Tag Archives: Carroll

U.S. Civil War left a Legacy on P.E.I. Marine History

Steamer at Plant Line Wharf 1893. Public Archives and Records Office. Sterling Collection Accession 3218/70.

The image is a striking one. A handsome two-funnel paddle steamer is tied up to the Plant Line wharf in  Charlottetown.  In the album where the image is found, a date of 1893 is attached to the picture. However there is no name given and no name can be found on the ship. What could it be and why was it in Charlottetown harbour?

By 1893 the day of the side-wheel paddle steamer was long past.  Screw steamers had proven to be more powerful and, more importantly, cheaper to run.  As passenger and freight boats they had long since been supplanted by newer models, except perhaps in England where paddle-wheelers continued to be used as tugs for many years.  So it is likely that the mystery boat is an older vessel. It appears to be of iron or steel construction and seems in good condition.

Without more clues it seemed that the ship was destined to remain nameless and then a reader of this column gave me the answer. He was, and continues to be, an inveterate researcher and genealogist and has probably viewed more miles of microfilm than anyone in the province.

The ship, he suggested,  was the S.S. Miramichi and like so many of the vessels coming in and out of Charlottetown there was a story to tell.

I have several times remarked on the amazing number of times that the Island steamers were associated with the American Civil War. The Boston boats; Oriental (Minna), Greyhound, and St. Lawrence (General Whiting) all had been blockade runners while the Worcester, Carroll, Somerset,  Westmorland and Lady LeMarchant all had roles on the Union side. The Miramichi was also engaged in the conflict but not under that name.

S.S./U.S.S. Bat. Drawing by Erik Heyl from Early America Steamers, 1953.

The Liverpool shipbuilding firm of Jones, Quiggins & Co. built a large number of blockade runners for either private owners or the government of the Confederacy. In 1864 four identical sister-ships; Bat, Deer, Owl, and Stag were launched from their yards between June and August.  Built of steel, they were all 230 feet overall, 26 feet wide and were relatively shallow draft drawing only 6 feet 6 inches when fully loaded.  Although schooner rigged their primary propulsion was from 180 horse-power twin vertical oscillating Watt engines fired by two boilers driving side paddle wheels.  The fine straight lines were surmounted by two funnels.  One of the outstanding features of this class of blockade runners was the speed of the vessels. She reached 14 knots in trials but was capable of higher speeds when loaded as the paddles were then deeper in the water. These ships were each designed to carry from 800 to 850 bales of cotton through the Union blockade and provide revenue for the beleaguered south. On return trips they would carry necessary supplies and materials for the war effort.

The Bat was launched on 1 August 1864 and within a few days was pressed into service. On her first trip for the Confederacy she carried a cargo of shoe machinery across the Atlantic. Stopping for coal at Halifax she headed south to try and sneak into the port of Wilmington North Carolina. She evaded several of the blockade ships but was spotted by the patrol vessel U.S.S. Montgomery. The Bat was unable to get up to speed before she was fired on. A single shot hit the Bat’s deckhouse fatally wounding a crew member and the ship surrendered immediately.  The Bat was sent to Boston where she was condemned as a war prize and purchased in November 1864 by the U.S. Navy for $150,000. As the U.S.S. Bat she saw out the rest of the war without incident.

Auctioned in New York following the end of the war she was sold for less than $30,000 and renamed the S.S. Teazer. She may have operated between Boston or New York and New Orleans but in 1872 she came to Quebec having been purchased by the Quebec & Gulf Ports Steamship Company and was renamed the S.S. Miramichi.

The Quebec and Gulf Ports Steamship Company had the Royal Mail contract for voyages between Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia running several iron paddle-wheel steamers. Passengers and freight connected at Shediac and Pictou for Prince Edward Island although after Confederation the line, renamed the Quebec Steamship Company in 1880, often made regular stops at Charlottetown.  By the 1890s the  Miramichi was also a regular visitor to Summerside as well. In 1895 the Miramichi was replaced by the S.S. Campana and the thirty-year-old Miramichi, ed-Teazer, ex-Bat, continued on routes on the St. Lawrence and the Gulf. In 1902 she became the property of the Richelieu & Ontario Navigation Company but appears to have been scrapped shortly after.

The preponderance of former civil war vessels seeing service in P.E.I. waters raises the question of the effect of the war on the economy of the region. Up to the mid 1860s P.E.I. had a strong shipbuilding industry but it disappeared in the following years. Was a contributing cause the large number of ships built for both sides in the American conflict which were released on the market after the war’s end?  Hundreds of vessels at cheap price were suddenly available.  Certainly we have seen how inexpensive and modern steamers on both the Atlantic coastal services and in the Gulf came from surplus vessels built or purchased for war shipping and naval activities.

With the exception of the photo shown above there appear to be no pictures of the Bat or any of her three sister ships so this picture is a valuable artifact, not just of the history of Prince Edward Island, but for the remarkable story of the blockade runners and the navy of the Confederate States.

More detailed accounts of the Bat’s short war-time history are found in a number of published accounts but is most easily accessed in a Wikipedia article found here.  As usual Kevin Griffin’s history of the Clarke Steamship Company contains invaluable information about the shipping in the Gulf of St. Lawrence including services between Quebec and Prince Edward Island.

I am indebted to champion researcher Gary Carroll for providing the key to unlock the mystery of the unknown paddle-wheeler.

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From Bergen to Charlottetown to Rio – Britannia Didn’t Rule the Waves

Last year on this site I told the story of the Margaret, a Canadian patrol ship that was a frequent visitor to Charlottetown, and how she ended up as part of the Brazilian Navy.  I thought the story was unique but never guessed at the time that the Margaret’s history had parallels with that of another ship, also a frequent visitor to Charlottetown, from a period forty years earlier.

This time the ship was a passenger liner on the Charlottetown to Boston route which became a Brazilian Admiral’s flagship. This is the story of the Britannia.

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The Cruiser Andrada, ex-Britannia, ex-America. Although shown as a naval vessel with armaments she retained the yacht-like appearance of her cruising days.

The name of the vessel suggests a British origin but in fact the ship was built in Bergen, Norway for a local ship owner, Peter Gabriel Halvorsen who had a several shipping ventures including a steamer service across the North Sea between Bergen and Newcastle. His vessels mostly carried coal eastward and iron ore to England but with an eye to a developing tourist market all of his ships had passenger accommodation. His new ship – clearly targeting the cruising trade was, launched in 1890. The vessel had a graceful appearance with a clipper bow, white hull and twin funnels and looked much like many of the private yachts being built during the era. It was the largest steamer registered in Norway at the time. The Britannia was rated at 1,555 gross tons and was 254 feet long with a breadth of 34 feet.  Aboard were accommodation for 185 passengers in three classes with appropriate lounges and dining facilities. She had an engine supplied by a Scottish builder who promised a service speed of between 16 and 17 knots.

Unfortunately for Halvorsen she did not live up to her expectations. Even at a reduced speed she suffered from excessive vibration and had an enormous appetite for coal.  In addition she proved to be an uncomfortably lively boat and passengers tended to avoid the Britannia in booking voyages.  After trying her on a number of different routes, and facing bankruptcy, Halvorsen put her on the market and in 1892 she found herself on the other side of the Atlantic.

Early that year the Boston and Colonial Steamship Company added to the Britannia to their fleet joining the aged wooden steamers Carroll and Worcester. The company was facing competition from the Canada-Atlantic line with the steamer Halifax on the run between Boston and Halifax.

An account of the new ship appeared as part of an article on an excursion from Boston to Halifax which appeared in Cook’s Excursionist and Home and Foreign Tourist Advertiser in November 1892.

…she seemed to sit on the water like a duck; and my friend expressed the opinion that he though she would be a good sea boat, which subsequently (fortunately for us) proved to be the case. When we got out to sea we found a heavy swell on, and the various vessels in sight were rolling and pitching in a most uncomfortable looking manner.  We did some of it, but certainly much less than any of our neighbours and were not disturbed by any visions of mal de mer. …The staterooms were so lofty, so comfortable, so much in advance of anything we had seen before that we were perfectly amazed. There was a lovely music room, and as we studied the various pictures with which the panels were illuminated, and which, we were told, were descriptive of incidents in the history of the ancient Vikings, we regretted very much being unable to understand the significance of them, but as works of art they are remarkably fine any must have cost a very great deal of money.  

… The main saloon is a most cozy space and extends right across the ship; the tables are nicely arranged, and the carving of the furniture is most artistic. The room is panelled with beautiful marble, which in turn is elaborately illuminated in gold. A magnificent dome fitted with expensive stained glass, extends the whole length of the saloon, and diffuses a delicate soft light. And such a cozy smoking room, where we sat and enjoyed the fragrant weed, and felt that we were as happy and comfortable as though we had been owners of an “Alva” or “Atlanta.” We were so impressed with the elegance and luxury of the steamer that we asked one of the officers how much she cost and were not surprised that no less sum than $325,000 had been expended on this beautiful floating palace…

The Britannia was listed for sailings from Charlottetown to Boston during the summer and fall of 1892 but advertising in 1893 noted “sailings of S.S. Britannia will be given later.” The operating costs for the luxurious ship proved to be too much for the struggling company and she was laid up in Boston for almost a year.

Within a year the Britannia was sailing in warmer waters and in a much different role.  In 1889 a coup had brought an end to the monarchy in Brazil, a change which was not popular with many officers in the navy. Subsequent breaches of the nation’s new constitution caused further resentment and in 1891 and 1892 there were two revolts against the government. The second of these saw the Brazilian Navy in revolt laying siege to the capital Rio de Janeiro in opposition to the government. As the rebels controlled most of the country’s naval vessels the government had to “improvise” a new fleet of risk defeat. The government basically bought itself a new naval force on the open markets around the world. The armada consisted of small and sometimes unusual ships including torpedo gunboats, various medium and small torpedo boats, small armed yachts, and a transport converted to carry a Zalinsky “dynamite gun” (a pneumatic gun launching a dynamite charge of massive explosive force and marginal accuracy).  As in the case of the Margaret forty years later country relied on an American agent, this time one Charles Flint, to acquire suitable vessels.

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Cruiser Andrada ca. 1900, probably in Rio harbour.

One of these was the Britannia, which in just eighteen days in late 1893 was converted in a New York shipyard from a comfortable passenger and freight carrier to an armed cruiser, albeit one without any protective defensive armour. Decks were reinforced to take the weight of weapons including 10 rapid-firing guns, the largest of which were 4.7 inch Armstrong guns on the foredeck; two torpedo launching tubes on the bow, two more on the waist of the ship and another on the hurricane deck.

On leaving New York in company with other vessels of the new fleet the ship was re-named the America but following fitting out in Brazil she was re-re-named the Andrada to honour Santos Jose de Andrada e Silva a patriarch of the Brazilian independence struggle.  The Andrada was the flagship of the fleet but actually appears to have taken little part in the successful crushing of the revolt.  She served in a number of capacities in the Brazilian navy until 1914 when she was transferred to the customs service.  She was later sold to a private company (Martinelli Lloyd) and the name America restored to her. She operated as a fast freighter during the First World War and was still on Lloyd’s register of shipping in the 1930s. One report states she ended up in the 1960s as a floating dock at a small port near Rio de Janeiro, a far cry from the fjords.

Sources

The Norwegian part of the Britannia’s story is most easily found in an on-line history of the Norwegian coastal streamers by Mike Bent. Her short-lived period on the Charlottetown-Boston run is mostly from local newspapers.  The fascinating role of Charles Flint and “Flint’s Fleet” in the revolt is part of a  book by Steven Topik titled Trade and Gunboats: The United States and Brazil in the Age of Empire

S.S. Halifax – Charlottetown to Boston and Return

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S.S. Halifax preparing to leave Charlottetown. A visiting warship can be seen in the background

By 1890 the wooden steamships Carroll and Worcester which had provided the direct Charlottetown – Boston connection since 1872 were more than twenty-five years old and in 1892 their owners, the Boston and Colonial Steamship Company became bankrupt. Fortunately another company, the Canada Atlantic Steamship Company, which had previously operated between Boston and Halifax, was able to begin service to the Island, and better still had a modern vessel for the route.

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S.S. Halifax at Canso

The steamer Halifax was built on the Clyde at the Govan Middleton Yard of the London & Glasgow Engineering and Iron Shipbuilding Company and was launched in July 1888. She was rapidly completed and began service between Boston and Halifax 20 October 1888. The single-screw vessel was 230 feet long by 35 feet wide and drew some 21.5 feet.  In spite of her width she had a somewhat ungainly and top-heavy appearance emphasised by a high prow and passenger decks running the full length of the steamer.  However there are no reports of instability and the passages were usually without incident

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S.S. Halifax at the Plant Line Wharf in Port Hawkesbury

The new vessel was owned by the Canada Atlantic Steamship Company which had been incorporated in Halifax the previous year by a number of leading merchants from the Nova Scotia city including James E. Chipman who appears as owner in the registration.

In a listing of port connections from Halifax in the 1892 Canadian Guide Book by Charles G.D. Roberts the steamer was particularly noted;

…the fine, new, steel steamer Halifax of the Canada Atlantic Line to Boston. This is a most desirable route to Boston. The fare [from Halifax] is $7; return ticket, $12. Staterooms $1 to $1.50 extra. The streamers sail from Halifax every Wednesday at 8 A.M. arriving in Boston Thursday at 1 P.M.; from Boston every Saturday at noon, arriving in Halifax Sunday evening at 6 P.M. Through tickets are issues in connection with this line, over most important railways and baggage checked through. The boat is very steady and safe, and most comfortable in her equipments [sic]. 

Up until 1892 the Halifax appears to have travelled on the Halifax –  Boston route but in that year the Canada Atlantic line was combined with Henry Plant’s, Plant Line and during the ice-free season the steamer began to run as far as Charlottetown stopping at Port Hawkesbury en route. From Port Hawkesbury steamers connected through the Bras d’or lakes to Sydney. From Charlottetown passengers could transfer to other steamers to connect with Quebec and Montreal  

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S.S. Halifax at the Plant Line Wharf, Charlottetown ca. 1893

The Halifax was one of the first cruise ships to operate in the Caribbean. In 1891 she was reported to have carried a group of American excursionists from Boston to Kingston, Jamaica. Following the 1892 merger of the Canada Atlantic and Plant lines the Halifax was again pressed into the off-season cruise business. In early 1893, she provided three 10-night experimental winter cruises between Tampa, Nassau and Jamaica. Her first cruise left Tampa with 89 passengers on February 16, 1893, with Henry Plant himself aboard to make sure that all went well.  Thereafter the Halifax was a regular on the winter service between Tampa, Key West and Havana operated in conjunction with the Peninsular and Occidental Steamship Company.

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The Plant Line Wharf Charlottetown, Great George Street in background

While continuing to provide an important freight and passenger service between the Island and Boston, the Charlottetown – Hawkesbury – Halifax connection enabled the Plant Line to begin advertising the Boston – Charlottetown trips – not just as passage, but as cruise. The service thus was a precursor to the dozens of cruise ships which visit the harbour today.  By 1904 the company was advertising the return passage in a popular magazine under the heading “Plant Line Ocean Trips”

“‘One Night at Sea’ or Six Days’ Cruise 1400 miles for $18. From Union Wharf, Boston, every Tuesday and Saturday, 12 noon for Halifax, Hawkesbury and Charlottetown. Good board. Cheapest rates. Best trout and salmon fishing, and shooting. Beautiful scenery. This doesn’t half tell it. Send stamp for booklet ‘Looking Eastward,’ maps, etc.”

The $18 round trip fare looks a bargain but it did not include accommodation or meals.

screen-shot-08-25-16-at-07-57-pmDuring a thick fog  in August of 1901 the Halifax struck a rock near Minot’s Light south-east of Boston while on passage from Halifax to Boston. The 250 passengers were safely taken off after the captain had beached the sinking vessel close to shore.  Although reported as wrecked the vessel was floated to dry-dock in Boston and was able to be repaired and later returned to the route.  She was temporarily replaced by the chartered Dominion Atlantic Railway steamer Yarmouth  which had been operating on the Plant Line’s Boston to Sydney service. The Halifax was repaired and was back on the route the following year.

In 1903 the president of the Canada Atlantic and Plant line sold out. M.F. Plant turned over the line, the S.S. Halifax, the Plant wharf in Halifax and leases of wharves in Charlottetown and Hawkesbury as well as the charter of the Steamer Olivette to a group of investors from Boston and Halifax.

With the declining fortunes of the Plant Line and the economic difficulties caused by the Great War the line was wound up. The Halifax was sold to a group of New York investors. She was last sighted leaving St. Michael’s in the Azores on a passage from New Your to Bordeaux on 11 December 1917 but was never heard from again.

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Warwick & Rutter patriotic postcard featuring the S.S. Halifax

For anyone wishing more information about steamers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence I can highly recommend Kevin Griffin’s on-line history of the Clarke Steamship Company found here. He also contributes to a blog featuring cruise information called the Cruise People.