Ex-American privateer of the War of 1812 for the Sardinian Navy

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    Aldo Antonicelli

    In July 1816, the Royal Sardinian Navy purchased the English ship Sherbrooke, which had arrived at the port of Genoa in June and was for sale. She was renamed Zeffiro.
    At the Archivio di Stato (Public Record Office) I located a few documents related to the Sherbrooke and her prior history.
    A letter written by the Commander in Chief of the Sardinian Navy, Admiral des Geneys, to the minister of War and Navy, stated that the ship – which was referred to as a ‘schooner brig’ (misspelled as ‘shoner brik’ or ‘schonner’ and whose name was also alternatively misspelled as ‘Sherbrok’ or ‘Sherbrook’)- was originally built as a privateer and had sailed under the ‘American flag’ until she was captured by an English frigate.
    She was for sale because ‘…having been built for war…’ she was too expensive to sail, requiring a large crew and having too small a hold capacity for her tonnage. She had 16 gun ports, 8 to a side, but at the time she was armed only with four 12pd carronades, and an 18pd [long] gun mounted on a pivot carriage placed on the centreline forward of the main mast.
    A copy of a letter written by the Custom Office of Port Saint George in the Bermudas and dated 14 June 1815, certified that her owner was John Dougan, a merchant of the same town, and that the Sherbrooke was:
    ‘… a prize condemned in the Court of Vice-Admiralty at Halifax on the 16 August 1814 and sold for the sum of £2475 Halifax currency, as appears by a former Certificate of Registry N° 106 granted at the Port of Halifax Nova Scotia on the second day of June last past (2/6/1815) now delivered up and cancelled, the property being changed to this Port….’

    The letter gave dimensions of the ship:
    length 86feet 4in.
    breath 23feet and 6in.
    height of hold 10feet and 10in.
    205 tons
    and stated that she was ‘a square stern Brig’, and stated that the brig had been duly registered at the port of Bermuda.
    Having in mind to write a short article about the Zeffiro, I am looking for information about her former identity as an American [ie, US] privateer.
    I have perused the web and found in a website called Wapedia: URL http://wapedia.mobi/en/Sherbrooke_(Barbados)
    that in the war of 1812 there were at least three Canadian privateers which bore the name Sherbrooke.
    The more likely candidate appears to be the [US} American privateer brig Henry Guilder (or Henry Gilder), which was captured on 12 July 1814 by the British frigate Niemen. The dimensions and the armament given matches almost exactly those stated by the Custom House and the Sardinian Admiralty; I quote from the website:
    ‘…James Caven, a Barbados merchant, purchased Henry Guilder for ₤2,475 at the prize court’s auction at Halifax on 16 August 1814. He had her commissioned on 27 August under the name Sherbrooke… In April, three months after the end of the war, Thomas Nelson Jeffrey, Collector of Customs at Halifax, seized Sherbrooke, citing technicalities under three old laws. Caven protested, but the Court ruled against him and Sherbrooke was condemned and confiscated…’

    All the details match, but I am still missing what happened to Sherbrooke after having been confiscated: it seems that she may have been sold to the Bermudan merchant John Dougan.
    Could any member provide more information about the Sherbrooke – ex Henry Guilder – or indicate where I can search for them?

    Aldo Antonicelli

    After my original post, I have located more information about the [vessel known at various time as] Sherbrooke / Zeffiro.

    At the time of the war of 1812, it appears that there where at least three ships named after Sir John Sherbrooke, the then Governor of Nova Scotia; all of them where privateers. Quoting from C H J Snider’s book Under the Red Jack: privateers of the maritime provinces of Canada in the war of 1812, London 1928, they were:
    ‘Brig Sir John Sherbrooke of St. John, 187 tons, ten guns, thirty men. Thos. Robson master. Commissioned November 27th, 1812.
    Brig Sir John Sherbrooke of Halifax, 278 tons, eighteen guns, 150 men. Commissioned February 11th, 1813.
    Brig Sherbrooke of Barbados, 205 tons, eleven guns, sixteen men, commissioned at Halifax, August 27th, 1814. Owned by James Caven, Barbados, Master, Wm. Cocken. Formerly the Henry Guilder, captured privateer.’
    The Henry Guilder (or ‘Gilder’ as it is called in various papers of the time) had taken only one British prize, the Young Farmer, with a valuable cargo of indigo; she was in her turn taken on 12 July 1814 by the British frigate Niemen [38], Capt. Pym, who in his despatch dated ’14th July, at sea’, reported to have captured ‘…after a chase of 14 hours, the Henry Gilder American privateer, of 12 guns and 50 men…’; this was reported in The Gentleman Magazine and Historical Chronicle, vol. 84, 2nd part, London 1814, page 474.
    On August 27th, Caven, which had bought her at the prize-court auction, got a commission for his new ship and rechristened her Sherbrooke.
    The Sherbrooke was confiscated because in her only commercial trip from Barbados to Halifax, she had carried a flour cargo [in contravention of the Molasses Act 1733]; as she had not yet been registered by Caven under the British flag, she was deemed to be a ‘foreign-built vessel’, and old laws (2nd Navigation Act 1660] prohibited imports or exports [from British colonies] in foreign-built ships.
    After having been bought by the Sardinian Navy, the vessel was renamed Zeffiro (‘Zephyr’), and was refitted and rearmed. According to a 1821 document the ship was armed with 16 guns (type and calibre unknown); the total complement of the gun crews was 27 men in peacetime and 35 in wartime.
    The Zeffiro’s first mission was to convey the Sardinian envoys to the North African States of Tripoli and Tunis, a mission which was of some importance for the Government because it was the first opportunity it had of ‘showing the flag’ after the Restoration of the Savoia dynasty.
    After that, the Zeffiro went on to do a long and useful even if unglamorous and uneventful service. She was often used to transport mail and passengers (army personnel or government officers) to and from Sardinia; in 1819 she carried a large sum [of money] to Cagliari.
    On 3 March, 1841 after a particularly rough passage from Cagliari, she was deemed badly in need of a thorough refit. After a detailed survey, it was found that the cost of refitting her would have been greater than that of building a new ship, so the decision was taken to break her up, after 25 years of service, more than four times the Zeffiro‘s originally expected span of life.

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