The Loss Of The Peggy

On the 28th of September, 1785, the Peggy, commanded by Capt. Knight,

sailed from the harbor of Waterford, Ireland, for the port of New

York, in America.

Here it is necessary to observe, that the Peggy was a large unwieldy

Dutch-built ship, about eight hundred tons burden, and had formerly

been in the Norway, and timber trade, for which, indeed, she seemed,

from her immense bulk, well calculated. There being no freight in

readiness for America, we were under the necessity of taking in

ballast: which consisted of coarse gravel and sand, with about fifty

casks of stores, fresh stock, and vegetables, sufficient to last

during the voyage; having plenty of room, and having been most

abundantly supplied by the hospitable neighbourhood, of which we were

about to take our leave.

We weighed anchor, and with the assistance of a rapid tide and

pleasant breeze, soon gained a tolerable offing: we continued under

easy sail the remaining part of the day, and towards sunset lost sight

of land.

Sept. 29th, made the old head of Kingsale; the weather continuing

favorable, we shortly came within sight of Cape Clear, from whence we

took our departure from the coast of Ireland.

Nothing material occurred for several days, during which time we

traversed a vast space of the Western Ocean.

Oct. 12th, the weather now became hazy and squally;--all hands turned

up to reef top-sails, and strike top-gallant-yards.--Towards night the

squalls were more frequent, indicating an approaching gale:--We

accordingly clued, reefed top-sails, and struck top-gallant-masts; and

having made all snug aloft, the ship weathered the night very


On the 13th the crew were employed in setting up the rigging, and

occasionally pumping, the ship having made much water during the

night. The gale increasing as the day advanced, occasioned the vessel

to make heavy rolls, by which an accident happened, which was near

doing much injury to the captain's cabin. A puncheon of rum, which was

lashed on the larboard side of the cabin, broke loose, a sudden jerk

having drawn assunder the cleats to which it was fastened. By its

velocity it stove in the state-rooms, and broke several utensils of

the cabin furniture. The writer of this, with much difficulty, escaped

with whole limbs; but not altogether unhurt, receiving a painful

bruise on the right foot: having, however, escaped from the cabin, the

people on deck were given to understand that the rum was broken loose.

The word rum soon attracted the sailor's attention, and this cask

being the ship's only stock, they were not tardy (as may be supposed)

in rendering their assistance to double lash, what they

anticipated--the delight, of frequently splicing the mainbrace

therewith during their voyage.

On the 14th the weather became moderate, and the crew were employed in

making good the stowage of the stores in the hold, which had given way

during the night;--shaking reefs out of the top-sails, getting up

top-gallant-masts and yards, and rigging out studding-sails. All hands

being now called to dinner, a bustle and confused noise took place on

deck. The captain (who was below) sent the writer of this to discover

the cause thereof, but before he could explain, a voice was crying out

in a most piteous and vociferous tone. The captain and chief mate

jumped on deck, and found the crew had got the cook laid on the

windlass, and were giving him a most severe cobbing with a flat piece

of his own fire wood. As soon as the captain had reached forward, he

was much exasperated with them for their precipitate conduct, in

punishing without his knowledge and permission, and having prohibited

such proceedings in future cases, he inquired the cause of their

grievance. The cook, it seems, having been served out fresh water to

dress vegetables for all hands, had inadvertently used it for some

other purpose, and boiled the greens in a copper of salt water, which

rendered them so intolerably tough, that they were not fit for use;

consequently the sailors had not their expected garnish, and a general

murmur taking place, the above punishment was inflicted.

A steady breeze ensuing, all sails filled and the ship made way, with

a lofty and majestic air; and at every plunge of her bows, which was

truly Dutch-built, rose a foam of no small appearance.

During four days the weather continued favorable, which flattered the

seamen with a speedy sight of land.

On the 19th we encountered a very violent gale, with an unusual heavy

sea:--The ship worked greatly, and took in much water through her

seams:--the pumps were kept frequently going. At mid-day, while the

crew were at dinner, a tremendous sea struck the ship right aft, which

tore in the cabin windows, upset the whole of the dinner, and nearly

drowned the captain, mate, and myself, who was at that time holding a

dish on the table, while the captain was busily employed in carving a

fine goose, which, much to our discomfiture, was entirely drenched by

the salt-water. Some of the coops were washed from the quarter-deck,

and several of the poultry destroyed.

In consequence of the vessel shipping so great a quantity of water,

the pumps were doubly manned, and soon gained on her. The gale had not

in the least abated during the night. The well was plumbed, and there

was found to be a sudden and alarming increase of water. The carpenter

was immediately ordered to examine the ship below, in order to find

the cause of the vessel's making so much water. His report was, she

being a very old vessel, her seams had considerably opened by her

laboring so much, therefore, could devise no means at present to

prevent the evil. He also reported, the mizen-mast to be in great


The heel of the mizen-mast being stepped between decks (a very unusual

case, but probably it was placed there in order to make more room for

stowage in the after-hold) was likely to work from its step, and

thereby might do considerable damage to the ship.

The captain now held a consultation with the officers, when it was

deemed expedient to cut the mast away without delay: this was

accordingly put into execution the following morning, as soon as the

day made its appearance. The necessary preparations having been made,

the carpenter began hewing at the mast, and quickly made a deep wound.

Some of the crew were stationed ready to cut away the stays and

lanyards, whilst the remaining part was anxiously watching the

momentary crash which was to ensue; the word being given to cut away

the weather-lanyards, as the ship gave a lee-lurch, the whole of the

wreck of the mast plunged, without further injury, into the ocean.

The weather still threatening a continuance, our principal employ was

at the pumps, which were kept continually going. The sea had now rose

to an alarming height, and frequently struck the vessel with great

violence. Towards the afternoon part of the starboard bulwark was

carried away by the shock of a heavy sea, which made the ship

broach-to, and before she could answer her helm again, a sea broke

through the fore-chains, and swept away the caboose and all its

utensils from the deck; fortunately for the cook he was assisting at

the pumps at the time, or he inevitably must have shared the same fate

as his galley.

Notwithstanding the exertions of the crew, the water gained fast, and

made its way into the hold, which washed a great quantity of the

ballast through the timber-holes into the hull, by which the suckers

of the pumps were much damaged, and thereby frequently choaked. By

such delays the leaks increased rapidly. We were under the necessity

of repeatedly hoisting the pumps on deck, to apply different means

which were devised to keep the sand from entering, but all our efforts

proved ineffectual, and the pumps were deemed of no further utility.

There was now no time to be lost; accordingly it was agreed that the

allowance of fresh water should be lessened to a pint a man; the casks

were immediately hoisted from the hold, and lashed between decks. As

the water was started from two of them, they were sawed in two, and

formed into buckets, there being no other casks on board fit for that

purpose; the whips were soon applied, and the hands began bailing at

the fore and after hatchways which continued without intermission the

whole of the night, each man being suffered to take one hour's rest,

in rotation.

The morning of the 22d presented to our view a most dreary aspect,--a

dismal horizon encircling--not the least appearance of the gale

abating--on the contrary, it seemed to come with redoubled vigor--the

ballast washing from side to side of the ship at each roll, and scarce

a prospect of freeing her. Notwithstanding these calamities, the crew

did not relax their efforts. The main-hatchway was opened and fresh

buckets went to work; the captain and mate alternately relieving each

other at the helm. The writer's station was to supply the crew with

grog, which was plentifully served to them every two hours. By the

motion of the ship the buckets struck against the combings of the

hatchways with great violence, and in casting them in the hold to

fill, they frequently struck on the floating pieces of timber which

were generally used as chocks in stowing the hold. By such accidents

the buckets were repeatedly stove, and we were under the necessity of

cutting more of the water casks to supply their place. Starting the

fresh water overboard was reluctantly done, particularly as we now

felt the loss of the caboose, and were under the necessity of eating

the meat raw which occasioned us to be very thirsty. Night coming on,

the crew were not allowed to go below to sleep; each man, when it came

to his turn, stretched himself on the deck.

Oct. 23. Notwithstanding the great quantity of water bailed from the

vessel, she gained so considerably that she had visibly settled much

deeper in the water. All hands were now called aft, in order to

consult on the best measures. It was now unanimously resolved to make

for the island of Bermudas, it being the nearest land. Accordingly we

bore away for it, but had not sailed many leagues before we found that

the great quantity of water in the vessel had impeded her steerage so

much that she would scarcely answer her helm; and making a very heavy

lurch, the ballast shifted, which gave her a great lift to the

starboard, and rendered it very difficult to keep a firm footing on

deck. The anchors which were stowed on the larboard bow were ordered

to be cut away, and the cables which were on the orlop deck to be hove

overboard in order to right her; but all this had a very trifling

effect, for the ship was now become quite a log.

The crew were still employed in baling; one of whom, in preventing a

bucket from being stove against the combings, let go his hold, and

fell down the hatchway; with great difficulty he escaped being drowned

or dashed against the ship's sides. Having got into a bucket which was

instantly lowered, he was providentially hoisted on deck without any


During the night the weather became more moderate, and on the

following morning, (Oct. 25), the gale had entirely subsided, but left

a very heavy swell. Two large whales approached close to the ship.

They sported around the vessel the whole of the day, and after dusk


Having now no further use of the helm, it was lashed down, and the

captain and mate took their spell at the buckets. My assistance having

been also required, a boy of less strength, whose previous business

was to attend the cook, now took my former station of serving the crew

with refreshments. This lad had not long filled his new situation of

drawing out rum from the cask, before he was tempted to taste it, and

which having repeatedly done he soon became intoxicated, and was

missed on deck for some time. I was sent to look for him. The spigot I

perceived out of the cask, and the liquor running about, but the boy I

could not see for some time; however looking down the lazeretto (the

trap-door of which was lying open), I found him fast asleep. He had

luckily fallen on some sails which were stowed there, or he must have


On the 26th and 27th of Oct. the weather continued quite clear, with

light baffling winds. A man was constantly kept aloft to look out for

a sail. The rest of the crew were employed at the whips.

On the 28th the weather began to lower, and appeared inclined for

rain. This gave some uneasiness, being apprehensive of a gale. The

captain therefore directed the carpenter to overhaul the long-boat,

caulk her, and raise a streak which orders were immediately complied

with; but when he went to his locker for oakum, he found it plundered

of nearly the whole of his stock--all hands were therefore set to

picking, by which means he was soon supplied.

It was totally clear on the 29th, with a fresh breeze, but the ship

heeled so much that her gunwale at times was under water, and the crew

could scarcely stand on deck. All hands were now ordered to assemble

aft, when the captain in a short address, pointed out the most

probable manner by which they could be saved. All agreed in opinion

with him, and it was resolved that the long-boat should be hoisted out

as speedily as possible, and such necessaries as could be conveniently

stowed, to be placed in her. Determined no longer to labor at the

buckets, the vessel, which could not remain above water many hours

after we had ceased baling, was now abandoned to her fate.

I now began to reflect on the small chance we had of being

saved--twenty-two people in an open boat--upwards of three hundred

miles from the land--in a boisterous climate, and the whole crew worn

out with fatigue! The palms of the crew's hands were already so flayed

it could not be expected that they could do much execution with the

oars--while thus reflecting on our perilous situation, one of our

oldest seamen, who at this moment was standing near me, turned his

head aside to wipe away a tear--I could not refrain from sympathizing

with him--my heart was already full;--the captain perceiving my

despondency bade me be of good cheer, and called me a young lubber.

The boat having been hoisted out, and such necessaries placed in her

as were deemed requisite, one of the hands was sent aloft to lash the

colors downwards to the main-top-mast shrouds; which having done, he

placed himself on the crosstrees, to look around him, and almost

instantly hallooed out,--"A sail."--It would be impossible to describe

the ecstatic emotions of the crew: every man was aloft, in order to be

satisfied; though, a minute before, not one of the crew was able to

stand upright.

The sail was on our weather-bow, bearing right down on us with a

smart breeze. She soon perceived us, but hauled her wind several

times, in order to examine our ship. As she approached nearer she

clearly perceived our calamitous situation, and hastened to our


She proved to be a Philadelphia schooner, bound to Cape Francois, in

St. Domingo. The captain took us all on board in the most humane and

friendly manner, and after casting our boat adrift, proceeded on his

voyage. When we perceived our ship from the vessel on which we were

now happily on board, her appearance was truly deplorable.

The captain of the schooner congratulated us on our fortunate escape,

and expressed his surprise that the ship should remain so long on her

beam ends, in such a heavy sea, without capsizing. We soon began to

distance the wreck, by this time very low in the water, and shortly

after lost sight of her.

The evening began to approach fast, when a man loosing the

main-top-sail, descried a sail directly in the same course on our

quarter. We made sail for her, and soon came within hail of her. She

proved to be a brig from Glasgow, bound to Antigua. It was now

determined, between the captains, that half of our people should

remain in the schooner, and the captain, mate, eight of the crew, and

myself, should get on board the brig. On our arrival at Antigua we met

with much kindness and humanity.

The Loss Of His Majesty's Ship Queen Charlotte The Loss Of The Ramillies In The Atlantic Ocean facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail