Sunday, March 20, 2016


          Murder and Piracy.Norfolk (Virginia) July 19.—On Saturday last, five seamen, who had come up from the beach near Currituck Inlet, stopped at a tavern a short distance beyond the draw-bridge, where they deposited their baggage, and came into town [Norfolk]. They reported that they belonged to an English brig bound from New Providence to Liverpool, which had foundered off the coast of North Carolina; but, among other circumstances, that of their having each a considerable number of Spanish dollars, which they carried about them quilted in belts, led to a belief that they had been engaged in some piratical enterprise; and yesterday our vigilant chief magistrate issued his warrant to have them brought up for examination, and accordingly Thomas Jones, John Radcliffe, Charles Rogers, alias Nicholas Wilcom, Philip Pierce, and Nathan Smith, were conducted into court. 
           Nathan Smith, a native of Belfast, State of Maine, was summoned as a witness in the case, and, being sworn, stated, that he shipped at New York, in the ship Curiazo, which ship was bound to Buenos Ayres, where she remained two months. He was then compelled (having no money) to enter on board the ship Union, a patriot privateer; remained on board the Union six months; was sent in a Spanish prize to Buenos Ayres. He then shipped in the Patriot brig General Rondeau, captain David Miles, and sailed on a cruise. He detailed the transactions on the cruise, which extended to the coasts of Spain and Portugal, and in the Mediterranean. They returned through the Straits, and proceeded to the West Indies. The witness then stated as follows:— “The captain (Miles) used the men very ill; and the day after we passed the island of Barbados, the crew mutinied, and rose upon the officers. I was below at the time the mutiny took place, being a little intoxicated. I heard a great noise upon deck, as of a number of people in a scuffle, and now and then the clashing of swords.
1821 map of the Norther Outer Banks showing New Currituck Inlet
near the North Carolina-Virginia border. Taken from OBX Connection:
            “It immediately occurred to me that the crew were engaged in massacring the officers, and on going on deck next morning, I had but too good grounds for suspicions. The deck was sprinkled with blood, and six officer, viz.—Captain David Miles, second lieutenant M’Sweeney, the captain of Marines, the serjeant of marines, purser, master’s mate, and four privates of Marines, were missing, and several of the crew on board severely wounded. I was informed, that the officers and marines who were missing, were sent away in a boat. This happened about 12 miles from an island, the name of which I was ignorant of.            
          “The crew then took charge of the privateer, and appointed Robinson the gunner, captain—hailed the prize-brig, which was still in company, and told the prize-master to go where he pleased. Shifted our course for the United States, and in two days made land; we then stood for Charleston, and, three days after, put three men on board an English brig, and paid the captain for their passage to England 20 bags of sugar. Three days after, spoke a sloop bound to New York; wanted to put some of our men on board of her, but the wind blew too hard: two days after, spoke an American schooner from Savannah for Boston, and put 13 or 15 more of our men on board of her, paying 20 bags of sugar for their passage. Next day made the land again, which proved, to be the coast of North Carolina, when 15 or 16 of the stoutest men remaining on board turned to and plundered the privateer of everything valuable, which they carried ashore with them in a boat, and abandoned the General Rondeau, leaving me and 13 more on board.           
             “Robinson (the captain) then proposed to run into Wilmington [New Hanover Co.], and give the privateer up to the United States, which was determined on. Off the bar we were boarded by a pilot, who remained on board two days, when he left us, and went ashore with Robinson, and five of the crew. We were then chased two days by an United States’ revenue cutter, and escaped in a heavy blow. The General Rondeau leaked very badly for two or three days after the blow, and as soon as we got her with 20 or 30 miles of land we scuttled her, and took to the boat, bringing with us only our clothes. We landed on Currituck beach at night, where we found lodgings, and the next morning proceeded on to Blackwater [River] in a boat, and there hired three carts to fetch us on to Norfolk.” 
            The money which these men had, they say, was taken out of one of the feluccas [two masted ship] captured up the Straits. One states the sum taken to have been 6,000 dollars, and another 14,000 dollars; but the whole was divided amongst the crew after the mutiny. A few bales of cochineal [red dye] were also taken out of the felucca, which were on board the General Rondeau when they abandoned her. The amount found upon the prisoners is 9,272 dollars, 25 cents, which has been deposited in the United States’ Bank. There are two more of the party who came ashore at Currituck, but they were left on the road from Blackwater, being too unwell to travel.                       
            After a patient examination of nearly five hours, the prisoners were all committed to gaol.            Smith, whose description is given above, is the only American of the party. The rest are all Englishmen. It is also stated that the crew of the brig was composed chiefly of English and Spaniards, or natives of South America.
            Robinson and his five companions, who left the privateer off Wilmington bar, have been apprehended at Smithville [Southport], North Carolina, and 4 of the 15 or 16 who had previously left her, are also in custody at Wilmington, North Carolina.

[Taken from The Annual Register: A View of the History, Politicks and Literature of the Year 1820]

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