The Wreck Of A Slave Ship

From a letter dated November 11th, 1762.

On Wednesday the 20th of October 1762, at six o’clock in the evening, came on a most violent gale of wind at south, with thunder and lightning, the sea running very high, when the ship sprung a leak, and we were obliged to lie-to under bare poles, the water gained on us with both pumps constantly working. 10 P. M. endeavored to put the ship before the wind to no purpose. At twelve the sand ballast having choked our pumps, and there being seven feet water in the hold, all the casks afloat, and the ballast shifted to leeward, cut away the rigging of the main and mizen masts, both of which went instantly close by the deck, and immediately after the foremast was carried away about twenty feet above. Hove overboard all our guns, upon which the ship righted a little. We were then under a necessity of letting all our slaves out of irons, to assist in pumping and baling.

Thursday morning being moderate, having gained about three feet on the ship, we found every cask in the hold stove to pieces, so that we only saved a barrel of flour, 10 lbs. of bread, twenty-five gallons of wine, beer, and shrub, and twenty-five gallons of spirits. The seamen and slaves were employed all this day in pumping and baling; the pumps were frequently choked, and brought up great quantities of sand. We were obliged to hoist one of the pumps up, and put it down the quarter deck hatchway. A ship this day bore down upon us, and, though very near, and we making every signal of distress, she would not speak to us.

On Friday, the men slaves being very sullen and unruly, having had no sustenance of any kind for forty-eight hours, except a dram, we put one half of the strongest of them in irons.

On Saturday and Sunday, all hands night and day could scarce keep the ship clear, and were constantly under arms.

On Monday morning, many of the slaves had got out of irons, and were attempting to break up the gratings; and the seamen not daring to go down in the hold to clear the pumps, we were obliged, for the preservation of our own lives, to kill fifty of the ringleaders and stoutest of them.

It is impossible to describe the misery the poor slaves underwent, having had no fresh water for five days. Their dismal cries and shrieks, and most frightful looks, added a great deal to our misfortunes; four of them were found dead, and one drowned herself in the hold. This evening the water gained on us, and three seamen dropped down with fatigue and thirst, which could not be quenched, though wine, rum, and shrub were given them alternately. On Thursday morning the ship had gained, during the night, above a foot of water, and the seamen quite worn out, and many of them in despair. About ten in the forenoon we saw a sail; about two she discovered us, and bore down; at five spoke to us, being the King George, of Londonderry, James Mackay, master; he immediately promised to take us on board, and hoisted out his yawl, it then blowing very fresh. The gale increasing, prevented him from saving any thing but the white people’s lives, not even any of our clothes, or one slave, the boat being scarcely able to live in the sea the last trip she made. Capt. Mackay and some gentlemen, passengers he had on board, treated us with kindness and humanity.


Support this fine website.

Your donations are greatly appreciated.

Thanks, champ.

Share via
Send this to a friend