Front Matter
 Title Page
 Table of Contents
 List of Illustrations
 Map of the West Indies
 The Baratarians
 Piracy in the West Indies
 The West India squadron
 Commodore Porter
 Second year of Porter's comman...
 The Foxardo affair
 Porter recalled
 The end of piracy
 Sources of information
 Acts of the fifteenth Congress...
 Commodore Porter's orders

Title: Our navy and the West Indian pirates
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00075401/00001
 Material Information
Title: Our navy and the West Indian pirates
Physical Description: xii, 107 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Allen, Gardner Weld, 1856-1944
Essex Institute
Publisher: Essex institute
Place of Publication: Salem Mass
Publication Date: 1929
Subject: Pirates   ( lcsh )
History, Naval -- United States -- To 1900   ( lcsh )
History -- West Indies   ( lcsh )
Genre: bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )
Statement of Responsibility: by Gardner W. Allen, with an introduction by Rear Admiral Caspar F. Goodrich, United States Navy.
General Note: "Sources of information": p. 91-93.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00075401
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 000521198
oclc - 23453241
notis - ACU2776

Table of Contents
    Front Matter
        Page i
        Page ii
    Title Page
        Page iii
        Page iv
        Page v
    Table of Contents
        Page vi
    List of Illustrations
        Page vii
        Page viii
        Page ix
        Page x
        Page xi
        Page xii
        Page xiii
    Map of the West Indies
        Page xiv
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
    The Baratarians
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 8a
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
    Piracy in the West Indies
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
    The West India squadron
        Page 24
        Page 24a
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 40a
    Commodore Porter
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 56a
    Second year of Porter's command
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 60a
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
    The Foxardo affair
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
    Porter recalled
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
        Page 80
        Page 80a
        Page 81
    The end of piracy
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
        Page 89
        Page 90
    Sources of information
        Page 91
        Page 92
        Page 93
        Page 94
        Page 95
        Page 96
    Acts of the fifteenth Congress of the United States
        Page 97
        Page 98
    Commodore Porter's orders
        Page 99
        Page 100
        Page 101
        Page 102
        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
Full Text


Commander of the West India Squadron

From an engraving in the Bradlee collection.





With an Introduction by


To the Memory of
Rear Admiral United States Navy




INx .103


Commodore Porter
Rear Admiral Goodrich.
Map of the West Indies
Commodore Patterson
Commodore Biddle
U. S. Steamer Sea Gull
U. S. Corvette John Adams
U. S. Schooner Shark .
Conm odore Warrington .

. Frontispiece
facing page xi


Courtesy of U. S. Naval Institute


The career of piracy in the West Indies during the
first quarter of the nineteenth century and its suppres-
sion form an episode briefly alluded to or inadequately
treated in historical works. For many years our navy
and that of Great Britain contended with pirates, hard-
ships, and yellow fever in these tropical seas and finally
brought the evil system to an end. The adventures and
devoted service of naval seamen and the sufferings of
merchantmen deserve recognition and more extended
Several years ago Admiral Goodrich collected nearly
all the material relating to this subject and published it
in the United States Naval Institute Proceedings. Re-
cently he very kindly placed it at the disposal of the
present writer. The collections of the Massachusetts
Historical Society, the Boston Public Library, the Bos-
ton Athenaeum, and the Harvard College Library have
been made use of, for which acknowledgments are due.
April, 1925.

NOTE.-After long and distinguished service in the navy,
Admiral Goodrich died December 26, 1925. He was deeply in-
terested in the subject here presented, to which he devoted
much time and labor in unearthing the original sources. His
earnest wish was almost a command and without it this little
book would never have been written.
January, 1929. G. W. A.


If he were interrogated as to his acquaintance with
his navy, its history and its services to the nation and
to humanity, the average American citizen would boast-
fully speak of John Paul Jones in the Revolution, of
Hull in the War of 1812, of Farragut in the Civil War,
of Dewey in the War with Spain. Beyond these heroes,
his ignorance would be profound. He does not know,
probably he has never heard, of scores of other ways in
which his navy has proved its value; for example in
charting our coasts, in sounding the ocean depths for sub-
marine cables, in actually helping to lay the first Atlan-
tic cable, in protecting American commerce from Korea
and Qualla Battoo to Cape Horn, in guarding American
citizens from injury even in Christian lands and from
massacre in the Far East, in making friends for the
United States wherever our ships show the Stars and
The average citizen is quite unaware of certain minor
wars and activities in which his navy's part has yielded
results beyond price or praise. It is to bring some of
these important, if less spectacular episodes to the atten-
tion of the public that Dr. Allen has given us his Naval
War with France and Our Navy and the Barbary Cor-
sairs. All of these products of his pen are characterized
by accuracy of statement and-a charming readability.
In this new volume, he carries us back a hundred years
and more to tell the story of what the navy did to sup-
press piracy in the waters along our coast or not far from
our Atlantic seaboard. The narrative abounds in thrills,
not to say horrors, while doing justice to the terrible con-
ditions of discomfort, toil and danger, chiefly climatic,
under which our brave officers and men labored during
weary years with little reward save an approving con-


science. The same painstaking study of original docu-
ments which already marked his previous books makes
this a trustworthy guide and practically an exhaustive
presentation of the facts. Withal, in so attractive a style
as to appeal even to the casual reader.
I am very glad to have helped Dr. Allen in collecting
some of the data he uses and to have urged him to under-
take the writing of this little volume whose contents
ought to be widely broadspread in order that the useful-
ness of our navy in time of peace as well as of war may
be more generally recognized.
It is a patriotic duty which he has performed in thus
making such matters known to our people who, too com-
monly, regard this first line of the national defence as
useful only during hostilities and as an undue burden
at other times. It is idle to expect that, until the millen-
nium arrives, it will ever be wholly exempt from calls to
aid. Even now, by the way, it has to keep a force on
the Yangtse River for the safeguarding of American
property and lives. Nor, until that blessed day, will it
be wise to allow to fall into disrepair or impotence an
arm which cannot be improvised over night. To be of
worth when the emergency arises, it must be always kept
in a high state of efficiency.
While piracy no longer exists save in rare and isolated
cases, only a prophet can assure us that needs of naval
work in days of peace are things of the past. Those who
give themselves the pleasure of reading these interest-
ing pages will thank their author for reminding them
afresh that their navy has never yet failed them, even
when its duty was as difficult, laborious, unsanitary, and
perilous as that which he here depicts so faithfully.
Princeton, New Jersey,
April, 1925.



The privateers and buccaneers of the sixteenth and
seventeenth centuries were nearly always provided with
occupation in the West Indies. The Spanish treasure
ships excited the cupidity of French, English, and Dutch
navigators. When nominal peace between the great pow-
ers prevailed, this warfare on the sea continued with little
interruption and became a sort of legalized piracy. After
the Spanish succession was settled, in 1713, war was less
frequent and treaties of peace more strictly observed. As
the opportunities for privateering became fewer, the trade
no longer attracted the better class of seafaring men. The
race of romantic, almost respectable, buccaneers had passed
away, and their successors degenerated into pirates and
common murderers.
In the eighteenth century piracy flourished throughout
the North Atlantic, and conditions in the West Indies
were favorable to its growth. The shores of the mainland
surrounding the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea
and of the islands, many parts of which were uninhabited,
abounded in secluded harbors, coves, and passages among
dangerous reefs, inaccessible to vessels of size. The dense
growth of mangroves at the water's edge made conceal-
ment and escape easy. Fish, fruit, and other foods were
plentiful. A rich commerce furnished victims.
During the American Revolution, privateers swarmed
in the West Indies-American, British, French and Span-
ish; but their operations, it may be presumed, were legiti-


mate. In later years, during the long and bitter struggle
between England and France, from 1793 to 1815, priva-
teers acting under French edicts and British orders in
council, included neutrals within the scope of their atten-
tions. The United States suffered grievously from this
state of things, which led to our hostilities with France
in 1798, and-together with the still more aggravating
impressment of seamen-to the War of 1812 with Great
Throughout this long period of the French Revolution
and the wars of Napoleon perhaps some of the regularly
commissioned privateers behaved in a manner somewhat
piratical. The privateers of both France and Spain, cruis-
ing so far from their home governments, were under very
little restraint, and there was a tendency to excesses not
authorized by their commissions. The pirates of a later
day, whose exploits are to engage our attention in fol-
lowing chapters, doubtless counted among their number
some of these old French and Spanish privateers. Per-
haps the difference between a piratical privateer and a
true pirate was that the former was a robber but not a
murderer, while the latter was both. However the pri-
vateers may have conducted themselves, actual piracy pre-
vailed at the same time, and sporadic cases are reported
in contemporary newspapers.
Especially in the waters about Haiti, while the revolu-
tion of Toussaint l'Ouverture was going on, native pirates
of the most cold-blooded sort lay in wait for victims of
all nations. Whether these picaroons, or any of them,
were commissioned by the Revolutionary government of
Haiti is doubtful. The vessels used by them were barges
manned by crews of thirty or forty, pulling twenty oars,
and armed with swivels. Their favorite hunting ground
was the Gulf of Gonaive, at the western end of Haiti.
Merchantmen were helpless before them and they even
attacked small men-of-war when becalmed. It was neces-
sary for United States naval commanders to furnish con-
voy. On New Year's Day, 1800, the U. S. schooner
Experiment, commanded by Lieutenant William Maley,
with a convoy of four merchantmen, was attacked by ten


of these barges manned by four or five hundred men, off
the Island of Gonaive. There was a dead calm and it
was impossible for the schooner to maneuvre and protect
her convoy. Two of them drifted out of gunshot and
were captured by the pirates. Fortunately their crews
escaped in the boats. By good management the Experi-
ment saved herself and two of the merchantmen, sunk
three of the barges, and killed a great number of men.
The American loss was one killed and two wounded. Com-
modore Silas Talbot, in the frigate Constitution, the local
commander-in-chief at this time, issued orders for giving
coiivoy to American merchantmen arriving at M8le St.
Nicholas, at the northwestern extremity of Haiti. The
frigate Boston, Captain George Little, soon afterwards
fell in with nine piratical barges, and in the course of a
running fght, lasting two hours and a half, disabled five
of them.1
President Jefferson's annual message of December 3,
1805, while not particularly mentioning the West Indies,
tells of general conditions afloat in connection with our
foreign relations: "Our coasts have been infested and our
harbors watched by private armed vessels, some of them
without commissions, some with illegal commissions, oth-
ers with those of legal form but committing piratical acts
beyond the authority of their commissions. They have
captured, in the very entrance of our harbors as well as
on the high seas, not only the vessels of our friends com-
ing to trade with us, but our own also. They have car-
ried them off under pretense of legal adjudication; but
not daring to approach a court of justice, they have plun-
dered and sunk them by the way or in obscure places,
where no evidence could arise against them, maltreated
the crews and abandoned them in boats in the open sea
or on desert shores, without food or covering. These enor-
mities appearing to be unreached by any control of their
sovereigns, I found it necessary to equip a force to cruise
within our own seas, to arrest all vessels of these descrip-
tions found hovering on our coasts within the limits of the
1 Massachusetts Spy, March 5, May 7, August 20, 1800; Colum-
bian Centinel, March 29, July 23, November 1, 1800.


Gulf Stream, and to bring the offenders in for trial as
pirates." The force employed "to cruise within our own
seas" consisted of the frigate Adams, Captain Alexander
Murray. More than that might have been done, it would
seem, for the protection of the merchant marine.


Privateers and freebooters, sailing under the flags of
France, Spain, and England, infested the mouth of the
Mississippi River and the neighboring waters. The difi-
culties connected with establishing a government and
maintaining order in the recently acquired Louisiana
Territory were complicated by the lawlessness and excesses
of these buccaneers. New Orleans, which was doubtless
what would now be described as a "wide-open" town, was
a convenient port in which to refit and procure supplies.
Being unfrequented by foreign ships of war, it was com-
paratively safe. Here the privateersmen spent their
money freely, mingled with the dregs of the population,
and kept the town in a state of turmoil. The more reck-
less and dissolute among them easily passed the shadowy
border line between privateering and piracy. They seized
and plundered not only their enemies' vessels, but Ameri-
can shipping as well. Within a few years the bays and
inlets of Louisiana had become a favorite rendezvous of
A naval station with a force of about twenty gunboats
and four hundred men was established at New Orleans,
and in 1806 Captain John Shaw was put in command.
He was succeeded in 1808 by Master Commandant David
Porter. At this time Porter was twenty-eight years old
and had already shown his sterling qualities in service
against the Barbary pirates and in the naval hostilities
with France. Soon after his arrival at New Orleans he
took strong measures against these disturbers of the peace.
Descending the river with a force of gunboats, he cap-
tured three of the most troublesome French privateers.
His proceedings were legal under Acts of Congress which
authorized the employment of national forces in such
cases and the confiscation of foreign vessels interfering
with commerce within the waters of the United States.


Under great difficulties Porter succeeded in procuring the
condemnation of his prizes.2
Porter remained in charge of the station two years or
more. Numerous prizes were captured in Louisiana wa-
ters and along the gulf coast during his stay and after-
wards. On March 15, 1813, Governor Claiborne, of
Louisiana, issued a proclamation against "a considerable
number of banditti composed of individuals of different
nations who have armed and equipped several vessels,
with the design to cruise at sea and to commit depreda-
tions and piracies against the vessels of nations who are
at peace with the United States, in order to carry on with
the inhabitants of this state an illicit commerce in pro-
visions and merchandise."3
The most celebrated Louisiana pirate, though there is
some doubt as to whether he was in the full sense a pirate,
was Jean Lafitte, who had an establishment on the Island
of Grand Terre in Barataria Bay, west of the mouth of
the Mississippi. Lafitte was a native of France who had
lived in Louisiana since about 1809. His commercial
interests were more concerned with smuggling than with
piracy. He stoutly maintained that he had never preyed
upon American commerce, but only upon that of Spain.
He helped the American cause at the time of the Battle
of New Orleans, at least to the extent of refusing strong
inducements to join the British. Those Baratarians who
aided in the defence of New Orleans were pardoned for
their previous misdeeds by the President of the United
States, an act of clemency not justified by subsequent
Commodore Porter's successor in command was Commo-
dore Daniel T. Patterson. One of his earliest achieve-
ments was a successful attack on the pirate stronghold at
Barataria. As related in his report to the Secretary of
the Navy, Hon. William Jones, dated October 10, 1814,
he left New fOrleans September 11, "accompanied by
Colonel Ross with a detachment of seventy of the 44th
2 Memoir of Commodore David Porter, 74-81; Naval Chronicle,
335; Philadelphia Gazette, August 9, 1809.
3 Niles' Register, May 1, 1813.
SPapers and Messages of the Presidents, I, 559.


regiment of infantry--on the 12th reached the schooner
Carolina, at Plaquemine and formed a junction with the
gun vessels at the Balize [mouth of the Mississippi] on the
13th. Sailed from the south-west pass on the evening of
the 15th and at half past 8 a. m. on the 16th made the
Island of Grand Terre (Barataria), and discovered a
number of vessels in the harbor, some of which showed
Carthagenian" colors. At 9 perceived the pirates form-
ing their vessels, ten in number including prizes, into a
line of battle near the entrance of the harbor and making
every preparation to offer me battle. At 10, wind light
and variable, formed the order of battle with the six gun
vessels, the Sea-Horse tender, mounting one 6-pound-
er and fifteen men, and a launch mounting one 12-pound
carronade, the schooner Carolina drawing too much water
to cross the bar. At half past 10 perceived several smokes
along the coast as signals and at the same time a white
flag hoisted on board a schooner at the fore, an American
flag at the main-mast head, and a Carthagenian flag (under
which the pirates cruize) at her topping-lift; replied with
a white flag at my main. At 11 discovered that the pi-
rates had fired two of their best schooners; hauled down
my white flag and made the signal for battle, hoisting
with it a large white flag bearing the words 'pardon to
deserters,' having heard there were a number from the
army and navy there who wished to return if assured of
pardon and which the president's proclamation offered
till the 17th."
Two of Patterson's gunboats ran aground. The commo-
dore manned his barge and the boats belonging to the
grounded vessels and with the other four gunboats entered
the harbor. "To my great disappointment," the report
continues, "I perceived that the pirates had abandoned
their vessels and were flying in boats in all directions.
I immediately sent the launch and two gun barges with
small boats in pursuit of them. At meridian took posses-
sion of all their vessels in harbor, consisting of six schoon-
ers and one felucca, cruisers and prizes of the pirates,
one brig, a prize, and two armed schooners under the Car-
5 Colombian.


thagenian flag, both in the line of battle with armed ves-
sels of the pirates and apparently with an intention to
aid them in any resistance they might make against me,
as their crews were at quarters, tompions out of their guns,
and matches lighted. Colonel Ross at the same time
landed and with his command took possession of their
establishment on shore, consisting of about forty houses
of different sizes, badly constructed and thatched with pal-
metto leaves."
Patterson had hoped that the enemy would stand fast
and receive his attack, which would have enabled him to
take prisoners; but the result was satisfactory as it was.
"The enemy had mounted on their vessels twenty pieces
of cannon of different calibre, and as I have since learnt,
from eight hundred to one thousand men of all nations and
A few days later a sail was seen approaching the island.
The Carolina weighed anchor and gave chase. For about
an hour the two kept up a running fire and the stranger
then grounded. The shoalness of the water prevented the
Carolina from getting nearer, but the gunboats opened
fire across the island and the vessel soon hauled down her
colors. She was taken possession of and proved to be a
Carthagenian armed schooner called the General Bolivar.
She was evidently in league with the pirates. "On the
afternoon of the 23rd got under way with the whole squad-
ron, in all seventeen vessels, but during the night one
schooner under Oarthagenian colors escaped. On the
morning of the 24th entered the southwest pass of this
river and on the 1st inst. arrived opposite this city with
all my squadron."0
It was not long, however, before the Baratarians re-
turned to their old haunts and took up again the inter-
rupted threads of their prior existence. In a letter dated
April 7, 1815, to the new Secretary of the Navy, Hon.
Benjamin W. Crowninshield, Patterson says: "The im-
mediate return of these people to their former mode of
life will point out the indispensable necessity of keeping
6 Niles, November 19, 1814; Master Commandants' Letters,
1814, XI, No. 64.

From a portrait in the Naval Library, Washington, D.C.
Copied from the original in possession of
Major S. A W. Patterson, U. S. M. C. of Doylestown, Penn.


a small active naval force on this station in time of peace."
He purchased two schooners which, with his barges and
launches, enabled him in some measure "to enforce the
revenue, prevent smuggling and piracy, and protect the
commerce of this port from the force which those lawless
freebooters" then possessed, and which, unless checked,
would rapidly increase. Governor Claiborne offered
$5,000 for Lafitte's head, while Lafitte offered $50,000 for
that of the governor.7
About this time, with the return of peace between the
great powers, legitimate privateering came to an end.
How many of the European privateers took up the pro-
fession of piracy is uncertain. But already a new class
of privateers were entering the field. These were the
swarms of vessels granted commissions by the various re-
volted colonies of Spain in Central and South America.
These commissions were easy to obtain, being lavishly be-
stowed not only by the revolutionary governments but by
individual commanders and others given authority for the
purpose. Most privateers of this sort were virtual pirates
from the start. The flags most commonly seen were the
Mexican, Carthagenian (Colombian), and Venezuelan.
Writing again, April 17, to Secretary Crowninshield,
Patterson observes: "Some months ago I wrote to the Hon-
orable, your predecessor, soliciting instructions relative to
Vessels sailing under Carthagenian Colors, for 'tis under
this Flag that most of the Piracies are committed and
there is now added to that the Flag of the Patriots of
Mexico, which will, I have no doubt, be also used as a
cloak for every species of violence, Plunder and Piracy.
'These Vessels come to this Port, are received with the Hos-
pitality of the most favored Nations, repair, equip, and
provision their Vessels, and clandestinely send off arms
and men to the Sea Shore, with which to prey upon the
commerce of this Port by capturing indiscriminately Ves-
sels of every Nation bound thither, the cargoes of which
are smuggled into this city, the Vessels are burned, and
of their crews nothing is ever seen or heard. Permit me
7 Captains' Letters, 1815, III, No. 20. Patterson was pro-
mnoted to captain February 28, 1815; Emmons, 78.


to request you to give me such instructions relative to
armed Vessels under the above mentioned Flags as you
may think necessary for my government."8
Accounts of the doings of these freebooters began to
appear in the papers. In April, 1816, the U. S. brig
Boxer, Lieutenant John Porter, captured an armed
schooner under Carthagenian colors, commanded by "a
man named Mitchell, a most notorious Pirate. He had
the hardihood to come into this River while the Boxer lay
at the Balize, having on board fourteen slaves and plunder
of various kinds to a large amount, retained from the un-
fortunate persons who took passage on Board his Schooner
when flying from Cathagena-all of whom he landed on
a small island on the Musquito Shore-and stolen from the
Spanish Island of St. Andrews, the Governor of which
with six Soldiers he caused to be shot. The Grand Jury
have found a Bill against Mitchell and crew and they
have been turned over to the Civil authority. The Vessel
with the goods and effects found on Board her have been
libelled for a Breach of the Slave laws."9
It is necessary to admit that a good many American
seamen, lured by the prospect of adventure and prize
money, entered the service of these Spanish-American pri-
vateers. The fitting out of such irregular cruisers in
United States ports was complained of to the Secretary
of State, Hon. James Monroe, January 2, 1817, by the
Spanish minister, Don Luis de Onis. "The mischiefs
resulting from the toleration of the armament of privateers
in the ports of this Union, and bringing into them with
impunity the plunder made by these privateers on the
Spanish trade for the purpose of distributing it among
those merchants who have no scruples in engaging in these
piracies, have risen to such a height that I should be want-
ing in my duty if I omitted to call your attention again
to this very important subject.
"It is notorious that, although the speculative system
of fitting out privateers and putting them under a foreign
8 Captains' Letters, 1815, III, No. 54.
SCaptains' Letters, 1816, II, No. 67 (April 24: Patterson to
Navy Department).


flag, one disavowed by all nations, for the purpose of
destroying the Spanish commerce, has been more or less
pursued in all the ports of the Union, it is more espec-
ially in those of New Orleans and Baltimore where the
greatest violations of the respect due to a friendly nation
and, if I may say so, of that due to themselves, have been
committed; whole squadrons of pirates having been fitted
out from thence, in violation of the solemn treaty existing
between the two nations, and bringing back to them the
fruits of their piracies without being yet checked in these
courses, either by the reclamations I have made, those of
his Majesty's consuls, or the decisive and judicious orders
issued by the President for that purpose." So tardy was
the correction of these evils that the Spanish minister
found it necessary to address repeated protests to our De-
partment of State. The merchants of Havana, from 1808
to 1817, reported losses from the privateers of between
two and three million dollars.'1
Sometimes American seamen, disappointed or disillu-
sioned, left this revolutionary service and found them-
selves stranded in foreign ports. The United States
consul at St. Thomas, Robert M. Harrison, wrote to the
Secretary of State, Hon. John Quincy Adams, April 20,
1817: "The increasing number of seamen, whose ill.success
in the privateers and pirates that infest those seas induces
them to relinquish those unprofitable pursuits whenever
an opportunity offers and who almost universally swarm
to this island to claim my protection and support, so that
they daily almost surround my door, renders it again my
duty to request instructions from the Department of State.
I have not yet extended to such men any more than a
partial assistance-though many of them are in the great-
est possible distress-considering that the expenditure of
such large sums of money might be considered as advanc-
ing beyond the bounds of my duty. It is much to be re-
gretted that the disappointment sustained by so great a
number of our seamen should not be sufficient to deter
10 American State Papers, Foreign Relations, IV, 184 et seq.;
Guide to Materials for American History in Cuban Archives
(N. Y. Public Library), 58.


others from embarking in such enterprises." Later the
consul suggests the protection of American trade in the
West Indies by a few United States cruisers. The British,
by keeping a few naval vessels of war in West Indian
waters had a great advantage over the Americans in the
matter of trade.'1
Beverly Chew, collector of the customs at New Orleans,
wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury, Hon. William H.
Crawford, August 1, 1817, of violation of the revenue
laws and laws against the slave trade "by a motley mix-
ture of freebooters and smugglers at Galvezton under the
Mexican flag and being in reality little else than the re-
establishment of the Barrataria band, removed somewhat
more out of the reach of justice. Galvezton is a small
island or sand-bar, situated in the Bay of St. Bernard
on the coast of Texas, about ninety miles west of the Sa-
bine, within jurisdictional limits claimed by the United
States in virtue of the cession of Louisiana to them by
France. The establishment was recently made there by
a Commodore Aury with a few small schooners from Aux
Caayes manned in great measure with refugees from Barra-
taria and mulattoes." These were reinforced by others
'principally mariners (Frenchmen or Italians) who have
been hanging loose upon society in and about New Or-
leans in greater or smaller numbers, ever since the break-
ing up of the establishment at Barrataria. From
this new station, fed and drawing all its resources from
New Orleans and keeping up a regular intelligence through
a variety of channels with their friends here, an active
system of plunder was commenced on the high seas, chiefly
of Spanish property but often without much concern as
to the national character, particularly when money was
in question. The captures made by their numerous cruis-
!ers-many owned by citizens of the United States-were
condemned by a pretended court of admiralty there as
prizes and the cargoes introduced into this State, princi-
pally in a clandestine manner. The vessels thus con-
demned have generally came here under new names and
with the Mexican flag. Some of them have been detained
11 State Papers of the United States, XI, 346, 347.


by the United States naval force, for hovering in our
waters, and others have been libelled for restitution by
the Spanish consul in behalf of the original owners; and
though several trials have come on before the honorable
the United States district court for the district of Louis-
iana and the claimants have never been able to produce
proof of the Government of Galvezton having ever been
authorized by the Mexican republic, restitution has been
decreed in several instances.
"There is no evidence of the establishment having been
made or sanctioned by or connected with a Mexican re-
public, if one be now existing; and the presumption of
such an actual establishment, under such an authority,
is strongly repelled by the illegal and piratical character
of the establishment and its ambulatory nature. It is
not only of very recent origin, but is clothed with no
character or permanency, for it was abandoned about the
5th of April and transferred to Matagorda,"1 leaving at
Galvezton only an advice boat, to advertise such privateers
and prizes which might arrive there, of the spot on which
they had fixed their new residence. Among the most
conspicuous characters who happened to be then at Gal-
vezton, were many of the notorious offenders against our
laws who had so lately been indulged with a remission of
the punishment, who so far from gratefully availing them-
selves of the lenity of the Government to return to or
commence an orderly and honest life, seem to have re-
garded its indulgence almost as an encouragement to a
renewal of their offenses. You will readily perceive I
allude to the Barratarians, among whom the Lafittesa-
may be classed foremost and most actively engaged in the
Galvezton trade and owners of several cruisers under the
Mexican fag."'4
The advantages of Galveston over Matagorda, from its
proximity to Louisiana, were immediately apparent to the
Baratarians, and they very soon re-established their gov-
ernment there and set up their court for the condemnation
12 About 100 miles southwest of Galveston.
is Jean Lafitte had a brother Pierre.
4 Amerioan State Papers, Foreign, IV, 134-144; State Papers
of U. S., XI, 347.


of prizes. Aury and his followers, with their privateers
and prizes, thirteen sail in all, left Matagorda or Galves-
ton and went to Amelia Island, on the east coast of
Florida, close to the Georgia line, where they settled. The
U. S. brig Saranac, Master Commandant15 John H. Elton,
was employed for several months in watching Aury's oper-
ations and the movements of his privateers about Amelia
Island. Captain Charles Morris, in the frigate Congress,
who had command of the West India squadron from De-
cember, 1816, to July, 1817, cruised in the Gulf of Mexico
and off Balize in the spring. Several American vessels
were stopped in the Gulf of Mexico and robbed of specie
and other property by privateers of Mexico, Venezuela,
and Buenos Ayres. In one case reported by Commodore
Patterson on July 28, the brig Charles was boarded by a
Mexican armed vessel "and robbed of all her papers and
her mate detained on board." On December 22, 1817,
Captain John D. Henley, in the U. S. corvette John
Adams, with Major James Bankhead, U. S. A., appeared
off Amelia Island and demanded its surrender. It was
evacuated without resistance, but under protest by Com-
modore Aury.16
Galveston continued to be a base for privateering enter-
prises during the next year. General Humbert, a French-
man, was governor at that time. He was captured on a
schooner under Mexican colors by the U. S. ketch Surprise,
Lieutenant Isaac McKeever, in the fall of 1818. A list
of eleven privateers, commissioned by General Humbert
under the Mexican flag, was enclosed in a letter written
November 18 by Commodore Patterson to Secretary
Crowninshield just after the capture of Humbert. It
would seem that Galveston was by no means in a flourish-
ing state at this time. "From everything I can learn,"
says the Commodore, "a total abandonment of Galveston
by the Piratical Association will immediately take place,
1s Corresponding to the present grade of commander, which
will hereafter be used as less cumbersome.
16 State Papers of United States, XI, 343-388, 395-411: letters
of Harrison, Chew, Morris, Patterson, Elton, Henley, Bankhead,
Aury, and others; Autobiography of Commodore Charles Mor-
ris, 76; Captains' Letters, 1817, III, No. 36.


if it has not already, in consequence of the frequent cap-
ture of their cruisers by U. S. Vessels, the great difficulty
and loss they experience in introducing their Captured
goods into the United States and the seductive invitation
of Aury at old Providence, whither they will repair and
under his commissions infest the West Indies." Commo-
dore Aury, after leaving Amelia Island, had established
himself at Old Providence, a small island in the Carib-
bean Sea.17
After the departure of General Humbert, Lieutenant
Thomas S. Cunningham reconnoitered Galveston in the
U. S. schooner Firebrand and reported that Lafitte was
"the sole person in power; he is civil and Military Gover-
nor and Chief Judge, and in fact makes laws and governs
at his own discretion, without any person to oppose his
power. He resides on board an old prize brig." In Oc-
tober, 1819, Governor James Long of Texas appointed
Lafitte governor of Galveston, with "power to grant letters
of marque and reprisal against the King and subjects of
Spain to all vessels within his government."18 Meanwhile
Commodore Patterson urged on the newly-appointed Sec-
retary of the Navy, Hon. Smith Thompson, the need of
an additional force of two small vessels, with which he
thought he "could very soon break up the Galveston asso-
ciation, suppress smuggling and protect the Revenue."9"
In his annual message of 1818 President Monroe said:
"The invasion of Amelia Island last year by a small band
of adventurers not exceeding one hundred and fifty in
number, who wrested it from the inconsiderable Spanish
force stationed there and held it several months, during
which a single feeble effort only was made to recover it,
which failed, clearly proves how completely extinct the
Spanish authority had become, as the conduct of those
adventurers while in possession of the island as distinctly
shows the pernicious purposes for which their combina-
tion had been formed."
Piracy in the Mississippi River and the bayous of the
17 Captain' Letters, 1818, III, No. 90, IV, No. 105.
Is Ibid., 1818, IV, No. 118, 1819, V, No. 38 (end.).
19 Ibid., 1818, IV, No. 118.


Gulf coast continued in 1819. On July. 17, Commodore
Patterson reported certain "daring acts of Piracy having
been committed, on the 10th inst. in this River and only
a few miles above the Block House, on several merchant
Vessels by a party of armed men, nine in number and
in an open Boat. What renders this Robbery most extra-
ordinary is that it was committed in open day and on
several different Vessels, all in sight of and not far dis-
tant from each other, and that no opposition was at-
tempted, though the Crews and Passengers of those Ves-
sels must very greatly have exceeded the Pirates in num-
ber and force. This intelligence was received by me at
10 o'clock in this morning and at 3 P. M. a Force in fleet
rowing Boats of twenty-eight officers and men were dis-
patched in pursuit of the Pirates by way of the River and
thro' the Lakes and Bayous towards Barataria, and orders
sent off for the Bull Dog [a 2-gun felucca] to proceed via
the Chandeleur and Britton Isles to the Balize. One of
these routes they must take." But the boat escaped. The
supineness of the victims in this case is characteristic of
the behavior of unorganized civilians unaccustomed to act-
ing together under orders. Such piratical raids might be
prevented, the Commodore thought, by stationing a vessel
constantly in the river, but to do so in the summer and
fall months "would be to condemn officers and men to
almost certain Death."20
With the inadequate force under his command, Patter-
son rendered the best service possible. At the end of
September, 1819, he had the 18-gun sloop-of-war Hornet,
Commander George C. Read, the 6-gun schooner Lynx,
Lieutenant John R. Madison, the ketch Surprise, the fe-
lucca Bull Dog, a launch, and four gunboats. This little
squadron was reinforced by the Revenue cutters Alabama
and Louisiana. Some nests of pirates in the neighboring
bayous were broken up and a few prisoners taken."
20 Captains' Letters, 1819, III, No. 73.
21 Ibid., IV, No. 45.

The increasing aggressions of the piratical privateers of
Spain's colonies, both those which had revolted and those
which had not, had already compelled the adoption of
effective measures by Congress. The act approved' March
3, 1819, authorized the President to employ a suitable
naval force for the protection of commerce and to instruct
naval commanders to seize and send into port vessels com-
mitting depredations; it authorized merchantmen to op-
pose and to capture such vessels; it provided for the trial
and condemnation of such captures and prescribed the
death penalty for piracy. The act was to remain in force
until the end of the next session of Congress. By subse-
quent acts it was continued as long as the need existed.22
This action of our Government seemed to have the
effect of increasing rather than diminishing the outrages
of the freebooters. These comprised adventurers of every
nationality. Cuban and Porto Rican vessels sailed under
Spanish colors; those of the revolted colonies used the
flags of the new republics of South and Central America.
The latter were commissioned to cruise against Spanish
ships, but extended their depredations to the commerce
of other countries. The republics of Venezuela and
Buenos Ayres were the worst offenders at this time. They
issued commissions without limit or qualification to all
comers. The blockade declared by these governments was
also used as an instrument of plunder; vessels engaged
in legitimate trade were seized under the pretense that
they had violated the blockade. The Government of the
United States was desirous of cultivating friendly rela-
tions with the new governments of Latin-America, but
at the same time determined to put a stop to intolerable
conditions. The situation must be handled with firmness
22 Acts of May 15, 1820, and January 30, 1823. See Appendix
I ..


and tact; an agent must be employed of judgment, energy,
and discretion.23
For this duty, diplomatic as well as military, Secretary
Thompson, of the Navy Department, chose Captain Oli-
ver H. Perry, who had won renown on Lake Erie. The
first object to be sought was an interview with the gov-
ernment of Venezuela, and for this purpose it was neces-
sary to ascend the Orinoco River three hundred miles to
Angostura. As Perry's ship, the corvette John Adams,
would be unable to pass the bar at the mouth of the river,
the schooner Nonsuch was sent with him. The two ves-
sels arrived off the mouth of the Orinoco July 15, 1819.
Perry ordered the John Adams to Port Spain, Trinidad,
and began the tedious ascent of the river in the Noneuch."4
On July 28 he had an interview with the Vice Presi-
dent of Venezuela. Of this he says in his diary: "I then
furnished Mr. Zea with the two acts of our Congress with
regard to neutrality and piracy, and demanded indemnity
for various spoliations, particularly the unjust seizure of
American property by the schooner Brutus, commanded
by Nicholas Joly, under the Amelia Island flag, which
property had been condemned illegally and sold within
the territory of Venezuela. I also explained the view of
the government with regard to privateers, and that com-
missions issued to them in blank were considered illegal.
I asked also for an official list of those commissioned by
Venezuela, that I might forward it to our government.25
After long delay, on August 11, Perry received a reply
from the Venezuelan Secretary of State, acknowledging
the obligation of his government and promising early res-
titution; also, for the future, restriction of its privateers
within narrower limits.26 Perry weighed anchor on Au-
gust 15 and dropped down the river. "He had succeeded
in his mission, but at the cost of his life. He died of
yellow fever at sea August 23, on board of the Non-
such,"27 at the age of thirty-four.
23 MacKenzie's Life of Perry, II, 188.
24 bid., 188, 190, 197.
25 Ibid., 203.
26 Ibid., 216.
27 Goodrich (U. S. Naval Inst. Proc., XLII, 1930).


Captain Charles Morris was appointed to complete
Captain Perry's mission to the republics of South Amer-
ica. For some months after July, 1817, Morris had been
employed in diplomatic duties in Haiti and Venezuela.
In September, 1819, he sailed for Buenos Ayres in the
frigate Constellation with the John Adams, Commander
Alexander S. Wadsworth. They went first to Montevideo,
where they found the Nonsuch, Lieutenant Daniel Tur-
ner. Morris proceeded in the John Adams to Buenos
Ayres, where he found conditions very unstable, due to
frequent revolutions. He soon returned to the United
States and made his report.28
Public opinion in the United States was expressed in
appeals to the Government. A letter dated Boston, De-
cember 1, 1819, signed by six presidents of insurance
companies and addressed to President Monroe, enclosed
a list of forty-four vessels which had been robbed. The
signers observed: "Whether the late unparalleled increase
of piracies is to be ascribed to defects in the laws of civi-
lized nations, or the laws not being enforced, or to other
causes, it is alike certain that it is an alarming and grow-
ing evil, which a just regard to the interest of commerce,
no less than to the moral state of society, requires to be
forthwith repressed."29
Many Americans of previous good character had been
induced to ship on board these so-called privateers and
the demoralizing influence of such service was deplorable.
Moreover, the loss of the men was severely felt by the
maritime interests of the country. It was estimated that
since the close of the War of 1812 the country had been
drained of fifteen to twenty thousand seamen in this
As nearly as can be ascertained it would seem that
about forty pirates were sentenced to death throughout
the United States in the latter part of 1819 and early in
1820. In New Orleans, where sixteen of them were con-
victed, there was much excitement and threats of rescue
28 Morris's Autobiography, 77-82, 84-86.
29 National Inteligencer, January 1, 1820.
so Niles, January 8, 1820.


and vengeance. Except four hangings in Charleston,
there appears to be no accessible record of those actually
executed. There is an unfortunate lack of information
in regard to these cases.81
Piracy was carried on along the entire shore of the
Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea and among the islands,
both the Bahamas and West Indies; and even occasionally
off the southern Atlantic coast of the United States.
There are reports of twenty-seven American vessels hav-
ing been seized and robbed during the year 1820. Some
of the marauders were captured, however. At the end of
the year Secretary Thompson reported to the President
"that, for the protection of our commerce in the West
India Islands and parts adjacent the brig Enterprise, of
14 guns, schooner Nonsuch, of 8 guns, schooner Lynx, of
6 guns, and Gun Vessels Nos. 158 and 168, have been
during the present year constantly cruising in the Gulf
of Mexico, among the West India Islands, and along the
southern coast of Florida and the United States; and in
addition to this permanent force, all the ships and vessels
of war proceeding from the United States or returning
to the same from the Mediterranean, coast of Africa, or
elsewhere, have instructions to take their route through
the West India Islands, to afford protection to our com-
merce in that quarter and to give efficacy to the several
acts of Congress for the suppression of the slave trade
and capture of piratical vessels."32 The force named by
the Secretary was far too small to cope with the situation,
the gravity of which he failed to appreciate. Piracy was
on the increase and the menace to American shipping was
growing more serious.
The year 1821 opened with further appeals from the
business community to Congress and as a result, "a num-
ber of small vessels were accordingly dispatched to the
West Indies, but were so hampered by their instructions
that they were obliged to surrender all pirates captured
in Spanish American waters to the Cuban authorities for
s Ibid., January 15, March 25, May 27, June 17, 1820.
82 Naval Affairs, No. 36-5.


punishment, who, after a mockery of a trial, often released
the wretches to commence anew their depredations."33
There are few records of the first half of this year,
but on July 16 the Navy Department is informed by
Commodore Patterson that the Lynx and Nonsuch are
employed "scouring our own coast from the Perdito to
Sabine and generally run along the shores of Florida,
then touch at Havana and Jamaica, etc., and return to
the Balize, occasionally extending their criuse into the
Bay of Campeachy and along the coast of Yuccatan."
At the same time the Bull Dog was cruising on Lake
Borgne and among the islands between Mobile and the
Mississippi. A division of small boats was at Barataria.
The Lynx, Lieutenant Madison, and the Nonsuch, Lieu-
tenant Turner, were the only efficient sea-going craft un-
der the commodore's command, and the former was lost
during the summer, having foundered, so it was believed,
in a hurricane.34
Commodore Patterson reported two acts of piracy in
September and before the end of the year nineteen addi-
tional cases were recorded. These vessels were robbed
and the crews maltreated. Nearly all these outrages were
committed about the West India Islands. One of the
vessels, the ship Orleans, of Philadelphia, was seized off
the Island of Abaco in the Bahamas, and detained two
days, when the rising wind compelled the pirates to leave
her in order to save their own vessel. They robbed her
of goods to the value of forty thousand dollars and before
leaving, the pirate chief addressed a note to a United
States officer, a passenger on the Orleans. Signing the
missive Richard Cceur de Lion, he says: "Between bucca-
neers no ceremony. I take your dry goods and in return
I send you pimento; therefore we are now even-I enter-
tain no resentment. The goods of this world belong
to the brave and valiant."5 '
Not including vessels in the Mississippi, the naval
ss Porter, 271; Amer. State Papers, Naval, I, 723.
s4 Captains' Letters, 1821, III, No. 46.
3s Captains' Letters, 1921, IV, No. 77; Niles, Sept. 15, 22, Oct.
20, 1821.


force available for the suppression of piracy at the end
of 1821 consisted of the sloop of war Hornet, 18, Com-
mander Robert Henley; the 12-gun brigs Enterprise and
Spark; the 12-gun schooners Shark, Porpoise, and Gram-
pus; and three gunboats. Some captures were made by
this little squadron. The Enterprise, Lieutenant Law-
rence Kearney, rescued the ship Lucies from pirates off
Cape San Antonio, the western end of Cuba, and took
her into Havana. She was there given up to the authori-
ties, after some dispute, when the Captain General agreed
to make himself personally responsible for the amount
of salvage due the Enterprise. At this time it was said
there were eleven piratical vessels on the south coast of
Cuba, cruising between Cape Maisi, the eastern point of
the island, and Santiago. In October the Hornet cap-
tured a pirate schooner called the Moscow.3"
A private letter from Matanzas, Cuba, dated Septem-
ber 27, 1821, told a story of aggravated piracy: "Three
American vessels have been captured at the en-
trance of this harbor by a launch fitted out here and
manned by nine villains, viz., one Portuguese, six Span-
iards, and two Englishmen. They killed the captain and
two men of the schooner and then ordered her to the
northward. They murdered all the crew of the brig,
opened their entrails, hanged them by the ribs to the
masts, and afterwards set fire to the vessel and all were
consumed! The sloop was more fortunate; the pirates
contented themselves with severely beating the crew and
plundering her of the most valuable articles on board.
They then collected the combustibles and set them on fire
and left her, hoping, as in the case of the brig, to con-
sume the vessel and crew together, but these last, fortu-
nately, had strength sufficient to take her long boat, and
have safely got back to Matanzas."37
No resistance seems to have been offered by the crews
of any of these vessels. An occasional instance, however,
so Officers' Letters, 1821, LXTV, Nos. 58%, 68, 75%; Logs of
Hornet and Porpoise; Am. State Papers, Naval, I, 804; Niles,
November 10, December 29, 1821, January 5, 12, 1822.
37 Niles, October 20, 1821.


helps to redeem the character of the merchant seaman
for pugnacity. A month before these brutal murders the
"schooner Evergreen, Isaac Pool captain, of Edgecomb,
Maine, was captured by a piratical vessel. Soon there-
after the captain retook his schooner and made prisoners
of the prize crew. Arrived in Boston, Mass., on Septem-
ber 22, 1821."8'
Captain Barnabas Lincoln sailed from Boston in the
schooner Exertion in November, 1821, and a month later,
near Cape Cruz, on the southern coast of Cuba, fell in
with an armed schooner under the Mexican flag. Lin-
coln with his little crew of seven, all told, was obliged to
surrender. After being robbed of everything, they were
marooned on a desert island, from which they were later
s Phil. Gazette, October 7, 1821.
s9 Narrative of Barnabas Lincoln.

A strong naval force under the command of a compe-
tent officer was needed in the West Indies. "Anything
less was a waste of time and effort, so far as the total
extirpation of pirates was concerned. An occasional brush
with them here and there was of no avail. For years
this system had been pursued and under it piracy had
flourished."40 Commodore Patterson at New Orleans was
too far away to exercise effective control.
The needs of the situation were becoming appreciated
at Washington and in 1822 a force more nearly adequate,
the West India squadron, was brought together and placed
under the command of Captain James Biddle, in the 36-
gun frigate Macedonian. The other vessels, which were
added from time to time during the year, were the frigate
Congress, 36; the corvettes Cyane, 32, and John Adams,
24; the 18-gun sloops of war Hornet and Peacock; the
brigs Spark and Enterprise; schooners Alligator, Gram-
pus, Shark, and Porpoise, the last six vessels mounting
twelve guns each; and the gunboats No. 158 and No. 168.
Gunboat No. 158 was also called the Revenge. The larger
ships were restricted in their movements to deep water,
but were of value through their moral influence and as
mother ships to the small craft.
The presence of this force made evident to the local
authorities in the West Indies that the United States
had finally determined on the suppression of piracy. A
larger number of light draft vessels would have greatly
increased the efficiency of the squadron. A considerable
number of supernumerary officers, for employment in
boat expeditions and other special duty, accompanied the
ships. The Porpoise, for instance, carried twenty-two
lieutenants and six surgeon's mates.
Many piracies were committed early in the year 1822,
but sometimes punishment followed. In January Cap-
4o Goodrich (Naa. Inst., XLIII, 91).



tain Elton, of the brig Spark, recaptured a Dutch sloop
with seven pirates on board whom he brought into
Charleston for trial. The schooner Porpoise, Lieutenant
James Ramage, sailed from the Mississippi River in
January, with a convoy. In his report Ramage says:
"On the 15th, having seen the vessels bound to Havana
and Matanzas safe to their destined ports, I made all sail
to the westward and on the following day boarded the
brig Bolina, of Boston, Gorham master. On the day
previous, his vessel was captured by pirates and robbed
of every material they could carry away with them, at
the same time treating the crew and himself with inhu-
man cruelty. After supplying him from this vessel with
what necessaries he required, I made sail for the land
and early the following morning.. ... I despatched our
boats with forty men, under command of lieut. Curtis,
in pursuit of these enemies of the human race. The
boats having crossed the reef, which here extends a con-
siderable distance from the shore, very soon discovered,
chased, and captured a piratical schooner, the crew of
which made their escape to the woods. Lieut. Curtis
very judiciously manned the prize from our boats and
proceeded about ten miles to leeward, where it was under-
stood the principal depot of these marauders was estab-
lished. This he fortunately discovered and attacked. A
slight skirmish here took place but, as our force advanced,
the opposing party precipitately retreated. We then took
possession and burnt and destroyed their fleet consisting
of five vessels, one of them a beautiful new schooner of
about sixty tons, ready for sea with the exception of her
sails. We also took three prisoners; the others fled to the
woods. I have manned one of the schooners taken,
a very fine fast sailing vessel and keep her with me. She
will prove of great service in my farther operations on
this coast." These events took place on the north coast
of Cuba, west of Bahia Honda.41
Commodore Biddle, who did not sail from Boston to
join his squadron until March, arrived on the station
41 Am. State Papers, Naval, I, 804; Master Commandants' Let-
ters, 1822, No. 24.


somewhat later. Meanwhile Commodore Patterson con-
tinued to exercise command. He forwarded to the Navy
Department a letter from Lieutenant Ramage telling of
the destruction of four more piratical vessels and the tak-
ing of six prisoners.42
On February 21, 1822, Commander Henley, of the
sloop of war Hornet, then lying in Hampton Roads, wrote
to Secretary Thompson that "the horrid system of pirati-
cal aggression and outrage, which has been so long car-
ried on by those lawless men, notwithstanding our efforts
to put a stop to it, seems to be increasing to a degree
truly alarming to the mercantile interest and afflicting
to humanity; and yet the authorities of the Island from
which they mostly eminate, and whose inhabitants are
the principal authors, look on with a calm, cold-blooded
indifference and adopt no measures to suppress them. It
was even said publicly at Havana that a number of vil-
lains who were known to be engaged in the piratical sys-
tem had, upon hearing of our Navy's success in destroy-
ing some of their band, avowed their future intention to
spare neither the lives or property of the Americans."43
It is not unlikely that this letter had influence with
Congress, then slowly becoming aroused. The Committee
on Naval Affairs on March 2 made a report containing
the following: "The extent, however, to which the sys-
tem of plunder upon the ocean is carried on in the West
India seas and Gulf of Mexico is truly alarming and calls
imperiously for the prompt and efficient interposition of
the General Government. Some fresh instance of the
atrocity with which the pirates infesting those seas carry
on their depredations, accompanied too by the indiscrimi-
nate massacre of the defenceless and unoffending, is
brought by almost every mail, so that the intercourse be-
tween the northern and southern sections of the Union,
by sea, is almost cut off. The committee are induced to
believe that this system of piracy is now spreading itself
to a vast extent, attracting to it the idle, vicious, and des-
perate of all nations and more particularly those who
42 Captains' Letters, 1822, IV, No. 15.
43 Master Commandants' Letters, 1822, No. 17.


have heretofore been engaged in the slave trade, from
which the vigilance of the American cruisers has driven
them and that if they are not winked at by the authori-
ties in the Island of Cuba, they are in no respect re-
strained by their interference.""44
The committee, stating that the Hornet, Enterprise,
Spark, Porpoise, Shark, Grampus, and Alligator, as well
as two gunboats, were already cruising "for the protec-
tion of trade, the suppression of piracy and traffic in
slaves," resolved that the corvettes Cyane and John
Adams and the sloops of war Peacock and Erie be added
to the force. The John Adams, Cyane, and Peacock were
sent later; presumably the Erie was not. The Committee
also suggested employing the frigate Constellation.
Early in March the boats of the Enterprise, while chas-
ing a large piratical barge, entered a creek near Cape
San Antonio and captured two launches and four boats.45
A day or two later, according to a contemporary "report
which appears to be true, the U. S. brig Enterprise,
lieut. Kearney, captured eight sail of piratical vessels,
whose united crews amounted to about 160 men. This
must be pretty nearly a finishing stroke to the desperadoes.
We have not lately heard of so many piratical acts, but
cases are just published which happened in December last,
in the capture of the brig Exertion and schooner Consti-
tution, of Boston, that have caused no little feeling. The
vessels that seized them were partly manned by the
twenty-one wretches who were recently tried and con-
demned as pirates at New Orleans and pardoned by the
president of the United States-they boasted of it; and
in thirty days from the time of their liberation were at
their old trade, with a resolution to murder all their
prisoners. But instead of this, they were so humane as
to put their prisoners ashore on a low sand key, to perish
for want of water or to be swept away by the sea."'4
The Cuban government, apparently beginning to feel
the disgrace of their island being used as a base of opera-
4 Am. State Papers, Naval, I, 787.
45 Captains' Letters, 1822, IV, No. 58.
46 Niles, April 6, 1822.


tions for criminals, made a few raids on the nest of
pirates at Cape San Antonio. Six were killed and two
of the prisoners taken were tried, convicted and shot.
But it was evident that public opinion and the interests
'of some leading citizens were with the outlaws.47
It was announced in Niles' Register, March 2, that
"the frigate Macedonian, Captain Biddle, is about to sail
from Boston with four smaller vessels and two hundred
marines, with instructions, it is said, to sweep the land
as well as the sea of the pirates of Cuba." One of the
first acts of the new commodore, after his arrival on the
station, was to address a communication to the Governor
.and Captain General of Cuba, Don Nicholas Mahy. This
was dated on board the Macedonian in Havana harbor,
April 30, 1822, and represented that the commercial in-
tercourse between the two countries, already considerable
and mutually beneficial, must be encouraged and pro-
tected. "For this object the Government of the United
'States on its part has employed an adequate naval force,
which is placed under my direction and control. But
as the depredations have been committed chiefly in open
boats, immediately upon the coast and off the harbors, it
is important that we should have your excellency's co-
,operation. I have therefore the honor to propose that
your excellency should so far co-operate with me as to
sanction the landing upon the coast of Cuba of our boats
.and men, when in pursuit of pirates. This measure
would be promotive of our common benefit, is indispen-
sable to the entire suppression of piracy, and is not in-
tended in any manner to infringe upon the territorial
rights of your excellency."48
In reply the governor professed a desire to cultivate
commercial intercourse, the importance of which he fully
appreciated; also a desire to co-operate in the "extermina-
tion of those enemies who under all colors have laid waste
and committed robberies." But "with respect to the per-
mission you solicit for landing upon this coast with troops
and people in boats, for the purpose of pursuing those
47 Ibid., March 23, 1822.
s4 Am. State Papers, Naval, I, 805.


pirates, I cannot and must not consent to it. I repeat,
that the necessary measures have been adopted to defend
my territorial jurisdiction and for the apprehension of
every description of outlaws." The governor's efforts,
however, to enforce the "necessary measures" were not
marked with requisite zeal and energy. Commodore
Biddle thought it best to drop the subject of co-operation
for the time being, but hoped the governor would even-
tually be brought to consent. As he wrote to Secretary
Thompson a few days later, "He certainly ought, and
perhaps will, consent to our landing upon those parts of
the Coast that are uninhabited and where, tho' within his
jurisdiction, he is utterly incapable of exercising any
authority. There are many such places on the coast of
this island.""4
Meanwhile the small vessels of the squadron were do-
ing the best that could be done under the circumstances.
Lieutenants Stockton in the Alligator, Gregory in the
Grampus, and Perry in the Shark were especially active.
Several prizes were taken, some of which were brought
in and some destroyed. Nevertheless, the system con-
tinued to thrive. "There is no sort of doubt but that the
pirates are encouraged and protected by certain of the'
authorities in Cuba, especially by the governor of Hol-
guin, with whom a correspondence was held which will
probably be published. Plundered goods were publicly
brought in and sold at Xibara [Gibara] and lieut.
Stockton was hardly restrained, by his positive instruc-
tions, from settling the account with the commandant and
people of that place. It appears that the famous Lafitte
is at the head of some of those parties, that their business
is increasing, that they often murder whole crews."50
The brig Belvidere, of Beverly, Captain Z. G. Lamson,
bound from Port au Prince to New Orleans, was chased
by a schooner on May 2, 1822. Twenty-two men were
counted on her. After firing once or twice she "hoisted
a red flag with death's head and cross under it." She
49 Am. State Papers, Naval, I, 805; Captains' Lettersm 1822, IV,
No. 79 (May 6).
so Nile, June 1, 22, 1822.


ran alongside the Belvidere and her commander ordered
Captain Lamson to send his boat on board. "He had not
discovered our gun at that time," says Lamson's account
of the affair. "I told him I would send her directly; he
immediately gave me a whole volley of musketry and
blunderbusses. Our gun was pointed and cloth re-
moved and we commenced as smart a fire as possible with
our 24-pound carronade, four muskets and seven pistols,
and on our first fire six of them were seen to fall, the
captain among them. He only discharged his long
gun three times alongside, as our third shot broke his
carriage and his gun fell into the lee scupper. He then
kept up as sharp a fire as he was able with muskets and
blunderbusses and dropped near the stern, expecting to
find more comfortable quarters, but there he got a most
terrible cutting up from a brass 3-pounder by which he
was raked within twenty yards distance with a round and
two bags of forty musket balls each, which completely
fixed him. His vessel holding such a wind and sail-
ing so fast, she was soon clear of grapeshot range and
wore ship, when we counted six or seven of them, which
appeared to be all that was left; the captain I saw dis-
tinctly laid on deck. Our loss was one man killed, shot
through the head.""'
A British merchant seaman, Aaron Smith, who had
been captured by a Cuban pirate in 1822 and forced to
serve as navigator, relates his experiences. One day,
while lying in port, "I perceived a number of boats and
canoes pulling towards the corsair, and the captain told
me that he expected a great deal of company from the
shore and among others two or three magistrates and their
families and some priests, observing also that I should
see several pretty Spanish girls. I remarked that I won-
dered he was not afraid of the magistrates. He laughed
and said I did not know the Spanish character. 'Presents
of coffee and other little things,' he said, 'will always
ensure their friendship, and from them I receive intelli-
gence of all that occurs at the Havannah and know every
sx Essex Institute Historical Coll., October, 1922.


hostile measure, time enough to guard against it.' Two
magistrates, a priest, and several ladies and gentlemen
now came on board and were received in great pomp by
the captain, whom they congratulated on his success."52
The Jamaica sloop Blessing, William Smith, master,
was homeward bound from Santiago, Cuba, in July, 1822,
according to the sworn statement of her mate, when she
fell in with a long, black schooner called the Emanuel
"and commanded by a white man with a mixed crew of
color and countries, among whom were English and Amer-
ican; that after bringing the sloop to, the pirates' boat
came alongside and took out the captain and his son, with
all the crew, and carried them on board of the schooner,
leaving the sloop in possession of his people; that he de-
manded of the captain his money or his life. The captain
persisted that he had none, but proffered him the cargo.
. On the following day, not producing any money, a
plank was run out in the starboard side of the schooner,
upon which he made Captain Smith walk, and that as he
approached to the end, they tilted the plank, when he
dropped into the sea, and there, when in the effort of
swimming, the captain called for his musket and fired at
him therewith, when he sunk and was seen no more.
The rest of the crew were ironed below, with the excep-
tion of his son, a boy about fourteen, who witnessed the
fate of his father. In the agony of tears and crying,
the captain took the butt end of the musket and knocked
the boy on the head, thereafter took him by the foot and
hove him overboard." The next day everything of value
was taken from the Blessing and she was burned. The
crew were set adrift in a boat and were soon picked up
by a passing schooner.58
In August 1822 the schooner Bee, Captain Johnson, of
Charleston, South Carolina, was captured by pirates.
"They kept possession of the Bee nine days, during which
time they took some of the cargo on shore and sold it.
They compelled capt. Johnson and his crew to throw the
ballast out of the hold of the piratical schooner to make
62 Atrocities of the Pirates, 38.
s Nilees, October 5, 1822.


room to receive the cargo of the Bee and beat him with a
rope's end when he did not work to suit them. At one
time they beat him with a cutlass. .. At length they
concluded to set captain Johnson, the passenger and his
crew [except one] adrift in an old leaky boat
which they had taken from some fishermen on shore, and
burn the schooner Bee, which they did. After being thus
exposed for five days in an open boat, with one whole
and one broken oar, they reached Matanzas." In this
case the pirate captain was afterwards arrested in New
York, tried, convicted, and sentenced to be hanged, but
was pardoned by the President of the United States. This
was in 1824.54
Lieutenant Gregory, of the Grampus, reported to the
commodore his arrival "at St. Bartholomew on the 2d of
August, and sailed again on the 7th with convoy for St.
Thomas. On the morning of the 9th fell in with two
Spanish cruisers of Tortola who demanded permission
and claimed the right to board the convoy, which being
peremptorily refused, they hauled off. The same day I
arrived at St. Thomas and received from Captain John
Souther of the schooner Coquette, of Georgetown, D. C.,
the enclosed deposition, having been plundered by those
vessels. On the 14th I left St. Thomas with two valu-
able vessels bound to Curagoa, and on the evening of the
15th saw an hermaphrodite brig hovering upon our
weather quarter, apparently a cruiser; continued my course
without regarding her. At daylight made her ahead and
gave chase; at half-past nine, having gained considerably
upon her, she hoisted English colors, changed them to
Spanish at ten and fired a gun to windward, and at half-
past ten hove to and set a white flag at the fore. On
nearing her I perceived her to be the pirate that had
fired upon and plundered the Coquette and therefore con-
sidered it my duty to arrest her. At twenty minutes
past eleven the Grampus was laid under her lee within
pistol shot and her surrender demanded as a pirate, which
she affected not to understand and answered me to that
5 N. Y. Evening Post, April 30, May 3, June 4, 1824.


"While repeating the demand he poured into us a
full volley from his small arms and cannon, which was
instantly returned and continued three minutes and a
half, when he struck his colors, a complete wreck, having
one man killed and six wounded and in a sinking condi-
tion. The boats were despatched instantly to their relief
and it was only owing to the great exertions of Lieutenant
Voorhies that she was prevented from going down, having
received three shot between wind and water, one of which
injured the pumps. The Grampus received some trifling
injury in her sails and rigging, but not a man hurt.
"The captured vessel proved to be the notorious priva-
teer Palmyra, formerly the Pancheta, from Porto Rico;
carries one long brass 18 and eight 18-pound carronades,
and a crew of eighty-eight men. They acknowledged the
robbery of the Coquette and the only excuse given by the
officer is that they could not prevent those things hap-
pening now and then. Several of the plundered articles
were found on board."55
In the late summer of 1822 the centre of piratical
activity shifted temporarily to Porto Rico. Lieutenant
Gregory, while at St. Thomas, was informed by Porto
Ricans whom he met there, that on their island privateers
were being fitted out, largely manned by Cubans, which
were in reality nothing but pirates, and that serious depre-
dations on commerce were to be expected. In their senti-
ment towards Americans the Cubans were actuated by "a
deadly desire of revenge.""6
In August Captain Robert T. Spence, with the ship
Cyane, was at San Juan, Porto Rico, and opened a cor-
respondence with the Governor, Don Francisco Gonsalez
de Linarez, concerning captures of American merchant-
55 Am. State Papers, Naval, II, 193.
56 Am. State Papers, Naval, II, 193.


men by Porto Rican privateers. In his letter of the 28th
he says: "It appears that some of these vessels have been
sent in and after a grievous detention, declared to be a
'bad prize'; subject, however, to pay all the costs of suit
and one-third of the expenses of the privateer. A
pretended violation of blockade, it appears, is the pretext
for sending into the ports of this island vessels navigat-
ing the sea under the American flag. The whole there-
fore may be resolved into two descriptions of cases: The
first comprising vessels seized and again released as 'bad
prizes,' paying the whole of the costs of trial and a por-
tion of the expenses of the privateer.
"The principles of equity applicable to such cases are
too simple to require exposition. The innocent are not
to pay the penalty of another's guilt or imprudence. If
an American is interrupted in her voyage, captured and
vexatiously detained until a judicial investigation deter-
mines her to be a 'bad prize,' it seems to me self evident
that all costs of the suit should be paid by the captors,
in whom the wrong is; add to this that proper damages
should be levied on the aggressor, that the sufferer may
be fairly indemnified, and the privateersmann' may be
-restrained in future by a fear of being, in all similar
cases, called upon to make good the injury resulting from
his wantonness. Without such a check what is there to
limit the mischief done by men of this order who, stealing
from their dens and lurking places, pollute the ocean with
the blood of defenseless sailors and gorge their cupidity
with the spoils of plunder and ravage? ..
"The second description of cases to which I wish to
call the immediate attention of your excellency, are those
vessels sent in under a pretext of attempting to enter a
blockaded port. The pacific policy uniformly pursued by
the government of the United States, the just and liberal
principles by which it has been governed through all
its various struggles, to treat all nations as friends and
especially to be on the most friendly footing with Spain,
entitle the citizens of America to the privilege of navi-
gating the seas without molestation on pretexts so flimsy


as those of violating a 'blockade' which has never existed
de fact. ...
"Your excellency, influenced by high and honorable
motives, will doubtless see the propriety of ordering all
American vessels now detained to be forthwith released,
and the punishment of marauders who have tarnished the
dignity of the Spanish character by acts of inhuman treat-
ment to citizens of the United States by the most flagrant
outrages, by a' prostration of all the usages of civilized
society; thereby bringing the commercial world into a
state truly to be deplored, tending to arm man against
his brother man and to make safety nowhere but in
strength and habitual hostility."57
Captain Spence a few days later wrote to the Secretary
of the Navy: "I have had a conversation with the gov-
ernor who begs me to be assured that all he can do shall
be done to meet my wishes, in relation to the privateers
fitted out of the island; that those already out were
equipped before he assumed the government; that he is
opposed to it, both in his private and public capacity;
that future restraints shall be placed upon them; and that
he will remedy all abuses, as far as he has power. .
That upon the subject of blockade he can do nothing-
it was a question that must be settled between the two
governments; that blockade had been declared by General
Morillo; it was recognized and the consequences of violat-
ing it were inevitable. Over this question he had no
The privateers fitted out at Porto Rico consisted of six
brigs and schooners, at least three of which were of con-
siderable force; with three or four small vessels in addi-
tion. At the time of Captain Spence's arrival they had
sent five American vessels into port, a barque and four
The Peacock, Captain Stephen Cassin, captured a
pirate off Bahia Honda, about sixty miles west of Havana,
September 28. On boarding her, arms and ammunition
5T Am. State Papers, Naval, II, 196.
ss Am. State Papers, Naval, II, 203 (September 5, 1822). For
the whole correspondence, see pp. 195-203.


were found on board, and a crew of eighteen men. "She
had no permit for arms and in the roll of equipage pro-
duced (which was without a signature) but ten persons
were specified. We also found on board a red Ensign
and Pendant. Conceiving her piratical character plainly
evidenced by these circumstances, I took her as a prize
and sent on board Midn. Thos. Dornin with a crew. In
the afternoon of the same day I spoke H. B. M. Schooner
Speedwell, Capt. Gerry, who informed me that a few hours
previously he was fired at by two schooners under the
red flag, which he chased in as far as he could with safety
venture with his vessel. I immediately got out the boats
and dispatched them with about fifty men well armed and
the revenue cutter [Louisiana] and prize schooner in pur-
suit of them, but after a vigilant search among the Keys
they returned to the ship the following evening without
success. The following morning, discovering a sail in-
shore, I again sent the boats. The Speedwell also
joined the expedition, and it is with pleasure I mention the
politeness of Captain Gerry in tendering any assistance
that his vessel could afford. The following morning they
returned to the ship with four schooners they had taken
as prizes."59
The story of "A Desperate Fight" between a merchant-
man, that dared to resist, and a pirate, was first told in
a New Orleans paper. "The brig Patriot, of New York,
Horace T. Jacobs, master, on her voyage from Port au
Prince to New Orleans, on the 7th of September, being
off Cape [San] Antonio and in a dead calm, was attacked
by a piratical schooner of about 60 tons, with a crew of
from 45 to 60 men. Capt. Jacobs then tacked to
the south and eastward and hauled up the course and
ordered preparations to be made for action, which were
readily and unanimously obeyed; the universal good spir-
its which pervaded all hands-consisting of ten men and
a boy-were truly conspicuous. When the schooner was
close under the stern, Capt. Jacobs hailed her, upon which
she fired a whole volley of musketry into the brig, and
59 Master Commandants' Letters, 1822, No. 166; Log of the


we in return commenced upon the schooner by firing the
stern gun, which was under the direction of Mr. Johnson,
the chief mate, which, with the musketry, did great execu-
tion amongst them. This gun was, however, dismounted
the third round and our colors were shot away at the same
time, upon which the schooner set up a terrible shout to
board from the bowsprit end; her boarders were covered
by an abundance of musketry, but notwithstanding their
vast superiority they were very gallantly repulsed. She
then set fire to the brig astern by throwing fired wads in
at the cabin windows and into the stern boat, which was
happily extinguished without damage. She then made
another attempt to board, but was equally unsuccessful.
By this time her fire considerably abated and we could
perceive an almost clear deck on board of her, and that
she manifested a willingness to get clear of us. She
asked for quarter repeatedly, but it was suspected to be
a trick to get sight of the people and knock them
off. She had much difficulty in getting clear of the brig,
as her jibboom and some of her ropes forward had got
foul of the brig's davit and the stern boat's bow. Seven
men could only be counted on her deck with the glass
when she was half a mile off. The brig's rigging and
sails are very much cut up. Capt. Jacobs was wounded
in the head by a musket ball and is supposed to have frac-
tured his skull. He died of a lockjaw and violent con-
vulsive fits on the night of the 12th inst. He has left
a wife, who was on board in the action, to lament his loss;
he had only been married a little more than three months.
Mr. Johnson is the only surviving officer of the
brig and was wounded in the thigh by a musket ball; he
is much to be praised for his good and persevering con-
duct. Mr. J. D. Walker, of New York, doing second
mate's duty, was killed in the action."80
The Cuban authorities seemed to be wholly unconcerned
as to the crimes committed in their immediate neighbor-
hood, and made no effort to prevent them or to punish the
perpetrators. It was well known that the pirates main-
tained a base of operations at Regla, in the harbor of
6 Niles, November 2, 1822.


Havana, and made captures within sight of the Moro.e6
In November, 1822, while the U. S. schooner Alligator
was at anchor in Matanzas harbor, her commander, Lieu-
tenant William H. Allen, was informed that an American
brig and schooner had been captured recently and were
then lying in a bay forty or fifty miles to the eastward.
The Alligator got under way, and the next morning at
daylight anchored near the bay. The brig and schooner,
with three other vessels-a ship, brig, and schooner-
were seen at anchor; also a schooner under sail and full
of men, with boats passing between her and the other
vessels. The Alligator's boats were immediately manned
and sent in chase. The schooner tried to escape with
sweeps. After a long chase, the boats came within gun-
shot. The schooner hoisted a red flag, and opened fire;
the boats prepared to board. A second schooner then
appeared and opened fire on the boats. The men in the
first schooner left her in boats, attempting to get aboard
the other. The launch of the Alligator, with Lieutenant
Allen, and her cutter then tried to head off the pirate
boats, which returned to their schooner. The Americans
made another attempt to board this vessel, when her crew
again took to their boats and got aboard the other schooner.
The Americans then took possession of the first schooner
and the boats chased the second schooner. The combined
pirate crews on board her numbered about one hundred.
The American boats were repulsed with a loss of two killed
and five wounded. Among the latter was Lieutenant
Allen, who, with one other, died soon afterwards. The
pirates were joined by a third schooner. It was learned
later that their loss was fourteen killed and a:great num-
ber wounded. The Americans brought away their prize,
also the ship, two brigs, and two schooners.62
The brig Marcia, of Providence, and schooner Camden,
of Boston, were off Cape San Antonio, December 7, early
in the morning, when, says Captain Thurber of the brig,,
they "saw two piratical cruizers coming out from under
the land. At 7 they came alongside and directly came
61 Ibid., October 26, 1822.
62 Niles, December 7, 1822, February 1, 1823.


on board armed with knives, swords, dirks, and pistols,
and took possession of both vessels, put the brig about and
steered for the land, with the avowed intention of burn-
ing her and killing all hands. They began beating me
with their swords and thrusting their daggers at me,
threatening to stab me. They broke open chests and
trunks, the cabin and every part of the vessel, and beat
all hands fore and aft, to make them confess where the
money was, conducting more like demons in human shape
than men. They rigged themselves out in our clothes
and strutted about the decks, flourishing their swords, etc.
After ravaging about two hours and being satisfied there
was no more money on board, they bid us go about our
business, taking 75 dollars, small boats, oars, rigging,
sails, and everything they thought of value. They
had two English lads to pull their boats, who informed
my men that they belonged to the British brig Union,
which the pirates had burnt and murdered all hands ex-
cept them. The piratical vessels were of about 40 tons,
crews chiefly Spaniards of a most savage appearance and
On December 11, 1822, Secretary Thompson reported
to the Chairman of the Senate Naval Committee that in
the opinion of the -Navy Commissioners a considerable
force, in addition to that already employed, was necessary.
He recommended: "One Steam Boat, of 90 to 20 tons, to
carry two 18-pounders and two 12-pounders upon travel-
ling carriages, so as to fire from any part of the vessel.
Ten fast sailing Schooners, of 45 to 60 tons burthen, to
draw not more than five to seven feet water, each to be
armed with one long 12 or 18-pounder mounted on a
circle, with two 12-pounder carronades, with the neces-
sary number of small arms, to row from 20 to 24 sweeps;
and five light, double bank Cutters, each to row 20 oars
and adapted to carry 40 men well armed with muskets,
pistols, boarding pikes, cutlasses, etc." This additional
force was provided by an act approved December 20.64
"Our vessels operating in the West Indies were engaged
6sPhil. Aurora, February 13, 1823.
64 Am. State Papers, Naval, I, 822.


upon no holiday task. Much of the work was done in
open boats, absent from the parent ship for days at a time,
searching out lagoons and other hidden resorts of pirates.
The crews were not only exposed to hostile gun-fire and
to the vicissitudes of the weather, but also to the infection
of paludal and yellow fevers. The latter, indeed, was
the worst enemy they had to encounter, its victims out-
numbering many fold those who fell in action. At one
moment it seemed as if yellow jack would drive our naval
vessels altogether out of West Indian waters. In com-
parison with this ever-present danger, the discomforts and
risks inseparable from boat expeditions were as naught.
It speaks volumes for the spirit of the navy of those days
that its officers and men faced this insidious, invisible
peril without a murmur, if not without apprehension. To
stand up in battle against a human foe, giving and receiv-
ing the blows of actual combat, is a far lighter under-
taking than to confront the mysterious, unseen chance
of being mortally stricken while unable to ward off the
assaults of a dread disease All honor to those who so
bravely did their duty under appalling conditions."65
"s Goodrich (Nav. Inst., XLIII, 493).


Second Steamer in the U. S. Navy, 1823

From the seal of the Connecticut River Banking Company

Kindness of L. F. Middlebrook, Esq.


A new commander-in-chief of the West Indian station
was selected early in 1823. This was Captain David
Porter, who, since he relinquished his command at New
Orleans, had added to his credit, already considerable, his
brilliant achievements in the War of 1812. The addi-
tional force provided for him consisted of a steam galliot
called the Sea Gull, eight schooners armed with three guns
each, five 20-oared barges, and a transport mounting six
guns. The Sea Gull was the first naval steamer of any
country to serve in time of war. Most of the vessels
already in the West Indies in 1822 remained there under
his orders. The Alligator had been wrecked and the Non-
such sent to the Mediterranean.
Porter's orders from Secretary Thompson, dated Feb-
ruary 1, 1823, define the attitude of the Administration
towards conditions in the West Indies at this time: He
was told that he had been appointed to the command of
a squadron "for the purpose of repressing piracy and
affording effectual protection to the citizens and commerce
of the United States." He was also to give his attention
to the suppression of the slave-trade according to the pro-
visions of several acts of Congress. While doing these
things he must "observe the utmost caution not to encroach
upon the rights of others." Pirates being the enemies of
all nations, he might land on the islands and pursue them,
even in the settled parts, having previously, however, given
notice to the local authorities that his sole object was to
seize the offenders and bring them to justice. Any pirates
captured on shore must be turned over to the local authori-
ties, but if the authorities should refuse to receive them,
they must be kept on shipboard and a report of the cir-
cumstances made at once to the Navy Department.66
When, two years later, Porter came into collision with the
s6 Am. State Papers, Naval, I, 203. See Appendix IV. For
Commodore Porter's General Instructions to his officers, dated
February 26, 1823, see Am. State Papers, Naval, II, 235.


Department, he claimed these orders as justification of
his conduct.
Porter established his headquarters at Key West, at
that time called Thompson's Island, or Allenton. That
place, however, was not his first objective. He sailed
from Hampton Roads February 15, 1823, on the sloop of
war Peacock, Commander Stephen Cassin, accompanied
by the Sea Gull, the schooner Decoy, transport, and the
schooners Greyhound, Shark, Ferret, Jackall, Fox, Wild
Cat, Terrier, Weasel, and Beagle. The barges were not
ready for sea. On March 3 the Commodore announced
to Secretary Thompson his arrival that morning at St.
Thomas "with all the squadron under my command, ex-
cept the Grey Hound, which vessel separated in a gale. I
have despatched Lieutenant Commandant Perry, with the
Shark and three small schooners, to scour the south side
of Porto Rico, and shall sail tomorrow with the rest of
the squadron for St. John's, where I have been informed
several privateers have been fitted out which have done
considerable injury to our commerce. I am also informed
that there is a large British naval force in those seas, a
squadron of which, apparently on the lookout, I fell in
with this morning.""6
Porter left St. Thomas the day after his arrival, soon
fell in with the schooner Greyhound, Commander John
Porter, and sent her into San Juan, Porto Rico, with a
letter to the governor, Don Miguel de Torres. In this
letter, dated March 4, the commodore requested the gov-
ernor to furnish him "a descriptive list of vessels legally
commissioned to cruise from Porto Rico," that he might
"know how and when to respect them." He also wished
to know how far the Porto Rico privateers had been "in-
structed to interrupt our trade with Mexico and the Co-
lombian Republic." The co-operation of the governor in
the suppression of piracy was hoped for and expected.68
On the 6th, the Greyhound not having returned, the
Fox, Lieutenant William H. Cocke, was sent in "to obtain
intelligence of Captain Porter as to his progress." When
67 Ibid., II, 222.
s Am. State Papers, Naval, II, 278.


the Fox entered the harbor of San Juan she was fired upon
and Lieutenant Cocke was killed. The officer in command
of the battery, who gave the order to fire, claimed to be
Acting under orders of the governor to permit no vessel
to enter the harbor. Meanwhile the Commodore had pro-
ceeded to Aguadilla, at the western end of the island,
where, on March 10, he was joined by the schooners, in-
cluding the Shark, which was at once sent to the coast of
South America. At this time he says: "I also divided
my squadron into Four Divisions, giving one to the com-
mand of Captain Porter, one to Lieut. Comdt. Kearney,
one to Lieut. Comdt. Watson, and keeping one with my-
self, with orders to proceed by different routes to Thomp-
son's Island, thus multiplying our chances of detecting
Upon being informed of Lieutenant Cocke's death, Com-
modore Porter issued a general order, dated March 10,
1823. "The afficting intelligence which has this day
been received, relative to the death of that most excellent
officer and man, Lieut. Comd't. William H. Cocke, by a
shot fired from the castle of St. John's, has filled us all
with the most lively sorrow and regret. Had he fallen
in battle, had he died by the hands of declared enemies,
our sorrows would have been assuaged by a knowledge of
his having died in defence of the rights of his country
and while doing his duty as an officer. But to be thus
cruelly tofn from his family, his friends, and from his
country, by the conduct of a dastard (whose aim was ren-
dered more sure by his perfect safety and by the helpless
condition of the vessel of our lamented friend), is heart-
rending in the extreme. But, while we deprecate the act
of the individual who committed it, we must not involve
in it the conduct of a whole people. The authorities of
Porto Rico and in particular the captain general of the
island has given the most unequivocal proof of the most
sincere regret that the event has taken place. Everything
has been done by him that I could reasonably expect him
69 Captains' Letters, 1823, I, No. 97 (March 14); Am. State
Papers, Naval, I, 1103, 1105. For Porter's correspondence with
the Governor of Porto Rico, see pp. 1103-1106.


to do at present, to satisfy me of his friendly disposition
towards us, and as no act of ours can recall to life the
estimable man who has been taken from us, we must leave
what remains yet to be done to our country, whose de-
mands will no doubt be prompt and effectual. All that
remains for us to do is to grieve, and as a slight token of
what we feel, it is proposed to wear crape on the left arm
and on the swords for one month."70
The next port made was Matanzas. Writing to the
Secretary, March 28, the Commodore announced his ar-
val at that place two days earlier, "after giving the North
Coasts of St. Domingo and Cuba as thorough an exami-
nation as was practicable with the two Schooners and the
Boats of this ship with the greater part of her crew, while
all the Keys off shore, pointed out to me as the rendezvous
of Pirates were examined by the Ship. The service has
been very fatigueing to those employed for more than a
week past in open boats and in the most dangerous and
intricate navigation in the World, but it has been per-
formed cheerfully and I wish I could say successfully;
but we have not in this long route been able to detect a
Single Pirate, although our suspicions rested on many,
nor can I conceive how we shall ever be able to detect
them, for they are one day fishermen, another droguers,
wood cutters, salt gatherers, or Pirates, as best suits them.
Every Spaniard is armed with a knife and this weapon
according to their mode of warfare is enough for them.
Were we to apprehend every suspicious Spaniard and
Vessel, their coasting trade would soon be entirely broken
"Since my arrival here I have heard of the most horrid
atrocities committed by them. They now spare no one,
whole Ship Crews are indiscriminately burnt with their
vessels, and there has been an instance recently of the
murder of a crew under the walls of the Morro. .
Five piratical Vessels have for some Weeks been watching
the fleet in the Bay, which I shall cause to be examined,
and since our arrival, .they have dispersed and
disarmed. .
To Niles, April 19, 1823.


"I was surprised to learn on my arrival here that cir-
culars had been written by the Captain General to the
Governors and Commanders of the different districts of
the Island, forbidding the entrance of my squadron into
any of its ports or the landing of any part of my forces
in pursuit of Pirates. The Island appears at Present in
a very agitated state and the Government appears to think
that the United States would consider it a very desirable
acquisition. I shall use every means in my power to
satisfy them that my objects are totally unconnected with
anything of a Political nature."71
About this time a case of successful resistance by a
merchantman to a piratical attack was reported. "The
brig Bowdoin, Captain Carr, has arrived at Newport,
R. I., from Matanzas. Four hours after leaving the
latter, Captain C. was approached by a piratical schooner
from the land and full of men, rowing fourteen sweeps.
On coming up, they hoisted the red flag and called upon
Captain C. to strike or die. He was not quite willing to
do either, but waited until the scoundrels arrived within
range, when he let loose at them four carriage guns and a
number of muskets. The deck of the schooner was com-
pletely raked and she instantly hauled off with all possible
speed, rowing, however, only three sweeps instead of four-
teen. Captain C. supposes he might easily have sunk
the pirates, had it not been calm, which enabled them to
"It is evident that Porter's business was not to be facili-
tated by the Spanish authorities, upon whom must rest
the responsibility for the long continuance of piratical
depredations After making all due allowance for the ad-
mitted claim to proper recognition of their dignity, there
still remains the conviction that either through complicity
or punctilio, they refrained from doing for themselves,
or permitting others to do in their stead, what was impera-
tively necessary to put a stop to the nefarious traffic with
its accompaniment of cruelty and murder."73
71 Captains' Letters, 1823, I, No. 122; Am. State Papers, Naval,
T, 1106, II, 222.
72 Nile, March 8, 1823.
IsGoodrich (Nay. Inst., XLIII, 685).


Early in April, 1823, Lieutenant Cornelius K. Strib-
ling, of the Peacock, with two of the heavy barges, the
Gallinipper and Mosquito, chased a schooner ashore about
twenty miles east of Havana, after a running fight of
over an hour. The schooner fought under Spanish colors.
She was called the Pilot, and came originally from Nor-
folk. After beaching their vessel, most of the pirates
escaped in the bushes, but two were killed and several
wounded. One prisoner was taken. No American was
hurt. The victors succeeded in getting the schooner off
practically uninjured and brought her to Havana.74
Just about this time it was stated, apparently on good
authority, that since the cessation of hostilities in 1815,
over three thousand acts of piracy had been committed.
The report mentioned by Commodore Porter, that the
governor of Cuba had given order to local governors
and commandants of districts, forbidding the entrance of
American vessels into Cuban ports, was denied. It orig-
inated with certain of these commandants, who made much
trouble for the Commodore and his officers.75
When Commodore Porter arrived at Matanzas in March,
he found a fleet of merchantmen waiting for convoy, and
he was able to give them protection. He remained at
Matanzas and vicinity for about a month. In April he
shifted his flag to the steamer Sea Gull. After a two
days' search for "three piratical schooners in the River
Palmss" he "found the remains of the vessels, which the
Pirates had burnt."70
Captain Cassin of the Peacock, in a report to the com-
modore dated April 28, after mentioning the capture of
the schooner Pilot, and of a sloop on the 16th, says: "At
10 A. M. on the same day we anchored in a noted harbor
for pirates, intending to examine it thoroughly. Our
anchor was scarcely gone, before a felucca was discovered
standing out for the Gallinipper, who was ahead, sound-
ing. On opening our vessels she immediately hauled
down her sails and pulled around the point of an island.
7 Officers' Letters, 1823, III, No. 16; Am. State Papers, Naval,
I, 1109.
75 Niles, April 19, June 14, 1823.
76 Captains' Letters, 1823, II, No. 50.


The barges were ordered in chase, accompanied by all
the boats we could muster. On their getting to where the
felucca had disappeared, several houses were discovered
and a number of men employed carrying things from them
and, at the moment, were supposed to be fishermen. It
was some time before the felucca was discovered and,
when found, was dismantled and covered with bushes,
hastily thrown over.
"When the pirates (which they proved to be) found
she was discovered, they fired a volley of musketry at
our boat, which fortunately proved harmless. The offi-
cers and crews immediately landed and pursued them
through the bushes, when a running fight of more than
half a mile took place, the pirates frequently turning for
a moment and firing, which was returned occasionally but
without effect, from the eagerness with which they were
pursued. So closely were they pressed that they threw
off shoes, clothes, and other incumbrances; but from the
thickness of the bushes and knowledge of their path, all
made their escape. Their establishment, which consisted
of five houses, was set on fire and the felucca brought off.
She is a fine boat, coppered, pulls sixteen sweeps, and is
in every respect equal to any of our barges. She appears
to have been recently fitted and I presume was on the eve
of making her first cruise. The old boat, which was taken
in the morning, I gave to a fisherman who was serviceable
to us as a pilot, she being an incumbrance.""77
After this the north shore of western Cuba was mi-
nutely examined, which occupied four days. The water
was very shallow and the passage within the Colorados
Feef extremely intricate. Cassin learned that several
British vessesl were cruising in the vicinity. He arrived
at Cape San Antonio April 21, and later proceeded to
Key West.
Commodore Porter, still on the Sea Gull, but now at
Key West, wrote to Secretary Thompson May 10. After
reporting the events just related, he goes on: "I shall
dispatch the Peacock today for La Vera Cruz to relieve
the Shark and shall now be left with only my small ves-
774 Am. State Papers, Naval, 1110.


sels, two of which, with two borges (which I have found
great difficulty in manning from the Sea Guwl and Store
Ship) I shall send off this evening under the command
of Lieut. Comdt. Watson on an expedition among the Keys
in the old Straights [Old Bahama Channel] and thence
around the Island, to return by way of Cape Antonio.
Two schooners under Lieut. Comdt. Rose are making the
circuit by the other route, commencing at Point Yeacos,
going round Cape Antonio and returning by the Old
Straights; two under command of Lieut. Comdt. Skinner
are convoying from Havana; and the remaining two are
careening and will in a few days sail for the protection
of our commerce; and the three remaining barges are
hauled up for want of men. When I left Matanzas, the
country was alarmed by large bands of robbers, well
mounted and armed, who had plundered several estates
and committed some murders in the neighborhood of the
city. Bodies of horse had been sent in pursuit of them
and the militia were all under arms. Some prisoners had
been taken and it was said that those bands were composed
of the freebooters which lately infested the coast and who,
being compelled to abandon the ocean, had taken up this
new line of business.'78
The scene now changes to the Gulf of Campeche. On
April 15 Commodore Patterson ordered Lieutenant Greg-
ory in the Grampus, then at New Orleans, to proceed to
that place in order to chastise pirates who had attacked
the American brig Belisarius, of Kennebunk. It is not
quite clear why the Grampus, presumably in Porter's
squadron, should have been under the orders of Patterson.
On March 1 the Belisarius, while on a voyage from Port
au Prince to Campeche, "was boarded off the harbor of
the latter by a piratical schooner of about forty tons and
manned by thirty or forty men, who asked for money, but
the captain (Perkins) denied having any.
7s Captains' Letters, 1823, II, No. 97; Am. State Papers, Naval,
I, 1109.


They then stabbed him in several places and cut off one
of his arms, when he told them where the money was (200
doubloons), which they took and proceeded to murder him
in the most inhuman manner. He was first deprived of
the other arm and one of his legs. They then dipped
oakum in oil, put some in his mouth and under him, set
it on fire, and thus terminated his sufferings. The mate
was stabbed with a sabre in the thigh. They also robbed
the brig of anchors and cables, sails, rigging, quadrants,
charts, books, papers, and nearly all the provisions and
water. On the passage from Campeachy to the Balize
she was providentially supplied with provisions, etc., by
several vessels which she fell in with, or her people must
inevitably have perished."79
On July 3, Lieutenant Gregory, then at Key West,
made his report to Commodore Porter, saying that the
Grampus had sailed from the Balize April 24, and after
convoying vessels bound to Tabasco and Vera Cruz, came
to Campeche May 13, where information was received
of piracies committed upon Americans. The coast of
Yucatan, from Cape Catouche, its northern extremity, to
the bottom of the Gulf, was "infested by several gangs of
pirates, who had been guilty of every atrocity imagin-
able." There were a good many American vessels at the
various ports of the region, and Gregory remained until
June 25, "scouring the coast up and down." It was
learned that the pirates, sometimes to the number of more
than a hundred, were congregated at a place near Cape
Catouche. The authorities at Campeche "requested me
to land and destroy the place. The pirates issue from
their post in barges, small vessels, and in canoes, hover
along the shores, enter the harbour, murder and destroy
almost all that fall in their power. On the 2nd June the
o7 Captains' Letters, 1823, 1, Nos. 43, 44 (April 15, 19) ; Niles,
April 12, 1823.


American Sch. Shibbolet[h], Capt. Perry, of N. Y., being
then ready for sea, was boarded by a canoe having four-
teen of these villians on board. The watch was instantly
murdered, eight others of the crew were put in the fore-
castle, the hatch spiked down, a ton or more of Logwood
put over, the head sails set-with the wind off shore--
and fire put to the vessel in the cabin. By the most
extraordinary exertion, these now broke out in time to
save their lives. I arrived while the vessel was burning
down. The people of the country were much exas-
perated and turned out to hunt them from their shores.
A party of Dragoons having met them, a skirmish insured,
wherein the Captain of Dragoons and several of his
men were killed and the pirates, taking to their boats,
escaped." These pirates had "direct and uninterrupted
intercourse with Havanna."s8
Commodore Porter expressed the opinion that, owing to
the thorough work of his squadron on the north coast of
Cuba, not a pirate could be found between Point Yacos
(Icacos) and Cape San Antonio, but he was perhaps too
optimistic. A letter from Key West says: "Excluded
from the ocean, they are carrying on their trade on the
land. Large bodies of them, well mounted and armed,
are plundering the plantations and murdering the people
of Cuba. They abound in the neighborhood of Matanzas.
A party of cavalry had captured five of them and the
militia had been turned out to scour the country. If
hemmed in much longer by Com. Porter, the authorities
of Cuba in self-defence must exterminate them, if they
do not abandon their horrible business. Not one piracy
has been lately committed."8'
In a private letter of June 11 the commodore gives a
brief summary of conditions at that time. "I keep every-
one very busy and, although the service has been severe
and some are very sick of it, I have good reason for
believing that all who leave my command will do it with
a desire to return to it whenever their services may be
wanted. The fact is that the disappearance of all the
so From original MS. in N. Y. Public Library; Am. State
Papers, Naval, II, 260.
st Niles, May 31, 1823.


pirates and our want of success in catching the rascals is
somewhat discouraging to us, but all are satisfied that
our failure was owing to other causes than a want of
exertion on our part. The fact is our enemy is an invis-
ible one; he has only to throw on the fairy mantle of a
Spanish passport, which they all go furnished with, and
the pirate is completely concealed from our view. Piracy
is now down on this side of the island and I hope soon
to give as good an account of the other side. A pirate
has, however, appeared there and made two captures
lately, but most of the pack, the Greyhound, the Terrier,
Weazle, Fox, and two barges are in full pursuit; if he
escapes, he must have good luck." The British had been
taking care of the south side of Cuba.82
About the middle of June, Lieutenant Thomas M.
Newell, commanding the schooner Ferret, began "a dili-
gent search in all the by ports and bays" between Havana
and Matanzas. He discovered a 16-oared barge, armed
and well manned, with six other boats, in a small bay near
Matanzas. He sent in a boat to reconnoitre, which was
nearly sunk by the fire of the pirates. He then took
possession of a small coaster near by, manned her and
tried to get into the bay, but was prevented by the very
shoal water and heavy sea. The next day he obtained
another boat, entered the lagoon and found two of the
pirates' boats sunk. The barge, however, had been taken
farther up, out of reach.83
Papers, Naval, II, 265.
Lieutenant Watson, commanding the Sea Gull, com-
municated to the commodore, July 11, an account of his
"proceedings in the barges Gallinipper and Mosquito....
Whilst cruising in Siguapa bay [near Cardenas] we dis-
covered a large topsail schooner with a launch in company,
working up to an anchorage at which several merchant
vessels were then lying. Being to windward, I bore up
in the Gallinipper for the purpose of ascertaining their
characters, and when within gun-shot, perceiving the large
vessel to be well armed and her deck filled with men, I
hoisted our colors, on seeing which they displayed the
82 Niles, July 19, 1823.
a From original MS. in N. Y. Public Library; Am. State


Spanish flag and the schooner, having brailed up her
foresail, commenced firing at the Gallinipper. I imme-
diately kept away and ran down upon her weather quar-
ter, making signal at the same time for the Mosquito to
close. Having much the advantage in sailing they did
not permit us to do so, but made all sail before the wind
for the village of Siguapa, to which place we pursued
them and after a short action succeeded in taking both
vessels and effecting the almost total destruction of their
crews, amounting to seventy or eighty [men]. They
engaged us without colors of any description, having
hauled down the Spanish flag after firing the first gun."
The pirates tried to escape ashore, but very few suc-
The story of the end of this fight may be given in the
words of another report, according to which, "so exasper-
ated were our men that it was impossible for their officers
to restrain them and many were killed after orders were
given to grant quarters. Twenty-seven dead were counted,
some sunk, five taken prisoners by the barge-men and
eight taken by a party of Spaniards on shore; the officers
calculated that from thirty to thirty-five were killed.
The schooner mounted a long nine pounder on a pivot,
and 4 fours, with every other necessary armament and
. commanded by the notorious Diableto or Little
In transmitting Lieutenant Watson's report to the Navy
Department, July 17, Commodore Porter adds: "When
we take into consideration the immense superiority of
force opposed to him, the advantage and preparation on
the part of the pirates, and the result of the action, we
cannot but be impressed with the conviction that nothing
less than providential influence and protection could have
occasioned consequences so fatal to the pirates and so
exempt from injury on our side as to appear almost
miraculous. The five surviving pirates, being desperately
wounded, I have, in compliment to the favorable dispo-
sition and zealous co-operation of the authorities of Ha-
84 Captains' Letters, 1823, IV, No. 14; Am. State Papers, Naval,
I, 1113, 1114, II, 275.
s85 miles, August 2, 1823.


vana, sent to the captain-general of Cuba, to be tried by
the laws of Spain."86
In a long report, dated August 10, 1823, Lieutenant
Kearney, commanding the schooner Greyhound, then at
Key West, related his experiences during a cruise south
of Cuba, in July. Certain pirates who had committed
outrages upon American vessels had been apprehended and
were held in prison by the Spanish authorities at Trini-
dad, thirty miles east of Cienfuegos. Kearney established
very friendly relations with the governor of that place.
"He tendered us every civility and aid in his power."
In company with the schooner Beagle, Lieutenant New-
ton, off Cape Cruz, Kearney fell in with a legitimate pri-
vateer from Colombia, which must have been a rare ex-
perience. Wishing to examine the cape, Kearney and
Newton anchored their vessels and went ashore together
in a boat. Having re-embarked, they rowed around the
point of the cape, and when close to shore were fired upon
from behind rocks and bushes. "Thus situated, with a cross
fire upon us, enabled only occasionally to return the fire of
the party in ambush, as some of them would dodge from
bush to bush or rock to rock, having for our arms but a
fowling piece and one or two muskets, we were induced to
return to our vessels." The next day they made another
attempt, hoisting colors on their boat, and were again fired
upon. The schooners were then warped around the cape
and anchored in a smooth, shallow harbor inside the reef,
within gunshot of the ambush.
Lieutenant Farragut was sent ashore, with a party of
seamen and marines, with orders to attempt to get in the
rear of the pirates. The schooners then opened fire, and
later another landing party was sent in to attack them in
front. The pirates then retreated and were pursued, but
knowing the country, got away. In a cave human bones
were found, and in the vicinity four houses and eight
boats. These, with other property, were burned or other-
wise destroyed. The arms found, two swivels and small
arms, were brought away. "Finding our pursuit of
s8 Captains' Letters, 1823, IV, No. 14; Am. State Papers, Naval,
I, 1113, II, 227.


the pirates promised no success, I considered it unimpor-
tant to remain longer at the cape, having destroyed their
means of doing further mischief for a time, and taking
into consideration the state of our officers and men, worn
down by fatigue from a long pursuit over one of the
roughest countries I have ever seen, their clothes nearly
torn off from bushes of impenetrable thickness,and their
shoes cut off their feet by sharp-pointed rocks over which
they passed, I abandoned the place.""'
According to the most reliable accounts, deep-sea piracy
had by this time almost entirely disappeared, but boats
from the shore were lying in wait, constantly on the look-
out for vessels becalmed. The ships of the squadron main-
tained a partial blockade at certain points which was
sometimes irritating to the Spanish officials. "Lieut.
Gregory, in the U. S. schooner Grampus, has been for
some time off Matanzas, watching and inspecting all ves-
sels that go in or pass out, effectually preventing piracy
in that quarter. This appears to have displeased some
there and even the governor had sent him word that he
remained too long, that Spanish vessels of war could
anchor for forty-eight hours only; but Lieut. Gregory
frankly stated his object and said that he would remain
where he was until compelled to retire."88
In a court of inquiry held two years later, the peculiar
character of the service performed by the Navy in the
West Indies in 1823 was brought out, and the report of
the court's proceedings made known some interesting facts.
"A large portion of the officers and men was employed in
the small schooners and in open boats-in a severe climate
-exposed to the heat of a tropical sun by day and to the
not less dangerous dews and exhalations at night. The
vessels themselves, from their size, were destitute of suit-
able accommodations, and the operations in which they
were engaged necessarily imposed incessant fatigue and
constant exposure. One fact may be deserving of particular
notice, as exhibiting a specimen of the nature of this ser-
vice. It is in evidence before the court that Lieut. Platt
87Am. State Papers, Naval, II, 246; Life of Farragut, 95.
88 Niles, August 30, 1823.


was employed for sixty-eight successive days in an open
barge on the north-west coast of Cuba, in the examination
of the inlets, bays, keys, and other places of piratical
In August, "such was the incessant occupation of the
squadron under command of Commodore Porter, so widely
dispersed, and such its deficiencies in strength, that he
was compelled to discontinue, for a time, the practice of
giving convoy off Havana and to bestow a more undivided
attention to the pursuit and destruction of pirates. The
continual presence of a vigilant force had rendered the
north coast of Cuba comparatively safe from their depre-
dations and they had retired to other scenes, into which
it became necessary to follow them."90
Shortly after this "the yellow fever made its appear-
ance at Thompson's Island and in the squadron. The
fatal consequences are stated in the report made by the
secretary of the navy to the president of the United States
under date of 21st September, 1823, and in the reports of
Commodore Rodgers and the physician who accompanied
him to make an examination of the island. Commo-
dore Porter himself, by authority of the department, and
suffering from the effects of an attack of the fever, left
the West India seas with a considerable portion of his
force and returned to the United States, as a necessary
measure for the restoration of the health of the squadron.
To such an extent had this disease carried its ravages,
that it was considered prudent to direct the John Adams
and Peacock to keep in company during their homeward
route, for the purpose of affording mutual protection."91
In consequence of this epidemic of fever the operations
of the squadron were necessarily much reduced during
the fall of 1823 and a revival of activity on the part of
the pirates was a natural result. "It appears that the
Peacock, John Adams, Sea Gull, Beagle, Grampus, Wild
Cat, Weasel, and Porpoise were in the United States dur-
ing different portions of that time, undergoing repairs
89 Niles, October 8, 1825.
o Ibid.
o9 Niles, October 8, 1825.


and recruiting their crews, and as soon as they could be
equipped, most of these small vessels resumed their sta-
tions."92 The brig Enterprise, which had had a remark-
ably successful career and was looked upon as a lucky ship,
was wrecked on the island of Little Curagao; all hands
were saved.93
At the end of the year 1823 the Secretary of the Navy
reported that "Piracy as a system has been repressed in
the neighborhood of the island of Cuba and now requires
only to be watched by a proper force to be prevented from
afflicting commerce any further in that quarter. The pub-
lic authorities of the island of Cuba manifested a friendly
disposition towards the squadron and rendered much as-
sistance in the pursuit of its objects."
President Monroe, in his annual message, referred to
less satisfactory conditions in Porto Rico. Outrages con-
tinued about that island. "They have been committed
there under the abusive issue of Spanish commissions."
The governor professed lack of authority and replied to
complaints by reference to Spain. "The minister of the
United States to that court was specially instructed to
urge the necessity of the immediate and effectual inter-
position of that government, directing restitution and in-
demnity for wrongs already committed and interdicting
the repetition of them. The minister, as has been seen,
was debarred access to the Spanish Government, and in
the meantime several new cases of flagrant outrage have
occurred and citizens of the United States in the island
of Porto Rico have suffered, and others have been threat-
ened with assassination, for asserting their unquestion-
able rights, even before the lawful tribunals of the
92 Ibid.
s3 Emmons, 8, 9.


Flagship of the West India Squadron 1822
From the original negative in the Bradlee Collection of the Essex Institute


*- s. '

In 1824 the West India squadron was slightly reduced
in numbers and very late in reaching the station, owing
to the dilatoriness of Congress. The sloop of war Peacock
is missing from the list, as well as the Enterprise; and
most, if not all, the barges were laid up for lack of crews.
There remained, then, the John Adams, Hornet, Sea Gull,
Spark, eleven schooners, two gunboats, and the storeship
In February, Lieutenant John T. Newton, commanding
the brig Spark, landed on the Island of Mona, west of
Porto Rico, where he found the papers and other property
of the brig William Henry, of Baltimore, which the pirates
had taken not long before. In the spring, the Grampus
and Sea Gull made a few captures. Commodore Porter,
who sailed from the United States in February, made a
voyage of inspection and, April 8, being then at Havana
on board the John A dams, he reported the result. "I
have touched at St. Bartholomews, St. Christophers, St.
Thomas, examined the south coast of Porto Rico, looking
in at the Dead Man's Chest and Ponce, two noted places
for Porto Rico privateers, touching at Mona's, St. Do-
mingo, Beata, and Kingston, making diligent inquiries
and examinations for piratical vessels and offering convoy
and protection to vessels of all nations from piratical ag-
gressions. In the course of this long route, although we
have visited places formerly the rendezvous of pirates and
seen evidence of their having been recently there, we have
not been so fortunate as to capture any nor have we seen
any vessels of a suspicious character," except one small
schooner, which he hopes to take later on. The commo-
dore learned that the British had been attempting to sup-
press a revival of piracy on the south side of Cuba and
about the Isle of Pines, and the pirates seemed to be
dispersed there. If Porter had had a larger number of
small vessels, he might have accomplished much more.


As it was, he did not escape criticism for failure to ex-
tirpate piracy altogether.94
In April Commander Jesse Wilkinson, commanding
the steamer Sea Gull, closely examined the northwest coast
of Cuba, behind the Colorados reefs, going over the same
ground covered by Commander Cassin the year before.
His fruitless search, according to his report of April 24,
showed that here, at least, and for the time being, piracy
had been rooted out. He learned that shortly before his
arrival the notorious Diableto had sailed away, probably
bound for the coast of Yucatan.95
Piracy, however, broke out afresh in other places. One
vessel was chased off Matanzas and another was captured,
but soon recaptured by the Sea Gull. Cases were re-
ported as being frequent along the coast of Porto Rico.96
From a report of the Foreign Relations Committee of
the House of Representatives, May 19, 1824, it would
appear that the attitude of the Cuban authorities was more
friendly than formerly. "The present Captain General
of the island of Cuba has acted with great courtesy to-
wards our commander and officers engaged on this ser-
vice and has co-operated with them by arresting the pi-
rates who escaped to the shore, nor has he complained
when our officers have found it necessary to pursue them
and to break up their haunts on the desert and unfre-
quented keys that surround the island. In no case, how-
ever, within our knowledge, where pirates have been seized
by the authorities of the island, have they been brought
to that punishment their crimes merited; and those who
are well known to have fitted out piratical cruisers and
to have sold their plunder with the utmost notoriety, are
suffered to remain in Havana and Regla in the unmo-
lested enjoyment of the fruits of their crimes. Under
these circumstances the British and American squadrons
in those seas may repress piracy so long as they continue
cruising in the neighborhood of the island, but there is
94 N. Y. Evening Post, May 1, 1824; Captains' Letters, 1824, I,
No. 154a.
s9 Am. State Papers, Naval, I, 1006.
96 Niles, May 1, 1824; N. Y. Evening Post, May 25, 1824.


reason to apprehend that on their removal, similar out-
rages on our commerce will be renewed. In the opinion
of your committee, piracy can only be effectually sup-
pressed by the Government of Spain and by the authori-
ties of the island taking the necessary measures to prevent
piratical vessels or boats from being equipped or sailing
from any part of the island, and to apprehend and punish
every description of outlaws, as well as those who actually
commit acts of piracy as those who receive and traffic in
goods plundered on the high seas."
The Committee, speaking of the less satisfactory con-
ditions at Porto Rico, found "that it had been the prac-
tice of these privateers not to send in their prizes to the
large and frequented ports, where impartial judges could
determine on the validity of the capture and where the
captured could have the means of fairly defending their
rights, but to send them into distant and obscure seaports,
where the courts are notoriously corrupt and where the
captains and owners were deprived of the means of making
even statements of their cases. There are many instances
of vessels condemned most unjustly, and even where they
have had the rare good fortune to escape condemnation,
their owners have been subjected to ruinous costs and
charges, and in some cases, before the vessels have reached
the port, the cargoes and property have been plundered and
the officers and crew treated in a cruel and barbarous
manner. In San Juan, the principal town of the island
of Porto Rico, attempts have been made to assassinate the
commercial agent of the United States and the master
of a merchant vessel, in order, as they believe, to prevent
them from taking legal measures to recover property un-
lawfully captured."
The Committee advised against the adoption of repri-
sals and blockade of the island, pending the negotiations
of the United States minister in Spain, but "they ear-
nestly recommend that two or three small cruisers should
be constantly kept off the ports of San Juan and in the
Mona Passage, so as to protect our commerce and inter-
cept at the entrance of San Juan, Aguadilla, Mayaquez,
Cape Roco, and Ponce, Americans vessels unlawfully cap-


toured by Spanish privateers; and that the commanders
of the United States vessels of war be instructed to cap-
ture and send into a port of the United States for trial
any privateer that commits an outrage on the persons, or
plunders the property of citizens of the United States on
the high seas, whenever good and sufficient testimony of
such piratical act can be obtained."97
As long as our navy in the West Indies was actively
cruising, piracy was kept under control and very few
cases were reported. Unfortunately, however, another epi-
demic of yellow fever broke out in the summer of 1824,
earlier than the year before. Most of the squadron were
sent north to save the lives of their crews. From July 3
to August 7, alone, the arrivals at northern ports of the
Shark, Grampus, Jackall, John A dams, Beagle, Wild Cat,
and Sea Gull were reported. This was the pirates' oppor-
tunity. They took advantage of it and conditions were
soon nearly as bad as before. But people at home, having
learned from experience, were less inclined than formerly
to be over sanguine.98
During this fresh outbreak of piracy, nine or ten cases
were reported. According to a letter of July 5, from the
acting consul at Havana, John Mountain, "the brig Castor,
of Portland, Capt. Hood, from thence bound to Matanzas,
was, on the 1st inst. in the bay of Matanzas, boarded by
a boat with seven men armed with muskets, carbines,
swords, pistols, and knives, who ordered the Captain to
take the vessel out; when, after beating the master most
cruelly and driving the crew below, brought the vessel
to anchor in the port of Escondido, where they robbed her
of everything portable on board." The vessel was then
released and proceeded to Havana."9
Thomas Randall, agent of commerce and seamen at
Porto Rico and Cuba, wrote from Havana, on July 14,
to the Secretary of State, Hon. John Quincy Adams, tell-
ing of atrocities on the American schooner Mercator, ac-
cording to the story of a passenger. Mr. Randall deplores
97 Am. State Papers, Foreign, V, 343.
98 Niles, July 3, 17, 24, August 7, 1824.
99 Am. State Papers, Foreign, V, 498.



From a print in the Bradlee collection




I, .1.


the absence of our naval force and adds: "It may now be
assumed as an undoubted fact that the crime of piracy
is not limited to mariners who are active agents in its
perpetration, but has advocates and partizans in a very
numerous class of the inhabitants of this island. Of the
latter class, many have direct concern in the equipment
and arming of those vessels and a participation in their
plunder. Others, amongst the planters on the coast and
the merchants, are indirectly concerned in the great profits
derived from purchasing the property plundered by them.
Besides those persons thus concerned, the Spaniards of
this Island generally observe with perfect apathy, and
some even with pleasure, those depredations against the
commerce of the United States; for it is not a little
extraordinary that one may hear, in the streets of Ma-
tanzas and even of this city, this most odious crime warmly
defended on principle by men of property and deemed
respectable here. They urge in its defence that it is but
a retaliation for the conduct of citizens of the United
States in capturing under the Insurgent flag the property
of Spaniards. They say the conduct of the people of
Regla and Matanzas and other places, from which these
pirates issue, is no worse than that pursued in certain
places in the United States, which they name. .
"They assert that the conduct of our Government and
its citizens, in this particular, is no less reprehensible
than that which is charged against the Spaniards in re-
spect to piracy. I shall not stop to show the utter absence
of truth in the charge made against the Government of
the United States, and although I entirely disapprove of
the conduct of those Americans who, for the sake of
plunder, have engaged in the war between Spain and her
colonies, I do not think it necessary to point out the great
difference of turpitude in the respective practices. I
merely mention the opinions of those Spaniards to give
semblance and probability to the sentiments they utter,
which would otherwise, from their extreme perversity and
immorality, be scarcely credited. The moment a prize to
the pirates arrives on the coast, persons from the interior
throng to the spot to share in or purchase the plunder,


as in the late case of the brig Castor. The property soon
finds its way into the cities and tempts cupidity by the
advantages of the traffic. .
"While then those practices, so far from finding a cor-
rective or check in the moral feeling of this community,
are rather countenanced and aided by it, it is obvious
that a government of even greater energy and virtue than
that of this island would be scarcely adequate to their
suppression. But with the exception of the present chief
of this Government and a very few of its highest officers,
it is more than suspected that the great majority of their
public agents are either indifferent or feel an interest
adverse to its suppression. Participating in the general
prejudices of their countrymen, they have also a pecu-
niary interest in occasionally conniving at those robberies
and in protecting their perpetrators from the hands of
After his arrival in the United States in the summer
of 1824, Commodore Porter wrote from Washington, Au-
gust 10, to the new Secretary of the Navy, Hon. Samuel
L. Southard. He complained of certain criticisms that
had been made of his conduct of the campaign against
piracy. "In the various letters accompanying these state-
ments, it is enjoined on me to use my efforts and make
such disposition of the forces under my command as will
render piratical aggressions of this description less fre-
quent, if it is possible. The whole history of my oper-
ations, in conjunction with the authorities of Cuba,
against the pirates, renders any defence of my conduct,
or the conduct of those under my command, against any
imputations of neglect from any quarter unnecessary, as
it is well known to the Department that we have been
devoted to the inglorious service, sacrificing health, com-
fort, and personal interests for the sole object of suppress-
ing a system of long continuance." Upon the arrival of
the American squadron in Cuban waters, "the most zeal-
ous co-operation was commenced on the part of the gov-
ernment of Cuba, which has ever since continued and has
changed entirely the character of the piracy, from the
too Am. State Papers, Foreign, V, 492.


bloody and remorseless manner in which it was conducted
to simply plundering of property, and the means from
large cruizing vessels to open boats. This latter mode of
carrying on their depredations renders it extremely diffi-
cult to detect them and is calculated to baffle the efforts of
the most vigilant, from the ease with which they are en-
abled to possess themselves of boats along the coast of
Cuba, the certainty of being enabled to escape to the un-
settled coasts of that island, and the certainty for some
hours in the early part of every day that merchant vessels
may be found becalmed near the land."
The Commodore believed that the least show of resist-
ance on the part of merchantmen would, in most cases,
be enough to intimidate the pirates, who generally oper-
ated in small parties in open boats. "Surely, sir, blame
should not be attached to us or to the Government of Cuba
for the dastardly conduct of those who, with the most
ordinary means of defence which every merchant vessel
affords, could permit such an act. The cause is
attributable almost entirely to the parsimony of the own-
ers, who fail to furnish a few weapons to put into the
hands of the crew of vessels destined to Cuba."
Already Porter was beginning to send the vessels of
his squadron back to Cuba. During their absence the
schooners Terrier and Ferret seem to have been almost
alone on the station. Numerous report of outrages were
published, at that time and later, several of a murderous
character which did not bear out the Commodore's opinion
that piracy had taken on a more humane aspect. It is
clear that, under the circumstances, Porter was very seri-
ously hampered in his efforts and that no one could have
done better, and probably very few as well. In this letter
of August 10, he continues: "The charge, then, or intima-
tion in any shape, of neglect on the part of myself or
officers, to the interest of the merchants, who have no feel-
ing but for their own pecuniary concerns, is as you per-
ceive unfounded. It is true that, warned by the dreadful
mortality of last year and by approaching disease, I left
the West Indies and ordered home the greater part of the
force under my command, and the only cause of regret to


me now is that I did not remove them earlier, by which
many valuable lives would have been saved, and that there
should be a necessity for their return at this unfavorable
season, which will undoubtedly cause the death of
Letters from Thomas Randall to Secretary Adams in
September tell of continued piracies off Matanzas and of
the sale of stolen goods in that town. "Many articles of
a peculiar fabric and known not to have been regularly
introduced are seen there constantly, such as French hats
of the newest fashions on the heads of vulgar ruffians.
The retailers of goods are seen travelling to the coast with
pack-horses, for the known purpose of making purchases
from the pirates." The British sloop of war Icarus sent
a boat expedition into Bahia Honda, which "succeeded in
capturing two pirate vessels and in killing several of the
pirates. On the approach of the boats the pirates, about
40 in number, fled into the bushes. On board one of the
pirate vesels were confined the captain and crew of the
brig Henry, of Hartford, Conn., who were most season-
ably released. The Henry was captured on the 16th ult.,
bound from a port in Mexico to Matanzas with a cargo
of mules. The captain and his crew were treated with
the accustomed cruelty of those ruffians and were designed
to be killed the next day, after they had assisted in land-
ing the mules." The wrecks of twelve vessels, recently
destroyed by the pirates, were found in the bay.102
Lieutenant Charles W. Skinner, in the schooner Por-
poise, anchored in the harbor of Matanzas, October 18,
1824. With his boats, under the command of Lieutenants
Hunter and Johnson, he made a secret examination of ad-
joining bays and inlets on the night of the 19th. "On the
evening of the 22d, Lieutenant Hunter returned with a pi-
ratical schooner of one carriage gun, one new American
cutter, and two other boats; one, having three men on
board, he captured in Sewappa bay. Every appearance
justified the suspicion of piracy.
101 Am. State Papers, Naval, II, 233; Log of Terrier.
102 A. State Papers, Foreign, V, 494, 496.


"The persons informed Lieutenant Hunter their ves-
sel had been taken by armed men, the boat they were
in given in exchange, with a promise of returning in
a few days and restoring their vessel. The next day,
off Camrioca, Lieutenant Hunter discovered a suspicious
schooner standing to sea in chase of a vessel in sight.
On his approach the schooner tacked and made for
the shore, closely pursued by the boats. The crew aban-
doned the vessel and fled to the wood, where they were
sought for in vain. She proved to be a pirate, mount-
ing one gun and small arms. From the number of
nautical instruments, trunks of clothing, rigging and sails,
with three sets of American colors found on board, she
must have robbed several vessels. From stains of blood
on the clothes and other articles on board, I fear the un-
fortunate persons to whom they belonged must have been
murdered." Several other captures of pirates were made
by vessels of the navy in October and November.103
Commodore Porter returned to his station in the John
Adams early in November, and on the 12th arrived at
St. Thomas. Just after this occurred the episode known
as the Foxardo Affair.
10o Am. State Papers, Naval, II, 255; Niles, November 6, 20,
December 25, 1824; Log of the Porpoise.

In October, 1824, the U. S. schooner Beagle, com-
manded by Lieutenant Charles T. Platt, lay at anchor in
the harbor of St. Thomas. On the morning of the 26th,
Lieutenant Platt was informed that goods had been stolen
from the store of Cabot, Bailey & Co., American citizens
in business at St. Thomas. It was believed that these
goods had been taken to Foxardo (Fajardo), a small
town at the eastern end of Porto Rico. Stephen Cabot,
a member of the firm and United States vice-consular
agent, requested Platt to assist in recovering the property.
Accordingly the Beagle was got ready for sea and a pilot
was taken, also a clerk of the injured merchant with a
a letter to leading citizens of Foxardo.
At six P. M. October 26, the Beagle anchored in Fox-
ardo harbor with colors flying. "Early the next morning,"
Lieutenant Platt afterwards testified in a Court of In-
quiry, "a boat came alongside with a message from the
Captain of the port, who said he would be happy to see
me on shore. I inquired whether he was acquainted with
the character of the vessel, to which he replied yes. Lest
he might be mistaken, I directed him to inform the Cap-
tain of the port it was the United States Schooner Beagle
and that I should be on shore as soon as possible."104
The lieutenant landed and went directly to the Captain
of the port. "I informed [him] of the object of my visit
and my reasons for appearing in citizen's dress, and after
producing the letter addressed to Mr. Campos, he ap-
peared perfectly satisfied with my character and directed
me to call upon the Alcalde and inform him. I called
on the Alcalde and explained to him my object and again
produced the letter to Mr. Campos. He was perfectly
satisfied with my character and appeared very much
pleased that I had taken the precaution to come on shore
in citizen's dress. He then stated that he had no doubt
104 Porter's Expedition to Foxardo, 14.


that he should be able to obtain the goods before night,
or ascertain where they were."'10
The friendly aspect of affairs then took on a change.
While taking breakfast at a public house, Platt was re-
quested to call at the Alcalde's office. On his arrival he
inquired for that official, when the captain of the port
demanded the Beagle's register. Platt replied that a man-
of-war carried no register and offered to show his com-
mission and other evidence. He was then put under
arrest, but was allowed to send for his commission and
uniform on board the Beagle. When these were brought,
Platt put on his uniform and showed his commission.
After some deliberation, he says, "they pronounced the
commission a forgery and me a damned pirate, and ordered
me to be confined in the jail." He protested, and after
a short confinement was released and put in charge of a
sentry. Later he was allowed to send on board for his
orders, which seemed to make more of an impression. A
consultation was held, which resulted in his release and
return to his vessel. He then lost no time in getting
under way. Up to this point, Platt's testimony before
the court differs slightly, but in no essential particular,
from his report to Commodore Porter.106
On November 12, Commodore Porter in the John
Adams came into St. Thomas and Lieutenant Platt in-
formed him of what had taken place at Foxardo. Porter
at once resolved to visit Foxardo and obtain redress for
the insult offered to the flag of the United States and to
an officer of the navy. The next morning the John
Adams, Beagle, and Grampus, the latter commanded by
Lieutenant John D. Sloat, got under way. For lack of
wind they made slow progress. On account of shallow
water and dangerous navigation the John Adams anchored
twenty-two miles from Foxardo. Her boats, carrying over
a hundred men, were taken in tow by the Grampus. The
two schooners kept on through the night and early in the
morning of the 14th came to anchor in Foxardo harbor,
the Grampus off a battery on a low hill near the beach,
105 Porter's Expedition to Fowardo, 14, 15.
lo1 Ibid., 15, 16.


the Beagle at a point covering the proposed landing
A landing party, comprising about two hundred officers
and men, went ashore. One of the barges was sent to
attack the battery near the beach. The guns were trained
in a threatening manner on the barge, but as soon as the
boat's crew landed the Spaniards ran without firing.
There were two guns, 18-pounders, which were spiked.
Meanwhile, the main party made a landing. The men
were armed with muskets, bayonets, pistols, cutlasses and
boarding pikes.'10
Lieutenant Stribling, with a flag of truce and a letter
from the Commodore to the Alcalde, was sent up to the
town. In the letter Porter represented that one of his
officers had been "shamefully insulted and abused in your
presence by the Captain of the port, after which he was
sent by your orders to prison and when released therefrom
was further insulted and abused by the inhabitants of the
town. I leave it entirely to your choice whether you
come with the Captain of the port and the other offenders
to me, for the purpose of satisfying me as to the part
you have all had in this shameful transaction, or to await
my visit at your town. Should you decline coming to
me, I shall take with me an armed force competent to
punish the aggressors, and if any resistance is made, the
total destruction of Foxardo will be the certain and imme-
diate consequence."'09
Without waiting for Stribling's return with the Alcalde,
or a message, the whole party took up the march. A
guard of marines was left with the boats, under the com-
mand of Lieutenant Thomas B. Barton, the senior marine
officer of the expedition. A marine guard of about twenty-
five men commanded by Lieutenant Horatio N. Crabb,
another officer of the marine corps, was sent ahead of the
main body. On the way to the town, about a mile dis-
tant, another battery was passed, and its two guns spiked.
Within forty rods of the town, before which a body
lo7 Expedition to Fozardo, 16, 17.
los Ibid., 16, 17, 26, 27, 28-30, 50.
1o9 Ibid., 93.


of sixty or seventy armed men with a field-piece was
drawn up, Porter halted. In about a quarter of an hour
the white flag appeared with Lieutenant Stribling, the
Alcalde, the Captain of the port, and an interpreter. The
Alcalde admitted the indignities offered to Lieutenant
Platt, but claimed to have acted under orders. Under
threat of a resort to force of arms, and at the dictation
of the Commodore, the Alcalde made a suitable apology.
"This being done, we proceeded down to the beach. Re-
freshments were brought down and we returned to the
vessels," which weighed anchor and went to sea. The
whole transaction consumed about three hours.110
The next day, November 15, Porter wrote his report to
the Navy Department. An extract will give his point of
view. "Indignant at the outrages which have so repeat-
edly been heaped on us by the authorities of Porto Rico,
I proceeded to this place [Passage Island], where I left
the ship and taking with me the schooners Grampus and
Beagle and the boats of the John Adams, with Capt.
Dallas and part of his officers, seamen, and marines,
proceeded to the port of Foxardo. I found them
prepared for defence, as they had received intimation
from St. Thomas's of my intention of visiting the place.
I sent in a flag requiring the Alcalde or Governor,
with the Captain of the port, the principal offenders, to
come to me to make atonement for the outrage, giving
them an hour to deliberate. They appeared accordingly
and after begging pardon (in the presence of all the offi-
cers) of the officer who had been insulted, I permitted
them to return to the town, on their promising to respect
all American officers who may visit them hereafter.""'
In a short, curt letter, dated December 27, 1824, Sec-
retary Southard expressed his strong disapproval of the
Commodore's "extraordinary transactions at Foxardo,"
ordered him to return "without unnecessary delay to this
place, to furnish such explanations as may be required,"
and directed him to turn over his command to Captain
Warrington. Porter replied, January 30, 1825, that he
lno Epedition to Forardo, 16-18, 26, 27, 28-30.
111 Ibid., 43.


would hold himself ready to justify his "conduct in every
particular, not only by the laws of nations and of nature,
and highly approved precedent, but, if necessary, by the
orders of the Secretary of the Navy."112
After Porter's return to the United States he was sum-
moned before a court of inquiry, of which Captain Isaac
Chauncey was president. The court met in May, 1825,
and inquired into his conduct at Foxardo, and later, at
his own request, into his whole conduct of the campaign
against the pirates. The report of the court on its first
inquiry was unfavorable to Porter and resulted in his
being ordered before a court-martial.
In concluding its report on the whole campaign, the
court observed "that the manner in which the squadron
under the command of captain Porter was employed, dur-
ing the period of his command, appears to the court to
have been highly honorable to him and to the officers and
men; that the said forces were employed in the suppres-
sion of piracy in the most effective manner in which they
could be employed, in conformity with the orders and
instructions from the department; and that no part of
them was on any occasion engaged in objects of inferior
moment, to the injury of the public service."'11
The court martial was held in July. Captain James
Barren was president. Its verdict was that Captain Por-
ter be sentenced to suspension for six months. Porter
wrote a strong defence of his conduct, which is an inter-
esting document. He drew a parallel between his actions
and those of General Jackson, when he entered Florida
in pursuit of Indians, for which he received only praise.
Porter insisted that the public officials of Foxardo were
in league with the pirates, of which there can be no rea-
sonable doubt. Much evidence bearing on the character
of the place was collected.114 Porter felt that he had
been treated with injustice and the next year resigned
his commission in the navy.
112 Expedition to Foxardo, 47, 48.
113 bid., 13,32; Niles, October 8, 1825.
14 Expedition to Foxardo, 53-90; Beale's Report of the Trial
of Commodore Porter; Proceedings of the Courts of Inquiry and
Court Martial.


During the months between his return from the West
Indies and the end of his trial-in his correspondence
and conversation with the Secretary of the Navy and his
judges-Porter, as is not uncommon with high-spirited
men, was not always, nor even usually, conciliatory and
tactful, and doubtless caused irritation. But this could
have influenced only men of small natures. His great
services to his country and his value to the navy should
have outweighed his offense, if indeed any existed. Every
true American, from that day to this, knowing the facts,
has rejoiced in his landing at Foxardo.

It is now necessary to go back to the fall of 1824 and
pick up the thread of the narrative. Speaking of the
difficulties encountered by the officers and men of the
West India squadron, the court of inquiry into Commo-
dore Porter's conduct reported "that everything was done
towards the suppression of piracy which could be accom-
plished with a force of that description and of such lim-
ited strength. The number of men employed was small
and the greater part of the vessels engaged qualified only
for a particular kind of operation. Their inconsiderable
size rendered it impracticable to carry either provisions
or water for any length of time. Repairs were frequently
required, the stores were furnished from the United
States, and the cruises therefore necessarily of short dura-
tion. It appears also that the confinement of the officers
and men in the small schooners and barges upon the
cruises and expeditions in which they were unremittingly
occupied, exposed both by day and night to the baneful
influence of a noxious climate, the necessities which drove
them continually to Key West for the purpose of repair-
ing the vessels and procuring supplies, combined to en-
gender and add virulence to the malignant diseases which
broke out and proved so destructive to life, compelling
for two successive seasons the return to the United States
of a large proportion of the squadron. Under these cir-
cumstances it appears to the court that the officers and
men have eminently entitled themselves to the com-
mendations which they have received.""15
On the subject of convoy the court considered that the
importance of protecting trade had not been overrated
and that it should be looked upon "as one of the means
of suppressing piracy. By affording convoy and ade-
quate protection to private commerce, one of the princi-
pal inducements to piratical adventure was removed. ..
In no one particular does it appear to the court that the
115s les, October 8, 1825.


benefits produced by the squadron in the West India seas
was more widely diffused or greater in amount. .
Every vessel in the squadron, in addition to her ordinary
and specific duties, was engaged in affording convoy on
all occasions and in every quarter. Lieut. Skinner
alone, in the short period which intervened between the
30th March and the 3d July gave convoy to about one
hundred and eighty vessels."116
One of the encouragements to piracy committed on
American vessels seems to have been the undue leniency
with which those who were captured were subsequently
treated. Pardon by the President often followed convic-
tion in court and resulted in the return of the culprit to
his evil practices. The stern justice the pirates had
learned to expect from the British, led them to prefer
Americans as their prey.117
A particularly atrocious case of cold-blooded murder
was reported by Lieutenant McKeever, commanding the
steamer Sea Gull. The story came to him from Daniel
Collins, second mate of the brig Betsey, Captain Ellis
Hilton, which sailed from Wiscasset, Maine, for Matan-
zas late in November, 1824. "The Brig was cast away
on one of the Doubleheaded Shot Keys about the 21st
of December, when the officers and crew, seven in num-
ber, took the long boat and steered for the Island of Cuba,
and the next day made one of the Keys about 20 leagues
to windward, at which place they found two fishing huts
and five men, with whom the Captain made an agree-
ment to be brought with himself and crew to Matanzas.
The night previous to their intended departure, which
was two days after their landing, one of the fishermen
was absent during the whole night. When they were
on the point of shoving off, they were boarded and taken
possession of by a boat having ten men on board, armed
with muskets, blunderbusses, and cutlasses, which the
fishermen told them when first seen was the King's
launch, who soon after tied the Captain and crew of the
Betsey, put them into the perogues of the fishermen, and
11I Niles, October 8 1825.
117 i. Y. Evening Post, November 15, 1824.


taking them into a little lagoon about half a mile from
the huts, where they left their boat, taking with them
no other arms than cutlasses, they deliberately com-
menced an indiscriminate murder by cutting off the head
of Captain Hilton, which seemed to be the signal for dis-
patching the others. The informant was knocked over-
board by a blow and finding that he had broken the cord
with which he was tied, ran through the water (about
knee deep) and swamps, followed by two of the mur-
derers, but fortunately effected his escape, after witness-
ing the murder of his comrades with the exception of
one, who had also broken his cord and was trying to
escape, but presumes that he was overtaken, being very
closely pursued by two or three. The informant on the
sixth day got to an estate called Santa Clara on the Rio
Palma, where he received some nourishment and rest
and continued his route to Matanzas, where he arrived
last evening, presented himself to Captain Holmes of the
American ship Shamrock, belonging to the same owners
(Mr. A. Wood of Wiscasset). Captain H. immediately
recognized him and says that he is a sober, honest, and
upright man.""1s
After his return to Wiscasset, Daniel Collins published
a narrative of the cruise of the Betsey, in which he gives
a gruesome account of the killing of her captain and
first mate. "They seized Captain Hilton by the hair,
bent his head and shoulders over the gunwhale, and I
could distinctly hear them chopping the bone of the neck.
They then wrung his neck, separated the head from the
body by a slight draw of the sword, and let it drop into
the water. There was a dying shriek, a convulsive
struggle, and all I could discern was the arms dangling
over the side of the canoe and the ragged stump pouring
out the blood like a torrent. There was an imploring
look in the innocent and youthful face of Mr. Merry
that would have appealed to the heart of anyone but a
Pirate. As he arose on his knees, in the posture of a
penitent supplicating for mercy even on the verge of
eternity, he was prostrated with a blow of the cutlass,
1s Captains' Letters, 1825, I, No. 43.


his bowels gushing out of the wound. They then pierced
him through the breast in several places with a long
pointed knife, and cut his throat from ear to ear."119
That the comparative apathy and indifference of ear-
lier years, the failure to realize the situation in the West
Indies, on the part of governmental authorities in the
United States, had finally disappeared, was shown by the
voluminous reports of the navy department and of con-
gressional committees, and presidential messages. All
this discussion was based on knowledge of conditions
derived from the numerous reports of naval officers and
governmental agents in the islands and the frequent news-
paper accounts of robbery and murder.
The commercial agent at Havana, Thomas Randall,
furnished much information, which, however, in Commo-
dore Porter's opinion was not always fair to the navy.
A letter from Randall to Secretary Adams, October 31,
1824, after relating further piracies, continues: "It can-
not be endured that this band of remorseless wretches
should be suffered longer to cumber the earth. The rob-
beries and cruelties of the Barbary States, which have
so often roused all Christendom to arms, were trifling
in extent and ferocity, compared with those of the pirates
of Cuba. It is in vain for commercial nations to rely
for security upon mere preventive measures at sea or
upon the efforts of the authorities and people of this
island to extirpate it. Even the present Governor,
characterized as he is for firmness and moral courage,
feels his power too precarious at this crisis to venture
upon the measures of rigor and severity essential to its
suppression. The unprincipled and wicked have
obtained the complete ascendency and the honest few
dare not denounce or pursue the criminals. In such a
state of things, the pirates must be pursued by foreign
forces into their retreats on land, and this community
coerced by a severe and just retribution to aid in eject-
ing those miscreants from its bosom." He discourages
the carrying of specie in vessels of war for the use of
American merchants, one of the minor duties imposed
119 Narrative of Daniel Colins, 25.


on the West India squadron. "If the benefit to com-
merce by this medium for the transportation of specie,
be of sufficient importance, it may be effected by vessels
especially designated for that purpose. But experience
shows that the suppression of piracy and the transporta-
tion of specie, on the late system, are incompatible."120
In the annual report of the Navy Department, Decem-
ber 1, Secretary Southard mentions the difficulty of pur-
suing the pirates on land and the necessity of co-opera-
tion with the local governments. "Unless this co-op-
eration be obtained, additional means ought to be en-
trusted to the Executive, to be used in such manner as
experience shall dictate." The secretary expresses the
same views three weeks later, to Hon. B. W. Crownin-
shield, chairman of the naval committee of the House
of Representatives, and dwells on the need of large num-
bers of boats to chase the pirates into creeks and inlets.
To carry so many boats, large vessels must be provided.
"I would therefore respectfully recommend three or more
frigates or sloops of war, as an addition to the forces
now in the West Indies and Gulf of Mexico, or as a sub-
stitute for the small vessels. The sloops would be as
competent to the object as the frigates and would be much
less expensive. We cannot, however, detach that or even
a less number from the stations where they now are with-
out weakening our squadrons too much. It will be neces-
sary to build them, which can be done in less time and
at less expense than would require to repair and fit for
sea the same number of frigates. In addition to
this provision, our officers should be authorized to pur-
sue the pirates wherever they may fly. The right
to follow should be extended to the settled as well as
the unsettled parts of the Islands; and should this prove
ineffectual, a resort will be necessary to such a general
and rigorous blockade, as will make both the local Gov-
ernments and their subjects feel that their interest, as
well as their honor, requires a respect for our rights and
the rights of humanity. For such an extremity the pro-
posed sloops of war will be indispensable."121
120Am. State Papers, Foreign, V, 496.
121 Am State Papers, Naval, I, 1004, IT, 183.


The President's annual message recommends an in-
creased naval force and speaks of the amphibious nature
of the pirates, acting by sea, along shore, and on land.
Their atrocious practices "must be attributed to the
relaxed and feeble state of the local governments, since
it is not doubted, from the high character of the gov-
ernor of Cuba, who is well known and much respected
here, that if he had the power he would promptly sup-
press it."
A body of merchants in Portland addressed a memorial
to Congress. Portland and other Maine ports carried
on an extensive trade with the West Indies, chiefly in
lumber. The memorial rehearsed the whole subject and
suggested an increase in the number of small cruisers.
"During the summer and sickly season, they should
never be allowed to enter any of the ports in that cli-
mate, but from necessity or in pursuit of pirates; by
which means our commerce would be effectually guarded
and the health of our brave seamen effectually se-
The New York merchants advised "authorizing mer-
chant vessels to arm for their own protection, that
the squadron on the Cuban station should be reinforced,
that decoy vessels should be employed, and that ships
of war be furnished with additional launches and boats
calculated to pursue the pirates into their retreats and
fastnesses." These memorials were presented in Decem-
The end of the year found the situation in the West
Indies still occupying a great deal of public attention.
Early in 1825 Congress attempted the solution of this
difficult problem. The foreign relations committee of
the Senate in a report refers to the evil as ascribablee
to the asylum afforded the banditti in the colonies of
Spain," and speaks of the efforts to obtain satisfaction
from the Spanish government- efforts resulting only in
vague promises on the part of that power. "Spain had
been solemnly warned that if she did not promptly ac-
122 Am. State Papers, Foreign, V, 471.
12s Ibid., V, 428.


quit herself of her obligations to us on this subject, our
government would be constrained from the nature of the
outrages to become its own avenger and, availing itself
of its own resources, protect the commerce and lives of
the American citizens from destruction. An appeal
has been made to the local authorities, accompanied with
a request, that if from weakness they were unable to
exterminate the hordes of banditti who took shelter from
pursuit within their territories, that permission might be
given our forces to pursue them on land. This has been
denied on the vain punctilio of national dignity. The
posture in which Spain now stands is that of connivance
in these injuries or incapacity to prevent them." The
committee intimates that if it believed the conduct of
Spain wilful, it would favor a resort to war, but under
the circumstances would recommend only measures
thought to be indispensable.124
At the same time the House naval committee consid-
ered methods of carrying on the work. The means al-
ready "employed have displayed the vigilance of the Gov-
ernment and the activity, zeal, and devotion of the officers
and seamen who have been assigned to that perilous
service. It becomes necessary for the Government
to adapt the force to the existing character of the evil,
and the committee are of the opinion that the best species
of force which can be employed in future, while the
pirates are confined to small craft, are the boats and
launches which are attached to larger vessels. Sloops
of war of the largest class may be well provided with
launches and boats, of which several might be constantly
employed in ferreting out these marauders and bringing
them to condign punishment." The question of arming
merchantmen is discussed. "The committee believe that
if a considerable number of trading vessels should pro-
vide themselves for resistance and a few instances of
successful resistance should be the consequence, the effect
would be highly salutary and would greatly discourage
124 Am. State Papers, Foreign, V, 489; Niles, January 15, 1825.


these banditti by rendering their vocation dangerous and
The President in a special message to the Senate, Jan-
uary 13, 1825, joined in the discussion and presented
three expedients. "One, by the pursuit of the offenders
to the settled as well as the unsettled parts of the Island
from whence they issue; another, by reprisal on the
property of the inhabitants; and a third, by the blockade
of the ports of those islands. It will be obvious that
neither of these measures can be resorted to in a spirit
of amity with Spain, otherwise than in a firm belief that
neither the Government of Spain nor the Government
of either of the islands has the power to suppress that
atrocious practice, and that the United States interpose
their aid for the accomplishment of an object which is
of equal importance to them as well as to us. Acting
on this principle, the facts which justify the proceeding
being universally known and felt by all engaged in com-
merce in that sea, it may fairly be presumed that neither
will the Government of Spain nor the Government of
either of those islands, complain of a resort to either
of those measures, or to all of them, should such resort
be necessary. It is therefore suggested that a power com-
mensurate with either resource be granted to the Execu-
tive, to be exercised according to his discretion and as
circumstances may imperiously require."126
A report of the House foreign relations committee,
January 31, attributes to the blockade declared by Gen-
eral Morales, the commander of the Spanish forces, re-
sponsibility for "most of the evils since suffered by all
commercial nations in the West Indies and Gulf of Mex-
ico." Discussing the subject of arming merchantmen, the
committee says: "There is no law forbidding such defen-
sive armament, nor is any law required to justify it. It
is, however, asserted that the restraints upon the arma-
ment of merchant vessels are inconvenient and oppressive
and that they ought to be removed. The only provision
125 Am. State Papers, Naval, I, 1049; 18th Congr., 2nd Seas.,
Con. Rep. by Mr. Crowninshield.
126 Am. State Papers, Foreign, V, 490.


on this subject is that which requires bond and security
to be given to prevent an unlawful use of the armed ves-
sel-a provision which should not be changed, an adher-
ence to which the best interest of commerce requires."
For the pursuit of pirates on land, the committee deemed
an act of Congress unnecessary. Being criminals against
all nations, they are punishable in every tribunal and it
is the duty of all to hunt them down. "The pursuit of
a mutual enemy into the territory of a friendly or allied
power is a right of war; it cannot be deemed a violation
of the sovereignty of that power; it confers a favor and
imposes upon him an obligation of gratitude. In-
structions have been given to our naval commanders to
pursue and capture on Spanish territory pirates who
seek refuge or concealment there. The Government of
Spain has been duly warned of the existence of these or-
ders; it knows that they will be obeyed. No remon-
strance has been made by it-no objections have, as far
as the committee have been informed, been urged. The
acquiescence of Spain is all that should be desired. A
distinction is supposed to exist between pursuit of pirates
on lands uninhabited and on those inhabited, and it is
imagined that the authority of Congress is necessary to
justify pursuit in the latter case, while in the former,
the power of the Executive alone is sufficient. The com-
mittee do not admit the correctness of this distinction.
Fresh pursuit is justifiable in either case, if necessary
to the capture of the pirate. There is greater danger of
collision with the friendly power when the object of pur-
suit flies into a settled country and greater care is requi-
site to avoid giving offense, but the same principles apply
to either case and it is just as necessary that Congress
should legislate to justify the capture of pirates as to
authorize the pursuit of them into any place of refuge
inhabited or unsettled."127
On January 1, 1825, Commodore Porter reported the
disposition of his cruisers as follows: "The Hornet, Ken-
nedy, cruizing along the south side of Cuba, between
127 Am. State Papers, Foreign, V, 585; 18th Congr., 2nd Sess.,
Cor. Rep.

Engraved for the Analectic Magazine, 1815

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