PATRICK HENRY was a 3-masted, square-rigged sailing ship
built at New York by Brown & Bell
in 1839, and for twenty-five years was one of the fastest of the great
AGE of SAIL until 1864
when she was sold to Great Britain during the Civil War. She was
among only four packets of the day---Montezuma,
Southampton, St. Andrew, and
the prestigious clipper Dreadnought---to make the
eastbound passage from New York to Liverpool in 14 days or less.
Only two transatlantic sailing packets showed a better average speed
record on the westbound crossing (Liverpool to New York) for a period
of twenty-five years or more (33 days) and only one equaled her average
It has been
said that the vessel, under the command of Joseph
C. Delano, of
New Bedford, Massachusetts, was a remarkably fine sailer and "made more
money than any other ship belonging to her owners."
The transatlantic sailing packet of white oak carried wealthy
industrialists, the poorest of
poor Irish emigrants, and tons of food and relief supplies
She made more than 45 documented voyages
and served more than 10 different captains in her years of
service at sea in the Swallowtail Line of Packets owned by Grinnell,
Minturn & Co.
registered at New York
on 6 November 1839; her measurements:
880 tons/905 tons (old/new) 159
34 feet 10
inches x 21 ft 10 inches length
beam x depth of hold); with 2
decks and a draft of 18
1846, Black Ball Line, 1050 tons
similar to Patrick Henry
after the passionate and fiery lawyer-orator, and governor of
Virginia (1776-78; 1784),
the PATRICK HENRY mirrored
the namesake in her radical nature. "She is the ne plus ultra, or will be, until
another ship of her class shall be built," said famed American
diarist Philip HONE, who, in October 1839, toured the "splendid new
ship" with Henry Grinnell, one of her owners.
For five years, she was the
largest packet among New York's eight packet lines.
Swallowtail Line (Fourth Line) of packets
(flag shown) between
New York and Liverpool from 1839 until
1852, during which period her
passages averaged 34 days, her shortest passage being 22 days, her
days. In 1851, she was owned by: Henry Grinnell (3/16),
Grinnell and Robert
(8/16), Capt. Sheldon G. Hubbard (1/16),
Joseph Rogers (2/16), and Capt.
Joseph C. Delano
1852, she was
transferred to Grinnell, Minturn & Co's Red
Swallowtail Line of packets between New York and London. During
this time, her westbound passages averaged 32 days, her
passage being 26 days, her longest 41 days.
of her more difficult voyages, she set out for New York December 24,
1853 from Liverpool. On the 18th of January, in
latitude 47", longitude 34 degrees, while hove to, the PATRICK HENRY
"struck by a sea which CARRIED AWAY the BOWSPRIT and the knight heads
and all the rigging attached." At the same time, washed overboard
was Matthew Barnabb, a seaman, who was LOST. Two hours later,
Louis Barroch, another seaman, was clearing away
the bowsprit, fell
overboard and DROWNED. Then
Wallace, another crewmember, fell from the fore yard and was injured
was blowing a gale at the time," reported
Captain John Hurlburt to the New
Times, who brought her to port February 4, after a 40-day
passage. "And impossible
them." According to
maritime tome, Merchant Sail, the
ship was not alone that uncommonly rough winter on the Atlantic. The
packet-ship Rosicus was 51 days making the
crossing; the Mary Annah 88
days, and the Celestial Empire took
60, with the loss of a seaman and ten passengers. On the
following voyage of the PATRICK HENRY, October 1854
(New York Times),
Hurlburt carried 403 passengers, breaking the law of one passenger per
three ton of
weight, and 11 passengers died at sea.
HENRY was considered by writers of the period to be one of the best and
most dependable packets built in the 1830s and one of the most popular
and highly esteemed transatlantic sailing lines during the 1840s and
50s was the Swallowtail," according to Merchant Sail .
The vessel's best homeward
crossing of 22 days was better than the crossings of either of the
grander packets: the Swallowtail's Cornelius
Grinnell (1,117 tons, built 1850) and the Black Ball Line's Great Western (1,443 tons and
built in 1851, twelve years
after the PATRICK HENRY). Her longest run in the
London-Portsmouth run at 41 days was even better the Grinnell (48 days) or the New World (42
days), one of the largest
at 1,404 tons.
1851, Captain S.E.
Hubbard is listed as her master and in 1855, Captain John Hurlburt. In
1860, Captain William B. Moore became her master. (Queens)
After 25 years of packet service, the PATRICK HENRY was "sold British"
in 1864 (Londonderry) due to the Civil War.
Her final voyage may have been from Pensacola, Florida
on June 26, 1871 to Liverpool, arriving August 19th. According
to the American Neptune (Peabody
Essex Museum magazine), she was hulked
or broken up in 1884.
That year the ship is listed under Master T.E. Sargent
built 1853, 1,414
tons. 34 crew.
Rissa. Last survey Quebec,
6, ’76. Signal letters: HDJG.2,3
of the PATRICK HENRY'S favorite seamen was Peter
Ogden, steward of
the ship in the 1840s, and who, as a member of the Liverpool lodge of
the English Odd Fellows, pursuaded his excluded African American
brethen to apply for a charter from his order.4.1
of her famous passengers was cousin to the Prophet of the
Church of Latter Day Saints, Joseph Smith. George A. Smith sailed
from New York to Liverpool with Captain Joseph Delano on March 9, 1840
with five brethren, and, contrary to all other reviews of Delano's
commandeering, had this to say:
a rough and disagreeable passage of 28
days, landed on the shores of Great Britain,"
he wrote in
diary. "We had 16 days head wind, and three
heavy gales. I was very sea sick; remained at Liverpool a few
days." He later took five wives who
bore him 20 children.4.1
bulkheads painted green on the inside, the PATRICK HENRY and ships of
had clear decks save for "the stern where, wheel in hand and binnacle
the compass before him, stands the helmsman. Forward are two hatches
with the ship's boat on top. Around the boat
stand our future meals---a
cow, pigs, ducks, hens and sheep!
We know that
decks,' at the bow, is the forecastle. In the center section, if there
among the 5
packets across the Atlantic, with Patrick
fine freight, huddle steerage passengers. It is not a happy sight to
on them because there,
crowded in a common dormitory for 38 days, each
his fast dwindling supply of
If our ship
has one bath,
it is in the cabin section. The steerage
passengers' bath at best may
bucket of icy seawater, dashed over them on deck. Perhaps
and no Doctor is on board. The ship's Captain does what he can but that
little. Below is the usual hold for bulkier freight.
the ship's stern is a stairway leading
to the 'Tween Decks.' A great
forty feet long spreads out before us.
sofas on each side, carved pillars, sometimes mahogany, sometimes cream
ornamented with gold.
or gold and white draperies catch the eye. On either side are
about eight feet square, with latticed window and
door, the upper half
also is latticed to admit air. Bird's- eye maple woodwork inlaid with
grained woods is polished to satiny finish."4
of sketches depicting life on board an emigrant ship showing
immigrants embarking at the London docks, scrubbing the decks, watching
a passing ship, dealing with heavy seas, catching an albatross, and
queueing at the surgery. The
Illustrated New Zealand
9 April, 1875.
The safety, sturdiness, dependability, and efficiency of the New York
transatlantic sailing packets can be gathered from the tribute of the New York Herald to a retiring
packet, a ship that experienced every conceivable kind of weather and
seas in by far the most difficult trade route of the globe: "For
twenty-nine years she battled with the Atlantic gales, making 116 round
passages without losing a seaman, a sail, or a spar. She brought
thirty thousand passengers to this country from Europe, and her cabins
have witnessed fifteen hundred births and two hundred marriages."
Enthusiasm aside, it was also said that "it took a man every inch a
seaman to reach an American port from Europe with spars and sails
intact and keep his ship off the Long Island and New Jersey coasts in
midwinter gales of thick snow and sleet."4