"Capture of an American Slaver," Louisville (KY) Journal, May 5, 1857, p. 3.
Louisville (KY) Journal
Capture of an American Slaver
The following text is presented here in complete form, as it originally appeared in print. Spelling and typographical errors have been preserved as in the original.
[From the Falmouth (Jamaica) Port.]
CAPTURE OF AN AMERICAN SLAVER! – Horrible Scenes on Board – One Hundred and Thirty-Seven Deaths on the Passage – Several other Slavers Expected.
On Thursday last, the 16th inst., the inhabitants of St. Ann’s Bat were thrown into a state on considerable excitement by the arrival of a schooner – evidently American – towed into port by H.M. brig “Arab.” It was soon ascertained that the schooner was a slaver, and that she had on board a large number of captives. It appears that the captain of the “Arab” had received information that a [illegible] and schooner were expected in Cuba from the coast of Africa, each with a cargo of slaves. A strict watch was, therefore, kept, and on Monday, the 13th inst., a suspicious-looking craft was seen, with a full press of sail, making the last of her way to her destined port. She was closely pursued, and the captain, finding that there was no possibility of escaping from the “Arab,” deserted her, taking with him in a shallop his crew, money, chronometer, and other useful articles.
The commander of the Arab dispatched his gunboat with 15 men, under the command of his 1st Lieutenant, with orders for the capture of the shallop. The chase continued for nearly three hours – and a shot having destroyed the rudder of the shallop, the Captain, who was the owner of the slaver, surrendered. Two of his principal slaves and an interpreter, were taken from the shallop, and the crew were left in to make the best of their way to Cuba. The 1st Lieutenant then boarded the schooner, and found her filled with Young Africans, males and females, to the number of 3782 no less than 127 having fallen victims to the horrors of the middle passage during a voyage of 60 days. The poor captives were in wretched condition – all of them were naked – and the greater part seemed to have been half starved. They were packed closely together and covered with dirt and vermin.
On the arrival of the schooner in St. Ann’s Bay, several gentlemen went on board, and their sympathies were excited at the misery they witnessed. Messrs. Bravo & Bro. suggested measures which were adopted, and with their usual liberality ordered a steer to be killed and soup prepared for the sufferers; other gentlemen furnished ground provisions, bread, &c.; and, while this food was being prepared, the whole of the human cargo was brought upon deck, washed, and had blankets given to them until clothing could be procured. Thirty of them were in a dying state, but the most humane attention was paid to them, and, up to the time when out informant left St. Ann’s Bay; they were all alive and expected to do well. The Hon. Chas. Royes Custos, of the Parish; sent off without loss of time a despatch to his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor, acquainting him with all the circumstances connected with the capture, and requesting to be informed whether the captives should be handed over to proprietors of estates who were anxious to procure their services.
The captain of the schooner refused to give his name, or the name of the vessel, but stated that he would be a loser of $30,000 – a loss which did not cause him much concern, as he had made other and successful trips. A great deal of information, however, has been obtained from the interpreter, who mentioned that several vessels were left on the African coast – that they were to have sailed soon with full cargoes – that upon average two vessels departed weekly; each with 500 to 700 slaves on board – that the trade was rapidly increasing – and that the slaves being landed in Cuba were worth from $500 to $700 each. With regard to those that were captured in the schooner, there was but one day’s supply of provisions on the day of capture, and so limited was the quantity of food doled out to them during the passage; that when they saw the soup, bread, yam, &c., which were sent on board by the gentlemen of St. Ann’s, they made a rush to get at them, and it was found necessary to exercise a rigid discipline in order that the numbers that were the most enfeebled should be the first supplied.
The slave schooner has two decks, and between them the captives were packed in such a manner that they had scarcely room to move. During each day of the voyage they sat in a painful posture, eighteen inches only being allowed for each to turn in, and in a deck room of thirty feet in length 860 human beings were stowed away, and brought up in platoons once every day to get a small portion of fresh air. The schooner draws but six feet of water, is of great breadth and flat-bottomed, and was thus built to enable her, in case of pursuit, to run into a port, where there was not much depth of water. – The interpreter states that when slave-trading captains cannot escape cruisers they make their way to a particular point of land on the Cuban coast – run the vessels ashore – and leave the slaves to perish. The place alluded to is surrounded with rocks – none but flat-bottomed boats can get in – and the whole of that portion of the coast is blanched with human bones.