Bibliography Texts

Capture of the George Howland


These three reports appeared in the New York Times on the dates indicated. None of these reports give the name of Manuel Briones, the leader of the group. See Jacob Lundh's “Briones the Pirate” for a complete account of the incident.

May 10, 1852, p. 1

The Capture of the George Howland.— A letter is published by the New-Bedford Mercury, from Wm. B. Peacock, cooper of the whaleship George Howland of that port, giving particulars of the capture of that vessel by the convicts at Gallipagos Islands. From it we gather that the vessel arrived at Charles Island on the 2d March, when the Captain and part of his crew went ashore to get a supply of wood and water, for which he made an arrangement with 18 or 20 convicts who were endeavoring to make their escape. In part return for their assistance apparently, Capt. C. [Samuel H. Cromwell] gave Mr. Peacock permission to repair an old whale-boat in possession of the convicts. The next day part of the crew having deserted, Capt. C. on the 4th, promised the convicts a supply of provisions sufficient to enable them to reach the coast, on condition that they should retake and deliver up the deserters. Soon after, they brought home two of the men, who were taken on board together, with one of the convicts and a Frenchman found on the Island—the convicts promising to catch the other deserters the next day. The report says:

On the morning of the 5th, Mr. Peacock accompanied Capt. C. on shore and with Mr. Milliken resumed their repairs on the boat, while Capt. C. was engaged in conversation with the natives; when Mr. P's attention was arrested on hearing the Captain exclaim “What for,” “What for?” Mr. P. ran to his assistance and found the convicts had seized and tied Capt. C. and his boat's crew. The convicts ordered Peacock and Milliken to complete the repair of the boat or they would cut their throats. The convicts then put up the white flag as a signal, and in a few minutes the second mate and five seamen came from the ship, and immediately on their reaching the shore they were seized by the convicts and tied, and together with their fellow prisoners secured in a building at a short distance from the beach. The convicts again made signal to the ship, when the chief mate approached to within a short distance of the shore in a boat, when Capt. C. called to him telling him that unless he landed the convicts would take his (Capt. C's) life—but that he might land or not as he chose. After a short hesitation the mate decided to go on shore, when he with the crew were seized by the convicts, tied, and the mate was laid upon the ground and flogged with a rope, and then secured in the house.

The convicts then ordered Mr. Peacock to get into the boat with five of their men, threatening to shoot him if he made opposition. Before reaching the ship all the crew who had remained on board, apprehending danger, lowered the boat and made their escape, notwithstanding that they were pursued by a boat manned by convicts from the shore. On reaching the ship the convicts commenced drinking, and breaking open trunks in search of money. During the night the rest of the convicts came on board, bringing with them Mr. Albert, 2d mate, J. McClinthan, E. MILLIKEN, two Kanakas, and three Portuguese, making in all ten of the ship's company, whom the convicts (the Frenchman acting as their captain) ordered to heave up the anchor, and get under weigh for Chatham Island. Mr. Albert said they had not killed the captain or any one belonging to the ship. Mr. Albert was commanded to paint the ship black, and had nearly completed the starboard side when he contrived to make his escape with several others in a boat— Mr. PEACOCK, MCCLINTHAN, and a Kanaka being the only persons of the ship's crew then remaining on board. On nearing Chatham Island, the convicts lay off and on, going on shore with boats, committing pillage and murder; and bringing on board ten Spaniards, five of whom they shot in the night after they had been on board three days. Mr. Peacock, in consequence of an intimation from the Frenchman, that the convicts intended to kill him, secreted himself in the lower hold, between the fore and main hatches, where he remained seventeen days, with no other food than black fish scraps and water, the convicts making constant search for him during nine days, and finally concluding that he must have perished from starvation. The ship was off Tumbez some days, and then put into Guayaquil River, where the convicts becoming alarmed, Mr. P. heard the Frenchman order the anchor and topsail halyards to be let go; and they then lowered the boats, taking every one with them at about noon. After they had been gone about fifteen minutes, Mr. Peacock went on deck, finding his strength almost entirely prostrated, and procured refreshments. After 4 o'clock P. M., he discovered two ships at a great distance, and the next morning the ships being still in sight, he set the American ensign at half mast, union down, where it remained until 4 P. M., when despairing of assistance he took it down and set it forward. At about dark the George Howland was boarded by a boat from the Swedish frigate Eugenia, which took charge of the ship and carried her to Guayaquil, and after a few days gave her up to the American Consul. Mr. P. adds : The Swedes stole and destroyed about as much as the Spaniards. The ship is not injured, and probably $3,000 would pay for all they took and destroyed. If the captain and officers come soon, we may yet make a saving voyage.

October 14, 1852, p. 1

Rescue of the Missing Portion of the Crew of the Ship George Howland—A letter from Mr. Shubael P. Edwards, second officer of the ship Susan, Capt. Howland, of New-Bedford, dated at Payata [sic Payta], Sept. 11, states that a short time previous, they touched at the Island of Albemarle, one of the Gallipagos group, where they found five of the crew of the George Howland, of New-Bedford, which, with three others, succeeded in escaping from the convicts at the time of the capture of the George Howland, as before stated. They had been five months upon the Island, subsisting upon terrapin and water only. Three of the number died, including the steward and cabin boy of the ship, and a Spanish seaman. The survivors were taken on board the Susan. Their names are William Maxfield, William Tillinson and Alfred Peabody, American seamen, Jose Francis, boat-steerer, and the cook, both Portuguese.

October 30, 1852, p. 8

A Broken Voyage.—The whaleship George Howland, Capt. Cromwell, which was captured by convicts at the Gallipagos Islands on the 3d of March last, returned to this port yesterday. Tbe circumstances of her capture and escape are probably fresh in the recollection of our readers. Ten of the crew were retained on board by the convicts to work the ship to the coast, seven of whom subsequently effected their escape—the remainder being left at Charles Island. Mr. Wm. B. Peacock, cooper, and two of the crew remained on board, and the convicts after perpetrating several murders and robberies on shore, put away for tbe coast. Mr. Peacock secreted himself in the lower hold among casks, where be remained seventeen daya, subsisting upon whale scraps, until the arrival of tbe vessel at Tumbez, and the desertion of tbe convicts.

Capt. Cromwell, Mr. Peacock, and two of the officers, are the only persons of tbe original ship's company that have returned. Of those of the crew left upon the island, and those who had escaped from the ship after she had fallen into the hands of tbe convicts, we believe all have been reported safe except three, who died of starvation and exposure, as before published. Captain Cromwell and a portion of the crew were taken off from Charles Island by the Congaree, and another portion by the Susan, both of this port.

Tbe Congaree was boarded by Capt. Cromwell, when five miles distant from Charles Island, by means of an oil cask sawed in two, one part of which was made to anawer the purpose of a boat, in which Capt. C. alone paddled off to the ship.

Capt. Cromwell found it impossible to procure a new crew and outfits, and was therefore compelled to abandon the voyage and return home with his vessel.—New Bedford Mercury.