Sunday, August 10, 2014

Capt Samuel Samuels and the Clipper Ship The Dreadnought

Captain Samuel Samuels seaman, born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 14 March, 1825. He came to Newburyport to oversee the building of his new command "The Dreadnought " built by Currier and Townsend, became the most famous Liverpool packet-ship, and was the only clipper to have a chanty composed in her special honor. Samuels was "unexcelled as a driver of men and vessels, commanded this "saucy, wild packet" for almost seventy passages across the Atlantic, in which she made several eastward runs under fourteen days." The Maritime History of Massachusetts, 1783-1860 By Samuel Eliot Morison
From The Flavor of Old Sea Days Sunday, May 24, 1908 Springfield Republican (Springfield, MA)
CLIPPER SHIP. "DREADNOUGHT From Springfield Museums

During the era of the clipper ships many of the most noted were, built in Newburyport, including the "Racer," "Highflyer" and "Dreadnought." The most famous of all these was the "Dreadnought," nicknamed "The Wild Boat of the Atlantic." She was built in 1853 by Currier and Townsend and was of fourteen hundred and thirteen tons register and two hundred and ten feet in length, being owned by David Ogden and others of New York. (After a short career the "Dreadnought" was wrecked off Cape Horn in 1869) She was commanded by Captain Samuel Samuels who is authority for the statement that she was never passed in anything over a four-knot breeze.

A rare photograph of the Currier and Townsend shipyard at the foot of Ashland Street. Maritime History of the Merrimac - Shipbuilding by Robert K. Cheney. From Clipper Heritage Trail

This ship was employed largely as a packet between New York and Liverpool, making some sixty to seventy passages across the Atlantic. Her best run was to the eastward. February 27 - March 12, 1859, in thirteen days, eight hours, being within seven hours of the fastest record of a sailing ship, made by the "Red Jacket" in 1854.* The "Dreadnought" has been credited with a much shorter passage but it is difficult to substantiate this claim and in his history of the ship contained in "From the Forecastle to the Cabin," Captain Samuels does not mention such a voyage but particularly refers to the above mentioned run of thirteen days, eight hours.

                                                             Setting Sail from PEM 

Article: From The Dreadnought of Newburyport, Massachusetts: and some account of the old transatlantic packet-ships by Francis Boardman Crowninshield Bradlee

The maritime history of Newburyport, Massachusetts, has never yet been adequately written. Many famous vessels were owned and sailed from this old Essex County city, but not a few ships were also built in Newburyport for Boston and New York merchants, and among the best known of these was the "Dreadnought," built by Currier and Townsend in 1853, and afterwards celebrated for making the shortest passage across the Atlantic ever accomplished by a sailing vessel, nine days and seventeen hours, from Sandy Hook to the pilot-boat off Queenstown, Ireland.
At this period the transatlantic carrying trade, both passenger and freight, was, and had been for many years, controlled by American packet-ships, as the regular sailing liners were called, and three out of the five lines of steamers then existing were also under the American flag. The "Dreadnought" was built for the Red Cross line of New York and Liverpool packets owned by Governor E. D. Morgan, Francis B. Cutting, David Ogden and others of New York; she measured 1400 tons register, 200 feet long, 39 feet beam, and 26 feet depth of hold, and was commanded by Capt. Samuel Samuels, who became quite as famous as his ship. She was launched in the presence of a large concourse of people October 6, 1853, from the yard at the foot of Ashland street, and on the third day of November following left for New York in tow of the steam-tug "Leviathan."
Gov Edward Denison Morgan (February 8, 1811 – February 14, 1883)
                        
 
Hon Francis Brockholst Cutting (August 6, 1804 – June 26, 1870)
      

By the sailors the "Dreadnought" was named "the Wild Boat of the Atlantic" she was what might be termed a semi-clipper, and possessed the merit of being able to bear driving as long as her sails and spars would stand. It is understood that her builders also designed her, and so deserved the greatest credit, as well for her model and fine lines as for the strength and solidity of her hull, which was constructed principally of white oak and yellow pine. Twice the "Dreadnought" carried the latest news to Europe, slipping in between the steamers; she was naturally a favorite among the traveling public, and her cabin accommodations were usually engaged a season in advance. On her westward voyages she carried large numbers of emigrants. At one time goods shipped by the "Dreadnought" were guaranteed delivery within a certain time, or freight charges would be forfeited.
In February, 1854, her first voyage westward she crossed the bar in the river Mersey the day after the Cunard steamer "Canada" sailed for Boston, and when the news of her arrival reached New York the "Dreadnought" was reported off the Highlands of New Jersey. Her best passages were as follows:
  • New York to Liverpool, December, 1853, 24 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, February, 1854, 19 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, April, 1854, 18 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, June, 1854, 26 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, August, 1854, 80 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, October, 1854, 29 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, December, 1854, 13 days, 11 hours.
  • New York to Liverpool, February, 1856, 15,days.
  • New York to Liverpool, May, 1856, 16 days.
  • Liverpool to New York, February, 1857, 21 days.
  • New York to Liverpool, March, 1859, 13 days, 9 hours.
When one takes into consideration the fickleness of the elements and the prevalence of westerly gales in the north Atlantic ocean, the rapidity and especially the regularity of the "Dreadnought's" trips are wonderful. Capt. Samuels, in his interesting autobiography, "From the Forecastle to the Cabin," attributed his success to good discipline and to forcing the ship at night as well as during the day. "Night," he says, "is the best time to try the nerve and make quick passages. The best ship masters that I had sailed with were those who were most on deck after dark, and relied upon nobody but themselves to carry canvas. The expert sailor knows exactly how long his sails and spars will stand the strain, the lubber does not, and therefore is apt to lose both." It may be noted in passing that the "Dreadnought" carried the old-fashioned single topsails that in themselves "held a whole gale of wind," requiring to reef each one a whole watch, as a division of the crew is called.

 Alex Bellinger at the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport
Until after the death of Captain Samuels in 1908, no doubt had ever been expressed as to the rapidity of the "Dreadnought's" record trip of nine days and seventeen hours from land to land. Unfortunately in the last few years a small coterie in New York, jealous of Captain Samuels' success, have endeavored, with no real foundation of fact, to deny that the fast passage of 1859 ever took place. The author has investigated the case with the greatest care, and the result as here stated speaks for itself and proves, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the fastest voyage across the Atlantic ocean ever made by a sailing ship was by the "Dreadnought," in nine days and seventeen hours, from Sandy Hook to the pilot-boat off Queenstown harbor, in March, 1859. Some excuse is due the reader for the minuteness and repetition with which the case is stated, but those on the other side have worked with such energy to prove the record a myth, that the author thinks it is due the memory of Captain Samuels and the American merchant marine generally to clear up beyond doubt the facts of the "Dreadnought's" most celebrated voyage. In his "History of the New York Ship Yards," page 141, John H. Morrison says: The log book of the "Dreadnought" containing the record of this famous voyage of March, 1859, is not in existence, so far as known to the descendants of David Ogden (the agent of the Red Cross line). Captain Samuels informed the writer that on this voyage he ran the vessel to Daunt's Rock, communicated with the pilot-boat on the station at the mouth of Cork harbor (Queenstown), and proceeded on his way to Liverpool after a very short stop. The vessel left New York harbor with a high northeast wind, but about twelve hours later this was succeeded by a high northwesterly wind on the North Atlantic coast. An examination of the reports of vessels arriving at New York from Great Britain after the "Dreadnought" sailed from New York on February 27, 1859, till the day of her call oft Cork harbor, show us that there was a succession of heavy westerly gales during the whole period . . . this favorable condition for a fast eastern passage continued to the time of the stop off Queenstown, but leaving there the "Dreadnought" encountered light head winds, and arrived at Liverpool on March 13, according to the London Times. In response to an inquiry by Mr. Morrison while he was compiling his above mentioned book, Capt. Samuels dictated to his daughter the following letter: 194 Clinton street (Brooklyn), April 2, 1908. Dear Mr. Morrison: You ask me for the record voyage of the "Dreadnought." We discharged the pilot at 3 P. M., Feb. 27, 1859, off Sandy Hook. We were off Queenstown at the end of nine days, seventeen hours, when we sent our mails ashore by a Cork pilot boat.2 The wind then became variable and died down. In thirteen days, eight hours, we were abreast the Northwest Lightship at Liverpool, and one hour later anchored in the Mersey, March 12, noon. The following will give an idea of the character of the ship and the time she made, including the above. In 1854 she made the same passage in thirteen days, eleven hours, and six times in succession under sixteen days, including one run of fourteen days and one of fifteen days.
Yours, S. S.



US Naval Institute Review
Newburyport Clipper Ship Museum
The World Renowned A No.1 Clipper Ship "Dreadnought" Wm. T. Coleman & Co.

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for your response. I look forward to the additional information you have gathered on the Dreadnought.

    ReplyDelete