The Valdivia Court Martial
Indeed, the first act of Captain Charles Ridgley on his arrival off Peru inMay was to retake the American ships Chesapeake and Warrior from the Chileans in the port of Coquimbo. The captains and owners of detained British merchantmen were dismayed that warships of their own navy were not taking similar action!
While allthis was going on, there were significant changes taking place in Cochrane’s domestic life. Following her husband’s departure with the Great Expedition to Peru, Kitty had continued to enjoy herself, both in terms of the socialising she enjoyed so much and of satisfying her curiosity about the fascinating scenery of Chile. In Santiago, she had been a welcome visitor at the homely residence in which O’Higgins lived with the female members ofhisfamily. Forthe Supreme Director never married but lived in simple, unostentatious style with his mother Dona Isabella, to whom he was devoted, and his formidable sister Dona Rosa who acted as FirstLady.
Kitty’s courage and spirit also led her to explore the wild foothills of the Andes with children, nanny and servants in tow. Indeed, on the very day Cochrane was capturing Esmeralda, Kitty was battling her way through snowdrifts on the high mountain passes that linked Chile with Argentina heading for Mendoza, just over the border. All this was exciting: it was also dangerous and on a least one occasion the party was threatened by robbers.
Lord and Lady Cochrane’stime in South America was the first occasion on which they had been separated for any lengthy period since they were married; and the absence seemed to take its toll. Kitty’s letters to her husband at this time were full of both longing and concern – for Cochrane’s own communications were beginning to reflect the stress he was under and the persecution and betrayal from which he was convinced hewas suffering. Inone passage she referred to ‘that tendency to despair which is now so strongly depicted in your letters’.