Courtesy, Skinner, Inc.
|Log of schooner Pilgrim, 1803-1805|
Courtesy, Drew Archives
As Delano recorded, the morning of Thursday, May 2, 1805, “began with fresh gales and squalls of Rain.” At 8:00 a.m., the Pilgrim’s watch caught sight of a ship in their wake, following closely behind:
She gained fast on us, having all sail yet we lay by for her. At noon she came
up with us and prov’d to be a Spanish ship of 20 guns. She boarded us and
sent word for me to come aboard with my Papers which was complied with.
This was a Chilean coast guard vessel. In a Kafkaesque exercise, the Spanish ordered Delano into the coaster’s great cabin, where they interrogated him for several hours, culminating in a demand that he sign a statement that their translator had produced, despite his plea that he could not read Spanish. As Delano tells the story, he replied,
But if it was what I had said and no different, I would sign it. They said it was
the same. I then signed it. I then asked for a certificate to blank any other Spanish
vessel I might meet that I had been examined by a king’s ship.
At this point, his captors informed him that he must proceed to Valparaiso. Delano protested that the Pilgrim had left men on St. Phelps, and sought to “use every means to convince them there was a danger 10 men’s perishing on and blank for water,” but he was denied. Over the next two weeks, the Pilgrim sailed “in company with” the Spanish coaster. During that time, the commandant, “as they termed him,” repeatedly sent for the schooner’s logbook and charts. Meanwhile, Spanish sailors boarded the Pilgrim, rifling through the cargo and even the sea chests of the schooner’s crew. As recorded in the Pilgrim’s log for 10 May 1805:
In Custody of the Spaniards this day they overhauled everything in all parts
of the vessel, Ripped up [?], unheaded Casks of Flour and Bread in the hold
and Bundled things About as mutch as they chose and filled every part of
the vessels with Spaniards to search as they saw for contraband goods. But
more Provable to me for other purposes our people still on board the Coster
. . . say they have much suffered from since they had been prisoners.
The schooner and her coaster guard reached Valpariso by May 24, where they were reunited with Amasa and William aboard the Perseverence. Fortunately, Amasa had sailed in these waters previously and has accrued some influence with Chilean authorities. He was able to arrange for the release of the schooner. However, his efforts to reclaim “articles that the Spanish Sailors had stolen” from the Pilgrim and her crew—clothes, small goods, and cash—were unsuccessful—“all they got was a shrug of the shoulders.” Samuel Delano recorded a further act of overreach in the ship’s log: The Commodore “sign’d the Back of my Clearance from Boston, [but] forbidding the Pilgrim to Navigate the Pacific Ocean.”
As I note in True Yankees, Americans considered such incidents, all too common in the new republic’s early years, as insults to the national honor. The last word goes to Samuel Delano in the Pilgrim’s log:
I may never Die until I have had Just Recompence for Insults and Injuries
Receiv’d from Spaniards men.
Special thanks to Carolyn Ravencroft, Research Librarian, Drew Archives, Duxbury, Massachusetts For more, www.drewarchives.org