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In a pickle about a Pickle

My hypothesis on the origins of HMS Pickle of 1800:

Many questions remain as to the origins of the Schooner which carried the news of victory at Trafalgar and the death of Nelson back to England.  

Scenerio 1:

She may have been built in Plymouth as Sting allthough British built schooners where characterized at the time as a plague and bother to all who have them under their orders”, and no further evidence or documentation trail has been found as to Sting’s transformation into Pickle. I consider this a slightly less likely scenario, even though the lesser rake of her foremast, as depicted in Robert Dodd’s "Victory of Trafalgar in the Rear" and one of the few 'reliable' depictions we have of her, could indicate a British built vessel.

Scenario 2:

A schooner named Sting was seized at Curacao in September 1800. We do know that this 
vessel was purchased by Lord Hugh Seymour in January 1801 and subsequently renamed to Pickle. His request to the Admiralty to purchase the vessel is on record, including a denial for the request, which he promptly and completely ignored.

The United States was in a ‘quasi-war’ with France at the time and French privateers captured a substantial amount of American vessels, some put the numbers as high as 2000.

The Dutch Republic had more or less been annexed by Napoleon, and for a decade or so went by the name of the Batavian Republic. Officially the French and Dutch were allies, albeit with some reluctance.

The Dutch Island of Curacao was now a major privateering hub, the privateer Trois Amis is on record as having received a salute from the Dutch frigate Ceres while leaving port. She flew the familiar skull and cross-bones, illegal for any nation, at any time. Records exist of American prizes being brought into port, some of which remain nameless. Even the Dutch government sent a letter in 1800 instructing Curacao to stop this privateering (read pirating) nonsense, partly because of mounting American pressure.

In 1800, the French ‘allies’ attacked the Island of Curacao and the Dutch pleaded with ‘enemy’ Britain for help. The British promptly dispatched a frigate (Neirede), the Americans dispatched two. American and British marines landed, the French left and Curacao was now a British possession until the Island was returned to the Dutch in 1816.

And there she is, a schooner with a distinct English name Sting, ready to be seized. Not easily translated into French or Dutch. It stands to reason that she may have been one of the captured American vessels, since there is no Sting on record as being lost by the British, and Sting was quite a popular name for an American vessel. The ever pragmatic Dutch may well have stated the origins of Sting as Bermuda built, rather than further incriminate themselves and admit to being complicit to piracy.

American records are fairly poor for this time-period. America was a young and growing nation, more occupied with building thousands of schooners to expand trade than r a meticulous record of all those small vessels. Every Tom, Dick and Harry was busy building schooners in their backyard, so to speak. Records in the Americas as a whole are much more fragmented than they would have been in Europe during the same time period.

Nor is it completely unthinkable that a profitable deal was reached between the Captain of the Neirede and Lord Hugh Seymour. Power, Wealth and Influence is not often acquired by playing by the same rules mere mortals are required to obey. This argument may be strengthened by the fact that there’s missing links in the documentation trail, an absolute requirement for such an entrepreneurial transaction. It may also explain the Admiralty’s denial for the request, they may have been suspicious that something was not quite on the up and up.

Since schooners from the Americas had the reputation for speed, anecdotal references describing her as very fast lend further credibility to her origins as being from these regions. 

There is no concrete evidence that she was an American or Bermudian topsail schooner, and we may very well never know for certain where she was built. Unless we happen to stumble upon her wreck, making it at least possible to analyze the wood used in her construction. Even this may not give us a definitive answer. But until that day …. I do like this version much better ... yes … much.

For more about the current HMS Pickle on Facebook:
The Chronicles of H.M. Schooner Pickle
H.M.S Historic Motor and Sail

A List of Vessels in Curacao Harbour - September 13, 1800

Dutch Hooker Seven Brothers, Captain S. Salm.

Ship Hurora, Captain Lawson. An English Prize purchased by H. Leyer, and by him (as appears) sold to Thomas Thamp, a Danish Captain.

Brig Albion, no Captain. English Prize sold here.

Brig Two Friends, no Captain. Ditto.

Brig ----------, Captain Pakes. Lately from Guadaloupe, and purchased by Captain Pakes.

Dutch Sloop -----------, Captain William Martin.

Dutch Schooner Two Friends, Captain Dominick Brune.

Dutch Schooner Charming Maria, Captain William Fornie.

Dutch Schooner Amable Elionora; Captain Curpar Fornie.

Dutch Schooner Nostra Senora del Carmen, Captain Domingo Neives.

Schooner -----------, Captain William Martin. To all Appearances French.

Schooner Droghan -----------, Captain Nicholas de Young. Ditto.

Schooner Droghan Fery, Captain Andries Manco. Ditto.

Schooner Droghan  -----------, Captain Allons. Ditto.

Sloop Droghan -----------, Captain Jurian Ras. Ditto.

Sloop Senora Raphael, Captain Pallay. Ditto.

French Schooner Santa Maria, Captain Ja Jesuirin.

A French Schooner -----------, from Guadaloupe, with Joubert's Family.

French Schooner Nancy, Captain Due.

A French Privateer Sloop -----------, in Government Service.

Spanish Schooner Sophia, Captain Ariaygo.

Spanish Schooner Nostra Senora del Carmen, Captain Juan Dominaque.

Spanish Sloop Nostra Senora del Rosario, Captain Manuel Guillemin.

Spanish Schooner Nostra Senora del Carmen, Captain Felix de Artiage.

Spanish Schooner San Francisco de Panler, Captain Francisco Hernandel.

Spanish Sloop Nostra Senora del Carmen, Captain Joseph J. Carillo.

Spanish Sloop Nostra Senora del Carmen, Captain Sebastian Orgisa.

Schooner La Conception, Captain Pedro Blanco. In Government Service.

American Schooner Jusitha, Captain George Vincent.

American Brig Zilpha; Captain John Stran.

American Brig Sally, Captain William Hampton.

American. Schooner Atalanta, Captain William Holland.

American Schooner Polly, Captain Samuel Gour.

American Schooner Determined Rover, Captain Hamper.

American Cutter Crocodile, Captain William Cook. Stranded.

Schooner Maria, Captain David Gammel. In Government Service.

Danish Sloop Maria, Captain Antoine Simon.

Danish Schooner Good Intentie, Captain Philip Rodriguch.

Danish Schooner Experiment, Captain Jos. Carl. Rinoe.

Danish Schooner D'Vrow Sara, Captain Joh. d'Hoyer.

Danish Schooner Mary, Captain Jos. Symmons.

Danish Schooner Nymph, Captain Pierre Aubert.

Danish Sloop Mary, Captain Francies Boramie.

Danish Schooner Concordia, Captain Jacobus Grisson.

This post first appeared on The Art Of Age Of Sail - Engineering History, please read the originial post: here

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In a pickle about a Pickle


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