July 13, 1853
A letter from H. De Jager to the newspaper De Hollander
dated June 29,1853:
This morning, while I was in the city, mentioned below, on business, I heard
accidentally that during the past night a ship name not mentioned, with
Holland Immigrants had been lost. Thereupon I went to the river in order to be
of aid to these people of strange language. I ascertained the following and
ask you, honored editor, to publish it in your paper.
The ship 'William and Mary' left the harbor of Liverpool on March 22, under
the command of the contemptible captain Spinson, and entered the sea on the
24th. On board were 86 Hollanders and 176 mostly wild Irishmen. According to
the newspapers all the immigrants are buried in the depths of the sea; this is
....Our countrymen cannot speak with praise for the crew, of the ship 'William
and Mary' excepting the Danish sailors. The ship up to the 3rd of May was
having a fairly rapid trip, but about 9 o'clock we ran on to the rock Isaac of
the Great Bahama island so violently that everything cracked loudly and many
were thrown or fell from their seats; a half hour later we were again hurled
against the rock even more forcibly than before.
The rascally Captain Spinson (or Spenson), after the first crash, at once let
down the first boat, which lay on the galley, but this was at once hurled
against the ship by the waves so that the pieces literally were hurled in all
directions. Thereupon the Captain lowered the second boat into the sea, this
one remained intact. Then the first pilot and the best sailors entered this
boat, and a line fastened to it. The deceitful coward ordered them to take
sounding and seek for the land, saying that he would be the last man to leave
the ship. They brought the boat forward, and without the knowledge of the
passengers, fastened it to the side of the ship near the prow.
The heavy rigging and the superstructure cracked and the sails flapped but
nothing was done, nor were any necessary orders given. The sailors brought all
kinds of ships provisions and water from the wrecked hulk and placed it in the
cabin and then secretly loaded it into the aforementioned boat. None of the
passengers were allowed to come into the cabin. This was done, they said, to
keep everything in good shape until the following morning, when the boat would
return and all passengers would be put ashore, if they but man the pumps with
all their power. However, at first, they were not permitted to man the pumps.
As soon as the ship was loaded in this manner, they allowed her to drift away
although attached to the ship by a line. There it remained throughout the
entire night with these mentioned aboard.
In the meantime the anchor had been lowered and fastened by a bolt, so that
the passengers could not let it slip, for it held fast in the rock. The boat
on the starboard side was loosened and the passengers seeing this seized the
boat but were later forced to let it go, since the Captain ordered the
passengers to pump again. The crew wished to get into the boat but the
immigrants prevented this.
With the dawning of the day, all could see the boat still lying toward the
rear of the ship. When the sun had risen, the Captain called for all to be
quiet, pointed to the land and lowered the sloop on the starboard side of the
ship. All the sailors entered the sloop; two Hollanders and three Irishmen
also sprang aboard; everything happened in a moment.
The Captain, axe in hand, stood on the ship and at a moment when all eyes were
fixed on the sloop, the captain, that traitor, jumped into the cracked boat
which was more than half filled with water, followed up the line which was
fastened to the boat in which the pilot and the others were seated. These had
in the last moment reeled in the line to the end, and when they had received
the Captain into the boat, they severed the line with an axe.
An old Irishman jumped toward the boat, fell into the sea and clung to the
side of the boat, but the crew chopped off his hands. His daughter was also in
the boat. When she saw her maimed and blood bespattered father struggling and
reaching his arms toward her out of the depths, she set up such a cry that
sounded even above the howling of the wind and the beating of the waves, and
when she would not be silent, they were base enough to throw her into the sea.
While this occurred, those in the boat with the Captain waved their hands and
waved their caps over their heads. You could readily see who did this.
Three of the sailors were left aboard the ship because of their meanness, one
of them had robbed the ship and would have been turned over to the authorities
in New Orleans by the Captain. This man announced himself Captain.
These three sailors were soon drunk for they had opened and emptied the
greater part of a barrel (of liquor) the property of a German (who had been
drowned when the sloop was lowered). During this time the immigrants were in a
perilous position since the Irishmen tormented them more than before.
On the 5th of May we saw a ship in the distance and fired the distress signal
with the guns. Then help came on that day. Negroes (that despised people)
became rescuers of the Irish and our countrymen. With peril to their own
lives, the Negroes removed all from the ship to barges, and between three
o'clock and darkness all were safely landed on the Great Bahama island....