Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Capture Of Merchant Ships 1803-1807

The merchant ships had a ruff time on the high seas, not only from the weather, but from the many British war ships, and other powers that patrol the seas. All merchant seaman know there was always a chance of their ship being captured and taken as a prize or worse. The merchant sea man also worried about being impressed into the British service as no British subject could work on any American ship at the time, if a merchant seaman or any other seaman now a American citizen but was born in any British colony, he was known to the crown as a British subject and would be taken off ship and imprisoned or impressed to a British ship.

I know there are some researchers who had and ancestors on a merchant ships, and know quite a bit about him, but know little or nothing abut the ships they were on. This page is to help fill in some of those gaps of your ancestors history.

Note. This information come from Volume 2., 1807-15, of the Foreign Relations, on reports given by Insurance Companys which is housed at the Library of Congress.

A list of American vessels insured by the Rhode Island Insurance Company, which have been captured by some of the powers at war.

Schooner Polly of Newport: Owners John Bigley and Charles Cezzens, both of said Newport, burden of vessel about one hundred tons.

On the 18th of June, 1803, she sailed from New York, bound on a voyage to Jamaica, and thence back to New York, with a cargo of lumber and provisions; vessel and cargo of the value of about five thousand dollars. On the 13th day of. July following. on her outward passage, she was captured by a French privateer called the two friends, commanded by Beson, if his name be rightly recollected. The master with his papers was taken and detained on board the privateer; the mate and crew put on board a boat and compelled to leave the schooner and provide for their safety as they might; fortunately they arrived safe to land. Captain Bigley was put on shore at miaguiagua, S. W. part of Porto Rico, being first stripped of his papers, and the property about him.

The prize-master and men put on board the schooner, conducted her to Samana, in the island of Hispaniola. Vessel and cargo, according to information, were sold there by order of Government, and the proceeds deposited in the public treasury, to be paid over to the concern. The amount of these proceeds is not known but report makes it a trifle compared to the value of the property. What or whether any process was instituted against her by the captors is not known, or whether the had any commission; it is supposed they had none. Owing to the difficulty and infrequency of the communication it has not yet been in the power of the concern to obtain the proceeds.

Schooner Ann and Harriott, of Newport: owners, Robert Stevens and Robert Rogers, of Newport; master, William Shearman, of Newport; burden of the vessel about ninety-three tons.

On the 17th of June, 1805, she was captured by a French privateer, called the Lucerne, on her passage to Jamaica; afterwards on the — day of— 1805, she was recaptured by an English frigate of war, called the Diana, and commanded by Molony, and was sent into Jamaica, where vessel and cargo were libelled and sold for salvage: value of vessel and cargo about ten thousand dollars.

Brig Mary, of Newport owner, Thomas Dennis, of Newport; master, John Davis, of ditto; burden of the vessel about one hundred tons.

On the 8th day of April, 1805, she sailed from Newport for Jamaica loaded with codfish, provisions, &c. that the 26th same month, she was captured by a French armed boat, whether commissioned or not unknown. The crew of the brig were forced into a boat, with some provisions, and driven off to seek their safety as they could. They got to one of the Bahama islands, the master was afterwards put on shore at one of the Bahama islands. The brig and cargo were carried to Baracoa, in the island of Cuba. No process whatever was instituted against the property, by the captors; they there embezzled the cargo and sold the vessel.

Brig Orange, S. A. Wanton, master; Thomas Dennis, of Newport, Rhode Island, merchant, owner, laden with fish and provisions, bound from Newport to Jamaica; vessel and cargo valued at $10,000, insured by the Newport Insurance Company, $4,000 on cargo.

The Orange was taken on the 21st July, 1804, by the French privateer Voltigeuse. The officers and men were stripped of every thing, even to the clothes on their backs, and left entirely destitute. The property was taken to Baracoa, in the island of Cuba; no form of trial or condemnation was had. The cargo was distributed by the captors in their own way, and the vessel, it is believed, burnt.

Brig Sally, Stephen Chase, master; Seth Hoard, owner, bound from Jamaica to the United States; vessel and cargo estimated at $4,000; insured by the Newport Insurance Company, $2,700.

The captain, in his protest, declares that after being detained by an embargo at Falmouth, in Jamaica, he sailed from thence for Montego bay on the 28th of April, 1805; that he had been out about four hours when he was captured by a felucca within a mile of the shore. The captain of the felucca informed captain Chase he was a good prize, and that he had orders to capture all American vessels on the coast of Jamaica. The Sally was taken to Cape Coure, in the island of Cuba; in the island of Cuba; no condemnation or form. of trial was had, and Captain Chase, and three out of six of his men, after being stripped of their clothes, were ordered to take to their boat. They did so, and fortunately arrived at Montego bay on the 29th of the same month.

Schooner American Lady, Enoch Toby, master, owned Brown and Ennis, of Newport, merchants, and others, cargo rum &c. bound from Jamaica to the United States; value of vessel and cargo $4,000, insured by the Newport Insurance Company.

This vessel sailed of the 16th February, 1805, from Morant Bay, south of Jamaica, bound for Camden, State of North Carolina. On the 20th of the same month, being about five leagues distant from the Isle of Pines, she was brought to, by a small privateer under the French colors, mounting on swivel gun, and manned with fifteen men, principally Spaniards. The vessel was taken possession of, carried to the Isle of Pines, the captain and men plundered and abused, and left on shore at this desert Island without any means of subsistence except a dozen of biscuits and a bottle of rum.

They would have all perished there had it not been for the compassion of a Spaniard, the only inhabitant of the Island. The Captain and crew remained at this place until another French privateer arrived there, when they taken at the request of captain Toby, near Savannah La Mar, on the south side of Cuba, from whence the traveled to Havana. The captain noted his protest with the American consul, who attended him to the Governor. Captain Toby explained to the Governor the ill treatment he had encountered; demanded a restoration of his vessel, which was now within the Governors jurisdiction and the release of Moses Henly, a free black, one of his crew who had lest a wife and family in the United States, and who was in the greatest distress, as the captors were determined to sell him a slave for life. The Governor made little or no reply to Captain Toby’s remonstrances or petitions. After waiting some time, finding himself unable to obtain redress, he was compelled to abandon the property and return to the United States.

1. Ship Belisarius, Holmes, from New York to Bordeaux.
Insured for J. P. Longchamp, 12th June, 1805.
This vessel was captured by the British, and carried into England; the property detained for further proof. This vessel and part of the cargo belongs to’ General Stevens, nor is there a doubt (so far as I can learn) but that the property is all American.

2. Brig Little Cornelia, from New York for Amsterdam.
Insured for J. Arden, the 6th, 13th, and 23d August, 1805.
This vessel is sent into a port in England for adjudication; particulars not yet known. The property that of Mr. Arden, of this city; the sugars imported from Martinique, by him landed, and the duties secured here.

3. Ship Cicero.
Insured for Gouverneur and Kemble, the 13th August, and 2d September, 1805.
On cargo of Havana sugars.
This vessel is also sent into England, no particulars known. The sugars the property of Messrs. Gouverneur and Kemble.

4. Brig Hector, of New York, Thomas Harding.
Insured for William. Armstrong, Jun. 28th June, 1804.
Taken by two French privateers on the 23a July, and finally carried to Baracoa, in Cuba.
NOTE. This property was British, in an American vessel. Protest sent to the Secretary of State’s office, July 5, 1805.

5. Schooner Eagle, Thomas Barber.
Insured for John Troop, from New York to Jamaica, on the cargo, and to Jamaica back, on the vessel. September 10, 1804, paid total loss on vessel, Cargo, provisions, and lumber. NOTE. This vessel, as well as cargo, were owned by John Troop, a citizen of the United States, and resident in New York, captured on the 17th June, 1804, by the French privateer schooner Sansculotte, Rolly, and carried to Baracoa. Protest sent to the Secretary of State’s office, 5th July, 1805.

6. Schooner Folly, John Biglay.
Insured for John Troop from New York to Montego Bay, Jamaica. October 22, 1804, paid a total loss on cargo. This was a cargo of provisions, shipped by John Troop
for his own account. Captured by a French privateer on 13th July, 1804. 1805.
Protest sent to the Secretary of State’s office, 5th July, 1805.

7. Brig Joseph, Winship.
Insured for A. Kirkpatrick 23d April, 1805, from St. Pierre’s, Martinique, to New York.
This vessel was captured on the 11th July by a British ship of war, and carried to Tortola, and the condemned on account that the outward cargo was contraband of war.

8. Ship Mary, Knight.
Insured for Henry Cheriot, 15th March, 1805, from Martinique to New York.
Cargo twenty thousand dollars, warranted that the outward cargo did not consist of articles contraband of war. This was a cargo of sugar, the property of Mr. Cheriot.
The Mary was captured on the 26th April, by His Britannic Majesty’s ship Ostry. Captain Clinch, and carried to Antigua. The vessel is dismissed, but the cargo detained for proof, on suspicion of being French property. The costs in the island of Antigua are shamefully enormous.

9. Ship John, Patterson.
Insured for Francis Phillippon, 4th March, 1805, from New Orleans to Bordeaux. This cargo consisted of two hundred and fifty boxes Havana sugar. The sugar the property of a Mr. Francis Phillippon, resident at New Orleans, and, like Mr. Lauresse’s property, is reserved for further proof.

10. Ship Hamilton, Masterton.
Insured for Labouisse & Co. 31st August, and 3d September, 1805, from Bordeaux to New York.
This vessel was captured by the British brig Busy, Captain Byam, on the 18th September last, about fifty miles from Sandy Hook light-house, sent to Halifax, the cargo detained for further proof.
The Enterprise and Hamilton are two only of several vessels lately sent to Halifax, the proof required it is difficult, and in some cases impracticable, to furnish, and it is a question whether it ought to be submitted to. I subjoin a copy of a letter from Mr. Solicitor Stewart to Mr. Michael Wallace, the agent of the assured at Halifax. It fully details the sentiments of Judge Croke.


Anonymous said...

Can you tell me anything about the "Horizon" which hit rocks near Morlaix France in 1807? I am having trouble locating information about it, and you seemingly know better how to do it.

I would log on with my Google account, but I have seemingly picked up a virus, and I don't want a keylogger transmitting my information back. I'll check back later.

Dennis Segelquist said...

The Horizon was shipwreck near Morlaix, May 30, 1806, not (1807), it was found by the British and by their law was taken as a prize and sold with its cargo.

If you would like me to look into it more write me at; I'll be glade to help, if I can.