Sunday, September 13, 2015

Notes on the Florida Keys - 5&6

Chapter 5: Mexican Interlopers

As one officer wrote, "We march into the country and play them all sorts of pranks." In one of these pranks, a Mexican landing force went ashore a few miles from Havana and captured a mule train carrying coffee. [a whole mule train aboard a shipwreck. or other animal train. camels! rhinos! a circus! mythical beasts!]

While the captain held the men at bay with cocked pistols, David and Simms fastened irons on their wrists and removed the bayonets they found hidden in their shirts. But now there were only six men to handle the schooner and still keep guard on twenty-three prisoners. The captain solved this problem in a unique manner: He had twenty-three pairs of holes cut in the cabin roof, put the prisoner's feet into the holes and chained them together.

Hopner... was deliberately wrecking his prizes on remote Florida Keys. He would sell their cargo to Joshua Appleby, proprietor of a small wrecker's settlement on Key Vaca. This was a violation of international law and an evasion of customs duties.


Chapter 6: Revenue Cutter Men

The cutter's boat crews also boarded and captured a nearby schooner that proved to be a Spanish vessel the Bravo had captured. Passengers who had been on the Spanish schooner told the cutter's officers that the pirates had robbed them of all their possessions, including the clothes they were wearing. When the female passengers had begged the pirates to let them have something to cover themselves, the cutthroats had simply drawn their swords and cursed them.

The Marion, built on the lines of a Baltimore clipper, was sixty-five feet long and displaced seventy-eight tons. ...captain and two lieutenants... manned by a crew of twenty, including a boatswain, gunner, carpenter, sailmaker, cook and steward.

The following year, with Doane still in command, the Marion was asked to provide assistance in an entirely different situation involving slaves. A Spanish slave ship had wrecked on the reef off Key Largo while being chased by a British warship. The Spanish crew seized an American wrecking schooner and an American fishing smack and forced them to carry 398 of the captive Africans to Cuba. A wrecking sloop, which had taken 121 slaves off the wreck, escaped seizure and carried them to Key West. ... Some local residents made attempts to bribe or force the marshal to turn the slaves over to them. The marshal sent an urgent plea for help to the captain of the Marion. ... When it became apparent that the Africans would not be safe in Key West, they were taken to St. Augustine with the Marion serving as escort.

He said the Marion would be ready to begin operations as soon as the crew finished gathering stove wood and filling water tanks. Pickney advised Jackson to be on the lookout for certain wreckers from Indian Key whom he suspected were smuggling cargoes they salvaged from wrecks by hiding them on remote Keys.

... search along the north coast of Cuba for a pirate schooner that had taken four American merchant vessels and killed their crews.

The sloop's captain told the boarding officer that he was bound for New London from Key West in ballast.... This aroused the officer's suspicions because the Dry Tortugas are not on the route between Key West and New London. Upon opening the cargo hatches, he saw a number of cotton bales.

The cutter's crew subsisted principally on pickled or salted beef and pork, beans, and bread, but occasionally dined on fresh turtle or fish they caught. A daily ration of whiskey helped to break the monotony of the diet.

She furnished food and water to the starving crew of a brig, sent medicine to the sick captain and mate of a schooner, helped free a vessel that was aground, and arrested the leaders of a potential mutiny on an American merchant ship at Havana.

[aground but not wrecked. sounds relatively common]

[prisoners as cargo]

Two seamen caught hold of a small canoe that floated free and, after two days and two nights clinging to it with the waves washing over them, were picked up by a passing vessel.

Great Hurricane of 1846.... water in the streets rose to five feet.

Fearful of parting the anchor chains, the captain ordered the mainmast cut away. The mast fell but failed to go over the side because the triatic stay... had failed to part. [ordering damage to ships to prevent them from wrecking and to recover stuff from wrecks is something that I don't think about enough]

Later examination revealed that the Morris had stranded in water normally two feet dep and had bilged (her underwater hull was torn open). She was a total loss, but mercifully, all her crew had survived the terrible ordeal.


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