fact, the literal translation of the narrative told by the actual ship’s supercargo, Timofei Tarakanov, as recorded by the Russian Navy Captain and author V. M. Golovnin, and published in 1822. The introduction to the original Russian narrative explains that Tarakanov kept a journal throughout his journey on board the Sv. Nikolai, during his captivity, and after his return to Novo Arkhangelsk, in 1810. Upon his return, he gave the manuscript to his superior, Chief Manager Baranov, who in turn entrusted it into the hands of Vasilii M. Golovnin, a Navy Captain and gifted writer. Golovnin was so enthusiastic about the story that he interviewed Tarakanov and other survivors of the shipwreck. He subsequently decided to transform the details of their accounts into a gripping narrative, and to publish it.

It is all the more remarkable, then, that although the story was recorded by several quills, and informed by many voices, almost all of them male, the strong voice of Anna Petrovna was preserved within the Russian narrative and the translation that followed, as well as Ellms’s edited reprint.

Anna Petrovna: Female Agency

Anna Petrovna Bulygin’s position in the narrative is remarkable, from any angle or perspective. Stylistically, Golovnin’s original narrative and the English translation fall neatly within the literary genre of the 19th-century frontier adventure. It has a gripping story line, with the unexpected twists and turns typical of the genre, dominated by Anglo-American and British writing. Yet, although it clearly belongs to the genre of frontier adventures, the account of the Sv. Nikolai is unique, due to the prominent role of Anna Petrovna Bulygin in a narrative genre that is usually populated almost exclusively by male characters.

In their attempt to cross a river to flee the attacks by the Quileute, the party is tricked by a small group of Hoh people, headed by a woman, who leads Anna Petrovna and her female Kodiak Aleut companion into captivity. When a first attempt to rescue Anna Petrovna fails, the reader gets a first account of Anna Petrovna’s strong voice, albeit in the third person: “The lady told her husband that she had been humanely and kindly treated, that the other prisoners were also alive, and now at the mouth of the river.”[6] The capture of Anna Petrovna plays an important role within the narrative, notwithstanding its historical accuracy. Because the captain is so heartbroken about the loss of his wife, he feels incapable of further maintaining command over his crew, and hands over authority to supercargo Tarakanov, the narrator. This narrative twist legitimizes Tarakanov’s further actions, which would otherwise have lacked credibility: they violate the nautical social hierarchy, in which Navigator Bulygin occupies the superior position, and Tarakanov holds the position of an indentured dependent. Moreover, Bulygin’s emotional incapacity allows Tarakanov to shine as the hero of the story. He describes himself as clever, able, and smart, and emphasizes his own abilities by giving voice to his comrades, as well as the native toën.[7]

In the beginning of February 1809, one year after the Sv. Nikolai shipwreck, Captain Bulygin makes a second attempt to ransom his wife. Upon reaching the riverbank where she was captured, a large group of native people awaits them. Among them is the Hoh woman who had first deceived them. The Russians take this opportunity to kidnap the woman, demanding that the Russian and Aleut captives be returned to them in exchange for her. The next day, Anna Petrovna is brought to the meeting spot by the Makah toën, whose name is Yootramaki, and who is dressed in European style.

Upon seeing her comrades, Anna Petrovna takes the lead in the conversation:

“She immediately told us that our female prisoner was the sister of this chief; that they were both kind people, to whom she owed the greatest obligations, and demanded that we would instantly set her at liberty. On our telling her, however, that her husband would not liberate her, unless she herself were first restored to him, she replied, to our horror and consternation, that she was very well contented to stay where she was; at the same time advising us to deliver ourselves also to her present protectors. Their chief, she said, was a candid and honorable man, well known on this coast, who would, without the least doubt, liberate, and send us on board two vessels, now lying in the Bay of St. Juan de Fuca.”[8]

Anna Petrovna’s refusal to be ransomed is another astonishing twist in the story. Even more surprising is that the narrator dramatizes her actions, thereby emphasizing her agency and autonomy, through allowing her to speak to the reader directly. When her desperate husband, seemingly at his wit’s end, tries to force her into compliance by threatening to shoot her if she insists on staying with the native people, “the woman resolutely replied: ‘As to death, I fear it not; I will rather die than wander with you again through the forests, where we may fall at last into the hands of some cruel tribe, whilst now I live among kind and humane people: tell my husband that I despise his threats.’”[9] The supercargo quickly concludes that her advice is reasonable, and that he is “ultimately determined to follow her advice.” The next morning, most of the men, including Tarakanov and Captain Bulygin surrender themselves to the Makah.

While the emphasis on Anna Petrovna’s kidnapping might be explained by Tarakanov’s desire to legitimize his own actions, her strong role within the plot is not as easily rationalized. If women appear in frontier-adventure narratives, they are usually voiceless. Anna Petrovna, however, not only has a strong voice, but her opinion is so highly regarded that even the first-person narrator follows her advice.

Female vs. Male Agency

The construction of different masculinities in the story – the captain, the supercargo and the toën Yootramaki – and their correspondence to agency also deserve comment. The captain, who is supposed to be the most responsible and capable authority figure, appears overly emotional and too attached to his wife, suggesting a kind of weakness and effeminacy. The most admirable, conventionally masculine, qualities are attached to the narrator Tarakanov, who is rational, smart, strong, and caring. While it is clear that these characters are “manly,” white Europeans, the self-evident gendered and racialized distinction is subverted through Anna Petrovna’s strong, rational, and capable character and actions, as well as, and in connection with, the positive description of the toën Yootramaki (to whom I will return later).

Given that the practice of voluntary hostages was common in Europe, until at least the 18th century, and that this practice was further continued within colonial contexts,[10] Anna Petrovna’s decision would not have been extraordinary, if she hadn’t been a woman. Moreover, hostages were frequently offered in situations of maritime trade, especially where there were language barriers,[11] as insurance of a peaceful process or “as surety for the execution of a promise or treaty, or as a symbol of submission on the part of the vanquished.”[12] In view of Anna Petrovna’s noble Russian background, the concept of voluntary hostage would have been familiar to her. Moreover, given the environment and the lack of equipment of the Russian crew, lack of knowledge about their surroundings, etc., the choice is more than logical. Nevertheless, in this particular historical context, her gender and social status render her deeds exceptional. Within 19th-century popular culture more generally, and within Ellms’s collection of international frontier adventures, Anna Petrovna’s voice and agency as a female literary figure is indeed noteworthy.

Exceptional Female Agency in a Sea of Female Impuissance

It is worth mentioning that the Sv. Nikolai is not only the one story about Russian seafaring, but also the only story about Russian America and Oregon Country in the anthology. Most important, it is only one out of two stories in the entire anthology that pictures women as protagonists. While women do appear on board ships, and play a role in the stories, they are generally not protagonists, but rather props, emphasizing the severity of the situation of shipwreck and other catastrophes. Female seafaring people are usually described as “[w]ives clinging to husbands, […] and women, who were without protectors, seeking aid from the arm of the stranger,”[13] and as silent victims, without voice, volitation or agency, such as the wife of a captain, who is eaten by indigenous cannibals.[14] If women are shown to engage in activities, rather than as silent witnesses, they have most likely gone mad, due to the sheer horrors they must endure,[15] or they are nameless Samaritans.[16]

In the almost 450 pages of Ellms’s anthology, the only capable woman other than Anna Petrovna is Miss Grace Horsely Darling, the young daughter of the owner of a lighthouse on a small island off the rocky coast of Northumberland, who comes to the rescue of a crew of sailors.[17] In Grace Horsely’s case, the narrator makes sure to emphasize that “[t]his perilous achievement stands unexampled in the feats of female fortitude.”[18] In order to highlight the exceptional character of her case and reaffirm her femininity (which might otherwise be tainted or called into question by her heroic deeds that require significant “manpower” –rescuing grown men from the wild waters surely takes prodigious physical strength), the narrator stresses how noble and fair, how petite and delicate, Grace Horsely is. Even more, she is described as pure and selfless as an angel. In contrast to the idealized, almost otherworldly Grace Darling, who only lives for the benefit of others, Anna Petrovna appears immune to such glorification. Rather, her agency and decisiveness seem to derive from her astute, timely assessment of the situation, rather than female devotion to her husband and the other members of the ship’s crew. Her virtues are self-preservation, rather than self-sacrifice.

Female Agency in the Historical Context

Such strong, independent agency reads curiously against the historical background of gender relations in Czarist Russia. In the early 19th century, it was rare, though not completely unheard of, for Russian women to follow their husbands to North America. While his predecessors had occasionally brought their wives along,[19] Chief Manager Baranov had left his Russian wife and family behind and taken an Indigenous woman as his new wife.[20] The eighteen-year-old Anna Petrovna was probably the only white woman among a rather rough-and-tumble bunch of Russian seafaring men, who were for the most part illiterate indentured sailors and fur hunters.[21] Given her social status as part of the Russian nobility, she had little in common with the company she found herself among, and it is unclear whether she was able to communicate in Russian with the Aleut women accompanying the group.

Although women’s position in Russian society was starting to improve slightly during the 18th century, due to legal reforms initiated by Peter I, as well as the widespread influence of Enlightenment ideas within the social elite, their status was still inferior in all spheres of life. In her comprehensive chronology of the status of women in Russian society from 1700 to 2000, historian Barbara Alpern[22] argues that patriarchy strongly structured the social hierarchy of the time. Marital law forced women to submit fully to their husbands and obey their commands without resistance. Indeed, married women held no independent civil status apart from their husbands.

As part of the crew of the Sv. Nikolai, Anna Petrovna’s status was determined by her husband’s. This meant that she was most likely protected from any sexual advances and violence from her comrades. Nevertheless, Russian social custom did not guarantee her a favorable position among the crew; rather the contrary. Thus, it is all the more curious that the members of the crew, including her husband, valued her opinions so highly and trusted her favorable assessment of the indigenous population.

The Russian Colonial Gaze meets American Readers

It is interesting that the favorable depiction of the indigenous communities of North America, like Anna Petrovna Bulygin’s agency, survived a translation from Russian to English, as well as the story’s transferal from the medium of political writing to popular culture. As mentioned above, Ellms’s chapter is the literal translation of the narrative told by the ship’s supercargo, Timofei Tarakanov, as recorded by the Russian Navy Captain V. M. Golovnin and published in 1822. The Bostonian Ellms did not translate or write this text himself; rather, he incorporated an earlier published English translation into his anthology. The original translation by someone with the initials Y.Z., was published under the title “Narrative of the Adventures of the Crew of the Russian-American Company’s Ship St. Nicolai, Wrecked on the North-West Coast of America” in the Asiatic Journal, vol. 18, nr. 105 from 1824, a publication of the East-India Company, based in London.[23] Ellms transferred the text from the genre of political, economic, and colonial development, which targeted a British readership, into the realm of American popular culture, thereby introducing the text to a wide American readership.

It is worth noting again that the original story remained almost unchanged when translated from Russian into English and imported from Russia via Britain to US-America. Accordingly, Ellms’s text presented the US-American readership with a Russian colonial perspective that differed in some key respects from the hegemonic US-American perspective. The depiction of the Makah (through Anna Petrovna’s eyes), unusually favorable for American discourses, can be read as translation of the Russian colonial gaze into US-American literature. The Russian view on indigenous peoples of North America was influenced by their wish to expand the fur hunt and trade, and general transpacific commerce. To do so, the Russians depended in large part on collaboration with indigenous peoples.

Arguably, the lack of detail around the Bulygins’ untimely demise needs to be viewed as further evidence of the Russian colonial gaze. The story mentions that Anna Petrovna and her husband both die in captivity, but their deaths are told rather briefly and unsentimentally. Moreover, it is emphasized that, for a time, they lived quite comfortably within their captivity, though they were forced to move and to change masters frequently, during the months leading up to their deaths in 1809 and 1810. The narrator further emphasizes that some of Anna Petrovna’s masters were kind, and that only the last owner was cruel. This narrative choice further supports the argument that it was Anna Petrovna’s agency, her decisions and actions, which were significant, not her female physique and victimhood. Through her assessment of the situation, the indigenous population and her subsequent actions, the narrator ends up in the captivity, or rather in the company of the toën Yootramaki, who treated him “like a friend.”

The narrator Tarakanov’s depiction of the Makah people, and especially of Yootramaki, varies, alternating between surprisingly amicable appreciation and patronizing condescension. Although he views the native peoples as inferior to Russians, and possibly to Europeans and Americans, using racist terms such as “savage”, and on occasion even “barbarian,” throughout the text to characterize their ‘uncivilized’ deeds, he also emphasizes the intelligence of indigenous communities in matters of warfare. In the case of Yootramaki, the Makah toën, he describes his honesty, kindness, and great humanity. He emphasizes Yootramaki’s superior qualities, however, by highlighting his European dress, and suggesting that he had likely had contact with other Europeans prior to his encounter with the Russians.

Ellms’s story differs significantly from the Russian original in the editorial decision to leave out the details of the shipwreck, but not the meticulous description of the attacks by the Quileute and Hoh, whose territory the castaways had invaded. Indeed, the ferocity with which the Quileute and Hoh attacked them is emphasized through a woodblock print crafted by Ellms himself, which shows them attacking the Russians with long spears. Such fine prints were very rarely included in the popular literature of the time. Accordingly, the illustration must have constituted a sensation in itself, further popularizing the unusual story of Anna Petrovna Bulygin’s capture. The state-of-the-art innovation that the print represented, however, while demonstrating Ellms’s craftsmanship and amplifying the text’s appeal, stands in stark contrast to the emphasis on the military sophistication of the various indigenous peoples through the narrative. The visual depicts the Quileute and Hoh as almost naked, which is not only historically inaccurate, since the season of November would have demanded warmer clothes, but also symbolically divergent from the narrative description. While the depiction does convey the drama of the scene, the native costume in the image does not resemble any known Quileute and Hoh style. Rather, it conveys ideas of barbarity, backwardness, and lack of civilization, in contrast to the Russians’ costume, which shows sophisticated overcoats, trousers, sables, and muskets.

While the illustration and the description of the attacks by Native people offer Ellms’s American audience a sensational spectacle, the Quileute and Hoh, as well as the Makah, are not unambiguously described as wild “savages” in need of civilizing by the ‘superior’ colonizers. Rather, their descriptions vary in perspective between one that is condescending and exoticizing, and one that honors their skills and generosity. What is particularly interesting is that the account describes several instances of solidarity and collaboration among the different native groups in their attacks on the European invaders.

Owens, the aforementioned historian who retranslated and commented on the Russian original text in 1985, identifies the Makah toën, Yootramaki, or Yutramaki, so favorably described both by Tarakanov and by Ellms in his translation, as the historical figure “Machee Ulatilla or Utillah.”[24] According to Owens, Yootramaki (Utillah) was probably the descendent of an Irish explorer and a Makah woman. Tarakanov, like other seafaring men,[25] had Yootramaki (Utillah) to thank for his eventual release from captivity and his return home. He was certainly an exceptional figure among his contemporaries, not only due to his features – which were very likely exaggerated by Tarakanov’s racializing, colonial gaze – but also through his good will towards the captured Europeans, and his command of the English language. In any case, Ellms’s account has it that Yootramaki (Utillah) handed over Tarakanov and the remainder of the crew of the Sv. Nikolai to Captain Brown of the American brig, The Lydia, as promised, in May 1810.

Popular Culture as Cultural Memory

The printing history of Ellms’s story of the crew of the Sv. Nikolai is likewise interesting. Owens commented not only on the Russian original, but also on the 1824 translation, which is the basis of Ellms’s account, calling it “loose [and] omitting much significant detail.”[26] He further states that “this version fortunately gained no scholarly notice.”[27] This sentiment, however, might have originated rather in Owens’s desire to promote the uniqueness of his own work.[28] Although Ellms’s book, based on Y.Z.’s translation, leaves out some details of the original narrative, it is an accurate translation, overall.[29] The parts omitted are the short description of what happened before the shipwreck, the trade with native people, and the description of the shipwreck – which is also condensed, but otherwise accurate.[30]

Owens’s dismissal of the first English translation did not follow up on its distribution via Ellms’s “The Tragedy of the Seas.” Ellms’s book, however,deserves some attention beyond the fact that it introduced the story of the shipwrecked Sv. Nikolai and Anna Bulygin to a broad American audience. Ellms was a trailblazer in the field of industrialized book printing, producing unprecedented masterpieces of popular literature in what was, for that time, rapid circulation.[31] When Ellms published his anthologies between 1836 and 1842, the genre of maritime frontier adventures, pirate stories, and shipwrecks and seafaring was extremely popular. For many Americans, most of them living in rural areas and small towns far away from the sea, these stories were a great diversion from the monotony of hard labor on farms or in factories, and their lives in close-knit communities with little opportunity for adventure. Moreover, like the stories about the western frontier, Ellms’s stories of the sea must have provided an imaginative escape from social pressures. Furthermore, Ellms provided them with 121 astonishing illustrations, produced from woodcut engravings. The price of the book was $1, and the 9,000 copies were sold by “nineteen firms in twelve different cities.”[32] They surely popularized, and, indeed, preserved, the memory of Anna Petrovna Bulygin, her comrades, and the worthy and honorable Makah, toën Yootramaki, for many generations of Americans, and beyond; though it is perhaps only now that we can fully appreciate the valor and agency of Anna Petrovna herself in these events.

[1] The research for this article was conduction within the framework of the project "Rivals of the Past, Children of the Future: Localizing Russia within US National Identity Formations from a Historical Perspective" (V 741) funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF); Original source: Charles Ellms, The Tragedy of the Seas; or Sorrow on the Ocean, Lake, and River, from Shipwreck, Plague, Fire and Famine [Chapter], in: Themenportal Europäische Geschichte, 2023, URL: <>.

[2] I have transliterated the name “Bulygin” in accordance with the Library of Congress style. Accordingly, my transliteration deviates from Ellms’s text, which transliterates the name “Bulugin.”

[3] Anonymous supercargo, The fights and adventures of the Russian American Company’s ship the St. Nicholai during a sojourn of a year spent among the hostile Natives of the North- West Coast of America; November 1808, in: Charles Ellms (ed.), The tragedy of the seas; or, Sorrow on the ocean, lake, and river, from shipwreck, plague, fire and famine published, Philadelphia 1841, p. 361–375.

[4] I have transliterated the ship’s name as Sv. Nikolai rather than the English St. Nicholas. This deviates from the practice in Ellms’s book, which mixes Russian and English: St. Nikolai.

[5] Kenneth N. Owens / Alton S. Donnelly, The Wreck of the Sv. Nikolai, Lincoln 1985.

[6] Ellms, p. 370.

[7] Toën is the Russian word for native leader, often translated as chief.

[8] Ellms, p. 373.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Irène Herrmann / Daniel Palmieri, A Haunting Figure: The Hostage through the Ages, in: International Review of the Red Cross 87, no. 857 (March 2005), p. 135–148.

[11] David Igler, Captive-Taking and Conventions of Encounters on the Northwest Coast, 1789–1810, in: Southern California Quarterly 91, no. 1 (April 1, 2009), p. 3–25.

[12] Herrmann and Palmieri, p. 137

[13] A detailed Journal of the Proceedings on Board of the STEAMPACKET HOME, which sprung a-leak off Cape Hatteras; with a melancholy Account of her Subsequent Loss on Ocracoke Island, off the Coast of North Carolina, in: Charles Ellms (ed.), The tragedy of the seas, p. 71; similar depictions can be found in: The Loss of the Royal Charlotte on the Coral Rocks of Frederick's Reef, in: ibid., p. 281f.

[14] An affecting Narrative of the Loss of the Charles Eaton, on the Great Barrier Reef of New Holland, and the Massacre of nearly all the Ship's Company by the Natives, in: Charles Ellms (ed.), The tragedy of the seas, p. 13–40.

[15] The Famine on Board of the SHIP FRANCES MARY, which foundered in the Atlantic Ocean, in: Charles Ellms (ed.), The tragedy of the seas, p. 194f.

[16] The Pamperos of the Rio de la Plata, in: Charles Ellms (ed.), The tragedy of the seas, p. 109–115.

[17] The History of Bamborough Castle, on the North-Eastern Coast of England; with the HEROISM OF GRACE DARLING, of the Longstone Light-House, in rescuing the shipwrecked Company of the FORFARSHIRE STEAM-PACKET, in: Charles Ellms (ed.), The tragedy of the seas, p. 199–210.

[18] Ibid., p. 206.

[19] Douglas Deur / Thomas Thornton / Rachel Lahoff / Jamie Hebert, Yakutat Tlingit and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve: An Ethnographic Overview and Assessment, Anthropology Faculty Publications and Presentations 2015. <> (7.6.2022), p. 13

[20] For details about Baranov, see: Andrei Val'terovich Grinëv, Russian Colonization of Alaska: Baranov’s Era, 1799–1818, translated by Richard L. Bland, Lincoln 2020.

[21] For the situation of women in Russian America see Gwenn A. Miller, Kodiak Kreol: Communities of Empire in Early Russian America, Kodiak Kreol, Ithaca/London 2010.

[22] Barbara Alpern Engel, Women in Russia, 1700–2000, Cambridge 2004, p. 13.

[23] Golovnin published the narrative first in serial form in 1822, and as part of a book in 1853. After his death, his son published included it in his collected essays: Golovnin V.M. Sochinenija i perevody Vasilija Mihajlovicha Golovnina Mesto izdanija: S-Pb. Izdatel'stvo: Tipografija Morskogo Ministerstva, God izdanija 1864. Already in 1822, however, the St. Peterburgische Zeitung printed a German translation (vol. 10, p. 22–52). The first English translation appeared in the Asiatic Journal 18 (1824), p. 245–253.

[24] Owens, p. 22.

[25] For example, John Rodgers Jewett, Narrative of the adventures and sufferings of John R. Jewitt; only survivor of the crew of the ship Boston, during a captivity of nearly three years among the savages of Nootka sound: with an account of the manners, mode of living, and religious opinions of the natives, Middletown 1815, p. 153.

[26] Ibid., p. 13.

[27] Ibid.

[28] C. L. Andrews published another English summary, based on Golovnin’s 1853 edition, in the Washington Historical Quarterly 13 (1922), p. 27–31. The most recent English version was published as part of Hector Chevigny’s popular volume, Russian America: The Great Alaskan Venture, New York 1965, reprint 1973.

[29] Owens also gives the wrong date for publication, stating it was published in 1826, when in fact it was published in 1824.

[30] The only discrepancy I could find was that while Owens writes that the native attackers hurled stones at the Russians (Owens, p. 45), in Ellms’s text it is the Russians (Ellms, p. 362) who threw them. He also leaves out the passage in which Anna Petrovna warns the Russians that the native people are attacking (Owens, p. 45).

[31] Michael Winship, Pirates, Shipwrecks, and Comic Almanacs: Charles Ellms Packages Books in Nineteenth-Century America, in: Printing History 9 (2011): p. 3–16, here p. 3.

[32] Ibid., p. 15.

Zugehörige Quelle: Charles Ellms, The Tragedy of the Seas; or Sorrow on the Ocean, Lake, and River, from Shipwreck, Plague, Fire and Famine [Chapter]

Charles Ellms, The Tragedy of the Seas; or Sorrow on the Ocean, Lake, and River, from Shipwreck, Plague, Fire and Famine [Chapter][1]







A Sojourn of a Year amongst the hostile Natives of the

North- West Coast of America; November, 1808,


OUR ship was bound for the coast of New Albion. On the 29th of September, 1808, we were opposite Vancouver's Cape Flattery, in 48° 25' N. latitude. We followed the coast during several days, for the purpose of sketching it. The natives came out in great numbers, and sometimes we were surrounded by more than one hundred of their boats, which, although small, generally held from three or four to ten people. We never allowed more than three at a time to come on board — a caution which seemed the more necessary, as they were all armed. Several of them had muskets; others had arrows pointed with stags' antlers, iron lances without handles, and bone forks fixed on long poles; moreover, they had a species of arms made of whale-ribs, of the shape of a Turkish sabre, two inches and a half long, a quarter of an inch thick, and blunt on both edges: this weapon, we understood, they used in their night attacks, so common among these savages, killing their foes while asleep.

[p. 362]

They offered to us sea-otters, reindeer-skins, and fish, for sale, For a large fish we paid them a string of blue beads, a quarter of an arshin long, and from five to six wershok of glass beads; but for beaver-skins they would take nothing less valuable than broadcloth.

A few days after this, we had a violent storm, which lasted for three days, the wind blowing from the south; at length, a sudden calm ensued, but the motion of the waves continued very high. At daybreak, the fog, which had till then surrounded us, disappeared, and we saw the shore at the distance of about ten or twelve miles. The calm rendered the sails useless, and the high waves would not allow us to have recourse to the oars; the current, therefore, carried us rapidly towards the shore. We thought ourselves lost, when happily a north-westerly breeze sprang up, by the help of which we got out of our perilous situation. Soon, however, a new storm arose, which was again interrupted by a calm; and at last, on the 1st of November, after much anxiety, and still more unavailing labor, our ship was cast on shore in 47° 66' N. latitude, nearly opposite the Island of Destruction. Happily, the ship had run on soft round, and during high water; when the tide, therefore, had receded, we found her still entire, although she had been terribly shaken, and was half full of water. There was, however, no possibility of saving her; we therefore went on shore, taking with us the guns, muskets, ammunition, and every other article which we thought we might find useful in our desolate state. Our first care, when landed, was to clean and load our fire-arms, as we had every moment reason to expect a visit from the natives, against whose cupidity and savage fury we had no other security than our resolution. This being done, we made two tents with our sails, and had scarcely finished, when we saw a host of savages pouring down upon us. The mate, accompanied by four hunters, had gone on board, for the purpose of taking down the tackling from the ship. They had taken a burning match with them, there being still a few guns left in the brig. The captain, standing near her, gave the necessary orders, while I had the charge of watching the motions of the enemy and guarding our little camp.

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Our tent was occupied by Mrs. Bulugin, (the captain's wife,) an Aleootskian, from Kadjak, a woman of the same nation, myself, and two natives, who had joined us without any invitation. One of them, a toën, (elder,) invited me to his hut, which, he said, was not far off; but prudence restrained me from accepting this invitation. I endeavored to inspire him with a friendly feeling towards us, and he promised that he would not injure us, and would also endeavor to prevent his countrymen from doing so. In the mean time, however, I was informed that the Koljushes were carrying off our stores. I entreated our people to bear with them as much as possible before they proceeded to hostilities, and represented to the toën the impropriety of the con duct of his party, and begged him to induce them to desist. But as we could not converse freely, it took me some time to convey my sentiments to him, and in the mean while the question was decided without our interference. Our people began to drive the savages away, and they, in return, pelted them with stones. As soon as I was informed of this, I rushed out of the tent; but at the same moment our hunters fired, and I was pierced in the chest with a lance. I ran back for a musket, and on coming out again saw the man who had wounded me; he held a lance in one hand, and in the other he had a stone, which he hurled at my head with such violence as to make me stagger to the ground; I fired, however, and he fell down dead. The savages soon took to flight, leaving two dead behind, and carrying one dead and a great many wounded with them. On our side, there were few who had not received some hurt or other, with the exception of those who had been on board. Our captain had been stabbed in the back. A great many lances, cloaks, and hats, which strowed the field of battle, formed our trophies of this sad victory.

We spent a comfortless night, and in the morning went to examine the country, with a view of finding a spot where we might winter in safety; but we found the whole of the coast covered with thick forests, and so low, that at high water it would be overflowed; it was, consequently, in no way adapted for our purpose. The captain therefore collected us together, and informed us, that by next spring the Company's ship Kadjak would touch upon this coast, in a

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harbor not more than sixty-five miles distant from the spot where we then were, to which harbor he oposed that we should immediately proceed. As there was neither bay nor river marked on the chart which could impede our journey, he thought it might be very speedily accomplished; and that, while the savages were engaged in plundering the vessel, we should have nothing to fear from them, since they could derive no advantage from annoying us. We all, therefore, unanimously replied, "Be it as you propose; we shall not disobey you."

Thus we entered upon our march, each of us armed with two muskets, one pistol, a quantity of ammunition, besides three barrels of powder, and some provisions, which we carried with us. Previously to our departure, however, we had taken care to spike the guns, destroy the muskets, and throw them, together with the remaining gunpowder, pikes, hatchets, and other iron tools, into the sea. We crossed a river in our boat; and, after advancing about twelve miles through the forest, we stopped for the night, and, having set our watches, passed it without being disturbed.

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In the morning, we continued our route, left the forest, and again approached the coast, where we halted, in order to clean our fire-arms. About 2 o'clock, P. M., we were overtaken by two savages, one of whom was the toën who had visited us on our first landing. They gave us to understand that, by following the coast, we should meet with many impediments, both from its sinuosities and from the rocks, of which latter they reported that some were impassable. They also showed us a beaten track through the forest, which they advised us to follow, after which they prepared to leave us. Before their departure, however, I endeavored to give them a more formidable idea of the power of our fire-arms, by firing with a rifle at a small ring, marked upon a board, at a distance of one hundred and twenty feet. The ball pierced the board where I had marked it; and the savages, after having examined the aperture and measured the distance, departed.

During the night, a violent storm arose, accompanied by rain and snow; and, the bad weather continuing through the following day, we were obliged to wait in a cave till it was over. During all this time, we were beset by the savages, who frequently rolled stones upon us from the top of the hill. The weather clearing up the next morning, we pursued our journey till we reached a stream of some depth, which we followed on a beaten path, in the hope of meeting with a shallow part where we might ford it. Towards evening, we arrived at a large hut. The inhabitants had left; but a fire was still burning near it, and it contained a large supply of dried kishutches, (a species of salmon,) and opposite to it poles were fixed in the water for the purposes of fishing. We took twenty-five of these fish, for which we left about six yards of beads by way of payment; after which we encamped for the night, about two hundred yards from it, in the forest.

In the morning we perceived that we were surrounded by a troop of savages, armed with lances, forks, and arrows. I went forward, and fired my piece over their heads, which had the desired effect; for they immediately dispersed, and hid themselves amongst the trees, and allowed us to proceed. In this manner we had continually to contend against the savages, whom we endeavored to avoid, but who were con-


stantly besetting us, watching for a favorable moment for annihilating us.

On the 7th of November, we met with three men and a woman, who gave us some dried fish, speaking at the same time very ill of the tribe among whom we had hitherto suffered so much, and extolling their own. They followed us till the evening, w r hen we reached the mouth of a small river, on the opposite side of which stood a village, consisting of six huts. Here they advised us to wait till high water tide, which would come on during the night, when they would get us boats to pass us over, adding, that it would not be safe to cross at low water. We felt, however, no inclination to trust ourselves in their hands during the night, and therefore retired to some distance, where we encamped till the next morning.

When we came again to the mouth of the river, we saw nearly two hundred savages near the huts; but as we could obtain no answer to any of our questions respecting a passage, we proceeded upwards in search of a ford. As soon as the natives perceived our intention, they sent us a boat rowed by two men, who were completely naked. As this boat could not have held above ten people at a time, we begged them to send us another, that we might all cross at the same time. They complied with our request in sending a second boat, but so small a one that not more than four persons could sit in it. It was attended by the woman whom we had met the day previous. The small boat was assigned to Mrs. Bulugin, a male and a female Aleootskian, and a youth who had been apprenticed on board the ship, whilst nine of the boldest hunters embarked in the other, the others remaining on the bank. As soon as the great boat had reached the middle of the stream, the savages who pulled it drew out a piece of wood which closed a hole which had been purposely made at the bottom of it, threw themselves into the water, and swam on shore. The boat was carried along by the current, and came at one period so near the opposite shore, that all our people in it were wounded by the darts and arrows which the savages threw at them; but, fortunately, the current took an opposite direction, and they succeeded in landing on our side at the moment when the boat began to sink. Those in the small boat, however,

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all fell into the hands of these treacherous barbarians, who, justly supposing that the muskets which had been in the boat must have become useless by the wet, now crossed over in order to attack us. We, on our part, intrenched ourselves as well as circumstances would admit. After they had placed themselves in a line opposite to our position, they began shooting their arrows at us, and once even fired a musket; luckily, however, we had a few muskets left dry, with which we ultimately succeeded in driving off our enemies, after having wounded several of them and killed two. We, on our side, had one man mortally wounded; and as we would not allow him to fall a victim to those barbarians, we carried him along with us; but before we had advanced one mile, his sufferings became so great that he begged us to leave him to die in the forest, since our carrying him with us could not save him, and would only impede our flight; we therefore took leave of our dying companion, and proceeded onwards for some distance. At length we encamped in a convenient spot in a hilly part of the forest.

Now that our immediate danger was over, we began to reflect on our horrible situation. Our poor captain, in particular, who had lost a wife whom he loved more than himself, suffered an anguish beyond description. We could not conceive whence all the savages we had seen could have come, and how they could possibly be the inhabitants of those few huts. But we afterwards learned that they had assembled from all 'parts of the coast for the purpose of intercepting us, and that there were amongst them above fifty of those who had made the first attack upon us on our being cast on shore. Some had come even from Cape Greville, in 47° 21' latitude.

During the 9th, 10th, and 11th, it rained incessantly, and we wandered about the hills, scarcely knowing where, but only anxious to hide ourselves from the natives, whom we dared not meet in such unfavorable weather, our fire-arms having become perfectly useless. We suffered dreadfully from hunger, and were compelled to feed upon sponges, the soles of our boots, our furs and musket-covers. At last, however, even these wretched means failed likewise, and we again approached the last-mentioned river; but discovering

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two huts, and fearing to encounter the savages, the weather being still wet, we again retreated into the forest, where we passed the night. On the 12th, our last morsel of bread being consumed, and the quantity of sponges found not proving sufficient for sixteen men, we killed our faithful companion, a dog, and shared his flesh amongst us. Our distress had now arrived at such a pitch, that our captain resigned his command into my hands, with the approbation of the whole crew, declaring himself unable to conduct us any longer.

On the 13th, the rain continued. On the 14th, the weather cleared up, and we resolved to attack the two huts which we had noticed. We found them deserted by all their inmates, except a lad about thirteen years of age, who was a prisoner. This lad informed us that the owners of these huts had hastily crossed the river, on noticing our footmarks.

After taking twenty-five dried fish for each man, we again retreated to the woods. We had not proceeded far, however, when we saw one of the natives running after us, apparently with the intention of making some communication; but as we were apprehensive lest he should discover our retreat, we aimed at him with our muskets, and thus forced him to retreat. We then advanced until we reached the edge of a rivulet, where our party halted. I then went, with one of the hunters and an Aleootskian, to a neighboring hill, for the purpose of reconnoitring. The hunter led the way, but had scarcely reached the summit, when I saw an arrow pierce his back. I immediately called out to the Aleootskian to draw the arrow out of the wound, but at the same moment he was wounded himself. I immediately looked round, and perceived a number of savages on a hill on the opposite side, and about twenty others running towards us, with the intention of cutting us off from our comrades. The arrows fell about us like hail. I fired my rifle, and wounded one of the savages in the leg, which induced the whole party to take to their heels, carrying the wounded man with them on their shoulders. The wounds of our two men proved slight; and we remained on this spot for two days, in order to recruit our strength.

Finding it impracticable to reach the harbor this season,

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having no means of crossing the river, we resolved to follow the stream upwards, till we should reach a convenient spot for fishing, where we intended to intrench ourselves for the winter; after which we might act according to circumstances. This march was a very laborious one, for we were frequently compelled to leave the banks of the river on account of the thick underwood and rugged precipices with which they were lined; the rain, moreover, was incessant. After several days' journey, our progress in a straight line did not exceed twenty wersts. We were fortunate enough, however, to meet occasionally with some of the natives fishing in their boats on the river, who consented to sell us a few fish for beads and other trifles. At last, worn out with fatigue and hunger, we reached two huts; and necessity again compelled us to make a forced purchase of fish, as the inhabitants were at first unwilling to sell us any, alleging that the high water allowed the fish to pass over the frame-work which they had laid across the river, and rendered them scarce.

We encamped at a short distance, and on the following morning were surprised by the arrival of two of the natives, who, after some general conversation, desired to know whether we were not inclined to ransom Anna, (Mrs. Bulugin.) Mr. B. instantly offered his last cloak, and every one of us adding some part of his clothes, we soon formed a considerable heap, which we cheerfully offered for the ransom of the unfortunate captive. But the savages insisted on having four muskets in addition, declaring that their countrymen would not part with her for a lower price. Not wishing to give them an absolute denial, we demanded that we should be allowed to see the lady before we took further steps. The savages consented, and she soon appeared, attended by a great number of them, on the opposite shore. At our request, two men accompanied her in a boat, till within fifteen or twenty fathoms of us, where we again began bargaining for her. It would be in vain to attempt a description of the ensuing scene. The unfortunate couple were melted into tears, and their convulsive sobs almost deprived them of utterance. We also wept; and none but the unfeeling natives remained unmoved. The lady told her husband that she had been humanely and kindly treated, that the other prisoners were also alive, and now at the

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mouth of the river. In the mean time, the natives persisted in their demand of four muskets; and finding us unyielding on this point, they at length carried their prisoner back again to the opposite shore. Mr. Bulugin, upon this, assuming the air of a commander, ordered me peremptorily to deliver up the muskets. In vain did I urge the impolicy of such an act, representing that having but one serviceable musket for each man left, the giving up of so many, which would be immediately employed against us, would lead to our certain destruction. He persisted in his demand, till the men all declared that they would not separate themselves from their muskets at any price. In thus determining, we all felt deeply for the distress of the poor man; but when it is considered that our lives or liberty were at stake, our conduct will be judged leniently. After this sad event, we pursued our journey for several days, till we were suddenly stopped by a heavy fall of snow; and as there was no appearance of its melting speedily, we began to clear a spot, and collect materials to build a house, residing in the mean time in temporary huts. We constantly saw boats with natives on the river; and one day, a youth, the son of a ton, with two other men, landed with his canoe, and paid us a visit. He told us that their hut was not far off; and on our offering to send one of our men with them, for the purpose of purchasing provisions, they seemed highly pleased, expecting, no doubt, to obtain another prisoner; but in this they were disappointed: the man went with them, but the young toën was detained as a hostage till his return. He came back empty-handed, for the savages, whom he had found to the number of six men and two women, would not sell him any thing. Having thus been cheated by these savages, we now detained them all, and despatched six of our men, armed with muskets, in their boat to the hut, whence they soon returned with all the fish they could find in it. We then made some presents to our prisoners, and dismissed them. Soon after, an old man brought us ninety salmons, for which we paid him with copper buttons.

A few days after this, we entered upon our new habitation; it was a square hut, with sentry-boxes at the angles. Soon after, we were again visited by the young toën, our neighbor: we asked him to sell us some fish, but receiving

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a rude answer, we put him under arrest, declaring that he should not be released till he had furnished us with our winter store, viz., four hundred salmons, and four bladders of caviare. He immediately despatched his companions, who returned to him twice in the course of the week, holding secret conferences with him. At last he asked us for a passage for his boats, which being granted, we soon saw thirteen boats, containing about seventy people of both sexes, going down the river: these people soon returned to us with the articles required. We also obtained of them a boat, sufficiently large to carry six persons. We then dismissed the young man, after presenting him with a spoiled musket and a few clothes.

We frequently sent our boat up the river, and wherever we found any fish in the huts, seized upon them as lawful prizes. One day, when our boat was absent on one of these excursions, we had occasion to stop several boats full of savages, who were rowing in the same direction. As soon as our boat returned, we allowed them to proceed; they declined, however, saying that as our boat had taken away their fish, they had no further business. I endeavored to make them understand, that, having been driven to this spot by their cruelty, we had no other resource for the preservation of our lives, than seizing upon their stores. I assured them, however, that we would content ourselves with what we could find up the river, if they would leave us unmolested for the winter; nor would we ever, in such case, send our boat downwards. This diplomatic point having been agreed to, we remained undisturbed during the whole winter, and in possession of abundance of food.

Being informed that the savages were gathering in large numbers at the mouth of the river, and preparing to obstruct our progress along the coast in every possible manner, it was resolved to build another boat, with which we might, in the ensuing spring, ascend the river as high as possible, and then, turning towards the south, endeavor to reach the river Columbia, about which the natives are less barbarous. The task was difficult, but it was executed; and we only waited for mild weather to enter upon our hazardous expedition, when an event occurred which frustrated the whole of our plan.

Mr. Bulugin resumed his command; and having embarked

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in our boats, we left our barrack on the 8th of February, 1809, and sailed down the river. We stopped at the same spot where, the year before, Mrs. Bulugin had been produced to us. We now clearly perceived the object of our captain; but so great was our compassion for his sufferings, that we silently resigned ourselves to the dangers to which he was about to expose us.

Here we were visited by an old man, who presented us with an ishkcat (a water-tight basket made of branches) full of a species of root of which mariners brew a kind of acid liquor. He showed himself very attentive, and offered to pilot us down the river, the navigation of which was rather intricate, on account of the many trees that were floating in it : we accepted his offer, and he acquitted himself honorably. Having reached a small island, he ordered us to come to, and he went on shore. He returned soon after, informing us that there were many people on the island, who would shoot at us if we attempted to pass; he offered, therefore, to take us through a narrow channel, where we should be safe. We had nothing left but to trust to his honor, and we were not disappointed. We reached the mouth of the river in safety, and landed on a spot opposite an Indian village. Here our guide, whose name was Ljutljuljuk, left us, after we had presented him with a shirt, a neckcloth, and a tin medal, cast for the occasion, and which we requested him to wear suspended about his neck.

Next morning, we were visited by a great many natives; and among them we recognized the woman who had deceived us, and drawn Mrs. B. and her companions into captivity. We immediately seized her, together with a young man, and, having fastened logs of wood to their feet, we declared that they should remain our prisoners till our people were restored to us. Soon after, the woman's husband made his appearance, and assured us that they were not among them, having been allotted to another tribe; but that he would go in search of them, and bring them to us in four days, if we would only promise not to kill his wife in the interval.

We now intrenched ourselves on a neighboring hill; and about a week after, a number of savages appeared on the opposite shore of the river, expressing a wish to enter into

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treaty with us. I immediately went down to the water's edge, attended by several of our people. An elderly man, dressed in the European style, appeared as the leader of the opposite party, amongst whom was Mrs. B. She immediately told us that our female prisoner was the sister of this chief; that they were both kind people, to whom she owed the greatest obligations, and demanded that we would instantly set her at liberty. On our telling her, however, that her husband would not liberate her, unless she herself were first restored to him, she replied, to our horror and consternation, that she was very well contented to stay where she was; at the same time advising us to deliver ourselves also to her present protectors. Their chief, she said, was a candid and honorable man, well known on this coast, who would, without the least doubt, liberate, and send us on board two vessels, now lying in the Bay of St. Juan de Fuca. As to the other prisoners, she said they were dispersed among the tribes in the vicinity.

I tried for some time to persuade her to a different determination; but finding her immovable in her resolution, I returned, and reported her answer to her husband. The poor man thought at first that I was joking, and would not believe me; but, after a little consideration, he fell into a complete fury, took up a musket, and swore he would shoot her. But he had not gone many steps when he relented; he stopped, and, bursting into tears, begged me to go by my-self, and try again to bring her to reason, and even to threaten that he would shoot her. I went and did as he bade me, but the woman resolutely replied, "As to death, I fear it not; I will rather die than wander with you again through the forests, where we may fall at last into the hands of some cruel tribe, whilst now I live among kind and humane people: tell my husband that I despise his threats."

This cruel answer almost deprived the unfortunate and doting husband of his senses: he leaned against a tree and wept bitterly. In the mean time, I reflected upon his wife's words, and ultimately determined to follow her advice. I communicated my resolution to my companions, who at first unanimously declared against it; but on Mr. B.'s declaring that he would follow my example, they begged to be allowed to consider till the next morning.

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The morning came, and the savages appeared again, renewing their demand for the restoration of the captives. This was immediately agreed to, and at the same time Mr. Bulugin, myself, and three others of our party, surrendered ourselves to their discretion. The remainder of our comrades, however, obstinately refused to follow: having taken, therefore, a hearty farewell of each other, we departed with the tribe to which we now belonged.

The next day we reached the village of the Koonishtshati, (a tribe in the vicinity of Cape Flattery,) where my host, the above-named chief, Yootramaki, had his winter residence. Mr. B. went to the master of his wife, whilst the three others fell into various hands.

The remainder of our companions attempted to reach the Island of Destruction, but foundered upon a rock, and after losing all their gunpowder, had some difficulty in escaping with their lives. They tried, therefore, to overtake us; but being intercepted by another tribe, they were all taken prisoners and dispersed along the coast.

At the end of about a month, my master returned to his village near Cape Flattery, taking with him myself and Mr. B., whom he had purchased from his master, with a promise of purchasing his wife also. We lived for some time very comfortably; but afterwards our situation frequently changed; the savages sometimes selling, sometimes giving us to one another. The fate of poor Mr. and Mrs. B., who had become reconciled to each other, was truly cruel; sometimes they were united together, sometimes they were separated, and in constant fear of being so forever. At last death kindly released them; the lady died in August, 1809, and in. February of the following year, her disconsolate husband followed her, but not to the grave, for his wife had been at her death in the hands of such a barbarian, that he would not allow her a burial, but had her exposed in the forest.

In the mean time, I passed the greater part of my captivity with the good Yootramaki, who treated me like a friend. These people are like children, and pleased with every trifle: I found, therefore, no difficulty in ingratiating myself with them; and the construction of a paper kite and a watchman's rattle, spread my reputation, as well as that of the Russian nation in general, far among them. At last

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their veneration for my abilities was carried so far, that, in one of the general assemblies of the toëns, it was resolved that they would henceforward consider me as one of their equals; after which I always enjoyed the same honors as my master, or any other chief. They often wondered how Bulugin, who could neither shoot birds flying nor use the hatchet, could have been our chief.

During the ensuing winter, so great a dearth of provisions ensued, that one beaver was paid for ten salmons. With some chiefs the want was so great, that three of our countrymen took refuge with me, and my master was kind enough to support them till the next spring, when they were demanded back by their owners, and I had influence enough to insure them immunity for their flight.

In the month of March, we again removed to our summer village, where I built for myself a hut with embrasures for defence, and of so novel a construction, that the chiefs came from great distances in order to see and admire it. In the mean time, however, God had heard our prayers, and provided for our deliverance. On the 6th of May, an American brig, the Lydia, Captain Brown, visited this coast. I went on board, and found one of our companions, whom the captain had released near the River Columbia. This honest tar immediately offered to ransom the whole of us. The savages, who thought this a good opportunity for obtaining large quantities of European goods, made such exorbitant demands, that Captain Brown, to cut the matter short, took one of their chiefs into custody, and declared that he would detain him till all the Russians were delivered up to him for a moderate price, for which several of us had already been ransomed. This proceeding had the desired effect; in less than two days, he liberated thirteen of us. Seven had died during our captivity; one had been sold to a distant nation, among whom he remained; and one was ransomed in 1809, by another American vessel, near the River Columbia.

On the 10th of May, our vessel weighed anchor, and after touching at several points of the coast, for the purpose of barter, we were safely landed, on the 9th of June, at New Archangelsk.

[1] Charles Ellms, The tragedy of the seas; or Sorrow on the ocean, lake, and river, from shipwreck, plague, fire and famine, public domain, via HathiTrust, URL: <>; Quelle zum Essay: Katharina Wiedlack, The Abduction of Anna Petrovna Bulygin in 1808. Female Agency and the Russian Colonial Gaze in Early to Mid-19th Century Popular Culture, in Themenportal Europäische Geschichte, 2023, URL: <>.

Für das Themenportal verfasst von

Maria Katharina Wiedlack

( 2023 )
Maria Katharina Wiedlack, The Abduction of Anna Petrovna Bulygin in 1808. Female Agency and the Russian Colonial Gaze in Early to Mid-19th Century Popular Culture, in: Themenportal Europäische Geschichte, 2023, <>.