Please select your home edition
Edition
T Clewring J-class

The schooner Conquest, shrouded in secrecy and mystery

by Jay Underwood on 14 Jan 2013
The vessel America under sail . ©
When the four mutineers of the ship Saladin were hung for piracy in Halifax in 1844, Nova Scotians might well have thought they had seen the last of the seafaring criminals to sail in their waters … but another vessel might well have attempted to carry on the tradition of Captain Kidd or Edward 'Ned' Jordan, the Nova Scotia mariner who raided ships from 1794-1809.

The story of the schooner Conquest is one shrouded in secrecy and mystery, caused largely by the loss of both the ship and its crew, which included ten men from Halifax, in 1883. First mate William Hilchey, second mate Fred Hilchey, cooper Joseph Matthews, and seamen John Spicer, John Carrigan, James Deady, John Purcell, David Fraser, Edmund Little and P. Byrnes, may all have gotten more than they bargained for when the signed up to sail with Captain John Esmond on August 15th of 1882.

Even the ship’s genesis is a matter of speculation. Built either at Aylesford, Nova Scotia in 1858 (hull number 37920, 91 tons) or Maitland, Nova Scotia in 1841 (hull number 9004978, 107 tons), Conquest had been used for fishing off Newfoundland when she ran ashore and lay abandoned there until purchased for $100, by George E. Forsyth & Co. and put back into service. Forsythe sold the ship in 1882 to Captain F. Tarr of Gloucester, Massachusetts, who was said to be the agent of Gen. Benjamin Butler, the Union Civil War hero who had just then become governor of the state.

Butler is an unlovable historical figure, despite his heroics in the Civil War. Chester Hearn wrote in his 1997 biography that the general died in 1893 leaving an estate worth more than seven million dollars, and questions about how he came into such a fortune. It is Hearn who suggests that while Butler was a student in the Lowell, Mass., high school, he developed a habit of stealing from classmates — a practice that followed him all of his life. Part of that estate included the yacht America, the ship that gave its name to the celebrated transatlantic race, and played a part in the strange story of Conquest.

Capt. Tarr took Conquest to Halifax, and began refitting the ship, purportedly for an Antarctic whaling expedition. It was at this point that rumours began to swirl.

Described by the Toronto Daily Mail of Aug. 17, 1882 as a 'a gloomy, black, piratical looking craft, with extraordinarily high bulwarks for a vessel of her size,' the ship was well suited to carrying guns, a large number of which had recently been delivered in Halifax. Enough stores for 'thirty or forty men for nine months' were taken aboard, in spite of the rumour the ship was said to have sailed with only the captain and two boys aboard.

The Halifax Recorder of March 21st 1891 suggested Butler’s yacht America had sailed from Halifax two days before Conquest, and there had been a meeting at sea, when the 10 Halifax men and others went aboard.

Despite Tarr’s claim, it was suggested Conquest had been headed for Cuba for a 'filibustering expedition,' but the clearing papers showed it was bound for Port Crockett, on the Island of Madagascar. There was, however, no such port on the island east of Africa, and a new story was advanced by the Recorder:

'Some time previous to 1882, a Newfoundland captain was engaged in a trading voyage to the South Pacific, loaded with a rich cargo of oil, etc., was cast away on a desolation island in the South Pacific and he was the only man saved, it is said. He succeeded, so the story goes, in having a large part of the cargo, amounting to between $20,000 and $30,000 worth. At last he was picked up by a passing vessel and brought home. He did not forget the wealth he had left behind, however, and he interested a number of Gloucester shipping men in a project to fit out a vessel to the Southern sea and recover it. Gen. Ben Butler was also interested, and it was he who advanced the necessary cash. Capt. Tarr of Gloucester came to Halifax in search of a suitable craft for the work, The schooner '‘Conquest' was purchased, amply provisioned and fitted out, and put in command of Capt. John Esmond, the man with whom the secret lay as to the whereabouts and the extent of the booty.'

Read more | http://thechronicleherald.ca/thenovascotian/421506-the-mystery-of-conquest
Naiad/Oracle Supplierupffront 660x82InSunSport - NZ

Related Articles

Clipper Race – Constant trimming and little sleep in the North Sea
There is little opportunity for tactical moves and the timings of tacks are crucial if teams want to make vital gains. After a downwind start with spinnakers trimmed in light airs against the tide off Den Helder on the Dutch coast yesterday, the fleet has been match racing across the North Sea towards the Thames Estuary.
Posted today at 12:28 pm
Edgartown Race Week - Overall report
Four races were held today, in nine - twelve knots from the southwest for the IRC fleet. This is the third leg of the east coast IRC summer series. Four races were held today, in nine - twelve knots from the southwest for the IRC fleet. The three TP52’s had hard fought battles as usual.
Posted today at 6:35 am
Conch Republic Cup - More than just a race to Cuba
When relations between U.S. and Cuba were restored in 2015, Conch Republic Cup was resurrected after a 13-year hiatus. When diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba were restored in 2015, the Conch Republic Cup was resurrected after a forced 13-year hiatus.
Posted today at 6:02 am
Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup - Lone bullets for the Brits
Despite three more inshore races being held on day five France Blue leads with a similar 11.5 point margin to yesterday 2016 Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup - Despite three more inshore races being held on day five of the Brewin Dolphin Commodores' Cup, the Royal Ocean Racing Club's biennial flagship event for three boat teams with Corinthian crews, France Blue leads with a similar 11.5 point margin to yesterday, but Flanders North Sea is now the team that has relieved France White of second place overall.
Posted today at 2:10 am
Supermaxi Scallywag has her first outing on Sydney Harbour
Scallywag is a 100' Super Maxi Yacht (ex Ragamuffin 100) owned by a HongKong Business man. Scallywag is a 100' Super Maxi Yacht (ex Ragamuffin 100) owned by a HongKong Business man. Yesterday the boat took it first sail on Sydney Harbour in preparation for this weekend's start of the CYCA Land Rover Sydney to Gold Coast Yacht Race
Posted on 28 Jul
Extreme Sailing Series– Oman Air sneak early lead despite bump on nose
Hamburg’s River Elbe in the HafenCity area was transformed into the ultimate test in Stadium Racing today Hamburg’s River Elbe in the HafenCity area was transformed into the ultimate test in Stadium Racing today, with the narrow river, passing traffic, high walls, shifty light winds and strong currents challenging the fleet on the opening day
Posted on 28 Jul
52 Super Series – Puerto Portals Week – Quantum Racing top of the pops
Quantum Racing stand on the threshold of their third regatta win of the season after sailing to their fourth win today. The Bay of Palma lived up to its one way traffic reputation for most of the time. The risk-reward equation for those pressing for the pin end launch was high. But significantly both of today’s race winners – Quantum Racing and Bronenosec– favoured the lower risk mid line starts where they had a better chance of coming away from the gun at maximum speed by staying clear of the jousting and jostling
Posted on 28 Jul
Debriefing the 2015-16 Clipper Round The World Race with Huw Fernie
Sail-World talked with Huw Fernie of Visit Seattle to learn more about a Clipper Round The World Race skipper’s life. Skipper Huw Fernie and his Visit Seattle crew took top honors in the Den Helder Northern Seas Challenge, marking their second podium finish during the 2015/16 Clipper Round The World Race. I recently caught up with Fernie to learn more about Visit Seattle’s success in the Den Helder Northern Seas Challenge, and to learn more about the life of a Clipper Round The World Race skipper.
Posted on 28 Jul
Oman Air quick to master light airs on Day 1 of Extreme Sailing Series
Last year’s wild and gusty winds gave way to light simmering airs but the Oman Sail was quick to master the conditions. The compact River Elbe race course, bordered on all sides by cargo containers and all the handling equipment associated with one of the busiest ports in the world, was expected to be tricky for the GC32 fleet even though the race area had been expanded.
Posted on 28 Jul
Finale of Clipper Race global series starts in The Netherlands
The 198nm race to London is going to be one of the most nail-biting yet with just six points separating the top teams After a Departure Ceremony from Willemsoord Marina and a Parade of Sail in the presence of Dutch Royal Navy ship ZrMs Luymes, the fleet started the final short sprint to London off the Dutch coast.
Posted on 28 Jul