|Name:||Port au Prince|
|Acquired:||1793 or early 1794 by purchase|
|Fate:||Captured and burned 29 November 1806|
|Tons burthen:||446 (1790–1795), and 466 (1796–1805) (bm)|
Port au Prince was built in France in 1790. The British Royal Navy captured her in 1793 off Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Her original name is currently unknown, but her new owners named her for her place of capture. She became a letter of marque, slave ship, and privateer cum whaler. In 1806 she anchored at a Tongan island where the local inhabitants massacred half her crew and then scuttled her.
Port au Prince's origins are obscure. Although she appears to have been pierced for a large number of guns, perusal of a compendium of French naval vessels for the period 1786–1861 does not yield any likely candidates. She first appears in Lloyd's Register in 1794 with the notes that she was built in 1790, and was a French prize.
Her captain's name is given as H. Hayne, her owner's name variously as Muilman, Mulement, or Muilmen, and her trade as Portsmouth – "SDom". This last is a little problematical as the trade remains unchanged through 1796, and France took complete control of San Domingo in 1795. Furthermore, war with France had begun already in 1793. In any case, Henry Hayne received a letter of marque for Port au Prince on 5 March 1794
Ownership changed in 1796, at about the time she underwent repairs. Her new owner was Lee & Co., and her new captain William Corran (or Curran). He received a letter of marque dated 5 August 1796.Her trade changed to Liverpool – Africa, indicating that she had become a slave ship. A database of slave voyages from Liverpool indicates that in 1797 Port au Prince gathered slaves in the Bight of Biafra and Gulf of Guinea islands and delivered them to British Guiana. She sailed from Liverpool on 16 October 1796 and gathered slaves at Bonny Island. She delivered then 27 April 1797 to Demerara. She had embarked 359 slaves and landed 328 for a loss rate of 8.6%. Of her crew of 62 three died on the voyage. She arrived back at Liverpool on 29 September.
Ownership changed again in 1798. Port au Prince's new owner was Thomas Parr & Co., and her trade became London – Demerara. In 1799 and 1800 her trade was London – Martinique. For all three years her captain was George Hall, who had received a letter of marque for her on 25 November 1797.
R. Bent & Co. acquired Port au Prince in 1800. Robert Bent had previously owned the slave ship Ellis, which the French Navy had captured in 1793. Port au Prince's captain was Charles Kneal (or Kneale), who received a letter of marque on 7 June 1800. Her trade again became Liverpool—Africa. Kneale sailed from Liverpool on 7 July 1800, bound for Bight of Biafra. He gathered his slaves at Bonny Island and Gulf of Guinea islands, and delivered them to Kingston, Jamaica. She arrived 12 February 1801 and landed 383 slaves, having embarked 426, for a loss rate of 10.1%. She had sailed with a crew of 65 and had 50 men when she arrived at Kingston. Six men had died on the voyage. Port au Prince arrived back at Liverpool on 22 July.
The next year Captain William Blackie replaced Kneal. Because the Peace of Amiens had ended the French Revolutionary Wars, he did not apply for a letter of marque. He sailed Port au Prince on 28 March 1802 from London to West Central Africa and St Helena. He delivered the slaves he had gathered at Cabinda to Saint Croix in the Danish West Indies. He arrived there on 21 October. He had embarked 423 slaves and landed 380, for a loss rate of 10.2%. At some point Captain James Hall replaced Blackie. She arrived back at London on 3 March 1802.
In 1803 Port au Prince's trade changed to London−Africa. The Napoleonic Wars had commenced and her new captain, Andrew Lawson, received a letter of marque on 25 July 1803. He sailed her to the Bight of Biafra and Gulf of Guinea islands, leaving London on 7 July 1803. He gathered his slaves at Bonny, and delivered them to Kingston, Jamaica on 15 April 1804. He had embarked 433 slaves and landed 389, for a loss rate of 10.2%. She sailed from Kingston on 12 June and arrived back at London on 14 August.
In 1805 Captain Isaac Duck replaced Lawson. Port au Prince's trade changed to London—South Seas, i.e. to whaling. Duck received a letter of marque on 21 January 1805. Bent's plans for her had changed, not just her trade. Her complement had about doubled to 85 men, compared with the 20–45 of previous years. Clearly, she was to serve as a privateer as she would be over-manned for a trader, slaver, or whaler, but would require extra men if she was successful in capturing enemy vessels that would need prize crews to bring them back to friendly ports.
Robert Bent, of London, gave Port au Prince a twofold commission. The primary goal was to sail to the Pacific and capture treasure from the Spanish colonies on the west coast of South America, but if unsuccessful in that endeavour she should hunt whales. Under the command of Captain Isaac Duck, she weighed anchor at Gravesend on 12 February 1805 on what was destined to be her last voyage. One of the men aboard Port au Prince was William Mariner, who survived her loss and eventually wrote a detailed account of the journey, and of the Tongans amongst whom he lived after they captured him.Most of the information below comes from his journals.
Port au Prince was reported "all Well" round Cape Horn in June 1805.She apparently captured several small Spanish vessels in the South Pacific, and looted some coastal towns.
Circa end-August Port au Prince rescued ten men from the crew of Minerva. Some of the crew of Minerva had mutinied, shot the master, and put in boats the officers and crew who would not join the mutiny.
On 17 September Port au Prince was reported at Chinka (Peru), in company with the privateer Lucy,Captain Alexander Ferguson. Ferguson had received a letter of marque on 10 January 1805. Lucy was of 345 tons (bm), had a crew of 60 men, and was armed with eighteen 9 & 18-pounder guns. Lucy too belonged to Robert Bent, and he had instructed Duck that if they were able to meet up, Duck and Ferguson should cooperate in privateering.
On 4 October Lucy and Port au Prince gave chase to a vessel that Lucy captured. The vessel was a tender to the Spanish frigate Astraea, then awaiting her at Paita. Two days later, Port-au-Prince and Lucy challenged Astrea to come out of the port of Paita and engage them. Astraea, of 44 guns, was under the command of a Frenchman, M. de Vaudrieul. In addition to her crew, Astrea had several hundred soldiers aboard. An inconclusive engagement followed in which Port au Prince lost a boy killed and had several men wounded, including Duck, before Astraea broke off the fight and returned to Paita. Some time later Port au Prince encountered the American vessel Neutrality and heard from her captain that Astraea had suffered 30 men killed, 120 men wounded, and damage to her fore-topmast. Supposedly, Vaudreuil had stated that at the end of the combat on the first day his Spanish officers had urged him to strike, and that he would have done so, had the two British vessels boarded him.However, Mariner reported that Astraea had on board several deserters from Port au Prince and that they had told Vaudreuil that Port au Prince was short of shot and men. Lucy had six men wounded, of whom five recovered. She also had one man killed, a Spanish prisoner, the captain of a felucca she had captured some time earlier.
Lucy transferred some shot to Port au Prince, and resupplied herself from the supplies that the tender had been delivering to Astraea. The British put a prize crew on the tender and sent her to James Island, in the Gallipago Islands.
Two days after the initial engagement the two British vessels again attempted to capture Astraea, but she repelled their attack. She was anchored and easily able to fire on them as they sailed past. Port au Prince had one man killed.
Port au Prince and Lucy then sailed to the Galapagos, arriving at Chatham Island on the 16th. The prize they had sent to the islands was not there and nothing further was ever heard of her. Port au Prince and Lucy divided equally the silver and dollars they had captured while operating together. The two then separated.
On 30 March 1806 Port au Prince captured the Spanish brig Santa Isidora, Captain Josef Evernzega, master, about half-a-dozen miles off Acapulco. Santa Isidora had been sailing from Guiàquil to Acapaculco with a cargo of cocoa. Duck put the Spanish prisoners in her boats so that they could reach the town. He then put Mr. John Parker in charge of the brig and gave him ten crew men and provisions for four months with instructions to sail for Port Jackson. Santa Isidora never arrived at New South Wales.One report was that the inhabitants of the Paumotu Islands captured her and massacred the crew.
On 18 June 1806 Port au Prince's boats entered San Blas (possibly San Blas, Nayarit), and captured Santa Anna. Santa Anna was a "corbetta" under the command of Captain Francisco Puertas and carrying a cargo of pitch, tar, and cedar boards to Guayaquil. The next day Duck sent 20 of his Spanish prisoners ashore in his longboat. Two Spaniards and two negro slaves joined Port au Prince. The slaves belonged to Santa Anna's owner and legally Duck should have sent them ashore too, but they pleaded not to have to go ashore and Duck yielded to their pleas. Duck then put Mr. Charles Maclaren in command of Santa Anna and gave him a crew of 12 men plus a Spaniard to navigate her. Santa Anna did reach Port Jackson, where Maclaren sold her per his instructions. Her new owners then employed Santa Anna as a whaler.
Port au Prince turned back to whaling and killed some 15 whales; she also killed over 8000 seals for their skins. Captain Duck died on 11 August and Mr. William Brown, the whaling master, replaced him in command.
She dropped anchor again for the last time on 29 November 1806 at an island called Lefooga in the Ha'apai Group, Kingdom of Tonga. It was here that the Tongans reportedly massacred Captain Brown and 36 men of her 62-man crew, Zebra stopped at Keppel's Island. There she found William Brown, J. Roberts (a negro), and all survivors of Port au Prince. Either Brown or Roberts was acting as interpreter for the king there.and burnt the ship to the waterline after removing all her arms and whatever else they found useful. However, in May 1832, HMS
If Port au Prince had been successful in capturing treasure from the Spaniards, her haul of treasure went down with her.
Well after the Tongans had seized and scuttled Port au Prince and murdered her crew, Lloyd's List (LL) reported two third-party reports about her. On 30 September 1808, LL reported that "'Port au Prince', of London, which was reported captured around Cape Horn, was well at the Marquisa Islands about 5 Months since."She was reported to have been at Rio de Janeiro on 25 November 1808.
Then on 19 May 1809, LL reported "The Port au Prince, of London, is taken at Tongataboo Island, in the South Pacific Ocean. Crew killed."
In August 2012, the wreck of Port au Prince was discovered off the coast of Foa Island (), in Tonga.
The Greenwich Maritime Museum and the Marine Archaeological Society both confirmed the age of the wreck after analysing copper sheathing found at the site. The sheathing was only used between 1780 and 1850 to combat shipworm and marine weeds and so given the location of the wreck it is considered likely to be the remains of Port au Prince.
William Charles Mariner was an Englishman who lived in Tonga from 29 November 1806 to (probably) 8 November 1810. He published a memoir, An Account of the Natives of the Tonga Islands, in the South Pacific Ocean, which is one of the major sources of information about Tonga before it was influenced significantly by European cultures and Christianity.
Nadezhda was a three-masted sloop, the ex-British merchantman and slave ship Leander, launched in 1799. A French privateer captured her in 1801, but she quickly came back into British hands. Private Russian parties purchased her in 1802 for the first Russian circumnavigation of the world (1803-1806), and renamed her. Although it is common to see references to the "frigate Nadezhda", she was a sloop, not a frigate, and she was never a warship. After her voyage of exploration she served as a merchant vessel for her owner, the Russian-American Company, and was lost in 1808.
Santa Anna was a Spanish brig that a British privateer captured in 1806. Her new owners then employed Santa Anna as a whaler. She wrecked in the Straits of Timor in 1811.
Lautaro was initially the British East Indiaman Windham, built by Perry, Wells & Green at the Blackwall Shipyard for the East India Company (EIC) and launched in 1800. She made seven voyages to India, Ceylon, and China for the EIC. In 1809-10, the French captured her twice, but the British also recaptured her twice. The Chilean Navy bought her in 1818 and she then served in the Chilean Navy, taking part in several actions during the liberation wars in Chile and Peru. From 1824 she was a training ship until she was sold in 1828.
General Armstrong was an American brig built for privateering in the Atlantic Ocean theater of the War of 1812. She was named for Brigadier General John Armstrong, Sr., who fought in the American Revolutionary War.
The British Royal Navy purchased HMS Shark on the stocks in 1775. She was launched in 1776, and in 1778 converted to a fireship and renamed HMS Salamander. The Navy sold her in 1783. She then became the mercantile Salamander. In the 1780s she was in the Greenland whale fisheries. In 1791 she transported convicts to Australia. She then became a whaling ship in the South Seas whale fisheries for a number of years, before becoming a general transport and then a slave ship. In 1804 the French captured her, but the Royal Navy recaptured her. Although she is last listed in 1811, she does not appear in Lloyd's List (LL) ship arrival and departure (SAD) data after 1804.
Lodi was the Venetian Navy brig Giasone, launched in 1795. The French captured her at Corfu in 1797. She took part in a sanguinary and inconclusive single-ship action with a British privateer shortly after her capture. She continued to serve in the Mediterranean carrying dispatches between France and Alexandria and then moved to the West Indies where she supported the French attempt to defeat the Haitian Revolution in Saint Domingue. HMS Racoon captured her on 11 July 1803; her subsequent fate is unknown.
Coromandel was the French prize Modeste, captured in 1793 and refitted at Chittagong, British India. She made two voyages transporting convicts to Port Jackson, the first for the British East India Company (EIC). A French privateer captured her in 1805 but she had returned to British hands before 1809. An American privateer captured her in 1814 but this time the British Royal Navy recaptured her within days. She foundered in Indian waters on 6 February 1821.
Duke of Portland was a sailing ship built in 1790 at Bordeaux, France. The British Royal Navy captured her in 1794 after the outbreak of the French Revolutionary Wars. British owners named her Duke of Portland and employed her as a whaler. As such she made some eleven whaling voyages. On the outbound leg of her eighth voyage she transported convicts to Port Jackson, New South Wales.
Francis and Eliza was a brig built in 1782 upon the River Thames, England. An American privateer captured her in 1815 while she was transporting convicts from Ireland to Port Jackson, New South Wales, and then released her.
Mohawk was a ship launched at Beverly, Massachusetts in 1781. She became a privateer, making two voyages. In 1782 the Royal Navy captured her and briefly took her into service under her existing name before selling her in 1783. She then became a merchantman until some investors in Bristol bought her in 1796 and turned her into a privateer again. In 1799 she became a letter of marque, but the French Navy captured her in 1801. She then served in the French Navy, capturing a British privateer in 1805, and was sold in 1814.
Vautour was a French privateer launched in 1797 at Nantes that made three privateering voyages. The Royal Navy captured her in 1800 during her fourth cruise. Private owners acquired her prior to late 1801 and employed her as the whaler Vulture in the South Seas whale fisheries between 1801 and 1809. A Spanish privateer captured her in 1809.
Will was a ship launched at Liverpool in 1797 for Aspinal & Co., who were one of Liverpool's leading slave-trading companies. She made numerous voyages between West Africa and the Caribbean carrying slaves, during which she several times successfully repelled attacks by French privateers. Will apparently foundered in a squall in July 1806, shortly before the passage of the Slave Trade Act 1807 abolished the slave trade for British subjects.
Butterworth was launched in 1778 in France as the highly successful 32-gun privateer Américaine, of Granville. The British Royal Navy captured her early in 1781. She first appeared in a commercial role in 1784 as America, and was renamed in 1785 as Butterworth. She served primarily as a whaler in the Greenland whale fisheries. New owners purchased her in 1789. She underwent a great repair in 1791 that increased her size by almost 20%. She is most famous for her role in the "Butterworth Squadron", which took her and two ship's tenders on an exploration, sealing, otter fur, and whaling voyage to Alaska and the Pacific Coast of North America. She and her consorts are widely credited with being the first European vessels to enter, in 1794, what is now Honolulu harbour. After her return to England in 1795, Butterworth went on three more whaling voyages to the South Pacific, then Africa, and then the South Pacific again. In 1802 she was outward bound on her fourth of these voyage, this to the South Pacific, when she was lost.
The British East India Company (EIC) had Whim built for use as a fast dispatch vessel. She was sold in 1802 and became a whaler that a French privateer captured and released, and then a merchant vessel. She is no longer listed after 1822.
John Bull was a sailing ship built in 1799 at Liverpool for the slave trade. She made one voyage carrying slaves from West Africa to Jamaica. Thereafter she became a West Indiaman, trading with Jamaica. Early in this period she was a letter of marque, and captured a French merchant vessel. A little later John Bull detained an American vessel. Much later she transported female convicts to New South Wales from Cork. After she delivered her convicts she made an unsuccessful voyage as a whaler in the South Pacific. She was last listed in 1833.
Othello was launched in 1786 at Liverpool for the African slave trade. She made some five voyages before she burnt off the coast of Africa in 1796. During her first voyage her master fired on another British slave ship, which gave rise to an interesting court case. As a letter of marque she recaptured a British ship in 1794.
Rambler was launched in America in 1812. The British captured her in 1813 as she was returning to America from Manila. She then briefly became a West Indiaman. In 1815 she became a whaler in the Southern Fishery. She made four complete whaling voyages and was wrecked on her fifth.
Horatio was launched in 1800 at Liverpool. She made four voyages as a slave ship, during two of which she was captured and recaptured. Shortly before the British slave trade ended she left the slave trade and sailed between Britain and South America and as a West Indiaman. She was wrecked in 1817.
Vulture was built in France 1777 and captured. By early 1779 she was sailing as a privateer out of Liverpool. She then became a slave ship. She made 10 voyages as slaver and was captured in 1795 on her 11th such voyage.