Don’t believe everything you read…

April 21, 2016 by · Leave a Comment 

Blog-4-25-2016-TimThe Pennsylvania Packet issue of November 22, 1785 contains a curious report which puzzled me, for although admitting my knowledge of American history is far from where it should be, I do not recall reading of Ben Franklin being captured by Barbary pirates upon his return from France as Ambassador.

Page 2 of this newspaper has a letter from Captain Thomas Truxtun, later of Constellation fame, dated August 20, 1785 from Algiers–with Ben Franklin as a passenger no less–mentions an encounter with Barbary pirates: “…Our being entirely unprepared for such an attack, put it out of our power to make resistance, & after sending sufficient men on board to navigate the ship they put the whole of the crew and myself in heavy irons & bore away for this place…to suffer the cruel infliction of slavery, and God only know whether I shall ever have an opportunity of seeing or writing to you again. Poor Doctor Franklin bears this reverse of fortune with more magnanimity than I could have imagined.”

Ben Franklin taken away in irons? Really??

I turned to our friend/long-term customer/naval expert George Emery for some explanation of this report. He relates that in Eugene Ferguson’s biography of Trustun, “Truxtun of the Constellation” (1956) he mentions this rumor while explaining Truxtun’s decision to arm the London Packet (to be renamed the Canton) for a forthcoming voyage to China. And the source of this rumor was this very newspaper: the Pa. Packet of Nov. 22, 1785. Apparently some enterprising reporter, “confusing ” Truxtun’s reasoning for arming the Canton to rewrite the “future” as a scary & perilous event of the past, all–perhaps–to sell more copies of the newspaper. Or perhaps Truxtun himself was responsible for this letter’s presence in the Pennsylvania Packet to bolster support for arming American merchant vessels then sailing to Europe, and particularly the Mediterranean.

Ferguson goes on to mention in his book: “…while he was yet bringing Franklin home during the last voyage, it was rumored in London that Captain Truxtun’s ship had been captured by the Barbary corsairs and that all aboard, including the great Franklin, were consigned to slavery in Algiers…”.

The capture never happened.

The Traveler… USS Constitution defeats HMS Java… River Raisin…

February 18, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

This week I traveled to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, by way of the Aurora dated February 19, 1813. Here I found the report of “Another Naval Victory!” being reported “… On the 29th of December, off St. Salvadore, the Constitution, capt. Bainbridge, fell in with the British frigate Java, of 38 guns (mounting 49) and 400 men. After an action of one hour and forty-five minutes, the Java struck, with the loss of 60 killed and 170 wounded. The Constitution had 9 killed and 25 wounded… The Java was so much damaged in action, that it was deemed impossible to fetch her in, and by order of captain Bainbridge she was burnt…”.

Also in this issue was the report of the battle at river Raisin, including the killing (scalping) of General Winchester and the further mutilation of his body. It is so hard to imagine what they went through in those battles. So much for nostalgia.

~The Traveler

The Traveler…Frigate President makes a capture… newspaper proposal…

November 19, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

Today I traveled through Boston, Massachusetts, by way of the Independent Chronicle dated November 19, 1812, where I found an Official report from John Rodgers. The U. S. Frigate President had captured the British Packet Swallow and the rank of the commander of the vessel being the master and commander in the navy. “… She had no cargo in, except eighty-one boxes of gold and silver, amounting to between one hundred and fifty and two hundred thousand dollars…”. I would say that was a pretty nice cargo!

Also within the issue was the proposal of a new newspaper, that being the Baltimore Patriot. In slightly less than two years, this publication would be the first newspaper to publish The Star-Spangled Banner on September 20, 1814 (Note: Just for an FYI, it appeared within a week in a Washington, DC paper as well).

~The Traveler