Post War Settlement
Relation of the loss of the Martha Transport
On the 23rd September 1783, 4 oClock in the Morning, the transport ship Martha, [blank] WILLIS, Master, struck on a ledge of rocks between Cape Sable, and the Seal, or Tusket Islands.
The Master had said the preceeding evening that he had seen land, and of course every person on board supposed he would lay too in the night;
but as he set of from New York in a Suit of old sails, some of which he had been obliged to change before the above unfortunate day, the few men who composed the Crew (for he had not on board above 12 Seamen & boys capable of navigating the vessel) were employed a number of hours in rigging and setting up a New Main topsail, in the place of one which had gone to pieces early in the night, the weather being tempestuous:
this employment of the Crew it is supposed, prevented the Master from standing off & on, and unhappily at 4 in the morning the vessel struck.
The Master after fruitless attempts of the Soldiers, at his request, to keep the pumps clear, was solicited to get the boats out, but he declined it, insisting that the vessel could be got off, even after the water had gained considerably in the hold.
After some time he ordered four Seamen to keep her at a distance, till the long boat could be got out, but unfortunately after she had got into the water the Main Mast fell on her suddenly and Stove her to pieces.
The situation of the poor people on board at this Crisis became truly lamentable, their grand resource being lost; the Cutter and Jolly boat only remained from which they could possibly hope for safety.
At this time the ship was full of water, it must be allowed, but she was fast aground on the Rocks, and every sea beat over her middle deck, but no material part had given way, the masts only excepted.
In this situation the Master ordered the Jolly boat to be launched over the side, and to the surprize of every body, after repeatedly proclaiming that he would be one of the last to leave the ship, he jumped into her as she went over the side, round the Cutter which lay off, got into her, and after taking in a few men, who in that moment of desperation swam out to the boat, he inhumanly pushed off for the shore, turning the Jolly boat adrift, and empty, and in full view of the unhappy people on board, who in vain called out to him for relief, and contrary to the Solicitations of the Commanding Officer on board, who requested him to come towards the Stern of the ship, and concert some plan for the general safety, and to comfort the poor unhappy souls on board.
It appears besides by the testimony of Officers who were taken up by a Frenchman at the bottom of the bay (vizt. Lieut. LAFFAN, Lt. HANLY & Dr. STAFFORD) that the Master of the Martha had called at the settlements below and declared that he believed every soul on board to have perished, and that he rather inclined to discourage their intentions of going to look out for the wreck to save any persons who might have survived, than to push them forward to so charitable a deed, or to offer his assistance to effect so good a purpose.
Is is further very well known to the Officers who survived, that very many things of great value might have been saved to the insurers, by the least care or industry on the part-of the Master of the ship; as the French Inhabitants at the Bottom of the bay, and the people at Yarmouth and other settlements on the bay of Fundy, took up Cables, Anchors, and many other things of considerable value-
An exact copy from the Original Journal or Relation of Capt. KENNEDY, Commanding the troops on board The Martha-
St. John's, Nova Scotia 10th October 1783
University of Michigan, William L. Clements Library, Frederick Mackenzie Papers.
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