How Not to Handle a War Ship off Cape Cod

The following story is told by three articles, reprinted by the Aurora, from Boston, on December 21, 23 and 24, 1814.  The first article, which was printed in a Boston paper on December 16, told of arrivals from Cape Cod having informed them that the British frigate Newcastle had gone ashore about 13 miles from Provincetown, remaining in a dangerous condition for 18 hours.  “Three boats were manned to go to Provincetown to procure vessels to assist in getting her off, but the wind blowing fresh, they put ashore on the different parts of the cape.–Twenty-three men of the boats’ crews seized this opportunity to desert, who had been seen by our informants.”  By various stratagems, the Newcastle was gotten off, and had arrived at Provincetown.

The next article, from Boston on December 19, continues the story.  “After the Newcastle got off on Tuesday, two boats were left to collect spars, &c. which they were unable to accomplish.  They then endeavored to reach the ship, but not being able, went on shore at Truro, where most of the men deserted, and the officers went to the ship by land.”  The following day, a barge from the Newcastle captured a sloop, and taking one of the sloop’s crew for a pilot, headed for the Newcastle.  But the pilot “conducted them up Wellfleet Bay, and having got the barge among the surf, the crew were compelled to land, when they all (eight in number) deserted, and the officer who was in her departed for Provincetown by land.”

The last article was published in Boston on December 20; the previous day five English seamen, deserters from the Newcastle arrived in Boston.  They reported that there was a fourth boat manned to go to Provincetown, that a yawl, “containing the coxwain and nine seamen, made for the shore; and having landed at Wellfleet, all deserted, leaving the boat and sails in possession of the inhabitants–this was unobserved by the other boats, and where they went is not known to these men.”  The men deserted because “they were ill-treated by the lieutenants–the captain interfering very little in the concerns of the ship.  The crew were generally discontented.”

About the Author

Mary Bowden is a researcher working at the Texas Collections Deposit Library at the University of Texas. A little-known but invaluable treasure of U.S. history and the history of American journalism is archived in the collection of bound United States’ Newspapers at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection began more than a century ago and has been stored in recent years in the Texas Collections Deposit Library on the campus of the University of Texas. The sizeable archive is currently in the early stages of being digitized before being moved to a more climate-controlled environment at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University, on the north side of Austin.

Mary Bowden